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Was Richard II a fourteenth-century Peter Pan….?

Richard II and Anne of Bohemia

Richard II is my second favourite king (you all know who’s first!) and both are controversial, albeit for very different reasons. One of the charges against Richard II is that he was something of a Peter Pan, and did not want to grow up. He had portraits painted depicting him as a boy, when he was a mature man. He did not grow a beard until well after the customary time, and he was criticised for his devotion to clothes, luxury…the very things in which we’d all like to indulge.

Whether he was a Peter Pan, though, is open to question. There has been much speculation about his marriage to Anne of Bohemia, with a frequent remark being that they were more like brother and sister than husband and wife. Historians have hinted that his desire to stay young meant that he had to preserve his virginity. The fact that there was, apparently, no sign of Anne being pregnant, seemed to uphold this view. He was broken-hearted when she died, but then, they said, a devoted brother would weep for his sister.

But…there is a letter from Anne to her half-brother, Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia, which is referred to by Kristen Geaman, (Engl Hist Rev (2013) 128 (534): 1086-1094, 04 September 2013): “…Anne of Bohemia, first wife of Richard II, is a rather enigmatic queen but a letter (from British Library Additional 6159) sheds new light on her Bohemian connections and personal life. In a letter written by Anne to her half-brother Wenceslas IV, the queen informs Wenceslas of the successes of mutual acquaintances and requests that further Bohemian ladies be sent to Richard’s court. Anne’s comments offer increased evidence of the connections between the English and Bohemian courts, as well as shedding further light on the activities of the queen. Furthermore, at the end of the letter, Anne also reveals her sorrow over a miscarriage, proving that the couple did not have a chaste marriage…”

Another reference to this letter is in ‘Medieval Women and Their Objects’ by Nancy Bradbury and Jennifer Adams “…She [Anne of Bohemia] closes by saying that the one point of sorrow is that they [she and Richard II] are not rejoicing in childbirth, but have hopes for the future with good health, God permitting….”

So it would seem that the marriage of Richard II and Anne of Bohemia was perfectly normal. What’s more, they loved each other. Their heartbreak was that they did not/could not have children. Not that they would not. What a difference such a child might have made to history. No Lancastrian or Yorkist kings…no Tudors!

 

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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.

 

Why did lovers come to celebrate St Valentine’s Day….?

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How did St Valentine become the patron saint of lovers? The answer to that is the stuff of legends. One story has it that he was a peaceful man, as well as a great peacemaker, and while tending the roses in his garden, he heard a couple quarrelling violently. He cut a rose and went to mediate between them. When he gave them the rose, their love for each other returned.

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Another story is that he was chosen to be the patron saint of lovers because his day is close to the pagan feast of Lupercalia, a Roman festival of fertility. One thing is certain, by the time of Richard III, the giving of loving kisses and gifts was in full swing.

chaucer-reading

Ford Madox Brown, 1845-1851

I think we should credit Geoffrey Chaucer with a large part in the promoting 14th February as ‘St Valentine’s Day’ as the ‘day of love’. There is a widespread tradition that on St Valentine’s Day all the birds chose their mates. “…for this was on St Valentine’s Day, when every fowl cometh there to choose his mate.”

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The Parliament of Birds by Carl Wilhelm de Hamilton (1668-1754)

Chaucer wrote a poem to celebrate the occasion, and called it ‘The Parlement of Foules’, or ‘Parliament of Fowls’. It was meant to be read out on St Valentine’s Day, and is believed to date from the year fifteen-year-old Richard II married Anne of Bohemia, also fifteen. Maybe it was written for the royal couple.

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The illustration above is of Richard and Anne’s coronation – he seems a little old for fifteen!

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Dante Gabriel Rossetti as Geoffrey Chaucer reading.

Whatever the truth, Chaucer created a symbol of spring love, with birds singing and twittering joyfully. Quarrelling too, with the royal and aristocratic birds of prey lording it over lesser birds. A full translation can be read at http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/English/Fowls.htm

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Danish love poems for Valentine’s Day

To know how medieval lovers celebrated St Valentine’s Day, look at http://uk.businessinsider.com/medieval-valentines-day-celebrations-2016-2?r=US&IR=T.

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And to learn of ten great royal romances of the medieval period, try https://e-royalty.com/articles/the-ten-great-medieval-royal-romances/

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Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville

The oldest existing medieval Valentine love letter, from teenaged Margery Brews to John Paston, is revealed at http://www.historytoday.com/rachel-moss/medieval-valentine (and it is included in a very informative and interesting article about medieval Valentines by Professor Sarah Peverley at https://sarahpeverley.com/tag/medieval-valentine/

pastonletter-wl

And finally, if you fancy something light-hearted and a little silly, go to https://murreyandblue.wordpress.com/?s=right+royal

a-right-romantic-royal-reunion

 

Anne Neville was a boar too….

Anne Neville's Boar

We always hear about the badges of medieval families, e.g. Richard III’s white boar, the Warwick bear and ragged staff, the Stafford knot, Richard II’s white hart and so on and so on, but what about the ladies? Maybe they didn’t ride into battle with the banners streaming (well, there were some notable exceptions, of course), and mostly they seem to have used their family’s badges, but they also had their private personal badge or device, perhaps on a ring to seal their private letters.

