It is a fact that there have only ever been two English queens of France. We’ve had a few French queens, of course.
The two we sent over there, Eadgifu, daughter of Edward the Elder, and Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VII, were both offspring of men who seized the throne:-
” . . . .Mary’s dad was Henry VII who as plain old Henry Tudor turned up at Bosworth in August 1485 and captured the crown of England from Richard III in one of the most famous battles in history. Her mother was Elizabeth of York who had a better claim to the throne than Henry but who ended up consort rather than regnant when the victor of Bosworth married her after establishing his own hold on power first . . .
“ . . . .Eadgifu was the daughter of Edward the Elder who became King of England in 899 on the death of his very famous father, Alfred the Great. But despite the unifying work done by Alfred, Edward still had to battle for the crown as his cousin – son of Alfred’s older brother Aethelread – also reckoned he was king. But within a few years, Edward was in control and had even expanded his power. Eadgifu was his first child by his second wife, Aelfflaed, who married him in the same year he became king . . . .”
If you read this article you will be able to read a lot more about these two ladies.
But I fear I cannot help a parting Yorkist snarl about Henry VII. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. He only won at Bosworth because Richard III was betrayed. What honour is there in THAT??? None. The Tudors’ power was based on treachery, and the fact that Henry spent his reign needing his back watched night and day (by his own personal bodyguards, no less) was no more than the wretch deserved. I just wish they’d failed in their duty!
Updated post @ sparkypus.com A Medieval Potpourri https://sparkypus.com/2020/05/14/elizabeth-of-york-her-privy-purse-expenses/
Henry Vll and his children in mourning for Elizabeth of York. An idealised presentation of Henry. His children , Margaret and Mary sitting in front of the fire while a young Henry weeps into his mother’s empty bed. From the Vaux Passional, a 15th century manuscript.
And so on this day Elizabeth gave birth to her son Arthur. Arthur’s life was destined to be short and he died on 2 April 1502. And so the fickle wheel of fortune turned once more with Arthur’s parents feeling the same pain, despair and shock that are recorded as having engulfed Richard lll and his Queen, Anne Neville on the death of their small son Edward. Perhaps Henry’s pain was cushioned somewhat by the knowledge that he had a spare heir, Henry Jnr.
Elizabeth is often quoted as having said, an in attempt to comfort Henry that they were young enough to have another child. (1) Whether she said this or not – how would such a personal conversation be known to others? – as sure as eggs are eggs, Elizabeth did indeed become pregnant soon after , a pregnancy that we all know resulted in her death. So thus in another strange coincidence Henry also lost his wife a few short months after the death of their son as did Richard.
Elizabeth’s bronze effigy on her tomb, Westminster Abbey, Torrigiano
It is said by some that Henry’s and Elizabeth’s marriage was a happy one, they both growing to love one another over the years. Alternatively you will read that she was considered by some to have been kept subservient and that Henry was not uxorious. You will have to form your own opinions over that one dear reader. Either way she has my sympathy with regard to her mother-in-law, the formidable Margaret Beaufort, to whom Henry remained close. Indeed a certain yeoman of the crown John Hewyk ‘grumbled that he would have spoken more to the Queen had it not been for that strong whore, the King’s mother ‘.(2) with a Spanish observer writing that ‘she is kept in subjection by the mother of the king. (3). However there are some examples that demonstrate that Elizabeth was not entirely a push over nor totally ‘eclipsed’ by her mother-in-law Rosemary Horrox gives us one such example where a Welsh tenant appealed to Elizabeth over an injustice involving the king’s uncle, Jasper Tudor, which led to Elizabeth ‘responding with a firm letter to the said Jasper. (4) Bravo Elizabeth!
