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A 17th-century ring found beside Loch Lomond…

Colman ring discovered in mud of Loch Lomond

Yes, 17th century, in spite of this headline elsewhere, it is this to which I am drawing your attention. The headline says the ring is 15th-century, which I suppose it might be, if it was 200 years old when it was lost, but examination seems to confirm that it is 250 years old, and therefore of the 17th century.

The lady who found it was the same one who discovered the gold coin on the battlefield at Bosworth, so she seems to have a magic touch.

The text of the article is as follows:

“An amateur metal detectorist found a 17th-century gold ring in Scotland, believed to have belonged to one of King Charles II’s courtiers, who was gruesomely executed after being framed for treason.

“Edward Colman, who worked for the king, was hung, drawn, and quartered {drawn, hanged and quartered} in 1678 after he was falsely accused of participating in a Catholic plot to kill Charles II. The conspiracy was fabricated by an Anglican minister, Titus Oates, now remembered as “Titus the Liar.”

“Nearly 350 years after Colman’s death, treasure hunter Michelle Vall from Blackpool unearthed the perfectly preserved signet ring from several inches of mud in Loch Lomond, where she was vacationing. The ring is emblazoned with the coat of arms of the Colman family and was most likely brought to Scotland in 1673 when Colman worked as a secretary for Mary of Modena, the wife of James II.

Loch Lomond

“According to the Daily Mailthe ring could be worth £10,000 ($11,000), and the school teacher says she did a celebratory dance when she stumbled across the valuable artefact. The provenance was identified by auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb, who researched the origins of the ring’s coat of arms.

“The ring has been designated as a treasure by the Scottish Treasure Trove and will be transferred to a museum in accordance with Scottish law governing historically significant items. Vall is expected to split an unspecified reward with the owner of the land on which she discovered the ring.

“ ‘The ring was only six inches underground,” she told the British tabloid newspaper. “Obviously at the time I didn’t know what it was, but to find gold is rare for us detectorists.’

“Vall is an experienced treasure hunter. In 2017, she found a gold coin dropped by one of King Richard III’s troops during the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, which was valued at £40,000 ($51,000).”

The real life of the last Stuart

Television history is rarely focused upon Anne (left), except as the final act of the Stuart drama like this or her unfortunate reproductive history in this series. Discussion is, therefore, reduced to the cliches of her fragile family, her weight and her fondness for brandy. She is also omitted from most dramatisations of the time, such as Lorna Doone or By the Sword Divided. Anne was the first Queen Regnant of England to have given birth, albeit through the reigns of her uncle, father, sister and brother-in-law but not her own. She was also the first Queen Regnant of England to be widowed, (except by a few minutes).

The Favourite, a rather bawdy film with Olivia Colman (below left), Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone that is very appropriately named from the awards point of view, ought to be very refreshing from this perspective. To become pregnant on fifteen to twenty occasions requires a husband, George of Denmark, the Oldenburg great-nephew of her great-grandmother and Duke of Cumberland who shared half of her reign. However, he seems to have been omitted from the film, which concentrates on Anne’s friendships with Sarah Churchill and Abigail Hill, the latter’s cousin, whilst implying rather more about their friendships than the evidence bears out.

Although she was, as she knew before succeeding, the last eligible Stuart, Anne oversaw the formal Acts of Union that crystallised her great-grandfather’s plans, the Act of Settlement that excluded her half-brother and other Catholic claimants and the last refusal of Royal Assent to a Bill. Jeremiah Clarke composed a march for George in 1707, the year before the Consort died, a piece now known as the Trumpet Voluntary. Despite the good will that seemed to flow from the “Glorious Revolution”, William III was widowed for about eight years and failed to remarry – it was this, together with the Duke of Gloucester’s death in 1700, that surely led to the inevitable Hanoverian succession to Anne in August 1714.

A new interpretation of 1580s events

We all know that Mary Stuart was beheaded at Fotheringhay on 8 February 1587 and that the Spanish Armada sailed to facilitate a Catholic invasion of England in the following year, leaving Lisbon on 28 May and fighting naval battles in late July, at Plymouth and Portland. The traditional view is that Mary Stuart’s execution and Elizabeth I’s support for the revolt in the Spanish Netherlands provoked Phillip II’s wrath.

