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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!

 

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Might Richard have become Archbishop of Canterbury….?

 

Richard as Archbishop - WordPress

An oft-asked question arose again the other day. Had Richard been originally intended for the Church? He was the youngest son of the 3rd Duke of York, and the Church was the fate of most aristocratic youngest sons. It has been suggested to me that such early training would explain his beautifully precise handwriting. After all, his letters and signature make his peers look uneducated!

Yes, his piety is frequently remarked upon, but then they were all pious in those days. Outwardly, at least. Richard’s piety seems to be have deeper, because the purity of his private life is also remarked upon. He does not seem to have strayed from the marriage bed, which was surely very unusual. He was a young king, and good-looking. His scoliosis wouldn’t been seen because good tailoring would hide it, so none of the awful lies perpetrated by Shakespeare would have applied. He would have been a prime target for female advances. These advances do not seem to have been welcomed. At least, if they were, post-marriage he hid it well! Before marrying Anne, he fathered illegitimate children and acknowledged them all, so he was red-blooded.

Was he a reluctant temporal lord? Was his brilliance on the battlefield, enjoyment of sumptuous fashionable clothes and penchant for lavish festivities a smokescreen? Would he much rather have been Archbishop of Canterbury? That might have depended upon which point in his life it was decided he should not enter the Church after all. When might that have happened? What might have prompted it?

I do not know the finer points of such things, and for all I know the precise proof of it all is known to exist, but if so, I am ignorant of it. So, simply looking on the surface, I would guess a decision to change his destiny was maybe made after Wakefield. The deaths of his father and brother Edmund might have decided the eldest brother, Edward, Earl of March, who would become King Edward IV, that his youngest brother would be better employed as a soldier, “going forth and multiplying” for the benefit of the House of York.

Richard (then eight years old) and his slightly older brother George were children at that time, and exiled safely to their aunt in Burgundy. After the soon-to-be Edward IV’s subsequent victory at Towton, they were brought home. Is that when and why it was agreed that Richard and the Church should no longer be an item? Richard was thus created Duke of Gloucester, and George, for whom the Church was not a consideration, became Duke of Clarence.

So, is it possible that until being sent into exile in Burgundy, Richard had been trained and prepared for the Church? I can remember how, at that same age of eight, I absorbed education like blotting paper. I read books by the score, and everything that was drummed into me at school was taken on board, as modern parlance has it. In the 15th century, when strictness and volume of tuition would have far exceeded that of the 20th century, Richard (being studious by nature) would have been much higher quality blotting paper! For instance, if the Church was involved, he’d have been be well on the way to a thorough knowledge of Latin. It nearly happened to his nephew and did happen to his great-nephew.

I’m sure there are those who will read this and have more informed thoughts and explanations. If so, I hope they will share them.

 

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