Portrait by an unknown artist c 1503
Although much has been written about her death and funeral , and I won’t go into that here, interesting as it is, nothing much is known about her personal feelings towards her husband, the demise of the House of York, the treatment of her mother, Elizabeth Wydeville, and her ‘retirement’ in to Bermondsey Abbey, the fates of her brothers or the identity of Perkin Warbeck. However her Privy Purse Account have survived and perhaps some thing of her nature and true feelings may be gleaned from them.
Sir Nicholas Harris Nicholas, writing in 1830, was editor of The Privy Purse Expenses which also include a memoir. Sir Nicholas seems to have been a little in love with Elizabeth, whose motto was ‘Humble and Reverent’ attributing to her ‘most if not all of the virtues which adorn the female character’. He notes that her expenses consist chiefly of rewards to persons who brought her presents with often the reward being of greater value. ‘Nothing was too contemptible to be received, nor was any person deemed too humble..Among the articles presented to Elizabeth were fish, fruit, fowls, puddings, tripe, a crane, woodcocks, a popinjay, quails and other birds, pork, rabbit, Llanthony cheeses, pease cods, cakes, a wild boar, malmsey wine, flowers, chiefly roses, bucks, sweetmeats, rose water, a cushion, and a pair of clarycords’. All the bearers of these gifts would never go away empty handed.
There were disbursements for servants wages, for preparing her apartments when she removed from one place to another, which she did frequently, for conveying her clothes and necessary furniture, for messengers, for the repairs of her barge and the pay of the bargemen, for her chairs and litters, the purchase of household articles, for silks, damasks, satins, cloth of gold, velvet, linen, gowns, kirtles, petticoats for her own use or for the ladies she maintained; for jewellery, trappings for horses, furs, gold chains and for the charges of her stables and greyhounds; for the support of her sister Lady Katherine Courtney and her children, including the burial of some of them; for the clothing and board of her Fool, gambling debts and so much more. Sir Nicholas notes that ‘her Majesties revenue was not adequate to cover all these demands and she was ‘not infrequently obliged to borrow money’. A look at Henry’s Privy Purse accounts shows that he, perhaps being a good egg or because it was the least he could do under the circumstances, frequently bailed his wife out although it was expected these loans were to be repaid.
The accounts which cover the last year of Elizabeth’s life are too detailed to go into her but I list here a few :
MAY 1502 Item to Frary Clerc of St Johns for the buryeng of the men that were hanged at Wapping mylne 8 shillings
There are several examples of money being given to servants of her father, King Edward, who had perhaps fallen on hard times such as ;
JUNE 1502 Item ..and to a pore man in aulmouse somtyme being a servant of King Edwards IV 2s. 4d. as well as cloth to a woman who had been nurse to her brothers –
Help was also given to people who had served other members of her family :
DECEMBER 1502 item 3 yards of cloth delivered by commandment of the Queen to a woman what was ‘norice’ to the Princes brothers to the Queen grace
DECEMBER 1502 Item to a man of ‘Poynfreyt saying himself to lodge in his house Therl Ryvers in tyme of his death in almous 12 shillings’
For herself, other than her gambling debts , Elizabeth seemed to keep an eye on the purse strings with numerous mentions of her gowns being repaired.
DECEMBER 1502 item to the Quenes grace upon the Feest of St Stephen for hure disport at cardes this Cristmas 100 s.
She appeared to wear a lot of black during the period these accounts cover when presumably the court were in mourning for Arthur – an example being
NOVEMBER 1502 Item ..to Henry Bryan for 17 yards of black velvet for a gown for the Queen at 10 shillings 6d the yard. 13 yards of black satin delivered to Johnson for a riding gown and a yard of black velvet for an edge and cuffs for the same gown. Item black bokeram for lining of the same gown, sarcenet for ‘fentes’ for the same gown and an elle of canvas for lining of the same gown – although on a lighter note in
JUNE 1502 Item ..to William Antyne coper smyth for spangelles settes square sterrys dropes and pointes after silver and gold for garnisshing of jakettes against the disguysing lvj viiij d.
