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Bishop Stillington’s Lost Chapel

The beautiful Cathedral of Wells  is a medieval visual delight. It was, of course, the See of Bishop Robert Stillington who sought out Richard Duke of Gloucester and announced that King Edward IV had been secretly married to Eleanor Talbot, daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury, prior to wedding  Elizabeth Woodville in a second secret ceremony, thus making his second marriage bigamous and invalid. He knew the matter was true, he said, because he was the one who had officiated at the marriage of Edward and Eleanor..

Stillington was Archdeacon of Taunton when Edward might have met and married Eleanor Talbot, probably around 1461. He was, of course, not then a Bishop but the Canon Stillington. He also served in Edward’s government as Keeper of the Privy seal. He was elected to his Bishopric in 1465–at King Edward’s insistence, as the the Pope initially proposed a different candidate. He was also intermittently Lord Chancellor, though he appears to have been dismissed in 1473. A few years later, Stillington was briefly imprisoned for unspecified offences which seem to have been connected with George of Clarence’s treason charges.

After Richard III’s death at Bosworth, Henry VII immediately ordered Stillington imprisoned . Upon his release, rather than retiring somewhere far from court or bowing to the new Tudor regime, he immediately involved himself in the Lambert Simnel uprising. Once Stoke Field was fought and Tudor victorious , Stillington fled to Oxford, where for a while the University protected him. However, eventually he was captured and thrown in prison in Windsor Castle–this time for the rest of his days. He died in 1491 and was taken to Somerset for burial at Wells Cathedral.

During his lifetime, Stillington did not spend much time in Wells but he did complete building work within the cathedral and raised his own mortuary chapel there in the 1470’s, complete with huge gilded bosses bosses of suns and roses. This chapel, dedicated to the Virgin, was built on one side of the cloisters near the holy springs that give Wells its name and on  the foundations of an earlier Saxon church. During the Reformation, in the reign of Edward VI, Sir John Gates destroyed the chapel and tomb and, according to old accounts,ripped the Bishop’s remains out of his lead coffin.

Rather interestingly, Stillington’s Chapel is the ONLY part of Wells Cathedral that was severely damaged during the Reformation, the Bishop’s tomb not only being desecrated but the building itself razed to the ground – and some would have it that there’s no such thing as Tudor propaganda? Of course, the roof was later pillaged by Monmouth’s rebels to make ammunition for use at Sedgemoor.

The foundations of Stillington’s chapel have been excavated, and if you visit Wells Cathedral today, you can see scant stonework sticking out of the ground in Camery Gardens. Nearby, in the cloisters, several massive chunks of his tomb canopy are on display, decorated with symbols of the House of York.

 

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Bestwood Park, where Richard used to hunt….

I can’t say that this article is all that informative, or, indeed, erudite, but it is about Bestwood Park, which as we all know was a favourite hunting park for many of our monarchs. Including Richard, of course, and he does get a mention.

If nothing else, the wintry illustrations show what it may have been like if Richard chose to hunt, or even just ride, there during the colder months.

I remember Bestwood from my teens, when I lived in nearby Hucknall. I cycled there at dusk one summer evening, and was greatly spooked by a creepy old building set among thick trees. Not for the faint-hearted!

Thetford

Here are the remains of Thetford’s magnificent Cluniac Priory, built in 1107 and the burial place of the Mowbrays and Howards up to 1540, when they were moved to St. Michael’s, Framlingham. Only about five minutes’ walk from the station, it is best visited on a dry day because Cromwell’s commissioners were ruthless and so, now, is the Priory. John Howard, first Duke of Norfolk, was re-interred here some time after his death at Bosworth; probably by his son, the victor of Flodden. His original burial site is indicated by a plaque, to one side, whilst another shows that his son once laid by the altar.

More of the town’s history, including the Iceni, Edmund the Martyr, Thomas Paine and local factories, is commemorated on the walls of the Red Lion (the Howard symbol) by the market place, together with Ayrton Senna who lived briefly in Attleborough whilst driving for Lotus. The Dad’s Army Museum is just around the back and there is a statue of Captain Mainwaring by the town bridge.

