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Richard’s in the driving seat….!

the-last-plantagenet-1

I can’t agree that Leicester is shamelessly “milking” Richard III for all he’s worth. On the contrary, it seems to me that it’s Richard in the driving seat, and Leicester is having to rush around to keep up with him! Not that Leicester is complaining. Why should they? Richard was an excellent king who knew what he was doing, so of course they bow to his commands! I would too.

The above comments were inspired by this article.

Wetherspoons now have two hostelries named after Richard, the other being The Lord High Constable of England, in my home city of Gloucester. Come on Wetherspoons, York, why not a Duke of Gloucester? Or a Good King Richard?

The menu at Wetherspoons, Gloucester Docks.

To see a list of all Wetherspoons, go here.

 

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Swords associated (one way or another) with Richard III….

Richard at Bosworth

The sword was a vital weapon in the medieval period (as can be seen in the hand-to-hand combat in the illustration of Bosworth above) and there would not have been a knight, lord, magnate or king who did not possess a minimum of one. Most would have had a number. We will never know how many swords Richard III possessed, but as far as I am concerned, there are five swords I associate with him…and one of these may have been made for his son. These swords are not all real weapons, some are from art. Only the first actual sword in the following list could have belonged to Richard himself, and of this, only part may remain of the original, as he presented it to the City of Gloucester in 1483.

Mourning Sword, Gloucester

Mourning Sword of Gloucester

This was on display at the recent Richard III Exhibition in Gloucester. Tradition says that it is Richard III’s own personal sword, given to the Mayor of Gloucester during Richard’s 1483 visit. The silver decoration is in the Elizabethan style, and says ‘Francisco me fecit’. A bladesmith of that name was working in Toledo in the 1570s, which means that these elements of the sword post-date Richard’s period. But if you look closely at the handle you will see there is an iron core beneath the silverwork. This may be what remains of the sword given by Richard. I am not sure why it is called the Mourning Sword, which we also described here.

Ceremonial Sword of State for the Prince of Wales

“Though the blade of the above sword was made in Germany, its pommel and hilt are English. Its ornamentation indicates it was meant for the Prince of Wales: its engraved hilt shows the Royal arms of England being held aloft by two angels above the arms of Wales and Cornwall; the opposite has the arms of the Earldoms of March and Chester. This double edged sword was thus not meant for battle, but would have been carried before the Prince during ceremonial processions, such as when he was invested with his title.” Two Princes also held the title of Earl of Chester in the late 15th century. Edward IV’s oldest son, also named Edward…and Richard III’s son Edward… The above photograph is from the British Museum and you can see some very detailed photographs of this ceremonial sword here.

 

Richard-III-Broken-Sword-235456-Society-of-Antiquaries-of-London

Broken Sword Portrait

Not my favourite Richard portrait by any means, and certainly not my favourite sword because, being broken, it bestows an entirely false impression of the man himself – “…A broken sword can be interpreted as symbolic of failure; in a regal portrait, as symbolic of prematurely ended reign by violence, battle, deposition and usurpation…” The only reason Richard “failed” was because he was betrayed, not because of any shortcomings on his part. Just think, a few more yards and he’d have extinguished Henry Tudor! If only he had! As for usurpation, well we all know who did that, and it wasn’t Richard!

Damage to Richard's sword - statue in Leicester

Sword held by Richard’s Statue in Leicester

From the Leicester Mercury. A council spokesman said: “We became aware of the damage to the Richard III statue early last week and are liaising with specialist companies to investigate the best way of repairing it. “The joint at the hilt of the sword has been bent. We do not yet know the extent or cause of the damage. A detailed survey will be carried out later this week, but it is likely that the damage will cost several thousand pounds to put right. “In the meantime, the statue will be fenced off as a safety precaution.” There will always be morons around who think such criminal damage is funny.

