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Retracing the 1476 funeral procession of Richard, Duke of York….

Battle of Wakefield and Richard, Duke of YorkRichard, Duke of York, was killed at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460 but later, in 1476, exhumed by his son, Edward IV. The body was taken with great ceremony from Pontefract to Fotheringhay, resting each night at Doncaster, Blyth, Tuxford le Clay, Newark, Grantham, Stamford and finally being reburied at Fotheringhay. Among the mourners on the journey was the duke’s youngest son, Richard, Duke of Gloucester. A huge funeral feast for 15,000 people followed.


Richard, 3rd Duke of York

In 2010 Wakefield Historical Society retraced that journey on the anniversary dates of 21st-29th July to commemorate the 550th anniversary of Richard’s (York’s) death. Each day included visits to places of interest and a chance to walk some stretches of the original route. Each evening included a performance of a medieval Vespers of the Dead, in the church where the body rested, as well as a talk by an invited lecturer.

Although this event took place in 2010, it’s well worth going to here . Use the list on the top left to follow exactly what happened, the route and so on.RII funeral procession, drawn in 1468The above illustration is of Richard II’s funeral procession, which followed much of the same route. The picture was executed in 1468, and so is probably an accurate depiction of how the Duke of York’s procession might have appeared.


The first “red carpet” in England….?


We’re all accustomed to seeing dignitaries, film stars and so on walking along a red carpet, and know it’s a sign of great respect, courtesy or just plain flattery. According to Wikipedia :-

“The earliest known reference to walking a red carpet in literature is in the play Agamemnon by Aeschylus, written in 458 BC. When the title character returns from Troy, he is greeted by his vengeful wife Clytemnestra who offers him a red path to walk upon:-

“ ‘Now my beloved, step down from your chariot, and let not your foot, my lord, touch the Earth. Servants, let there be spread before the house he never expected to see, where Justice leads him in, a crimson path.’

“Agamemnon, knowing that only gods walk on such luxury, responds with trepidation:

“ ‘I am a mortal, a man; I cannot trample upon these tinted splendours without fear thrown in my path.’ “

From the above, I imagine that Aeschylus wasn’t the first one to know about red carpets, just the first to mention such a thing. So how much earlier did they in fact come about? I don’t know, but I was curious enough to wonder when the first reference appeared in England.

I’m afraid I could go no further back than 16th July, 1377, and the coronation of Richard II. According to King Richard II by Bryan Bevan (and various other sources): “Scarlet cloth had been laid down by William de Latymer, the king’s almoner, from the hall of the Palace of Westminster to the Abbey. So the boy, Richard, wearing white robes and a pair of red velvet shoes with fleurs-de-lis worked on them in pearls, passed in procession to the Abbey.”

Finding an illustration of this first coronation procession to the Abbey has defied me. There appear to only be images of the boy king on the throne during the ceremony, and one afterwards, when the exhausted boy was carried shoulder-high from the Abbey. No glimpse of the “red cloth”.

As for finding any medieval illustration of a red carpet of any description, all I could locate was another from the reign of Richard II – concerning the death, on 7th June 1394, of his much loved wife, Anne of Bohemia. This shows only that the artist decided to furnish her bedchamber with a patterned red carpet. Whether or not this signifies her “film star” status, I don’t know.

So, was Richard’s coronation the first time in England? I doubt it, but must appeal to you for any earlier references.


The scanty arches of St Oswald’s Priory lie tucked in a Gloucester suburb  a few minutes walk  from  the cathedral. Once a place of great importance, it was the burial spot of Queen Aethelflaed, daughter of Alfred the Great. She was a warrior-queen who fought the Vikings. Henry of Huntingdon wrote this about her–

Heroic Elflede! great in martial fame,A man in valour, woman though in name:Thee warlike hosts, thee, nature too obey’d,Conqu’ror o’er both, though born by sex a maid.Chang’d be thy name, such honour triumphs bring.A queen by title, but in deeds a king.Heroes before the Mercian heroine quail’d:Caesar himself to win such glory fail’d

Her husband Aethelred was also buried at St Oswald’s and it is though they were attempting to found a new royal Mercian vault after the destruction of the one at Repton by the Norse invaders.

Recently, on the anniversary of the Queen’s death, a re-enactment was held in Gloucester  with a funeral cortege bearing a ‘body’ arriving by water then passing through the town, past the cathedral and out to the priory.

As past of the commemorations, the local children were also asked to get involved with  the local archaeologists, and a hitherto unknown tower belonging to St Oswald’s appears to have been found.

