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Archive for the tag “Channel Four”

The real life of the last Stuart

Television history is rarely focused upon Anne (left), except as the final act of the Stuart drama like this or her unfortunate reproductive history in this series. Discussion is, therefore, reduced to the cliches of her fragile family, her weight and her fondness for brandy. She is also omitted from most dramatisations of the time, such as Lorna Doone or By the Sword Divided. Anne was the first Queen Regnant of England to have given birth, albeit through the reigns of her uncle, father, sister and brother-in-law but not her own. She was also the first Queen Regnant of England to be widowed, (except by a few minutes).

The Favourite, a rather bawdy film with Olivia Colman (below left), Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone that is very appropriately named from the awards point of view, ought to be very refreshing from this perspective. To become pregnant on fifteen to twenty occasions requires a husband, George of Denmark, the Oldenburg great-nephew of her great-grandmother and Duke of Cumberland who shared half of her reign. However, he seems to have been omitted from the film, which concentrates on Anne’s friendships with Sarah Churchill and Abigail Hill, the latter’s cousin, whilst implying rather more about their friendships than the evidence bears out.

Although she was, as she knew before succeeding, the last eligible Stuart, Anne oversaw the formal Acts of Union that crystallised her great-grandfather’s plans, the Act of Settlement that excluded her half-brother and other Catholic claimants and the last refusal of Royal Assent to a Bill. Jeremiah Clarke composed a march for George in 1707, the year before the Consort died, a piece now known as the Trumpet Voluntary. Despite the good will that seemed to flow from the “Glorious Revolution”, William III was widowed for about eight years and failed to remarry – it was this, together with the Duke of Gloucester’s death in 1700, that surely led to the inevitable Hanoverian succession to Anne in August 1714.

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Britain’s Most Historic Towns (2)

This excellent Channel Four programme, presented by Professor Alice Roberts, with Dr. Ben Robinson in the helicopter, has returned for a new series. The early venues were Dover (World War Two, visiting the underground base, concentrating on the retreat from Dunkirk and subsequent Channel defence, meeting some survivors, wearing ATS uniform and riding in a tank), her home city Bristol (Georgian, with slavery, gin, chocolate and great architecture featured) and Cardiff (where coal and the Marquess of Bute brought much prosperity in the Edwardian era, before it could supplant Machyllenth as Wales’ capital).

The series then moved on to Oxford to illustrate the Civil War sieges, where Alice Roberts’ Worsleyesque love of dressing up saw her in New Model Army uniform, playing real tennis and viewing Charles I’s ersatz capital. Episode five illustrated Plantagenet Canterbury, featuring St. Augustine, Becket, Chaucer, the Black Death and Peasants’ Revolt. We were also shown a copy of the Magna Carta. The last show was about Stewart Stirling, where she visited the Castle and walls, brewed beer, played with a replica antique football and visited a well, illustrating how individual Stewart monarchs were vulnerable, even to internal opposition, but the line was secure.

This would explain a lot

Next month, David Starkey will be talking about Henry VIII on television again (1). However, in this Telegraph interview, he is compared to Henry in several ways, even suggesting that he

is that King’s reincarnation.
Sadly, the interviewer seems not to understand which of Henry’s marriage ceremonies were valid, or the difference between divorce and annulment, differences which were fully explained in a certain book a few years ago (2).

(1) Channel Four, Monday 6 April, 21:00.
(2) Royal Marriage Secrets, Ashdown-Hill, Chapter 10, pp. 95-113

Britain’s most historic towns

This excellent Channel Four series reached part four on 28th April as Dr. Alice Roberts came to Norwich, showing streets, civic buildings and even a pub that I have previously visited, describing it as Britain’s most “Tudor” town. She began by describing Henry VII as “violently seizing” the English throne (or at least watching whilst his uncle Jasper and the Earl of Oxford violently seized it for him).

As the “Tudor” century progressed, she changed into a red woollen dress and explained how the sumptuary laws would have prevented her from wearing other colours and fabrics. Henry VIII’s attempts to obtain an annulment were mentioned, as was Kett’s Rebellion on Mousehold Heath under Edward VI. The Marian Persecution was described in detail and some of her victims in Norwich were named, most of them being burned at the “Lollards’ Pit”, where a pub by that name now standsLollardsPit.jpg. As we mentioned earlier, Robert Kett’s nephew Francis suffered the same fate decades later.

