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Our Knight’s Oath Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Historical Accuracy

"Do you want royalties with that, Sir Ridley?"

“Do you want royalties with that, Sir Ridley?”

I attended a renaissance faire in the U.S. recently and must relay something that happened.

The faire’s king knighted all ladies and lads (including adults) who wished to be knighted. But first, they had to sit through a vigorous lecture by one of the king’s minions.

First, said minion asked the audience to name some famous knights. Joan of Arc came first, and William Marshal was mentioned. Alas, Lancelot came in last, but that’s as it should be, considering he betrayed a king, seduced a queen, and helped destroy Camelot. We gave a shout out for Richard III and Francis Lovell. Strangely enough, there was no mention of any Tydder, regardless this faire was set in the English renaissance.

Next, the minion asked to be told what knights did. The kiddies all knew their knight-stuff: fighting came after rescuing damsels, serving God, and serving the king.

The minion then explained what the wannabe-knights were to do when the king told them to “Take a knee” during the coming ritual. Sir Minion then shared the actual words the king would use to knight the lads and lasses:

“Be without fear in the face of your enemies.
Be brave and upright that God may love thee.
Speak the truth even if it leads to your death.
Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong.
That is your oath.”

There it is, gentle lords and ladies: the definitive renaissance knight’s oath. It can now be stated with confidence that 16th-century English knights took the same oath as the one administered by Ballymena-born Liam Neeson, and again by Canterbury-born Orlando Bloom, in the Ridley Scott film, “Kingdom of Heaven,” which depicted the 12th-century siege of Jerusalem.

Then again, maybe not.

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Ghosts of the Roses….

Ghosts of Bosworth against a Modern Sky

There is an article by Kelly Fitzgerald at http://sunnesandroses.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/the-sunne-in-splendour-part-2.html, concerning the three suns that were seen in the sky before the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross in 1460. It was a natural phenomenon—a parhelion—but was clearly not recognised as such by those who saw it. They believed it was an omen.

So, what about supernatural phenomena connected to the Wars of the Roses, as distinct from natural? Things that would not have been seen and experienced at the time, but which are “seen” now? The thought intrigued me, so I have had a little (very little, so do not imagine me poring over it all for hours on end) poke around with Google, to see what paranormal things I could find. The Ghosts of the Roses, I thought.

My discoveries are not in chronological order, just jotted as I found them, which is why the very last battle of the Roses happens to come first.  Stoke Field was fought in 1487, and ended with the rout of the Yorkist army of John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, and Francis Lovell. Among his soldiers were many Irishmen, who were ferocious fighters but ill clad and ill equipped against a well-trained, fully armed foe. The battle took place by the River Trent in Nottinghamshire, and it seems the fleeing, naked ghosts of these unfortunate men are still seen on the banks of the river near the scene of the conflict.

The ghost of Margaret of Anjou is pretty busy. I have found her at Owlpen Manor and Bloody Meadow in Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, and Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland. No doubt she makes appearances elsewhere too.

Also in Tewkesbury is the spectral funeral procession of the Lancastrian Prince of Wales, Edward of Westminster, who died at or just after the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. His cortege is seen leaving the abbey every year. So it is said. I have written of this in an earlier blog. https://murreyandblue.wordpress.com/?s=just+where+might+Edward

Middleham Castle in Yorkshire is renowned as Richard III’s favourite home, and late in the 20th century three children heard the sounds of battle outside the castle, and saw a knight on horseback, who charged them. And terrified them too. 16th century music has also been heard in the castle, but distantly, and there are persistent rumours of buried treasure there. Richard’s treasure? Who knows?

In Prestbury, near Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, a messenger killed by a Lancastrian arrow is said to be seen, shining as he tries to fulfil his duty. One version of his story is that he was decapitated by a thin wire fixed at that height across his path. A nasty little trick.

St Albans in Hertfordshire was the scene of two battles in the Wars of the Roses, and, once a year, it is said the sounds of battle can still be heard. Towton has its ghosts too, although I am not sure who/what they are, just that they are.

The site of the Battle of Edgecote in 1469 is said to be haunted by the many Welshmen who lost their lives there. It is suggested they will rise again in fury if the government persists with the plan to have the new HS2 railway pass through the battlefield! A rather expensive way to find out if ghosts exist.

