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STATEMENT IN STONE

Most old castles will have graffiti both old and new pecked into their stonework somewhere. People like to leave A symbol for posterity (often unfortunately.) Very few ancient buildings, however, have the owner’s name graven into them for for eternity.

Not so at Caldicot in Wales. If you walk around to the back of the castle, you will clearly find the name ‘Thomas’ carved into one of the stones low in the arch of the postern gate. This Thomas happens to be Thomas of Woodstock (born 1355), 1st Duke of Gloucester, Earl of Buckingham and youngest son of Edward III.

Thomas was married to Eleanor de Bohun; Eleanor’s name is also on the door frame, although not as prominent as her husband’s. Her sister was Mary de Bohun, who married Henry Bolingbroke, the future Henry IV. The sister were co-heiresses of the huge Bohun inheritance.

Thomas was one of the Lords Appellant who rose against Richard II, who was Thomas’s nephew. Thomas had early on showed disrespectful behaviour to the young king, bursting into his presence unannounced and speaking to him in a manner deemed improper. He was involved in a rebellion in 1388, which weakened Richard’s reign, and participated in the ‘Merciless Parliament’ which curbed Richard’s powers to rule.

However, when Richard married his second wife and began to forge continental alliances, Thomas became wrathful and angry once more. He complained bitterly to one of his knights that the king should have been invading France, not making a marriage with a French princess. He scorned the king as being indolent and only interested in food and drink instead of war and glory.

Soon after, he approached Roger Mortimer, Earl of March, the grandson of Lionel of Clarence, and tried to involve him in a plot to depose and imprison the king and his new young wife. Roger, uneasy, made his excuses and vanished over to Ireland.

Word of Woodstock’s potential plot reached the king and Thomas was arrested in the presence of the king himself, who had ridden out with him, pleasantly enough it seemed, from Thomas’ castle  at Pleshey–then suddenly galloped on before him, leaving the guards to deal with Woodstock, who was hustled out of England on a ship and taken to Calais Castle. There, two months after his capture and just after giving his ‘confession,’ he died suddenly–rumours says he was strangled or suffocated by a mattress on or around September 8..

Thomas’s claim to Caldicot Castle was through Eleanor; it was part of the Bohun inheritance.He did not get to spend much time there but did order much building–the Woodstock Tower and the massive gatehouse with its vast apartments and unusual ornamentation.

The castle passed to his daughter Anne of Gloucester, who married, as her second husband, Edmund Stafford, later killed fighting at the Battle of Shrewsbury. They had a son, however, called Humphrey, who became the 1st Duke of Buckingham; a loyal Lancastrian, he died for their cause at Northampton. Humphrey’s grandson, of course, was the notorious Henry Stafford, suspect in the disappearance of the ‘Princes in the Tower’ and a rebel who lost his head in Salisbury on November 2 1483…

 

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Significant opportunities missed?

Robert Stillington is likely to have been born in about 1420 and was consecrated as Bishop of Bath and Wells on 30 October 1465. As we know, in spring 1483, he confessed his knowledge of Edward IV’s bigamy. Based on Stillington’s evidence, the Three Estates voted to cancel the coronation of Edward V, inviting Richard Duke of Gloucester to become king instead, as described by the (otherwise hostile) James Gairdner as “almost a constitutional election”.

Richard III succeeded as a result of this decision but Stillington’s status remained unchanged during this reign. Edward IV had raised Canon Stillington to the first available see after his own second secret marriage ceremony and Richard could have rewarded him similarly on two, three, four or even five occasions.

As the late David Baldwin’s Richard III (pp.172-3) reveals, two Bishops died during Richard’s reign – had he been of similar character to the first Lancastrian, the second or fourth “Tudor”, there may have been three:
1) William Dudley (Durham) died on 29 November 1483 and John Shirwood was appointed. The Prince-Bishopric of Durham was the next highest see in the province of York and Thomas Wolsey (right) was to be translated there from Bath and Wells in 1523, although he had already been Archbishop of York for nine years and was really only an administrator in the other dioceses.
2) Lionel Wydeville (Salisbury), who had hitherto thought himself to be Edward IV’s brother-in-law, died some time in late 1484. Thomas Langton was translated from St. David’s and Hugh Pavy appointed there. Both of these diocesan livings were better than that of Bath and Wells. Earlier than this, he could have been deprived for treason. Langton was appointed as an administrator from March 1484.
3) John Morton (Ely) was arrested in June 1483 for treason and might have been deprived after his attainter, as Cranmer was summer 1553. Again, Ely was a more lucrative see.
4) Peter Courtenay (Exeter) joined the Buckingham rebellion in autumn 1483 and fled to Europe after attainder – another comfortable senior vacancy.

