2020 is the 800th Anniversary of the founding of Salisbury Cathedral. Before ‘New Salisbury’ came into existence, the town stood on the windy cone of Old Sarum, a huge iron-age hillfort with massive earthen ramparts. There was a particularly forbidding Norman castle on the height, with a windswept bridge over a deep moat–here, Henry II kept his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine imprisoned for some sixteen years, served by a single loyal lady-in-waiting. The old town also had a cathedral, begun somewhere after 1075. It was rather an ill-fated building, however, being severely damaged in a storm just five days after consecration. Sometime in the late 12th century, it was decided to move the cathedral from the height due to the lack of water. The cathedral was dismantled and much of the stonework taken down to the new site near the river, where the town of Salisbury as we know it would grow around it. The first stones of the English-style Gothic building were laid in 1220, in the reign of Henry III, with foundation stones being laid by, among other notables, the King’s half-uncle, William Longespee and his wife Ela, Countess of Salisbury, a remarkable woman who later became Sheriff of Wiltshire.
To commemorate the founding of Salisbury cathedral, a light show recently took place within the great building with projections of charters, drawings, stained glass, saints and rulers who played a part in Salisbury’s history. On the bleak ruins of Old Sarum, beams of light were shot high into the night sky so that they were visible from Salisbury town centre.
There are many interesting monuments inside the cathedral, including that of founder William Longespee (who was thought to have been poisoned–and a RAT found in his skull when his tomb was opened was full of arsenic!), Sir John Cheney, the 6ft 6 giant who was unhorsed by Richard III at Bosworth, and possibly Lionel Woodville, who was Bishop there until Buckingham’s rebellion, when he fled to Brittany hearing of Buckingham’s failure. Salisbury also has one of the copies of Magna Carta and the tallest spire in England. The building of the cathedral was fictionalised in the best-selling novel ‘PILLARS OF THE EARTH’ by Ken Follett, which recently was made into a TV series.
I prefer to think of the 2nd (Howard) Duke of Norfolk as the great John Howard’s son…Anne Boleyn, fascinating as she was, is not of such great interest to devotees of the House of York, and Richard III in particular.
John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk, was, of course, killed at Bosworth, and Thomas Howard (then Earl of Surrey and the subject of this new book) was captured. He eventually bit the proverbial bullet (or whatever a magnate of the period would have bitten) and served Henry Tudor, albeit without all the lands and influence his father had enjoyed.
He was a survivor, there’s no doubt about that, and he now has his own biography. I have yet to read it, so cannot comment on the book itself, but I can draw attention to it as of probable interest to readers of this blog.
And how they make it is a mystery, as is the rest of this list, which puts together a truly weird collection. I mean, what was so very remarkable about John and Jackie Kennedy? They were good-looking, influential and rich….but does that make them the sixth “best” couple of all time? I think not. Same for Churchill and Clementine. Great couples, yes, but not in a list of seven in all history!
As for poor Richard and Anne, I’m not really sure how or why they made this peculiar list. The so-called experts who’ve been herded in to give their opinions aren’t exacty pro-Richard, and some of their opinions are downright weird.
According to Philippa Gregory (Expert? She’s a historical novelist with books to sell!): “….’I think it most likely that Anne judged rightly that nobody could protect her from the greed and jealousy of the House of York but a brother of the House of York, and wisely and bravely ran away from her sister’s house to marry Richard’….” Right. I haven’t read her book about Anne Neville, but I think I have the gist of it. And as this author has taken it upon herself to rename the Wars of the Roses the “Cousins War” I don’t think I’ll be bothering. Historical fiction is just that, fiction, and should not be peddled as fact. I’m afraid that, for me, Philippa Gregory crosses the line.
As for Professor Michael Hicks. He writes “….’While we might argue that Richard wanted to be buried at Westminster with his queen, there is some evidence that he tried to replace her before she died.’….” This is worded to make Richard appear an uncaring husband who couldn’t wait to be rid of his queen. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Richard did love Anne. It was his advisors who urged him to think of marrying again, and then only because Anne was on her deathbed. He died at Bosworth, a king grieving for both his wife and only legitimate child.
Shame on these “experts” for twisting things around to suit their own arbitrary opinions, which smack of schadenfreude! Never trust anyone whose sole purpose is to sell their books!
As a multi-published author myself, I have often written about actual historical figures. Fictionally, yes, but I have always included an Author Note in which I have owned up to my inventions. I have never peddled them as historical fact!
I have just watched an extremely interesting documentary called Camerman to the Queen, about the exceedingly talented and prudent royal cameraman, Peter Wilkinson, who is clearly not only brilliant at what he does, but is also the complete soul of discretion. He’s trusted by the Queen and royal family, blends in matchlessly and can be relied upon to achieve amazing records of her many engagements. Over 300 in a year, in fact. She’s a very diligent, attentive and dedicated lady, and he holds her in complete respect. Rightly so.
