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Who’s buried where in Westminster Abbey….

Plan of Henry VII's Chapel, Westminster Abbey

 

Well, if you have the stamina, here’s a link that will tell you all about who’s buried where in Westminster Abbey. Including, of course, that urn, which a later dynasty decided should be in Henry VII’s chapel. Hmm. Wouldn’t you think it should have been at Windsor, alongside the boy’s father, Edward IV? But then, that wouldn’t suit the Tudor propaganda, which the Stuarts were clearly keen to perpetuate.

I have now acquired a copy of Memorials of Westminster Abbey by Dean Stanley, published by John Murray, which is filled to the brim with detailed information, dates, people and events in the abbey. A wonderful book, if a little disapproving and traditionalist about Richard III. Still, the rest of the book makes up for this failing! Well, just about.

This link should perhaps be read in conjunction with this and this by sparkypus.

 

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Another SHW selection

On 18th January 1486, Henry Tudor married Elizabeth of York …

The Candle

Elizabeth of York's Wedding Night

Oh, Henry...

Richard’s Christmas Celebrations…and the Croyland Chronicle….

Crowland Abbey

This article is about Richard, Christmas celebrations, and the Croyland Chronicle. I really enjoyed reading it.  It seems Richard’s lavish hospitality met with sour po-faced disapproval! No doubt, if he’d kept a sparse Christmas, he’d have been criticised for not giving himself up to the joy of Christ’s birth.

https://meanderingthroughtime.weebly.com/wars-of-the-roses-blog/christmas-1484-with-richard-iii

 

The White Princess to hit our screens tonight (11th November) at 9 p.m….

whiteprincess-d118093

Well, it’s been a long time since The White Queen, and the actors are different, but the sequel is to be aired on UKTV Drama. And by the photograph above, we can’t expect much in the way of accuracy. Of course, being pure fiction, it would be difficult to have a “hero”, i.e. Henry VII, who looks like the back end of a bus, so we have Handsome Henry. But Henry wasn’t handsome, he was the back end of a bus. Elizabeth of York, on the other hand, was plumply lovely. At least, so her portraits suggest. Henry’s portraits can’t do much to flatter him. He was not photogenic…or brushogenic, whatever the correct term might be for what the artist manages to commit to canvas, wood or whatever.

So it will be difficult to watch the sexy bed scenes without sniggering.  Sorry to say it, but it’s true. Sow’s ears do not make silk purses!

If you want the silk purse, bring back Richard III.

 

Henry Tudor, Merevale Abbey, St Armel…and dear old Thomas Stanley….

Artist impression of Merevale Abbey

Artist’s impression of Merevale Abbey, North Warwickshire

 

After a comment by David, about suns in splendour and white roses in the window glass above (see his comment here ) I decided to investigate more about the window at Merevale Abbey.

There is, of course, a boar in the window glass at Merevale. Well, more a pig than a boar, and it’s brown and doesn’t seem in the least like Richard III’s white boar.  So I think I can confine myself here to the image which started this article.

brown boar

My investigations unearthed a few things about Merevale I did not know before. For instance at https://henrytudorsociety.com/category/tudor-locations/, from which I have taken the following:

“…It is possible that it was at Merevale that Henry Tudor fatefully met with his stepfather Thomas Stanley. The Stanleys’ intervention the following day on the side of Tudor rather than Richard III is often seen as the decisive moment of the battle. Was a plan hatched by the men whilst they were in the abbey grounds? A later observer remarked ‘it was a goodly sight to see the meeting of them’ whilst Tudor’s biographer Polydore Vergil would later write that Tudor and Stanley took each other by the hand ‘and yielding mutual salutation’ entered into ‘counsel in what sort to arraigne battle with King Richard’.

“Later evidence has been used to support the theory that Henry’s army stayed at Merevale Abbey. As king Henry issued a warrant reimbursing the abbey with 100 marks having ‘sustained great hurts, charges and losses, by occasion of the great repair and resort that our people coming towards our late field made, as well unto the house of Merevale aforesaid as in going over his ground, to the destruction of his corns and pastures’. Payments were also made to other settlements in the region, including £24 20s 4d to Atherstone, £20 to Fenny Drayton and £13 to Witherley amongst other townships.

