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Archive for the tag “archaeology”

Towton battlefield – the future

As you can see from this post, the protected area near Tadcaster has now been extended by Historic England. This means that, every time it rains or snows near March 29, the annual re-enactment  can be cancelled for health and safety reasons in the knowledge that it can go ahead on future occasions and that further archaeological discoveries are possible:

Information board near the battlefield

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A view of Richard and Leicester – all the way from Lahore….

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

It is always interesting to find out how Richard’s discovery and reinterment, and the effect upon Leicester, is viewed from afar. In this case, Lahore. Mind you, I’m not sure Leicester will appreciate being situated “in the North of London”!

“Laboratory examination of possible royal bones moving ahead!”

If only that were the headline coming out of Westminster Abbey with regard to the infamous urn believed to contain the remains of Edward V and his brother Richard, Duke of York (aka “the Princes in the Tower”).  But, it’s not.  It’s from Winchester Cathedral, where – since 2015 – they have embarked on a project where skeletal remains are being analyzed with modern laboratory techniques.  The bones, some belonging to past English kings and a queen-consort, had been stored in Renaissance-era mortuary chests and placed near the high altar.  There could be as many as 12 individuals contained in them.

Westminster-urns

Westminster urn which tradition says contains the bones of the “Princes in the Tower”

 

We’ve all heard the arguments against testing the bones in Westminster:  It sets a precedent for widespread tomb-raiding.  The urn has multiple skeletons, making them indistinguishable. The amount of information gleaned would be minimal.  Royal bones deserve to be left alone.  None of these arguments dissuaded the Dean and Chapter of Winchester from pursuing historical truth and conservation.  The project, which will culminate in an exhibit (called “Kings and Scribes: The Birth of a Nation”) about the Cathedral’s Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman origins, involves opening the chests, taking an inventory of what’s inside, and having the contents analyzed.  So far, radiocarbon testing performed at the University of Oxford has confirmed that the bones come from the late Anglo-Saxon and early Norman periods.  More research on the bones will be carried out by the University of Bristol to determine their gender, age at death, and physical characteristics such as stature.

mortuary-chests

Mortuary chests at Winchester Cathedral thought to contain commingled royal bones.  Here, they have been moved to the Lady Chapel, in anticipation of analysis. (c) Winchester Cathedral

The chests are thought to contain the mortal remains of some of the early royal families of Wessex and of England, and three bishops, amongst other artefacts and mortal remains.  They include kings Cynegils (d.643), Cynewulf (d.786), Ecbert (d.839), Æthelwulf (d.858), Eadred (d.955), Edmund Ironside (d.1016), Cnut (d.1035) and William Rufus (d.1100). Also thought to be buried in the chests are Cnut’s wife Queen Emma (d.1052), Bishop Wini (d.670), Bishop Alfwyn (d.1047) and Archbishop Stigand (d.1072).  These individuals died and were buried in the Old Minster, but were re-interred when the present Winchester Cathedral was built over the Anglo-Saxon one.  Historical records indicate that their bones were placed in the mortuary chests around the high altar in the twelfth-century.  However, in 1642, at the beginning of the English Civil War, Parliamentarian troops entered the cathedral and toppled the chests in an act of sacrilege. The church officials, who had no way of knowing which bones belonged to who, simply placed them back in six Renaissance-era chests.  They have been opened several times since then, but with the advent of modern forensic laboratory tests, the Cathedral staff believed the interests of historical inquiry made a strong case for the project to proceed.

Let’s hope this may bode well for a change in the Abbey’s and monarch’s current position against disturbing the bones in the Urn, although it’s not likely.

For more information, see the Winchester Cathedral website http://www.winchester-cathedral.org.uk/2015/02/03/the-mortuary-chests/

Canute

Chest believed to contain the mortal remains of King Cnut, located in a high status place atop the Presbytery screen. The chest is from the Renaissance era (note the Tudor double-roses). (c) Winchester Cathedral

More remains found, but pre-Richard….

July 1st 2016 Thornton Abbey Lincolnshire

Human remains are being discovered everywhere, it seems. Richard III appears to have started a fashion. But no, I should not make light of it. This poor priest suffered greatly before death.

 

Coming up in July …

literally where it all began nearly five years ago, children can just turn up at the Visitor Centre and learn how archaeology happens.

The elusive last Norman

Although Richard was found in Leicester five years ago, exactly where he was buried, and Henry I is close to being identified in Reading, Kingfinding is not always successful. As this blog shows, the 1965 excavation of the Faversham Abbey site to find King Stephen was unsuccessful.

It seems that his bones really were moved during the Reformation. Sometimes, there is truth in such a legend.

Towton, 29th March 1461: The Bloodiest Battle in English History?

Giaconda's Blog

towton 1

Towton is regarded by many historians as the worst battle to ever be fought on English soil in terms of the number of combatants, casualty figures, conditions on the day and treatment of those captured during the rout.

It is always extremely difficult to gauge the reality of the medieval battlefield due to a number of factors. There were other, more ancient battles that were recorded in annals and chronicles which talk of massive numbers of combatants and bloody routs – Boudicca’s last stand on Watling Street in 60-1 AD, the Battle of Brunanburgh in 937 AD and the Battle of Hastings in 1066 for example but how reliable were the figures recorded at the time or later by chroniclers and historians?

