In the context of the current search for the remains of the Red Hugh O’Donnell who died in Spain in 1602, I thought that readers Murrey and Blue might be interested in a few vaguely Wars-of-the-Roses-related snippets from the O’Donnell history of the fifteenth century. In 1434 Red Hugh’s predecessor Niall Garbh O’Donnell was captured by Sir Thomas Stanley when the latter was Justiciar of Ireland for Henry VI, and he died five years later a prisoner in the Stanley castle on the Isle of Man. He was then succeeded by his son, the first Red Hugh O’Donnell (above, d. 1505).
The O’Donnell annals (the Annals of the Four Masters) make occasional reference to members of the House of York, although the O’Donnells themselves lived too far to the north and west to have been likely to have been personally involved. For instance, they record that in 1449:
“The Duke of York arrived in Ireland, and was received with great honour; andthe Earls of Ireland went into his house, as did also the Irish adjacent to Meath,and gave him as many beeves for the use of his kitchen as it pleased him todemand.”
Moving forward to 1472, we are told that King Edward IV sent a strange exotic beastie to Ireland: “She resembled a mare, and was of a yellow colour, with the hoofs of a cow, a long neck, a very large head, a large tail, which was ugly and scant of hair. Shehad a saddle of her own. Wheat and salt were her usual food. She used to drawthe largest sled-burden by her tail. She used to kneel when passing under anydoorway, however high, and also to let her rider mount.”
In those far-off days, the O’Neills and the O’Donnells were bitter rivals for the overlordship of the North. Though Henry O’Neill could count on the support of the Lord Deputy Kildare whose sister was married to his eldest son and heir, Red Hugh O’Donnell I was at this time at the height of his powers and his interests happened to align with those of Richard III, who was anxious to push O’Neill from the other side in order to reclaim his de Burgho ancestors’ earldom of Ulster in the east of the province. In pursuance of this ambition, Richard instructed his ambassador, the Bishop of Annaghdown, to impress on Kildare that:
“. . . if O’Donnell, by the means that the King’s Grace hath committed and showed unto the said bishop, will come in, and either to be his liege man or truepeace man, that his said cousin of Kildare shall be content so to receive and enterhim, as the bishop shall show him more at large by mouth . . . by whose means, strength and coming in the said earldom may soonest be had and reduced to theking’s hands and possession.”
The most exciting O’Donnell link to the House of York that has been alleged, however – that Red Hugh I was a strong supporter of “Perkin Warbeck” – is built on rather shaky ground. O’Donnell was not a friend of King Henry, but what placed him at odds with the authorities at Dublin and Westminster were the expansionary wars he was fighting on his own borders; and it was probably to ask for Scottish aid for himself rather than to arrange ‘for Perkin’s regal reception in Scotland’, as has been suggested, that he visited King James in 1495. The Annals of the Four Masters, sadly, do not even allude to the Yorkist pretender.
Red Hugh I left a son Hugh, who left a son Manus, who left a son Hugh who was the father of the Red Hugh O’Donnell who is buried in Valladolid.
If you know me, you will know that, apart from Richard III, I have a passion for Marc Bolan, the leader of the ’70s rock group, T.Rex, and the initiator of Glam Rock. I could just as easily have titled this post ‘Ricardus Rex and T.Rex’! Having been concentrating on Richard over the last few years, it was only recently, when I revisited a documentary about Marc, that I realised there are quite a few parallels between the two.
An obvious similarity is in their deaths; both died too young and in a violent way, from multiple injuries. As we know only too well, Richard was killed in battle in August 1485 at the age of thirty-two, surrounded by his enemies. Marc was killed in a car crash when he was just two weeks short of his thirtieth birthday, in the early hours of September 16th 1977; he was a passenger in a mini and that side of the car took the brunt of the impact. Both of their faces were left fairly intact, Richard’s deliberately in order for Henry to prove he was actually dead and Marc’s by lucky chance; when she viewed his body, his wife described his face as still beautiful with just a small mark on the temple.
Since Richard’s remains were found, we know a lot more about his appearance. He was about five feet eight but would have lost some three inches because of his scoliosis, making him five feet five, approximately. His bones were described as ‘gracile’ or slender and delicate. Marc, also, was of slender build and about five feet five inches tall.
