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Richard and George in St Omer in 1475….?

St Bertin Abbey, St Omer, in the 18th century

Here is a short but interesting article about the time Richard and George are thought to have spent with their sister Margaret in St Omer in the summer of 1475.

St Omer in 1640

PS: The illustrations are not from the article (which contains others of great quality), and you will find some interesting pictures of a model of St Omer here. The illustration at the beginning of this post is one from the latter.

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The strict etiquette of Elizabeth Woodville’s churching….

Leo of Rozmital

The Travels of Leo of Rozmital in the 15th century are fascinating, and if you register (free) for a virtual library card here you can read about them for 14 days. You can access up to five books all told.

Between 1465 and 1467 Leo (a Bohemian nobleman and celebrated jouster who died this day in 1486) undertook diplomatic missions for his brother-in-law, the King of Bohemia. He and his companions kept meticulous records of their travels. You can find out more about him here

Anyway, my reason for dipping into his travelling records was to glean all the information I could about travelling in Europe in the medieval period. My year of interest at present is 1394, but nothing much changed between then and the reign of Edward IV. This is how I happened upon the following passage:-

“. . .Edward IV was known for his lavish hospitality, and when the travellers had been luxuriously lodged in an inn, and had been kissed by the hostess and maids, they were formally welcomed by a herald and certain Privy Councillors. They were then given audience of the King and invited to a mighty banquet with sixty dishes, after which the King bestowed collars or badges (symbola) on his guests and knighted certain of them. He would have knighted others, but the honour was declined, perhaps on account of the fees. Later, at court, they saw Elizabeth Woodville churched in great state after the birth of the Princess Elizabeth. Another banquet was prepared, at which Warwick, the King-maker, acted as host, and after this they were conducted to an alcove, which which they watched the Queen at dinner. So strict was court etiquette that even the Queen’s mother and the King’s sisters had to kneel before the Queen while she was at table, and not a word was spoken during the whole meal, which lasted for three hours. Afterwards there was a state ball, at which Margaret of York (soon to be married to Charles the Bold of Burgundy) and other ladies danced. Then music was provided by the King’s choristers, and Tetzel tells us that here, and later at mass he had never heard such fine singing. . .”

I’m sure I can hear some medieval teeth-grinding! Warwick must have had a very fixed smile when it came to Elizabeth Woodville, and while I can imagine her mother, Jacquetta of Luxemburg, kneeling willingly enough to her, I think the King’s sisters would not have been so eager. More fixed smiles and grinding of teeth. Did they have to kneel there at her feet for three long hours? For their knees’ sake, I hope not.

There is a much more detailed description of this occasion between pages 44-49, including a mention of the queen being escorted by “two dukes”. Might these have been Richard and George? It seems the kneeling ladies were spared, being allowed to take their own seats as soon as the first course had been served to the queen. Thank goodness for that. But I’ll bet those of Edward IV’s blood were still not amused.

There is a lot more in this fascinating book—including many anecdotes, naughty and polite—and I recommend registering for a virtual library card. It is also available at Amazon.

Perhaps they should call it …

… “Primary School Challenge”?

According to one of the Cambridge teams on January 9th, Edward IV and Edward V had the same mother. According to Jeremy Paxman, Margaret “Beaufort” was married to the Duke of Burgundy. To be fair, she did marry four times, even though the first was annulled.

Oh dear. Wedunceindexshall have to fine him five points.

The True History of King Richard III (Part 3)

The True History of King Richard III – Part 3

Interlude

It is now time for a little housekeeping and explanation. The political situation between 1455 and 1459 is too boring and complicated to go into here. Suffice it to say that sometimes the Duke of York was in power, and sometimes the Duke of Somerset and Queen Margaret were. Of course, this Somerset was not the one Richard had killed, but his son, who most confusingly had the same title. Similarly King Henry VI was sometimes insane, and sometimes what passed for ‘normal’ in the case of Henry VI. In other words, he wasn’t actually catatonic, and gave the impression that he was merely unworldly, and in fact quite holy. Had he been a friar, he’d quite possibly been made a saint while he still lived, but as a king he was more in the way of an inconvenience, often signing things he was not supposed to sign, and quite frequently granting the same thing to two different people.

Richard had a number of brothers and sisters alive at this time. The eldest was Anne, who was no longer at home being married to the Duke of Exeter. The idea of these arranged marriages was to build alliances with other noble houses, but unfortunately Exeter hated both Anne and her father, the Duke of York. (This is no reflection on Anne or York. as Exeter hated everyone except Lord Egremont, and was always going around annoying people and getting thrown into the Tower.)

