God first send Anne, which signifyth grace,
In token that at her heart’s heaviness,
He as for barrenness would from them chase.
Harry, Edward, Edmund, each in his place
Succeeded; and after twain daughter came
Elizabeth and Margaret, and afterwards William.
John after William next born was,
Which both be passed to God’s grace:
George was next, and after Thomas.
Born was, which son after did pace.
By the path of death into the heavenly place
Richard liveth yet; but the last of all
Was Ursula, to Him who God’s list call.
Above is the section of the famous Clare Roll where the children of Richard Duke of York and his wife Cecily Neville are all, quite clearly, listed.
However, you could be forgiven in thinking that there was another York child who mysteriously got left off the list—a daughter called Joan. The eldest daughter of the Duke and his wife, no less.
A number of sites on the internet, both informational and genealogical, firmly state Joan of York was Richard and Cecily’s firstborn child, a short-lived daughter named after her maternal grandmother, Joan Beaufort. Several books have appeared that mention Joan, mostly notably one by Alison Weir and a later one by Amy Licence. A birthdate of 1438 has appeared for the mysterious Joan, and York was posited as her birthplace.
So what is the truth about this putative daughter? The truth is, it would seem—Joan of York never existed, and not only that, her ‘birth’ only took place in the later 20th c!
The first mention of her was in Weir’s book Britain’s Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy. Now Alison Weir is a hugely well-known popular ‘historian’ and many of her acolytes believe her research is impeccable, and henceforth the misinformation about Joan passed, without being questioned, into general ‘knowledge’ and remained undisputed for a considerable amount of time.
Apparently, the unfortunate error occurred when erroneous information was gleaned from a 1960’s geneaology chart. I am quite stunned the author used the reference without any additional verification, since it is well-known that some compilers of family trees frequently hove in ‘ancestors’ such as King Arthur , Ivar the Boneless, Jabba the Hutt and any other number of unlikely figures. (In fairness to Alison Weir, she has now admitted that Joan’s existence is doubtful and will be removing her from future editions of the book. Whether Ms Licence will also remove references to Joan from her works is at present unknown.)
It is quite mystifying why anyone would doubt the veracity of the Clare Rolls (or the other medieval documents that published a similar list) especially when it was specifically stated that Anne was the first child, born after ‘long barrenness’, and all the other short-lived York children such as Henry and Thomas were accounted for.
What is striking and of interest to me in particular is how such errors can be quickly accepted as canon without question. At least the odd myth that Richard III had seven, yes, seven, bastards, (also, I believe, included in an edition of Alison Weir’s Complete Genealogy book) including Tudor poet Stephen Hawes, whose only connection with Richard seems to be in a vintage novel, never seemed to gain much if any credence. (Richard surely has enough myth and rumour surrounding him without adding additional dubious stories.)
So hopefully Joan of York, the girl who never existed, will finally be laid to rest, alongside many of the other myths that have attached themselves to Richard and his family over the years…
Poet Bob Ferdinand wrote this sonnet about Richard and entered it into the Nebraska Shakespeare Sonnet Contest last summer, winning second prize (should have been first!)
The Last Plantagenet
In August, at late Summer’s teeming height,
The last Plantagenet rode forth one day
Defying Fortune, rising to the fight
And risking all in battle’s bloodied fray.
He stood resolved which course he must pursue
To stem the sham of Richmond’s royal claim
A final thrust could see the battle through
To ride straight for The Tudor was his aim.
Surrounded by the pride of England’s might
With heart set high he charged the foe pell-mell
Within the deepest folds of battle’s fright
King Richard strove- he sought, he fought, he fell.
A King he lived and died, without regret-
On Bosworth Field the Sun in Splendor set.
© Bob Ferdinand
I have often wondered what Richard’s voice sounded like. Did he have a low or high tone to his voice, was it rich, nasal, reedy, soft? What was his accent like? Would it be like a Midlands accent, as has been proposed, or would there be hints of Yorkshire? Did he have a good singing voice? And what about the manner of speech, sentence contruction and pronunciation of those times? Well, maybe the latter can be answered by listening to this 500-year-old poem about a parrot!
Click here to go to the poem on You Tube.
N.B. Sorry about the reference to H8!
Image credit: By Duncan Rawlinson from Vancouver, BC (flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Several years ago I was out at Bosworth to attend an author signing with one of my favourite Ricardian authors, Sharon Penman, who wrote the mighty epic The Sunne in Splendour. We were staying in the Royal Arms at Sutton Cheney, which has a public room filled with armour, memorabilia, paintings of the battle and of Richard and Tudor (I put the latter at my back!)
