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Mer de Mort reviewed

Anything new from the Legendary Ten Seconds is always to be greeted with delight, and this new album does not disappoint. It tells the story of the House of Mortimer from its beginnings in France, to its ultimate destiny on the throne of England, through its descendants of the House of York, Edward IV and Richard III.

The narratives are read by actor John Challis, who played Boycie in Only Fools and Horses and who now lives at Wigmore Abbey. (Lucky man!)

Mortimer Overture. Impressive opening, with an almost marching rhythm – it’s possible to imagine one of the Mortimer earls riding past at the head of his dazzling retinue, and then disappearing along the road. I liked this very much. One of my favourite tracks.

Mortimer Castle. I liked the harmonies on this track. The background is perfect in the chorus, and I particularly liked the echo effect.

The Marcher Lords. And a powerful, influential and often tetchy lot they were too! A wise king handled them with caution! This is a strong song, and one can picture the generations of Mortimers standing firm.

When Christ and his Saints Slept. This one is about the period known as the Anarchy, which ended when Henry II ascended the throne. Once again, I particularly liked the background, which adds so much.

De Montfort. Tells a bloody story of the battle that ended with the death of Simon de Montfort. As a reminder of how brutal those days could often be, Roger Mortimer sent his wife de Montfort’s head as a trophy! Some good sounds in this one, making me think of heads being lopped!

The Round Table 1279. A song about an “Arthurian” tournament, creating a dazzling scene of knights in armour, fine horses, and beautiful women.

Two Thousand Marks. About the Roger Mortimer, and his dealings with Piers Gaveston, the influential favourite of King Edward II. This Roger eventually deposed the king and became the lover of Queen Isabella. We all know the outcome, and this song bowls along as it relates events.

The Privy Seal and the Royal Shield. Another song about Roger, and Mortimer participation at Bannockburn. I liked this one a lot. A great join-in chorus.

The King of Folly. Opens with a trumpet and set firmly in the year 1329 and great celebratory events at Wigmore Castle. A very enjoyable tune and rhythm.

The Tragedy of Roger Mortimer and the Mystery of Edward II. A haunting guitar solo opening for this song about Edward II’s fate at Berkeley Castle. Did he really die there? A quaint atmosphere pervades this song, which seeks the truth about Edward’s demise. . .and relates how his great foe, Roger Mortimer, eventually paid the price for his overreaching ambition. Maybe Edward lived on in obscurity.

Leintwardine. How Edward III, the man who ordered Roger Mortimer’s execution, went to Leintwardine to lay an offering of golden cloth at the feet of a statue of the Virgin Mary. I liked this one. It’s quietly understated, and a little eerie. Perhaps because a Mortimer Earl never did wear the crown, although it is from one of their daughters that the House of York descended.

Mer de Mort. A song that gives a voice to Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March. This is a delightful song, and one of my favourites on the album.

Mer de Mort, Part II. Once again Edmund expresses his feelings, and laments that his elder brother has no grave. This song echoes the first Mer de Mort, but is different. Very sad.

Henry VI. A song about the last Lancastrian king, who was to lose his throne to the Yorkist Edward IV, a descendant of the Mortimers. I like the rhythm of this song, which moves along pleasingly. It actually took a fair time to get rid of Henry VI! He was an incompetent king, but he went in the end, thank heaven. A good track.

Sunnes of York. Another easy treat, relating the tale of the how the House of Mortimer became the House of York. And tells of the final generation of Yorkist brothers, Edward IV, George of Clarence and Richard III. The House of York did not only claim the throne through the name of York, but, importantly, through the Mortimers, who descended from a more senior branch of the royal family. Familiar LTS territory. This song bowls along.

The Chapel of Sir John. A brisk rhythm for a rather spooky song, about what is seen in the windows, floor and screen of the medieval chapel of Sir John Evans in St  Matthew’s Church, Coldridge in Devon. The words recreate the atmosphere, and so does the music. An excellent conclusion.

This album marks a great advance in the LTS repertoire. A richer, fuller sound that sets it apart. Very much to my liking, and I hope, to yours.

Recommended!

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Twelve buildings in use today that were around in King Richard’s days..

 

 

Horton-Court.jpg

HORTON COURT, GLOUCESTERSHIRE

A link to an interesting article:

Unfortunately I have  been unable to discover any link to King Richard  or his contemporaries having visited any of the properties other than the tenuous connection of  Horton Court passing  to a descendant of John Paston of the “Paston Letters” family.

Thanks to Tom Martinscroft for his article.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A spook at Berkeley? Or a trick of the light….?

