There are few more fertile sources for intricate information about the medieval past (and other areas too, of course) than theses that have been published online. A prime website for these is White Rose eTheses on line, of which I have written before. I am mentioning the site again now because of finding a particularly absorbing 2016 thesis by Anna Maria Duch for her PhD at the University of York. It is titled The Royal Funerary and Burial Ceremonies of Medieval English Kings, 1216-1509 and can be found here.
It deals with all our medieval monarchs, but contains a great deal of interest to those who study the Wars of the Roses, and in particular Henry VI, Edward IV and, of course, Richard III. There is a long discussion of Richard’s motives in moving Henry VI’s remains from Chertsey, and again about whether or not he “disposed” of his nephews. The age-old question of that urn crops up as well.
Other kings aren’t neglected, I promise.
This is a book-length work, and needs close attention to be fully appreciated. A recommended read.
Bisham Abbey was the burial place of the Earls of Salisbury, and also Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, the ‘Kingmaker’ and his unfortunate grandson Edward of Warwick, executed on a trumped-up charge by Henry VII. The Abbey was destroyed in the Reformation, and on the grounds now stands the National Sports Centre, where many professional athletes train. However, it is less known that it is not just a sports centre but a hotel too, and that although the priory buildings are gone, the medieval manor house still remains.
The house is very striking–and what a history! It was first built and owned by the Knights Templar, passing into the hands of King Edward II when the order was dissolved. Elizabeth, the wife of Robert the Bruce, was kept in captivity there for a while, along with the Bruce’s daughter, the tragic young Marjorie.
Later, in 1335, William Montacute, Earl of Salisbury purchased the building. He founded a priory that stood alongside the manor house, and he and many of his descendants and their spouses were buried there. Burials in the priory include:
Margaret Pole, tragic daughter of George of Clarence and Isabel Neville, also lived at Bisham for a while, and a dovecote, still standing, is thought to have been raised by her.
The priory church was completely destroyed in the Reformation, although some of the cloister remains attached to the side of the manor house. Judging by its position, this would place the east end of the priory church, with its high status burials, somewhere under the modern tennis courts. So the Kingmaker and his relatives lie snugly under tarmac, much as Richard III lay in the buried remnants of Greyfriars. If there was ever a move to locate them, it would be quite easy to identify the remains; if autosomal DNA could be extracted, they all should have close similarity to Richard (the 5th Earl being his uncle, and the Kingmaker being a cousin, and Edward of Warwick should share Richard’s Y-Dna through George, as well as a lot of autosomal DNA). Several of the skeletons should also show battle wounds, and several evidence of beheading.
Although the priory site has been obliterated, part of two tombs have, in fact, survived–although they are not in Bisham. In the tiny, sleepy village of Burghfield, a few miles outside Reading, the broken effigy of Richard Neville, 5th earl of Salisbury lies in the porch next to a lady who is NOT his wife but most likely one of his ancestors. Records from the 1600’s describe how Salisbury’s effigy was ‘dragged to Newbury by wild horses’! How it ended up in Burghfield is unknown but it seems the local lord had some Neville ancestry, so he may have rescued it because of that. Although the face seems to have been mutilated, Salisbury’s effigy shows a great deal of fine craftmanship and must have been very spectacular in its day.
Top left: Salisbury’s effigy, Burghfield; Top right. The tennis court where the burial most likely lie. The rest: Views of the manor house, including the cloister.
The following article and extract are from Nerdalicious:
“ ‘In the nineteenth century the Clare Cross was found in the castle ruins. It’s actually a reliquary, containing a fragment of the True Cross, and it was probably made soon after 1450 so probably it belonged to Richard III’s mother. For that reason, when I got an agreement from Leicester Cathedral for a rosary to be buried with Richard III I chose a quite large, black wooden rosary which I bought years ago, when I was a student at the University of East Anglia, in Norwich. Then I had the cross and the central link replaced by George Easton (who made Richard III’s funeral crown for me too). George copied the Clare Cross for me, to replace the original crucifix, and he also made an enamelled white rose (like the ones he made for Richard’s crown) to replace the central link. A white rose is the symbol of the house of York, of course, but it’s also a symbol of the Virgin Mary, who is at the centre of the prayers of the rosary.’ “
Thomas Wolsey was born in Ipswich, apparently in March 1473, to Joan Daundy and Robert Wolsey, who seems to have been a butcher and may possibly have been killed at Bosworth. Opposite his birthplace, in St. Nicholas’ Street, is this seated statue (below). His local achievements include Wolsey’s Gate and, after about 475 years, the University it was designed to be part of.