“Furthermore in September 1503 the king returned to Merevale whilst on progress and visited the abbey. He commemorated his great victory by sanctioning a new stained glass window depicting his favoured saint, Armel. The decision to use a saint that was very personal to him as opposed to a national symbol like George suggests Henry felt a deep connection with Merevale and wanted to convey his appreciation for the role the abbey played in his victory. The small figure of Armel can still be viewed in the South Aisle of the Gate Chapel, a rare depiction of this saint in England. Another place the saint can be viewed is in the Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey where a statue of Armel is located close to the magnificent tomb of the king. On 30 October 1511 Henry Tudor’s son and successor Henry VIII paid a visit to the abbey with his wife Queen Katherine of Aragon…”

If the above is true, what a pair of snakes met up at Merevale on the eve of Bosworth! I can almost hear them slithering and hissing toward each other.

There is more about the abbey itself at https://henrytudorsociety.com/2015/08/20/merevale-abbey/ and http://www.richardiiiworcs.co.uk/atherstonethumbnails.html

Incidentally, I’m sure Henry VII would have been shocked to know what would happen to the abbey—indeed all abbeys—during the preposterous reign of his son, Henry VIII.

Anyway, this started off as a look at St Armel’s mitre in the Merevale window. I have not seen it myself, so resorted to Google. Sure enough there is a white rose, but not a sun in splendour. It is a rose en soleil, a rose in the sun. This was most certainly a widely known Yorkist badge. It seems a little strange that Henry VII would have wanted it displayed so prominently on his saint’s mitre. Except, of course, that it might have acknowledged the saint’s gift, to Henry, of not only Richard III’s stolen crown, but also Richard’s eldest niece, Elizabeth of York. Both prizes were tucked neatly under the Tudor belt. It was no justice.

The following are examples of the Yorkist rose en soleil:-

I haven’t yet found a Tudor rose in splendour, but no doubt there is one somewhere. Perhaps they’ve all withered. That would be justice!

The Bedingfield turncoat of Oxburgh Hall….

Oxburgh Hall - picture by Art Fund

Oxburgh Hall – picture by Art Fund

In this 2014 post mention was made of Sir Edmund Bedingfield of Oxburgh Hall, near King’s Lynn in Norfolk. He was a Yorkist-turned-Tudor supporter who, like the Stanleys and others, failed Richard III at Bosworth.

Sir Edmund was a Yorkist who benefited under Edward IV and Richard III (at the coronation of the latter, he was created a Knight of the Bath), but the ingrate signally withheld support at Bosworth. By 1487 Bedingfield was very cosy indeed with Henry Tudor, playing host to him—and Elizabeth of York, Margaret Beaufort and the Earl of Oxford—at Oxburgh Hall at Easter 1487. I trust it stretched the Bedingfield finances to breaking point! The traitorous fellow then turned out for Henry at the Battle of Stoke Field, fighting under John de Vere, Earl of Oxford. After the battle, Bedingfield was made a knight banneret.

A rather handsome Henry VII

A rather handsome Henry VII from the Oxburgh Hall National Trust website

So, what conclusion are we to draw from all this? That Bedingfield was a staunch supporter of Edward IV, but did not agree with Richard III’s claim to the throne? He probably believed the rumours that Richard had done away with Edward IV’s two sons, and so went over the wall into the Tudor camp. One imagines he would subsequently have been very much under Henry’s eye, because that suspicious king very sensibly did not trust anyone who changed sides. Nevertheless Bedingfield prospered under the Tudors, as did his descendants, until their Catholicism got in the way under Elizabeth. Although that queen did honour Oxburgh with her presence in 1578.

Let us return to Easter 1487 (in April that year) and the royal visit to Oxburgh, which house, incidentally had been built after Edward IV granted Bedingfield a licence in 1482. Unusually, the chosen material was red brick, a very costly option at that time. Bedingfield’s gratitude can be seen in the numerous Yorkist falcon-and-fetterlock badges throughout the house, where Edward’s licence is on display. No doubt Bedingfield was especially honoured to have Elizabeth of York beneath his roof, because (in the absence of her brothers) he undoubtedly regarded her as the true heir of Edward IV.

falcon and fetterlock

According to Bedingfield family tradition, the king and queen did not lodge in the main house, but in the noble gatehouse, which has remained virtually unchanged since it was first built. Henry and his Yorkist queen would recognized everything about it were they to return now, and so would Elizabeth I.

Oxburgh Hall - 1482

According to a very detailed description in Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales, 1300-1500 by Anthony Emery:

“The gatehouse is a tall, three-storeyed block with dominating half octagonal frontal towers. The latter are divided by seven tiers of sunk panels decorated with triplets of cusped arches surmounted by a battlemented head on blind machiolations. The four-centred entry arch with double relieving arches is closed by the original pair of oak doors. The four-light window above has a stepped transom with a three-light transomed window at second-floor level. The whole is spanned by an open-machiolated arch supporting a line of blind cusped arcading and crow-stepped parapet.