From Rous

My fifth and final sword is from Rous. As you see, the illustration depicts Richard in full armour, holding a sword that seems to be half his height in length. He may have been a slightly built man, but he was master of the sword (and every other weapon a knight needed to use). This little picture rather brings the fighting Richard to life for me.

Well, that’s five swords. Would anyone add more?

 

 

 

Llanthony Secunda Priory, one of Gloucester’s great treasures….

Llanthony Secunda is so-called because the Augustinian monks of the Vale of Eywas in the Black Mountains of Wales were driven from their original home, beautiful Llanthony Priory, and retreated to Gloucester, where they built this second priory.

I have taken the following from a page at http://www.llanthonysecunda.org/:

“Gloucester was an important city in medieval England and several kings visited the city; five of these are also thought to have visited Llanthony. Eleanor of Provence, widow of Henry III and mother of Edward I, lived at Gloucester castle in 1277 but was granted permission to build a bridge over the river so that she and her ladies-in waiting could exercise in the prior’s garden at Llanthony.*

“A century later when Richard II held a parliament in Gloucester, he too used the Priory’s gardens. In 1500 and 1501 Henry VII stayed at the Priory which at the time was under the control of its most famous Prior, Henry Deane. Henry Deane was one of the most important men in the kingdom in his latter years, but he seems to have begun his clerical career as a student at Llanthony Secunda. After studying at Oxford he returned to Llanthony and was elected its prior aged about 27.

“He also had some Royal favour early on and was a royal chaplain to Edward IV; he was even closer to the first of the Tudor monarchs, Henry VII, after he obtained the throne in 1485. Granted papal permission to retain his post as Prior whilst taking on other appointments, he obtained both temporal and clerical influence.  In 1494 he was appointed Chancellor of Ireland and was briefly Deputy Governor two years later; he was responsible for building the defences of the English Pale.

“Resigning his post, he was made Keeper of the Great Seal in 1500 and involved in peace treaties between England and Scotland. He was briefly Bishop of Bangor and was responsible for the rebuilding of the cathedral and reorganising its finances, then translated to Salisbury for a year before finally being made Archbishop of Canterbury in 1501; it was only then that he relinquished his post at Llanthony Secunda. He officiated at the marriage of Arthur, Prince of Wales, and Catherine of Aragon in 1501.”

* I do not quite understand this reference to a bridge over the river, because both the castle and the priory are on the same bank of the Severn, as can be seen on the map below, on which the castle and the priory’s grounds are clearly shown at the south of the city. Another point (imagining the gardens to be on the other side of the river) is that a fixed bridge at this point would interfere with the “port” of Gloucester, i.e. the quay that was situated from the castle riverbank bank northwards. So any bridge would have to be capable of being opened, to allow masted sea-going vessels to pass freely to and fro. However, a little further delving makes me think it wasn’t the river that Queen Eleanor’s bridge spanned, but the enlarged ( in 1267) ditch that went around the southern portion of Gloucester, and was fed by water from the Twyver stream.  The 13th-century enlarging work apparently destroyed some of the priory’s property. It seems this ditch was still partly filled with water in the 1700s.

For more information about the history of Gloucester, see

http://www.historictownsatlas.org.uk/sites/historictownsatlas/files/atlas/town/gloucester_text.pdf

 

At the gates of Gloucester in 1471….

The Battle of Tewkesbury in May 1471 was to prove decisive for the reign of our first Yorkist king. The opponents were Margaret of Anjou and the Lancastrians, versus King Edward IV and the Yorkists. Margaret was defeated, and her heart and spirit was broken by the death in battle of her only son, Edward of Lancaster, Prince of Wales.

death of prince edward

This article is concerned with what happened immediately before the battle, when there was a game of hide and seek between the foes. Margaret set off north from Bristol, intending to cross the Severn at Gloucester, which was the first bridge over the dangerously tidal river. Edward had been thrown off the scent, but suddenly realized what she was doing, and set off north on a parallel route, up on the drove road along the edge of the Cotswold escarpment, while Margaret’s exhausted army trudged the wetter alluvial road in the vale of the Severn.