It is quite possible that this was not the case and that Phillip had

sought to overthrow his quondam sister-in-law much earlier. Mary, as the daughter of Marie de Guise and widow of Francis II was the French-backed Catholic candidate for the English throne and Franco-Spanish rivalry ensured that Phillip, great nephew of Catherine of Aragon and a Lancastrian descendant proper+, would not act in concert with any of her plots; however her death cleared the way for him, especially as the French Wars of Religion were still to resolve themselves.

We can compare this with the England of 1685-8, as William of Orange allowed the Duke of Monmouth to attempt an invasion first and only asserted his stronger semi-marital claim against James VII/II afterwards. In 1483-5, by contrast, the Duke of Buckingham was legitimately descended from Edward III when he rebelled against Richard III, only for Henry “Tudor”, of dubious lineage, to benefit.

h/t Jeanne Griffin

+ See The Wars of The Roses, Ashdown-Hill, part 4.

The Bones in the Urn again!…a 17th Century Hoax?

 

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19th century painting of the Henry VII Chapel by an unknown artist.  The entrance to the area where the urn stands is to the left of the tomb of Henry VII

Helen Maurer, in her wonderful article, Whodunnit: The Suspects in the Case  mentioned in the notes  ‘As for why the bones should have been discovered more or less where More said they would be, might it be profitable, if only in the interest of leaving no stone unturned, to forget about Richard, Henry and the late 15th century for the moment and concentrate upon Charles II and the political pressures and perceived necessities of the 1670s.  Any takers?’ Maurer then went on to cover this more fully in her articles Bones in the Tower – Part 2 (1).

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CHARLES II ‘THE MERRY MONARCH’ 

On going to the article, which was printed in the Ricardian in March 1991 pp 2-22, I was intrigued by this theory which seems plausible and makes much sense than the infamous  and ludicrous story given out by More.    In brief, a summary is given of Charles’ reign and the problems he encountered at the time including ‘an abiding public mistrust and rejection of  anything that smacked of absolutism’, religious intolerance, a Parliament who controlled Charles’ pursestrings and a general mistrust of each other.  As Maurer points out ‘As adjunct to these general observations it must be remembered that Charles was the son of a despised and executed monarch.  Experience made him wary.  Unable to  foresee the future, he could only know that tenure of the throne came without guarantees.  It should surprise no-one that Charles became a master of dissimulation….with an overriding concern to preserve what he could of royal power, while ensuring the succession'(2).  It would seem that perhaps the Merry Monarch was not so merry after all.

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THE INFAMOUS URN ……

Having found this theory plausible,  imagine my delight (and surprise) when listening to Pepys Diary that Pepys made the entry on 25 March 1663 that having gone to the chapel of  White Hall, with the King being present he heard a sermon by Dr Critton (Creighton).  The Dr  ‘told the king and ladies, plainly speaking of death and of skulls, how there is no difference, that nobody could tell that of the great Marius or Alexander from a pyoneer, nor, for all the pain the ladies take with their faces, he that should look into a charnel house should not distinguish which was Cleopatra’s or fair Rosamund’s or Jane Shore‘s (3).  This begs the question that having had  this idea planted in Charles head, and moving on to 1674, with building work being undertaken in the area of the Tower where a stair case was being demoralised. that the opportunity arose to get hold of some bones and plant them.  Bones would have been obtainable with ease considering the numerous  charnel houses and plague pits that abounded at that time.     Furthermore the ‘discovery’ of the bones was reported to Charles by Sir Thomas Critcheley, Master of the Ordnance , someone he was on friendly terms with and with whom he played tennis.  Maurer goes on to say ‘No doubt Critcheley’s report was verified by Charles’ chief surgeon Knight’.  The plot thickens as they say.

In summary Maurer wrote ‘Assessments of Charles’ character and of the situation in 1674 makes it high probable that the decision to commemorate these bones did not stem entirely from Charles’ mercy, as eventually inscribed upon the urn.  The inurnment was a political act, fraught with a political message for Charles’ own time.  This view is strongly supported by the manner in which it was accomplished.  The carelessness with which the remains were interred along with the bones of other animals, including chicken and fish and 3 rusty nails is striking evidence that the chief concern at the time was not reverent burial but the political statement made by a display of the urn.  It did not matter whose bones were placed in it, or whether they were all the same bones found in 1674 or even human bones, so long as something was put in it to be visibly commemorated’.