After a long career as Bishop of Bath and Wells, Lincoln, Winchester, Durham and finally Cardinal Archbishop of York, Wolsey was summoned to answer charges of treason, having failed to secure an annulment for Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. He died of a heart attack at Leicester Abbey on the penultimate day of November 1530, telling Abbot Richard Pescall: “Father abbott, I ame come hether to leave my bones among you”.
Just like Greyfriars a mile or so away, Leicester Abbey was dissolved about a decade later. Abbey Park stands on the site now and the generally designated site lies to the north, near the confluence of the Soar and the Grand Union Canal. There has been some Leicester University archaeology on the site and the Abbey plan has been marked out, including this grave marker (right).
So is it time to identify the remains of this Cardinal, just twenty years younger than Richard, to rebury them in a similar way in the same city? The church of St. Margaret is nearby.
Here is an article from an American website about the “Princes” and John Ashdown-Hill’s work towards determining the identity of the bones in that urn, as detailed in his “The Mythology of the Princes in the Tower”.
The article is rather good. It does fail to notice that Westminster Abbey is a Royal peculiar and so the Anglican hierarchy has no influence. Apart from that, the dental evidence suggests that the remains are unlikely to be related to Richard III, who has been analysed in great detail.
The mitochondrial DNA, which was integral to identifying Richard himself, is possibly understated here but modern scientific analysis, on the basis of this research legacy, could lead to any of the following conclusions:
1) The remains are of the wrong age, gender, era or even species.
2) Their mtDNA does not match that of Elizabeth Wydeville.
3) The remains are of more than two people.
4) The remains are of one mtDNA matching person and one other.
5) The remains are of two people of the right age, gender, era, species and mtDNA.
Conclusion 5 would positively identify them as Edward IV’s sons. Conclusions 1 and 2 would eliminate this possibility. Conclusions 3 and 4 would be more complex as a mitochondrially identical cousin disappeared from the same place sixty years later. The probability of the remains consisting of Edward V, Richard of Shrewsbury and their later cousin is surely exceedingly low, although that cousin or one “Prince” resting with an unrelated individual is more possible.
Is there anyone else like me who enjoys a good nosy around someone’s privy purse accounts. They can tell us so much about that person. For example, Henry VII’s Privy Purse Accounts. From them we can glean, for example, how did Henry spend his time relaxing , after doing a hard day’s usurping? Well it would seem Henry liked DANCING Not himself , of course, but watching others..for example:
September 5th 1493. ‘To the young damoysell that daunceth £30’ . She must have been good, £30 being an outrageously inflated amount..and indeed,
this young lady fared rather better than ‘a litelle madden that daunceth’ who received a mere £12 on the January 7th 1497 – but still, nice work if you can get it, considering that on June 8th ‘the maydens of Lambeth for a May’ received a measly 10s to share out between themselves. Henry’s enjoyment of watching dancing was just not limited to damsels and maidens for he also enjoyed Morris dancing – well if you can call it dancing – for on January 4th ‘for playing of the Mourice dance’ earned the participants £2.
MUSIC – Another favourite way of whiling away the time for Henry. Numerous payments for ‘mynystrels’ are recorded including on February 4th 1492 including ‘a childe that played on the record’ received £1 and the ‘mynystrels that played in the Swan’ received 13s and 4d. Interestingly Richard III ‘s mother, Cicely Neville’s minstrels, received the sum of £1 and to ‘children for ‘singing in the gardyn’ at Canterbury 3s and 4d.
BLING.. Henry evidently was a man who loved bling – paying out £3800 for ‘many precyous stones and riche perlis bought of Lambardes for the ‘garnyshing of salads, shapnes and helemytes’, 27th May 1492. Henry certainly had a thing for decorating his armour and helmets for in June 30th 1497 £10 was paid to the Queen to cover her costs of ‘garnyshing of a salet’. Now whether the Queens attempts were not up to scratch or perhaps she tired of the project for a few days later on August 9th John Vandelft, a jeweller was paid £38.1s.4d for the ‘garnyshing of a salett’. Was this the same salet, I know not, and how many salets would one man require? No doubt he looked a sight for sore eyes unfortunately no details survive of said salets however may they have looked something on these lines except more blingy..
or this….or perhaps something more modest ?
Your guess is as good as mine dear reader.
Of course Henry liked jewellery in general and not just for adorning his armour. This would have been silly because it could have got damaged if he had found himself in the midst of a battle without a convenient pike wall to hide behind as well he would have stood out like a sore thumb but I digress… On June 12th 1495 a further payment of £2560 was made to ‘Lumbards’ for ‘diverse juels’. In June 1498 a payment of £2000 was paid for ‘Delivered and sent over the see for sertayn juels of gold, £2000’. On 30 July of the same year a further payment of £2648.9s ‘for sertayn jules bought in France’. However he was not always so extravagant paying out smaller sums now and again, for example, June 24th ‘for an ouch sett with Perle and stone £100’ and May 16 to Robert Wright for a ‘ring with a diamond £20’.
