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Conspiracy theories, Elizabeth I and Shakespeare….?

 

Guy Fawkes

Guy Fawkes on a bonfire in Kent. Photo: Rex.

If you go to here you will find examples of those intriguing possibilities, conspiracy theories. Well, some of them are too outlandish, but others…well, maybe…? Anyway, take a look and decide for yourself whether, for example, the Gunpowder Plot was really a put-up job by the Earl of Salisbury. Or whether Elizabeth the First might—just might—have been the real Shakespeare!

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The meaning of Michaelmas….

The following article is taken from this article by Ben Johnson:

St Michael

St Michael

“Michaelmas, or the Feast of Michael and All Angels, is celebrated on 29th September. As it falls near the equinox, the day is associated with the beginning of autumn and the shortening of days; in England, it is one of the “quarter days”.

There are traditionally four “quarter days” in a year (Lady Day – 25th March), Midsummer (24th June), Michaelmas (29th September) and Christmas (25th December). They are spaced three months apart, on religious festivals, usually close to the solstices or equinoxes. They were the four dates on which servants were hired, rents due or leases begun. It used to be said that harvest had to be completed by Michaelmas, almost like the marking of the end of the productive season and the beginning of the new cycle of farming. It was the time at which new servants were hired or land was exchanged and debts were paid. This is how it came to be for Michaelmas to be the time for electing magistrates and also the beginning of legal and university terms.

“St Michael is one of the principal angelic warriors, protector against the dark of the night and the Archangel who fought against Satan and his evil angels. As Michaelmas is the time that the darker nights and colder days begin – the edge into winter – the celebration of Michaelmas is associated with encouraging protection during these dark months. It was believed that negative forces were stronger in darkness and so families would require stronger defences during the later months of the year.

“Traditionally, in the British Isles, a well fattened goose, fed on the stubble from the fields after the harvest, is eaten to protect against financial need in the family for the next year; and as the saying goes:

‘Eat a goose on Michaelmas Day,
Want not for money all the year.’

“Sometimes the day was also known as “Goose Day” and goose fairs were held. Even now, the famous Nottingham Goose Fair is still held on or around the 3rd of October. Part of the reason goose is eaten is that it was said that when Queen Elizabeth I heard of the defeat of the Armada, she was dining on goose and resolved to eat it on Michaelmas Day. Others followed suit. It could also have developed through the role of Michaelmas Day as the debts were due; tenants requiring a delay in payment may have tried to persuade their landlords with gifts of geese!

“In Scotland, St Michael’s Bannock, or Struan Micheil (a large scone-like cake) is also created. This used to be made from cereals grown on the family’s land during the year, representing the fruits of the fields, and is cooked on a lamb skin, representing the fruit of the flocks. The cereals are also moistened with sheep’s milk, as sheep are deemed the most sacred of animals. As the Struan is created by the eldest daughter of the family, the following is said:

‘Progeny and prosperity of family, Mystery of Michael, Protection of the Trinity.’

“Through the celebration of the day in this way, the prosperity and wealth of the family is supported for the coming year. The custom of celebrating Michaelmas Day as the last day of harvest was broken when Henry VIII split from the Catholic Church; instead, it is Harvest Festival that is celebrated now.

“St Michael is also the patron saint of horses and horsemen. This could explain one of the ancient Scottish traditions that used to be practiced on Michaelmas Day. Horse racing competitions in the local communities would be held and small prizes won. However, with a twist, it was the only time at which a neighbour’s horse could be taken lawfully the night before and ridden for the entirety of the day, as long as the animal was returned safely!

“In British folklore, Old Michaelmas Day, 10th October, is the last day that blackberries should be picked. It is said that on this day, when Lucifer was expelled from Heaven, he fell from the skies, straight onto a blackberry bush. He then cursed the fruit, scorched them with his fiery breath, spat and stamped on them and made them unfit for consumption! And so the Irish proverb goes:

‘On Michaelmas Day the devil puts his foot on blackberries’

Michaelmas Daisy

“The Michaelmas Daisy, which flowers late in the growing season between late August and early October, provides colour and warmth to gardens at a time when the majority of flowers are coming to an end. As suggested by the saying below, the daisy is probably associated with this celebration because, as mentioned previously, St Michael is celebrated as a protector from darkness and evil, just as the daisy fights against the advancing gloom of Autumn and Winter.