Both had a determined chin, fine cheekbones and were handsome men. Both were clean shaven (at least as far as we know – Marc is reported as saying he didn’t think he could grow a beard as he only had to shave about every three days and most credible portraits of Richard show him as clean-shaven). The forensic reconstruction of Richard revealed that his resting expression was a smile – his lips turned up at the edges at rest and so did Marc’s.
Richard is often portrayed with frown lines between his brows and Marc had the same kind of lines when he frowned too!
Both of them married only once and both their wives were useful to them in their careers. Anne Neville, Richard’s wife, was a rich heiress and brought support in the North, whereas June Child, Marc’s wife, was an astute business woman and helped on that side, enabling Marc to concentrate on the creative part of his career.
Both men only had one recognised child, both male (yes, we know Richard had at least two illegitimate children but only Edward was legitimate). Marc’s son, Rolan, was his only child, born to his girlfriend, Gloria Jones, after his marriage failed. Regarding children, we know that Richard acknowledged his illegitimate children and took them into his household, which suggests he had some kind feelings and showed responsibility towards them. We also know that he and Anne were ‘almost mad’ with grief when their son, Edward, died suddenly, so he obviously loved him deeply. Marc, too, liked children. There is a song called Mad Donna which features a little French girl introducing it in French – it must have been wonderful for her to be able to have been involved like this. There is also a surviving interview where he teases another little girl telling her his guitar isn’t a guitar – ‘It’s a dog!” He obviously had a good rapport with children.
His own son, Rolan, was only two when Marc died but Marc was reported as being besotted with him and he had cleaned up his act after Rolan was born (Marc had gone a bit off the rails with cocaine and cognac), showing the same responsibility that Richard did. Of course, many of Marc’s fans were also still children – I myself was just fourteen when I first became a fan. He was considerate of them and took them seriously, often releasing records or doing tours to please ‘the kids’. He even had two children appear on his show, Marc, and seemed to have a great rapport with them.
Both of them were Librans (Richard October 2nd and Marc September 30th) and they both loved music. We know that Richard collected great singers for his own choir and that Nicklas von Poppelau commented that the music was ‘the loveliest’ he had ever heard. Marc’s whole life revolved around music – it was the only thing he knew anything about and was good at, according to an interview. Marc believed in reincarnation and thought he might have been a minstrel or troubadour in a past life – perhaps he once performed for Richard!
Marc wore this jacket which has a mediaeval design – do you think one or two of the people depicted look like Richard?
Speaking of mediaeval matters, when Marc began with his band, Tyrannosaurus Rex (before he shortened the name), he wrote not rock songs, but gentle, olde worlde, poetic tunes which he played on an acoustic guitar, accompanied by one bongo player. Many had mediaeval words and several have been covered by a singer called Catherine Lambert. They have been set to instruments which are more mediaeval in character and sound as if they could have come from those times! Here is a link if you would like to hear one of the tracks. The words and melody are Marc’s, just the vocals and arrangement has been changed.
Their station in life seems to have been as different as it is possible to be. Richard was a noble from birth, a prince of royal blood, and had the best of everything available at the time. He loved rich clothes and fabrics as suggested by a list of items purchased which still survives. He would have been allowed to wear clothes, colours and items reserved for royalty and would have loved bright colours, which were considered appropriate for the nobility as they were more expensive. Some have even said he must have been something of a dandy!
Marc, on the other hand, was born to poor, working class parents in London’s Stoke Newington, although his parents gave him and his brother, Harry, whatever they could, such as an acoustic guitar for Marc when he was nine. However, growing up, Marc knew that he was special. He became involved in the mod scene of London and was ‘the king of three streets in Hackney.’ He was ambitious and determined and wanted to be a star more than anything. And one of his songs was called Dandy in the Underworld. His mod roots, which revolved around a love of clothes, led him to develop an individual way of dressing – clothes were almost as important as music to him, since it was all part of his persona and image. However, this was his own personality and not a construct. Marc, like Richard, loved bright colours and dazzling clothes of good quality, the epitome of glam. He dressed ‘glam’ all the time, not just on stage.
As king, it was important for Richard to project an image of luxury and privilege – to look the part – and Marc is quoted as saying that most of his success was down to ‘look and presence’.