So there we have it. As we also showed here, Richard III had several good opportunities to promote Robert Stillington after his election by the Three Estates but took none of them, clearly implying that he regarded the cleric as having merely performed his conscientious duty, not a favour of any kind.

Just WHY did Buckingham think he could cross the flooded Severn….?

Buckingham and Flooded Severn

On this date, St Luke’s Day, 18th October, in 1483, apparently egged on by that notorious Lancastrian plotter, John Morton, Bishop of Ely, Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham unfurled his banners in rebellion against his cousin, King Richard III. Morton was supposedly Buckingham’s prisoner, handed over to him by Richard for safe keeping. Safe keeping turned out to mean listening to Morton’s every seditious word and treating him as an honoured house guest. To make the king’s task all the more difficult, and to spread his resources thin, uprisings were already in progress elsewhere in England. Richard was therefore alert, and in swift action to secure his realm.

The whys and wherefores of Buckingham’s revolt are not of consequence for this article, because one thing about his action that 18th October has always bothered me. He was well acquainted with the Severn. He had to cross it every time he went to and from England from his stronghold in Brecon, so he would know the hazard it presented. This would be especially so at times of spring tides, and of the widespread floods that barred his way on this occasion. After ten days of endless rain and stormy weather, the river had burst its banks to a huge extent. Buckingham’s decision to cross anyway was not just unwise, but suicidal. Even allowing for a bridge, the approaches to which were miraculously not submerged, crossing over with an army of men would take time, and every minute counted when he was taking on a commander as clever and experienced as Richard. Maybe Buckingham felt that he had no choice. He had committed himself to join the rebellion, and maybe he saw some great prize in store if it succeeded. Maybe the prize was Richard’s crown.

Learning of Buckingham’s treachery, Richard called him “the most untrue creature living”, which is a measure of the hurt and incredulity he felt toward the second cousin upon whom he had showered rewards and position. Richard was no slouch when it came to military matters, and immediately ordered the destruction or blocking of all the bridges and river crossings that Buckingham might intend to use.  Richard wanted the duke trapped on the Severn’s western bank, where he was being harassed from behind by the Welsh Vaughan family. The longer his forces could be held back, the less secure his position became. Richard knew that soon the dissatisfied Welshmen forced into Buckingham’s service would begin to desert. Buckingham had never treated them well, and they resented him.

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Gloucester West Gate

Gloucester’s old West Gate

It is now generally agreed that Gloucester was Buckingham’s goal, because it provided the most direct route to London. But to cross there, over the long Westgate causeway that was raised over the channels of the Severn and the marshy island that lay between them, meant marching right through the city, for that was the only access and egress from the Welsh side. Did Buckingham have reason to think the gates would be flung open to him? The records suggest that choosing Gloucester was no last-minute decision, Buckingham had definitely intended all along to take that route, approaching through the Forest of Dean, so maybe he did have allies in the city. Or Morton did. It was to prove immaterial anyway, because the floods had turned the Severn into a sea. Buckingham and his army could not set foot on the causeway, let alone the city streets.

Tewkesbury on island in floods 2007

Tewkesbury Abbey on an “island” during the floods of 2007

The first crossing upstream of Gloucester was a ford just south of Tewkesbury at Lower Lode. Such a crossing would require very low river levels, which was most unlikely in October, around the equinox. In the middle of a hot, dry summer, perhaps. Otherwise, forget it. There was a ferry, of course…but imagine the time needed to convey a whole army, horses, weapons and all, even if the river were not in flood. With all that water, no ferryman would embark on such a hazardous exercise. The next bridge was at Upton on Severn, some way upstream, and had probably already been dealt with by Richard.