“The gatehouse is a subtly modulated composition. Ashlar stonework was chosen for the central windows but brick for those in the towers with open cinquefoil lights in the stair tower and uncusped single lights with brick labels to the closets in the east tower. Contrasting chevron brickwork is used over the principal window but a single line of yellow brick surmounts that above. Though blind arcading was a common enough tower decoration at the time—as at Buckden, Gainsborough Old Hall and Hadleigh Deanery—the height of the Oxburgh towers is emphasized by the diminishing elevation of the embracing panels of brickwork. The east tower has loopholes at ground level with two quatrefoils above set in blind recesses withy two-centred heads, whereas the side faces of the stair tower at all stages have quatrefoils set in square frames. The entrance position is curious, for its hood is cut by the west tower and the head stop has had to be turned as though it was purposed to be in line with the hall porch on the opposite side of the courtyard, though this still lay a little to the right as the gatehouse does to the whole north frontage.”

Yes, a very detailed description, and (to the likes of me) somewhat confusing, so here are two photographs of the gatehouse, which will perhaps make Emery’s words easier to follow. The first one is of the external approach, while the one below it is a view of the gatehouse from within the courtyard.

Gatehouse at Oxburgh - approach from outside

Gatehouse at Oxburgh from courtyard - from Tour Norfolk

In the illustration below, of the gatehouse chamber known as the King’s Room, I fear that according to the National Trust, it is something of a misnomer. It is not the room in which Henry slept, nor is it the bed, which is 1675. I have not been able to find anything to identify the actual room. All we know is that the bed in which Henry rested his head was described in the 1533 will of Edmund’s son and heir, another Edmund, as being covered with “…a fustian [wool or cotton fabric] covering or red and green sarsnet [silk] unicorns and scallop shells.”

The King's Room at Oxburgh Hall

The illustration below is of the Queen’s Room, which does appear to be the one in which Elizabeth of York slept. The two figures represent Henry and Elizabeth. Not sure about the accuracy if the 15th-century television.

Queen's Room - with Henry and Elizabeth

Oxburgh Hall is a very beautiful old house set in a moat, and is a great testament to the taste of Sir Edmund Bedingfield. But for those who believe Richard III was rightly the King of England, it is necessary to overlook the fellow’s Judas tendencies.

Bedingfield arms

Bedingfield

 

 

 

More Tyrrells, this time in Oxfordshire. One family or two?

This (below) is Shotover Park in Oxfordshire, formerly part of the Wychwood royal hunting forest. It becamAerial_View_of_Shotover_House_(geograph_4217497)e the property of one Timothy Tyrrell in 1613, the year after the death of Henry Stuart,  Prince of Wales, whom Tyrrell had served as Master of the Royal Buckhounds. Tyrrell was further honoured with a knighthood in 1624 and his grandson James built the current House, a listed building, on the site in 1714-5.

Stuart Oxfordshire was not Yorkist Suffolk, Prince Henry was not Richard III and buckhounds are not horses. Nevertheless, Sir Timothy was serving the Crown in a very similar role to that of his namesake and it is not surprising that readers will wonder whether he was related to Sir James through a different branch of the family, as a direct descendant or not at all. In a similar case, we showed “Robin” Catesby to be descended from William.

We can take a few clues from Sir James’ life and career. He was born into a Lancastrian family in about 1455 at Gipping Hall, near Stowmarket, and was appointed Master of Horse in 1483. In 1485, he became Governor of Guisnes and may have transported the “Princes” to the continent en route to taking up this position – in which case they could have resided at Gipping Hall for a short while. Gipping Chapel (left) still stands. In 1502, he was arrested for helping the fugitive Earl of Suffolk and tried at the London Guildhall for this alone. Starkey has shown that Henry VII and Elizabeth of York watched it at the Tower, presumably live on television, including Tyrrell’s murder confession which nobody mentioned until More wrote some years after Henry’s death – see Leas’ article.

In other words, this Tyrrell was associated with the sons of a King, as Sir Timothy was to be. Sir James’ family was also associated with Great Wenham near Capel St. Mary and benefitted when his 1504 attainder was reversed only three years later. He had three sons and a daughter, of whom at least three survived him.

SIR MATTHEW CRADDOCK 1468 – 1531

 Matthew Craddock was the son of Richard ap Gwilliam ap Evan ap Craddock Vreichfras and Jennet Horton of Candleston Castle in Glamorgan. His great grandfather, William Horton of Tregwynt in Pembrokeshire, married Joan de Canteloupe the heiress of Candleston. Jennet Horton was their granddaughter.

