Well, Ricardians will probably always associate the county of Northamptonshire with Richard’s birthplace and the great Yorkist connections at Fotheringhay, but it seems that back in the medieval period, it was also the home of tournaments.
Well, Ricardians will probably always associate the county of Northamptonshire with Richard’s birthplace and the great Yorkist connections at Fotheringhay, but it seems that back in the medieval period, it was also the home of tournaments.
A short while ago, I came upon a reference to the foundation stone of Henry VII’s chapel in Westminster Abbey (visible in this illustration of the abbey as it may have been in the Tudor period) have been laid first in April 1483. It was from here, as follows:-
“. . .Elizabeth [of York] was given a lavish funeral. She lay in state at the Tower, and was interred later at Henry VII Lady Chapel (the foundation stone of which was laid in April, 1483). She and Henry lay there together, their graves topped with an elaborate bronze effigy. . .”
I asked the Henry “Tudor” Society blog if they could clarify this date, which I thought would probably mean that Edward IV had some input or other. There was no response. I decided the whole thing must be an error, because the date for laying of the foundation stone is always given as 1503.
Nevertheless, the point niggled away. What if it were true? What if that foundation stone had indeed been laid in April 1483? This, of course, led me to consider what was going on in that month of that year. Answer? The death of Edward IV. Not yet the accession of Richard III, because Edward’s eldest son was to be Edward V. Was Edward IV’s sudden death merely a curious coincidence? Regarding the date, not anything untoward.
I thought no more of it. Then, while pursuing the part of the reference below that refers to Richard III having removed Henry VI’s remains from Chertsey by violence, I noticed the accompanying details about the so-called saintly king’s intended resting place in Westminster Abbey.
It reads as follows, from The Archaeology of the Medieval English Monarchy by John Steane, page 183:
“. . .While Edward [IV] was king the remains of Henry VI were left in obscurity at Chertsey, whither they had been removed after his [Henry’s] mysterious death in the Tower. The government had given out that Henry died from ‘pure displeasure and melancholy’, but popular belief was that he had been murdered, possibly by the Duke of Gloucester. . . (Pause for savage expletives!!!) . . . Prominent political figures who died by violence were likely to earn a popular reputation for sanctity. In Henry VI’s case, bouts of insanity and a reputation for other-worldliness in his own lifetime may have encouraged the formation of a saintly cult. Richard III took steps to supervise this phenomenon more closely when he authorized the removal of the body of Henry VI from Chertsey to Windsor. Although not canonized he [Henry VI] was popularly regarded as a saint and pilgrims flocked to Windsor, contributing to a decline in the numbers wending their way to the shrine of St Thomas at Canterbury.
“. . .A rather unseemly wrangle followed. [My note: When, exactly? In Richard’s reign, or after Bosworth?] The abbeys of Chertsey and Westminster both put forward claims to the body. Chertsey’s claim was on the grounds that Richard III had taken it by violence to Windsor [Huh? I hope this is just a generally accepted term for moving remains around, not yet another accusation to lay at Richard’s door.] Westminster based its case on the fact that workmen and vergers at the abbey had clear recollections that Henry had marked out a place for himself in the abbey choir during his lifetime. The canons of Windsor joined in, strenuously arguing in favour of the saintly royal corpse remaining there. The upshot was that the new chapel prepared at Westminster was used for its founder, Henry VII, while Windsor kept Henry VI under the south aisle of St George’s chapel. His arms are carved in the fan vaulting over the bay in which he had been reburied after his arrival from Chertsey. . .”
The above details are also to be found in Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey by Dean Stanley, who says that Henry VII intended a new Westminster chapel for Henry VI, whom he thought would soon be canonised. But Henry VI wasn’t canonised, and Stanley believes Henry VII wasn’t prepared to lavish money on a non-saint. So he appropriated the planned chapel for himself alone. (This is on page 138 of my February 1911 edition.) All of which suggests that the present Henry VII chapel certainly wasn’t originally intended just for Tudor himself, but for him to rest beside St Henry VI. And presumably soak up the reflected glory.