Without reliable eye witness accounts and archaeological evidence of mass grave pits, it is difficult to establish exactly how many troops were present, how many were actually killed…

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A connection between Richard and the Ripper? Well, not really….

Jack the Ripper

I suppose it was only a matter of time before ‘they’ made a link between Richard and Jack the Ripper. Nay, I jest! The articles below concern a search for the grave of one of the Ripper’s victim. And who is searching? Why, the same experts/scientists who found Richard. (Or should I say ‘helped to find’ Richard?) Writer Patricia Cornwell is funding the exercise.

https://www.pressreader.com/…/york…/20170311/281569470529249
and
https://www.pressreader.com/…/the-…/20170311/281930247782625

Now a lost north-of-the-border king….

james-i-of-scotland

Well, we had Richard III, then they sought Henry I…and now it’s James I of Scotland. I wonder how many others will soon be on the list?

According to this article :

“A plan to search for the tomb of a Scottish king buried in Perth nearly 600 years ago has been unveiled.

“It will be part of a project to create a major visitor attraction in the city using virtual reality to tell the story of James I and the Stewart monarchs.

“James I was assassinated in Perth in 1437 and later buried at the Charterhouse monastery.

“But the priory was destroyed in the reformation 100 years later and no-one is sure of the grave’s exact location.

“The monastery where he was buried was built on his orders and was part of his great plans for Perth.

“Historians believe he wanted to create a complex on the scale of Westminster and move St Andrews University to the city to compete with Oxford.

“Dr Lucy Dean, from the University of the Highlands and Islands, told BBC Scotland: “Thirteen out of 18 of James’ parliaments take place in Perth. He is centralising his government here.

“I’m not sure whether Perth would have been the capital but it was definitely in the running for being the capital. [His] murder halted that idea in its tracks.”

“James I was assassinated on 4 February 1437 while he was in the royal apartments at the Blackfriars monastery in Perth.

“After a group of 30 conspirators were let into the building he tried to hide in a sewer, but he was trapped and killed by Sir Robert Graham.

“A pub and sheltered housing accommodation now stands on the site of his death.

“The area where he died is marked with a stone monument.

“Archaeologist David Bowler, who explored the site in the 1980s, said he was “very excited” by the plans to find the king’s tomb.

” ‘It’s something we’ve all been thinking about in Perth for many, many years,’ he said.

” ‘We’ve all known about the Carthusian friary and we want to know a bit more about where it is.’

“Leaders of this project, which also includes a “virtual museum” depicting Medieval Perth, hope the city could benefit from the discovery of the tomb in the same way Leicester did when Richard III’s remains were found.

“Richard Oram, professor of Medieval history at the University of Stirling, said: ‘If we were to actually locate where the royal tomb was within this complex – we saw what that did to Leicester with the rediscovery of Richard III.

” ‘A lot more people know Richard III than James I but we’re looking to try and change that. So if we were successful that would be a huge added bonus to the project.’ ”

There is more to be read here.

Empress Matilda-Should She Be Listed as an English Monarch?

One of the most fascinating (and bloody) periods of English history is The Anarchy, when Empress Matilda, daughter of Henry I (he who might well be found sometime soon in the ruins of Reading Abbey) fought her cousin Stephen of Blois (thought to be in Faversham Abbey) for the English throne. Battles raged across the land and barons, without permission, threw up adulterine castles everywhere and lived lawlessly. The times were so turbulent that it was said ‘Christ and His Saints slept.’

Matilda’s forces captured Stephen in 1141 and she came very close to being crowned, but violent crowds of Stephen’s supporters on the way to London stopped the Coronation from taking place. Then her biggest supporter, her half-brother Robert of Gloucester was captured at Winchester, and the only way to free him was to trade Stephen’s freedom for Robert’s.

In 1148, Matilda retreated from England for good and left the fighting to her son, Henry FitzEmpress, the son of Geoffrey Plantagenet–the future Henry II. In 1153 Henry and Stephen came to an agreement after the Siege of Wallingford, in which Henry was declared Stephen’s heir as the latter’s eldest son Eustace had died. The next year, Stephen died and Henry took the throne.

Matilda is generally not listed as one of the rulers of England but some believe that she should be. Although never crowned, she was Henry I’s heir and before the High Altar of All Saints, Northampton, Henry rallied his barons to swear loyalty to her and to support her claim to the throne. They swore at the time, but as often happened in the Middle Ages, the oaths were quickly broken once Henry died. The idea of a female ruler was not a popular one, although there was no legal impediment to it, as England, unlike France, did not have a Salic Law.

Many sources list Edward V, Jane and Edward VIII as monarchs of England, despite the fact that they were never crowned and their legitimacy to the position was disputed–so, if that is considered correct, why then is the Empress Matilda excluded from the list, as designated heir to Henry I?

Matilda is, of course ancestor to the line of Plantagenet kings that followed on from her son, and through her maternal side, they also have a line of descent from both King Malcolm of Scotland and the royal House of Wessex via St Margaret. Both claimants were, therefore, among Richard III’s ancestors.parents_of_henry_ii

 

An interesting post on the subject of Matilda from the FB page ‘House of Plantagenet History & Geneology’ :https://www.facebook.com/groups/41546823396/permalink/10154937093853397/

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