I first came across Matthew Craddock while looking at anything that connected Bishop Stillington to Mathry in Pembrokeshire and his connection to the Craddock/ Newton family of East Harptree in Somerset. Some of the Craddock family (Caradog in Welsh) had changed their name to Newton however Matthew’s father retained the name Craddock. William Horton was from Tregwynt in the Parish of Granston and the living is annexed to that of Mathry which was where Stillington was living at one time .There are connections between Stillington and Sir John Newton of East Harptree whose father was a Sir Richard CraddockNewton.  Sir Richard Craddock Newton was the arbitrator for the Talbots in the Berkley dispute.

It was thought that Matthew and Sir John may have been brothers but this is thought to be unlikely now. It is possible that they are related but not brothers.

When discussing Sir William Herbert on the Richard III Forum and the fact that he was in charge of guarding the South Wales coast for his father in law Richard III in 1485 it occurred to me that the Glamorgan Castles could have been part of this defence and that maybe Matthew had supported Richard. In the Dictionary of Welsh Biography it is reported that the Calendar of Patent Rolls 6/3/1485 – 1486 1HVII says that Craddock was appointed Constable for life at Caerphilly and Kenfig Castles. In 1491 Sir Matthew Craddock was appointed Steward of the Gower and also in 1497. Then I read a short note on a genealogy site, though obviously genealogy sites are not a reliable sources, it said that Matthew Craddock had fought in Rhys ap Thomas’retinue at Bosworth, this came as a surprise and a disappointment though it would probably explain the appointments under Tudor. Apparently William Herbert didn’t fight at all at Bosworth, which begs the question was it because he had links to Tudor from childhood (Tudor was brought up by the Herberts as their ward) or had Richard excused him to look after Katherine in the event of a Tudor victory?

I had started looking at the families who lived in some of the castles along the Glamorgan and South Wales coast before I came across the information that possibly Craddock had fought in Rhys ap Thomas’ retinue. Some of the names were familiar to me as there were still some of their descendants living in Glamorgan at least until the 1960s.These families were the Stradlings, the Turbevilles, the Mansells and the Talbots.

Candelston Castle is on the west side of the River Ogmore on the opposite side to Ogmore Castle. All along the Glamorgan coast there are castles, to the east of Ogmore is St Donat’s Castle, seat of the Stradling family and to the west would have been Kenfig castle. Further inland from Ogmore are Newcastle Castle, guarding the approach to the Llynfi Valley, and Coity Castle, seat of the Turbeville family. The Turbevilles also inherited Newcastle when one of them married the daughter of Morgan Gam of Afan.  When the Normans took over South Wales they built castles at Ogmore, Newcastle and Coity. Ogmore Castle was an important link in the defensive system of the Ogmore estuary. They were known as the Ogmore Triangle. Apparently they had a system whereby they would come to one anothers aid if attacked. Ogmore is on the estuary of the river and would guard against invasion from the sea. Further north is Newcastle, in what is now Bridgend, it is built high on a hill overlooking the river and so protecting the access to the Llynfi Valley. Coity is slightly north west of Newcastle and protects the Ogmore and Garw Valleys.

Ogmore, Newcastle and Coity were built by William de Londres in the 12th century and Coity was granted to Payn de Turbeville by Robert Fitzhamon. Payn Turbeville’s gt grandson Gilbert Turbeville married Matilda daughter of Morgan Gam of Afan and in 1217 he acquired the manor of Newcastle previously held by Morgan Gam and from then on Coity and Newcastle devolved together. The Turbevilles held both properties until 1380 when Richard Turbeville, a descendant of Payn Turbeville, died without issue and the properties descended to his sister Catherine and her husband Sir Roger Berkerolles. Their daughter Gwenllian Berkerolles married Sir Edward Stradling of St Donats.

The Stradlings came to Britain after the Norman conquest. They are a branch of the noble family of Strattigan who lived near Thun in Switzerland and they arrived in Wales in the late 13th century. In the late 14th century Sir Edward Stradling, Gwenllian Berkerolles husband, was twice Sheriff of Glamorgan. Edward and Gwenllian Stradling’s grandson, also called Sir Edward Stradling married Cardinal Beaufort’s daughter Joan by Alice Fitzalan and became Chamberlain and Receiver of South Wales. He died on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. His son Henry Stradling married Elizabeth Herbert of Raglan. Henry and Elizabeth’s son Thomas Stradling married Jane Matthew but Thomas died young in 1480 leaving Jane a young widow with a small child Edward, who was the Stradling heir to St Donat’s. (St Donat’s is now Atlantic College)

Imagine my surprise when, not long after I had read that Matthew Craddock had fought in Rhys ap Thomas’ retinue at Bosworth, I read in the Dictionary of Welsh Biography that Jane Stradling’s second husband was none other than Sir Rhys ap Thomas. Thomas then became guardian to the young heir,  Edward Stradling. Jane died in 1485 presumably leaving young Edward in Rhys’ care. There was a suggestion that Rhys took the money from the St Donat’s estates for three years in a row.