So, a chapel at Westminster, already commenced for Henry VI, was eventually used for solely for Henry VII. .Oh, and by the way, this would presumably mean that Henry VII would be removing Henry VI’s remains by violence, since Windsor was hardly likely to surrender their royal golden goose without protest. And there is a strong suggestion that the remains were actually brought to Westminster, and when the canonisation failed to materialize, were returned to Windsor. Very respectfully, of course. And maybe followed by a Tudor scowl.
However, Henry VI had apparently already chosen his place in Westminster, but in the abbey choir, not Henry VII’s new chapel, which was erected on the site of the old Lady Chapel, behind the altar. This made me wonder if Henry VI’s known personal choice of Westminster had led to an earlier plan to accommodate the saintly king’s wish. OK, it’s a possible flight of fancy on my part, but it could perhaps offer an explanation for the intriguingly rogue mention of April 1483
I don’t think there is any doubt that in 1503 Henry VII commenced his own chapel, the one that is still there now. But just how much of a previous “new” Henry VI chapel might have remained very close by? An earlier foundation stone, perhaps laid around the time of Edward IV’s death in April 1483? It would have been superseded by the 1503 foundation stone, of course, but there is still the thought (mine, I own up) that another chapel could have been planned from the time of Edward IV/Richard III.
Then again, maybe in April 1483, this originally planned new chapel was not intended for Henry VI at all. Might Edward IV, knowing he was on his deathbed, have decided he wanted to be laid to rest in Westminster? I know he left in his will that it was to be Windsor, but might he have changed his mind at the eleventh hour? He surely wouldn’t normally have built anything for holy but pesky Henry VI, whom he’d despatched to obscurity in Chertsey. Out of sight, out of mind. Edward had no reason to think fondly of Henry VI, unless, of course, his own imminent death made him want to take precautions for an assured entry into heaven. In which case, of course, why not bring the holy chap to Windsor? But just maybe, with the Grim Reaper approaching the castle, a grand joint venture with Henry VI at Westminster would seem just the necessary safeguard? Being nice to the royal “saint” would earn brownie points in heaven and on earth, which I’m sure is what Henry VII was to think in turn. Edward would also have been content that his son and brother, Richard of Gloucester, would carry out these last-minute plans. Edward had no scruples about intending his illegitimate son to ascend the throne at Richard’s expense. In fact, I don’t think Edward had many scruples at all. If any. But that’s beside the point.
However, if Edward had decided belatedly on his own burial in Westminster, it did not come to fruition. He was interred in Windsor. That is not to say that his successor, Richard III, did not intend to honour his late brother’s possible last wish (if such a wish had existed). Who knows what Richard had in mind? He left no record, so people like me have to read the facts and try to interpret them, and as I am not a historian, the result is rambling articles like this!
Moving human remains around to different places was quite common back then. In 1476, on Edward’s instructions, his father and brother had been removed from Pontefract to Fotheringhay, escorted on the journey by Richard, so it was certainly established practice in their immediate family. Richard had Henry VI brought from Chertsey to Windsor, even though Henry had wanted to rest in neither, but in Westminster. But this may have been expediency on Richard’s part, to accommodate the growing cult around Henry’s tomb. Maybe even to reflect a heavenly glow over Edward IV? Like so many things with Richard, we cannot know anything for certain.
So. . .what was this possible other chapel at Westminster? Surely not anything to do with the old Lady Chapel, which was definitely pulled down to accommodate Henry VII’s grand plan. No, for there seems to be a suggestion that this enigmatic earlier project was something new in April 1483. Might it have been a magnificent tomb for the House of York? Might Richard have eventually planned to bring Edward IV from Windsor and George of Clarence from Tewkesbury? Maybe his father and older brother Edmund from Fotheringhay? Perhaps even Henry VI from Windsor? Whatever his motives and final intentions, the chapel if it existed (for this is all “reading between the lines” on my part) was somewhere Richard would have seen, with great sadness, as a final resting place for his queen, his son. All too soon, of course, it would have been his own too.