Both Richard and Marc are associated with the colour white. Richard’s emblem is the white boar and his house (York) associated with white roses. Marc’s first big hit was ‘Ride a White Swan’ and a white swan features in several memorials to him; there was a huge white swan in flowers present at his funeral in 1977. Marc’s favourite flower was the gardenia, a flower I knew little about. So I was surprised when, on Googling it, I found it was white and looked very similar to a rose!
I recently found out that there is a Marc Bolan rose, so he is now, like Richard, associated with roses, although his is not white but pink/purple. (At least it isn’t red!)
It is thought that Richard disliked being in London and the court life of the time – he preferred to live in Middleham in the North, surrounded by countryside. And although Marc was born a city boy, he actually preferred the countryside too and disliked politics, saying:
I don’t want to know about society as it is – it brings me down. I can’t associate with it at all. And I can’t be involved with politicians. I wish I could get away to another place where mountains rise unspoilt to the sky and you could ride horses as far as the eye could see.
He did actually own his own horse at one time.
Both Marc and Richard were leaders of men. Richard was known as a great general and lord, respected in the North where he was known and also a great warrior. Marc was always the central figure of T.Rex – he wrote the music, sang, played guitar and even produced later on. He really WAS T.Rex. His most iconic album was called Electric Warrior and he even sometimes wore ‘armour’.
Richard went into battle with his battleaxe and Marc went to play his concerts with his ‘axe’ (slang term for an electric guitar)!
We know that in his final battle, Richard inspired his men to fight:
•‘…having donned his coat-of-arms began to fight with much vigour, putting heart into those that remained loyal, so that by his sole effort he upheld the battle for a long time’
Mickey Finn, T.Rex’s percussionist has stated that Marc had so much energy it helped him to keep on playing even when his arms were exhausted, and that his inspirational energy was so great that he would have continued to play until his arms came off!
Both Richard and Marc were innovators, changing history in their own way. Richard did so through his laws and the way he treated the common people – something that may have led to his downfall at Bosworth, because the nobles didn’t like this new regime. However, some of his laws formed the basis for those we still have today, such as legal aid and bail laws, thus standing the test of time.
Marc changed the course of music history, as he was the instigator of Glam Rock – the first time he wore glitter under his eyes started the ball rolling and he also changed the way men were perceived; he made it OK for men to wear bright colours and make-up. There is an article from the New York Times which explains his influence on fashion, called ‘The Least-known, Most Influential Man in Fashion’. Also, his music was different from anything else in the ’70s and incredibly exciting. His lyrics were pure poetry and often misunderstood at the time, but he is now thought to be way ahead of the rest of his contemporaries, just as Richard was for his way of government.
Richard, as we know, was betrayed by those he thought he could trust and Loyalty Me Lie, his motto, and the concept of loyalty was of supreme importance to him, which is why he was so angry when Buckingham betrayed him. In Marc’s case, he was praised to the skies by the music press of the early 70s and could fill Wembley Arena (or Empire Pool, as it was then known), with thousands of screaming, adoring fans (I was one of them)! However, once he was at the top, the music press began to target him to bring him down from the pedestal where they had helped to put him and many of his fans defected to the Osmonds or David Cassidy. Marc has been quoted as saying that he thought his fans would stay with him forever. These two ‘betrayals’ must have hurt him deeply and his girlfriend says that it drove him to the edge of insanity. I still have some of the ‘reviews’ of Marc’s later records and have seen others of his later concerts, and many are quite vicious and cruel. But probably the worst ‘betrayal’ from Marc’s viewpoint was by DJ and presenter, John Peel. Peel had championed and promoted Marc when he was playing acoustic guitar in T.Rex’s previous incarnation, Tyrannosaurus Rex. Just as Buckingham helped Richard to become king, Peel helped Marc to attain the heights of popularity, but he didn’t like it when Marc’s sound became electric and much more rock ‘n’ roll. T. Rex’s third official single release, Get It On, was never played by Peel. Marc was very upset by this snub from his friend of four years and regarded it as an act of treachery. He ended the friendship at that point, just as Richard dealt decisively with Buckingham.
All Ricardians know of the major part Morton, the Bishop of Ely, played in Richard’s downfall. He was in league with Margaret Beaufort and the negative rumours about Richard originated in locations associated with him. Marc’s demise was not caused by anyone named Morton but, interestingly, on the night of his death he had been partying with Gloria and it is possible they had both been drinking (although I must stress that Gloria was never charged with drink-driving). Where had the celebrations been located? At a restaurant called… Morton’s!
