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.
“It was a couple of years ago that I first heard about the existence of an old roll of parchment containing the coats of arms of people connected with Ludlow Castle. It was owned by a dealer in the Portobello Road in London who had had it for several years. Heraldic rolls like this are highly collectable, but this one had not sold, probably because it is not in perfect condition. At some point in its history it has been attacked by rodents, though it has subsequently been expertly repaired. As a trustee of the Mortimer History Society and a Ludlow resident, I was much more interested in the historical significance of the roll than its condition. Happily, when I had the chance to inspect it, I found that, though damaged and faded in places, much of it was still in remarkably good condition. It was immediately clear that this important document must be purchased for Ludlow.”
Thus Hugh Wood of the Mortimer History Society introduces his article about the above roll, which is of enormous importance to both the Mortimer History Society and those of us who follow events of the 15th century. Ludlow figures greatly in theatre of the Wars of the Roses and the early Tudors; Richard III resided there for a while as a boy.
I sincerely hope the roll goes home to Ludlow. You can read more about it here.
BBC TWO: Henry VIII’s Enforcer: The Rise and Fall of Thomas Cromwell, information concerning which will be found here.
This programme is very interesting, and I recommend it, but it’s not the content that has prompted me to write this, rather the treatment of an ancient copy of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s “History of the Kings of Britain”.
I have commented before that some ancient books and papers are treated as if they will shatter if someone breathes upon them, while others – in this case a really old copy of Geoffrey of Monmouth – are almost manhandled. Diarmaid MacCulloch, professor of the history of the church at Oxford, was, I thought, rather enthusiastically bare-handed with the precious pages.
Why no white gloves and bated breath? What, exactly, makes the difference between gloves and no gloves? It seems to me that not so long ago, they were worn every time. But not now.
Aha, puzzle no more. The British Library has already answered my question here! So many apologies to the good professor!