But it was never built. Maybe never even planned. Who knows? I just have this feeling that Henry VII was almost pipped at the post by a Yorkist chapel. If only everyone today flocked to see the York Chapel, with all the grand tombs of the family of Richard III. If only. . .
Although the entire eastern portion of St Mary and All Saints Church in Fotheringhay was demolished in 1573, it is still possible to see original woodwork and painted glass from the Yorkist Age.
Lady on Horseback, mid-15th c., British Museum
My husband and I had the good fortune to spend two weeks in England and Wales in October, 2017. I had been asked to moderate a conference about Richard III and 15th century warfare at the Leicester Guildhall, sponsored by the Richard III Foundation. During our stay in Leicester, we drove into Northamptonshire in order to explore a small parish church at King’s Cliffe that purported to have a number of objects from Richard III’s birthplace of Fotheringhay. What we discovered surpassed all our expectations.
Like many tales of discovery, this one begins with a tale of loss. The year was 1566. Queen Elizabeth I was on progress through her realm, having already occupied the throne for 8 years. Her itinerary took her to Fotheringhay Castle, a short distance from the parish church…
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Philippa Langley has recently been on the road with ‘The Missing Princes Project’ making inquiries in Lincolnshire as to any local legends or folklore (such stories can often hold a tiny grain of folk memory) relating to King Richard or the two boys.
Interestingly, author Sandra Heath Wilson in her novels has the princes hidden at Friskney, which is in Lincolnshire. There is more to her choice of location than a random place name chosen by an author ( but I will leave Sandra to do the telling, if she wishes to reveal!)
During Philippa’s recent talk, it was also mentioned that Richard, as Duke of Gloucester, overruled the choice of a mayor in Grimsby during 1474, and replaced the incumbent with his choice, Robert More. An unusual tidbit, as we do not generally think of Richard as being ‘active’ in this area of Britain. Where was this More in 1483 or 84?
Several legends from different parts of the country seem to be emerging. Could this be because one or both of the princes were frequently moved to different locations, perhaps remote and unlikely ones, to avoid detection or possible rescue? Although mostly held in Sarum, Eleanor of Aquitaine was moved to other castles during her imprisonment; even more frequently shunted about was the unfortunate Eleanor, Fair Maid of Brittany, first prisoner of King John and then his son Henry III. Her exact whereabouts were hard to trace throughout her long years of imprisonment, though we know she may have been at Corfe castle and she definitely spent some time at Gloucester. It was only when she was too old to bear children and was allowed to enter a convent that her location became generally known. Later on, Mary Queen of Scots had many different places of imprisonment before her final date with destiny at Fotheringhay.
Another intriguing site I stumbled upon is that of Coldridge, a small village in Devon. In the church is a chantry chapel to one John Evans, who was keeper of the park and yeoman of the crown. Beyond that, nothing is known of his origin, although his name appears to be Welsh. Evans leased the local manor from Thomas Grey, Marquis of Dorset, the half brother to the princes, in the reign of Henry VII. In his own chapel, Evans lies in effigy, gazing towards a particularly rare stained glass window depicting Edward V with the crown suspended over his head as a symbol to acknowledge he was never crowned. Some guidebooks wrongly describe this glass as being of Edward VI, Henry VIII’s son, but it is clearly from an earlier period by clothes and hair, and then there is the matter of the crown. Although not confirmed, some sources state that Evans, whoever he was, attended the funeral of Henry VIII’s first son, Henry, which is intriguing indeed.
(There is also a fragmentary section of a scowling man’s face just below the glass of Edward V, which has been thought to represent an evil Richard, but that is possibly a more recent attribution, and it may have been part of another scene completely unrelated to the Edward V one.)
