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Maldon

Following an unsuccesful Viking raid in 924, the battle of Maldon took place in August 991 and the result was a victory for the Norse invaders. Byrthnoth, the Essex earldorman who led the Saxons that day, was among those killed and Ethelred II instituted payment of the “Danegeld” to pacify the Vikings. This Byrthnoth statue (left), consequently, is displayed and a tapestry marking the millennium is part of the Maeldune Centre, to which we shall return.

Just over a mile from the town centre is Beeleigh Abbey, where Isabel Countess of Essex (Richard’s aunt) was buried, together with her Bourchier husband and son, before they were moved to Little Easton by her grandson, then Earl of Essex, at the time of the Dissolution, as were the Mowbrays and Howards in Thetford. The Abbey is closed nowadays, although it can be viewed from the gardens, which remain open.

This Essex town, by the Blackwater Estuary and the narrower River Chelmer, lies about six miles from Witham and was previously accessible from there by train. This plaque (left) by the Moot Hall details the more recent historic buildings, many of them on the High Street. The Rose and Crown (bottom) is one of these, down the hill and still in operation as an inn today.

The Maeldune Centre itself lies at the Market Hill junction, by Coes. Across the road is a long redundant church (St. Peter’s), which was adapted by the Maldon-born Thomas Plume (1630-1704), Vicar of Greenwich and Archdeacon of Rochester, to place Maldon Grammar School on the ground floor and his extraordinary private library (below left) on the first. The school has moved on but the Plume Library, funded by the income from nearby farmland, still stands.

Here, in a structure open only eight hours a week and accessible by a spiral staircase, the books are arranged by size and are not lent but have been stored since Plume’s time and a modern volume is very occasionally added. The collection relates to Plume’s interests in theology, history, science and philosophy, as well as the Civil War that plagued his youth. Some of the leather spines on the books are disintegrating although the pages themselves are in good condition.

Plume’s collection also includes a notable range of portraits, including all the monarchs of his lifetime and others from Edward IV, but excluding Edward V, the first two “Tudors” and Jane. The portraits include other clerics, including an “unknown divine”, whilst that of Charles I was made before his beard made an appearance. Groups can visit only by appointment and the total capacity is limited to twelve, including the staff.

So, to view a good portrait of Richard III and the former burial place of his Bourchier relatives, as well as some other history, Maldon is certainly worth a day out. All Saints, the contemporary civic church, houses the remains of George Washington‘s great-grandfather.

Royal genealogy before it happens (2)

Seven years ago, before this blog officially began, a letter was published in the Ricardian Bulletin about the common Edward III descent of the Duke and Duchess, as she soon became, of Cambridge through the Gascoigne-Fairfax line.

Now it has been announced that Prince Henry of Wales and the American actress Rachel (Meghan) Markle, or Duke and Duchess of Sussex as they are to become, are to marry on May 19. Tracing her royal descent has been more difficult until this genealogical outline appeared in the Mail on Sunday, back to Sir Ralph Bowes (1480-1516/7). Bowes’ wife, Elizabeth Clifford, was descended from Edward III through the same Mortimer-Percy marriage as were the Cambridges.

In this case, we can see some active participation in “Tudor” and Civil War history as well as Scottish royal descent in both lines – thus Robert I is also a significant common ancestor (twice, along with his brother Edward). The Rising of the North was, of course, in 1569.

Here is more on her lineage and here we present a more complete pedigree for them both. Hopefully, Prince Henry being a second son with red hair and a beard is not a bad omen.

{as published in the March 2018 Bulletin}

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow–Henry VIII’s Beard

Recently I came across a portrait of Henry VIII that I had not seen before–certainly it is one of the lesser known ones.

Ar first glance, the painting appears to be of a youth, pudgy-faced and beardless (with some similarities to portraits of Edward IV around the tip of the nose, eyes and mouth)–however, a bit of  research shows that Henry was not a young boy, but in fact around thirty five, when this miniature was painted by Lucas Horenbout. This was around the time Henry was enamoured with Anne Boleyn–so it is possoble he shaved the beard off to impress her!

Apparently Henry was frequently clean shaven, despite his most famous portraits showing him bearded.  His beard when it grew in was described as ‘golden’ and he seemed to have taken that as a compliment and a good match to his kingliness–however, Katherine of Aragon hated her husband’s facial hair with a passion and frequently begged him to shave it off…which, on occasion, he dutifully did. (At that point in his life,  Henry clearly preferred lopping off facial hair to lopping off a wife’s head.)

Henry was also rumoured to have decreed a ‘beard tax’ in 1535 (although the evidence for this is rather scanty…just like some beards). The wealthier and higher status you were, the more you paid to have a beard–which promptly turned facial hair into a much-desired status symbol. If Henry didn’t in fact implement this tax, his daughter Elizabeth certainly did–any beard which had more than two weeks growth was  to be taxed.

The hipsters of today would be horrified.

https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/420010/henry-viii-1491-1547

 

 

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