It was clear to Edward that she planned to enter Gloucester and cross the bridge, the only access to which was through the town. The main road to the west crossed three branches of the Severn and low-lying meadows by a series of bridges and a long causeway.

west_prospect_of_gloucesterbig

unknown artist; Westgate Bridge, Gloucester

Edward sent a swift rider ahead to order the governor of Gloucester, Sir Richard Beauchamp, to close the gates against the Lancastrians and hold the town. Sir Richard was the son of a staunch Lancastrian, but was now loyal to Edward, and did as he was commanded.

North East view of Gloucester from Wotton, 1712

Margaret could have taken Gloucester by force, but it would have been time-consuming, and she did not dare to risk Edward’s forces coming up behind her. She decided to march on north for the town of Tewkesbury, where there was a ford over the Severn at Lower Lode. The next bridge over the river was further north again, at Upton-on-Severn. The ford was impassable, Edward was almost upon her, and so Margaret prepared to make a stand. The rest, as they say, is history.

lower lode tewkesbury

If you visit Gloucester today, it is hard to associate anything with the Gloucester of 1471. Oh, there are four main streets that form a crossroad in the heart of the city: Southgate, Northgate, Eastgate and Westgate. But the gates themselves have long since gone, and the streets are now pedestrianised. There are medieval buildings, if one knows where to look, but a great deal of wanton 1960s damage was done to Gloucester’s soul. The cathedral remains, however, and is still (in my opinion) the most handsome of all our cathedrals. But perhaps I’m biased.

gloucester cathedral

What has also gone forever is the castle from where Sir Richard would have commanded his men as Margaret’s host banged at the gates. First it was dismantled until only the keep was left, and this was used as a gaol. Then that too was pulled down, and HMP Prison Gloucester was built. That is also no more, and in excavations they have found the remains of the old castle keep. What goes around, comes around.

Gloucester castle keep still in use as gaol in 18th century

remains of castle keep, gloucester

See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3351160/Is-rival-Tower-London-Huge-medieval-castle-discovered-buried-beneath-prison-s-BASKETBALL-court.html

The original castle nestled in the south-western curve of the old city walls, beside the river and quay, and would have been able to overlook the approach to the South Gate. This is surely the way Margaret would have come.

EPSON MFP image

EPSON MFP image

The land on the floor of the Severn vale is flat Severn clay, which after rain is like thick half-set glue. Whether it had been raining or not I don’t know, although I imagine that the impassable ford at Lower Lode meant there had been a quantity of rain in recent days. Well, there had been somewhere upstream on the Severn, if not in Gloucestershire. Or, of course, there was the Severn bore to consider, with the notoriously hazardous wave sweeping well inland. I have been told that it was not unheard of for it to sweep all the way to Worcester. There is a weir at Gloucester now, to stop it, but in 1471 Tewkesbury was well within reach. And spring tides are high in March, April and May.

If these conditions prevailed, Margaret’s men would have been even more disheartened. More than that, the land south of Gloucester was marshy anyway back then, the river would spread out of its bed. Thus the main road from Bristol was on another causeway. Not the ideal landscape and conditions for a medieval army that was already weary. (The land had been drained a great deal by the time the illustration below was drawn.)

EPSON MFP image

Gloucester - Kip - 1712

Map of 1712 showing South Gate and Castle (middle, bottom, just above river)

With the gates closed firmly against them, Margaret marched on north, and Sir Richard Beauchamp’s men came out behind her army and harried the rear, capturing some guns. He was to be knighted after the battle.