AUGUST 1502 ..to my Lady Verney for money by hur delivered by commaundement of the Queen to Fyll the Kinges paynter in reward 3s. 4d. Item to John Reynold payntour for making of divers beestes and othere pleasires for the Quene at Windsore 10 s.
A short, interesting appraisal of Elizabeth including her expenses were included by Ann Wrote in her biography of Perkin Warbeck. ‘The queen seems to have been a gentle passive creature. Her world was one of frugally mended gowns, whicker baskets and works of charity. She had little money of her own her allowance being one eighth of the king’s and she often gave it away. On Maundy Thursday she distributed new shoes to poor women but her own shoes cost no more than 12d each and had cheap latten buckles…Ayala writing in 1498 thought her’ beloved because she is powerless’ and believed as many did that her formidable mother in law kept her in subjection. Although Margaret Beaufort showed her kindness she was undoubtedly a stronger character. A citizen of Nottingham once tried to speak to Elizabeth when she visited that city, their pleasant conversation was stopped by that ‘strong whore’, Henry’s mother, and Elizabeth acquiesced’ .(5)
Later it is poignant to read about the costs of trying, vainly, to save her life when she was stricken after giving birth to her last child, Katherine.
‘Itm To James Nattres for his costes going into Kent for Doctour Hallysworth phesicon to comme to the Quene by the Kinges commaundement. Furst for his bote hyre from the Towre to Gravys ende and again iiij s, iiij d. Itm to twoo watermen abiding at Gravys ende unto suche tyme the said James came again for theire expenses viij d. Itm for horse hyre and to guydes by night and day ij s.iij d.and for his awe expenses xvj d.’
Elizabeth’s midwife Alice Massy was not forgotten; her wages being 12 shillings.
And thus Elizabeth, with exemplary timing, died on the anniversary of her birthday, 11 February. Its said that Henry took her death badly and it would seem that his behaviour and attitudes took a turn for the worse after he had been widowed but that is another story. Perhaps theirs was not a passionate love, duty having bound them together, but I do get the impression from their Privy Purse accounts that they did rub along together quite nicely.
Three series of this Canale Plus production, showing a charismatic Louis XIV (George Blagden) decreeing a new palace outside Paris, have now been shown in the UK and it seems that a fourth will not now be made. It has much in common with “The Tudors ” in that it has been enjoyable from a dramatic perspective, broadcast after the watershed, allowing for many scenes of “horizontal jogging” and there has been some adjustment to the historical record. Whilst “The Tudors” conflated Henry VIII’s sisters Margaret and Mary, marrying her to the King of Portugal and not those of Scotland and France, among other crimes against history, “Versailles” has just gone further.
Perhaps the producers have been reading the research of Kathryn Warner and Ian Mortimer but the Man in the Iron Mask, who was almost certainly a valet named Eustache Dauger, is the King’s father and predecessor by the same forename, Louis XIII, about forty years after his witnessed death. They have also shuffled historic events such that Louis XIV’s niece marries Carlos II, Spain’s last Habsburg King, in 1679 AFTER Louis’ first wife Maria Theresa died in 1683 – indeed Cardinals refer to her death in discussing Carlos’ marriage plans, however they made better work of “l’affaire des poisons”, culminating in the burning of “la Voisin” at the end of series two (1680). Blagden appears to have a similar build to Meyers, although the latter was surely too thin to portray Henry VIII, as he moves the court to a new location southwest of Paris.
Interestingly, the BBC followed the first two series with a five-minute “Inside Versailles” slot with Kate Williams and other historians.
Well, my opinion only, of course, but where are John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford/de Roët? I don’t believe his first wife, Blanche, was his greatest love. That honour went to Katherine, for love of whom he went to extraordinary lengths, enduring scandal and opprobrium, but eventually making her his third duchess. And managing to legitimize his Beaufort children by her.