It’s possible to identify some of these badges. Richard II’s queen, Anne of Bohemia, had a sprig of rosemary, which is why such sprigs appear along with Richard’s device on the Wilton Diptych. His mother, Joan of Kent’s badge was a white hind, and it was from this that Richard II, derived his white hart, also adding the crown and chain around its neck. (See Richard II and the English Royal Treasure by Jenny Stratford.)

Joan of Navarre, the second queen of Henry IV, used ‘an ermine collared and chained, with the motto ‘à tempérance’. Elizabeth Talbot, Duchess of Norfolk, was believed to have chosen the blue borage flower as her badge. (See Eleanor, The Secret Queen by John Ashdown-Hill.) Her mother, Margaret Beauchamp, Countess of Shrewsbury, chose to play upon her name, and had the daisy/marguerite. Margaret of Anjou had a swan (see Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses by John A. Wagner) and a daisy (see The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, by Sir Bernard Burke, page lvii.

I have now learned that according to the same page of the latter book, Anne Neville’s badge was a variation of the white boar of her husband, Richard III.

Anne Neville's Badge

Anne’s cognizance is interesting, and I wonder if she chose it by chance before her marriage (after all, it was a badge of the House of Warwick), or whether she only adopted it once she was Richard of Gloucester’s wife. Or, indeed, whether Richard himself decided to use it because it was a Warwick badge and he wished to honour the great lord whose daughter he was to marry.  Those who deride Richard, will no doubt claim that such was Anne’s subordination to her cruel husband, that it was her only way of showing how confined and bullied she was. On the other hand, those who know Richard was nothing whatsoever like the fictional monster, may see it as her way of stating her love and faith in him. I am of the latter persuasion, of course.

Finding an instance of Anne’s boar has defeated me. I can’t even find a boar that has been assigned to Richard, yet might actually be Anne’s. Maybe someone out there knows all this and can point directly to such an illustration? In the meantime, I will confine myself to the boar you see at the top of this article. It has a crown around the neck, if no muzzle and chain.

As a source of information about badges and so on, the great work by Sir Bernard Burke is a gold mine. See it at Amazon. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Scotland-Comprising-Registry-Armorial-Bearings/dp/0788437216/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1471783806&sr=1-1&keywords=sir+bernard+burke+armory

I have just ordered it, and am looking forward to a great deal of delving.

 

Images of Power: Royal iconography during the Plantagenet period

Giaconda's Blog

Combining my two great loves, history and art, I want to look at some of the imagery used to depict Plantagenet kings during the period and taking a few examples examine what the visual language may be telling us about how kingship was viewed and how the kings themselves wanted to be perceived.

Imagery as propaganda – of course, imagery linked to concepts of status and power – certainly, imagery as a means of establishing a link with another age – well that’s much more subjective yet many of us might admit to studying the faces of those kings whether it be on their tomb effigies or in portraits which have survived and longing to understand them or to read something of their drives and motivations from the shading and stance, the lines on their faces and the expression of their gaze. This is a very understandable human response to the mystery…

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History has a weird way of repeating itself….

Richard II of England 20140327_39

Following on from the blog above, entitled More C17 coincidences, it occurred to me that there is another strange set of coincidences concerning Richard III (1452-1485), and his predecessor and namesake of the previous century, Richard II (1367-1400). And I do not only mean being killed and usurped.

Both had a queen named Anne (Richard II married Anne of Bohemia, Richard III married Anne Neville), who died before them and left them childless. Richard II never had children, and Richard III’s only legitimate child, a son, predeceased him.

The two kings were very young when their fathers passed away, Richard II about ten when the Black Prince died of devastated health, and Richard III a boy of eight when the Duke of York was executed after defeat in battle.

As if this were not enough to link these tragic Richards, Richard II died a month into his 33rd year, and Richard III was 32. They could, conceivably, have both been 32. Just. Because the exact date of Richard II’s murder is not known.

During these monarchs’ reigns, as Brian Wainwright has pointed out, both had devoted support in the north – in Richard II’s case, Cheshire in the north-west, and in Richard III’s case Yorkshire and the far north of England. Both, as super blue points out below, chose white animals as their personal badge, Richard II the white hart, and Richard III the white boar. Both were also plagued by plots, rebellions and powerful barons, and both were to be killed by a Lancastrian usurper named Henry (Henry IV and Henry VII).

These usurping Henrys had a strong link to the House of Beaufort, an illegitimate line descended from Richard II’s uncle, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. Although, it has to be said, Henry IV did not want this baseborn link, and especially wanted it barred from the succession, whereas Henry VII needed the Beauforts and for them to be included in the succession. Theirs was the only small drop of English royal blood that he had, and it gave him his precarious and almost invisible claim to the throne! Except for having killed Richard III through dark and bloody treachery, which, of course, is what killed Richard II as well.

There are bound to be more coincidences linking these kings, but already there is more than enough for me to think that in their case, history repeated itself almost eerily . . .

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