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Richard III and the Pharaoh….?

Pharaoh Djedefre and King Richard III

Last night I settled down to watch a two-hour documentary I’d recorded from the History Channel. No, it wasn’t about Richard III, or even the English medieval period, but about the Fourth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. Specifically about the discovery of the long-fabled fourth pyramid, some five miles from Giza: here Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find the actual documentary anywhere on line, but no doubt it’s lurking somewhere.

To read more about the pyramid, go to this article.

The documentary was very interesting, but why am I mentioning it here? Because the pharaoh who built it, Djedefre, was the most maligned and ignored of the dynasty. (Sound familiar?)

Born the son of the mighty Khufu, he came to the throne on the death of his brother – a death for which he he was afterward damned as a murderer. (Echoes of boys in the Tower?) Modern(ish) historians leapt to accuse him, and to claim that he was untrue to his father, vicious and hated, and was murdered in turn by his other brother some eight years later. Oh, and there was the incest, of course. He married his dead brother’s queen, who also happened to be their sister. Well, Djedefre didn’t invent that sort of thing, Egyptian pharaohs did it all the time! They thought it kept their bloodline pure. We know that it kept their bloodline all sorts of things, none of them beneficial, but they didn’t have the benefit of our modern knowledge. (Richard III’s so-called intention to commit incest with his niece Elizabeth of York was more storytelling by Henry Tudor’s agents. And as for claims that his marriage to Anne Neville was all manner of vile and illegal things…I wish the culprit historians could be made to eat their own words.)

Oh, those historians have a lot to answer for, because excavations at the site of the fourth pyramid have revealed that Djedefre was a very different man, loyal, dutiful and determined. (Even more familiar?) He was a good ruler for twenty-three years (not eight!) who was greatly mourned after death. And no, the pyramid he built wasn’t pulled down by the people because they loathed him. (That’s the historians’ version!) it was ransacked for stone by the later Roman invaders and has been steadily denuded over the intervening centuries so that today it’s little more than a heap of rubble.

So, now perhaps you see why I’m posting this. Like Richard III, Djedefre has been greatly wronged by biased historians who are eager to paint the blackest picture imaginable. The Tudor spirit lived on in these historians, and with it all the Tudor fabrications.

The ghosts and urban legends of Scarborough….

 

King Richard III’s House, Scarborough
Photo: Max Payne Collection. Copyright: jpimedia

To the best of my knowledge I’ve never seen a ghost, although when I was six/seven and living near Castle Archdale on the shores of Lough Erne in County Fermanagh, our landlady’s dog, named Master Dash, sat on the steps outside the great house (no longer there) and howled. He was a soft old dog, would do anything, go anywhere, never turned nasty…but he would not go inside. He stayed there on the steps howling until we left again. My father told me the dog had probably seen the Grey/White Lady, who was known to haunt the place. That’s all I have to offer in the way of ghostly experiences, and I don’t know to this day whether Master Dash simply didn’t want to go inside, just go home for his dinner!

Anyway, this article concerns the fifteen or so  ghosts or urban legends associated with Scarborough. Number 4 on the list is King Richard III’s House, of which it says: “….The apparition of a woman has been seen several times over the years at the King Richard III house – now a restaurant – which has stood on Scarborough’s South Bay for centuries….”

Well, I don’t doubt that I could go there every day for a year and the spectral woman wouldn’t appear to me. Master Dash would know, of course, but then he’s a ghostly dog now, so I probably wouldn’t hear him howling either!

All bones tell a story – but not all a tale as amazing as Richard III’s….

Because of Richard III, and all that could be accurately gleaned from his remains, it is now very interesting to read of other cases where bones give up fascinating details.

This article describes a grisly discovery on an Orkney beach. How old might it be? I quote:

“….The world leading forensic bone scientist heads a Glasgow University team that can tell the age of a body from a tiny fragment.