Dr. Roberts then spoke about the “Strangers”, religious refugees from the Low Countries who boosted the weaving industry, bringing canaries with them. Her next subject was Morris dancing as the jester Will Kemp argued with Shakespeare and danced his way up from London to the Norwich Guildhall over nine days. She was then ducked three times in the Wensum as an example of the punishment of a scold from Elizabeth I’s time.

Other shows in this series have covered Chester, York and Winchester whilst Cheltenham and Belfast will be covered in future episodes, each covering a town that epitomises a particular era in our history.

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 treacherous Welshman who supposedly killed Richard III….!

 

Rhys ap Thomas

A few days ago I watched a TV documentary about Rhys ap Thomas, The Man Who Killed Richard III. It made my Welsh blood boil! The man was a bullying, thieving snake, not a hero! Anyway, here is the TV company’s blurb:-

“Who killed Richard III?

http://www.historychannel.com.au/shows/man-killed-richard-iii/

“This is a story of conspiracy and betrayal, of a lust for power and a lost allegiance; the story of the man who killed King Richard III.

“In this documentary we set out to prove that the Welshman Sir Rhys ap Thomas, master of Carew Castle in Pembrokeshire, killed King Richard III, changing the course of British history.

“Sir Rhys ap Thomas had sworn allegiance to King Richard III. He had accumulated lands and status in Wales that were dependent, in part, on his loyalty to Richard. But at the Battle of Bosworth he betrayed him, fighting on the side of Henry Tudor. He dealt the fatal blow to Richard III.

“We uncover what drove Rhys ap Thomas to betray not only his master but a King – and we reveal his remarkable story; from a childhood embroiled in the War of the Roses and exile to the continent, to a determined and ambitious man who brought an abrupt end to the Plantagenet line, carving the way for his own rise to power at the heart of the Tudor dynasty.”

Whether the fellow really did kill Richard at Bosworth I don’t know. Nobody really does, but he gets the kudos…or notoriety, according to which side you support. Welsh blood or not, I support Richard. Go on, you hadn’t guessed, had you? My unbiased views masked it completely.

The documentary made much of the fact that Rhys would have supported Richard against Henry Tudor, had not Richard demanded custody of Rhys’ four-year-old son as a hostage, to make certain of Rhys’ loyalty. This, apparently, was too much for the Welshman’s honour, so he refused, and Richard (who was clearly and rightly suspicious anyway) was alerted to his duplicity. Well, honour didn’t figure much in Rhys’ later career, which was decidedly dishonest and acquisitive of property that was not his to take. Hmm, in that regard he is worthy of Henry VII. He was certainly ambitious in many ways, having numerous mistresses with whom he attempted to populate the whole of Wales! Or so it seemed.

They referred to Richard III as Richard of York. Sorry, that was his father. Richard III was Richard of Gloucester. Oh, and there was a Duke of Oxford. Sorry, he was only an Earl. Who are these people who are paid to do the research? And there was no mention of WHY Richard came to the throne, just that he did and was believed to have killed his nephews in the process. Convenient, because it made him sound as horrible as Rhys. The word ruthless cropped up as well. with regard to Richard, of course.

It was selective reporting of which Tydder would have been proud, and it gave me indigestion. And me born in Pontypridd and brought up in Cilfynydd and St Athan!

The programme did dispose of one myth, the one where Rhys vowed loyalty and swore to Richard that Henry Tudor would only passed through Wales over his body! The story goes that this was achieved by Rhys lying under a bridge while Tudor and his invading army passed over. It seems that the truth is that the two armies (Tudor’s and Rhys’) simply took different routes and thus avoided each other until, presumably, the English border was reached.

There was an almost redeeming moment. Right at the very end. The presenters had to admit that Rhys was a turncoat. That’s putting it mildly. I wonder if he would have been so keen to support the Tudors if he’d known that his family was to lose everything and Henry VIII was to execute his grandson as a traitor?

Anyway, it’s believed that right at the end of his life, Rhys had cause to reflect upon his guilt where Richard was concerned. Nice one, Rhys. Wait until the pearly gates appear out of the mist in front of you, and then hastily repent and seek forgiveness. I only hope the Almighty had been making copious notes over the years!

A humorous account of what really happened with Rhys and that bridge can be found here.

Note: Rhys’ grandson, Rhys ap Gryffudd (aka fitzUryan), who was executed for treason in 1531/2, was married to Katherine Howard, granddaughter of the first Duke of Norfolk. They were ancestors of Lucy Walter.
Sir William Parker, who was a standard bearer at Bosworth, was the grandfather of Jane, Viscountess Rochford, who was also beheaded under Henry VIII, with Katherine’s cousin and namesake.