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SAMUEL PEPYS, ARTIST JOHN HAYLES. SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY  UNDER King Charles  MP, DIARIST AND FRIEND TO JAMES DUKE OF YORK

If this is indeed what happened and whether Pepys himself had a hand in it – he was indeed on very friendly terms with Charles’ brother James Duke of York, visiting him at the Duke’s home on numerous  occasions according to his diary – is a matter of speculation.  Did the old sermon preached on that day pop into someone’s head. That the bones of Edward IV’s sons, Edward and Richard, the so called ‘princes in the Tower’ would be non discernible from those of the sons of a beggar? And was it used to demonstrate to people that this fate is one that can easily befall disposed monarchs – and was this something to be desired?  Frustratingly Pepys stopped writing his Diary in 1669 and the bones not being ‘discovered’ until 1674 he made no entry pertaining to it.  It also begs the further question, if this speculation was correct, would he have ever written about it anyway?   Pepys wrote in shorthand and possibly he never intended  his diary to come into the public domain.  But it remains a tantalising thought that if only Pepys had continued with his diaries for longer one of the most enduring mysteries of all time may never have arisen.

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JAMES II PAINTED BY LELY.   JAMES’  REIGN WAS ALSO TROUBLED LEADING TO HIM REPLACED BY HIS DAUGHTER MARY.

1.Whodunit The Suspects in the Case Helen Maurer note 30.

2.  Bones in the Tower Part 2 Helen Maurer Ricardian p10

3.  Pepys Diary Chapter 4 March 25 1663

 

 

 

 

 

A Grey Day

The Grey family, originally from Northumberland, are a consistent feature of English history from the Southampton plot of 1415 to Monmouth’s rebellion nearly three centuries later.

Sir Thomas Grey (1384-1415) of Castle Heaton was a soldier and one of the three principals in the Southampton plot against Henry V, revealed to him by Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March, at Portchester Castle. His connection to the House of York was that a marriage had been arranged between his son and Isabel, the (very) young daughter of Richard of Conisbrough, Earl of Cambridge. The betrothal was cancelled as one of the consequences of the plot’s failure. It may have been related to Grey’s purchase of the Yorkist lordship of Tyndale. (The sale of which demonstrates how relatively hard-up the second Duke of York was at this time.)

Sir John Grey of Groby (1432-61) was the son of Edward Grey, Baron Ferrers of Groby and a grandson of the third Baron Grey of Ruthin . Married to Elizabeth Wydeville, by whom he had two sons, he fought for Henry VI at the Second Battle of St. Albans and was killed there.

 

Lady Jane Grey (1537-54) was the daughter of Henry Grey, who had become Duke of Suffolk on his marriage to Frances Brandon, Henry being Sir John’s

great-grandson. Edward VI had named Jane as his heir and her father, together with John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland and Archbishop Cranmer sought to implement this on  Edward’s 1553 death, contrary to Henry VIII’s succession legislation. She married Northumberland’s son Lord Guildford Dudley and planned to create him Duke of Clarence but their coup was thwarted and the principals imprisoned. Wyatt rose in early 1554, apparently in favour of the Grey-Dudley faction, so Jane, her husband, father and father-in-law were beheaded close to the St. Albans anniversary. This “Streatham portrait” is possibly a retrospective of Jane, having been painted years after her death. She was also the great-niece of Viscount Grane, formerly Deputy of Ireland, who was beheaded in July 1541.

Ford Grey, Earl of Tankerville (1655-1701) was also Viscount Glendale and Baron Grey of Werke. As a veteran of the Rye House Plot, he escaped from the Tower and joined the Duke of Monmouth in exile before joining the Duke’s rebellion two years later. At Sedgemoor, he led the rebel cavalry but was captured, whereupon he gave evidence against his co-commanders and his attainder was reversed in 1686. Within another nine years, he was appointed to William III’s Privy Council and served in several other offices.

This genealogy connects Sir Thomas to Henry Grey Duke of Suffolk, Lady Jane Grey’s father, through his Mowbray brother-in-law. This shows Tankerville’s male line descent from Sir Thomas’ grandfather.