“….His Glasgow University labs at the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre in East Kilbride can identify the remains of the recently murdered to others who died up to 50,000 years ago.

“….After tests, he could tell the island police the arm found on Burray Sands had been around for almost 3,000 years….”

More recent remains in Manchester were of a young woman of 18-24, murdered between 1969 and 1974. In spite of discovering that she was Caucausian with possible African ancestry, and between 5ft 3in and 5ft 6in tall, police are still no closer to identifying her.

So it doesn’t matter whether remains are modern or ancient, they can all tell a story. But the chances of finding someone of such importance as Richard III are very small indeed, so we Ricardians must never lose sight of the fact that we are very fortunate indeed to have him back!

Medieval monks often lacked all trace of holiness….

It is a fact that the medieval Church was ruthless in its acts and ambitions. We all know of particular popes, cardinals and archbishops who would stop at nothing to achieve their own personal and political ends, but it came as a surprise to me to discover just how brutal the Church could be on a purely local level.

Bury St Edmunds Abbey Church

Here are two anecdotes about the ‘holiness’ of medieval monks. Firstly, the Benedictines:-

“….On Sunday, 18th October, 1327, the monks of the abbey of Bury St Edmunds ended their prayers, filed out through the abbey’s crenelated gate and proceeded to the parish church, which was full of men, women and children. The monks then threw off their habits—revealing that some of them wore armour under their robes—and burst into the church. They seized a number of citizens by force and dragged them back to the abbey as prisoners….

“….Sometime later the townsfolk assembled at the abbey to demand the prisoners’ release. The monks replied with a hail of missiles, killing a large number of people. Later in the day the town bells summoned a larger party of armed men including aldermen, burgesses, a parson and 28 chaplains, who all took a solemn oath to live or die together. They then set fire to the gates and stormed the abbey….”

Why the monks wanted prisoners is not explained

Byland Abbey, North Yorkshire

Next, the Cistercians:-

“….Walter [Map] was an itinerant justice, and he always exempted Cistercians from his oath to do justice to all men since, he said, ‘It was absurd to do justice to those who are just to none’. This was not a joke; Map’s reports of Cistercian atrocities are extraordinary. For example, he says that the monks of Byland once wanted land belonging to a knight who would not give it up to them. One night they entered his house, ‘muffled up and armed with swords and spears’, and murdered him and his family. A relative, hearing of the death, arrived three days later to find that all the buildings and enclosures had disappeared and in their place was a well-ploughed field.*”

* From Edward Coleman, ‘Nasty Habits – Satire and the Medieval Monk’, History Today, volume 43, issue 6, June 1993, pp 36-42.

These shocking incidents are hardly compatible with a devout life of worship, contemplation and doing good, and certainly cast the entire Church in a shabby light. If there is a problem at the top, there is usually a problem at the bottom as well.

I think we can largely forget the fat, jovial monk of popular belief!

 

A list of unsolved historical mysteries…yes, including the boys in the Tower….

Would YOU trust youthful rivals for the throne to THIS man?

Here is another list of unsolved mysteries from the past. Yes, Richard and his nephews crop up again. Did he? Didn’t he? Well, it’s suggested that Henry VII was the more likely culprit. Hooray! I mean, look at the fellow. I wouldn’t believe a word he said! And he certainly had more reason than Richard III to dispose of those inconvenient boys.

Other, more recent, cases include Jack the Ripper, Amelia Earhart and “Dr.” Hawley Crippen

A fleeting trick of the eye….

Forensics - collage

Occasionally, an image glimpsed quickly on TV appears to be something it is not. This happened to me when I first saw the TV trailer for the series Catching History’s Criminals: the Forensics Story on the Yesterday channel.

Being inured to the old, old propaganda that Richard III was the first criminal in all Creation, predating Satan himself, the black-and-white image I glimpsed—very briefly, and then only in close-up—appeared to be the one that went the rounds when Richard’s skull was used to re-create his true appearance. The one where the skull had his NPG portrait superimposed. So, I watched the programme, fully expecting another biased item that condemned him for the boys in the Tower, etc. etc.

Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be nothing of the sort. It wasn’t even about Richard! It was about a woman, Isabella Ruxton, who was murdered in the 1930s. The picture shown was, like the one of Richard, her skull superimposed on her photograph. The pose was the same as Richard’s, but the thing that spooked me initially, was the left eye. It seemed so like Richard’s left eye in the NPG portrait that I really was convinced Isabella was Richard.

Forensics - Richard III and Isabella Ruxton

Maybe it does not seem so evident to you but, to me, that fleeting out-of-the-blue glimpse on a TV screen was very convincing.

 

Murder and mayhem in medieval London…

UPDATED POST ON sparkypus.com A Medieval Potpourri https://sparkypus.com/2020/05/22/murder-and-mayhem-in-medieval-london/

IMG_5516.jpgHere is a link to an interesting map and article on the murder hotspots of medieval London.  Click on a dot and details pop up of that particular murder.

Most of the culprits either just simply disappeared pronto or skedaddled into sanctuary and  frustratingly the outcomes are not shown.  The vast majority of the victims were male,  sadly one a small  child,  John de Burgh, aged 5 years old who died after being ‘cuffed’ after he stole a small amount of wool which he had hidden under his hat.    One of the more audacious was the murder of the gatekeeper of Newgate Gaol, Nicholas at Mill, who was stabbed to death by two men who broke into Newgate to do so.

Its seems you were quite vulnerable if you were a clerk in holy orders, several of them being bumped off.  Although priests seemed to be susceptible to ending up as murder victims  they could actually give as good as they got with one priest, Alan de Hacford murdering Walter de Anne, the man he shared his lover, Alice de York with,  after finding Walter and Alice sitting together.  For reasons unknown Alice aided and abetted Alan, the pair of them fleeing afterwards.

IMG_5517.jpg

Loud music then as now could lead to altercations with fatal results.   In May 1324, Thomas Somer,  a minstrel.   incensed Thomas of Lynn, by playing outside his home after dusk.  The householder Thomas chased Somer intending to bash him with a door-bar.  After Thomas caught Somer and struck him, the musician pulled out a knife and fatally injured Thomas.

IMG_5518 2.jpg 

In this picture its the turn of musician to get it…

A few of the culprits were female including a fishmonger stabbed to death by his mistress.  Surprisingly she didn’t batter him to death  with a piece of cod!… joking.. .. while another woman, a prostitute by the name of Agnes ‘Houdy Doudy’ killed another woman, Lucy,  the pregnant wife of Richard de Barstaple, by ‘striking her on the belly with fists and knees’.  Yet another woman, a beggar known as Nicola from Cardiff,  drowned her 3 month old baby,  Alice,  while ‘surreptitiously pretending to wash the child’ in a ditch.

Reasons for people getting murdered varied quite a bit from a suicidal man, John Pentyn,  bashing his would be rescuer over the head  with an iron stave to Roger Styward,  who as a result of throwing eel skins in the street,  received a fatal kicking.  Servants died protecting their masters belongings.  A violent altercation about a horse led to a murder while a planned gang rape ended in complete and utter mayhem.

Royalty was not exempt from the fallout of murder – John Gremet a groom of the kitchen of Queen Philippa – was murdered by another royal servant, Peter Tremenel.

A total of 142 murders are detailed sourced from the Coroners’ Rolls and credit and thanks to Prof Eisner at the Institute of Criminonology, University of Cambridge.   Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

My, my, some families really do not change their spots….!

Arms of Sir John Stanley I

While researching fourteenth-century Northamptonshire, I happened upon Sir John Stanley (1350-1414). “Stanley’s father was Master-Forester of the Forest of Wirral, notorious for his repressive activities. Both Stanley and his older brother, William (who succeeded their father as Master-Forester), were involved in criminal cases which charged them with a forced entry in 1369 and in the murder of Thomas Clotton in 1376.” Nice guys, right?