Peter began as an apprentice cameraman and graduated to become a news cameraman whose assignments included many truly momentous events in the 20th and, so far, this century too. Now he works out of Buckingham Palace itself, and is often the only cameraman to accompany Her Majesty. It’s his film that is shared with the press, all of whom receive the same, so there’s no favour. And no one is ever going to complain about the quality of Peter’s work. He’s a Member of the Royal Victorian Order, and reigns as supreme in his art and professions as Elizabeth II does in her realm. To read more about Peter, go to this interview
The documentary was very entertaining and well worth watching, and I was left filled with admiration for him. But then the thought began to creep in…if only he’d been around in the 15th century. What if he and his huge Panasonic had been there on 29th April 1483, when Richard, Duke of Gloucester, met the eldest son of Edward IV at Stony Stratford and took him under his wing? But not into his clutches, as propaganda would like us to believe. Richard had destroyed a plot by the boy’s maternal family to take over the realm…and probably put Richard himself to death.
What if Peter had been there when Richard’s evidence about the illegality of his brother Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville had led the Three Estates to ask Richard to be king? What if Peter was close by when the boys in the Tower were taken to safety? When Hastings was arrested? When Buckingham’s treachery was realised? When the lines were drawn for Bosworth? When Richard died so gloriously in the thick of battle? And when Henry Tudor was guilty of allowing the King of England’s body to be desecrated?
What if the above image were a still, taken from actual 1485 footage? Will someone please give Peter Wilkinson a time machine, so he and his trusty camera can dip into history at will? Just imagine what he might have to show us!
If we had his immaculate films to show how it had all really been, there’d have not been any Tudor propaganda. Not even slippery, deceitful Henry could rail against actual footage of what had really happened. And maybe, with proof positive before the nation, we wouldn’t have had to endure the cruel domination of the House of Tudor.
Was it really only five years ago? Sometimes it seems like forever. And for me, the most affecting thing is still seeing Richard’s Book of Hours, which is thought to have been with him in his tent at Bosworth. I confess I had tears in my eyes. It just seemed so very personal to him. One of the prayers inside it reads: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, deign to free me, your servant King Richard, from every tribulation, sorrow and trouble in which I am placed…’ Yes, he was thrust into these tribulations, he didn’t seek them, and he paid a terrible price for shouldering the burden.
The day of his reinterment in Leicester Cathedral was truly momentous, as you’ll read here here
The discovery of Richard’s remains has made such a difference to Leicester. And rightly so. The city has taken him to its heart.
When we buy a non-fiction book (in our case usually something to do with Richard III and the medieval period) we anticipate its arrival with some relish. This is how I felt when, after reading many praises for Peter Ackroyd’s History of England, I decided to buy Volume I online.
It arrived this morning, and I leafed eagerly through the pages, to get a feel of it before reading it properly…but when I came to Illustration 49 (of 51) it was an image of Richard III from the Rous Roll – just him, taken from the image above. Then I read the caption: “Richard III standing on a white boar; the white boar was his personal badge or ‘livery badge’. It may derive from the Latin name of York, Eboracum, since he was known as Richard of York.”
Um…oh no he wasn’t, Mr Ackroyd. His father was Richard of York, and so was his nephew, Richard of Shrewsbury, who was created Duke of York and became one of the boys in the Tower. Richard was always Richard of Gloucester, and then Richard III.
As you can imagine, my heart sank and my hackles began to rise as I sensed that I’d purchased a real turkey. I have indeed, because Peter Ackroyd goes on to relate in full the version of events according to the Sainted More, strawberries, withered arm and all. The murder of the boys in the Tower is taken for granted, but the possibility of Henry VII being responsible is “essentially a fancy”. Oh, right. Why, may I ask? Because his tricky, grasping, dishonest hands were suddenly lily-white? No, according to Ackroyd: “There can be little doubt that the two boys were murdered on the express or implicit order of Richard III.” Clearly this author has inside information that has been hidden from everyone else.
And there’s more: “There had been usurpers before, wading through gore, but Richard III was the first usurper who had not taken the precaution of winning a military victory; he claimed the crown through the clandestine killing of two boys rather than through might on the battlefield.” Really? Methinks Mr Ackroyd is too accustomed to composing eyecatching blurbs!
And Richard “set up a ‘council in the north’ to consolidate his power in that region. Excuse me? Richard was consolidating his own power? Um, where was Edward IV while all this was going on? Or was Richard now ‘king of the north’, and a law unto himself?
And Richard contemplated marrying Elizabeth of York…at least, he would have done if he’d been able to get away with it. No mention at all of the important Portuguese negotiation for both his own marriage and that of his niece. Indeed no, the only reason Richard didn’t rush her to the marriage bed was because he would not have been “able to marry the girl whose brothers he had destroyed”.