This explained to a certain extent the connection between Matthew Craddock and Rhys ap Thomas as Candleston Castle, like Ogmore Castle, is only a few miles west along the coast from St Donat’s. Matthew Craddock would have only been about seventeen in 1485, as it is thought that he was born in 1468, however, it is also thought that he might have been born as early as 1458. He would have been old enough to fight at Bosworth. After Bosworth he began a rapid rise being appointed Constable for life of Caerphilly and Kenfig Castles and Steward of Glamorgan in 1491 and 1497. He married Alice Mansell daughter of Sir Philip Mansell of Oxwich Castle, on the coast west of Swansea. I believe there doesn’t appear to be a record of the date, though some sources give 1489 as their date of marriage. They also report that his wife’s name could have been Jane Mansell. There doesn’t appear to be a complete set of facts about Craddock’s life. However, Matthew and Alice/ Jane’s daughter Margaret married Sir Richard Herbert the illegitimate half brother of William and Walter Herbert.

There are obviously connections through marriage between all these families. So were they Yorkist or were they Lancastrian, or were they doing a Stanley and supporting whoever was in power to get the best deal for their family? I doubt if we will ever know. In the Inventory of Ancient Monuments of Glamorgan, it is reported that Warwick was Lord of Glamorgan and that Clarence claimed it in 1474, however, it was awarded to Anne’s share and Richard became Lord of Glamorgan. It is reported that he raised the salaries of the officials of the Lordship to stop them extorting ancient dues from tenants, so he may not have been unpopular in Glamorgan. After Bosworth, Jasper Tudor was the Lord of Glamorgan.

In 1517 Sir Matthew Craddock married Lady Catherine Gordon, wife of “Perkin Warbeck”. Lady Catherine had been taken into the household of Elizabeth of York after” Perkin’s” arrest and had been treated well by Henry Tudor, however, he had never allowed her to leave court. Some sources report that he kept her a prisoner though he did treat her well. After Henry Tudor’s death Henry VIII gave her property in Berkshire in return for her promise not to leave England. When she married Craddock she was, however, allowed to live in Wales with him. Though it is also reported that they spent their married life at Court, because Lady Catherine was head of Princess Mary’s privy chamber.

There are various stories that Lady Katherine and “Perkin Warbeck” had a son and that he was brought up in Reynoldston on the Gower Peninsular. There is a story that a family named Perkins are descended from him. There is no evidence to prove that Katherine and “Perkin “ had a son, however, it has always seemed odd to me that she had agreed not to leave England and yet she ends up marrying the man who had been the Steward of the Gower and also lived there. I just wondered if she went to spend time with her son.

Unfortunately my idea that Sir Matthew Craddock was a supporter of Richard III came to nothing, however, it led to discovering connections between the families who controlled the coast of Glamorgan and maybe helping to explain how they flourished under the Tudors. In my opinion they probably would have fared just as well had Richard won Bosworth, indeed they might have fared better.

  1. Coity and Candleston Castle videos: h/t Stefen Felix.
  2. The DWB indicates that Craddock died between 14 June and 16 August 1531

ST MARY’S CHURCH, FAIRFORD: ROYAL PORTRAITS

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St Mary’s, Fairford, Gloucestershire.  ‘A complete and perfect Perpendicular church’  and famous for it fine collection of medieval glass.

Described in Betjeman’s Best British Churches as ‘a complete and perfect Perpendicular’ church(1) this beautiful wool church was rebuilt by John Tame, a wool merchant from Gloucester , in the late 15th Century to replace a much older church.  The tower had already been rebuilt by Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick and Lord of the manor around 1430.  St Mary’s possesses a complete set of medieval stained glass, amongst the finest in England and it is this glass that I want to focus on now.  The glass was made between 1500 and 1517 and, other than the west window, which was severely damaged in a storm in 1703 and later restored, the glass has somehow miraculously survived, although how this has happened remains a mystery.  It has been suggested it has survived because of the royal portraits contained in them. The windows are thought to have been a gift from Henry Vll himself.  It should be remembered that when Henry had the young Edward Earl of Warwick executed in 1499 he seized his estates which included Fairford.  It has also been suggested that Henry may have then given the manor to Prince Arthur whose badge of ostrich feathers and motto appear in some of the windows and one of the portraits is thought to have been modelled up his wife, Katherine of Aragon.  Thirty years after Arthur’s death Henry Vlll presented Fairford manor to Katherine of  Aragon after he had divested her of her title of queen.  The portraits are mostly members of the Tudor royal family and influential people in the Tudor court  although one of them is thought to be of a Plantagenet, that of Henry’s brother-in-law, the young Edward of Westminster, one of the ‘princes in the Tower’   Other portraits were modelled on Henry himself, obviously, his wife Elizabeth of York, Catherine of Aragon, Prince Arthur, Henry’s  daughters Mary and Margaret and a young Henry Vlll and last but not least Margaret Beaufort (2)   I also think its possible that one of them is based on Richard lll, but that is purely my own speculation.