Richard was famous for being a very pious man but what about Marc? Well, he wasn’t religious as such, but he did believe in God as a superior being and he was a spiritual person.
Richard was also renowned for his courage, even his enemies could not deny this – he was quoted as:
Fighting manfully in the thickest presse of his enemies
Marc also showed courage in his own way – some might call it cheek. He rang up a music manager and asked if he could personally bring round a demo tape for him to listen to. When he had the address he went straight round there and blagged his way in, playing his guitar in person for the man. He ended up taking Marc on. Marc told everyone he was going to be:
Bigger than the Beatles
They all laughed at him, this little unknown singer with a strange voice, but he had the courage of his convictions and proved them all wrong, bringing back the screaming fans just like the Beatles had done. The media called it T.Rextasy! He WAS bigger than the Beatles for a couple of years.
A few years ago, I did a fun analysis of Richard’s handwriting. Richard, in common with all mediaeval people, had angular handwriting and this is partly because of the use of quills. Angularity in someone’s handwriting can mean they are ambitious and a forceful, go-getting personality. Apart from this, Richard’s hand reveals he liked to be in control and that he was very intelligent.
Marc did not have to contend with the quill, but his handwriting is also very angular. As well as the ambition and drive, it also shows positivity and creativity. He was dyslexic, so his spelling isn’t the best. Both their hands show they have good communication skills and were articulate speakers.
Both Marc and Richard have had their character brought into question since their passing. Marc was regarded (both before and after his death) as lightweight, his lyrics nonsensical and his guitar playing mediocre. It may be that the importance of image and the fact that he was so physically beautiful made some think his music was not to be taken seriously. Richard, of course, was terribly maligned after his death and it is only today that his character is being rehabilitated. Likewise, Marc’s reputation has now grown and he is seen as he always should have been, as a unique, talented musician and a lyrical, poetic song-writer. T.Rex were at last nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the first time in 2020 and on January 15th this year were accepted into the Hall. He would be so proud. The ceremony was supposed to be in May, but it has been postponed because of the Coronavirus, so Marc, like Richard, will have to wait a while before his reputation attains its rightful place.
Both Marc and Richard had insulting remarks made about their physical appearance. After his death, Richard began to be called a hunchback and Shakespeare used many more cruel jibes relating to his appearance, such as ‘bunch-backed toad’ and ‘elvish-mark’d, abortive, rooting hog’ (referring to his cognizance). There were many references made to Marc’s small size, some unflattering. When Marc was struggling with drugs and put on some weight he was dubbed ‘the glittering chipolata’ and ‘the porky pixie’.
We know that many of the records from Richard’s time were destroyed by the Tudors – they even tried to destroy the Titulus Regius, his Royal Title. Marc appeared many times on Top of the Pops but only a handful of these recordings remain as they were wiped by the BBC, so both of them have had historically valuable ‘records’ lost.
Richard, although betrayed, fought on to the end and never gave up, and Marc did the same, metaphorically speaking. Many music artists would have given up and stopped trying to regain their previous standing, but Marc never did. He persisted and persisted until, by the time he was killed in the car crash in September 1977, he had cleaned up his act and slimmed down to his lean best, his records were again being praised, his concerts were popular again and he even had his own TV series, called ‘Marc’.
We Ricardians are well aware that Richard championed the common people and often found in favour of them in cases where they were up against rich or noble men, unusual for a mediaeval lord. He instructed his judges:
…to justly and duly administer the laws without delay or favour, (dispensing justice) indifferently to every person, as well as to poor as to rich
He also brought in a primitive form of legal aid, the Court of Requests so that anyone who couldn’t afford a lawyer could present their case directly before the king. Also, Thomas Langton, Bishop of St David’s said of him:
He contents the people wherever he goes best that ever did prince; for many a poor man that hath suffered wrong many days have been relieved and helped by hym and his commands …
What about Marc? Well, even when he became a mega-star, he never forgot his fans nor what it was like to be a fan. He wouldn’t allow the prices of concert tickets to be too high, overriding the advice of the venues, because he knew his fans, mainly teenagers, did not have much money. And he never endorsed the practice of releasing singles which were already on albums because he felt it was ‘ripping off’ the fans. When he did release a single there were usually two equally good tracks on the ‘B’ sides and albums often had extras such as posters or lyric sheets. He often said how much he appreciated the fans and would almost always take time to chat to them, sign autographs and even, in the early years, cut off locks of his hair to give them! One dedicated fan, who followed the band on a whole tour of the UK, also went to France for a concert. When her group ran out of money, Marc booked and paid for hotel rooms for them at his own expense.