Maybe futher excavation might also find the bones of this ancient Queen, although it seems most likely her remains and that of her husband and St Oswald himself were moved around in the 11/12c rebuildingof the priory, and then everything was destroyed in the Reformation, leaving little above ground






Guilty!…until proven innocent, which ain’t gonna happen….


What a very strange state of affairs it is, when the king who made certain that people were innocent until proven guilty, is himself always presumed guilty with scant chance of ever being proved innocent.

But this is the case with Richard III, whose one and only Parliament advanced and improved the lot of the ordinary man to a degree that many of his statutes are still adhered to now. These statutes were even published in English, allowing the ordinary public to read or have it read to them, and understand. Richard was determined to help and protect his subjects.

Yet he is guilty until proven innocent. Who says? Well, rather blinkered historians with an axe to grind, that’s who. Close your eyes and picture them. Spot on. They are the sort of people who will say black is white, no matter what. If someone is admirable, they’ll make damned sure he isn’t for long. The sort of people who will cast endless doubt upon the truth, simply to further their own careers. To these people, More and Shakespeare are absolutely reliable for FACTS. Hmm. So, Richard had a withered arm, even though his skeleton proves he didn’t. Richard had kyphosis, they say, even though he had scoliosis. We’re right, they squeal! Especially when they’re on TV promoting their latest load of preposterousness.

Incredible as it seems to us now, back in the 15th century people could buy land, only to find it had already been sold elsewhere, or that it didn’t belong to the seller in the first place. Caveat emptor was the order of the day, and the guilty could get away with it. Richard stopped that little scam. He insisted on fairness, because that was his nature. Why else was he loved so much in the north, where he ruled for many years at the order of his brother the king? If he was a toad, they’d have been glad to see the back of him. They weren’t any such thing, instead they grieved when he was killed.

As attested to by the barrister Juliet Donovan during Channel Four’s “procession highlights” show (about 2:10:30 in), he introduced bail, saw that juries were more wisely selected, prevented the system of ‘benevolences’, and many other things. All in one Parliament. Just how far might he have gone if he had reigned for longer? He could well have transformed England, and died in his bed, a venerated king.

Instead, courtesy of these particular historians, we are still presented with Richard the Monstrous Uncle, who pinched his nephew’s throne, forced Anne Neville into marriage, bullied old women and murdered his enemies, all starting at the age of 2, or thereabouts, according to the Bard. Who is always right. Believe it. What a precocious little lad Richard was, and all while being so physically deformed and hideous that he was clearly the Devil’s spawn. The lawmaker was the twisted Law-mauler Supreme.

Well, that is if you read these Mouth Almighties, who clearly do not pay any attention to facts. Why? Because it doesn’t suit them. They don’t want to know that the real Richard was a good, brave man, who had kingship forced upon him by his elder brother’s bigamy. They want to believe More and Shakespeare. Or pretend they do, at least. And so now, even when it’s becoming clearer by the day that they are wrong, they deny it. The earth is flat where they live! The rest of us have long since known it is round.

Just where might Edward of Westminster be buried…?

Gilbert John, 'Margaret of Anjou taken prisoner after the Battle of Tewkesbury', 1875, Oil on Canvas, Guildhall Art Gallery, London, United Kingdom

The above rather dark and dingy painting shows the unfortunate Margaret of Anjou, queen of the Lancastrian monarch, King Henry VI, being led from the battlefield at Tewkesbury after being captured. She had not only lost the battle, but also her son, the heir to the throne, seventeen-year-old Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales. The painting is by Gilbert John, ‘Margaret of Anjou taken prisoner after the Battle of Tewkesbury’, 1875, Oil on Canvas, Guildhall Art Gallery, London, United Kingdom

The Battle of Tewkesbury took place on 4th May, 1471, as every good Ricardian knows. The conflict was not only notable for the decisiveness of the Yorkist victory, but also Prince Edward’s death. As always, it seems that apart from being killed in battle, there are various other versions of how he met his end.

The following is from Wikipedia, which I know is not always viewed with approval, but in this instance it tells all that’s necessary:-

“According to some accounts, shortly after the rout of the Lancastrians at Tewkesbury, a small contingent of men under the Duke of Clarence found the grieving prince near a grove, and immediately beheaded him on a makeshift block, despite his pleas. Paul Murray Kendall, a biographer of Richard III, accepts this version of events.