The Castle of Leicester and St Mary De Castro

Leicester Castle

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Leicester Castle as it appeared in 1483

 

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The Castle gardens

Since 2015 going to Leicester is the equivalent of going to visit the tomb of the last Plantagenet King who died in battle: Richard III. Everything there speaks of him from the Visitor Centre named after him, to The Last Plantagenet Pub not to mention attractions and shops that display his portrait or sell items with the name of the king. Of course, the Medieval Cathedral where the warrior king was buried in 2015 is the most visited place in Leicester but if you go there, don’t forget to pay a visit to the remains of Leicester’s Castle and its church St Mary De Castro. It is difficult today to imagine how the Castle could be at the time of Richard III but it is still there indeed even in a different shape. 

IMG_2840The Castle was probably built immediately after the Norman Conquest so around 1070. The Governor  at that time was Hugh de Grantmensil one of the companions of William the Conqueror. The Castle was the favourite residence of John of Gaunt, first Duke of Lancaster and the fourth son of Edward III. From the north end of the hall, it was possible to access the lord’s private apartments whilst from the south end there was access to a kitchen above an undercoft called John of Gaunt’s cellar where beverage and food were stored. Some people erroneously think it was a dungeon. 

The castle today looks totally different. What remains are the Castle’s Mound (Motte) located between Castle View and Castle Gardens. The Motte was originally 30-40 feet Prince Rupehigh topped with a timber tower. Unfortunately no buildings survived  and the motte was lowered in Victorian times to form a bowling green.

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The Castle House

The Great Hall is the oldest surviving aisled and bay divided timber hall in Britain. Even though the exterior is Victorian, the building still retains some of its original 12th century timber posts. The criminal court in the castle’s Great Hall was the scene of Leicester’s “Green Bicycle Murder” trial 1919 so exactly 100 years ago.

Other things are still visible of the ancient castle. The wall, the remains of the castle especially the Turret Gateway also known as Prince Rupert’s Gateway, the Castle Gardens (once used for public executions) the Castle House and the stunning church of St Mary De Castro.

St Mary De Castro

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St Mary De Castro

Close where the Castle stood, there is an ancient church called St Mary De Castro. It is a very special place especially for Ricardians. In this church Geoffrey Chaucer married her second wife, Philippa de Roet and 44 people were knighted in just one day among them Henry VI and Richard Plantagenet Duke of York, Richard III’s father. He was just 15 years old. However, the most famous event to be remembered today is that it is said that Richard III worshipped there before leaving for Bosworth and prepared himself for his last battle.

St Mary De Castro means St Mary of the Castle. It was built in 1107 after Henry I gave the

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The Chapel in St Mary De Castro ground to Robert de Beaumont 1st Earl of Leicester. It was the chapel of the castle and a place of worship within the bailey of the castle. It is assumed but there is no proof of evidence, that Ethelfleda, daughter of King Alfred the Great, had founded a church on the very spot where today is St Mary. It also seems that there was a college of priests called the College of St Mary De Castro founded before the Norman Conquest.

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The tower of St Mary was built not beside the church but inside of it so visitors can see 3 sides of it while still in church. The medieval spire, rebuilt in 1783 was declared dangerous in 2013. Following the unsuccessful attempt to raise money to save it, it was demolished in 2014. The church’s structure is quite odd because in ancient times there were two churches. One was the mentioned chapel of the castle, the other a church for common people. This explains why there are two sedilias and two piscinas both from medieval times.

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Henry VI and Richard III

Curiosities

It is said that King Richard III’s mistreated body was brought to this church to be washed before being displayed for the world to see he was actually dead. Considering the evident haste he was buried in and the lack of respect showed by the Tudors, it is unlikely this ever happened.

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The Nave of the Church

Philippa de Roet, Chaucer’s wife, was the lady-in-waiting of Philippa of Hainault one of Richard III’s ancestors.

In this church Edward of Lancaster and John of Lancaster are buried. Both died in infancy.

 

 

Another Howard riddle

It is widely known that Elizabeth I was the only English monarch to be descended from John, 1st Duke of Norfolk, as her grandmother was a Howard, his granddaughter. There is a British monarch who can trace their maternal ancestry to this dynastic founder – Elizabeth II, who also shares the “Treetops” coincidence with her namesake.
Here is the evidence …

Down with Reggie Bray: hooray for Francis Lovell….!