Squaring the Circle

Writing The Survival of the Princes in the Tower was an enormously enjoyable project. The book, due out in Autumn 2017, considers the evidence that one, or both, of the sons of Edward IV survived well beyond 1483, when they are traditionally considered to have been murdered by their uncle Richard III. My problem with this almost universally accepted view has always boiled down to one irreconcilable dichotomy. Richard, we are told by writers from Sir Thomas More onwards, killed his nephews to secure his throne and prevent them from being a threat. Then, he kept it secret, so that no one knew they were dead. The fatal flaw in this argument is that unless Richard publicised the deaths of his nephews, the threat did not go away, as Henry VII would find out. If Richard killed them, he did it to prevent them being used as a threat, but unless he made it widely known that they were dead, they did not cease being a potential source of opposition and so the murders were rendered utterly pointless.

If a leap of faith is taken and it is accepted for a moment that the boys were not killed, many otherwise incomprehensible events begin to make more sense. What if Elizabeth Woodville emerged from sanctuary in Westminster Abbey with her daughters in March 1484 because the Princes were not dead? Why else would she write to her oldest son Thomas and advise him to come home? Why, many will ask, is there no trace of them in the historical record? Well, there wouldn’t be, would there? It was in Richard’s and Henry VII’s interests to keep their location and maybe even their survival, particularly in Henry VII’s case, a secret, so why would records be left lying around that would point to them? What may be surprising is just how many snippets that just might hint at their survival do remain. There is nothing conclusive, of course, but the clues are there.

Part of the problem becomes the number of different version of the fates of one or both Princes that can be found. They can’t all be true. This is a particular problem in relation to the younger Prince, Richard, Duke of York. There are three theories amongst those relating to Richard that are, at least superficially, mutually exclusive. The career of the young man remembered as Perkin Warbeck is perhaps the most famous example of a pretender to Henry’s throne. It is an important distinction that a ‘pretender’ is very different from an ‘imposter’. A pretender, in this context, is a name derived from the French ‘pretendre’, ‘to claim’, whilst an imposter is a fraud claiming an identity that does not belong to them. In the same way, it is applied to James Stewart, son of James II, who is known as the Old Pretender, the term does not necessarily imply an imposture. There was never any doubt of James’ identity and the term does not infer that Perkin was an imposter either.

There are two other stories of Richard’s survival that are prominent. Jack Leslau’s theory has fascinated me for years. It is very detailed and the evidence is examined in the book, but essentially it asserts that Richard, Duke of York survived as Dr John Clement, a prominent physician and a member of Thomas More’s inner circle. If true, it means that his survival was an open secret at the courts of Henry VII and Henry VIII and alters More’s motives in his creation of the story of the Princes’ murder. David Baldwin’s The Lost Prince details a further theory that Richard may have survived at Colchester, where he trained as a bricklayer. A Moyle family legend tells of a bricklayer employed by Sir Thomas during the rebuilding of Eastwell Place who was caught reading a Latin book. After much cajoling, the elderly man identified himself as an illegitimate son of Richard III. He was given a plot of land on which to build a house and live out his retirement and on his death, his name was recorded in the parish register as Richard Plantagenet. Since Richard III recognised his two known illegitimate children, it has been suggested that Richard of Eastwell was, in fact, Richard, Duke of York.

These are just three of the theories, but it raises the question of how they can be reconciled to one another, even if one accepts any of them might be true. It is not impossible, though. There is intriguing evidence that Perkin might have been far more genuine than tradition allows, not least that the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella believed that he really was Richard, Duke of York. There are also contemporary suggestions that Perkin and his wife, Lady Catherine Gordon, had one child and possibly more.

What if Perkin really was Richard, Duke of York? What, then, if one of his sons was raised as Dr John Clement, an identity, based on University records, that might have been meant for his father and was simply transferred to the son? Could the bricklayer at Eastwell have been another son, who added to his age and secured a comfortable retirement with his version of the truth? This is just one possible explanation that allows three of the prominent stories of Prince Richard’s survival to exist alongside each other. There is more detail in the book, which I have no doubt will cause some waves.

One thing became clear as I was writing: All that is required to accept the survival of the Princes in the Tower is a belief that Richard III was not a reckless and disorganised enough monster to kill his nephews and then fail to see his motive realised by keeping it all a secret, that Henry VII was similarly averse to killing his brothers-in-law and possibly their young children for the love of his wife if for no other reason and that Henry VIII, at the beginning of his reign, was self-confident and assured enough to allow Plantagenet relatives to live in peace. None of these is hard to accept. Richard III did not harm Edward, Earl of Warwick or any of his other nieces and nephews. Henry VII did not execute Warwick until adulthood and only under pressure from the Spanish to complete the match between Arthur and Catherine of Aragon. As for Henry VIII, the teenager was very different from the older man. He created Warwick’s sister Margaret Countess of Salisbury, paid for the education of at least one of her sons, Reginald Pole, and was close to his uncle Arthur Plantagenet, an illegitimate son of Edward IV, until his paranoia ran wild.