As for Edward II and Piers Gaveston. No, they don’t warrant inclusion, I’m afraid. Not because it was gay, but because it became dangerously spiteful, petty, posturing and not a little ridiculous. It ultimately destroyed all concerned. Then Edward II showed even less judgement by moving on to the dreadful Despensers. There was nothing great or romantic about his conduct in allowing his favourites such enormous power. I find his reign fascinating, but always want to shake him until his royal teeth rattle.
Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn? Hmm. That gross man always thought with his codpiece, not his heart. The same goes for his maternal grandfather, Edward IV, the contents of whose codpiece appear to be overactive in the extreme.
Katherine of Valois and Owen Tudor? I have grave misgivings about this one. I believe she was more interested in Edmund Beaufort, 4th Earl of Somerset, and that when she became pregnant and he wouldn’t/couldn’t marry her, lowly Owen Tudor was hastily drummed up to “do the honours” of claiming to be the unborn child’s father. Maybe Owen already had a good and understanding relationship with Katherine? This might have made him acceptable to her in her hour of need. I may be wildly wrong about this, of course, but (once again) it’s my opinion.
Edward III and Philippa of Hainault? Yes. The Black Prince and Joan of Kent? Yes. Richard, Duke of York, and Cecily Neville? Yes. Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon? Yes. Edward I and Eleanor of Castile? Yes.
Who else is missing, apart from Katherine Swynford? Well, Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. Theirs was another political royal match, but they fell deeply in love. He was utterly distraught when she died suddenly.
Richard III and Anne Neville? George of Clarence and Isabel Neville? I think both couples are strong contenders. Whatever else may be said, about the brothers only wanting the Warwick inheritance, and so on, it seems to be an irrefutable fact that the Neville sisters won their York husbands’ hearts. Maybe it can be argued that their father’s inheritance was a great big carrot to both men, but the fondness/love that eventually came into being was real enough. Both men were heartbroken by their wives’ deaths, and George could not cope with Isabel’s loss. Richard, perhaps stronger emotionally, was equally as broken, but did not fall apart as George had done. Am I misjudging these marriages as well? No. I stick to my opinion!
No doubt, you will stick to yours too!
Two miles from Edenbridge in Kent lies the small but attractive castle of Hever. Originally built in 1270, it was taken over 1462 by Geoffrey Bullen (or Boleyn) younger brother of Thomas Boleyn , Master of Gonville Hall, a constituent college of Cambridge. Geoffrey had a son called William and he in turn fathered Thomas Boleyn, who was probably born at Hever.
Thomas inherited the castle in 1505 and lived there with his wife, Elizabeth Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard Duke of Norfolk and his wife, Elizabeth Tilney (making her the granddaughter of John Howard who fought for Richard III at Bosworth.) At Hever, Thomas and Elizabeth had five children, two daughters, Mary and Anne, and three sons, Thomas, Henry and George, although two sons died young, and the last was eventually executed by Henry VIII.
Thomas is sometimes seen a ruthless social climber willing to do anything to further his ambitions through his daughters (and so he might have been), but he was also quite a notable person before his daughter Anne became involved with Henry VIII. He had escorted Mary Tudor to her wedding to James IV of Scotland and was created a Knight of the Bath at Henry VIII’s Coronation, long before Anne and Henry’s relationship. He also became Sheriff of Kent twice and served as an occasional foreign ambassador. He was made Lord Privy Seal during Henry’s marriage to Anne, but upon her fall and execution, this position was stripped from him, and he died in disgrace in 1538.
He was buried in St Peter’s church in Hever, in a Purbeck marble chest tomb which has upon it one of the finest Tudor era brasses in existence. On the brass, still bright and unworn, Thomas wears his Garter robes and regalia, and a falcon, crest of the Boleyn family, is carved above his right shoulder. Near his tomb is the grave of one of his sons, Henry, who died in infancy—a humble brass cross on the floor marks the spot. Both lie in the Boleyn chantry, near an unusual feature for any church—a fireplace—which was added in sometime during the Tudor period.
