My inexhaustible interest in the past takes me everywhere…mostly via the internet these days, I confess. Finding buildings that are wonderful jewels from our history is always rewarding, and so here is my latest discovery.
The article below begins: “….Charing Palace is the remains of an 11th-century bishop’s palace used by Archbishops of Canterbury as a stopping place between Canterbury and their London residence of Lambeth Palace. The village of Charing stood on the main pilgrim route to Canterbury, and it made sense for the Archbishops to have an official presence there….”
Well, there are bishops’ palaces all over Britain, and I only know of a fraction of them. This is one I did not know, yet it was important enough for kings Henry VII and Henry VIII, as well as the Archbishops of Canterbury themselves. “….In 1520 the Palace hosted some of the 4000 men and women of Henry VIII’s entourage as they journeyed to the king’s famous meeting with Francis I of France at the Field of the Cloth of Gold near Calais….”
The preacher at St. Paul’s stated that the late King’s surviving issue were illegitimate. On this occasion, it wasn’t Dr. Ralph Shaa on 22nd June 1483 about Edward IV’s sons but Rt. Rev. Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London and Westminster, on 9 July 1553 about Henry VIII’s daughters, at which time Jane was proclaimed. As we know, Ridley (b.c.1500), together with Hugh Latimer, Bishop of Worcester, was burned in Oxford today in 1555. Like the earlier victim, Rowland Tayler, he had been a chaplain to Thomas Cranmer, his Archbishop. Furthermore, as a result of the Reformation in which all three had participated with gusto, they were part of the first generation of English clergy, not bound by clerical celibacy, to marry and have legitimate children. Bishop Ridley’s own notable descendants include these four, three of whom are closely related to each other and share his connections to Northumbria:
Rt. Hon Nicholas, Baron Ridley (1929-93), son of the 3rd Viscount Ridley, who was MP for Cirencester and Tewkesbury for more than half of his life and a Cabinet Minister for seven years. His maternal grandfather was the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens.
Professor Jane Ridley (b.1953), daughter of the above and a modern historian at the University of Buckingham, who is a particular expert on the nineteenth century, who we cited in this post. Here, on the BBC’s “Keeping the faith”, she speaks about her ecclesiastical ancestor.
Jasper Ridley (1920-2004), the fellow historian who wrote the Bishop’s biography as well as those of Cranmer and Knox, is a more distant relation.
Matthew, 5th Viscount Ridley (b.1958) is Nicholas’ nephew and thus Jane’s cousin. He is a scientist, blogger, writer and businessman, whose team won Christmas University Challenge in 2015.
Nelion Ridley is an Essex-based brewer, as this article from a Wetherspoon’s newsletter also shows. “Bishop Nick” is a recent company, formed after Ridleys (1842) was bought out, producing “Heresy”, “1555”, “Ridley’s Rite”, “Martyr” and “Divine”.
Mumpsimus is a word that may have originated with Erasmus, but of which I had never heard. It means “adherence to or persistence in an erroneous use of language, memorization, practice, belief, etc., out of habit or obstinacy”.
In William Tyndale‘s 1530 book Practice of Prelates, the word was used in the sense of a stubborn opponent to Tyndale’s views. He said that the men whom Cardinal Wolsey had asked to find reasons why Catherine of Aragon was not truly the wife of King Henry VIII of England were “all lawyers, and other doctors, mumpsimuses of divinity’.” (quoted from Wikipedia)
Well, my friends, we know a few of them, do we not? And not necessarily in connection with the law or the Church.
I’m sure Richard would think it of certain historians and biographers who’ve persisted in always saying the very worst of him! Traditionalist mumpsimuses. A bit of a mouthful, but sounds good!
We all know that on 8th June, 1492, Elizabeth Woodville died in relative obscurity in Bermondsey Abbey, and it has been imagined that she died a natural death, perhaps brought on by her greatly reduced circumstances and exclusion from court. (Although perhaps she preferred to hide away because she’d simply had enough of court life and court intrigue?) Anyway, she came to prominence because of her scandalous (at the time and since) marriage to Edward IV.
Henry VII disliked her, and because of this, maybe her daughters saw the wisdom of “dropping” her. Maybe. It just isn’t known. What is known is that Henry, being a fond son-in-law, relieved her of her possessions.
Now, thanks to a recently discovered letter, there is a new theory about the actual reason for her death. According to this article :-
“….Euan Roger is a records specialist at the National Archives and while looking through 16th century documents, he found a letter from the Venetian ambassador to London which seems to indicate Elizabeth’s death came about because of the feared illness. The document was written in 1511, some nineteen years after she had died, but Euan Roger believes its description of ”the Queen-Widow, mother of King Edward” can only refer to the most famous Woodville of them all.
“….The letter states that she has died of the plague and “the king is disturbed”….”
Being written some nineteen years after Elizabeth’s demise casts a rather curious light on the tenses used in the letter. She “has” died of the plague? The king “is” disturbed? Would the Venetian ambassador really express himself like that so many years after the event? And which king? Henry VII had died in 1509, and the present king in 1511 was his son, Henry VIII.
Something doesn’t seem quite right, and yet, as Mr Roger concludes, to which other Queen Elizabeth could the letter refer? Henry VII’s queen, Elizabeth of York (eldest daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville) died in 1503, but she wasn’t a widow and did not have a son who could be termed “King Edward”. Elizabeth Woodville was a widowed queen, and her eldest son by Edward IV is still referred to as King Edward (V), so she does indeed seem to be the only candidate.
