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Does Richard II lie in an obscure grave in Stirling….?

“There was nothing at Westminster Abbey yesterday to alert visitors to the renewed speculation that one of its most revered sites may not be what it seems. To the unwary, King Richard II still lies in the south aisle of the Lady Chapel just where he has for nearly six centuries. A sign points out the tomb, wedged snugly between those of Edward III and of Anne Neville, Richard III’s queen. It is topped by a gilded effigy of the monarch, whose remains were moved to the Abbey from Hertfordshire in 1413. But all that glisters is not gold, and there are fresh claims that the remains of one of England’s most tragic kings may not rest at Westminster at all. In fact they may be 400 miles away, under a pedestrianised shopping centre near Stirling railway station.

“Legend and Shakespeare say that the last of the Plantagenets was murdered by Sir Piers of Exton in Pontefract Castle in early 1400, only weeks after he was forced to resign in favour of Henry of Lancaster, who then crowned himself Henry IV. But that story has always been disputed. Almost immediately after the king’s death,there were rumours that the body which was so openly brought south was not thatof Richard but a lookalike, perhaps his chaplain Richard Maudelyn. From as early as 1402 there were claims that the real Richard had escaped to Scotland, where he supposedly died in 1419 (six years after being reburied at Westminster). Now the archaeologist Ron Page is leading an effort to get to the truth of what would be one of English history’s greatest cover-ups.

“If Mr Page is right, then Shakespeare’s Richard, who offered “my large kingdom for a little grave, a little, little grave, an obscure grave,” may indeed have had his wish these many years. But then whose remains have been at Westminster for so long? And how can we be sure which of them is Richard? “Not all the water of the rough rude sea can wash the balm from an anointed king,” says Shakespeare’s Richard. If only it was that simple.”

The above is taken from a 2002 article in The Guardian,

It is a very intriguing thought that here we have another medieval King of England who may not be where he is supposed to be. I’m thinking of Edward II, and the dispute over whether he really did die when he was said to have, and whether he was laid to rest in Gloucester Abbey on the date he is supposed to have been. And I also think, of course, of Richard III, who really was where he was said to have been, and not lost in the River Soar as a legend claims.

If it was a cover-up, it was a Lancastrian one! What a surprise. Well, there is one thing to be said of poor Richard II, a railway station is a refreshing change from car parks. Since Richard III, there has been a positive rash of burials found or suspected under car parks. But then, his predecessor, Richard II, always did like innovation and being different.

PS: As the above article was written in 2002, and I haven’t heard anything more of a great discovery in Stirling, I can only imagine that Richard II does, after all, lie at rest with his beloved Queen Anne in Westminster Abbey. Unless, of course, someone else knows something the rest of us do not….?

PPS: Um, when did they locate Anne Neville’s tomb so precisely? I thought the whereabouts of her last resting place were only vaguely known…? The actual location has been lost.

Tomb of Richard II and Anne of Bohemia in Westminster Abbey
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Shakespeare? Tudor propaganda? How about some Yorkist propaganda instead….?

The Tudors were past masters with propaganda, and there just wasn’t much of it being used against them. So how about we expunge them from history? How about we produce proof that Richard III was the victor at Bosworth….? Good idea, I think! You saw it here first, folks – and just to make sure there is no doubt, here is a photograph of Richard III’s 1485 Christmas address. It was the first of many, many more.

And what triggered the above sentiments? Well, it is this book Not because of its opinion of President Trump, but because of its analysis of how and why Shakespeare depicted the history of his, Shakespeare’s, England. And why certain kings, disapproved of by the Tudor regime, were subjected to vicious and vile propaganda in order to lessen their claims and reinforce what legitimacy the Tudors and Lancastrians had. Which was very little. The House of Tudor became legitimate in the end, simply because possession is nine tenths of the law, not because they had always had the right to the throne.

Tyrant - Greenblatt - 1

 

 

A question of age

Drifting in and out of various history groups on the net, a very strange thing has become apparent. There are some out there who truly believe  Richard III’s death was ‘the end of the Middle Ages’ and that he stood in the way of the wonderful, burgeoning Renaissance like some great big dinosaur with both feet firmly planted in the past.

Of course, by pretty much anyone’s standard, Henry Tudor was a ‘medieval king’ as much as Richard, and the Renaissance wasn’t halting for anyone–it was firmly on its way to England and had been for some years prior to Bosworth. Richard certainly was not stopping it.

But putting that aside, there has also been on occasion rather extraordinary comments to the effect of ‘Francis Lovell was a remainder of the ‘old guard’ too set in his ways to embark on the bright new course laid out by Henry Tudor’. This gives a wrong impression that somehow Henry Tudor was a uniquely inspired youth, while Lovell and Richard were  a pair of ancient  stick-in-the-muds, both figuratively and literally! I even read one blog where Henry at Bosworth is described as the ‘young Henry Tudor’, implying that Richard was much older than him, not a mere four years.

Hello, people! These guys were all young men, Tudor, Francis Lovell and Richard, with only a few years between them. No one was stuck in a rut, none of them were old enough to be.  I am pretty darn sure Lovell wasn’t, to paraphrase the familiar saying, an ‘old dog who can’t learn new tricks.’

I blame Shakespeare whose messing with dates ended up giving us a much older Richard than reality–and hence a bevy of middle-aged and sometimes older actors to play him, with the other figures in his life also being portrayed as much older than their true ages. (Edward and Buckingham are frequently portrayed as rather ancient.)

Added to this, The White Queen and The White Princess gave us, pretty much for the first time, a hunky young Henry with designer stubble (although, in fairness, The White Queen did, for once, also give us a  hunky Richard who was around the correct age.)

As far as age confusion, it happens a lot with Richard, but there was a bit of a turnaround at the Bosworth re-enactment this year, and I don’t mean the alternative battle where Richard won the day. The commentator slipped up, and told the crowd that  Henry was ‘an older man’ at the time of Bosworth. Oops!

hunkyhenry‘Hunky’ young  Henry VII ala the White Queen

SHAKYRRichard, played by old dude, with all the Shakespearean trimmings

HENRY.The real young Henry, drawing from life

 

RIII - Royal CollectionRichard, NPG, copy of lost original

Richard III wasn’t the only dog to be given a bad name….

We all know how Richard III’s reputation has been besmirched over the centuries. He was turned into a monster because the likes of More and Shakespeare pandered to the Tudors’ need to justify their seizure of the throne. Thus he became a creature of misshapen body and mind, capable of putting his own child nephews to death, and disposing of righteous opponents who only stood up for the truth.

Hmm, yes. Well, in this present day and age, people are becoming more enlightened about Richard, who has an army of supporters prepared to stand up and be counted on his behalf.

King John is another monarch with a bad reputation, although in his case it is more deserved, I think. Yet something that first happened in his reign has come down in history as being the work of a 14th-century nobleman, John Holand, 1st Duke of Exeter, half-brother of King Richard II. What was this horrible crime? The instigation of the bloody sport of bull-running in the Lincolnshire town of Stamford.

Stamford 2015

Bull-running was a St Brice’s Day (13th November) fixture in the town for centuries, although it has disappeared now, ending up as a colourful nod toward something akin to a carnival.

Records state quite categorically, that it originated in the 12th century, in the time of King John. So how did King Richard II’s 14th-century half-brother get the blame? Simply because John Holand is another bogeyman. It is almost a tradition to point accusing fingers at him and denigrate him, à la Richard III. If there is a connection between John Holand and Stamford, it appears to be the burial of his parents at Greyfriars, i.e. Princess Joan of Kent and Sir Thomas Holand, 1st Earl of Kent.

 

Gatehouse of Stamford Greyfriars

John Holand had his faults, and in his youth was a hothead, passionate and hasty, but that appears to have only applied to his youth. Later on he was a steadfast supporter of Richard II, and eventually lost his life in the first half of January 1400 (the actual date of his summary and illegal execution isn’t known) while rebelling in Richard’s favour against the Lancastrian usurper, King Henry IV.

 

John Holand is said to be one of the two riders on the right

There are two murders in which his name is involved, that of a Carmelite friar who was tortured most cruelly because of a supposed plot against the king. The other, in 1385, occurred when Richard II’s army was moving north toward the Scottish border. One of John Holand’s favourite squires was murdered during a quarrel with men of Sir Ralph Stafford, son and heir of the Earl of Stafford. John Holand’s mercurial temper burst forth, and he took some men to ride to be avenged on Stafford’s men. On the way, in the dark, he came up against Stafford himself. What happened next is uncertain, except that the outcome was Stafford’s death at the end of John Holand’s sword. Some accounts say he simply killed Stafford without warning, others that there was an argument that got out of hand. Whatever the truth, John Holand fled into sanctuary at Beverley.

‘Beverley Minster, (across the rooftops)’ by Ian Appleyard

He was eventually received back at court, and obliged to make abject apologies, etc. etc. But one sad result of the whole incident was said to have been the death of Joan of Kent, who could not withstand the state of affairs when one of her sons (Richard II) swore to severely punish another (John Holand, who was said to be Joan’s favourite, perhaps because he reminded her so of the husband she had loved so much – but that’s another story).

 So, these are the two bloodthirsty crimes that have come down through history to attach to his memory. I defend neither of them. He didn’t or couldn’t control his temper. Today he’d receive treatment for anger management. But, to his credit, he does seem to have overcome this flaw in his character, for I have found no further evidence of it.

His other sins appear to be have been of an amorous nature. He is said to be the actual father of Richard of Conisburgh, from whom the House of York descended. And he seduced John of Gaunt’s daughter, Elizabeth of Lancaster, putting her in the family way, as the quaint expression goes. They were married hastily, and bundled off to Castile with John of Gaunt’s expedition to claim the crown of that land.

John Holand was a fiery but devastatingly charming man who was said to have been charismatic, and I am prepared to believe this describes him well. He was also a famous and flambuoyant jouster, a regular rock star of the tournament circuit, who always put on a great display of skill and theatre.

But as for introducing bull-running to Stamford. . . Well, it had been going on for a century or more before he came along, so it would be a miracle indeed if he had anything to do with it. Yet, he has been given the blame. So, like Richard III, he has been given a bad name. Yes, he was a sinner at one time, which Richard III never was, but even so, he’s being castigated for things he couldn’t have done.

For further examples of John Holand being accused of starting the bull-running, go here, here and here.

How we went around the mulberry tree….

Mulberry tree

Well now, apart from the old nursery rhyme, “Here we go round the mulberry tree”, what else do we know about the history of mulberries in England, except that the colour “murrey” is a contraction of the name? Here is a link (that contains other links) to tell you all about it, including that Shakespeare had a black mulberry tree in his garden at Stratford. It was felled in 1756, which James Boswell described as “an act of ‘gothick barbarity’ by the then owner of New Place, the Reverend Francis Gastrell. Apparently tired of continual visits by tourists asking to see the tree, Gastrell chopped it down. Having provoked the ire of Stratford residents, Gastrell left the town.”

London Charterhouse in 1756Painting of London Charterhouse alms-house (on the left) and boys’ school (around the large quadrangle to the right) in 1756, by an unknown artist.  Preacher’s Court is the curved open space to the left (east). The area of trees to the north would be Pardon Churchyard, referred to in the Letters Patent when the alms-house and school were founded. Charterhouse Square is seen in the foreground and was the burial site for tens of thousands of victims of the Black Death in the 14th century.

 

The “naughty” corpse of Henry VI….

Ophelia's costume

The link below concerns an exhibition entitled ‘Costuming the Leading Ladies of Shakespeare: From Stratford to Orange County’ at UC Irvine’s Langson Library, West Peltason and Pereira drives, Irvine; www.lib.uci.edu/langson. The exhibition is there through to the end of September.

Several amusing anecdotes are described in the article, including one about Lady Anne’s apparent effect upon an on-stage corpse of her father-in-law, Henry VI!

 

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!

Discovered in Norwich

Whilst visiting Norwich to see the Whitefriars plaque to Lady Eleanor Talbot, Richard’s sister-in-law, in Tomblands near the Cathedral, I happened to take lunch in a particular hostelry, the Glass House. It is principally named for the city’s stained glass industry and various panels, also commemorate the author Harriet Martineau, the rebel Robert Kett, Cotman and the other “Norwich School” artists.

The panel nearest the main door was this one (left). Sir Thomas, who bore the name of a North Norfolk village, served John of Gaunt, helped to implement Henry IV’s usurpation before joining Henry V as an archery commander at Harfleur and Azincourt, and eventually dying in 1428. The other pictures are of Sir Thomas,  Henry IV and the Upper Close at Norwich Cathedral. 

Why Shakespeare repeated the Tudors’ fake news….

Elizabeth l and ShakespeareAs Ricardians, we all know that Shakespeare toed the Tudor line. He repeated the falsehoods of More and the like, and labelled Richard III for all time as a deformed monster. But this article discusses the circumstances that compelled the Bard to write as he did. Well worth a read.

 

A Biased Review of a Biased Book

Picture of an angry woman by Vera Kratochvil

I have just seen a review of Chris Skidmore’s biography of Richard III which has got me rather incensed. Now, I have to admit first of all that I haven’t read the book in question, because I have heard from several reliable sources that it is biased against Richard, despite claiming to be neutral, so I don’t want to a) waste my money or b) give custom to an anti-Ricardian. I did hear him speak at the 2017 AGM of the Richard III Society and wasn’t impressed at all. I’m surprised he was asked to speak, frankly.

Anyway, I am commenting on the review rather than the book itself. You may be able to see it here: Wall Street Journal link although you may be asked to subscribe. If you can’t see it, here is my comment where I have replied to someone who said it was a ‘great review’. I wrote all this, and then found there was a word limit so I had to edit it, but this is what I wanted to say, quoting the points I am replying to:

Not so great actually: –
1. ‘…Princes in the Tower, who had a better claim to the throne than he did’ – this is wrong – they were legally declared illegitimate by the Three Estates and confirmed as such by Parliament.
2. ‘since the king consistently went wildly beyond the norms of even what was considered politically acceptable at the time’ – he did everything legally at the time – it might not seem ethical to us but he did everything by the book of the age. His ‘coup’ was almost bloodless.
3. ‘Richard was charged with protecting the young Edward V’ – no he wasn’t – Protector of the Realm was his title, not Protector of the princes. It was the equivalent to Head of Homeland Security – it was not the same as regent either – the country would have been ruled by the Council with him as a member. He was there to put down rebellions from within and without the realm (which he did wrt the Woodvilles).
4. ‘he tried to argue that Edward V (who was never officially crowned) was illegitimate through his father’s supposed bigamy’ – he succeeded! The ‘princes’ were legally declared illegitimate and he was the next in line.
5. ‘Within a couple of months, he had sent Edward and his brother Richard (age 10) to the Tower’ – the Tower was the traditional place for the next king to reside before his coronation. It was also a place of safety.
6. ‘Does it matter that we don’t know the method of the princes’ murder, considering that their corpses were never found?’ – yes it matters because there is no evidence they were killed at all, by anyone.
7.  ‘Richard worried that if he did faithfully undertake the role of Protector, he would be punished for the persecution of Queen Elizabeth’s Woodville relatives’ – well, unless Mr Skidmore is a time-travelling mind-reader, nobody knows what Richard thought or worried about.
8. ‘The coup itself was flawlessly executed, with soldiers brought down from York, Edward V’s coronation suddenly “postponed,” potential Woodville supporters eliminated, the young king moved to the Tower “for his own safety” and the nobility squared with threats and promises’ – if you read Annette Carson you will see that Richard acted completely properly wrt having Edward V crowned until the bigamy was revealed. He even had coins minted in Edward’s name – would he really have done this if he had planned to take the throne the minute his brother had died? He only had 300 soldiers with him when he met the royal party to escort the new king into London – it was only after a plot had occurred that he sent for more soldiers. He reacted to events rather than instigating them.
9. ‘Richard saw that he needed to undertake one more outrage to secure his throne, since no one seemed to accept the argument that the princes were illegitimate’ – nonsense – he was accepted as the anointed king and everyone believed the princes were illegitimate – even Elizabeth Woodville never claimed her marriage was legal – not even after Richard’s death.
10. ‘When it became clear that Richard had indeed killed the princes’ – Really? They disappeared and there were rumours here and there that they had been killed (not always saying it was at Richard’s hands), but there were also rumours they were still alive. The death rumours were suspiciously in areas where Bishop Morton/Margaret Beaufort had supporters or had themselves been.
11. ‘Elizabeth…entered into a secret alliance with the Tudor family’ – no evidence for this. She seemed to have kept her options open.
12. ‘this highly readable chronicle comprises vaulting ambition, familial betrayal, moral corruption, high politics, foul murder and a beautiful queen lusting for revenge. Shakespeare can hardly be blamed for a little exaggeration’ – sounds very dramatic – the truth would be much less saleable and salacious, wouldn’t it? I note the comment about the graphic detail of Richard’s death, which only serves to make me suspect that other events are equally exaggerated by Skidmore – horror and evil sells unfortunately.

 

 

 

Photo: Free public domain download by Vera Kratochvil at PublicDomainPictures.net

 

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