There is a suggestion that Philippa Langley’s strange feeling of being above Richard III’s grave in that car park in Leicester, was in fact caused by Richard’s ghost, communicating with her. Please note, I do not for a moment suggest Philippa herself claims this!

You would think that Bosworth itself would have many, many ghostly stories attached to it, but my cursory search has not turned them up. A friend of mine, Susan Kokomo Lamb, once visited the battlefield and saw ghostly men in armour at the edge of the woods on Ambion Hill. Quite a chilling experience, I imagine. She went on to write the experience into a fictional story that was really excellent.

Another story of Bosworth, not Susan’s, is of a headless man in armour who wanders a nearby town in search of his missing head. I am certain there are many more apparitions and sounds at the battle site, but those I’ve come across have mostly been fictional. If anyone out there knows of another “real” Bosworth wraith, please leave a comment below.

So, these are only initial findings, and to be honest, when it comes to ghosts, the Wars of the Roses are dwarfed by the proliferation of spooks from the period of the English Civil War. It’s astonishing how many there are for that period, indeed, it’s almost possible to think that they are in every town and square acre of the English countryside.  But clearly there is a very long list of ghostly Roses waiting to be found, and I know at least one book has been written about them in particular, although I only learned of it today, when searching for snippets to include in this blog.

Now I must return to the mystery of phenomena that can sometimes be seen in the sky, as happened at Mortimer’s Cross. A long time ago (but not 1815, I’m not that old!) I read that a ghostly re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo was seen in the skies above a Belgian town. What, I wondered, would it be like to see Bosworth in the skies over today’s Leicestershire? To watch Richard’s heroic last charge, and the despicable treachery that struck him down and handed his crown to the Tudor usurper? Observing such a thing would be a truly profound experience. And probably not one I could bear to see. I find it hard to read about Bosworth, let alone actually see it happening all over again.

The above illustration is how I imagine such a ghost re-enactment might look. Yes, the contrails have been intentionally left there, because the scene is imagined as happening today. The photograph is taken from one by Sarah-Jane Stanley Images, and the battling figures are from ‘The Battle of Bosworth’ by Philip James de Loutherbourg. Richard’s banner is one of many such photographs to be found all over the internet.

Postscript: Since writing this post I have remembered the Belgian city that was the site of the phantom Battle of Waterloo. It’s Verviers, where the news at the moment is all about anti-terrorism action. http://survincity.com/2010/02/ghostly-battle/

Playing tonight

 

Richard III, Act I, Scene I

(Middleham Castle. RICHARD is discovered sitting on a throne, biting the heads off a basket of kittens as he comes up with his latest wicked scheme.)

Enter LOVEL

LOVEL. My lord, terrible news. A letter has come from Lord Hastings in London. Your royal brother, King Edward IV, is dead.

RICHARD (fisting the air.) Cool! The time has come to put Acton Plan 5 into action! Lovel, summon my men!

LOVEL. All of them, my lord? The whole North?

RICHARD. No, fool! Who do you think I am – Bolingbroke? Just 300 from my household are all I need to usurp the throne.

LOVEL. But Hastings says in his letter that Rivers is to bring 2000 men from Ludlow alone, as escort for the Prince.

RICHARD (sighing patiently.) Francis, you do not know Anthony as I do. He is a man of peace, who wears a hair shirt under his clothes. Those pathetic 2000 will have been chosen from the Ludlow Male Flower Arrangers Guild, noted for their inability to fight. You know what peaceful folk those Marchers are; whereas my men are rock. Now first we go to York, to gather all the local gentry to swear an oath of allegiance to my nephew; an oath I shall take myself.

LOVEL. My lord, I have to say that does not sound like a cunning plan.

RICHARD. Exactly! Nothing like a good oath to lull people into a sense of false security. After all, being not at all religious, I don’t think anything of oaths, even public ones in York Minster. Now, Francis, run along to the Collators’ Office. I’ve decided my nephews are illegitimate, so I want a complete list of noblewomen, under 30 in 1461, available for marriage and who never married again. Preferably with living relatives I can intimidate. It’s more fun that way. I need to pretend that my brother was married to someone before the Woodville woman.

LOVEL. Yes, my lord. I’m sure that information can be assembled in no time.

RICHARD. Good. And while you’re at it, I’ll just go and feed Anne her daily dose of arsenic. I need to kill her slowly and then marry Elizabeth of York. It makes such obvious sense to marry my illegitimate niece. Think how strong my claim will be!

 

 

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