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THE ROAD FROM FOTHERINGHAY-New Novel about Richard III’s Childhood

Richard’s childhood frequently gets some coverage in novels of his life, but THE ROAD FROM FOTHERINGHAY is the only novel, to my knowledge, that is ONLY about Richard’s youngest years, set against the wider backdrop of The Wars of the Roses. It is also one of only two in which the story is told from young Richard’s first person perspective. THE ROAD FROM FOTHERINGHAY is a prequel to the well-received I, RICHARD PLANTAGENET series but can be read purely independently.

The novel begins with Richard’s earliest days at Fotheringhay and the death of his youngest sister, Ursula, the first of many losses in his life. Then there is the move west to Ludlow and the Marches, which here is described as happening earlier than in the normal sequence of events we are used to reading. The author explains why in the notes; looking at the isotopic analysis of Richard’s teeth it shows, after a more ‘eastern Midlands’ signature very early in life, that this is followed by a more  western signature. For such chemical banding to be determined, he must have been in a westerly region for longer than a few weeks; if not actually at Ludlow with his oldest brothers Edward and Edmund, then perhaps at another of the Mortimer castles. (Usk, for instance,  has an unusual legend that he was born there…)

The sack of Ludlow follows and Richard’s first vision of the horrors brought by war–and imprisonment in the stronghold of the Duke of Buckingham, Humphrey Stafford, and his wife Anne–who is the sister of Richard’s mother, Cecily Neville. It is a fairly soft imprisonment for the youngest York children, Richard, George and Margaret,  which comes to an end when  the Battle of Northampton is fought and Buckingham  killed. Richard goes with his family to London where they are eventually reunited with first Edward, flush with the victory at Northampton, then the Duke of York himself, returned from brief exile in Ireland. Things look brighter for the future, with Richard’s father installed as King Henry’s heir…but then the Duke heads into the troubled North and is slain outside Sandal Castle, along with Richard brother Edmund, age just seventeen.

Duchess Cecily hastily sends Richard and George to Burgundy for their own protection. It is a gamble; the Duke of Burgundy does not want to seem to be favouring the Yorkists in any way. He grudgingly accepts the boys but not at his court;  they are shoved into a backwater instead, possibly Castle Duurstede, near Utrecht, which was undergoing renovation at the time.

But not for long. Word comes of the battles of Mortimer’s Cross and Towton. Edward IV is now King, Duke Phillip of Burgundy holds a huge feast with the two youngsters attending as esteemed princes, and Richard and George finally  return home, no longer penniless exiles but  brothers of a King  who are soon to be made Royal Dukes.

And when the Earl of Warwick takes Richard into his household at Middleham, the young boy at last begin to find a sense of his place in the world.

But the Wheel of Dame Fortune is forever spinning…

I RICHARD PLANTAGENET THE PREQUEL PART 1:

Kindle and print editions: THE ROAD FROM FOTHERINGHAY
(PART 2, AVOUS ME LIE,  due out  later in the year)

I, RICHARD PLANTAGENET SERIES: I, RICHARD BOOK SERIES

 

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Where was Henry (Percy)?

After reading Michael Jones‘ book “Bosworth 1485 The Psychology of a Battle”, I have leaned towards his site of the Battle of Bosworth. Since the book was published more evidence has come to light that shows that the battle probably did not take place around Ambion Hill. I have also read John D Austin’s book “MEREVALE and Atherstone”. John lives in the Atherstone area and his book provides lots of local evidence to suggest that the battle may well have been fought in the area.

Michael Jones cites The Crowland Chronicle, one of the earliest sources of the battle, which refers to Richard having camped near to Merevale Abbey ready to meet Tudor’s challenge and names their clash the next day as the Battle of Merevale.

In the Spring 2004 Ricardian Bulletin I came across an article by Lynda M Telford entitled “War Horses at Bosworth”. Lynda Telford states that thirty years of experience with horses leads her to believe whether Dadlington or Atherstone is the battle site, it cannot have been Ambion Hill. This is due to the cramped area thought to be the battlefield which is quite unsuitable for large numbers of horses.

We have recently fought the second Battle of Bosworth with Ricardians pitted against Hinckley Borough Council which ended with them giving planning consent to Horiba Mira so that they could build an electric car testing site on the battlefield site. Unfortunately, the second battle was lost as was the first, however, it appears to confirm that the battle was fought in the area suggested by Michael Jones.