With drones in the news a lot of late, concerning their interference at airports, perhaps we should remember that they do have some very useful attributes. Especially such things as flying around ancient monuments and giving splendidly detailed views.

There have long been photographs, recordings and so on that claim to be evidence of supernatural events, but I have not seen drone footage that claims to show a knight on horseback galloping across the courtyard of Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire.

I have to say that the blurred image on the footage shown here does show a motion that seems to me to be appropriate for a man on horseback, but is that what the image actually is? A spook? Or a trick of the light?

You decide, ladies and gentlemen.

Dyer or Dire?

Many of you will remember the episode of “Who do you think you are” in which Danny Dyer was revealed as a descendant of Edward III. In this new two part series, he “meets” a few prominent ancestors, some even more distant.

The first episode began with Rollo, ancestor of the Dukes of Normandy, which saw Dyer visit Sweden, although Danes and Norwegians also claim that Viking dynast, to learn sparring with a sword and shield. Then he went to the Tower to talk about William I and Dover Castle for Henry II, discussing his rebellious sons and his mixed relationship with Becket. At every stage, riding a horse, jousting or dyeing (Dyeing?), he was accompanied by a professional genealogist (Anthony Adolph, in a cafe opposite Buckingham Palace) or a historian, if not one of television’s “usual suspects”. At the end, Dyer visited France to learn of a slightly different ancestor – St. Louis IX, although Margaret of Wessex is another canonised forebear.

The second episode did feature some real historians: Elizabeth Norton, Chris Given-Wilson, Tobias Capwell and Tracy Borman. The opening scene had Isabella on the Leeds Castle drawbridge shouting at Edward II (Dyer): “Git aht ov moi carsel” (you may need Google Translate, but not from French). We were shown an image of Hugh le Despencer’s grisly execution, without pointing out that there were two of that name, followed by Edward’s confinement in Berkeley Castle, forced abdication and the legend of his even grislier end. Henry “Hotspur” Percy, who died in battle at Shrewsbury, followed as Dyer tried on late mediaeval armour. The next scenes concerned Sir John Seymour at Wolf Hall, inveigling his daughter into Henry VIII’s world, as Dyer dressed up and tried “Tudor” dancing. We then moved on to Helmingham Hall as Catherine Cromwell married Lord Tollemache, whose successor met Dyer, his cousin, again. The series concluded with a “sugar banquet” as the star’s family joined in, dressed as Elizabeth I’s contemporaries.

Both programmes were informative about mediaeval life, such as the “silver pennies” bearing Dyer’s image and the West Ham badge, although his stereotypical East London patois grates a little. It brought to mind Ray Winstone as Henry VIII (“I have been betrayed!”) or Nick Knowles‘ egregious Historyonics.

Sleep in Henry VIII’s bedroom? But not his bed….!

Thornbury Castle

The picturesque little Gloucestershire town of Thornbury is not in the Cotswolds, but down in the Vale of the River Severn, between Bristol and Gloucester. Caught between the Cotswold escarpment and the Severn estuary, it is an area of rich farmland, with orchards for cider and perry, and pasture for the production of cheese.

Everyone knows about nearby Berkeley Castle, with its grisly tales of red hot pokers, and perhaps a lot of people know there was once a castle at Gloucester, to guard the first bridge over the tidal river. Not so many will know that there is also a Thornbury Castle, or that it is now a luxury hotel.

Thornbury - High Street

You drive down through Thornbury’s beautiful High Street and into Castle Street, toward the originally Norman church of St Mary at the bottom. And there, behind the church, is the castle and its magnificent grounds.

Thornbury - Church of St Mary the Virgin

Actually, Thornbury was not always a castle, for it started as a manor house, where Richard II, stayed there on this day, 26th August 1386. There the king met the Cornish writer John Trevisa, who was working on his Polychronicon and the state of the royal prerogative. Richard was to request him to write a history of English kings, from Brutus to his, Richard’s, reign.

Henry VII very graciously gave Thornbury to his uncle, Jasper Tudor, whom he elevated to become Duke of Bedford. Jasper died there on 21st December, 1495. In his bed, at the age of 60-something. Not, as Wikipedia would have it, in 1521, beheaded for alleged treason by his “distant cousin” Henry VIII. Henry appropriated Thornbury and spent part of his “honeymoon” there with his new queen, Anne Boleyn. We all know the honeymoon period was soon over!

