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CARDINAL JOHN MORTON’S TOMB CHAPEL OF LADY UNDERCROFT CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL.

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On Friday 13th June 1483 Cardinal Morton, along with others, was arrested at the Tower of London.  It is well documented the role Morton played in the downfall of Richard lll.  Morton was Richard’s arch enemy and his deviousness, cunning and powers of manipulation being  well known,  there is no need to go into them here in detail,  only to recap briefly on his enforced stay at Brecknock castle where he latched on to the flawed Buckingham’s shallow and vainglorious character (what were you thinking of Richard?!)  inveigling him to rebel and  desert Richard, a  result of the ensuing rebellion being that Buckingham was swiftly defeated,  captured and ignominiously executed, while he, Morton, legged it to the Fens and his ‘see of Ely, where he found both money and friends’ (1)   It should be noted that Margaret Beaufort’s estate at Collyweston was but  a short distance of 40 miles  from Ely.     Morton then  ‘sailed into  Flanders, where he remained,   doing good service to the the  Earl of Richmond until the scheme at Brecknock had been realised and the Earl had become king of England’ (2 ).  As Bishop of Ely Morton would have been very conscious of the sanctity of the Coronation ceremony  but this did in no way deter him from playing a prominent role in the betrayal of King Richard.  How he came to terms with his treachery is difficult to understand,  and is of course something we will never know,  but manage he did somehow and the rest is history.

His achievements are likewise well known and numerous,  including “Tudor” promoting him to the see of Canterbury and  Lord Chancellor in 1487,  eventually prevailing on the Pope to make him a cardinal  , the conceiving of the infamous Morton’s Fork – although to be fair some attribute this to Bishop Fox (3) – and his patronage of the young Thomas More who served in his household as a page.  Morton was without doubt an enormous influence in poisoning the young More against Richard.  More  later went on to write his ‘History’ which has proven to be extremely  damaging to Richard’s memory as it is oft quoted by ‘historians’ who should know better.  It is believed by some that it was in fact Morton who was the original  author including the late Professor A F  Pollard who opined Morton wrote a latin version which More translated later  into English (4).

It is easy to imagine, as he lay dying, after achieving what was a good age in those harsh times, that Morton felt rather pleased with himself for had he not been instrumental in achieving practically the impossible?..the slaughter of a rightful king and replacing him with someone with very tenuous claims to the throne.  He had already made elaborate plans for where he wanted to be buried.in the Chapel of our Lady in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral beneath the pavement of the western bay.

‘He had chosen the spot himself as a quiet and retired one, “non in tumultu sed in secreto subterraneoque loco in criptis nuncupato, lapide duntaxat coopertus marmoreo coran Imagine Beatissime Virgin Marie, quam ex intimo diligebat sepulture locum elegit ubi ipsius corpus felicissimum jam quiescit” ‘ (5)

Which translates as he  had chosen for his burial ‘not an ostentatious place but rather a secret one with a simple marble cover before an image of the most blessed Virgin Mary., whom he held in very high esteem and where his most fortunate body might rest in peace’

A splendid  altar tomb/cenotaph  was built nearby which incorporated Morton’s rebus of a bird (a mort) and a barrel (a tun), and the Tudor badges of  portcullis and rose.  And here he was laid to rest.

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Morton’s rebus, a bird (a mort) and a barrel (a tun)

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Morton’s  altar tomb/cenotaph in the western bay of the chapel

IMG_3631.JPGAlabaster figure of Morton on his tomb/cenotaph

However, this is where his plans finally went awry.   The crypt became a ‘repository for scaffolding poles and building material, and rendered unfit for sacred purposes’ (6)

 

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Turner’s painting of the Crypt in the 18th century showing Morton’s Tomb/Cenotaph amid building rubble

 The slab covering the tomb was eventually broken and smashed and the remains in their cere cloth  revealed   Over a period of time these were gradually stolen until none were left except his skull which a Ralph Sheldon rescued in 1670 leaving it to his niece on  his death.    Eventually the head  found a final resting place  at Stonyhurst College, where  it still is to this very day.  The head was  recently loaned to an exhibition on the life of  Thomas More in Washington DC (7).   It is both ironic and just that the king that Morton callously betrayed,  and whose remains were given a cut-price burial in Leicester,  have now been reburied with the honour that he deserved,  while all that remains of Morton is his head in a box in a cupboard.   As they say man makes plans and the Gods laugh…

As a footnote to this story in my delving around I think I may have come across a ‘secret’ portrait of Morton in the wonderful medieval windows of St Mary’s Church, Fairford, Gloucestershire.  These windows have survived it is believed because they show hidden portraits of the Tudor royal family and important members of Henry Vll’s court.  One portrait is described as being that of Wolsey…but I believe this is erroneous..why would Wolsey’s portrait being included with those of Henry Vll and his family including Henry Vlll as a child.  I have since compared it with that of the wooden bosses thought to represent Morton at Bere Regis Church.  I show them here for comparison.  Any thoughts?