Postscript from viscountessw (Sandra Heath Wilson):- I lighted on Friskney in Lincolnshire for two reasons. Firstly, research revealed it to have been held by the Earl of Lincoln, and secondly it was occupied by the Kymbe family, one of whom, Thomas, became the third husband of Cicely/Cecily, younger sister of Elizabeth of York. This marriage was apparently a love match – if it wasn’t, I can’t think why she would have risked losing everything in order to make such a “low” marriage.
Well, OK, I admit it, the picture right above is NOT Edmund. It’s just an image of a young knight, which is what Edmund was at the time of his death. The trouble is, what did Edmund of Rutland actually look like? Another giant like his elder brother Edward IV? Or…smaller and more delicate, like his younger brothers, George of Clarence and Richard III? Well, certainly as Richard III was, and it is now suggested that George was the same. (To read more about this, click here.)
Back to Edmund. First, a little background to his life and premature death. Edmund Plantagenet, Earl of Rutland, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, descended paternally from Edward of Langley, youngest son of King Edward II. He was born at Rouen on 17th May, 1443 (574 years ago this month), and besides his English title, had an Irish one, Earl of Cork. His father was Richard Duke of York, Protector of England and supposed heir to the English throne. His mother, Cecily Neville, was a daughter of Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland.
I will not go into the details of York’s claim to the throne, suffice it that the House of Lancaster was seated there but King Henry VI was weak-minded and ineffectual, and York (rightly) disagreed with his right to the crown. Henry’s fierce queen, Margaret of Anjou, was certainly not weak-minded, and she had a seven-year-old son to protect, Edward, Prince of Wales. She had no intention of endangering his eventual succession, and in 1449 York was appointed Viceroy of Ireland, and thus was (for the time being) safely out of the Lancastrian way. York’s second son, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, was appointed Lord Chancellor of Ireland and went with his father.
In July 1449, York and Edmund, together with York’s pregnant duchess (on 12th October she would give birth to George, Duke of Clarence), set sail for Howth, then the chief port of Dublin. They landed on 14th of the month. York soon gained the appreciation of the Irish, as well as the resident English, and the House of York was to retain that land’s support.
Not all York’s children went with him to Ireland, for his eldest son and heir, Edward, Earl of March, was holding Calais with York’s brother-in-law, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. The great Kingmaker. At that time Warwick supported York’s claims. It would not always be thus, of course.
Edward and Warwick raised an army and invaded England to defeat the Lancastrians at the Battle of Northampton.
King Henry was captured, and London fell into Yorkist possession. York returned from Ireland with Edmund, and was reaffirmed as heir to the throne. The Yorkist ascendancy was soon imperilled, however, and York and Edmund found themselves trapped in Sandal Castle, near Wakefield.
They and a mere 5,000 men were besieged by the Lancastrians with 20,000 men. Help was on the way from Edward, but although York was urged to stay tight, he insisted on going out to give battle. There are varying reasons given for his decision to fight, one being that he was convinced he had enough friends in the opposing army who would come over to him. If this reason is true, he was wrong. If he’d held back, we might have had a different Richard III! And our Richard III would have been Richard IV.
The following is taken from The Lives of the Lord Chancellors and Keepers of the Great Seal of Ireland: From the Earliest Times to the Reign of Queen Victoria, Volume 1, by James Roderick O’Flanagan. The illustrations are my insertions. O’Flanagan (1814-1900) wrote a great deal about Irish history, and may have had access to a source that gives the description of Edmund. Or it might be his own invention, of course. One cannot always tell with writers of the 19th century.:-
“…On the eve of Christmas, December 24, 1460, the Duke’s army marched out of the castle and offered the Lancastrians battle. By the side of the Duke fought his second son, the young Chancellor of Ireland, whose years had not past their teens, but who, under a fair and almost effeminate appearance, carried a brave and intrepid spirit. The forces of the Queen resolved to annihilate their audacious foes, and soon the duke found how little reason he had to hope of finding friends in the camp of Queen Margaret. The historian Hume says,1 ‘the great inequality of numbers was sufficient alone to decide the victory, but the queen, by sending a detachment, who fell on the back of the Duke’s army, rendered her advantage still more certain and undisputed. The duke himself was killed in the action; and when his body was found among the slain the head was cut off by Margaret’s orders and fixed on the gates of York, with a paper crown upon it, in derision of his pretended title.’