(The church also contains another beautiful medieval brass well worth viewing, that of Margaret Cheyne, who died in 1419. It shows great detail of Margaret’s dress and headgear, and two winged angels hover at her shoulders.)
It is worth noting that the pleasant old inn across the road from St Peters, now called The Henry VIII, was originally called The Bull, a play on the name Bullen/Boleyn. Later, local folklore says, it was changed to ‘The Bull and the Butcher’ in reference to Henry’s execution of Anne.
An interesting view on Thomas Boleyn, whose character has been increasing damned in fiction and TV/Film: https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/in-defence-of-thomas-boleyn-father-of-anne-boleyn/
St Mary’s, Fairford, Gloucestershire. ‘A complete and perfect Perpendicular church’ and famous for it fine collection of medieval glass.
Described in Betjeman’s Best British Churches as ‘a complete and perfect Perpendicular’ church(1) this beautiful wool church was rebuilt by John Tame, a wool merchant from Gloucester , in the late 15th Century to replace a much older church. The tower had already been rebuilt by Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick and Lord of the manor around 1430. St Mary’s possesses a complete set of medieval stained glass, amongst the finest in England and it is this glass that I want to focus on now. The glass was made between 1500 and 1517 and, other than the west window, which was severely damaged in a storm in 1703 and later restored, the glass has somehow miraculously survived, although how this has happened remains a mystery. It has been suggested it has survived because of the royal portraits contained in them. The windows are thought to have been a gift from Henry Vll himself. It should be remembered that when Henry had the young Edward Earl of Warwick executed in 1499 he seized his estates which included Fairford. It has also been suggested that Henry may have then given the manor to Prince Arthur whose badge of ostrich feathers and motto appear in some of the windows and one of the portraits is thought to have been modelled up his wife, Katherine of Aragon. Thirty years after Arthur’s death Henry Vlll presented Fairford manor to Katherine of Aragon after he had divested her of her title of queen. The portraits are mostly members of the Tudor royal family and influential people in the Tudor court although one of them is thought to be of a Plantagenet, that of Henry’s brother-in-law, the young Edward of Westminster, one of the ‘princes in the Tower’ Other portraits were modelled on Henry himself, obviously, his wife Elizabeth of York, Catherine of Aragon, Prince Arthur, Henry’s daughters Mary and Margaret and a young Henry Vlll and last but not least Margaret Beaufort (2) I also think its possible that one of them is based on Richard lll, but that is purely my own speculation.
Nave, north aisle, north Window. The figure of the Queen of Sheba is believed to be a likeness of Elizabeth of York
Chancel, north chapel, Lady Chapel, North window. Jesus as a small boy in the temple modelled on a young Henry Vlll possibly.
Holbein’s sketch of Henry Vlll as a child to compare
Nave,north aisle, west window. The figure of Solomon is thought to have been modelled on Edward of Westminster, one of the ‘princes in the Tower’ and brother to Elizabeth of York
Nave, north aisle, west window. Could this figure be Morton? It has been described as Wolsey but I disagree.
A wooden boss on the roof of Bere Regis church thought to represent Morton in comparison.
Chancel, south chapel, Corpus Christi Chapel, east window. This version of the Virgin Mary is believed to have been modelled on Mary Tudor, Henry Vll’s daughter. See picture below to compare likenesses.
A portrait of Mary Tudor to compare to her likeness in the above portrait of her at Fairford.
Nave, West Window. The figure with the crown is thought to be that of Henry Vll entering Heaven.
Chancel, north chapel, Lady Chapel, north window. The Magus is believed to have been modelled on Prince Arthur.
Chancel, north chapel, Lady Chapel, north window. Two royal likenesses here. It it thought that the Virgin Mary was modelled after Catherine of Aragon while that of the attendant with the doves is modelled on Margaret Tudor, Henry Vll’s daughter. Could the lady in red be modelled on Margaret Beaufort?