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The portrait in the nave of St Mary’s Church described as being of Wolsey? But could it possibly be Morton?  

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One of the bosses on the roof of Bere Regis Church thought to represent Morton for comparison.

(1) R L Woodhouse The Life of John Morton Archbishop of Canterbury p.75

(2) Ibid

(3) W E Hampton Memorials of the Wars of the Roses p96.

( 4) A F Pollard Luminarium Encyclopedia.  On line article.

(5) C Eveleigh Woodruff.M.A. The Chapel of our Lady in the Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral p. 158.

(6) Ibid

(7) I am most grateful for this information kindly given to me by Mr J Reed,  Assistant Curator of the  College Collections and Museum by the Association, Stonyhurst College.

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The Pedants’ Revolt (again)

Where better to start this time than Colchester, with its John Ball connections, of course? Here, in a beer advert, a centurion has edited some graffiti to remind the natives of the Roman Empire’s authority. Perhaps he will enter a pub with four colleagues and order some, raising two fingers when asked how many? He might prefer a martinus – “You mean martini?” – “No, just the one, thankyou”.

 

 

This Latin graffiti habit seems to be catching, as shown by this recent protest in Cambridge. However, the artist’s, or artists’, grammar seems to be wanting, according to authorities such as Mary Beard. Perhaps they need help from someone like this?

We know Richard III’s mottos, but what about other nobles….?

Cartoon Knight

Is anyone out there hot on chivalric mottos? Everyone knows Richard III’s motto, “Loyaulte mie lie”, and we even know of more he used, but it’s not so easy to find other mottos belonging to lesser known English figures of the 14th-century. Well, one gentleman in particular.

I am trying to discover what “Rendere Vero”. It’s Italian, or maybe Latin, but online translators do not give me an acceptable answer in either language. At least, nothing a Mediaeval knight would wish to boast in front of his peers. To me, it seemed to simply mean “Render the truth”, as in “give only the truth”. But that might not be the nitty-gritty of it at all.

To begin with, let me admit to being only 95% sure the motto is “Rendere Vero”. It appears almost complete on a site dealing with accurate, hand-painted diecast models of various times, including the 14th century. I can no longer find the particular model that has set me off on this quest, only an out-of-date picture of it. Its figures are holding aloft the windblown banner of Sir John Holland, Earl of Huntingdon and Duke of Exeter, the younger of Richard II’s two half-brothers. The banner is correct to show Sir John’s wheatear emblem, but I have never come across the motto before. Did he use it? Did he use any motto? I haven’t come across even one.

John de Holande's banner on left - wheatear badge

Paul Martin Remfry has kindly suggested that ‘Rendere’ means [You] Think, Believe, Deem, Reckon or Suppose, and that ‘Vero’ means Yes, Truly, In truth, However and Certainly. Thus he arrives at “Believe in Truth”. Which sounds promising to me. Thank you, Paul.

Sandy Swanson wonders if it’s “Return truly” or “Pay back in kind”. Diana Whitty suggests “Bring the truth”, and Frances Quinn offers “Give only the truth” or “Render the truth”. Regarding the latter, Frances – snap! <g>

And I am very grateful to Merlyn Macleod for going to the trouble of investigating at http://dictionary.reference.com/, which, at the bottom of each translation, gives the origins of words and their original meaning. For “Render” it has:-

Late 14c., “repeat, say again,” from Old French rendre “give back, present, yield” (10c.), from Vulgar Latin *rendere (formed by dissimilation or on analogy of its antonym, prendre “to take”), from Latin reddere “give back, return, restore,” from red- “back” (see re- ) + comb. form of dare “to give” (see date (n.1)).

Meaning “hand over, deliver” is recorded from late 14c.; “to return” (thanks, a verdict, etc.) is attested from late 15c.; meaning “represent, depict” is first attested 1590s. Irregular retention of -er in a French verb in English is perhaps to avoid confusion with native rend (v.) or by influence of a Middle English legalese noun render “a payment of rent,” from French noun use of the infinitive. Related: Rendered ; rendering.

It seems there are endless possibilities!

Now Brian Wainwright tells me of a 1988 illustrated book called Knights at Tournament by Christopher Gravett, ISBN: 9780850458367.