“…The fate of the young Chancellor was soon over. Urged by his tutor, a priest named Robert Aspell, he was no sooner aware that the field was lost than he sought safety by flight. Their movements were intercepted by the Lancastrians, and Lord Clifford made him prisoner, but did not then know his rank. Struck by the richness of his armour and equipment, Lord Clifford demanded his name. ‘Save him,’ implored the Chaplain; ‘for he is the Prince’s son, and peradventure may do you good hereafter.’
“….This was an impolitic appeal, for it denoted hopes of the House of York being again in the ascendant, which the Lancastrians, flushed with recent victory, regarded as impossible. The ruthless noble swore a solemn oath:— ‘Thy father,’ said he, ‘slew mine; and so will I do thee and all thy kin;’ and with these words he rushed on the hapless youth, and drove his dagger to the hilt in his heart. Thus fell, at the early age of seventeen, Edmund Plantagenet, Earl of Rutland, Lord Chancellor of Ireland…”
1Hume’s History of England, vol iii, page 304.
The above, in a nutshell, is the life and death of Edmund Plantagenet, the York brother who is mostly forgotten.
I am intrigued by the description of Edmund as being of a fair and almost effeminate appearance. Given the similar description of Richard III as being delicate with gracile bones, and the fact that he was certainly handsome without being rugged, I am forced to wonder if Richard wasn’t the only brother with those attributes. I know ‘fair’ doesn’t necessarily mean blond—more likely ‘good-looking’—but ‘effeminate’ (rightly or wrongly) presents us with a definite type of appearance. Edward IV may have been 6’ 4”, but was he the only tall brother? Richard would have been 5’ 8” if it were not for his scoliosis, and that was a good height for the 15th century.
We’ve had speculation about the height of George of Clarence when compared with Richard (George may have been smaller), but what about Edmund of Rutland? Yes, he could have been 6’ 4” and still be effeminate, but I’m inclined to doubt it. Comment was made about Edward’s height. If Edmund had been like that, surely he too would get a mention? I had never seen a description of Edmund before, apart from Edward Hall’s Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Famelies of Lancastre & Yorke: ‘While this battaill was in fightyng, a prieste called sir Robert Aspall, chappelain and schole master to the yong erle of Rutland ii. sonne to the aboue named duke of Yorke, scace of y age of. xii. yeres, a faire getlema, and a maydenlike person….’ Just what might ‘maydenlike’ actually mean? Young? Virginal? Like a girl? All three?
In 1476, the bodies of both York and Edmund were moved to Fotheringhay, and the magnificent church that honours so many members of the House of York.
And now a curiosity, which may or may not be actually connected with Edmund, beyond his name and title. On the other hand, perhaps it’s another indication of his physical appearance.:—
Medieval silver vervel / Circa 1440-1460 |/ A silver hawking leg ring or vervel inscribed ‘+Earle of Rutland’ in derivative black letter script, for a female merlin or sparrowhawk (due to the youth of Edmund Plantagenet who died aged 17). Silver, 0.56g, 8.81mm.
Might a female merlin or sparrowhawk be a reference of Edmund’s looks, not simply his youth? Equally, it might not indicate any such thing, of course, but if the ring is dated to circa 1440-60 (and if the inscription is contemporary), the maker could certainly have known/seen him. But the inscription does not look 15th century to me. I’m no expert, though.