The nobleman who died in 1521 was Edward Stafford, the 3rd Duke of Buckingham, and yes, he was executed for treason. He was the son of Henry Stafford, the second duke, whom Richard III rightly called “the most untrue creature living”. Rebellion against Richard resulted in the second duke’s execution in Salisbury in 1483. So his son hated the House of York, and supported the Tudors. Much good it did him, for they hacked his head off anyway.

So you will see that Thornbury has had its share of royal visitors. No doubt there have been more, but I only give a flavour of the history that attaches to this beautiful house. Yes, it is now a castle, having been rebuilt by the above-mentioned Edward Stafford. It was sold in 2017, and so must now be under new management.

A stay there would be a delightful experience, I’m sure, but a word of warning. Jasper Tudor’s ghost is said to wander around of a night…

Oh, and even worse, there is a room called the Duke’s Bedchamber, and it is where Henry VIII supposedly slept. Rather you occupy it, my friends, than me!

Thornbury - the Duke's Bedchamber

The Duke’s Bedchamber

Here is a link to the hotel’s website. It contains some wonderful aerial views of the castle and grounds. Worth looking at!

 

Playwrights and persistent historical myths

Today in 1564, Christopher Marlowe (right) was baptised in Canterbury.

One of the plays for which he is most famous is

 

 

 

Edward II (left), traditionally dated a year before his own 1593 death. In it, he fuels the myth of Edward meeting his end by a red-hot poker. This is cited by Starkey in his (Channel Four series) Monarchy, who called Edward’s rear his “fundament”, showing again why he should not roam from his Tudor” area of expertise.

 

 

Marlowe’s legacy of influence in this is obviously less than Shakespeare’s with regard to Richard III, but the parallels are

obvious. In quoting earlier “historians”, Shakespeare transferred the kyphosis of another contemporary figure to Richard, which some naive people still believe, whilst Richard’s disinterment demonstrated him to suffer from scoliosis instead. Indeed, the Starkey acolyte Dan Jones seems untroubled by the facts in either case.

 

 

William “Waste-all” Berkeley, the lord who out-Stanleyed the Stanleys at Bosworth….!

Berkley_Castle_by_Jan_Kip_1712Here is the story of yet another lord who betrayed Richard III at Bosworth. Oh, but wait a moment, this one betrayed Henry Tudor as well, now there’s a feat!

The man in question was William, eventually Marquess of Berkeley, but nicknamed “Waste-all”. He was 43 when he won the Battle of Nibley Green, which was fought on 20 March 1469 or 1470, depending upon which calendar one uses. The battle is famous now because it was the last to be fought in England by private feudal armies. William “was of an unusually haughty and headstrong disposition, and made himself so much feared by all around him that for several years before his father’s death none of the tenants would accept any lease without William’s joining in it”. Not an endearing character.

north_nibley

The village of North Nibley, Gloucestershire

He had an even more famous feud with Margaret Beauchamp, Countess of Shrewsbury (1404–14 June 1468) was the eldest daughter of the 13th Earl of Warwick, and by her marriage to the 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, as his second wife, she was the mother of Lady Eleanor Talbot, Sir Humphrey Talbot, and Lady Elizabeth Talbot, Duchess of Norfolk, all names Ricardians will know well. But by her first marriage, she was the grandmother of Thomas Talbot, 2nd Baron Lisle , 2nd Viscount Lisle (c.1449-20 March 1470), who was aged 20 or 21 at the time of Nibley Green.Margaret Beauchamp, Countess of Shrewsbury (1404-1467) by James Basire the younger (London 1769 ¿ London 1822)

Margaret was a truly formidable woman who always fought tooth and claw what she considered to be hers and her children’s. She pursued years of feud with the equally formidable William Waste-all. They were “”two merciless natures not unevenly encountering”, as Smyth, the Berkeley family biographer and steward, recorded. The dispute was over manors and lands, including Berkeley Castle itself, which the Countess regarded as hers. Waste-all, needless to say, did not agree. One of the disputed manors was Wotton, not far from Berkeley, which Waste-all said the countess was occupying illegally. The dispute was not confined to legal means, including petitioning King Edward IV, but also by predatory attacks on each other’s territories, and fights between their servants and tenants. It was quite some quarrel, even by the standards of the day.

Berkeley (left) and Lisle (right)

Then, on 14 June 1468, the Countess Margaret died, and her estate—and the great dispute—passed to her grandson, the young Lord Lisle, who was eager to take up the cudgels. He plotted against Waste-all, using a treacherous Berkeley servant who then turned coat again and told Waste-all everything. The latter was monumentally furious. Lisle was livid. Letters were sent, threats made, and a challenge issued on 19 March 1469. The confrontation was set to take place the following day at Nibley Green, halfway between Wotton and Berkeley.

