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Digging up Britain’s Past

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.

Hooray Henry & his Horse

And here it is, folks.  Proof at last.

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.

Believe It Or Not.

sandy

RICHARD III’s HORSES..

IMG_5875.jpgStained 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

Powisse Tomlynsone

IMG_5870.jpg

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

Jak

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)

Lyard Say

Beyard Chambreleyne

The Blak of Holderness – trotting

Beyard Chamberlain

Liard Bowes

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.

IMG_5865.jpg

IMG_6212.JPG

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.4.5 Vol 1. Ed by Horrox and Hammond.

3. The Mythology of Richard III p117.118 John Ashdown-Hill.

How much did things cost in the medieval period….?

 

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 and his circus horse….!

King's Champion between lines of walkers at a coronation banquet

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.

Dymock's wild daffodils

Dymock’s wild daffodils

The following is taken from http://dymockchurch.net/King%27s%20Champion.html

“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 coronation banquet of Elizabeth I

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 George IV

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!

King's Champion - Coronation Banquet of George IV

The King’s Champion at the coronation of George IV…on his splendid performing horse!

 

Dyer or Dire?

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.

da Vinci and the RAF centenary

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. 

Gloucestershire Wassail Carol

gloucestershire_wassailAs 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:

christmas-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the king’s horses (Richard’s too?)….

King's horses - Paolo_Uccello

I recently wrote about the method used to name that was apparently used to name the horses of medieval noblemen and kings, first by colour and then with an aristocratic family surname or title. White Surrey, if he ever existed, fitted this system. 

So, still on the theme of horses, it may be of interest to read the following link, which tells of the horses of Henry V, how they were cared for, and by whom.  

http://www.agincourt600.com/are-there-eyewitness-accounts-of-the-battle-of-agincourt-2/ 

I do not doubt that the general information will have fitted the care of Richard’s horses as well. His Masters of the Horses were the Tyrell cousins, first Sir Thomas and then the more famous Sir James. They were followed by Sir Thomas Brandon.  

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Masters_of_the_Horse

 

Richard III and White Surrey….

Bayard

Once again, while rooting around for information that might be of use in a book I intend to write about figures in the court of Richard II, I have found an interesting snippet. This time my thoughts are jolted with regard to the name of Richard III’s horse, White Surrey.

I have never particularly liked the name, and know that there is some doubt about its veracity, but even so, it is what we all call the great white courser he rode at Bosworth.

Anyway, my interest in Richard II centres on his Holland half-brothers . . . and so I have been going through “The Hollands, Dukes of Exeter, Earls of Kent and Huntingdon, 1352-1475” by Michael M.N. Stansfield, which is the most detailed work about this family that I have found so far.

In 1399, Richard II made a very ill-judged expedition to Ireland, and while his foolish back was turned, the exiled Henry of Bolingbroke, Duke of Lancaster, soon to be Henry IV, invaded England and took over. Among the lords who were with Richard in Ireland was his half-nephew, Thomas Holland III (viscountessw note: his father and grandfather were also called Thomas), Earl of Kent, who had taken his wife and a lot of property with him. When news of Bolingbroke’s invasion reached Ireland, a very hasty return to England was soon underway. This return was bungled, and Richard’s party was soon in Henry’s hands. The unfortunate king would be deposed and executed, the Epiphany Rising of his remaining supporters would be betrayed, and they too would met unpleasant ends.

Meanwhile, the Countess of Kent had been left behind in Ireland, in charge of her husband’s property. When she too returned to England, bringing his goods and belongings with her, she was apprehended and the property seized.

What has this to do with White Surrey, I hear you ask? Well, simply that in a passage about the nature of these goods, I came upon the following:-

“Some idea of a lord’s travelling accoutrements can be gleaned from the inventory of possessions seized with Thomas III’s  widow Joan when she landed at Liverpool, back from Ireland, on 13 January 1400. She brought very little in gold, but a fair amount of silver tableware, 205 lbs 12oz in weight. This went to the royal exchequer and was used to pay some of Thomas III’s debts to Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Lincoln. Equipment for a travelling chapel was also seized, valued in total, books, frontals and all, at £43 8s 4d. Also taken were six horses, three of them coursers and three trotters, with names of aristocratic association such as Bayard March, Lyard Exeter and Bayard Perrers. Their harness and gear, for war and the hastilude, stabling equipment, tents for living in the field, armour for the earl, or perhaps his brother, a chest of arrows and the necessary impedimenta to carry it all completed the possessions brought back from Ireland by the countess.”

Bayard March, Lyard Exeter and Bayard Perrers were (I imagine, but cannot be certain) the three coursers, and in the notes to this passage, Stansfield clarifies that Bayard meant bay-coloured, and Lyard referred to being dappled with white or silver-grey. March, Exeter and Perrers are clearly  references to noble titles or families. Exeter, for example, refers to Thomas III’s uncle, John Holland, Earl of Huntingdon and Duke of Exeter.

As for White Surrey, in 1483 the title of Earl of Surrey was held by John Howard’s (Duke of Norfolk) son and heir, Thomas. I almost wonder if the horse could have been a gift to Richard from one or other of the Howards.

It seems possible that by naming their horses in such a fashion, aristocrats were following an accepted norm, and suddenly I feel I understand Richard III’s choice of White Surrey for his great courser.

Perhaps someone knows much more on this subject. If so, I will be delighted to learn.

(The above illustration is from Black Rose Studios)

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