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Desperately Seeking Wolsey….

The discovery in Leicester of the remains of Richard III was surely one of the greatest such event, and since then there have been increased attempts to locate other great figures from our past. Leicester has at least one other such person just waiting to be found, but as yet he’s proving elusive. The location of Cardinal Wolsey’s burial has been a matter of debate for some time now, and this blog has mentioned it at least twice, as well as the angels made for his tomb.

Over the past five hundred years there have been a number of attempts to find the man whose humble beginnings as an innkeeper’s son did not prevent him from rising to be one of the highest and most influential figures in Tudor England. It’s hard to even imagine what Leicester Abbey looked like at the time of his interment, let alone where in its footprint the great cardinal might be lying.

An artist impression of Leicester Abbey in its heyday. John Finnie

Now there has been another article about his missing tomb, but I’m afraid that if he really did look like his awful statue, I’d rather they didn’t find him! He’s enough to give children nightmares.

The Abbey Park statute of Cardinal Wolsey who died at Leicester Abbey in 1530 (Image: Will Johnston)

Book Review: Distant Echoes: Richard III Speaks!

Distant Echoes: Richard III Speaks!
by Joanne R. Larner

In the time following the discovery, beneath a Leicester parking lot, of the remains of Richard III, the last English king to die in battle, the medieval monarch has indeed gained a wider audience as we learn more details of the find. For example, it was announced that he was not, after all, the scary neighborhood hunchback; rather, he suffered from scoliosis, which actually makes him more of a boss, given his accomplishments, as reported even by his enemies.

Much material continues to be released, and many people, even those not previously inclined toward history, have started seeking out all things Richard. Publishers give it to them too, though the nature of these offerings is sober; they tend to be serious reads of medical and martial material with, really, no happy ending—at least not for the Richard of 1485. Alas, Bosworth still is soaked in blood, and Richard still falls. In fairness, it’s not really a walk in the park to spin that into something cheerful.

Author Joanne Larner has long lamented the same, so she set out to shake up the playing field a bit with her debut novel, Richard Liveth Yet. A more lighthearted look into Richard’s era by way of time travel, she also brings Richard Plantaganet to modern England and we get a glimpse into his perceptions of us, rather than only the standard fare of vice versa. With her latest, Distant Echoes: Richard III Speaks!, Larner takes time travel to a different level—dimension—by way of innovative software and science that teams up a subject’s DNA with technology to track voice vibrations, even those that occurred over 500 years ago.

Stepping back for a moment, it is worth giving attention to the book’s epigraph, song lines from “Sheriff Hutton” by the Legendary Ten Seconds: “Where distant echoes still resound/That which is lost may still be found.” Capturing the attention of readers of a genre whose very nature evokes images, events, perhaps even portions of collective memory, echoes from the past, it further stimulates the need to positively identify all this and wonder if we really could experience history and, amongst other events, hear the speaking voice of a medieval king.

Larner opens the novel with protaganist Eve experiencing the end of a romantic relationship and moves forward with her signature chapter titles named after songs. A medium that transcends time, music of some sort appeals to just about every human; it seems to be coded into our DNA to like it, nay, need it. For this I can’t help thinking Richard would have appreciated Larner’s creative idea; even if he didn’t always love some lyrics, he would recognize that most messages are those that touch someone, somewhere, and the relatable forms they take can promote unity.

It was with a similar unity that, even amongst differences and a mixture of complex personalities, Eve’s professional team moves forward with their project and echoes of the past filter into the modern lives of these Future Tech employees. Larner also puts a bit of a twist into the sessions in that not everyone experiences them the same way, which, in reality, makes great sense as individual perspective and changing variables play into it all.

Eve’s colleagues possess different levels of understanding when it comes to history, and Larner cleverly utilizes this to determine what and how much information is communicated between characters and, as a result, readers, many of whom might also maintain differing degrees of awareness. Of course, everyone, reader and fictional researcher alike, wants to know about the ultimate medieval mystery: What happened to the princes in the tower? It is with great dexterity that Larner manages the range of perspectives, historical knowledge and “eavesdropping” abilities of her cast as each individual keenly looks forward to the moment of truth. Amongst the chaos, intrigue and dangerous, unknown loyalties of 1485 and those which develop in Eve’s own time, will they find it?