Henry, it is said, loved greyhounds. He had two favourites…
a descendant of one of Henry’s favourite greyhounds..Morton
Bray…from the same litter… these dogs predecessors liked nothing more than fawning around their Master..as dogs do.
Henry loved his greyhounds so much so he would pay damages for any destruction caused by said pets…..hence on 13 March 1495, 4s was paid to ‘Rede for a colt that was slayn with the Kings greyhounds’. Details of greyhounds purchased include a payment of 14s 4d to ‘Cobbe of the stable for a grey hounde’. And ‘to the one that brought the king a whit greyhound from Brutan, £1’.
Henry also liked birds, Popinjays are mentioned several times so they must have held a certain appeal for him paying ‘Richard Dekon for a popyngchey £6 13s 4d’ on 14th January 1498.
A popinjay descended from Henry’s favourite bird who was known as Buck. Buck was not very bright but brightly coloured and flamboyant..
SENSE OF FAIR PLAY
Henry, despite what his traducers say, did possess a sense of fair play. Yes he did. For example he paid out in February 27th 1495 , £15.19s for Sir William Stanley’s burial at Syon. This was as well as the £10 that was given to Sir William ‘at his execution’ on the 20th February. You cannot say fairer than that. It should also be remembered that he paid for a ‘tombe’ for King Richard III on the 11 August 1495, the not to be sneezed at amount of £10 1s. This was only a third of what had been paid to the young damoysel that daunced its true, but why be petty? On Dec 8th 1499 ‘Payed for the buriell of therle of Warwick by iiij bills, £12.18s 2d’. I can find no trace of a payment for the burial of Warbeck, perhaps he was simply cast in a hole or mass burial site (1). Henry could hardly have been expected to shell out for every traitors burial.
Austin Friars from an original study by John Preston Neale 1801
THE QUENES DEBTS
Another misconception is that Henry was an indifferent and cold husband. This is not on. Perhaps he was merely cross having regularly to either pay off the Queens debts, mostly incurred through gambling or give her loans. On November 30th 1493 ‘delivered to Master Chaderton by thanks of William Hungate to pay the Quenes detts £1314 lls 6d’. He also lent her £100 at Shene on the 2 April 1494. A further £2000 was ‘delivered to the Queen’s grace for to pay her detts which has to be repayed’ on 1 February 1497. I should think so too!.
Several mentions are made of purchases of clothing. January 6th 1494 ‘for an ostrich skin for a stomacher £1 4s. This is the only mention of an ostrich skin being used for that purpose. So Henry was definitely a fashion guru. No depiction survives, unfortunately, of the said stomacher but I have found a picture of an ostrich skin hat which may provide a clue as to what the garment may have looked like:
All the above I have gleaned from Excerpta Historica Samuel Bentley. There are many interesting examples of the expenses, too many to mention here. Having said that that I cannot close without mentioning:
January 6 1494 for ‘clothing mad for Dick the fole £1.15s.7d’ (Dick or Dikks the foule gets several mentions)
February 10 1492 ‘to a litell feloo of Shaftesbury £1
January 20th 1495 the ‘immense bribe’ of £500 that was ‘delivered to Sir Robert Clifford by thand of Master Bray ‘(who else!) for basically payment for the betraying of Sir William Stanley. Further to this £26 13s 4d paid to William Hoton and Harry Wodeford ‘for the bringing of Sir Robert Clifford in rewards’ i.e. this was a reward given to the persons who had so successfully negotiated with Clifford (2)
And finally I would love to know what happened regarding the 6s 8d paid for ‘the burying of a man that was slayn in my Lady Grey Chamber’ 27th May 1495?
(1) Perkin Warbeck’s body after it had been separated from its head, was taken to Austin Friars Church, where it was buried with ‘other gallow birds on the west side of the nave’ Perkin, a Story of Deception Ann Wroe p499. (Austin Friars Church was later destroyed by a bomb during the 2nd World War and hardly any traces remain save for a small garden area).
(2) Excerpta Histórica: or, Illustrations of English History Samuel Bentley pp 100.101
Reading Abbey is reopening, but without the remains of Henry I having been found. He’s there somewhere, having definitely been buried there after his “surfeit of lampreys”. Well, they found Richard in Leicester, so there’s still hope of locating Henry.