Well, here are two stories from two English villages. Firstly, the present Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester, will be at St Mary’s Parish Church at Eaton Bray, Bedfordshire, to mark its 800th anniversary. Unfortunately, the Bray part of the village’s name comes from Reggie Bray, upon whose memory we, er, frown. Reggie, of course, is one of a number of men at Bosworth Field who laid claim to having found the crown of Richard III and placed it on Henry Tudor’s undeserving, usurping head. If all these men were telling the truth, I think there must have been a very undignified scrum to grab the crown, which hitherto had graced the brow of the true King of England. However, methinks some porkies were told…it was probably Tudor himself who scrambled around on hands and knees, looking for the crown to which he he had no honourable right whatsoever.

To read about the royal visit to Eaton Bray, please  click here.

However, there is also news about a much more agreeable gentleman from the past, Francis Lovell, whose family name attaches to an Oxfordshire village, Minster Lovell. Unlike Bray, he was true to Richard III throughout, and now there is a new book out about him:-

“….’Dynasty and Disappearance: Francis Lovell, Richard III and The Tudors’ takes place at the Old Swan hotel in Minster Lovell on Saturday from 10am to 4pm.

“….Author Steve David will launch his first ever book published on Francis Lovell, an ally of Richard III in the War of the Roses, and part of the family that gave the village its name.

“….The book argues that Mr Lovell returned to his ancestral home in the village and hid from Henry VII after the Battle of Stoke in 1487.”

I’m not sure Viscount Sir Francis would have appreciated being demoted to mere gentleman! However, it’s always hooray for him, and bah, humbug, to Reggie Bray!

To read more about the new book, please go to this article.

It’s a wonder anyone survived medieval battles….!

 

The title above says it all. Go to this article and see what I mean. With such weapons being wielded on all sides, how on earth did anything—man or horse—emerge still standing? I don’t think we should be in any doubt at all that by going to battle, all men knew they were putting their lives at a very real risk indeed.

Unless, like Henry VII, they always skulked around at the back, well protected (Bosworth), or indeed arrived too late to take part anyway (Stoke Field or Blackheath). There was nothing brave about him.

Sir James Tyrrell – Sheriff of Glamorgan

As we said in an earlier article,“ Richard III appointed James Tyrrell Sherriff of Glamorgan and Constable of Cardiff in 1477. The importance of Glamorgan is little understood or recognised in Ricardian Studies, but this was certainly a key job and one of the most important at Richard’s disposal. The practical effect, given that Richard was mainly occupied in the North or at Court,, was that Tyrell was his deputy in one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Marcher Lordships. It was a position of considerable power and almost certainly considerable income.”

Looking for further information about Sir James, I came across “An Inventory of Ancient Monuments of Glamorgan” which said that the Lordship of Glamorgan was passed to Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, through his wife Anne Beauchamp. After Warwick’s death at the Battle of Barnet his daughters inherited it. However, due to a dispute between Richard Duke of Gloucester and George Duke of Clarence, as to how the inheritance should be split, King Edward IV stepped in and enforced partition of the lands and Richard became Lord of Glamorgan. In the Autumn of 1477 Richard appointed Tyrrell as Sheriff of Glamorgan and Constable of Cardiff Castle.

The Richard III Society of Canada reported in an article that during the Scottish Campaign in July 1482 Tyrrell was made a Knight Banneret and in November 1482, along with Sir William Parr and Sir James Harrington he was appointed to exercise as Vice Constable to Richard’s office as Constable of England.

Tyrrell was obviously well thought of by Richard. He trusted him to bring his mother in law from Beaulieu Abbey to Middleham. After Hastings’ execution and the arrest of suspected conspirators Richard temporarily placed Archbishop Rotherham in Sir James’ custody. It is also thought that James Tyrrell was responsible for taking the Princes or one of the Princes out of the country before Bosworth. I have always thought it was odd that he was out of the country when Richard needed him, but it is possible that he was performing a much more important task for Richard.

