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Shrewsbury refused entry to Henry Tudor….in 1985….

Shrewsbury - Trumper book

“In the shadow of Rowley’s House, Shrewsbury”

Here’s a little smile—well, smirk, actually—at Henry Tudor’s expense. It’s a snip from a new book by local (to Shrewsbury) historian, David Trumper, and released in November 2018, called ‘Now That’s What I Call Shrewsbury’.

“. . .One of the photos recalls a brutal snub given by Shrewsbury to Henry Tudor – or rather, volunteers who in August 1985 re-enacted Henry’s epic 260-mile trek from Pembrokeshire, through Shrewsbury, and so on to Bosworth, where he defeated Richard III in battle to become king.

“On arriving in the county town, the marchers, who were marking the 500th anniversary of the event, found that nothing had been laid on for them, and the Tudor army was told it could not camp in Shrewsbury Castle grounds.

“Several tents, which had been put up by an advance party, were ordered to be taken down.

“Henry Tudor, aka organiser Geoffrey Davies, had to admit defeat, fuming: ‘What we have seen is bureaucracy run riot in Shrewsbury.’. . .”

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I’m astonished that Henry Tudor was astonished – I mean, didn’t the creepy fellow invent OTT bureaucracy? Now, if it had happened in 1485, I fear we might have had Shrewsbury to blame for sowing the bureaucratic seed in Tudor’s nasty little mind!

As it was 1985 – well done, Shrewsbury!!!!!

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Dyer or Dire?

Many of you will remember the episode of “Who do you think you are” in which Danny Dyer was revealed as a descendant of Edward III. In this new two part series, he “meets” a few prominent ancestors, some even more distant.

The first episode began with Rollo, ancestor of the Dukes of Normandy, which saw Dyer visit Sweden, although Danes and Norwegians also claim that Viking dynast, to learn sparring with a sword and shield. Then he went to the Tower to talk about William I and Dover Castle for Henry II, discussing his rebellious sons and his mixed relationship with Becket. At every stage, riding a horse, jousting or dyeing (Dyeing?), he was accompanied by a professional genealogist (Anthony Adolph, in a cafe opposite Buckingham Palace) or a historian, if not one of television’s “usual suspects”. At the end, Dyer visited France to learn of a slightly different ancestor – St. Louis IX, although Margaret of Wessex is another canonised forebear.

The second episode did feature some real historians: Elizabeth Norton, Chris Given-Wilson, Tobias Capwell and Tracy Borman. The opening scene had Isabella on the Leeds Castle drawbridge shouting at Edward II (Dyer): “Git aht ov moi carsel” (you may need Google Translate, but not from French). We were shown an image of Hugh le Despencer’s grisly execution, without pointing out that there were two of that name, followed by Edward’s confinement in Berkeley Castle, forced abdication and the legend of his even grislier end. Henry “Hotspur” Percy, who died in battle at Shrewsbury, followed as Dyer tried on late mediaeval armour. The next scenes concerned Sir John Seymour at Wolf Hall, inveigling his daughter into Henry VIII’s world, as Dyer dressed up and tried “Tudor” dancing. We then moved on to Helmingham Hall as Catherine Cromwell married Lord Tollemache, whose successor met Dyer, his cousin, again. The series concluded with a “sugar banquet” as the star’s family joined in, dressed as Elizabeth I’s contemporaries.

Both programmes were informative about mediaeval life, such as the “silver pennies” bearing Dyer’s image and the West Ham badge, although his stereotypical East London patois grates a little. It brought to mind Ray Winstone as Henry VIII (“I have been betrayed!”) or Nick Knowles‘ egregious Historyonics.

An army of blue-blooded gannets….?

RII procession - 1

One hears about the dreadful expense occurred by the nobles who played host to various monarchs. But grand houses weren’t the only destinations for our perambulating kings and queens. For instance, in January 1398, on his way to Parliament in Shrewsbury, Richard II travelled with his young French wife, five dukes, four earls, three bishops, and a French chamberlain.

RII procession - 4

If the queen was with him, then so too would be her ladies, and the ladies and servants of the noblemen. And heaven knows how many others in the household of all these personages. To say nothing of all the men-at-arms, archers and so on.

RII procession - 2

Not Richard II, I know, but it gives an idea of the never-ending column.

This enormous horde descended upon Lilleshall Abbey after dinner on 24th January. (Phew, good timing—one less expense at least!) They stayed all the following day, and departed for Shrewsbury on 26th. I wonder if the abbey food stores echoed with emptiness? And long would it take to replenish the shelves and cellars left bare by this army of blue-blooded gannets?

RII procession - 3

Let’s hope, for the abbey’s sake, that it was a long time before a monarch descended upon it again!

The Shrewsbury house “graced” by Henry Tudor on his way to Bosworth….

