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The King’s Champion and his circus horse….!

King's Champion between lines of walkers at a coronation banquet

The King’s Champion is the central horseman in this illustration of an unidentified coronation banquet

We have all heard of the dashing King’s/Queen’s Champion riding fully armed into the coronation banquet, throwing down challenges to anyone who would dare to find fault with the monarch’s right to the throne. I did not know that there is a strong possibility that the Dymoke family, hereditary holders of the title, may have originated in the village of Dymock in my home county of Gloucestershire. Dymock village is also known for its wonderful spring displays of wild daffodils.

Dymock's wild daffodils

Dymock’s wild daffodils

The following is taken from http://dymockchurch.net/King%27s%20Champion.html

“The “King’s Champion” is an hereditary post and acts on behalf of the king (or queen) of England by challenging all-comers at their coronation to do battle if they dispute the king (or queen’s) right to be monarch. The post is now mainly ceremonial but was created by William the Conqueror in 1066 and has been held ever since by a blood relative of the first Champion.”

Queen's Champion - at coronation banquet of Elizabeth I

Queen’s Champion at the coronation banquet of Elizabeth I

“The powerful Marmion family were ‘Champion’ to the Dukes of Normandy in France and came to this country with William, Duke of Normandy, when he invaded England in 1066 and took the English crown to become ‘William the Conqueror’.”

“There is some doubt over how the name Dymoke came about. It’s possible the family lived in Dymock or at ‘Knight’s Green’ next to Dymock, and took the surname ‘de Dymoke’ from our village when surnames became established in England. It seems they left the area to return to live in Scivelsby, Lincolnshire in the 14th century but took the surname with them.

“The ceremony involved the Garter King of Arms reading out the challenge three times – at the entrance to the coronation banquet in Westminster Hall, in the middle of the hall, and in front of the throne. Each time the Champion in full armour and riding a charger threw down his gauntlet for any challenger to take up. None having come forward, the Champion had to reverse his horse out of the hall between the banqueting tables without doing any damage – no mean feat which, if done successfully, became known as ‘Doing a Dymoke’. “

King's Champion - coronation banquet George IV

King’s Champion, coronation banquet of George IV

“The involvement of the Champion is documented at every coronation since 1066 but the full ceremony was last used at the coronation of George IV in 1821. Since then the Champion has been recognised as the ‘Standard Bearer of England’ and carries the banner at the coronation.

“The current and 34th Champion is Lieutenant-Colonel John Lindley Marmion Dymoke, MBE DL, Royal Lincolnshire Regiment. In 1953 as the then Captain Dymoke he acted as Standard-Bearer of the Union Flag at the coronation service of our present Queen, Elizabeth II. His eldest son and heir is Francis Dymoke, a chartered accountant and estate owner.”

And as an amusing footnote: “The horse ridden by Dymock, the king’s champion, at the coronation banquet of George IV (1821) was hired from a circus. When greeted with applause, it went into its routine of tricks!”

In case you overlooked this splendid show-stopper in the previous illustration, here he is again!

King's Champion - Coronation Banquet of George IV

The King’s Champion at the coronation of George IV…on his splendid performing horse!

 

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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.

When Robert Curthose Sat On The Throne

It is perhaps not a well-known fact that during World War II, many priceless historical treasures were crated up and shipped out of London for safe storage. At least, I wasn’t particularly aware of something that now makes perfect sense. I found out about this whilst visiting Gloucester Cathedral and touring the amazing crypt beneath the main body of the building. It’s a place well worth going to and the crypt is fascinating to look around, particularly with the knowledgeable and helpful guides.

 

Gloucester Cathedral 170622 245

Gloucester Cathedral Crypt

 

The fact that grabbed my attention was that during the war, St Edward’s Chair, or the Coronation Chair, the traditional coronation throne from Westminster Abbey that dates from the reign of Edward I. It was commissioned in 1300-1 to house the Stone of Scone Edward took from Scotland in 1296. The chair has been used in every monarch’s coronation ceremony from 1308 onwards, amounting to 38 coronations with an additional 14 queen consorts being crowned in ceremonies using the chair too. It is usually kept in the Chapel of St Edward the Confessor; hence it is sometimes referred to as St Edward’s Chair.

 

Gloucester Cathedral 170622 286

The Coronation Chair at Gloucester Cathedral

 

During the war, Gloucester Cathedral also packed up some of its own important moveable items and stored them in crates in the crypt along with the Coronation Chair. One of the monuments that made its way to the crypt was the tomb effigy of Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy, the oldest son of William the Conqueror who was destined never to become King of England. William left his duchy to Robert and the kingdom to Robert’s younger brother William Rufus. When William II died in a hunting ‘accident’, their youngest brother Henry snatched the royal treasury and then the crown before Curthose knew what was happening.

 

Gloucester Cathedral 170622 188

Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy

 

The two siblings ended up in a bitter rivalry that was concluded on the battlefield. Henry invaded Normandy and at the Battle of Tinchebray on 28 September 1106, Henry captured his older brother. Robert spent the rest of his life as Henry’s prisoner, firstly in Devizes Castle and then at Cardiff Castle where he died in 1134. Robert was buried at Gloucester Cathedral, though the location of his grave is not known. The wooden effigy does not mark the spot in which he was buried.

 

Gloucester Cathedral 170622 185

The wooden effigy of Robert Curthose

 

Anyway, according to cathedral legend, Robert’s effigy was crated up and stored in the crypt on top of the crate containing the Coronation Chair, which would make the that the closest Robert Curthose ever got to the throne of England, just over 800 years after his death. I’m not sure how true the story is, but I like to think Robert might have sat on the throne for a while.

 

Gloucester Cathedral 170622 242

Gloucester Cathedral Crypt

 

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