So, if this is the case it begs the question: where was the Earl of Northumberland during the battle? When it was thought that the battle was fought at Ambion Hill, it was said that Northumberland was posted to rear of Richard as the reserve and that he didn’t become involved in the battle. This was taken to mean that Northumberland deserted Richard too, as did the Stanleys.

I am going to suggest that, given the new site of the battle with Richard to north of Atherstone and Tudor to the south of it, Northumberland was to the south of “Tudor”. What if he was guarding the road to London to ensure that “Tudor” didn’t take off down Watling Street? On page 22 of his book ”Merevale and Atherstone”, John D Austin comments “ Tudor marched Northwards through Wales from Milford Haven hopefully to gather Welsh supporters and then he intended to march south from Shrewsbury, more or less down Watling Street to London. Henry had never fought in a battle before and particularly with his puny forces and lack of experience the last thing he wanted to do was to search out and attack Richard” It makes sense, why would Tudor turn east off Watling St to confront Richard when he could have hopefully carried on marching south to London?

Richard would have realised that the battle would have to be in a place of his choosing and he would have remembered that when he and Edward returned from Burgundy in 1471 and they challenged Warwick at Coventry, they moved off and found that the road to London was unguarded and so they set off immediately and entered London unchallenged. He may well have instructed Northumberland to guard the road and ensure that no one got through. What if his instructions to Northumberland were not to leave the road unguarded in any circumstances?

I have read that it was considered strange that “Tudor” went to Leicester after the battle and not straight to London. I wonder if that was because having turned east to do battle he knew that Northumberland was still guarding the road and Tudor, not being battle hardened at all, couldn’t face an encounter with troops who would have been relatively fresh in comparison with his troops.

Medieval (sic) Murder Mysteries

This is a six-part series, first shown on “Yesterday” (a UKTV channel) in 2015 but is available to view on their website here. The producers used pathologists, coroners, historians, barristers and other writers to form their conclusions, some of which are more reliable than others.

The first episode, which surely misses the mediaeval timescale, is that of Christopher Marlowe, stabbed in a Deptford tavern in 1593: in self-defence, a brawl or a targeted assassination? Marlowe’s possible involvement with heresy or espionage, Raleigh or Cecil is investigated in depth. The riddle of Edward II‘s fate at Berkeley Castle is tackled next – could he really have died by poker or suffocation or could he have escaped? Their conclusion points in the latter direction, although the current Berkeley heir leans towards the ultra-traditional legend.

The third show is about Arthur of Brittany, son of Geoffrey and nephew of John, who seems to have been disposed of in a particularly grisly manner in Brittany – blinding and castrating, either of which could have been fatal through shock. Several Byzantine Emperors, from 800 onwards, had been blinded, to prevent them from ruling effectively and castration would prevent him from reproducing, although death would not necessarily be intended. The fourth, again un-mediaeval, case covered Amy Robsart’s fall down a staircase at Cumnor, Oxfordshire after sending her servants away – accident, suicide, murder to free her husband Dudley to marry Elizabeth I, murder to stop him from ever marrying Elizabeth? Both suicide and murder are less probable, as the pathologist argued, because Amy might have survived as an invalid for a few years and remembered her assailant if there was one. There was no mention of the cancer I have heard, elsewhere, that she suffered from, although the staircase is the series emblem.

Inevitably, the “Princes” feature, in part five. Sadly, as with Edward II, many of the “experts” may understand their own professions well but seem not to appreciate the level of “Tudor” propaganda and have not approached the case with open minds, which skewed their conclusion against the high probability of one or both being sent to Burgundy. The final case was that of Juan (Giovanni) Borgia, the acknowledged son of a Pope (Alexander VI), who was definitely murdered and dumped in the Tiber – but as a random victim, by his brother Gioffre, the Orsini family or someone else? An Orsini had just died in a Papal prison.

Who was at Sheriff Hutton at the time of Bosworth….?

Sheriff Hutton - impression by Geoffrey Wheeler, Richard III Society

Sheriff Hutton in the snow, by Geoffrey Wheeler

As I understand it, Richard sent his nieces Elizabeth and Cicely/Cecily to Sheriff Hutton before Bosworth, in the care of John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, who was then Richard’s successor as Lord of the North. Lincoln may have stayed there, because there is no proof that he fought alongside Richard.