The Windsor centenary

Today in 1917, the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was renamed the House of Windsor, at the behest georgevof George V and his advisors. There has been a series on Channel Five about it, focussed on the Castle and Great Park, whilst rather too gossiply and less historical than it could have been, was highly informative, with some facts about Windsor in past centuries. A series on Channel Four has been somewhat more impressive.

Interestingly, both programmes were launched in February and not July, which would have been more logical.

A year of anniversaries

shakespeare

2016 has been the 1000th anniversary of Edund Ironside’s accession and death, also of the death of his father Ethelred Unraed and the double accession of Cnut of Denmark. It has also been the 950th anniverary of the battles of Stamford Bridge and Hastings, being the end of the House of Wessex after its interruption.
Four centuries ago, St. George’s Day to be exact, marks the death of Shakespeare and possibly his 1564 birth. Opinion is still divided as to whether, in Richard III’s case among others, he merely embroidered what passed for history during his lifetime or invented many of the significant events he wrote about. At least we can precisely date his death better than we can his birth and we can, ironically, rely on the flow of his plays relating accurately to the culture of his own time, such as Cordelia’s execution, which could not have happened in Richard’s own century.

In March, Helen Castor marked the anniversary on Channel Four by investigating the fate of the Bard’s own remains in this documentary. It transpires that, having been buried in Stratford’s Holy Trinity Church with his family and a forbidding epitaph(1), GPR investigations show that his skull is probably missing, just like Morton’s at Canterbury Cathedral. Richard, of course, was intact except for his feet. It seems that not everyone over the years heeded the curse:

(1) Good frend for Iesvs sake forbeare,
To digg the dvst encloased heare.
Bleste be Middle English the.svg man Middle English that.svg spares thes stones,
And cvrst be he Middle English that.svg moves my bones

“Henry VIII and his six wives” – Channel Five

Henry VIII and His Six Wives

This has been presented by two of Five’s favourite history presenters: Dan Jones and Suzannah Lipscomb. Perhaps the title isn’t the best of starts, as Ashdown-Hill (Royal Marriage Secrets, ch.10, pp.95-113) has shown that Henry may have contracted as few as two valid marriages, the third and sixth ceremonies.

Jones begins every episode by reciting the familiar mnemonic, although the fact that four of the marriages were annulled and none really ended in “divorce” is not mentioned. It is clear, from Jones’ description of Henry as “England’s most notorious King”, a “monster” and a “tyrant”, that he likes the “Tudors” no more than he does their Plantagenet predecessors.

The series starts well with a detailed discussion of Catherine of Aragon’s relationships with Arthur and Henry, including her years as a virtual prisoner from 1502-9 and her subsequent fertility, although Arthur’s boasts are not mentioned. Then the annulment campaign begins and Anne Boleyn is introduced. Here, the pace of the series moves on a little to her end and Wolsey is scarcely mentioned. Torture is shown being applied to one of her lovers but they are executed off camera. Jane Seymour’s time is used to illustrate Henry’s positive emotions although Anne of Cleves is portrayed like a badly-designed doll as Henry once again strives for a legal loophole and Cromwell is despatched for not finding one. As late as 1541, Henry is shown doing the sign of the cross.

Catherine Howard then flits across the screen, raising Henry’s blood pressure further, writing silly letters and having a block delivered to her Tower cell for “practice”, although her relationship with Dereham is not fully explored. Catherine Parr, Catherine of Aragon’s goddaughter, is then shown as restoring Henry’s equilibrium and giving the Reformation a further boost, as Bishop Gardiner tries to persuade him to complete a hat-trick of executed “wives”. Henry resists and dies peacefully.

This subject was covered in 2001 on Channel Four by Jones’ mentor David Starkey who, despite his misconceptions of the previous years , knows the reign of Henry VIII inside out.

The King In The Lab – Richard III’s Dissolute Diet

RICARDIAN LOONS

I recently had the opportunity to attend a talk by Professor Jane Evans of the British Geological Survey, co-author of the multi-isotope analysis which explored what the last Plantagenet king of England ate and drank. As I mentioned in a previous science post, this study formed the basis for the widely reported claim that, although he was a capable soldier, he overindulged on food and drink and that this “dissolute” diet was the reason for his unexpected defeat at the battle of Bosworth. As this seemed to be at odds with both historical sources and also the study itself, I was hoping to finally get to the bottom of the facts. I wasn’t disappointed.

What Isotopes Can Tell Us

Professor Evans began her talk by explaining that isotopes are particles which transmit information from geology to us via our food chain. Basically:

Rock > soil > plants > herbivores…

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