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Nave, north aisle, north Window.  The figure of the Queen of Sheba is believed to be a likeness of Elizabeth of York

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Chancel, north chapel, Lady Chapel, North window.  Jesus as a small boy in the temple modelled on a young Henry Vlll possibly.

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Holbein’s sketch of Henry Vlll as a child to compare IMG_3802.JPG

Nave,north aisle, west window.  The figure of Solomon is thought to have been modelled on Edward of Westminster, one of the ‘princes in the Tower’ and brother to Elizabeth of York

 

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Nave, north aisle, west window.  Could this figure be Morton? It has been described as Wolsey but I disagree.  

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A wooden boss on the roof of Bere Regis church thought to represent Morton in comparison.

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Chancel, south chapel, Corpus Christi Chapel, east window.  This version of the Virgin Mary is believed to have been modelled on Mary Tudor, Henry Vll’s daughter.   See picture below to compare likenesses.

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A portrait of Mary Tudor to compare to her likeness in the above portrait of her at Fairford.

 

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Nave, West Window.  The figure with the crown is thought to be that of Henry Vll entering Heaven.

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Chancel, north chapel, Lady Chapel, north window.  The Magus is believed to have been modelled on Prince Arthur.

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Chancel, north chapel, Lady Chapel, north window.  Two royal likenesses here.  It it thought that the Virgin Mary was modelled after Catherine of Aragon while that of the attendant with the doves is modelled on Margaret Tudor, Henry Vll’s daughter.  Could the lady in red be modelled on Margaret Beaufort?

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Two kings here..Henry Vl on the left and Henry Vll on the right.

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Purely my speculation here but could the warrior holding the severed head be a Tudor representation of King Richard lll?  For surely one shoulder has been depicted higher than the other one! 

I am  indepted to the excellent Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi  online for these images

(1) Sir John Betjeman, updated by Richard Surman, Betjeman’s Best British Churches p.270

(2) Sir Nickolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England, Gloucestershire 1. The Cotswolds, p367 

Was Roland de Velville the son of Henry VII….?

henry-vii-london-bridge

The following article is necessarily filled with supposition, inference and sneaking suspicion. The result of smoke and mirrors, you ask? Well, I think it is all much more substantial than that, as I hope to explain in the coming paragraphs.

Today (25th June) in 1545, died a man by the name of Roland de Velville (or Vielleville, Veleville, Vieilleville, and other variations). He crops up at regular intervals in connection with the first Tudor king, Henry VII. Why? Because of a persistent whisper that Roland was Henry’s illegitimate son. Well, his son, but no one can really categorically state he was illegitimate. All that can be claimed is that he was born sometime during Henry’s exile in Brittany between 1471 and 1485, and that when he arrived in England he was soon rumoured to be Henry’s unacknowledged child, born any time from about 1472 on, when Henry himself was only fourteen or fifteen.

It needs to be mentioned here that medieval kings usually acknowledged any offspring fathered before their official royal marriages, so there would not appear to be any reason why Henry would not admit to Roland. (I can think of at least one very good reason, but will save that until the end of this article.)

Roland was a member of the Breton nobility, an écuyer or esquire who may have accompanied Henry on the invasion of 1485. It is not known whether or not the boy fought at Bosworth, but my guess would be that he was probably too young. However, in 1489 he was certainly old enough to be in Sir John Cheyne’s retinue for the Breton expedition commanded by Sir Robert Willoughby.

1489-brittany

 The comment has been made that Roland was an ‘almost obsessive’ jouster, and was closely involved with the king’s falcons. It seems probable that he accompanied Henry VII when he went hunting and hawking. He appears to have been tolerated by English aristocrats, who must have been aware that he was favoured by the king. If that were not the case, I doubt Roland would have come even close to tournaments and the like. Roland’s life style would have been expensive, but Henry supported him, granting occasional gifts and allowing him an income from the royal revenues. Roland held no official position, he was simply there, enjoying himself, participating in royal pastimes and generally floating along. As we would all like to, given the chance.