I hope that the book will cause some to at least pause and consider the possibilities, to question why it is that there is a belief the Princes were killed at all and what it might mean if they did survive. The belief in their murders would be the ultimate propaganda victory of the Tudor era but might also have left them with a threat that lingered almost as long as the Tudors themselves did.

JAMES 1st – A ROYAL GOOSEBERRY

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Entrance to the tomb of Henry Vll as seen on the opening of the vault in 1869.  Drawing by George Scarf.  

How did James I come to be interred in Henry Vll’s vault?  Unfortunately it’s not known,  but we do know how it was discovered to be the case.  In 1868, Dean Stanley’s attention was drawn to conflicting reports of  the whereabouts of James’ and his Queen, Anne of Denmark’s vault.    Recognising the importance of ‘the knowledge of the exact spots where the illustrious dead repose’ (1) Dean Stanley resolved to get to the bottom of it.

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Dean Stanley

Although it had been noted  by one brief line in the Abbey’s register that James had been buried in Henry’s vault, ‘This was not enough for  Dean Stanley.  He loved exploring and he pursuaded himself that he must first eliminate all other possible places by opening up each of the Royal vaults in turn’ (2).  Vault after vault was opened, some were empty, some crammed full.  The coffins were discovered of a multitude of royal and noble personages including Mary, Queen of Scots (Dean Stanley thought James might have been interred with his mother),  Mary Tudor and her sister Elizabeth, the latter ‘s coffin on top of the other, Edward Vl, the numerous children of James II and of Queen Anne, and many others too numerous to mention here.  The vault of Anne of Denmark was also found, her coffin standing alone besides the empty space where James, her husband, should have been.  Where was he?

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James lst painted by Daniel Mytens

Laurence Tanner, Keeper of the Muniments and Librarian,  Westminster Abbey,  wrote ‘Night after night the Dean with a few of the Abbey staff was able to carry out his self-imposed task undisturbed.  On one occasion the historian Froude was present.  Speaking of it afterward he said ‘it was the weirdest scene – the flaming torches, the banners waving from the draught of air, and the Dean’s keen, eager face seen in profile had the very strangest effect.  He asked me to return with him the next night, but my nerves had had enough of it’.  (3)

At last, with nowhere else left to look, the actual vault of Henry was opened and to the Dean’s surprise, if not perhaps to that of others, James was found!  It was discovered on examination of the lead coffins therein , that Elizabeth’s had been slightly damaged at the top, possibly when it was removed to allow James’ in and then she was replaced, being rather squashed into the space between the two kings.  Its easy to imagine Henry spinning in his  coffin, as, after the enormous expense of his funeral, he and his Queen are now sharing their tomb with a gooseberry, albeit a royal one.  And here they are…

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  1. Dean Stanley, Westminster Abbey, p.651
  2. Laurence Tanner, Recollections of a Westminster Antiquary, p.177
  3. Laurence Tanner, Recollections of a Westminster Antiquary, p.177

 

 

Lucy does the Glorious Revolution

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Did anyone watch the second episode of Lucy Worsley’s fib-busting series last night? I didn’t quite make it to the end because I was so tired, but saw enough to understand that she did to James VII/II exactly what she did with Richard III. By that I mean she concentrated on the deeds/misdeeds of the winning side. Like Richard, James II became no clearer as a man and king as the programme progressed. James was Catholic and “unpopular in a Protestant country”. Full stop.

We were shown the letter from a handful of peers that “invited” William III to visit Britain and some Dutch archivists explained how it would aid his campaign against Louis XIV, another Catholic. Lucy explained just how laughably improbable the “warming pan” stories were and how James Francis Edward’s birth would stop the Catholic monarchy from just dying out when his father passed away, as he did within thirteen years of his dethronement. William’s propaganda emphasised that his coup, from his landing at Brixham, was bloodless. This was true in England but not in Scotland and Ireland, where James and his supporters fought back, as you can see here.