Polydore Vergil “states that Richard III was now ’vexed, wrested and tormented in mind with fear almost perpetually’.” In fact, Ackroyd is prepared to judge Richard solely on the traditional stories, which were (sorry to repeat it again) the work of the victor at Bosworth, in whose interest it was to blacken Richard’s name and memory as much as he possibly could. Henry VII was surely the best spreader of fake news in history!
Oh, and Richard was “buried without ceremony in a stone coffin. The coffin was later used as a horse trough and the bones scattered”. Really? No wonder Ackroyd thinks Henry VII was the best thing for England, they share a liking for telling stories!
The copyright for this abominable work of fiction is 2011. Oh, dear, a year later and Richard himself was able to refute claims of hideous deformity and being chucked in the Soar (Ackroyd missed that one, by the way.)
There are many other points in this book with which anyone of common sense will disagree. Those who have really studied Richard III, will know that he has indeed been cruelly maligned by history. He did not do all those things of which he was accused…and if he had Hastings executed without delay, you can bet your bottom dollar it was for a damned good reason. Richard didn’t execute people left, right and centre…there are quite a few he should have topped, but he was lenient! Which makes him a black-hearted, villainous monster, of course.
Anyway, I regret being swayed into buying this book. It is nothing but traditionalist garbage! I hardly dare turn its pages to my other favourite king, Richard II. No doubt Henry Bolingbroke gets the laurels and is patted on the head for having that other Richard murdered. Ah, but that’s different. It was OK to kill Richard II. So, in 1399 there was a Richard usurped by a Lancastrian Henry, and then another such thieving Lancastrian Henry happened along in 1485. Neither of the Richards (both married to Annes, by the way) usurped anything, but they both get the blame for everything.
Well, it makes a change to find an article that doesn’t damn Richard III with every other word. This one simply states the known events without launching into Richard’s so-called dark plans, twisted nature and evil acts.
It isn’t quite flawless, because it omits to say that Henry Tudor won at Bosworth because Richard was betrayed, The switching of allegiance by Sir William Stanley was the sole reason Tudor emerged victorious, and is a known fact, not invention. It should have been mentioned.
This illustration is from the Yorkshire Post and has been chosen to illustrate the sort of wonderful finds that have been made by detectorists.
There has been a positive rash of such discoveries, and each time I am reminded again of how dreadful it must have been, way back when, to lose something as valuable as, say, a ring. People had fewer possessions then, and a jewelled ring would have been a dreadful loss.
There are other examples of lost jewellery, such as this article
Of course, not all detectorists are well-intentioned. Those they call nighthawks are in it for more nefarious reasons.
I cannot claim to have lost anything as valuable as the Middleham Jewel, but I did lose the emerald from my engagement ring. That awful moment when I glanced at my hand and saw the hole/space/gap, will live with me forever. It was like hearing the hollow clang of a huge invisible bell. My beautiful emerald had gone forever, and I was gutted.
Finding another emerald of the same colour and clarity proved impossible, so the ring now boasts a lovely ruby instead, but I still wonder what happened to the emerald.
Might someone find it in years to come? Or has it gone forever? I’d been into Gloucester that day, so it could had been lost then. A girl going shopping goes everywhere! One thing’s certain, unless they invent an emerald-detector, it won’t be located by some hopeful detectorist in a future century.
I have just watched an episode of Digging for Britain (2014, series 3, episode 3, entitled “North”) in which Alice Roberts presented a section about an archaeological dig that had at that time been going on for five years at a large 15th-century hall owned by Sir John Conyers.
Sir John had served both Edward IV and Richard III, was a Knight of the Garter, and carried Richard III’s sceptre at his coronation. Both kings were said to have dined at the hall. He fell from grace under Henry VII because he supported an attempt to topple Henry and replace him with Edward, Earl of Warwick, the imprisoned son of George, Duke of Clarence, brother of both Edward IV and Richard III.
I didn’t hear any actual identification of the site of the dig, and so imagine they didn’t want to invite unwelcome intrusion. Maybe I’m wrong, and I’m prepared to be put right, but all I picked up was that it was in North Yorkshire, and was a vast “feasting” hall (capable of holding upwards of 1000 people) where many artefacts were being found. Maybe it was at Hornby Castle, Yorkshire, which was Sir John Conyers’ main base. But that’s my guesswork.
Anyway, after Bosworth and the attempted coup, the site that became the dig described in 2014 was sacked by Henry VII, using cannon, and set on fire, reducing it to rubble. What I couldn’t quite decide was whether it was just the great hall that suffered this fate.
On the assumption that it was Hornby Castle in North Yorkshire, this webpage gives a lot of archaeological details, going back to 2011. The work there was still ongoing in 2018.