Conjecture about him must have been rife, but that was all it amounted to. Conjecture. Because no one was party to the facts, not even Roland himself. Or so I guess, because his character was such that I doubt he’d have held his tongue and been discreet. He appears to have been of an unruly temperament, headstrong, irksome, arrogant and inclined to indulge in slander. Not at all like his subtle father. Well, rumoured father.

battle-of-roncevaux-pass-large

Might Roland have been named after the great 11th-century hero, Roland of Roncevaux? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland) If Henry Tudor really was his father, it strikes me as very much in keeping with Henry’s grand ideas concerning his legendary ancestry. After all, did he not give the name Arthur to his first son by Elizabeth of York?

It was not until the reign of his “half-brother”, Henry VIII, that Roland received any real advancement. From Henry VII he had been given this and that in the way of minor money, and had been kept at royal expense, but there was nothing worthwhile. Except, of course, for being knighted at the Battle of Blackheath in June 1497. But he was still Breton, not English. It was to be 1512 before he received that acknowledgement.

 battle-of-blackheath-1497

Battle of Blackheath

 On the death of Henry VII on 21st April 1509, the new 17-year-old king Henry VIII did not exactly shower Roland with brotherly goodies. Within weeks (3rd July 1509) Roland was appointed Constable of Beaumaris Castle on the Isle of Anglesey, and was given, during pleasure, an annuity of £20. After twenty-five years or so of luxury at court, Roland was on his way to Wales pdq, as the jargon goes. Young Henry clearly did not want his awkward kinsman around. Tudor angst required being rid of anyone of dangerous royal blood, and Roland, if he was indeed a half-sibling, would almost certainly make Henry VIII twitchy. Send him away to the sticks, and if he became a problem, an accident might befall him. At least, that is how I interpret it. Especially, perhaps, as Roland was said to greatly resemble Henry.

 

Hmm, the above portrait of Henry VIII at eighteen (right) doesn’t look like the ogre we now know and, er, love. Indeed, he looks almost identical to his father at that age (above left). But while we know how Henry VII changed as he grew older, remaining lean and almost gaunt, it has to be said that Henry VIII changed a whole lot more, becoming the odious, gross King Hal who was so obsessed with producing male heirs that he was prepared to get through six wives in the process. Did Roland change in the same way? Not the six wives part, of course, but might the Constable of Beaumaris Castle become as awful and bloated as his half-brother the king?

This latter point raises an interesting question. Let us imagine that Roland and Henry were indeed half-brothers. It is generally accepted that for looks Henry VIII took after his maternal grandfather, the Yorkist king Edward IV (who was also tall and handsome, but became gross in his later years). If this were so, how could Roland also look like Edward IV? There was no blood connection. If the resemblance between the two half-siblings were that pronounced as to cause comment, then it has to be wondered if, perhaps, similar tall, handsome, “reddish-golden” looks were also to be found on Henry VII’s side? To my eyes, the first Tudor king and his mother have “Beaufort” stamped upon them. Some of Henry VII’s portraits are interchangeable with his mother. Both have high foreheads and cheekbones, small chins, hooded eyes and a general resemblance to the weasel. Put him in a wimple, and there she is!

What we do not know, of course, is what the earlier Tudors looked like. There are no portraits of Henry’s father, Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, only a reproduction tomb engraving(below left). Nor are there portraits of his father, Owen Tudor. If, indeed, Owen had anything to do with fathering Edmund, there being yet another scandalous royal whisper that Owen’s “wife” (there is no solid evidence that she and Owen ever married) Queen Catherine of Valois, widow of Henry V, had actually been enjoying some hanky-panky with another Beaufort, who for whatever reason declined to marry her. Owen stepped in to make things less embarrassing for her. Tangled webs in every shadow. But let’s suppose that the earlier Tudors were indeed Henry VII’s forebears. They might have been tall and reddish-blond. Well, they could have been, so do not wag your fingers at my screen! The Vikings did NOT steer clear of Wales.