After his death, Richard’s body was stripped, the valuable armour pillaged and his precious book of hours was taken from his battlefield tent by Margaret Beaufort, his enemy’s mother. After Marc died, his house was ransacked and many items stolen, maybe by fans, ‘pillaging’ for souvenirs or possibly to protect his assets from the taxman. These items included his guitars, his iconic clothes and his notebooks full of lyrics and poetry. His most famous guitar, his Gibson Les Paul, was not stolen at this time, but had already been filched while he was alive.
There are many mysteries surrounding Richard, as we well know. Apart from the ubiquitous ‘Mystery of the Princes’, we are unsure of the reasons he executed Hastings, Rivers, et al, whether he had a relationship with Elizabeth of York (now refuted by the evidence of his proposed marriage to Joana of Portugal, but still argued by traditionalists) and who was the mother or mothers of his illegitimate children.
There are also a few mysteries involving Marc. Firstly, his death was, at the beginning, blamed on his girlfriend, Gloria, being drunk. But apparently the purple mini he was in had recently been serviced, yet there were some anomalies with the tyres. Some were worn down and there were some bolts which were not even hand tightened. However, the crash happened at a notorious accident blackspot, so these may be red herrings.
Secondly, there is some dispute about who it was who first thought to put glitter under Marc’s eyes, thereby launching Glam Rock. Some claim it was his manager, Tony Secunda’s wife, Chelita. However, Marc’s own wife, June, said in an interview that she had suggested it as she had seen it used to look like tears in a drama and thought it would have a good effect under the TV lights. Then Marc himself once made the claim that he had seen June’s glitter pot on the side and just used it on the spur of the moment!
Thirdly, there is a lot of discussion about how he came by his stage name, Marc Bolan. When I was a fan, I heard the name he chose originally was Bowland, but that he changed it later, or that the record company chose it. However, there are several other theories. He lived for a while in the same premises as the actor, James Bolam, and some say he was inspired by his name and just changed one letter. Another theory is that his hero Bob Dylan was being referenced by taking the first part of his first name and the second part of his surname: Bo(bDy)lan, making Bolan. He certainly was a fan of Dylan’s and mentions him in several songs. A new theory, which I love, is that it came from a book he had in his youth, called ‘The Wizard of Boland’, and that this inspired him! He certainly loved the idea of wizards and magic, so I suppose it is possible!
Finally, one of his most famous songs, 20th Century Boy, causes opposing views on the internet regarding the lyrics. Some say the second line ends ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and others, ‘Robin Hood’. Even though someone has isolated the vocals and the latter is obviously what Marc sings, some still insist they hear ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and many cover versions sing this. Tony Visconti, Marc’s producer at the time, has also said it’s ‘Robin Hood’ but it still causes arguments and even fallings out in internet ‘discussions’, very similar to some of the controversies surrounding Richard! If you want to listen yourself here is a link to the isolated vocal version.
Something I have noticed in particular is that both of these men, who passed over years ago, still have a great following. Both have large numbers of Facebook groups supporting them and many ‘fans’ who speak about them in the present tense and often feel emotionally attached to them. Both have organisations who officially support their memory. Both have ‘new’ supporters, often very young (Marc has many fans who weren’t even born when he died). Both also have supporters who write about them, paint portraits of them and defend them to anyone who dares defame them. As you may know, I have written four novels about Richard. Below are my latest efforts to capture Marc’s likeness.
Both of their ‘fan’ groups have acronyms that they use regarding them: Richard’s is LML – Loyaulte Me Lie and Marc’s is KALMIYH – Keep a Little Marc in Your Heart.
They were both human and therefore flawed, but they both had the sort of lasting charisma that ensures they will never be forgotten.