All factors concerning the arduous matter of crossing the Severn had been encountered in 1471 by Margaret of Anjou, prior to the Battle of Tewkesbury, and she did not have floods to deal with as well. She was trying to take her army into Wales. Buckingham was the other way around. See: https://murreyandblue.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/at-the-gates-of-gloucester-in-1471/

The warning signs would have been there for Buckingham and Morton all the way from Brecon, beginning with the River Usk which flowed past the castle and town. If the Usk was in spate on its way to the Bristol Channel and estuary, so too would be the next river to cross, the Wye, and finally the Severn itself. In between  the various streams in the Forest of Dean would no longer be sparkling, trickling, babbling little brooks, but  mini-torrents crashing their way down the gradual slope toward the sea.

The Severn still floods in prolonged bad weather, and is worse during the equinoxes. It sometimes floods in the summer too, as in July 2007. It is also subject all year around to a notorious wave, called a bore, that twice a day races in from the estuary and is confined and raised by the narrower channel of the river itself. Back then it could flow inland as far as Worcester. Now it is stopped at Maisemore weir, outside Gloucester. Some bores are small, some large, and in October are usually the latter. They swell any floods still more, and when the Severn bursts its banks, it spreads for miles.

Gloucestershire floods

Buckingham, and his nemesis Morton, could not possibly have been in ignorance until the moment of actually seeing the floods. Didn’t they have any scouts? Any local guides? Couldn’t they use their eyes all the way from Brecon? At the very least they should have anticipated it something.. Once closer to the Severn, they probably couldn’t even locate the riverbank, which would be somewhere in the great expanse of fast-flowing, muddy water that was pierced here and there by trees and dwellings.

Buckingham_Finds_the_Severn_Impassable

The following descriptive report is also quoted here (and https://murreyandblue.wordpress.com/tag/buckingham-rebellion/)  and serves to illustrate exactly how foolhardy Buckingham was to even consider the crossing. “In the second year of Richard III in the month of October 1483, as the Duke of Buckingham was advancing by long marches through the Forest of Dean to Gloucester, where he designed to pass with his army over the Severn, there was so great an inundation of water that men were drowned in their beds, houses were overturned, children were carried about the fields swimming in cradles, beasts were drowned on the hills. Which rage of water lasted for ten days and nights, and it is to this day in the counties thereabout called ‘The Great Water’ or ‘The Duke of Buckingham’s Water’ (Gloucester Journal November 1770).”

Our inability to understand, only guess, Buckingham’s motives in rising against Richard, lead us to view him as an arrogant numbskull. Did he actually hate Richard with a vengeance? Had Morton, that unholy man of God, convinced him of his own birthright and invincibility? Blessed him in the name of the Lord? Promised the aid of the saints? Vowed he could part the Severn Sea with a brandish of his crozier? We may never know. All we know is that the duke and his army reached the Severn and couldn’t cross. His Welshmen deserted him, Morton melted away too, and Buckingham had to flee north, eventually to be captured hiding near Shrewsbury.

Morton the Man of God - 2

Buckingham was taken prisoner to Salisbury, tried and beheaded, begging to the end for the chance to explain himself to Richard, who refused to receive him. Part of me wishes Richard had granted the request, because Buckingham’s explanation might have been interesting. Might? It would have been interesting. Illuminating, even.  On the other hand, Buckingham’s son and heir later told that his father had a dagger hidden on his person, which he intended to plunge into Richard at the first opportunity.

buckingham_death_plaque

Should anyone wish for a more light-hearted approach to the saga of Buckingham, Morton and the Severn floods, in 2014 I wrote a spoof called Row, row, row your boat.  I hope it amuses.

And if you’re ready for another laugh at Buckingham’s expense…

Buckingham's Big Mistake

Thomas Langton: Richard III’s Character Witness

RICARDIAN LOONS

Amongst the glories of Winchester Cathedral, there is a chantry chapel of outstanding beauty and magnificence. The man who is buried there, and for whom the roof bosses provide a rebus clue, is Thomas Langton, who died of plague in 1501 only days after being elected by Henry VII as Archbishop of Canterbury. Earlier, he had served as the Bishop of Winchester (1493-1501), Salisbury (1484-93) and St. David’s (1483-84), and acted as a servant to three — or four, depending on how you count — English kings. As the information plaque at Winchester Cathedral succinctly announces, Langton had been a chaplain to Edward IV and Richard III, and Ambassador to France and Rome.