Elite book cover

It apparently contains an illustration of Sir John Holland, mounted, in jousting armour, being led to a tournament by his lady. Possibly his wife, Elizabeth of Lancaster? Needless to say, that particular picture does not appear when I “Look inside”. Fortunately I have been able to find a copy, and eagerly await its delivery tomorrow. Fingers crossed that his motto is shown. Too much to hope for? Probably. But I will keep trying. To use another motto: “Nil desperandum”!

So, if anyone knows anything more, or of a site that deals in some depth with mediaeval mottos, please, please let me know.

 

 

 

 

Here it is, in black and white …

Many of you will remember this post from before Christmas, about the “Lincoln Roll”, supposedly compiled for the Earl of Lincoln but clearly updated at least twenty-six years after his death, to cover his brother’s execution:
http://www.johnashdownhill.com/johns-blog/2015/12/21/the-henry-tudor-society-death-certificates

In it, you will note that Dr. Ashdown-Hill corrects a troll, who claimed that it showed Edward IV’s elder sons both died in childhood (“iunie“, which means something else), demonstrating that the Roll actually used the term “iuve” (short for “iuventute” or “in his youth”).

So what exactly is meant, in either the classical or late Mediaeval era, by “youth”? According to A Latin-English Dictionary (1868, ed W. Smith) , this is between the ages of twenty and forty, which seems reasonable. Richard of Shrewsbury, Edward IV’s middle son, the sometime Duke of York and (in jure uxoris) of Norfolk, was born on 24 August 1473. “Perkin Warbeck”, who may well have been Richard of Shrewsbury, died on 23 November 1499 at Tyburn, in the presence of several witnesses.

So the Roll, whichever de la Pole it was actually compiled for, which I think we can deduce, is wholly consistent with “Perkin” being who he claimed to be.

Juventus FC, most of whose players are aged between 20 and 40

Juventus FC, most of whose players are aged between 20 and 40

"Perkin Warbeck" who, if he was Richard of Shrewsbury, died at 26.

“Perkin Warbeck” who, if he was Richard of Shrewsbury, died at 26.

What “Perkin” (actually) said

Most of us are familiar with the story of “Perkin Warbeck” and the letters he wrote back to the Low Countries. Depending on his identity, his parents hailed from there if he was an impostor or his aunt was Dowager Duchess of Burgundy if he was Richard of Shrewsbury, the former Duke of York and hitherto illegitimate son of Edward IV. In the decade leading up to his execution in autumn 1499, he had travelled widely, married Lady Katherine Gordon (James IV’s cousin), issued a proclamation of his rights and written various other letters. It seems to be a mantra of the Cairo dwellers, or have they reached Alexandria yet, that this proclamation refers to his kidnap and his brother’s (the erstwhile Edward V) death at the hands of “a certain lord”, an uncle who it later names as Richard III.

The most obvious question mark over this document is that later identification. Even if you assume that it was written whilst he was an untortured free man, you assume that he wasn’t portraying his brother Edward as dead for some complex reason or other (by-passing or protecting him) and you forget that Edward IV’s sons had many uncles, by birth or marriage, including Buckingham and St. Leger , alive in summer 1483, in which language was it written? Latin, which is quite likely, has separate words (patruus and avunculus respectively) for paternal and maternal uncles, which would help here. In Cairo, however, they assure us that the document is not in Latin and that “Perkin”‘s own hand names Richard III, “proving” that it is bad news for Richard whether “Perkin” is Shrewsbury or not.

Well, here is the proclamation, transcribed by Sir Robert Cotton:
https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=3SMsAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA387&lpg=PA387&dq=perkin+warbeck%27s+proclamation&source=bl&ots=-MkrldUg5x&sig=AJMbfXCtJjwivy42KfIlsmZQ3pA&hl=en&sa=X&ei=MV7yVLvMCISY7gaa2YD4Dw&ved=0CDUQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=perkin%20warbeck%27s%20proclamation&f=false
You will note that “Perkin”‘s own words are clearly separate whilst his letter to Isabel of Castile is indeed in Latin. You will also note that John Speed, in his 1610 “Historie of Great Britain” compiled a century after Tyburn 1499, has appended an imaginary speech to James IV and the specific accusation of Richard III appears only in this later addition. You will also note that Bacon has appended even more. You will remember that this is the same John Speed (c.1552-1629) who confused Leicester’s Greyfriars with the Blackfriars, gaining the sobriquet “the Colourblind Cartographer”:
http://www.abebooks.co.uk/book-search/author/speed-john-1552-1629/
Speed and Bacon were, of course, writing for an early Stuart interest.

In other words, nowhere does “Perkin” name the “certain lord” who features in his convenient tale. QED.

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