All photos are freely available on the internet, but if any are copyrighted, let me know and I will remove them
This Channel Five documentary has just completed a second series, with Alex Langlands and Raksha Dave, late of Time Team, in place of Helen Skelton. One particular episode was about Auckland Castle, where the “Prince Bishops” of Durham have lived for centuries and where archaeology is being carried out around the building.
One of these influential Bishops was William Bek who, surprisingly for a cleric, co-commanded the English army against William Wallace at Falkirk, shortly after Wallace and Moray’s victory at Stirling Bridge. Consequently, Langlands and Dave visited a few other venues associated with the story, including those in Scotland.
The series has also covered the lost Roman town of Silchester and HMS Invincible, as well as the Catterick garrison and Sudeley Castle.
We are told by some that apparently Henry “Tudor” really, really wanted to fling himself into the fray at Bosworth (instead of lurking behind his bodyguard), and here finally is the proof of that intent. Henry, waving his trusty sword Cash-Bringer in defiance of the foe, spurs on his noble but unfortunately rather stationary steed ‘Sandy,’ whose name is now forever-immortalised in one of the alternative names for the Battle of Bosworth–the Battle of Sandeford.
Stained glass depiction of King Richard and his legendary horse, White Surrey.
As we now know sadly, Richard, did not own a horse called White Surrey or, as he has sometimes been called, White Syrie (1). But Richard did own horses aplenty and we are fortunate lists of these horses have survived – see below (2). What I know of horses you could put on a postage stamp but the late John Ashdown-Hill explains in his book The Mythology of Richard III’ that liard or lyard are grey horses which could be described as white. So therefore it can clearly be seen that Richard did have grey horses which could appear white. If one of these horses was not called White Syrie…well..he should have been! John goes on to explain it was once believed ‘that a horse called White Syrie was actually listed in a 15th century manuscript’ – see below – ‘however this proved to be a misreading. There is therefore no 15th century surviving evidence of the name of the horse that Richard rode in his last battle (3)’
THE NAMES OF HORSE BEING AT GRISSE IN HAVERING PARC
First Liard – trotting
Liard Clervax of Croft – ambling
The Whit – ambling
Baiard Babingtone – ambling
Liard Strangwisse – Ambling
Baiard Rither – Ambling
Liard Cultone – trotting
The litille Whit of Knaresburghe – ambling
My ladies grey gelding (name unknown) – Ambling
Liard Carlile – trotting
Liard Norffolk – Ambling
THE NAMES OF HORSES BEING AT GRISSE IN HOLDERNESSE
Liard Mountfort – ambling
THE NAMES OF HORSES BEING AT HARDMET AT NOTTINGHAM
Liard Danby – Ambling
Liard hoton – Ambling
The gret grey that came from Gervaux -ambling
Baiard Culton – trotting
Blak Morelle – Trotting
The Whit of Gervaux – Ambling for my lady
The Walssh (hoby) nag – for my lady ambling
Liard Bradshare – ambling
The gret Bay Gelding of Gervaux ……. (John Ashdown-Hill suggests this horse is a candidate for the very horse Richard rode into battle being stabled at Hardmet (Harmet) in Nottingham)
The Blak of Holderness – trotting
Alas no White Surrey or Whyte Syrie …it’s a great shame that the name of Richard’s horse t he rode into battle that day is lost to us for, without a doubt, he would have been magnificent and as such surely deserves recognition.
Armour for man and horse circa 1480. Wallace Collection..
1.White Surrey Peter W Hammond. Article in Richard III Crown and People p285
2. British Library Harelean Manuscript p.4.5Vol 1. Ed by Horrox and Hammond.
3. The Mythology of Richard III p117.118 John Ashdown-Hill.
Well, I recently read that Edward III paid “not quite $1,200” for Sir Robert de Clynton’s war horse. Right. Very helpful. I have no idea how that would translate to today’s dosh. Anyway, while searching for more on the subject, I came upon this site which is interesting, if not always easy to work out. It’s all very well to know how much was paid for something in, say, 1284, but how much would that be now? What would the ratio be?
The author admits to difficulties, and that the prices are things that he’s located but not necessarily researched. That’s fair enough. I wouldn’t be able to research them either! I have trouble enough with today’s currency without floundering around converting it into what it would possibly have been hundreds of years ago.
But I hope the site is helpful to some of you, at least!