Two kings here..Henry Vl on the left and Henry Vll on the right.
Purely my speculation here but could the warrior holding the severed head be a Tudor representation of King Richard lll? For surely one shoulder has been depicted higher than the other one!
I am indepted to the excellent Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi online for these images
(1) Sir John Betjeman, updated by Richard Surman, Betjeman’s Best British Churches p.270
(2) Sir Nickolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England, Gloucestershire 1. The Cotswolds, p367
“Hearne’s Fragment” is a relatively little-known source on late fifteenth century England. It is mysterious in origin, missing in part and not entirely accurate in detail, perhaps using old-style years?
To begin with, it gives Edward IV’s birth year as 1440 and errs in those of his brothers as well, although there is another possible explanation for this. It describes Edward’s early life and first reign at some length but says little about Richard’s “constitutional election” (Gairdner) and reign. It also relates how history is being destroyed and rewritten during Henry VII’s reign (Chapter 16): “Oftimes it is seen that divers there are, the which foresee not the causes precedent and subsequent; for the which they fall many times into such error, that they abuse themselves and also others, their successors, giving credence to such as write of (from) affection, (partiality) leaving the truth that was in deed. Wherefore, in avoiding all such inconveniences, my purpose is, and shall be, [as touching the life of King Edward the Fourth] to write and shew those and such things, the which I have heard of his own mouth. And also in part of such things, in the which I have been personally present, as well within the realm as without, during a certain space, most especially from the year of our Lord 1468 unto the year of our Lord 1482, in the which the forenamed King Edward departed from this present life.”
This source writes about Hearne’s Fragment and names the most likely writer: Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk. Thomas Howard was born in 1443 and served the Yorkist cause from before the 1469 rebellion. He was given the courtesy title of Earl of Surrey in 1483 and accompanied his father to Bosworth, after which he was imprisoned but restored only to the Earldom in 1489 to undertake various diplomatic duties, such as attending the new King’s daughter’s marriage to James IV. Ironically, he led the English army at Flodden only ten years later, when James was the principal casualty, and was rewarded with the restoration of the family Duchy. He died in 1424 but not before accompanying Henry VIII’s other sister to France for her wedding and presiding over Buckingham’s trial.
As for the absence of material about Richard’s reign, the explanation is surely obvious?
After we left Moyse’s Hall Museum, we wanted to visit St Mary’s Church, as we knew there was a wedding going on at the Cathedral. However, when we arrived, the church was closed a s a service was going on for the WI. By this time the bells of the Cathedral were ringing indicating the wedding was over and so we trooped back there for a while.
The stained glass windows were impressive as well as the font which is gigantic, and we found a tapestry depicting King Henry VI visiting the shrine of St Edmund in 1433.
I was pleased to see that the floral decorations included white roses. The cathedral was previously St James Church and became a Cathedral in 1914.
We then tried out luck again at St Mary’s and this time managed to get in and see the tomb of Mary Tudor (she of the lock of hair). It is right at the far left part of the church, but is clearly marked.
In addition there was the tomb of one William Carewe who fought at the Battle of Stoke and was subsequently knighted by Henry VII.
All in all a thoroughly good time was had and we learned a lot.
The Mid-Anglia branch of the Richard III Society descended on Bury St Edmunds on Saturday the 12th September. We were lucky enough to have another brilliantly sunny day with no sign of rain and met up in Starbuck’s just across from our first and main objective, the Moyse’s Hall Museum.