And finally, the novelty of a ‘conspiracy theory’ about Edmund’s death (or survival!) go to https://doublehistory.com/tag/edmund-earl-of-rutland/.
When the Normans came to England they built their stern castles upon huge mounds that gave them clear views across the countryside from the height of the donjon or keep. For many years, it was thought these mottes were mostly of Norman date, contemporary with the castle structures, or else were natural, glacial features utilised by the incomers.
Recently, however, archaeologist Jim Leary, well known in the Wiltshire area for his work at Marden Henge and Avebury, has been studying these numerous round mounds in some detail and finding that many of them tell another story. Sometimes on that stretched far into the depths of time.
Marlborough mound is one example. For years, various guidebooks debated whether the enormous hill in the grounds of Marlborough college, complete with later grotto inserted in its flank, was a Norman construction, a prehistoric earthwork, a natural hill, or even a much more recent garden folly.
The castle, of which no stone remains above ground today, was quite prominent in the 12th century: an oath of allegiance was sworn to King John in its now-vanished hall, and Eleanor of Brittany, kept prisoner for most of her life by John and then his son, Henry III, due to her closeness to the throne, was briefly incarcerated within its walls. Later, it became a dower property of Eleanor of Provence and a host of subsequent queens, until it finally fell into ruin, becoming completely uninhabitable by 1403. The Seymour family, who owned many local lands, ended up with it.
About five years ago, Jim Leary had some charcoal found inside the mound carbon dated. It turns out Marlborough mound, reputed in legend to be the burial place of Merlin, is a Neolithic artificial hill dating from 2400 B.C., a smaller sister to the famous, pyramid-sized Silbury Hill, which liesa few miles down the road near the stone circles of Avebury.
Now Dr Leary is working on analysing further monumental mounds, with exciting and unexpected results from the motte at Skipsea castle, which was built in 1086 by Drogo de la Beauvriere as protection against an incursion of Danes via the North Sea. The castle was destroyed by the forces of Henry III in 1221, when William de Forz rebelled and was never subsequently rebuilt, with only the mound remaining today.
In the recent analysis of Skipsea, the archaeologists have found that the motte is neither Norman nor natural glacial hill (as was generally thought) but, unusually, that it is an artificial mound dating from the Iron Age. It is quite possibly a burial mound, which would make it a one of a kind in this country, since by the British Iron Age huge funerary barrows had long dropped out of fashion. It bears a marked similarity to the large German Celtic barrows, which often hold rich remains, such as those of the Hochdorf chief (also known as the Prince with the Golden Shoes, due to his blingy footwear!)
Leary and his team have also recently surveyed Fotheringhay and Berkhamsted mottes. The study goes on….
Quote from the above link: “Today, the inner courtyard fronts of the Talbot Hotel – which has a sign bearing the year 1626 – is proudly erected from the stone of Fotheringhay Castle itself. Among other features in the hotel are the mullion windows, said also to come from the Castle and also that wooden staircase. If true, and the footsteps of Mary, Queen of Scots once graced its boards, it is a staircase with a history quite unlike any other.”
I did not know that some of the stone and other parts of Fotheringhay Castle had been reused, and that at the Talbot Hotel in Oundle, Northamptonshire, is preserved the staircase down which Mary, Queen of Scots, went to her execution. A staircase which, no doubt, could have been well known to a certain Plantagenet family. Might Richard have been acquainted with it? Surely the answer is yes. And he would have known parts of the inner courtyard fronts and looked out of the mullioned windows that are also preserved at the hotel.
(picture from The Woodcarvers Guild Ltd.)
(picture by Baz Richardson)
See more about the hotel at http://www.thetalbot-oundle.com/
I recently had the opportunity to attend a talk by Professor Jane Evans of the British Geological Survey, co-author of the multi-isotope analysis which explored what the last Plantagenet king of England ate and drank. As I mentioned in a previous science post, this study formed the basis for the widely reported claim that, although he was a capable soldier, he overindulged on food and drink and that this “dissolute” diet was the reason for his unexpected defeat at the battle of Bosworth. As this seemed to be at odds with both historical sources and also the study itself, I was hoping to finally get to the bottom of the facts. I wasn’t disappointed.