Lucy was as watchable as ever, cheeky and entertaining. And when she was dressed up, she was delightfully sleek. I continue to love whatever she does.

You can read about this second episode in the series here.

Bloody tales of the Tower….

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I have only just found the series Bloody Tales of the Tower, previously on National Geographic and now on Channel 5 (http://www.channel5.com/show/bloody-tales-of-the-tower and http://www.natgeotv.com/za/bloody-tales-of-the-tower), and have to say that I enjoyed it very much. The presenters, Suzannah Lipscomb and Joe Crowley, are at ease in their roles and with each other, and do not adopt a patronising, superior attitude, as some do. Suzannah is a Tudor historian, and very sensible with it.

There is a good format of setting the scene and then dividing the tasks in two, then going their separate ways until coming together again toward the end, to weave their discoveries together. Suzannah leads us effortlessly through the story itself and the sources, while Joe discovers how things worked, who did them, what they looked like and so on. It may sound as if it’s aimed at teenagers tops, but it isn’t. I’m no teenager, and it was fine by me.

The most innovative series/presenter at the moment has to be Lucy Worsley, who dresses in costume and blends effortlessly into the docudramas she talks about. She is marvellous. Although a Tudor historian, she didn’t gild the Tudors. There were no controversial remarks for the sake of it. She said it how it was. It was all very natural and flowing. Good informative entertainment. As for all the other presenters of television history documentaries, mostly posing males who think more of their own vanity than their subject matter, they would do well to learn a few lessons from Worsley, Lipscomb and Crowley.

Bloody Tales of the Tower told its stories in compelling docudramas, sometimes set in the very spots where it all happened. Sometimes rather grisly! There are three episodes, Royals on the Block, Death to Traitors and Deadly Love, and each contains three separate stories from various centuries.

In episode one, Royals on the Block, the royals in question are James, Duke of Monmouth, Simon of Sudbury, Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor, and Lady Jane Grey, who was, of course, Queen Jane. I’m not sure how the archbishop is included, unless it is the implication that Richard II’s life should have been forfeit, not Sudbury’s!

James, Duke of Monmouth, was something of a 17th-century superstar and the people’s favourite, but he rebelled against his uncle, James II, because he believed the throne should have been his, even though he was illegitimate. Such was his fame and popularity, that for the huge crowds gathered for his beheading on Tower Green (the programme drew a likeness between his execution and the Wembley Cup Final for crowd-pulling power). There followed a butchering by one Jack Ketch, who was a hangman but not a competent wielder of an axe. Monmouth’s head was finally severed with a knife! Ketch later blamed Monmouth for not presenting his head properly.

Simon of Sudbury was Richard II’s Archbishop of Canterbury and Chancellor, and when the Peasants’ Revolt began in 1381, he was the object of the mob’s hatred because of all the taxes and unfair laws over which he had presided. He, the king and the court took refuge in the Tower, which was impregnable. Nevertheless the mob got inside and Sudbury (whose head is still preserved) was torn to pieces. How did they get in? Well, Richard II gave the order to let them through all the gates. Richard consigned the old man to his death. A lamb to the slaughter.

The last story in Royals on the Block was that of Lady Jane Grey, another lamb to the slaughter. She was only sixteen, but her cousin, Bloody Mary, sent her to the block. Mary went on to earn the soubriquet Bloody Mary, so I imagined there were soon many in the realm who wished they hadn’t risen to support her against Jane. Oh, well, it’s always easy to be wise after the event. It was pointed out that Lady Jane should be referred to as Queen Jane, because although she did not have a coronation, she was, nevertheless, the queen. Just as was Edward V (cue picture of the urn) and, more recently, Edward VIII. They are always referred to as kings, so why not Jane as queen?

The second part of the trilogy is called Death to Traitors, and covered the tales of Father John Gerard, who survived secretly in Elizabeth I’s Protestant England. He escaped from the Tower and lived to his 70s on the Continent. He wrote his story, which is how we know so much about his escape. (One oddity I noticed during this story was the careful use of white gloves to examine an old copy of Gerard’s story, yet earlier I noticed there were no gloves at all for poking around in a beautifully illustrated copy of Walsingham! Isn’t there a rule on this sort of thing?)