Although his death came as a surprise in his 70th year, he did have the opportunity to make an extensive will, showing he died a very wealthy man. It runs to over 100 items, and contains…

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FEAST OF THE INNOCENTS: Ricardian Christmas Fiction

December 28th was the Feast of the Innocents, commemorating the day in which Herod slaughtered  young male children in an attempt to kill the newborn Christ-child. In medieval England it was an important feast day and also part of the ‘Feast of Fools’. In many towns and cities over the festive season the church authority was supplanted by ‘Boy Bishops’ (there was traditionally one at Salisbury near my home) and the Feast of the Innocents was the last day in which the Boy Bishop held sway– on this day too, the words of children were to be heeded above those of adults.

In this short Christmas story, FEAST OF THE INNOCENTS, Richard III (here still Duke of Gloucester) is depicted with his son, Edward of Middleham, who died young in 1484. Edward gets very little ‘airtime’ in Ricardian fiction, other than to be born to great rejoicing, then to be sickly but much loved, then to tragically die. This is wholly understandable, as so little is known about him; even his birthdate is questionable, ranging between 1473 and 1476. He is almost always depicted as sickly, and he has some health issues in this short tale too, but there is no real proof that he was particularly ailing, although it may be suggestive that he was taken by chariot (carriage) to York for his investiture and did not seem to have been at his father’s coronation or to have travelled much outside Middleham. Of course if he was perhaps born in 1476 or even later, this might be more understandable.

In Feast of the Innocents Edward is given a ‘voice’ and a little adventure in a snowstorm that sweeps in over the Dales. All fantasy and speculation of course, but using the evocative and beautiful landscapes of Wensleydale and Coverdale,and real places that Richard (and young Edward) would have known in life. A Christmas feast is also described at Middleham castle, based on the actual procedures of table laying and manners known to have taken place in Richard’s era.

The title itself of course is slightly provocative because of Richard’s ‘reputation’ regarding the disappearance of the ‘Princes in the Tower’ and their presumed (and it is certainly unproven) murder ,with some traditionalists having drawn parallels with  King Herod killing boy babies that threatened his realm. In this story, it attempts to show what Shakespeare completely obliterated and many writers of the era ignored (save for the one mention that Richard and Anne were nearly mad with grief when Edward died); that Richard was a father, who undoubtably cared for his child and had the same feelings as emotions as anyone else. I think, in fact, one of the great disservices Shakespeare did to Richard (and there were many) was to make him childless, a barren unloved and unloving creature, completely inured to human kindness.

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House Of Rebels: Halle’s Hall in Salisbury

Presumed to be Halle...carrying the banner of the Prince of Wales

Presumed to be Halle…carrying the banner of the Prince of Wales

medieval glass ofbear holding an axe!

medieval glass ofbear holding an axe!

One of the most interesting houses is Salisbury is Halle’s Hall, which now serves as the local cinema, possibly the only cinema in the country that is over 500 years old.
The Hall is a late medieval house begun by John Halle in about 1470 and completed in 1483, several years after Halle’s death, when his son was in residence. The house retains many original features on both exterior and interior, including fine examples of original stained glass, including one, presumed to be Halle himself, bearing the banner with the royal arms of the Prince of Wales.
John Halle was the owner of the Hall, and he was a well-known figure in 15th c Salisbury—not only as a wealthy wool merchant, but as four time mayor and 4 time mp in parliament.
Halle seemed a rather irascible character and managed to embroil himself in a fight with another merchant, William Swayne, over land in St Thomas’s churchyard for a chantry.
The fight became so bitter between the merchants that Edward IV summoned Halle to appear before him in London. Halle showed up anything but contrite, and was apparently both forceful and insolent. ‘Shewing himself of a right cedicious hasty wilful and fully unwilly disposicon’ was what was written of his behaviour at the time.
Annoyed by the merchant’s insolence and stubbornness, Edward decided that perhaps a little spell in the Tower might cool John Halle’s ire.
Salisbury was asked to elect another mayor in his place, but most of the people insisted they liked Halle—mainly because he stood up to the Bishop, Richard Beauchamp, who was not terribly popular. So upon his release from his short sojourn in the Tower, Halle was reinstated as Mayor.
He evidently had no love of Edward IV. In 1470, he was given 40 marks to raise 40 men at arms for the Earl of Warwick, with the aim of restoring Henry VI.
However, after Edward’s decisive victories at Barnet and Tewkesbury, he seemed to become reconciled to the King, and little more was heard from him until his death in 1479.
His son, William, who inherited the Hall, had perhaps something of his father’s rebellious temperament. He joined Buckingham’s rebellion against Richard III in 1483. He was attainted for his actions, but the attainder was reversed in 1485 and afterwards he became an MP for Salisbury.
Of John Halle’s other children, one daughter, Christyan,, married Sir Thomas Hungerford, showing the family was ‘moving up in the world’, and also, perhaps, their Lancastrian leanings.