Re-enactment of Battle of Nibley Green

Re-enactment of the Battle of Nibley Green

Waste-all maintained a garrison at Berkeley Castle, which gave him an advantage over Lord Lisle. They faced each other at Nibley Green, 1000 men to 300 or so. It was an unequal conflict from the outset, and because his visor had not been lowered, hot-headed Lisle was shot with an arrow on the left side of his face. One of Waste-all’s supporters, named Black Will of the Forest of Dean, finished off the wounded man with a dagger. Lisle’s force fled, pursued by Waste-all’s. There was chaos as the latter and his great numbers descended on Wotton. Such was the ordeal for Lisle’s young wife, that sixteen days later she was brought to bed early of a stillborn son, thus ending her husband’s line.

All this took place as Warwick the “Kingmaker” was turning upon Edward IV. A few months later, Edward himself was a fugitive and Warwick had returned the displaced Lancastrian, Henry VI, to the throne. Then, the following year, Edward IV returned to overthrow Warwick and Henry VI at the Battle of Barnet. On 6 October 1473, the case was settled in favour of Waste-all, who must have thought it was all done and dusted.

However, he became mixed-up with Sir Edward Grey, brother-in-law (through her first husband) of Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV’s manipulative queen. Grey married the sister of the late Lord Lisle of Nibley Green, and decided to take up the Lisle claim through his wife. William Waste-all was on shakier ground now, with Elizabeth Woodville obviously set on upholding her brother-in-law’s side of it. Edward IV was always one for a quiet time in his marriage – if marriage it was, considering he was first married to the old Countess’s daughter, Lady Eleanor Talbot, who selfishly stayed alive for four years after he’d uttered his vows to Elizabeth! Oh, tangled webs… In due course Sir Edward Grey would indeed be created Lord Lisle by Richard III.

In the meantime, anxious to stay in favour with Edward IV, Waste-all had conveyed many manors and lands to the king’s younger son, the little Duke of York (soon to be one of the boys in the Tower). When Richard III came to the throne, and the Duke of York (and his elder brother, known as Edward V) were declared illegitimate because of the Eleanor Talbot marriage, everything returned to Waste-all. Did he dance a jig? Probably.

But it was now that he really earned his nickname, Waste-all. After subsequently gaining 68 Mowbray manors and other property across the realm, he set about giving or granting everything away in order to gain honours and distinctions. He conveyed 35 manors to Richard III, in return for the title Earl of Nottingham, and when Richard faced Henry Tudor at Bosworth, it was said that William Waste-all out-Stanleyed the Stanleys, by supporting one side with men, the other with money. Henry Tudor won, and returned the 35 manors to William Waste-all. Was fate hell-bent on helping the fellow?

Next Waste-all conveyed two castles and 28 manors to Sir William Stanley, and then parted with many more to Sir William and others. In his will he entailed Berkeley Castle and all remaining family possession on the Tudor king, reserving only a life interest in them. In return he was created Marquess of Berkeley. He ended up as Great Mareschal of England, but by the time he died, on 14th February, 1492, he had disinherited his entire family. What a Valentine. Small wonder he gained the soubriquet Waste-all!

berkeleycastle

But there is a postscript. Waste-all had no legitimate children, and so his heir was his younger brother, Maurice, whom Waste-all considered to have married beneath his rank and thus brought shame on the family. What nerve, considering his own antics.

Was Waste-all giving everything away in order to punish Maurice, who eventually inherited the title, with nothing to go with it? If this is true, it was a terrible act of spite from nasty old Waste-all, who wasn’t exactly a dazzling adornment to the title of Berkeley.

You will find much more about him and the Battle of Nibley Green at

https://www.rotwang.co.uk/hob_chapter_05.html

 

 

Were Edward II and Isabella maligned too….?

The above illustrations are an indication of the generally accepted view of the reign of Edward II. He preferred men and ignored his wife. She resented this, took a lover and turned successfully upon her husband, becoming the “She Wolf” of legend.

So let us go back to the beginning. On 25th January 1308, Edward II and the beautiful Isabella of France were married. He was 23 and she was a mere 16. Their coronation was on 25th November that year. For Isabella, the blot on her landscape was a certain Piers Gaveston, who appears to have been Edward’s adored lover. Certainly the handsome Gascon was regarded with inordinate favour by the besotted king, who created him Earl of Cornwall and even presented his own niece in marriage. Gaveston lorded it at the coronation, bearing the crown and having the audacity to wear royal purple, instead of the cloth of gold that was decreed for his rank of earl. Then he and Edward sat together, laughing and doting, leaving Isabella on her own with her outraged French relatives. The latter were so angry they walked out. Edward, apparently, hardly noticed their departure.