Whatever the reason for Roland and Henry VIII sharing physical similarities—and maybe it was simply coincidence—it could have been with some relief that Roland scurried off to Beaumaris with his neck still attached to the rest of him. Better to be alive, than meet some dark Tudor death because of being regarded as an awkward presence at court. On the other hand, he may well have resented Beaumaris for taking him away from luxury. It was said in 1534 (the year before Roland’s death) that the never-completed castle had deteriorated so that “there was scarcely a single chamber in Beaumaris Castle where a man could lie dry”.

beaumaris-castle

Given Roland’s character, it will come as no surprise that he was a troublesome constable, making all the capital he could from his privileges. Twenty-five or so years at court had undoubtedly given him expensive tastes. But whether he liked it or not, the rest of his life was to be spent at Beaumaris where he began to live (scandalously, of course) with widowed Agnes Griffith, whom he would eventually make his wife. She was a member of the most powerful family in Gwynedd, and had children with Roland. Their descendants were numerous, and included his famous granddaughter, Catherine of Berain, known as the ‘Mother of Wales’. Roland de Velville certainly left his mark in his wife’s homeland.

catherine-of-berain-rolands-granddaughter

Roland died at Beaumaris Castle on 25th June 1535, and was buried at the Church of St Mary’s and St Nicholas, Beaumaris. If he was indeed buried there, I cannot find anything about his actual resting place. I have not been to the church, so it does not signify that he is no longer there, just that he’s escaped me. How intriguing it would be (the discovery of Richard III’s DNA being so fresh in the mind) to see if Roland’s DNA could be obtained. That would indeed help to ascertain if he was Henry VII’s offspring.

st-mary-and-st-nicholas-beaumaris

There is a lot of conflicting information about Roland. Was he of royal blood? Or wasn’t he? Who said what, and when? To whom? Can a Welsh elegy to him, by Daffyd Alaw (1535), be given any credence whatsoever? Well, it claims that Roland was ‘A man of kingly line and of earl’s blood’, which would certainly fit Henry VII, who had been born Henry, Earl of Richmond (he was born posthumously). So yes, Roland could well have been Henry’s son. Why else was he brought to the English court and supported in the way he was? And those who say that such bardic traditions should be ignored as highly improbable should perhaps remember that bardic tradition was how Welsh history was recorded. It was committed to memory and and passed down through the generations. The Welsh are clever enough to train their grey cells!

Historians have been rude about each other where this mysterious Breton écuyer is concerned. That is, if he was even Breton. Yes, I fear the conflicting ‘evidence’ even calls this basic fact into question. Maybe his mother’s family hailed from a corner of France. You see, we do not know her identity either.

rolands-mystery-mother

It seems that Roland was granted arms that were quartered, indicating the families from whom he was descended. They do not, of course, include Henry. But although these families can be hazarded, they cannot be identified for certain, So, who was his mother? Did she marry someone called de Velville (or other variations of the name in both French and Breton)? Maybe this man believed the boy was his. He wouldn’t be the first to have another man’s child foisted upon him. But, yet again, it’s guesswork. All is vague and uncertain.

To read an intricate account of it all, with far more small detail, go to http://www.happywarrior.org/genealogy/roland.htm

And now I will tell you why I think Henry VII did not acknowledge Roland. No, it’s not that Roland simply wasn’t his son, what a boring conclusion to come to. Far more interesting to make the two father and son. What if (ah, those words beloved of fiction writers) a teenaged Henry had fallen passionately, lustfully in love with, and impetuously married, a young, equally passionate and lustful Breton noblewoman? What if it was a secret wedding that never came to light and was soon regretted on both sides? What if Henry was moved elsewhere in Brittany (he was a prisoner under house arrest) and his bride (frightened by her important male relatives, who knew nothing of the secret marriage, was forced to bigamously marry someone “suitable”. Pregnant with Henry’s child, she allowed her new husband to believe the child was his.

Are you still with me? Right, move on to 1485. Henry is going to invade England to challenge Richard III for the throne. To be sure of much-needed Yorkist support, he vows to marry Elizabeth of York, Richard’s niece and the senior unmarried Yorkist princess. He wins at Bosworth and has to honour his vow. Sooo…knowing he is already married, he weds Elizabeth. Another bigamous match, but one that could have catastrophic consequences. Not least bloody rebellion and the chopping of Henry’s slender neck.

Then Roland enters his life much more immediately. The boy’s mother is on her deathbed and fears for his life at the hands of her second husband. She implores Henry to take Roland under his protection. And so he comes to court but cannot possibly be acknowledged by his royal father, who, understandably, doesn’t want any enemies poking around in what happened when he was a young prisoner in Brittany. Nor does Roland even know Henry is his father.

Thus history repeats itself, with Henry VII following in the footsteps of his father-in-law, Edward IV. Another secret wife, a second deceived bride, and heirs who are all illegitimate. Roland de Velville is his legitimate son. The rightful King of England? But can even Henry contemplate disposing of this inconvenient boy…? His own child?

There, is that not a half-decent plot for a historical novel? I thought so too, so I made it the main theme of the fourth book in my Cicely series. The book is called Cicely’s Sovereign Secret.

cicelys-sovereign-secret

 

 

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