Magraret prisoner tewkesbury

An artist’s impression of Margaret of Anjou being taken away in defeat

A MEMENTO MORI BEAD FROM GLOUCESTER

Recently excavations at Gloucester cathedral have unearthed some exciting new finds. Perhaps the most intriguing was a ‘Janus’ Bead of the 15th c., so-called because it is ‘two faced’ like the God Janus, with one face gazing forward and the other backward. What makes this one even more interesting, is that it is also a ‘Memento Mori’ item, with a skull on one side and a living man’s face on the other.

‘Memento Mori’ jewellery was quite common in the Middle Ages and later transformed into what was known as mourning jewellery (ie the Whitby jets items of the Victorians.).  In one of Richard III’s portraits he appears to be wearing a Memento Mori ring with a skull image. A three-faced bead not unlike the one from Gloucester, but made on the Continent, is in the Victoria and Albert Museum. In the case of the single bead from Gloucester, it appears to have originally belonged to a set of Rosary beads. Momento Mori images were not, of course, restricted to adornment but  were also found in art and on tombs–effigies that show both the deceased and/or a decaying corpse are quite common from the later medieval period. Edward IV apparently wanted such an effigy upon his grave but it was never made.

The image on the bead from Gloucester is of a man wearing headgear that indicates high status,  and may be meant to be a depiction of the  the bead’s owner.

 

http://www.borderarchaeology.com/results-are-back-find-out-more-about-our

 

beads

Two suns over Gloucester….

two-suns-over-gloucester

The above is not a picture of the event I saw, but resembles it.

At around 2.30 in the afternoon of Sunday, 11th December 2016, driving home after being out with my family for lunch at the Hatherley Manor Hotel near Gloucester, my sister-in-law and I saw a two-sun parhelion.

It is the first time I have seen a ‘sun dog’, and even though the sky was one of broken clouds,  the two suns were still  unmistakable. It was like the picture above, except the left sun was smaller. If only I’d had my camera! But even if I had, the lane was winding, narrow and high-hedged, and not at all suitable for stopping. By the time we reached a sensible place to park, the second sun had gone.

While it was there, it was breathtaking to see. I can imagine the effect three such suns would have had at Mortimer’s Cross. Edward IV was very smart to convince his men that it was a sign of God’s approval for his cause! Some say the ‘sun in splendour’ was already his badge, some that he adopted it after his victory at Mortimer’s Cross. Either way, that day was truly momentous.

Of course, others will say the parhelion story is just a myth. I hope not, and much prefer it to have been true.

 

King Richard seen driving around Gloucester….!

nissan-x-trail-riii

Here’s a laugh, at my expense. A few days ago, while waiting at traffic lights in Hucclecote, Gloucester, I saw (wait for it!) Richard III driving a Nissan X-Trail! It was one of those moments.And it was Gloucester, which seemed so appropriate. There he was, the hair, the face, the hat, and even a robe-collared coat. The illusion was very convincing indeed…for a split second. Then I realised ‘he’ was a ‘she’ anyway. If it had been a male driver, I’d have wondered if Richard and time-travel were not solely the preserve of fiction after all!

Well, at least it wasn’t a Courser. OK, no more car jokes.

THE MOURNING SWORD ON DISPLAY AT SUDELEY CASTLE

Sudeley Castle certainly seems to be making the most of its Ricardian connections these days.The latest news is that they will temporarily have Gloucester’s ‘Mourning Sword’ on display up until October 20th.

This sword was given to the city by Richard while he was on his first progress in 1483. He also gave them his cap of maintenance, which unfortunately  no longer exists. The sword has been refashioned several times in its long history but appears to retain at least part of its original core.

The right to have a sword carried before the mayor is specially conferred upon the city of Gloucester by  Richard’s charter, dated 2nd September, 1483.

http://www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/archives/article/117081/Richards-Gift-to-Gloucester

Sudeley is also worth visiting because it is believed Richard stayed there prior to Tewkesbury, and later built the now-ruined great hall, which must have been a real eye-catcher when complete. Besides the sword, the Richard III collection contains  a spur  from Tewkesbury Field, and Sudeley’s own version of a reconstruction of Richard’s face.