‘The Michaelmas Daisies, among dede weeds,
Bloom for St Michael’s valorous deeds.
And seems the last of flowers that stood,
Till the feast of St. Simon and St. Jude.’

(The Feast of St. Simon and Jude is 28 October)

“The act of giving a Michaelmas Daisy symbolises saying farewell, perhaps in the same way as Michaelmas Day is seen to say farewell to the productive year and welcome in the new cycle.”

 

Look who’s coming to dinner….

Nicola Tallis

Nicola Tallis

The following is taken from this interview in History Extra

“Q: Which three historical figures would you invite to a dinner party and why?

  1. “Queen Anne Neville. Frustratingly little is known of her life. I’d love to know if Anne was happily married to Richard III and how she felt about the events of 1483, when King Edward IV unexpectedly died and Richard declared himself king of England.
  2. “King Louis XIV of France. He has always fascinated me, and even more so since watching the TV series Versailles! All of the intrigues of the French court and Louis’s various mistresses enthrall me. Plus, I have always wanted to ask him what inspired him when creating the Chateau de Versailles.
  3. “Anne Frank. Her story is such a sad one, and to have the opportunity to speak to her about her experiences in hiding during the Second World War would be very moving.”

I don’t know that I would wish such a small dinner party to be a ‘moving experience’, so maybe Anne Frank would not be on my list, but then, is not Anne Neville’s story a moving one as well? So, this dinner party is going to be a quiet affair, I think, unless Louis XIV runs riot.

What Richard’s queen might have to say is bound to be of intense interest to Ricardians, of course. I hope that she would recall the wonderful days before 1483 spoiled everything for her and for Richard. And please do not think I brush Anne Frank aside, because I certainly do not. I would just hope to find she still had a lighter side, a trace of her original self, undamaged by her dreadful experiences. Maybe she would rather seek her lost, happier self, too.

Anyway, the above guest list has been compiled by historian Nicola Tallis, in an interview connected with her appearance at the York and Winchester History Weekends this October. See the above link for more details. Ms Tallis appears to be mainly interested in the Tudor queens and period, so perhaps it is strange that she would not invite, say, Elizabeth I, to dinner!

A new interpretation of 1580s events

We all know that Mary Stuart was beheaded at Fotheringhay on 8 February 1587 and that the Spanish Armada sailed to facilitate a Catholic invasion of England in the following year, leaving Lisbon on 28 May and fighting naval battles in late July, at Plymouth and Portland. The traditional view is that Mary Stuart’s execution and Elizabeth I’s support for the revolt in the Spanish Netherlands provoked Phillip II’s wrath.

It is quite possible that this was not the case and that Phillip had

sought to overthrow his quondam sister-in-law much earlier. Mary, as the daughter of Marie de Guise and widow of Francis II was the French-backed Catholic candidate for the English throne and Franco-Spanish rivalry ensured that Phillip, great nephew of Catherine of Aragon and a Lancastrian descendant proper+, would not act in concert with any of her plots; however her death cleared the way for him, especially as the French Wars of Religion were still to resolve themselves.

We can compare this with the England of 1685-8, as William of Orange allowed the Duke of Monmouth to attempt an invasion first and only asserted his stronger semi-marital claim against James VII/II afterwards. In 1483-5, by contrast, the Duke of Buckingham was legitimately descended from Edward III when he rebelled against Richard III, only for Henry “Tudor”, of dubious lineage, to benefit.

h/t Jeanne Griffin

+ See The Wars of The Roses, Ashdown-Hill, part 4.

Horton Priory…my dream of a home….

Horton Priory

£5.5 million? What’s that between friends? I know…far too much. But I can dream. This wonderful old priory in Kent would suit me down to the ground and the link above includes a number of photographs that show you exactly why I like Horton Priory so much.

It may not have been beyond the capacious pockets of Henry I, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, but it’s beyond mine. Oh, and Thomas Cranmer lived there too. Alas, not any Ricardian connections, but I suppose I can’t have everything.

You can read more about the priory and its history here.

An exhibition with a sample of Richard’s handwriting….

letter from 7yr-old victoria

One of Richard’s letters is included in this upcoming museum exhibition. Unfortunately for those on this British side of the Atlantic, the museum in question is in New York! The Magic of Handwriting: The Pedro Corrêa do Lago Collection will run from June 1 to September 16, 2018 at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City.