 

Shrewsbury - house where HT stayed on way to Bosworth

According to this source, this old house in Wyle Cop, Shrewsbury, with its…

“…blackened timbers and pretty traceried window adorned by coats of arms, has an added interest from the fact that it is ‘ Ye auncient house in which King Henry the VII loged, when he went to Bosworth Field, Augst 1485.’ So at least the panel beneath the window has it, though Henry, of course, was but Harry of Richmond until that fateful battle had won for him the crown…”

Hmm, pity it didn’t fall down around his unworthy ears, but it was hardy enough to still be there now!

Shrewsbury - house in Wyle Cop where HT stayed in 1483

(I’m pleased that the choccie shop couldn’t have been there in 1483! It would have been awful if Tudor had enjoyed THAT as well as the throne he was to steal!)

Another myth about men “not breaking oaths to Richard”. . . .

Henry's route through Wales in 1485

Well, I’ve heard the tale of Sir Rhys ap Thomas hiding under a bridge for Henry to march over him on the way to Bosworth, thus not breaking Sir Rhys’s oath of loyalty to Richard, but this is a new one on me!

Rhys ap Thomas under the bridge

Now we have this new variation, from  http://tudortimes.co.uk/military-warfare/1485-battle-of-bosworth/henrys-march :-

“. . .when Henry, now strengthened by Sir Rhys ap Thomas, and a contingent of men from North Wales, reached the town of Shrewsbury, to cross the Severn into England, the town gates were closed against him and the town bailiff, Thomas Mitton, announced that, as he had sworn allegiance to Richard, he could not allow Richmond to pass.

“The closure of the town of Gloucester to the Lancastrians in 1471, preventing the crossing of the Severn, had proved disastrous for them – would the same be the case for Henry at Shrewsbury? Henry assured the bailiff that he and his men would do no damage and that they would not interfere with his oath, but Mitton was adamant.

“The next morning however, there was a change of heart. . .due to the intervention of Sir William Stanley.

“Henry and his men passed through – apparently with Henry stepping his horse carefully over Mitton’s body, to preserve the word of the man’s oath – although the same story is told in other circumstances of other men, so may be apocryphal. Impressed by Henry, or perhaps cowed by Sir William, the town then paid £4 4s 10d for soldiers for him. . .”

shrewsbury_traitors_gate_640

               Traitors’ Gate, Shrewsbury town wall. Let’s hope it was the one Henry passed beneath!

But the above site is not the original source for this story. There is an earlier one.

“An interesting anecdote of Thomas Mytton is related in the following extract from Owen and Blakeway’s History of Shrewsbury, vol. i, p. 245, describing the incidents of the Earl of Richmond’s (Henry VII) march through Shropshire to Bosworth Field:- “He delayed his march to Shrewsbury till he was master of Forton and Montford Bridge, two points of main importance to his designs, as he was thus provided with a passage into the midland counties, even though this town should shut her gates upon him. Having secured that bridge, which, if the Salopians had been hearty in the cause of Richard, they would have broken down, his army encamped upon Forton Heath, and he despatched messengers to Shrewsbury to summon the town. When they arrived at the foot of the Welsh bridge, they found the place in a posture of defence; the gates shut, the portcullis let down, and the bailiffs within ready to give their answer. “The senior of these magistrates for that year was Thomas Mytton, Esq., whom we have lately seen as Sheriff of the county, engaged in the arrest of the Duke of Buckingham. He is described in an old chronicle as ‘ a stout wise gentleman’, and made answer that he knew the Earl for no King, but ‘ only Kynge Rychard, whose lyffetenants he and hys fellowe weare, and before he shoulde enter there, he should goe over hys belly’, meaninge thereby, continues our authority, ‘ that he would be slayne to the grounde and so to (be) roon over (by) him before he entryd; and that he protested vehemently upon the othe he dad taken.’

“Much conversaton, we may suppose, ensued, but Mr. Mytton continuing resolute, the Earl ‘ retornyd’, says our chronicle, ‘ wyth hys companye backe agayn to Forton . . . .’ On the following morning the negotiation with the Bailiffs of Shrewsbury was renewed, and the Earl assured the magistrates that he did not mean to hurt the town or any of its inhabitants, but only desired to pass on to try his right to the Crown. We are told that Mr. Mytton began to yeald to these suggestions, but that on account of the oath he had so lately taken to oppose the entrance of Richmond into Shrewbury, he adopted the ingenious expedient of lying down on the ground and permitting the Earl to step over him. Thereupon the portcullis was drawn up, and the Earl and his retinue admitted within the gates, to the general joy of the inhabitants, and received, we are assured, ‘ with an Ave chaire (Xaipe), and God speede the wel! the streets being strowed with hearbes and flowers, and their doores adorned with greene boughs, in testimony of a true hartie reception.'”

Well, Henry was still some way from Bosworth, so I imagine there are a few more such myths waiting in the wings. They’ll be throwing their cloaks over puddles next! Or dropping their garters!

 

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

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