It is an interesting thought that Elizabeth Woodville passed away of the plague, but it doesn’t alter the fact that she was sidelined and virtually ignored. And that the reason was probably (in my opinion) Henry VII’s gut-wrenching fear that the truth about her clandestine marriage would out. He depended upon his marriage to Elizabeth of York to legitimise his reign, because it “united” the warring factions in the realm. It was to make such a marriage possible that he very carefully overturned Richard III’s claim to the throne, which was based upon the illegitimacy of Edward IV’s marriage, and therefore of the children born of it. Yet by doing this, Henry also legitimised his new queen’s missing brothers, and I think he spent the rest of his life agonising about the triumphant return of one or the other of the missing boys he himself had given a superior claim to the throne than his own.
While Elizabeth Woodville lived, she was a danger to him. She could at any time confirm that Richard III had been correct to take the throne, because her children were baseborn and Richard was the true heir. Would this thought “disturb” Henry VII? Yes, I rather think so.
Which brings another possibility to mind. Was Elizabeth perilously close to broadcasting the truth? Had something happened to trigger this? If so, her sudden demise might be very desirable. Blaming the plague for what was actually a murder might be a neat solution. There is no proof to support such a theory, of course, but I have always believed that Elizabeth of York’s brothers, the “princes in the Tower” were disposed of after the Battle of Bosworth, and were therefore Tudor victims. Richard III did not do it, but has borne the brunt of the blame throughout history. Maybe the plague/unhappiness didn’t dispose of Elizabeth Woodville either.
But the tenses in the letter are still problematic, and, like Mr Roger, I can only arrive at the same conclusion: the king and queen in question are Elizabeth Woodville and Henry VII.
This Mail on Sunday interview with Jonathan Rhys Meyers is sadly, mostly about his current personal problems. However, one or two paragraphs towards the end, should be of interest:
But it was his lead role in TV drama The Tudors, as the criminally charismatic Henry VIII, that made everyone take note, even though Rhys Meyers initially had his doubts about playing the monarch. ‘When they first asked me to do it, I said, “You must be insane!” And they said, “We have to make this part of English history palpable to a modern-day audience – and no one’s going to watch a 300lb guy run around the screen having sex.”’ Watching Rhys Meyers run around the screen having sex was a different story entirely, however.
In other words, he agreed that he felt far too slim for the part, as “The Tudors“‘
final scene with him merging into the great Holbein painting showed. At least Maria Doyle Kennedy, Natalie Dormer (left) and the other four “wives” didn’t have to be paid danger money, as an actor of Henry VIII’s real bulk (above) may have necessitated.
Otherwise, Mr. Rhys Meyers may have wanted to visit a certain pub in Ely with this menu:
This bed is far too beautiful for Henry VII. In my opinion, anyway. As to finding it in a hotel…well, what if you were snuggled there, anticipating your cooked breakfast next morning, when Henry’s ghost clambers in beside you???? Lawks!
This excellent Channel Four programme, presented by Professor Alice Roberts, with Dr. Ben Robinson in the helicopter, has returned for a new series. The early venues were Dover (World War Two, visiting the underground base, concentrating on the retreat from Dunkirk and subsequent Channel defence, meeting some survivors, wearing ATS uniform and riding in a tank), her home city Bristol (Georgian, with slavery, gin, chocolate and great architecture featured) and Cardiff (where coal and the Marquess of Bute brought much prosperity in the Edwardian era, before it could supplant Machyllenth as Wales’ capital).
The series then moved on to Oxford to illustrate the Civil War sieges, where Alice Roberts’ Worsleyesque love of dressing up saw her in New Model Army uniform, playing real tennis and viewing Charles I’s ersatz capital. Episode five illustrated Plantagenet Canterbury, featuring St. Augustine, Becket, Chaucer, the Black Death and Peasants’ Revolt. We were also shown a copy of the Magna Carta. The last show was about Stewart Stirling, where she visited the Castle and walls, brewed beer, played with a replica antique football and visited a well, illustrating how individual Stewart monarchs were vulnerable, even to internal opposition, but the line was secure.
Not that I think William Wallace counts as part of the British monarchy. I don’t believe Old Longshanks would have had any of that! Anyway, to read an article about films concerning various kings and queens, go here.
In 2020 there are planned commemorations of the martyrdom of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. King Henry II blew his top, shouted words to the effects of ‘Who will rid me of this turbulent priest? and four knights clunked off towards Canterbury, thinking the King would reward them well if they disposed of Thomas. The rest, as they say, is history. Henry was publicly flogged for his part in the crime and Thomas Becket became a popular saint, in fact one of the most popular saints of the Middle Ages.
As part of the commemorations, Canterbury has applied to the Vatican to have Becket’s blood-stained tunicle returned to England for a time. Apparently, rumour has it that Henry VII gave the relic to Rome as part of a trade off in 1485, hoping that if they got the bloodied vestments, they in turn would make the Lancastrian Henry VI a saint.
His ploy didn’t work. Henry VI remained un-beatified and the Vatican kept the tunicle, which most likely saved it from destruction when Henry VII’s son Henry VIII had the saint’s shrine destroyed.
A few years ago, the item was examined by forensic specialists who believe it is indeed authentic, unlike many other relics.
So tomorrow’s royal wedding will involve a fleet of carriages – should be great to see, and I really hope the weather comes up trumps for the occasion. In this article, I noticed the following passage:-
“….The original Mews was built at Charing Cross to house King Richard II’s hawks in 1377, and was named for the “mewing” process that involves caging a hawk until it molts. The first Mews burned down in 1534 and was rebuilt by King Henry VIII, who kept the name but repurposed the structure for horses….”
So, if the original Mews was built for Richard II, and didn’t burn down until 1534, we can safely say that Richard III’s hawks were kept there too. In Charing Cross. Yes?