Professor Evans began her talk by explaining that isotopes are particles which transmit information from geology to us via our food chain. Basically:
Rock > soil > plants > herbivores…
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Richard III by Ian Churchward and The Legendary Ten Seconds
Richard Liveth Yet
Written At Rising
Act III, Scene IV
The Year of Three Kings
Remember My Name
Lord Lovell’s Lullaby
Additional narrative notes are also provided (see below).
Having read the Legendary Ten Seconds characterized as a folk band, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I received their third CD to review, though I was intrigued with the concept album format whereby all the songs map out historical events. More precisely, they detail a specific series of events pertaining to a key figure: Richard III. This release, aptly titled Richard III, highlights instrumental periods in the monarch’s life, through melodic tunes reminiscent of medieval music itself. Listeners will recognize certain moments in which the band pays homage to their medieval forebears, with particular use of mandola notes, bells, organs and other instruments. However, there is balance with a modern sensibility, so while the music is identifiable as medieval-inspired folk, this is neither the monophonically-textured sound we tend to associate with the Middle Ages, nor stereotypical folk often heard mainly at summer forest fairs. What it does present is much of the heritage—our own—that we are taught about as children and will recognize in themes of truth and loyalty, pastoral poetry and the timeless desire to be remembered. It is all presented here so engagingly that even those who might tend toward reluctance will find themselves drawn in, for the music as well as the history it recounts.
“Sheriff Hutton,” the album’s first song, opens with an immediate sense of storytelling, as if the music itself is performing the gesticulations of one about to move forward into a verbal narrative. It is the perfect song to open the collection owing to this musical smoothing out of one’s apparel as well as the lyrics themselves, which tell of discovery as the speaker describes what he experiences upon visiting three sites: Sheriff Hutton, where as Duke of Gloucester Richard stayed, given its proximity to the north; Middleham Castle, the setting of his formative years and where his beloved son, Edward, was born and tragically dies too young; and Bosworth Field, site of the battle where Richard loses his life and the Plantagenet dynasty comes to an end. The song itself encapsulates the story of Richard’s later life as the singer takes us forward in time to “one fateful day,” having already experienced the sense of loneliness and brokenness that permeate the sites, and mindful of Richard’s own experiences when he himself stayed there.
There is a newness to this start of the CD, yet also a wistfulness, perhaps undetectable to some unfamiliar with the life and times of Richard III. However, the musical arrangement is such that it acts also like a sort of foreshadowing, for once familiarized, these listeners will be able to detect the melancholy, recognizing it the way readers realize they do clues in a story, leading them to the often typical train of thought that commences with, “What if…?” This is paired with opening to the aftereffects of a tragedy as the album then takes listeners back in time to “see” the events that lead to this moment.
With the singer, or storyteller, we embark on a journey from a time when the infant Richard is noted in the “Clare Roll,” a poem documenting the armorial history of the prominent Clare family, the earls of whom Richard, Duke of York is descended; the second song’s title is drawn from his son’s mention within.
The youngest son of the Duke of York
Born in the castle of Fotheringhay
Was the sun shining on that autumn day
Richard liveth yet
Richard liveth yet
Richard liveth yet
Born at the castle on the rise of the River Nene
Noting Shakespearean word order within one line, the song also foreshadows the playwright’s role in Richard’s posthumous reputation, and another depicts a scene from Shakespeare’s Richard III, with several vocalists taking up the roles of different characters as they discuss Edward V’s coronation date. While it may seem a curious choice to base a Ricardian song upon, it sets the stage for Richard’s coming rule while also highlighting a central Shakespearean reconstruction re: the alleged withered arm. While we now know that Richard III suffered from scoliosis, the useless arm is a fabrication.