One of the best elements of Larner’s latest novel relates to the manner in which the narrative moves forward. Alternately giving us glimpses into Eve’s private life, already wracked by the grief of losing an important relationship, we also witness her discovery into other areas of her life, how she copes with learning and what she does with her new understanding. This parallel plot does make for a more meaty tale, but it doesn’t just run alongside the first. Instead, it marinates, the two forming a richly satisfying whole impossible to forget.

Really quite innovative, Larner’s novel demonstrates her richly developed sense of Richard Plantagenet, and two thoughts come to mind: one, that hopefully this author’s amazing imagination continues to give us wonderful stories of the king and; two, that the science doesn’t actually exist shouldn’t preclude Distant Echoes! from gaining a wide (and wider) audience, as it doesn’t seem these days to surprise very many, though it does intrigue, when once-outlandish ideas are developed. Larner not only has her finger on this pulse, but also presents it in an accessible, smoothly flowing work, reminiscent of Daughter of Time, that allows historical players to tell their own tale.

—Lisl P.

About the Author

Photo of author, Joanne Larner

Joanne Larner was born in London and moved to Rayleigh in Essex (UK) in 2001. She had wanted to write a novel since the age of thirteen and finally managed it in 2015. She was helped by two things: National Novel Writing Month and Richard III. Richard was her inspiration and she became fascinated by him when she saw the Channel 4 documentary The King in the Car Park in February 2013. She researched his life and times and read countless novels, but became fed up because they all ended the same way – with his death at the Battle of Bosworth.

So she decided to write a different type of Richard story and added a time travel element. The rest is (literally) history. She found his character seemed to write itself and with NaNoWriMo giving her the impetus to actually DO it, she succeeded. After she began writing the story that was in her head, she found that there was far too much material for one book and, in fact, it finally turned into a trilogy consisting of Richard Liveth Yet: A Historical Novel Set in the Present Day; Richard Liveth Yet (Book II): A Foreign Country and Richard Liveth Yet (Book III): Hearts Never Change. Book II takes place mainly in Richard’s time and Joanne found that many actual historical elements seemed to match serendipitously with her requirements. For example, the characters who were contemporary to Richard, the date of Joana’s death, the fact that Lorenzo’s wife, Clarice, had twins that didn’t survive the birth, etc.

The idea for Distant Echoes began when Joanne listened to Sheriff Hutton by The Legendary Ten Seconds and it reminded her of a sci-fi novel she had read as a teenager, where friendly aliens could see the ‘echoes’ of events after they had occurred. She wanted to write about the real Richard III, telling of acts of his that, though documented fact, are not known by the average reader, his good laws and fair judgments being eclipsed by the presumed and unproven murder of his nephews. The idea lent itself to ‘eavesdropping’ on Richard, using his own words where possible, and Distant Echoes was born.

For more about the author and her books, sign up or follow her at Facebook, Twitter and her blog. Distant Echoes: Richard III Speaks!, the books mentioned above and more are available at Amazon and Amazon UK.

The architect who altered the first Richard III stone on Bow Bridge, Leicester….

Victorian William Flint was a Leicester architect who “…had a hand in many other projects, including significant alterations to New Walk Museum, St Mary de Castro Church and the first Richard III stone on Bow Bridge…”

Now there is a book all about him by Mark Mitchley. To read more, go to this article.

 

The demolition of the medieval Bow Bridge, Leicester, that Richard would have crossed….

Medieval Bow Bridge, probably the year before demolition
Taken from https://storyofleicester.info/a-place-to-live/bow-bridge/

The old myth about Richard striking his heel against Bow Bridge on his way to Bosworth, and then his head on the same place when being carried ignominiously back to Leicester after the battle, is very well known indeed. As is the supposed prediction of this sequence of events by an old woman in the crowd watching the king’s departure.