In researching another previous post , I discovered that Rhys ap Thomas had married Jane Stradling, nee Matthew, the widow of Thomas Stradling of St Donat’s Castle and that he was guardian to the young heir, Edward Stradling when Thomas died in 1480. I assumed that when ap Thomas had married Jane Stradling he had taken over the guardianship of Edward Stradling, however, Richard had given Edward Stradling’s guardianship to James Tyrrell in 1480 when his father died so it was probably after Bosworth that Rhys ap Thomas was given the control of the young heir of St Donat’s. Thomas was later accused of taking money from the Stradling’s estates for three years running. The young man was obviously better served by Tyrrell.

Sir James Tyrrell was obviously someone Richard could trust, so it could be said that was evidence that Richard trusted him to be responsible for taking the Princes out of the country. On the other hand, I am sure that those who believe the traditionalist version would say that it could also mean that Richard could have trusted him to do away with the Princes. Personally I have always thought that the former scenario was probably the true version. In her book “The Mystery of the Princes” Audrey Williamson” reported a tradition in the Tyrrell family that “the Princes were at Gipping with their mother by permission of the uncle”. This was told to her by a descendant of the Tyrrell family in around the 1950s. Apparently the family didn’t ever talk about it because they assumed that if the boys had been at Gipping that it must mean that Sir James was responsible for their deaths. However, they were supposedly at Gipping with their mother and by permission of their uncle, so I doubt that their mother would have been involved with their murder. Gipping in Suffolk is quite near to the east coast of England so would have been an ideal place to stopover on the way to the Continent.

In conclusion, it is my opinion that James Tyrrell was a very loyal, trustworthy member of Richard’s retinue. This is evidenced by the fact that he was trusted by Richard to carry out important tasks like bringing his mother-in-law from Beaulieu to Middleham, to carry out his duties as Lord of Glamorgan by making him Sheriff of Glamorgan and as Vice Constable to Richard’s role as Lord Constable. We might never know if the Princes even died in 1483/84 let alone were murdered or if they were taken out of the country. There isn’t any definite evidence to prove that, if they were taken abroad, Tyrrell was responsible for taking them. However, there is evidence that Richard made a large payment to Tyrrell while he was Captain of Guisnes. It was £3000, a huge amount in those days. There is an opinion that it would have been enough to see a prince live comfortably for quite some time while others say that it was probably towards the running of the garrison. As I said before we might never know what happened but it does seem odd to me that when Richard needed him most to fight the Battle of Bosworth, James Tyrrell was abroad as was Sir Edward Brampton, another person who could have helped to save the day at Bosworth.

THE DEATH OF HENRY VII

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Henry VII on his deathbed : Wriothesley’s Heraldic Collection Vol 1 Book of Funerals.

And so, on 21 April 1509, Henry “Tudor” finally expired.  He had been ill, obviously, for some time and perhaps his death was something of a relief to him. I’m sure it was for the rest of the country who probably breathed a collective sigh of relief. He had managed to keep his bony posterior on the throne for 24 years since that diabolical day at Bosworth when an anointed king was slaughtered.  It does nothing for Henry’s  reputation that he allowed the dead king’s body to be horrendously  abused  as well as the ignoble and deplorable  act of having his reign  predated from the day before the battle. But no doubt there were some that lamented his passing especially his mother Margaret Beaufort, a  most highly acquisitive woman and probably one of the most greediest.     She adored him and the pair must hardly have been able to believe their luck that he had survived the battle unscathed, probably due to the fact that he took no active part in it.

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Unknown artist’s impression of Tudor being crowned in the aftermath of Bosworth..

It must have seemed surreal to him as he wandered through the dead kings apartments at Westminster that had now, overnight, become his.

 

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Bust of Henry VII : National Portrait Gallery

He had some worrying times with bothersome pretenders to the throne popping up with annoying regularity as well as various uprisings. Whether he was plagued by his conscience we do not  know although Margaret was prone to bursts of weeping at times when she should have been happy which must have been very tedious  for those around her.

However moving on from that , what actually did see Henry off?     His health seems to have gone into a decline when he reached his 30s.   His eyes began to trouble him and he tried various eye lotions and eye  baths  made of fennel water,  rosewater and celandine ” to make bright the sight” but to no avail ..his teeth were a source of trouble with Polydore Vergil describing him as having ‘teeth few, poor and blackish’ (1).  His eye problems must have caused him dismay as he like nothing more than to pour over his account books to see where the pennies were going and how much he was amassing. He was predeceased by his wife, whom it is said he was fond of, and four children including his oldest son and  heir,  Arthur,  but fortunately for him,  if not the country and the Roman Catholic Church he had a surviving spare.