Male and female vocalists appear on the various tracks and they are used to great effect—to play different roles, for example, as mentioned above; in duets, sometimes partner, others as counterpoint; and perhaps to change up the sound “appearance,” though this is carefully considered as their voices and particular and varying uses of them match the individual pieces of narrative so well one might be forgiven for believing each track was written specifically for those particular voices.
In linear fashion the CD progresses through eras in Richard’s life, including leadership roles in which he must manage shortage and adversity, through to the “year of three kings”—1483—which sees the death of Edward IV, Richard’s brother and monarch, to be succeeded by his son, Edward V. As Edward IV’s heir is too young to assume full duties, Richard is named protector and becomes king, followed by the disappearance and presumed deaths of Edward and his younger brother, also called Richard. Marking a turning point in the album as well as Richard’s life, events in “The Hollow Crown” are depicted from Richard’s point of view, and he discloses that in addition to the grief he feels at his own son’s passing, he knows full well what people are saying about his reign, and the darkness that threatens to overtake him:
This hollow crown upon my head
They say Queen Anne will soon be dead
The sky is dark though it is day
With my book of hours I do pray
Following is a transitional tune, one that could be told from Richard’s perspective, that of a soldier, or even both, in parts. Sung with alternating solos and Dylanesque duets (think “Mozambique” or the even smoother “One More Cup of Coffee”), it is a brilliant approach to take given there, of course, would be many expressing the sentiments within, but also to magnify the reality that Richard himself may have struggled with his decision to go to war. There are plenty of pros and cons, and the loneliness of the tune is mindful of what the monarch may feel in these moments, lost as Edward and, now, Queen Anne are to him. Still, he retains his book of hours and it could be he finds solace in prayer, remaining in low spirits but not remotely near to, as some have suggested, a death wish. The tune ends with a rather rapid fadeout, akin to a musical ellipses, mirroring acknowledgment of the terrible realities of war and remembrance.
From this point on the lyrics reflect thoughts and emotions of others, for the king is dead and can no longer speak. The singer channels these figures, such as Margaret, mourning her brother, killed so viciously, and references antiquarian Sir George Buck’s The History of King Richard III. In the end a ghostly apparition beckons to our storyteller, who acknowledges that some may or may not believe all he has laid out. Important to note, however, is that despite many circumstantial attempts to destroy Richard’s reputation and legacy, evidence exists to prove previous claims false or perverted—evidence available in the Titulus Regius, for example, discovered by Sir George, evidence that, like Richard himself, long lay buried and perhaps some still does—that despite all this, “the truth, it has survived.”
This is a wonderfully evocative account of the life of Richard III, one that will draw listeners again and again.
The Legendary Ten Seconds was originally a solo music project of Ian Churchward who has played guitar in various bands after starting to play the guitar in 1979. Ian’s first band was called Chapter 29 and after this band split up in 1986 he started a new indie pop band called The Morrisons later that year. This band released a flexi disc which was played on the John Peel show on BBC Radio One in 1987. From the late 1990’s until about 2007 Ian also played in a Ceilidh band called Storm Force Ten which then became a new band called Phoenix.
Richard III is the third album from The Legendary Ten Seconds. You can learn more about Ian Churchward and The Legendary Ten Seconds and their music at Facebook, CD Baby, a blog dedicated to The Richard 3rd Projects and Twitter.
The Legendary Ten Seconds will be appearing at Stony Stratford in February~
On Tant le desiree the narratives are written and read by author Sandra Heath Wilson. They are fictional and read from the point of view of Richard III’s mother, Cecily Neville.
On Richard III the narratives are historical and factual. These Richard III narratives are written, read and recorded by Matthew Lewis and provide information about Richard III.
The reviewer was provided with a copy of Richard III in order to provide an honest review.
This review previously appeared at Before the Second Sleep.