ceiling of Halle's Hall

halle4-medieval stained glass ceiling of Halle’s Hall


A Fateful Convergence – two men with complex loyalties who faced the same place of execution

Giaconda's Blog

122 Plaque for Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham

I recently visited Salisbury in Wiltshire and stood by the plaque which commemorates the execution on 2nd November 1483 of Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham on the site of the Blue Boar Inn. His ghost is said to haunt Debenhams which stands on the ground where he was publicly beheaded for treason against his King on that chilly Sunday so long ago and yet so near to those of us who live some portion of our lives in the C15th. I spent a few moments trying to clear away the traffic furniture and buses and clinically decorated perfume aisles through the plate glass and imagining what it was like to stand in that market square with a sense of dreadful anticipation, waiting to see a peer of the realm be brought out and meet his fate. There are a few medieval buildings around the…

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BUCKINGHAM’S MYSTERIOUS BURIAL

Where lies Harry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham?
No one can say for sure, his final resting place is as elusive and entwined with myth and legend as Richard III’s once was.
Stafford, leader of the October 1483 rebellion against Richard, was turned in by one of his own men while hiding in a cottage, apparently in peasant dress, after heavy rain and the flooding of the Severn caused his uprising to fail. He was taken to Salisbury, where on November 2, he was beheaded in the Market Square.
He supposedly begged to speak with Richard, who was staying either at the King’s House in the cathedral close or at the priory at nearby Wilton. Buckingham insisted he had important information for the King. Richard refused to see him, this man he had called ‘the most untrue creature living’ and the execution took place as planned. It was unusual, as it took place on a Sunday, and on All Souls…and it was also the birthday of Edward V (which just may be significant considering Buckingham was named in regards to the Princes’ murders, if murdered they were, in documents both in England and on the Continent.
But what happened to the remains of this great traitor, himself of royal descent, who had perhaps even dreamed of wearing the crown of England himself?
A near contemporary report says he was buried in the church of the Greyfriars in Salisbury. This Franciscan Friary has now completely vanished and stood near to St Anne’s street and Brown street; a commemorative plaque has been set into a building near the presumed spot. This is the only document that mentions his resting place, and there is always the vague possibility they are confusing him with his grandfather, who was buried in Greyfriars in Northampton.
However, a mile outside of the city centre, in the sleepy village of Britford, another tomb claims to be Buckingham’s. A Victorian plaque above it declares that it is his grave. It is the only large memorial in the church—comprising the top of a large canopied tomb, which stands above a smaller tomb-chest capped by Purbeck marble. The chest does in fact bear a shield bearing one of the devices of the Staffords.
But the top of the tomb is probably a hundred years too early, and the chest may be too early as well…although the lid has some features that suggest it was 15th century. Perhaps the tomb was reused for Buckingham’s burial?
Certainly both the canopy and chest came from elsewhere, probably from one of the ruined friaries after the Dissolution. They were not always situated in tiny Britford church. So it could have been taken from Greyfriars.
A good case for the chest actually being Buckingham’s last resting place can be made by one fact—his daughter Anne’s husband, George Earl of Huntingdon, actually owned the manor at Britford. It may well have been Anne who had the tomb removed from the friary at the Dissolution and transported for safety to the village church.
However, it appears to be empty…
So where are Buckingham’s bones?
If you go to Debenham’s, the site of the Blue Boar Inn where Buckingham spent his last night alive, you can have a nice cream tea whilst looked at Buckingham’s not-very-flattering portrait and read a little information the tea room has written on him. They claim that a skeleton was found many years ago under the kitchen flagstones, missing a head and a hand, and that these bones were thought to be the remains of Henry Stafford. They also claimed that the decapitated Duke’s head was sent to London to be placed on ‘Traitor’s Gate’ hence the skeleton found had no skull.
These two stories are problematic. It is highly unlikely even a traitor of the calibre of the Duke would be given a lowly burial in an inn’s kitchen…and goodness knows what the innkeeper would have said! Richard tended to give his slain enemies proper burials, and no doubt he did likewise with Buckingham. There is also no evidence that Buckingham’s head went anywhere other than into the grave with its owner, albeit separated from his shoulders. I believe Traitor’s Gate did not even have this name in Richard’s era. This skeleton, if it existed at all, was probably an Anglo-Saxon or even prehistoric resident of Salisbury.
Another distant possibility is that Stafford was buried in a chapel out at Old Sarum castle, a mile or so beyond Salisbury. This once mighty castle was already ruinous at the time of the execution, but there was one chapel still in use in the 15th century, mainly for wayfarers. In Victorian times the chapel was excavated and a skeleton found  either near the high altar or in the ambulatory–of a man who had been beheaded, but who was also wearing a prisoner’s manacles. His head lay between his knees. This unusual burial was never mentioned as a candidate for Buckingham but was rather mysteriously thought to be William of Eu, who lost a duel at Sarum in the reign of William Rufus. However, it is  is unlikely to be William, for it would be very hard to fight a duel wearing irons…and, besides that, William of Eu did NOT die at Sarum, but although hideously mutilated after losing the fight, retired somewhere near Hastings and lived on for some years….
So there was a mysterious medieval burial at Sarum, high status by its position in the church but decapitated and wearing criminals’ irons …which, sadly, has now gone missing (the bones, that is; the irons are still owned by Salisbury Museum.)
Maybe in a lab somewhere there is a battered box marked ‘Sarum’ that could contain the elusive Duke. Or maybe he is still under the floor of the destroyed Salisbury Greyfriars like Richard was in Leicester Greyfriars, with roads and buildings above him. Perhaps one day someone will open that dusty box or discover a likely burial, decide to take a closer look and do some tests.
Any Staffords out there who can donate some dna?
duke

Quite an unfortunate family

Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, cannot be called unlucky. The story of his revolt against Richard III, ending in Salisbury at the start of November 1483 is so well known that even Shakespeare has the right end of this particular stick. However, his family suffered fates that they didn’t always deserve so obviously:
1) His son Edward, the 3rd Duke, was beheaded in May 1521 having expressed the view that he was a claimant to the throne, Henry VIII being almost childless at the time. Despite Shakespeare’s portrayal, evidence that he was engaged in a plot of any kind is very thin on the ground.
2) His granddaughter, Margaret Bulmer *, was burned in May 1537. Together with her late husband, Sir John, she had been involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace and a later revolt.
3) His great-grandson, Thomas, was beheaded in May 1557 as the ringleader of the Scarborough Rebellion.

After Thomas’ time, the Stafford surname became somewhat safer. His nephew Sir William rebelled against Elizabeth I but was merely imprisoned. The Stafford barony was restored in 1548 and it eventually passed to one of the last remaining members of the family, Mary. As a ward of the Howard family, taking a ninety year enforced holiday from their Norfolk duchy, she was married to William Howard, descended from Edward Stafford’s daughter, who was created Viscount Stafford. On the third last day of 1680, as one of five Catholic peers arrested over the “Popish Plot”, the aged Viscount met his death at Tower Hill although none of the other four were actually convicted. Mary Stafford was created a Countess five years later, which didn’t quite compensate her adequately.
The final example came just over a century later – the victim didn’t bear the Stafford surname even by marriage and he wasn’t executed in England.  William Jerningham was posthumously agreed to have been a Baron Stafford and Frances, nee Dillon, his Baroness. General Arthur Dillon, her brother, was an English-born Irish officer in the French army and was beheaded in April 1794 as an alleged counter-revolutionary.

* Stephanie Mann on Lady Bulmer:
http://supremacyandsurvival.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/ladys-not-for-hanging-margaret-bulmer.html

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