This museum is housed in an ancient building dating from the time of the Town’s namesake, Edmund, who was king of England in the ninth century. Our knowledgeable guide, Alex, enthralled us with his tales of years gone by, beginning with Edmund himself. The ‘Bury’ in the town’s name has nothing to do with burying Edmund, but rather is another form of ‘burgh’, meaning ‘town’. The town began as a shrine to St Edmund, who in 869/70 was captured and killed by the Danish Vikings who were in the habit of invading England at that time. They tied him to a tree and shot him with arrows before beheading him. When his men arrived they found his body, but no sign of his head. As they were about to give up the search, they heard a voice calling: “Hic! Hic!” the Latin for “Here! Here!” and, following it, they found a wolf keeping guard on Edmund’s lost head. He was made a saint and his resting place became a shrine. Thus, also, began the wolf legend and it is still referred to today since, for the weekend, they had laid a ‘Wolf Trail’ around the town for visitors to follow. There is a skull of a wolf or dog found in the area, which is one of many found there and this adds to the legend.
St Edmund’s shrine grew into an abbey, and the town grew up around it since the abbey provided employment, spiritual aid, etc. The abbey owned a lot of land thereabouts and the town was very important. This was probably partly because St Edmund was then England’s patron saint. In fact it was so important that, on a mediaeval European map of the known world the only two places shown in England were London and Bury St Edmunds.
Some of the architecture in the building itself even dates back that far and there are other sections of the building which have architecture from differing periods, providing a great tour through the ages.
One of the highlights of the tour was the ‘Crime’ section featuring a gibbet, a metal human-shaped cage in which criminals were displayed as a deterrent to others. However, apparently, the punishment wasn’t that you were placed in there until you died of thirst because it was after you were executed (usually by hanging), that your body would be displayed there. The extra punishment was the knowledge that your body would be dissected afterwards by surgeons or your bones scattered. This meant that you would be unable to go to heaven. Moyse’s Hall Museum is unique in that it possesses a photo of the skeleton (still in the gibbet) of a man executed for murdering his sister – the said photo is displayed beside the very same gibbet!
Further on there is an exhibit of various objects associated with witchcraft, such as mummified cats (probably locked up alive within a wall to so its spirit would guard the house), shoes (used the same way), ‘voodoo’ type dolls and various other witchy paraphernalia.
Next came the notorious Red Barn murder. William Corder was accused of murdering his lover, Maria Marten, having been found out because her stepmother had a dream which showed where Maria was buried – in the Red Barn. The defendant said she had committed suicide, but the jury didn’t believe him and he was hanged. He was so hated that he was taken to his execution by an inside route to avoid the baying crowds. But the story didn’t end there; several death masks were made afterwards, one on display in the museum, as well as a death mask used for the study of his skull by phrenologists. His skin was tanned and used to bind a book (an account of the murder), which is one of the exhibits. Our guide Alex, did not believe that all was as it seemed and felt Corder had been harshly judged.
There was an exhibit on trade, and following on from that was the most interesting for a Ricardian, a lock of hair belonging to Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York and sister to Henry VIII.
She was the niece of the ‘princes’ and therefore Richard’s great niece. There were also some 15th century wood carvings and a beautiful old fifteenth century deed chest.
Up the stairs, which was devoted to one of the largest collections of Mary Beale paintings, would be found a room dedicated to the Suffolk Regiment through the years, with life-size, realistic mannequins of soldiers in different style uniforms, depending on the time and whether it was preferable to stand out from the crowd or blend in. They wore red when they wanted to stand out and be recognised by their own fellow soldiers, but when the sniper became common that was understandably changed and camouflage became the norm..
There was an exhibit of clothing and more paintings, and finally a room full of clocks and watches. Some of these were very intricate and exquisitely beautiful, and many were very rare examples. Alex told us that there had been a theft of some of them from the place where they were previously kept and that they would have no doubt been stolen to order by a collector as all the dealers would have recognised them for what they were.
It is a huge place and has many interesting exhibits from the time of Edmund himself right up until the present day; over 1000 years of history. We were there for one and half hours and the time flew by as our guide, Alex, was so interesting.
All in all a thoroughly good time was had and we learned a lot.