It is also possible that Richard’s much loved illegitimate son, John of Gloucester, was present, as well as young Warwick, son and heir of the Duke of Clarence. Also the boys from the Tower. The theory is that Edward IV’s sons were spirited away as soon as news of the defeat at Bosworth reached the castle. Maybe they went to their aunt in Burgundy? Maybe they were all supposed to flee to Burgundy (or somewhere else), especially Elizabeth and Cicely, both of whom were in Henry Tudor’s sights as possible brides. But for some reason, they stayed where they were. And eventually both girls, together with Lincoln and Warwick, fell into Tudor’s clutches.

That is a hypothetical complement of the castle at this particular point at the end of August 1485. Now then, here is my question. Is it a full list of those who might be termed Richard’s heirs, and who might have been at Sheriff Hutton? It has been suggested to me that the whereabouts of nine-year-old Anne St Leger might be of interest. She was the daughter of a sister of Edward IV and Richard III, and therefore as much Edward IV’s and Richard’s niece as Elizabeth and Cicely/Cecily, albeit on the female side. But then, Lincoln’s mother was another such sister of the two kings, and it is believed Richard chose—or intended to choose—him as his heir. Regarding Anne St Leger, Richard had executed her father, but would that have mattered when the chips were and a showdown with Henry Tudor loomed?

So, would all these people have had retinues? Or were they likely to have been sparsely attended because of the circumstances? If they had all their servants, who were these servants? Is it known who usually attended Elizabeth and her sister? Or again, perhaps there were other lords and ladies present in the castle?

Many more than one simple question, I know, but I would be interested to know some views on the subject. Over to you, ladies and gentlemen. . . .

 

 

 

 

Tales of a Ricardian Traveler – Gruyères Castle

If we thought that Richard III had a horrific end to his life, just take a look at the death of Charles the Bold.

RICARDIAN LOONS

Lady on Horseback Lady on Horseback, mid-15th c., British Museum

It is tempting to think that the British Isles contain all the sites associated with Richard III’s life. Of course, that’s not true. Richard lived abroad twice, first in 1461 and again in 1470-1. On both occasions, he had fled England in order to save his life and wound up living in lands controlled by the Duke of Burgundy.  The Duke, a descendant of a junior branch of the French royal house of Valois, maintained the most glamorous and sophisticated court in all of Europe.  So powerful were the Valois-Burgundian dukes that when Edward IV became king, he betrothed his sister Margaret to the heir of that duchy.

Charles the Bold Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy (1433-1477). His third marriage was to Margaret of York, Edward IV’s and Richard III’s sister. He would be the last of the Valois dukes of Burgundy.

Margaret’s intended husband…

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GREENWICH PALACE – HUMPHREY DUKE OF GLOUCESTERS PALACE OF PLEAZANCE

Gloucester-Talbot-Shrewsbury-Book.jpegHumphrey Duke of Gloucester from the Talbot Shrewsbury Book

 

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A print by an unknown artist now in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich depicting the Palace c 1487.

Greenwich Palace, or Placentia as it is often known, was built around 1433 by Henry V’s brother, Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, who named it Bella Court after he had been granted the Manor of Greenwich by his nephew Henry Vl.  There had been   been an even older palace on  that site, perhaps dating from the reign of Edward l.  Henry lV dated his will from his ‘Manor of Greenwich January 22nd 1408′ and the palace appears to have been his favourite residence.  However, the grant in 1433 of 200 acres of land was for the purpose of enclosing it as a park.  It would seem that Humphrey was pleased with the spot because 4 years later he and his ill-fated wife, Eleanor Cobham,  obtained a similar grant and in that, licence was given for the owners to ’embattle and build with stone’ as well as ‘to enclose and make a tower and ditch within the same and a certain tower within the part to build and edify’ (1)

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Part of the drawing of Greenwich Palace by Anthony van der Wyngaerde 1558 with Duke Humphrey’s tower on top of the hill.

Accordingly soon after this  Humphrey commenced building the tower within what is now the site of the Royal Observatory which was then called Greenwich Castle,  and he likewise rebuilt the old palace on the spot where the west wing of the Royal Naval College now stands which he renamed from its agreeable situation, Pleazaunce or Placentia although this name was not commonly used until the reign of Henry Vlll.