Stanley was found guilty, and outlawed. But because he was proving himself as a military fighter, he was pardoned—helped in this by Sir Thomas Trivet, who had a habit of getting scoundrels off the hook. He did the same for Sir John Cornwall, Senior, who was definitely a bad lot, but that’s another story.

Well, although Sir John Stanley was a younger son, in 1385 he made a very fortunate marriage. In the teeth of strong opposition from John of Gaunt, he wed Isabel Lathom, who was heir to swathes of land in Lancashire. Stanley was on the up!

He did well under Richard II, becoming the deputy in Ireland of Robert de Vere, Duke of Ireland. Richard II chose Stanley as justiciar of Ireland, and he was very much part of Richard’s successful first expedition to that land. Next, Stanley was prominent in soothing trouble in Cheshire, and took part in Richard’s second, ill-advised expedition to Ireland. This expedition came to an abrupt end when Henry of Bolingbroke, Gaunt’s heir as Duke of Lancaster, who had been exiled by Richard, invaded England to take the throne as Henry IV. Returning to England, “Stanley, who had long proved adept at political manoeuvring, turned his back on Richard and submitted to Henry IV.” Richard was imprisoned and soon died under mysterious circumstances.

So, the Stanleys were at it in 1399/1400 as well. Political jiggery-pokery, deserting their rightful King Richard, and smarming up to the wrongful King Henry. But this one did well, becoming King of Man, a privilege he and his descendants enjoyed until the 18th century.

Spots? Never change?

Stanley is granted the Isle of Man

http://www.cheshirenow.co.uk/stanley_family.html and http://www.isle-of-man.com/manxnotebook/people/lords/stanleys.htm. And see this list of offices held by Sir John Stanley.

 

 

 

 

Conspiracy theories, Elizabeth I and Shakespeare….?

 

Guy Fawkes

Guy Fawkes on a bonfire in Kent. Photo: Rex.

If you go to here you will find examples of those intriguing possibilities, conspiracy theories. Well, some of them are too outlandish, but others…well, maybe…? Anyway, take a look and decide for yourself whether, for example, the Gunpowder Plot was really a put-up job by the Earl of Salisbury. Or whether Elizabeth the First might—just might—have been the real Shakespeare!

Medieval murder at Richard’s Red Tower in York….

The Red Tower

Here is a tale of how a 15th-century trade dispute in York got out of hand, and for once Richard isn’t getting the blame!

The following extract is from here:

“A building in York, which was once the scene of a medieval murder over a trade dispute during its construction 500 years ago, is set to be transformed into a brand new café and community hub.

“Croft Farm Construction is carrying out the refurbishment of the Grade-I Listed, The Red Tower, near Navigation Road, York.

“The building was part-funded by King Richard III, before his death at Bosworth Field in 1485, and later completed by his successor as the only section of the city’s medieval walls built from brick rather than magnesian limestone.”

Aha, and therein lies the murderous rub, as becomes clear here :

“The construction of the original building was part-funded by King Richard III before his death at Bosworth Field in 1485, and later completed by his successor Henry VII. As the only section of the city’s walls built from brick rather than magnesian limestone, the brick tower did not please local stonemasons, [who were] unhappy that tilers were asked to build the property.

“The tilers sought protection from the city council to stop masons threatening them and breaking their tools. In 1491, a tiler, John Patrik was murdered. Two masons, York’s Master Mason, William Hindley, and an accomplice, Christopher Homer, were charged with murder but later acquitted.”

So it appears that the Red Tower’s red bricks caused a mini-war between tilers and stonemasons in York. Oh dear, at least these days disputes seldom, if ever, reach the point of murder!

I hope the Red Tower approves of its future as a café and community hub. Only if the conversion is spot-on, I imagine. Nothing garish and too bright will do in such surroundings.

 

 

 

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