As additional interest for medievalists, nearby Hailes Abbey is worth a visit while in the area;  I have no evidence Richard ever visited it, but it contained an important relic, the Holy Blood of Hailes, which I am sure  would have interested him. (The ruined abbey was the burial site of Richard of Cornwall, brother of  Henry III, his wife Sanchia of Provence and his murdered son, Henry of Almain.)

 

mourningsword

Would Richard use vellum? Or paper?….

An argument has arisen for and against using vellum for recording our laws, as stored on the amazingly full shelves of the Act Room. Paper is indeed more perishable. Just imagine having the Magna Carta on paper! How insignificant it would appear. Not insignificant in content, of course, but all the same…

I have seen the magnificent charter that Richard III granted to the City of Gloucester. It is quite exquisite, and so vivid and crisp after all this time that it might have been signed and sealed only a few years ago. If it had been on paper, it would certainly not look the same.

So, vellum or paper? In the long run, given that vellum lasts 5,000 years or more, I guess the vellum has my vote. I know there are all sorts of reasons and sensibilities against it, but I’m still in favour of its continued use. It would have been used for the Lindisfarne Gospels, Domesday Book, Magna Carta, Edward I’s Treason Acts, de Heretico Comburendo, Titulus Regius, Richard’s bail laws and Henry VIII’s attainder against the insane Viscountess Rochford.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/12156813/Vellum-should-be-saved-in-a-bid-to-safeguard-our-great-traditions-says-minister.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

Act Room, Houses of Parliament

The Tewkesbury Medieval Festival 2015

 

King Edward's camp above Bloody Meadow.

King Edward’s camp above Bloody Meadow.

I’ve been wanting to attend this festival for at least 20 years and finally everything came together this year and I was able to take my family with me for an orgy of medieval shopping, weaponry, costumes and merchandising followed by the re-enactment of the Battle of Tewkesbury on part of the original site of the battlefield and later ‘storming of the Abbey’ in the evening. People attend for many reasons – many to soak up the atmosphere and watch the weird and wonderful sights as the weekend unfolds, some for the history and some for the crac. Re-enactors travel across Europe – I saw stall holders from Prague, Lithuania, Germany and France this year and many take it seriously, making their own costumes with great attention to detail and demonstrating artisan skills such as wood carving, metal working, armoury and medieval crafts as well as the obligatory plastic sword and shield sellers for the many children who come to exercise their imaginations.

The hard-core re-enactors camp in two areas – King Edward’s Yorkist camp on the slope above the battlefield area or in Queen Margaret’s Lancastrian encampment close to the line of ditches where men were cut down in the rout across Bloody Meadow. Their tents and pavilions are fascinating to walk around with glimpses of wooden camp beds and carved chests, goblets and cooking fires as well as heraldic banners and pennants fluttering in the breeze and the sound of medieval bagpipes and the hurdy-gurdy man adding to the atmosphere.