“Another account of Edward’s death is given by three Tudor sources: The Grand Chronicle of London, Polydore Vergil, and Edward Hall. It was later dramatised by William Shakespeare in Henry VI, Part 3, Act V, scene v. Their story is that Edward was captured and brought before the victorious Edward IV and his brothers and followers. The king received the prince graciously, and asked him why he had taken up arms against him. The prince replied defiantly, “I came to recover my father’s heritage.” The king then struck the prince across his face with his gauntlet hand, and his brothers killed the prince with their swords.”

Hmm, well I certainly discount the latter tall tale. IMHO, Richard of Gloucester, in particular, would not have killed Prince Edward in this way. In the heat of battle, yes, but not cold-bloodedly afterwards. The same goes for the yarn that Richard personally killed Henry VI. Nor do I think George of Clarence would have summarily beheaded a Prince of Wales. No, he’d have brought his captive before the king, Edward IV, who might indeed have beheaded the prince on the spot. But there is no proof of anything. The prince was buried in Tewkesbury Abbey, although his exact whereabouts aren’t known now.

However, I digress, because there is yet another version of Edward of Westminster’s demise. The Lancastrian Prince of Wales is also said to have been killed in a house close to the abbey church in Tewkesbury, and his mother’s ghost roams nearby Bloody Meadow, weeping for him. Folklore? Maybe, but such things often had a root in fact, so maybe Edward escaped the battlefield, and was cornered in a house near the abbey. Sounds plausible enough to me.

There is a further ghostly footnote to Edward of Westminster’s story. A creepy little tale, that annually, on 7th May, the prince’s spectral funeral cortege passes out of the abbey, the bells of which toll the occasion.

I’m now guilty of a tiresomely practical thought that rather spoils the supernatural aspect, but why, if the prince was entombed inside, would the procession be leaving the abbey? Surely the inference of this lingering, almost unnoticed echo from 1471, is that Edward wasn’t interred in Tewkesbury Abbey after all, but somewhere else?

If so, where?

King Richard III’s Funeral: Cry, ‘Usurper’ and cancel the plans?

So now we know. The funeral of Richard III will take place from 22nd to 27th March, 2015, beginning with a procession of his remains through villages on the return route from the site of his death to the Cathedral in Leicester. There he will lie in state for three days prior to the reburial service on the 26th, which will be followed by the public opening of the ambulatory where, beneath a tomb bathed in light to represent the eternal life of the spirit, he will henceforth (I hope) be allowed to rest in peace. The official announcement led to a surprising protest from the For Richard Society, and a rather silly item in The Independent of Tuesday 14th October: ‘Yorkists fear an elaborate King Richard III reburial could reignite the War of the Roses.’ (Tchah! Like this hasn’t happened already – where’s the Indie been for the past two years, Pluto?). Apart from the procession being deemed ‘overblown and inappropriate’ (wot?), apparently the problem is the risk that the king’s remains will be abused; that the route will be lined with anti-Ricardians crying, “Boo! Hiss!” (incidentally, the same kind of risk run by any celebrity, politician or royal personage in the modern world, every time they step outside their front doors). Well… lest members of For Richard hadn’t noticed, we live in a democracy where people are (shock, horror!) entitled to dislike Richard III if they wish; and, since we also enjoy the right to free speech, to express that dislike publicly. Sure, shouting hostile remarks at a passing funeral (any funeral) would show an appalling lack of good manners, taste and respect; however, to the best of my knowledge it wouldn’t be illegal. (Same goes for laying red roses at the feet of Richard’s statue in Leicester. Provocative, certainly; illegal, certainly not). So, should the funeral procession be cancelled just in case this happens? Is there a real danger of it degenerating into a series of bloody brawls between the rival forces of ‘Richard was a good, rightful king!’ and ‘No, he was a usurping nephew-murderer!’? I don’t think so. I suspect this ‘fear’ is being fanned by a minority for whom all Leicester’s plans are an abomination, in an attempt to derail and spoil the event for the majority looking forward to it with keen anticipation. Heck, if a few immature folk with nothing better to do in their sad little lives want to yell ‘Murderer’ or ‘Usurper’ at the bones of a monarch dead for 529 years, let ’em get on with it. It’d say a lot more about them than it would about Richard III, and I trust that the more dignified and respectful majority would simply ignore them rather than kicking their heads in. I could be wrong, of course. If the procession plan goes ahead unchanged, (as I hope it will), Richard’s coffin is mobbed and thrown down, and thousands of people end up hospitalised or dead, I’m going to look a right idiot – whereupon, this being a free-speaking democracy, For Richard Society members will be free to tell me so, loud and clear. Hey ho. Guess I’ll just have to take that risk…

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