I have always wondered how Richard would have struck his heel/spur in such a way, but now I’ve read the following:-

“….Bow Bridge was built of stone with five semi-circular arches, piers with cut-waters, and niches at intervals along both sides in which pedestrians could stand to allow vehicles to pass – this was because the bridge was 21m long but only 1.8m wide, leaving enough space for only a single waggon to cross at once….” See here.

1.8 metres is a little over 5′, so I guess the swaying gait of a horse would achieve the supposed incident. I should have guess earlier, of course, since those pedestrian passing places were rather necessary if one wished to cross without being crushed.

https://www.britainexpress.com/counties/leicestershire/leicester/bow-bridge.htm

from https://storyofleicester.info/a-place-to-live/bow-bridge/

The old bridge was repaired in 1666, and again in 1784 when it was widened with brickwork, but it was eventually pulled down and replaced two years later with the present bridge.

According to the Richard III Society’s Leicestershire branch , demolition of the original bridge commenced on 7th January 1861. The present Bow Bridge, built in 1863, was designed by the city as a memorial to Richard III.

In this article , I read: “Its decorative ironwork bears the town’s coat-of-arms (a white cinquefoil on a red shield) interspersed with roses and the coats-of-arms of Richard III and Henry VIII.” I’m not sure about Henry VIII – what did he have to do with it? I imagine it is more likely supposed to be Henry VII.

from https://www.britainexpress.com/counties/leicestershire/leicester/bow-bridge.htm

The above links give much more information about the bridge, as does this one.

Richard has an icecream named after him….!

I am hopelessly addicted to icecream. It’s one of my Great Weaknesses, and now I learn that Richard III has one named after him. (Ha! I’ll bet you thought I was going to say it was his Great Weakness too!)

Go to the Leicester Mercury and you will find that “…. Independent Leicester city centre business Gelato Village has scooped the title of best dessert parlour in the entire Midlands….”

Richard’s icecream consists of “fruits of the forest with homemade rose blossom essence”, which sounds yummy to me. I can imagine sitting there, on a dreamy summer evening…wishing that Bosworth had gone the other way….

I wonder if Henry VII has his own icecream too. Flavours? Crab apple and stinking iris….?

Richard, the willow king….?

 

Another new Richard III sculpture…although this one is a very different medium, and is recognisable from the full-length statue that we all know and love. Do I like it? Well, I fear it looks a little vulnerable.

Anyway, here is a link to learn all about it: 

Richard’s Boar in Lego

Following the success of the Easter Lego event in 2018, when the most famous portrait of King Richard III, the National Portrait Gallery one, was recreated using Lego bricks, Fairy Bricks were back in Leicester this Easter to build another Richard III-themed mosaic at the Richard III Visitor Centre. This year members of the public were able to help by building the boars which formed part of Richard’s coat of arms. The event began on Good Friday and concluded Easter Monday. There were even some LEGO cupcakes available in the White Boar Café.

Here is a link to the Visitor Centre’s Facebook page if you want to find out more about their activities

Thetford

Here are the remains of Thetford’s magnificent Cluniac Priory, built in 1107 and the burial place of the Mowbrays and Howards up to 1540, when they were moved to St. Michael’s, Framlingham. Only about five minutes’ walk from the station, it is best visited on a dry day because Cromwell’s commissioners were ruthless and so, now, is the Priory. John Howard, first Duke of Norfolk, was re-interred here some time after his death at Bosworth; probably by his son, the victor of Flodden. His original burial site is indicated by a plaque, to one side, whilst another shows that his son once laid by the altar.

More of the town’s history, including the Iceni, Edmund the Martyr, Thomas Paine and local factories, is commemorated on the walls of the Red Lion (the Howard symbol) by the market place, together with Ayrton Senna who lived briefly in Attleborough whilst driving for Lotus. The Dad’s Army Museum is just around the back and there is a statue of Captain Mainwaring by the town bridge.