The King’s Champion is the central horseman in this illustration of an unidentified coronation banquet
We have all heard of the dashing King’s/Queen’s Champion riding fully armed into the coronation banquet, throwing down challenges to anyone who would dare to find fault with the monarch’s right to the throne. I did not know that there is a strong possibility that the Dymoke family, hereditary holders of the title, may have originated in the village of Dymock in my home county of Gloucestershire. Dymock village is also known for its wonderful spring displays of wild daffodils.
“The “King’s Champion” is an hereditary post and acts on behalf of the king (or queen) of England by challenging all-comers at their coronation to do battle if they dispute the king (or queen’s) right to be monarch. The post is now mainly ceremonial but was created by William the Conqueror in 1066 and has been held ever since by a blood relative of the first Champion.”
Queen’s Champion at the coronation banquet of Elizabeth I
“The powerful Marmion family were ‘Champion’ to the Dukes of Normandy in France and came to this country with William, Duke of Normandy, when he invaded England in 1066 and took the English crown to become ‘William the Conqueror’.”
“There is some doubt over how the name Dymoke came about. It’s possible the family lived in Dymock or at ‘Knight’s Green’ next to Dymock, and took the surname ‘de Dymoke’ from our village when surnames became established in England. It seems they left the area to return to live in Scivelsby, Lincolnshire in the 14th century but took the surname with them.
“The ceremony involved the Garter King of Arms reading out the challenge three times – at the entrance to the coronation banquet in Westminster Hall, in the middle of the hall, and in front of the throne. Each time the Champion in full armour and riding a charger threw down his gauntlet for any challenger to take up. None having come forward, the Champion had to reverse his horse out of the hall between the banqueting tables without doing any damage – no mean feat which, if done successfully, became known as ‘Doing a Dymoke’. “
King’s Champion, coronation banquet of George IV
“The involvement of the Champion is documented at every coronation since 1066 but the full ceremony was last used at the coronation of George IV in 1821. Since then the Champion has been recognised as the ‘Standard Bearer of England’ and carries the banner at the coronation.
“The current and 34th Champion is Lieutenant-Colonel John Lindley Marmion Dymoke, MBE DL, Royal Lincolnshire Regiment. In 1953 as the then Captain Dymoke he acted as Standard-Bearer of the Union Flag at the coronation service of our present Queen, Elizabeth II. His eldest son and heir is Francis Dymoke, a chartered accountant and estate owner.”
And as an amusing footnote: “The horse ridden by Dymock, the king’s champion, at the coronation banquet of George IV (1821) was hired from a circus. When greeted with applause, it went into its routine of tricks!”
In case you overlooked this splendid show-stopper in the previous illustration, here he is again!
The King’s Champion at the coronation of George IV…on his splendid performing horse!
Many of you will remember the episode of “Who do you think you are” in which Danny Dyer was revealed as a descendant of Edward III. In this new two part series, he “meets” a few prominent ancestors, some even more distant.
The first episode began with Rollo, ancestor of the Dukes of Normandy, which saw Dyer visit Sweden, although Danes and Norwegians also claim that Viking dynast, to learn sparring with a sword and shield. Then he went to the Tower to talk about William I and Dover Castle for Henry II, discussing his rebellious sons and his mixed relationship with Becket. At every stage, riding a horse, jousting or dyeing (Dyeing?), he was accompanied by a professional genealogist (Anthony Adolph, in a cafe opposite Buckingham Palace) or a historian, if not one of television’s “usual suspects”. At the end, Dyer visited France to learn of a slightly different ancestor – St. Louis IX, although Margaret of Wessex is another canonised forebear.
The second episode did feature some real historians: Elizabeth Norton, Chris Given-Wilson, Tobias Capwell and Tracy Borman. The opening scene had Isabella on the Leeds Castle drawbridge shouting at Edward II (Dyer): “Git aht ov moi carsel” (you may need Google Translate, but not from French). We were shown an image of Hugh le Despencer’s grisly execution, without pointing out that there were two of that name, followed by Edward’s confinement in Berkeley Castle, forced abdication and the legend of his even grislier end. Henry “Hotspur” Percy, who died in battle at Shrewsbury, followed as Dyer tried on late mediaeval armour. The next scenes concerned Sir John Seymour at Wolf Hall, inveigling his daughter into Henry VIII’s world, as Dyer dressed up and tried “Tudor” dancing. We then moved on to Helmingham Hall as Catherine Cromwell married Lord Tollemache, whose successor met Dyer, his cousin, again. The series concluded with a “sugar banquet” as the star’s family joined in, dressed as Elizabeth I’s contemporaries.