Next we went to Guy Fawkes, whose story was related with overtones of modern terrorism. The blowing up of King James and Parliament was an intended spectacular which would see Catholics triumph over Protestants. We all know it failed—some nasty Protestant informer!—and Guy was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. Not a pleasant way to go, but he confounded everyone by managing to fling himself from a ladder and break his neck, so he was dead before they even hanged him, let alone the drawing and quartering. The senior member of the conspiracy were eventually cornered in a country house (they included one Catesby, a descendant of Richard III’s Catesby) and went out in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid style by rushing out into a hail of musket fire.

The third story in Death to Traitors was that of Josef Jacobs, a German spy in World War II. Yes, the last person to be executed in the Tower was in 1941. He was parachuted into England, injured and captured.  As he was a military officer, the sentence was death by shooting at the Tower. There he was duly despatched. There was part of this story that seemed to throw all sympathy on Jacobs, a family man who left a wife and children behind. His final letter to them was produced, and his Canadian granddaughter was there with the presenter at his graveside. Yes, the story had a very human side, but should it not have been said that if a British man had been captured in similar circumstances in Germany, he would have suffered the same fate? A spy in wartime is a spy in wartime.

Deadly Love, the final episode of this first series is entitled Deadly Love, and covers the deaths in the Tower of three famous women, Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Arbella Stuart. The first two ladies are very well known, of course, and the only thing I would pick out particularly where Anne was concerned was the portrayal of her supposed lover, Mark Smeaton. It seems that he paid the price of arousing jealousy and resentment among his “betters”. He was lowborn, talented and handsome, and had risen very high very quickly. Anne’s fall from grace was a useful way to get rid of him too.

Catherine Howard was young, and yes she was probably a puppet, but she was also very silly. How could anyone think of trying to deceive a bloodthirsty old monster like Henry VIII? Had she never heard of Anne Boleyn? I am afraid she doesn’t earn my sympathy – I feel more for Lady Jane Grey than I do for Catherine.

The story of Arbella Stuart was the most interesting for me, and what a very sad tale it was, especially as although her marriage to William Seymour, 2nd Duke of Somerset, was dynastic at first, I think it soon became a matter of love. But any children would have presented a great threat to the security of James I, the first Stuart king, so Arbella and William were arrested. She was held under house arrest in Barnet, while he was imprisoned in the Tower. By means of an intricate but successful plot involving exchanging clothes with his barber, William managed to escape. Arbella, dressed as a man also escaped and they arranged to meet at Blackwall. They never did. She took to the sea alone, afraid he was not coming, and he arrived too late, two hours later. He escaped to Calais, but she was captured. No Barnet for her this time, it was the Tower, under much stricter conditions than had applied to William.

She gradually succumbed to ill health (maybe porphyria)—or perhaps lost the will to live—and died a few years later. Her death rendered William harmless to James, so he was permitted to return to England. He eventually married again and lived another fifty years. A tragic love story.

An excellent series, and I hope there is another. Bloody Tales of the Tower is well worth watching.

More sport and history – C17 this time

November is upon usheader16 and speedway fans in the northern hemisphere are now in hibernation, but at least two or three of the top clubs owe their roots to the events of the seventeenth century. Following our article on rugby clubs and the “Wars of the Roses” , here they are:

2017 PREMIERSHIP:
Somerset Rebels are based at the Oak Tree Arena, Edithmead, which is about twelve miles from Westonzoyland, where the Battle of Sedgemoor took place on 6 July 1685 as the last stage of the Monmouth Rebellion. Had speedway existed then, this would have been close to the middle of the season.
Rye House Rockets are based by the residence near Hoddesdon where there was an April 1683 plot, also involving the Duke of Monmouth, to assassinate Charles II and James Duke of York on their return from Newmarket. It failed possibly because the royal brothers were prevented from watching the horse racing by a fire. A dozen executions (at Tyburn, Smithfield and Tower Hill) and a suicide, the Earl of Essex, followed. The surviving plotters fled to exile and returned for the rebellion two years later.

2017 CHAMPIONSHIP:
Ipswich Witches are surely named for more than just the sake of assonance. The town was not quite the epicentre of Matthew Hopkins’ activities as “Witchfinder General”. Up to 300 people were executed within a forty mile radius of Ipswich between 1642-7 as a result of his activities. Hopkins was the son of a Puritan rector of Framlingham and then Great Wenham, where Matthew was born. He died at about twenty-seven in Manningtree, where he had been based..

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