The Castle of Leicester and St Mary De Castro

Leicester Castle

leics castle

Leicester Castle as it appeared in 1483

 

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The Castle gardens

Since 2015 going to Leicester is the equivalent of going to visit the tomb of the last Plantagenet King who died in battle: Richard III. Everything there speaks of him from the Visitor Centre named after him, to The Last Plantagenet Pub not to mention attractions and shops that display his portrait or sell items with the name of the king. Of course, the Medieval Cathedral where the warrior king was buried in 2015 is the most visited place in Leicester but if you go there, don’t forget to pay a visit to the remains of Leicester’s Castle and its church St Mary De Castro. It is difficult today to imagine how the Castle could be at the time of Richard III but it is still there indeed even in a different shape. 

IMG_2840The Castle was probably built immediately after the Norman Conquest so around 1070. The Governor  at that time was Hugh de Grantmensil one of the companions of William the Conqueror. The Castle was the favourite residence of John of Gaunt, first Duke of Lancaster and the fourth son of Edward III. From the north end of the hall, it was possible to access the lord’s private apartments whilst from the south end there was access to a kitchen above an undercoft called John of Gaunt’s cellar where beverage and food were stored. Some people erroneously think it was a dungeon. 

The castle today looks totally different. What remains are the Castle’s Mound (Motte) located between Castle View and Castle Gardens. The Motte was originally 30-40 feet Prince Rupehigh topped with a timber tower. Unfortunately no buildings survived  and the motte was lowered in Victorian times to form a bowling green.

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The Castle House

The Great Hall is the oldest surviving aisled and bay divided timber hall in Britain. Even though the exterior is Victorian, the building still retains some of its original 12th century timber posts. The criminal court in the castle’s Great Hall was the scene of Leicester’s “Green Bicycle Murder” trial 1919 so exactly 100 years ago.

Other things are still visible of the ancient castle. The wall, the remains of the castle especially the Turret Gateway also known as Prince Rupert’s Gateway, the Castle Gardens (once used for public executions) the Castle House and the stunning church of St Mary De Castro.

St Mary De Castro

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St Mary De Castro

Close where the Castle stood, there is an ancient church called St Mary De Castro. It is a very special place especially for Ricardians. In this church Geoffrey Chaucer married her second wife, Philippa de Roet and 44 people were knighted in just one day among them Henry VI and Richard Plantagenet Duke of York, Richard III’s father. He was just 15 years old. However, the most famous event to be remembered today is that it is said that Richard III worshipped there before leaving for Bosworth and prepared himself for his last battle.

St Mary De Castro means St Mary of the Castle. It was built in 1107 after Henry I gave the

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The Chapel in St Mary De Castro ground to Robert de Beaumont 1st Earl of Leicester. It was the chapel of the castle and a place of worship within the bailey of the castle. It is assumed but there is no proof of evidence, that Ethelfleda, daughter of King Alfred the Great, had founded a church on the very spot where today is St Mary. It also seems that there was a college of priests called the College of St Mary De Castro founded before the Norman Conquest.

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The tower of St Mary was built not beside the church but inside of it so visitors can see 3 sides of it while still in church. The medieval spire, rebuilt in 1783 was declared dangerous in 2013. Following the unsuccessful attempt to raise money to save it, it was demolished in 2014. The church’s structure is quite odd because in ancient times there were two churches. One was the mentioned chapel of the castle, the other a church for common people. This explains why there are two sedilias and two piscinas both from medieval times.

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Henry VI and Richard III

Curiosities

It is said that King Richard III’s mistreated body was brought to this church to be washed before being displayed for the world to see he was actually dead. Considering the evident haste he was buried in and the lack of respect showed by the Tudors, it is unlikely this ever happened.

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The Nave of the Church

Philippa de Roet, Chaucer’s wife, was the lady-in-waiting of Philippa of Hainault one of Richard III’s ancestors.

In this church Edward of Lancaster and John of Lancaster are buried. Both died in infancy.

 

 

Music to the bells of St Nicholas, Leicester….

I haven’t heard any of this music, on the site of Leicester’s Saxon Cathedral, so cannot say what it’s like. But it sounds intriguing

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