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Henry VII death mask: Westminster Abbey

 

In his interesting book, The Death of Kings, Clifford Brewer writes   “Henry had developed a chronic cough which was particularly severe in springtime.  The  condition became progressively more severe and associated with loss of weight and a general wasting . In 1507 and 1508  Henry’s spring cough become more troublesome.  He  is described as having become troubled with a tissic,  or cough,  he also suffered from mild gout.  In his Life of Henry the VII , Bacon writes ‘ in the two and 20th year of his reign in 1507 he began to be troubled with a gout but the defluxation  taking also unto his breast wasted his lungs so that thrice in a year in a kind of return and especially in the spring he had great fits and labours of the tissick’.   This suggests that Henry suffered from chronic fibroid phthisis ( chronic tuberculosis infection)  which became more and more active with  resultant wasting and debility.  This  is found in several of the members of the Tudor line…Henry made a great effort to attend divine service on Easter Day 1509 but he was exhausted and retired to his palace at Richmond where he died on 21 April  from chronic pulmonary tuberculosis (2)”

According to Holinshed Chronicle “….he was so wasted with his long malady that nature could no longer  sustain his life and so he departed out of this world the two and 20th of April’.

Thomas Penn in his biography of Henry, The Winter King, describes Henry as ‘unable to eat and struggling for breath,  Henry’s mind was fixated on the hereafter …on Easter Sunday 8th April,  emaciated and in intense pain he staggered into his privy closet, where he dropped to his knees and crawled  to receive the sacrament… later as Henry lay amid mounds of pillows,  cushions and bolsters,  throat rattling,  gasping for breath,  he mumbled again and again that  ‘ if it please God to send him life they should find him a very changed man’.  Henry  made an exemplary  death,  eyes fixed intensely on the crucifix held out before him,  lifting his head up feebly  towards it,  reaching out and enfolding in his thin arms,  kissing it fervently,  beating it repeatedly upon his chest.   Fisher said that Henry’s promises took a very specific form.  If he lived, Henry promised a true reformation of all them that were officers and ministers of his laws (3)’.  However,  as they say , man makes plans and the gods laugh and Henry did not survive to bring about the changes he  was so eager on his death bed to make.  He had left it too late.

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Richmond Palace, Wynguerde c.1558-62 

And so Henry Tudor shuffled off this mortal coil..the King is dead, long live the King..and so begun the reign of his son..Henry VIII..and that dear reader is another story.

 

 

 

 

  1. The Death of Kings, p110 Clifford Brewer.
  2. ibid p110.111
  3. Winter King Thomas Penn p339

 

Shrewsbury refused entry to Henry Tudor….in 1985….

Shrewsbury - Trumper book

“In the shadow of Rowley’s House, Shrewsbury”

Here’s a little smile—well, smirk, actually—at Henry Tudor’s expense. It’s a snip from a new book by local (to Shrewsbury) historian, David Trumper, and released in November 2018, called ‘Now That’s What I Call Shrewsbury’.

“. . .One of the photos recalls a brutal snub given by Shrewsbury to Henry Tudor – or rather, volunteers who in August 1985 re-enacted Henry’s epic 260-mile trek from Pembrokeshire, through Shrewsbury, and so on to Bosworth, where he defeated Richard III in battle to become king.

“On arriving in the county town, the marchers, who were marking the 500th anniversary of the event, found that nothing had been laid on for them, and the Tudor army was told it could not camp in Shrewsbury Castle grounds.

“Several tents, which had been put up by an advance party, were ordered to be taken down.

“Henry Tudor, aka organiser Geoffrey Davies, had to admit defeat, fuming: ‘What we have seen is bureaucracy run riot in Shrewsbury.’. . .”

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I’m astonished that Henry Tudor was astonished – I mean, didn’t the creepy fellow invent OTT bureaucracy? Now, if it had happened in 1485, I fear we might have had Shrewsbury to blame for sowing the bureaucratic seed in Tudor’s nasty little mind!

As it was 1985 – well done, Shrewsbury!!!!!

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