 

Keeping it in the family

You will have seen him if you have been to Richard III’s final resting place. There are eight small statues on the main entrance (the Vaughan Porch, left) of St. Martin’s Cathedral but only one of them is wearing a doublet and hose, showing him to have lived a century later than the others. This is Lord Henry Hastings, as he was during his education alongside Edward VI and participation, with Northumberland’s daughter Lady Catherine Dudley in the triple marriage of May 1553. He was still Lord Henry as he served in the household of his great-uncle Reginald Cardinal Pole, travelling to Calais and Flanders and escorting Phillip II to England for his marriage to Mary I, whose succession had been aided by Lord Henry’s father, Francis, despite the family’s overt Protestant beliefs.

In 1562, two years after succeeding to the Earldom of Huntingdon, he was considered by some for the throne had Elizabeth I not recovered from a bout of smallpox. By 1576, on the death of his mother Catherine (nee’ Pole) he was the senior post-Plantagenet, barred from the succession maternally only by the Clarence attainder but he had a junior claim through his grandmother Anne Stafford, whose father and brother both had their attainders posthumously reversed.

From 1572 to his death in 1595, Huntingdon was Lord President of the Council of the North, a position previously held by Richard as Duke of Gloucester and then by the Earl of Lincoln, in which he ruled the part of England north of the Trent from the King’s Manor (above), formerly home to the Abbot of York. During this tenure, he re-established royal authority in the region after the Northern Earls’ Rebellion failed, attended Mary Stuart’s trial, ensured good relations with James VI and his regents, the Earl of Morton in particular, also helping to prepare defences against the Armada. For his long service for more than half the reign of the last “Tudor”, Huntingdon deserves to be remembered alongside Lord Burleigh and his brother-in-law the Earl of Leicester, although his Calvinist beliefs set him apart from them and their Queen. During his time, in 1586, the recusant Margaret Clitherow was pressed to death at York.

As Claire Cross points out in her iconic biography The Puritan Earl, Huntingdon took his role as head of the family seriously. We can read how his assets shrank during his lifetime and how his 42 year marriage was childless, such that his brother Sir George succeeded him as Earl, with senior descendants still alive in Australia, as Jones has shown. He died eleven days before Christmas 1595 and was connected to all four later “Tudor” monarchs but his strongest connection was to Elizabeth I. Just like her, he had been imprisoned at the outset of Mary I’s reign, probably because he was Northumberland’s son-in-law, although his father’s loyalty soon extricated him from this.

Fabulous discovery of more coins, but alas, none from the reign of Richard III….

coins

“…A spectacular hoard of centuries-old coins found in a brook in the borough [Atherton] gives a small but perfectly-formed window into the past…”

Fancy that. Thomas Jackson was poking around in a brook when he found a small rusty box, containing…43 old coins! How wonderful. The coins are apparently not that valuable. The earliest is from the reign of Henry III, the latest from the time of the Civil War.

It makes me want to don my wellies and set off for the nearest stream! Well done Mr Jackson.

For more about this, see here.

 

 

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.

Shakespeare borrowed the work of others….

bard's inspiration

“A 16th-century manuscript hidden in the depths of the British Library and decoded using plagiarism software has been pinpointed as a previously unknown source for Shakespeare’s plays.

“A Brief Discourse of Rebellion & Rebels by George North, a minor figure in Queen Elizabeth’s court, is, according to its finders and decoders, the source of more than 20 monologues and passages by the Bard.

“They claim that it inspired Richard III’s villainous determination, the character of King Lear’s Fool, the treatment of Jack Cade and the breeds of dog Macbeth compares to men.”

Well, yes, we’ve known for some time that the Bard borrowed from the work of other people, but this is apparently a new discovery. The comparison of North’s work and the opening soliloquy of Richard III is pretty convincing.

  • A Brief Discourse of Rebellion
    To view our own proportion in a glass, whose form and feature, if we find fair and worthy, to frame our affections accordingly, if otherwise she have by skill or will deformed our outward appearance and left us odible to the eye of the world…
  • Opening soliloquy in Richard III
    But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks/ . . . I, that am curtailed of this fair proportion/ Cheated of feature by dissembling Nature…

Does it matter? It’s up to your own perspective on such matters. Read on here and to learn about George North himself, go here. There is still more about this here.

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