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Another view of van der Wyngaerde’s drawing of Greenwich Palace c 1558

Upon Humphrey’s death the palace was granted to his nemesis, Margaret of Anjou.  Margaret added embellishments including terracotta tiles bearing her monogram, filled the windows with glass and built a landing stage and treasure house (2)

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A view of Greenwich Palace from a print published by the Society of Antiquaries 1767

Later Edward IV enlarged the park, stocked it with deer and bestowed it as a residence upon Elizabeth Wydeville.  Greenwich has been mentioned as one of Elizabeth’s favourite homes and it certainly crops up regularly in Edward’s itinerary (3).  A joust was held there on the occasion of Richard of Shrewsbury’s marriage to Anne Mowbray and it was there at Greenwich  on the 19th November 1481 that Anne tragically died at the age of just 8 years old and a few short months later,  Edward and Elizabeth’s own daughter,  the 15 year old Princess Mary also died on either the 20th or 23rd May 1482.  The manuscript covering Mary’s death says she died ‘in the town’  but it is probable this meant the palace and presumably she would have ‘lain in the chapel of the palace with appropriate services and perhaps the attendance of her parents'(3).  A week after her death, on the 27th May,  Mary’s body was taken to the parish church of Greenwich on the first stage of the final journey to St Georges Chapel, Windsor.  Mary may have been visited by her father,  Edward lV,  a few days before her death.  He was at Canterbury on the 17th and back in London on the 23rd which may have been the day that his daughter breathed her last so clearly if he did indeed visit he did not linger.  Numerous Wydeville ladies were conspicuous among the mourners including Jane, Lady Grey of Ruthin, sister to the queen and Jacquetta, another sister’s daugher,  Joan Lady Strange, wife of George Stanley.  Another niece, Lady ‘Dame’ Katherine Grey, possibly the daughter of Jane Wydeville was also present.  Dinner for the funeral group was at the palace after which Mary’s body was taken from the church and begun its last sad journey to Windsor.  Mary’s funeral is more than adequately covered in The Royal Funerals of the House of York at Windsor by Anne F Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs.  It may well be that sisters-in-law Anne and Mary knew each other well and that perhaps  Greenwich Palace was being used as a royal nursery in much the same way as Sheriff Hutton was later  to become, although the age gap would surely have prevented them from being actual playmates.

 

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The Royal Window, Canterbury Cathedral.  Elizabeth Wydeville and her daughters.  Mary is shown as the last figure on the right hand side.  Greenwich was one of Elizabeth’s favourite homes and where her daugher Mary died in 1482.

Greenwich Palace  conveniently came into Henry Tudor’s hands when Elizabeth Wydeville was,  ummmmm,  retired to Bermondsey Abbey on an altogether frivolous charge. It is true to say that Tudor heavily rebuilt the palace between 1498 and 1504, renaming it Placentia, (the pleasant place),  and the result of which is that any reference to Placentia usually finds it referred to as a Tudor palace but it is the earlier years of the palace with its Lancastrian and  Yorkist links that I find the most intriguing.

 

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Modern plaque commemorating the ‘building’ of Greenwich Palace by Henry Tudor.  Visitors could be forgiven for mistakenly thinking , with no mention made of the earlier palace, that Tudor was reponsible for the building of Greenwich Palace from the onset.  

Later in its long history the palace was to see many important events including the birth of Henry Vlll in 1491.  Henry jnr spared no expense in beautifying Placentia and his marriage to Katherine of Aragon was solemnised there on the 3 June 1509.  Many sumptious banquets, revels and jousts were held there – in Henry’s ‘Manor of Pleazaunce’  – and both his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth were born there.  Details of these and other less salubrious events such as the arrest of Anne Boleyn are readily available to anyone who is interested in the Tudors and their shenanigans and I will not  cover them here.  The Tudors were emulated  by the Stuarts in choosing Placentia  as a favourite residence until Charles ll,  finding the old palace greatly decayed,  ordered it to be taken down and yet another new palace to be built.  Thus Greenwich or Placentia – whichever name you prefer arose, phoenix like from the ashes and a new chapter in its long history commenced.