Re-enactor's camp

Re-enactor’s camp

It requires a complex accommodation though to visit the festival, especially with children and maintain contact with the real history which is being commemorated over this weekend. The scale for one thing. The festival guide explains that the real battle was fought over a larger area than the arena and showground and parts have been subsequently built on or turned into the nearby golf course yet Gupshill Manor, where Queen Marguerite spent the night prior to the battle, seems incredibly close to the action. You wonder what her personal bodyguard consisted of and whether much sleep was had by this woman who had fought so hard for so long and was about to lose everything. The manor house is now a pub and looks comfortable enough for a queen who had survived many changes of fortune, fled and re-grouped, lead armies and gone into exile. It was built in 1408 and we can imagine the kind of facilities it might have offered to Marguerite. You imagine her fatigue, racing up country from Weymouth, spooked by the news of Warwick’s defeat at Barnet and fearful for her son’s safety as he sought to prove himself on the field. Bath, Bristol – to get much needed but cumbersome ordinance, then Gloucester, which had kept the gates shut against her. Did she still feel like the outsider, the unpopular French princess, mistrusted by the English people who had landed in England as a strategic piece in the wider power-play of European politics. Where did her loyalties lie and how had they changed over time? A French agent at the English court, loyal to her French family who became the living symbol of the end of English glory in France through the terms of her marriage, a queen consort faced with a frighteningly unworldly husband who needed to lead from behind the throne, to live multiple lives in one in order to survive and protect her son’s interests and surrounded by ambitious men with their own agenda for gaining power. Had the English people ever factored highly in her consciousness? They had fought and died in their thousands for her cause and against her cause and tomorrow she would watch anxiously again from the side lines as her destiny was decided by men hacking each other to death and her son was either crowned with glory as the new hope for the House of Lancaster or destroyed during the attempt. What if Edward, Prince of Wales was captured alive and imprisoned, what if he was betrayed by another turncoat, as Clarence and Warwick had turned out to be? If her army was defeated could she run and live to fight another day or would she wait on news of her son’s fate for without him what was there to fight for? Everyone knew that Henry VI would never be more than a tormented pawn for the next strong man to step up to mark. Marguerite must have been completely aware that if her son died that his blood would sign her husband’s death warrant. Edward IV had held off from the cardinal sin of regicide for a decade for a number of reasons – he didn’t want to kill an anointed and ‘saintly’ king, he knew that popular sympathy would make a martyr of Henry once he was safely dead. Henry was a weak point rather than a figurehead for Lancastrian hopes, his son increasingly posed a more significant threat to the Yorkist regime, even if he remained in exile. However, in the all-or-nothing push to re-assert her claims, Marguerite was risking her husband’s life as well as her son’s. Edward IV was fresh from victory at Barnet and he wanted it finished and was prepared to make unpalatable decisions to secure ultimate victory. He had allowed Warwick to undermine his kingship, to manipulate his younger brother into open treason, had been imprisoned and sanctioned, suffered exile and humiliation and now he had a baby son to fight for too.

Troops advance.

Troops advance.

Tewkesbury would be no Towton – estimated numbers are a fraction of the bloodbath which ushered Edward IV to power in 1461. The Lancastrians had a slight numerical advantage – approximately 5-6000 against 4-5000 hastily mustered Yorkist troops. Both armies were tired after the chase up-country and the weather was hot for May. Marguerite’s hopes lay in a victory on the field that would buy her time to rendezvous with loyal forces in the Welsh marches, a dream of hearing the news that her hated rival had been killed on the field and, perhaps most importantly, a moment for her son and heir to shine and prove God’s favour for the House of Lancaster in such terms that public opinion would shift. If Edward, Prince of Wales could only emerge as a plausible military commander, the strong male heir so longed for since Henry Vth died prematurely and left a power vacuum at the heart of the monarchy.

Of course Marguerite’s hopes were dashed into a thousand pieces. By the end of the battle her son was dead, the Lancastrians routed or penned in the Abbey church and her great chance to re-gain power, status and what she saw as her God-given position as Queen of England lay in ruins. It is hard not to feel sympathy for Marguerite at this devastating point of her life or to fail to consider just how much choice she had in the path that her life had taken whatever you make of the contemporary sources about her decisions and character.

Lancastrian prisoners are taken from Tewkesbury Abbey for trial and summary execution in the marketplace.

Lancastrian prisoners are taken from Tewkesbury Abbey for trial and summary execution in the marketplace.

So, we return to a parched meadow, just outside a small English market town. The re-enactors look like a Graham Turner painting brought to life, the smoke drifts across the field of battle and the canons make the children jump and hold their ears. After the battle people drift off, mostly unconscious that bones may still lie buried beneath their feet.

Queen Marguerite's long journey to Tewkesbury.

Queen Marguerite’s long journey to Tewkesbury.

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