Isabella_of_France_Consort_Edward_II_345w

Isabella, Queen Consort of Edward II

Needless to say, Gaveston was loathed by the baronage…and, fame has always had it, by Isabella as well. He, and his successors, the even more hated Despensers, were the bane of her existence. She was scorned, humiliated, abandoned, and generally treated appallingly by the foolish Edward. Eventually she was driven into the arms of Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March, who became her lover. Together they managed to unseat Edward and eventually bring out his death at Berkeley Castle. (Well, that too might be a myth, for there is a persistent theory that he escaped and lived abroad for the rest of his life.)

But it is with Edward’s relationship with Isabella that I am concerned here. Was she really that callously treated? It isn’t often that I’ve come across anyone defending Edward and, to a certain extent, Isabella as well. Maybe Edward has been wronged, and was a caring husband after all. And maybe she loved him in return. In the beginning. Eventually it all became too much for her, and she turned to Mortimer, but it certainly wasn’t instant.

To read an argument in favour of both parties, go to the following, which I found very interesting and thought-provoking. Has Edward been wrongly judged through the centuries? The original post was by Kathryn Warner, author of “Edward II: The Unconventional King”.

http://www.kyrackramer.com/2015/01/06/isabella-of-france-and-edward-ii-reality-is-far-more-interesting-than-myth/

More than one target for the Cairo dwellers?

21 September 1327 is the traditional date of death for Edward II at Berkeley Castle and various myths about it and his life have passed through these 690 years almost unquestioned. They are repeated by quite a few notable people without real evidence as well. If this sounds familiar, it is because certain individuals have made statements about Richard III over the years that either wasn’t based on any reliable source or contradicts the evidence that has gradually come to light thanks to the likes of Barrie Williams and John Ashdown-Hill. For some years, they have been referred to as “Cairo (or even Alexandria) dwellers”, because they are so far up the Nile.

Edward II has evidently attracted similar such posthumous adversaries – of which Channel Four’s series “Monarchy” referred to the most grisly myth of all. That this was presented by David Starkey demonstrates that both kings, and possibly several others, attract the same drastically over-simplifying detractors, whose followers appear to have closed

their minds at the age of about seven.

Here Kathryn Warner, who has gone some way towards showing Edward may well have survived his visit to Berkeley and died later elsewhere, demonstrates that a forty year-old footnote referred to a fictional part of a mis-dated document and was cited to fuel a new myth by someone either monumentally stupid OR … worse.

Similarly, here, Jacqueline Reiter shows that a book supposedly owned by John 2nd Earl of Chatham could not have been written until after his death.

The monstrous toad of Berkeley Castle….

ks_toad_watermarked_by_kbs_art-dakzhly

The toad in question is a well-known story of Berkeley Castle, although I had not heard it before. However, the thought of such a creature being connected to the reign of Henry VII is just too irresistible for the Ricardian in me. So here it is, as taken from Berkeley, A Town in the Marshes, by David Tandy.

“It is written, ‘out of which dungeon,1 in this place of a deepe broad well goinge steepely downe in the midst of the dungeon chamber in the said keepe, was (as tradition tells) drawne forth a Toad in the time of king Henry the seventh (1485-1509) of incredible bignes, which in deepe dry duft in the bottom thereof had doubtlesse lived there divers hundreds of years.’

  • 1John Smyth of Nibley (1567-1641) The Berkeley Manuscripts: Lives of the Berkeleys. J. Mclean (ed). TBGAS 1883.

“Smyth, by talking to many elderly people in his time, had obtained this account. He said he saw a drawing in colour upon the wall of the great hall [of the castle] and on the side of the porch leading into the hall. But this drawing was, as he put it, ‘Washed out or outworne at that time’. 

“As to the size of this toad, it was said to be in breadth over a foot neere to sixteen inches and in length, more. Having been fed over its life time on flesh and garbage from the butchers, it was said to fill a peck basket, some said a bushel basket. Smyth finished this account with the words ‘But this is all the trueth I knowe, or dare believe’. 

“There is a carving of a toad in the church, high up on one of the columns, this toad is situated above two gossiping women. It’s suggested it is a medieval warning against gossip and false rumour.”

There is another such carving in the local church of St Mary’s, see below.

Berkeley Toad - corbel in St Mary's Church

Great Hall at Berkeley Castle

There is more about this monstrous toad here.

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