The next eldest were Edward and Edmund. Everyone knows Edward, who was later to become King Edward IV. He was very tall and good looking, and all the ladies liked him, so he always got extra chips on his plate when he lined up for dinner. Eventually, as a direct result, he became rather fat. No one knows much about Edmund, though he was probably similar to Edward, but nicer. These two lived in their own establishment, which may have been at Ludlow, where they were mercilessly bullied by a boy named Croft. Or, as they called him, Bonzo. Later this same Croft became a faithful servant, which probably proves something about bullies.

Next was Elizabeth, who was married to the Duke of Suffolk. If you’d met Suffolk in the street, you’d have thought him a moderately prosperous turnip farmer with no more wits than he needed for the job. But he was in fact a duke, and Elizabeth must have loved him as they had lots of babies together.

Then there was Margaret, of whom little needs to be said except that she was exceptionally tall. Had the House of York put out a ladies’ football team, Margaret would have played centre half. Then there was George, who shouted a lot and tried to be a bully. Then Richard himself. These three were in the nominal care of their mother. However the Duchess Cecily was very devout. She spent most of her time kneeling in the chapel, praying for the souls of her deceased children and also praying that she would have no more, just in case it turned out to be a three year pregnancy.

They were not always at Fotheringhay. Sometimes they would move to Ludlow, or to Berkhampstead, or to Baynard’s Castle in London, which must not be confused with Barnard Castle, a place they did not own. Occasionally they even went to Sandal, which is in Yorkshire, although not very deep into the county. Although the Duke of York had ‘York’ in his title, he actually owned very little of Yorkshire. Indeed, much of the county belonged to Henry VI (in his role as Duke of Lancaster) or to various other nasty Lancastrian persons, like Lord Clifford for example. This had been set up just to confuse foreigners.

William Caxton and the Birth of English Printing

caxton 2It is always a pleasure to visit the sumptuous J. Pierpont Morgan Museum and Library located in the Murray Hill section of New York City.  Built in 1906, designed by the esteemed architectural firm of McKim, Meade and White, it is breathtakingly beautiful as well as a unique source of medieval riches, housing one of the smallest yet select collection of illuminated manuscripts and medieval art.  Every once in a while, the curators dip into this archival treasure trove and fish out something that makes spending the exorbitant exhibition costs well worth it!  This year, they have given us a tiny but interesting group of printed manuscripts from the late 15th century produced in Ghent and London from the printing press of English merchant and diplomat, William Caxton.  Caxton came twenty years after Johann Gutenberg but apparently wasted no time learning the craft and using his knowledge of English, Latin and French to produce key works of literature, ranging from the Bible to Chaucer and Malory, an early encyclopedia as well as the first illustrated English book, “The Mirror of the World” published in 1481.

In this, of course, he was helped along by those highly intelligent royals – The Plantagenets – starting with Margaret of York (Duchess of Burgundy) who patronized the finest book artists in Europe.  On display is one of her illuminated manuscripts called “Apocalypse” written or translated by the scribe, David Aubert, and published in 1475.

caxton 3William Caxton Lunette, Morgan Library

In 1476, probably encouraged by Margaret,Caxton set up a press at Westminster Abby with illustrious clients such as Earl Rivers and the future Richard the Third.  Sadly, while much emphasis is placed on Margaret’s and Edward IV’s encouragement of Caxton, there is no mention of Richard the Third in the exhibit. As Ricardians know, Richard had a library of his own and was a great champion of the English language as well as a patron of Caxton.  Two books on display – one an unusual Canterbury Tales with woodcuttings and a volume simply called”The Royal Book,” a much-used edition with a leather embossed cover and rubricated lettering, date directly from his reign (1483).

caxtonThe Canterbury Tales, 1483

Perhaps the most interesting, and certainly the most intimate exhibit is a printed indulgence from the workshop of Caxton requesting that Richard Hopton, headmaster of Eton College, be forgiven for promoting war against the Ottomans. Included is the papal seal of Pope Innocent VIII – a blood-red wax replica of what looks like a mitre worn by a bishop. The seal was so carefully broken that it retains a perfect shape.

Perhaps the most important takeaway of this exhibition is Caxton’s work to help stabilize the English language by promoting one dialect – the so-called London dialect – which went on to form the basis of modern English.

The Exhibition last through September 20, 2015.

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