Both programmes were informative about mediaeval life, such as the “silver pennies” bearing Dyer’s image and the West Ham badge, although his stereotypical East London patois grates a little. It brought to mind Ray Winstone as Henry VIII (“I have been betrayed!”) or Nick Knowles‘ egregious Historyonics.
Leonardo di ser Piero “da Vinci” (below left) was nearly six months older than Richard III, having been born in the Republic of Florence on 15 April 1452. Over his lifetime, which ended in 1519, he is best known for his paintings, such as The Last Supper or la Gioconda. However, he also left us a number of remarkable engineering and other sketches, depicting human and animal biology, geology and devices, including flying machines. The anatomical diagrams would have contributed towards the quality of his portraits in the same way that Stubbs studied the physiology of horses.
On the right is his 1488 design for a flying machine. In this, the centenary of the Armistice and of the RAF, it is interesting to compare it with aircraft from the First World War and to note that Leonardo also theoretically described a parachute, a concept with which later pilots would be very familiar.
An example (left) is the (French) Nieuport Fighter.
As we take down our Christmas trees and put away our recordings of “Santa Baby,” perhaps some of the readers of the Murrey and Blue are preparing to stroll forth on Twelfth Night to sing the charming “Gloucestershire Wassail” song for friends and neighbors this January 5th of the new year 2017. This is the traditional day in which folks raise the wassail bowl and wish good health and happiness to all of mankind. And it is followed the next day by the Epiphany when the son of God, Jesus Christ, is proclaimed to all the world.
I had never heard this particular carol until I purchased a cd several years ago called “An English Country Christmas” which included choral groups from The Choir of Magdalen College, Oxford to The Choir of Queens College Cambridge to The Oxford Girls’ Choir. It also featured two soloists: the folk singer Ian Giles and the sweet-voiced English soprano, Sara Stowe. Her lilting rendition of the “Gloucestershire Wassail” – a carol of medieval origin but taken up by the Victorians – is sung acapella while punctuated by bells and Mathew Spring’s zitherlike hurdy-gurdy. It is so strikingly ethereal that I soon floated away on a magic carpet of music to the medieval court of Richard the Third on that last Christmas of 1484 before tragic circumstances brutally ended his reign and swept in the harsh, modern age of wolfish Tudors. Surely, it was such a splendid Christmas of costume and dancing and thrilling music that scandalized the pious priests who either witnessed it or cattily reported upon it.
From what little research on the carol that I could find, the composition is a traditional one that was collected by the great composer Vaughan Williams in 1912. Its lyrics were a delightful mystery to me but this stanza provided a clue:
And here is to Dobbin and to his right eye
Pray God send our master a good Christmas pie
And a good Christmas pie that we may all see
with the wassailing bowl we’ll drink to thee.
Even a urbanite like me could surmise that Dobbin refers to a working horse and that perhaps all the other living creatures named are horses as well. But then I came across the beautiful illumination above which clearly shows that the carol mixes horses with cattle. Each of the animals’ body parts are wittily toasted – Colly and her long tail, Fillpail and her left ear and Broad May and her horns – which shows, even in medieval times, the English love and reverence towards all the beasts of the field. And the song also pays tribute to the lord of the castle who receives gifts of beef, pie, corn and beer from his devoted people.
Returning once more to our favorite King, I’d like to think of him during a very different time – at home on a snowy evening in Middleham during the Christmas season, surrounded by family and friends like Francis Lovell, when he was still the beloved Duke of Gloucester and before the death of an errant brother would send his life into a tailspin. A muffled knock comes to the door and he turns from his pretty wife and calls to his young servant to answer it:
Then here’s to the maid in the lily white smock
Who tripped to the door and slipped back the lock
Who tripped to the door and pulled back the pin
For to let these jolly wassailers in
For those who would like to hear Miss Stowe’s version, I include a You Tube link. I hope it works but sometimes copyright laws intrude on our enjoyment. If it doesn’t work, I encourage everyone to go to You Tube and simply type in “Gloucestershire Wassail”. It should come up like this: