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The Black Cat of Kidwelly….

 

The picture left above is from https://tinyurl.com/h3s5pds, the one on the right is from https://blackcatrescue.wordpress.com/tag/black-cat-myth/

Last night I watched a programme in which the family history of the actor Ioan Gruffudd was traced. Rather amusingly, right at the end, he learned he was descended from Edward I, the very king who subjugated Wales. Oh, what a dilemma for a proud Welshman.

However, at one point my attention wandered from Ioan’s very interesting background, because I noticed a black cat badge on the back of a chair in which he was seated for part of the programme. So I searched for ‘the black cat of Kidwelly’, and sure enough, it’s on the town’s coat-of-arms.

I found the following explanation at http://www.kidwelly.gov.uk/Kidw…/kidwelly_history-11133.aspx

“The Black Cat of Kidwelly

“Kidwelly’s Coat of Arms and Official Seal shows a Black Cat. Herein lies the dilemma. The name of the township changed considerably over the centuries. In the ninth century when few people could read and spelling was of little importance, it was called Cetgueli. It was not until the advent of books, newspapers and dictionaries that correct spelling became significant. In the 17th. Century even William Shakespeare, who had more practice than most, spelt his own surname in at least eight different ways!

“In ancient documents, Kidwelly was spelt Cadwely, Catwelli, Kadewely, Keddewelly, Kadwelye, Kedwelle. The “Cat” in “Catwelli” may, however, have just been a misunderstanding about the origin of the word – some even believe that Kidwelly was named after a gentleman named Cattas, whose habits included sleeping in an oak tree in the vicinity!

“Others will affirm that the Town’s mascot was originally an otter. Otters were frequently seen on the river banks surrounding Kidwelly and indeed, one is depicted in a carved memorial in St. Mary’s churchyard. Those who believe the Cat to be the true emblem of Kidwelly, will tell you that the black cat was the first creature seen alive after the great plague hit the town. It was therefore honoured as a symbol of salvation and deliverance and subsequently used as Kidwelly’s heraldic symbol.”

So, the black cat is important to Kidwelly!

To see Ioan’s programme, go to:-

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04lpbn1

How to build a medieval castle….

secrets-of-the-castle

If you have not seen the BBC documentary series “Secrets of the Castle”, please give it a whirl. It is about a 20-year project in Burgundy to build/rebuild a medieval castle, using all the materials and skills that would have been available to the original castle-builders. It is being repeated on the Yesterday channel at the moment.

Some of the techniques are absolutely astonishing. The human treadmill on top of a tower raises enormous weights of stone. Ingenious. Many details of medieval life are brought vividly to life, including the women’s tasks in the home. The cooking is simple but nourishing.  Thoroughly recommended viewing for anyone interested in those centuries.

George III revealed

This documentary, presented by Robert Hardman of the Daily Mail, unveils some of our longest-serving King’sgeorgeiii secrets, such as a draft abdication letter after American independence was achieved. It also discusses his health issues in greater detail. Until recently, it was thought that he suffered from porphyria, a physical disease that Mary Stuart carried to her descendants but now it appears that he was afflicted by some form of insanity and was aware of it in the early stages. Hardman tells us that George, as a prolific writer, is likely to have appreciated the many scientific and georgetechtechnological advances that followed his reign.

We are also told how, at the onset of his reign, he micro-managed his royal duties, possibly wearing out his formidable mind. Just like Henry VI, George III had an early attack, in 1782 when his favourite son died and the letter was drafted, but recovered within months, only to lose that mind irrevocably at a later stage. Fortunately, George had several adultoldgeorgeiii sons, the eldest of which could serve as Regent, whilst he stumbled around unaware, either mentally or visually, of his granddaughter Charlotte’s death in childbirth or of her cousin’s birth. At least he knew about the “discovery” of Australia.

Here  is a link to the recently released “Georgian Papers Online”, now part of the Royal Collection and here is Hardman’s original article.

The real site of the Battle of Barnet…?

site-of-battle-of-barnet

The excellent BBC series Digging for Britain, Series 5, the episode concerning the east of Britain, presented by the equally excellent Dr Alice Roberts, contained a section on the Battle of Barnet, 1471.

Why is it that an accepted site for a battle so often proves to be the wrong one? Bosworth is a prime example, of course, but it seems the Battle of Barnet was another. Apparently it has always been thought that the battle took place where the town of Barnet is now, yet there was never any proof. So the discovery of some 15th-century cannon balls in fields outside the town had the local detectors out in force.

Accounts of the battle describe it as having taken place in a hollow in the landscape, and the area of the fields fitted the bill. Standing in the middle and panning his camera around in a circle, one of the searchers showed how the land rose gradually all around. He and his fellows searched and searched, only finding things that might have had nothing to do with the battle, but then (in a style that brought Time Team to life again!) right at the eleventh hour a final detector happened upon something more substantial. They did not know if it was from horse harness or perhaps male clothing, although it was a little heavy for that.

battle-of-barnet

Various other finds convinced them they had found the true site of the battle. But it seemed curious that Edward IV, arriving on the scene with his battle at the end of the day, should choose to place himself in a dip. Surely that would be inviting trouble? Especially as he did not know exactly where the Lancastrian army was situated. But, the Lancastrians didn’t know the exact whereabouts of the Yorkists.

Battle commenced in at dawn, in fog, with the Earl of Warwick, in command of the Lancastrians, firing his cannon where he thought the Yorkists were. But he couldn’t see them because they were low down, and his cannon balls went harmlessly over their heads. Edward, on the other hand, kept his cannon silent, in order not to give his position away.

It became a bloody affair, with the Lancastrians mistaking one of their own, the Earl of Oxford, whose badge was a star, for Edward IV, whose badge was the sun in splendour.  Warwick was killed in the rout that followed.

So, was Edward IV a brilliant tactician in choosing the site he did? Or was it pure chance? We will never know.

See this previous post or this one.

Go here to see some of the programme itself.

Myths Being Revived

I have been watching the BBC’s ‘The Hollow Crown’ with interest, as I have never actually seen the whole of Shakespeare’s Richard III and none of Henry VI (Parts I and II). At first I was appalled at Benedict Cumberbatch’s grotesquely exaggerated portrayal of Richard, but consoled myself by thinking that at least, because people will see that it bears no factual resemblance to his actual spinal condition, it might serve to distance the Bard’s Richard from the real man.

I was to be sadly disillusioned, however, on reading an article published by The Mail On Sunday. It basically states that the production team researched people with “curvature of the spine” and how they would have looked if unable to have it corrected “In order to make the depiction of Richard more accurate.” They also state that:

“Until recently it was assumed Shakespeare had exaggerated Richard’s disability to make him appear more monstrous. That theory was undermined by the discovery of the King’s body in Leicester in 2012”

Read the whole article and  see the depiction for yourself here.
And here is the man with the same curvature showing how Richard would have actually looked. Spot the difference!
Dominic in body armour
I have already complained in the following terms:

“I have seen a report in the Mail on Sunday concerning Benedict Cumberbatch and his portrayal of Richard III in The Hollow Crown. (‘Benedict’s really got the hump’). Towards  the end it states: ‘In order to make the depiction of Richard more accurate, Mallett and Cumberbatch studied the medical histories of those who had curvature of the spine and had not been able to have the condition corrected. Until recently, it was assumed that Shakespeare had exaggerated Richard’s disability to make him appear more monstrous. That theory was undermined by the discovery of the King’s body in Leicester in 2012, and tests showed that he suffered from scoliosis’.

While you may be reporting what the BBC have told you, and while it is correct that Richard suffered from scoliosis, this categorically does not equate to him having a hunchback. If your reporter had done any independent research at all into the condition, they would see that a scoliosis is a sideways curvature, which would not have manifested as a hump in a normal standing position. The only outward sign of the condition would have been one shoulder appearing higher than the other (which is how he was indeed described by contemporaries). As a Registered Osteopath, I am in a position to give an expert opinion on such matters. As a Ricardian, I am appalled that all the hard work we are doing to try to rehabilitate Richard’s reputation can be undermined in this way. Shakespeare’s Richard did have a hunchback, true, but to say that this is an accurate physical depiction of Richard is false and misleading. The public will think that if Richard’s spine was as Shakespeare described (which it isn’t), his character must be too. This prosthetic was obviously used for shock value. Fair enough, but it should be distanced from the real Richard III. There was a ‘body double’ found who had an almost identical curvature of the spine to Richard’s and a documentary made on Channel 4 showed how he could fight, ride and move perfectly normally and, clothed, you wouldn’t know he had the condition. (I have personally met the young man in question and can vouch for that being true). Incidentally, Shakespeare’s (and Cumberbatch’s) depiction of Richard having a withered arm and a limp is also false: Richard had neither. Please publish a correction as soon as possible; it might seem a trivial thing to you but many people really care that Richard was unjustly maligned and it means a lot to us. I would be happy to comment further if you would like to contact me and get an expert opinion instead of sensationalist nonsense.”

All quiet on the Cairo front?

I am writing to express my concern about the disappearance, without trace, of some individuals known as the “Cairo dwellers”. For many years, they have spattered cyberspace with information they must surely have known to be untrue, taken from five year-old boys who imply themselves to have been present at Council meetings, blind French eye-witnesses, those suffering from bad posthumous translation and others who could see events in London and Yorkshire from Italy, using the least likely interpretation when it suits them and inventing new motivation for trivial deeds themselves.

This year’s Radio Four Appeal is about denialists. If you know the whereabouts of these individuals, please contact the BBC who may be able to organise treatment for them so they learn to apply logic, remember their passwords and post some factual information. They are presently thought to be passing Alexandria.

A dialogue with himself …

… in which David Starkey took over the “Today” programme on Thursday:
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/04/23/david-starkey-magna-carta_n_7124440.html

Rather a shame because he should stick to Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, about whom he is the principal expert.

Coming up in January

Why the photo of journalist Matthew Parris? He’s the host of BBC Radio 4’s excellent series Great Lives in which Philippa Langley can be heard nominating Richard III, with me sitting in as the ‘expert witness’, broadcast on Tuesday 6 January at 16.30, repeated on Friday 9 January at 23.00. For anyone outside the BBC licence-fee territories I’m told it will be accessible as a podcast. All programmes in the series are archived on BBC iPlayer.

Why the photo of journalist Matthew Parris? He’s the host of BBC Radio 4’s excellent series Great Lives in which Philippa Langley can be heard nominating Richard III, with me sitting in as the ‘expert witness’, broadcast on Tuesday 6 January at 16.30, repeated on Friday 9 January at 23.00. For anyone outside the BBC licence-fee territories I’m told it will be accessible as a podcast. All programmes in the series are archived on BBC iPlayer.

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