Our room was in an annexe that looked out over the fields. The light was grey, heavy; the soil of the field, newly ploughed, glistening after rain, looked red. Redemore. The Red Plain. In the distance the hedges wore little crowns of mist, and a single dark-winged crow sat on the fence, its shrill cry breaking a strange stillness. A haunting place.
We went to bed. In the night we heard rain drumming on the roof. We turned over,slept. In the early hours of the morning, I was woken by a ruckus overhead. There was crashes and bangs as if someone, or more like multiple someones, were streaming, charging over the roof of the building. I began to fancy them as hoofbeats and laughed at myself and my infamous imagination. It must surely be the hotel staff doing something in a room above us…but why the heck were they doing it pre-dawn when they had guests?
The sounds clattered away into nothingess. I went back to sleep. Later, when we got up and went to pack our things in the car, I looked back towards the building.
There was no upstairs room above ours.
This poem came out of that night….
THE WHITE ROSE
I walked upon Bosworth field,
the soil red beneath my feet
as rain pelted from a stormy sky
in a grey and stony sheet
Sutton Cheney’s stolid tower
was an upturned bucket in the mist
and the whole rolling landscape
a haunted vista twilight kissed.
Why do I feel such strangling sorrow
in that lonely, empty space
where amongst the bristling hedges
the small birds dart and race
soaring like souls into a sky
unchanged by the passing years,
still on this sullen summer’s day
pouring out its bitter tears.
I found a crooked, winding path
that crossed a farmer’s land…
so plain and oh so ordinary
you might dismiss it out of hand
But I knew that here was the place
where a banner once soared on high,
and a White Boar fighting rose and fell,
a betrayed man consigned to die
So history was written
and legends false and foul were born,
birthed out of blood and treachery
on a red-tinged summer’s morn
The victor writes the pages,
speechless dead cannot defend
but I swore I would speak for him
both now and till the end.
And when I returned later
to my little rented room
at midnight I heard thunder
like a banging drum of doom
or was it something greater
that tore across the brooding sky,
passing in flashes over Bosworth…
what does it really mean to die?
Westward like winter’s geese
I saw pale horsemen flying
while the echoes of ghostly horns,
drifted outward, fading, dying….
And on the rain-bright road
its petals teared with icy rain
lay a perfect snow-white rose…
King Richard rides again.
Art by Frances Quinn
This article tells the story of Scottish treason in the time of William Wallace, Robert I and afterwards, through the tradition of oral history. The image below is supposedly of Hugh le Despenser the Younger, although there must be some cases more relevant to Scotland.
A new single by the LEGENDARY TEN SECONDS is being released on iTunes and Amazon on December 1.
MIDDLEHAM CASTLE ON CHRISTMAS EVE was written by Ian Churchward and Frances Quinn, who also painted the cover art, showing a ghostly party riding through the snow towards the ruined castle.
Frances, who lives in Dublin, Ireland, had this to say on her participation in The Legendary Ten Seconds’ latest project:
I have just come upon the following couplet, concerning a historian’s mistakes:-
‘Others to some faint meaning make pretence
But (——–) never deviates into sense.’
Well, the original two-syllabled name fled from my mind, to be replaced by another of similar construction. Starkey! Yes, folks, a couplet entirely suited to him.
‘Others to some faint meaning make pretence
But Starkey never deviates into sense.’
A Loon strikes back!
Douce Dame Jolie was composed in the C14th by Guillaume de Machaut who lived between 1300 and 1377 around the area of Rheims in France. It follows the conventions of the ‘Ars Nova’ style which flourished in France and the Low Countries during the C14th and the structure of a ‘virelai’, a verse of three stanzas with a repeated refrain before the first and after each subsequent stanza.
Machaut was a master of this form and Douce Dame is probably the best known and most performed of his virelai pieces. Many contemporary performers continue to sing versions of the song with different tempi and voice styles but it remains consistently haunting and intoxicating to the ear.
The virelai was one of the three ‘Formes Fixes’, along with the ballade and rondeau which were popular in the C13th – C15th and together with motets and lais formed the basis of secular musical…
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The common thread that runs through Anglo-Saxon poetry like the golden coils of a Sutton Hoo serpent is the nostalgic pain of longing for lost things. Again and again the same phrases are spoken in ‘Beowulf’ and in poems like ‘The Seafarer’ and ‘The Wanderer’. It feels as if one were a direct source for another and they may well have been if the poets were familiar with other works and created variations on a common theme of loss on a heroic scale through generations of oral transmission, weaving one passage into another over time.
Reading these works we almost get a sense that the Anglo-Saxons were fixated by the imagery of hardship and loss. Whether it be the exile of the sea or the abandonment of old age; the longing for the mead hall in day gone by pervades their poetry and the imagery is poignant and beautiful and intensely moving.
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