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As a footnote to Greenwich Palace and its rich history, much excitement has been created by the discovery by archaeologists  working on the painted hall at the Old Royal Naval College  of the discovery of two room, thought to have been used as kitchen or laundry rooms from the old palace.  One of these rooms featured a lead-glazed tiled floor and wall cavities which may have been used to store food and drink or even ‘bee boles’ which would have housed beehive baskets or ‘skeps’ during the winter when the bee colonies hibernated.

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The cavities from Greenwich Palace believed to be for storing food, drink or even ‘bee boles’.

  1. Old and New London, vol 6 p.165 Edward Walford.
  2.  The London Encyclopaedia pp 345, 346.  Edited by Weinren and Hibbert
  3.  The Private Life of Edward lV John Ashdown-Hill pp 48,49,62,63, 87, 88, 114, 115, 117, 118, 119, 155, 157, 158, 188, 189, 190,191, 192, 204, 205, 206

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How to build a medieval castle….

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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.

‘The Hollow Crown’: A Poisoned Chalice or the Ultimate Prize?

Giaconda's Blog

benedict Benedict Cumberbatch as Shakespeare’s Richard III

I am currently watching the second instalment of Shakespeare’s history plays, concerning ‘The Wars of the Roses’ as interpreted by the BBC’s condensed and somewhat, contorted adaptation.

The first part of ‘The Hollow Crown’ covered Shakespeare’s history plays: Richard II, Henry IV, Part I and II and Henry Vth.  It was, for the most part, an excellent production. A combination of strong casting, brilliant original material and interesting sets made it a joy to watch. Simon Russell Beale’s Falstaff was a triumph. He gave a mesmerizing performance which managed to capture all the facets of Falstaff’s complex character in little more than a look or a gesture.

The overwhelming sense of these plays was the great burden which kingship brought for the poor unfortunate who wore the crown. In another blog post I have written about this in detail, taking specific lines from each of…

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Edward IV’s beautiful Livre d’Eracles….

Edward IV's Book

The following file describes in some detail the magnificent work of art known as Edward IV’s Livre d’Eracles manuscript, and contains many of its large, clear, colourful illustrations. Also revealed are the subtle differences Edward required from the Flemish original that had impressed him so during his exile.

http://www.bl.uk/eblj/2014articles/pdf/ebljarticle62014.pdf

Here are some selections from the text:

“The English King Edward IV (1442-83) had throughout his reign many political, familial, and cultural connections with the Flanders-based court of Burgundy, headed at the time by Duke Charles the Bold. In 1468, King Edward arranged for his sister Margaret of York to marry Duke Charles of Burgundy. The same year he was inducted into Charles’s powerful Burgundian chivalric Order of the Golden Fleece and reciprocally inducted Charles into the English Order of the Garter. In 1470, he was forced into exile for five months when the Earl of Warwick, Richard Neville, placed the former King Henry VI back on the throne. After first unsuccessfully trying to find shelter in Calais, Edward landed in Holland where he was hospitably taken in by Burgundian nobleman Louis de Gruuthuse (also known as Louis de Bruges) at his home in The Hague, and afterwards in Flanders at Louis’s home in Bruges.”

“Between 1470 and 1471, Edward was witness to and inspired by the flourishing Flemish culture of art and fashion, including the manuscript illuminations that his host Louis was beginning voraciously to consume at the time. While Edward was in exile he was penniless, and thus unable to commission works of art. However, after his victorious return to the throne in 1471 he had the full resources of his realm at his command again, and over time built what became the early basis for the Royal library with his manuscript collection, of which many examples are extant in the British Library today.”

“Although his manuscript does select some similar scenes to those manuscripts belonging to his Burgundian knightly companions, particularly the Amiens manuscript that belonged to Jean V de Créquy with its two-miniature True Cross cycle, it is overall notably different in its selection and execution of scenes. The beauty and sophistication of many of the miniatures, as well as their sheer volume and size, definitely speak to the luxury and magnificence that the Flemish illuminators were able to produce for their English royal patron.”

A book excerpt

With permission, we present  an extract from Kristie Davis Dean’s book “On the trail of the Yorks”, with a particular focus on Margaret of Burgundy and the duchy ruled, during her marriage and widowhood, by her father-in-law, husband, stepdaughter and stepson-in-law. Mechelen is, of course, where a certain historian sought Margaret’s remains, although their identity could not yet be proven.

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