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A Medieval Almshouse–with a Hidden Treasure

Sherborne is a pretty little town with a ruined castle, interesting buildings including, an abbey, and a medieval almshouse. All are well worth a visit but the 15th century almshouse is of particular note as it is still in use in its original function. As the buildings are  residential, the Almshouse is not generally open to the public but the chapel  and adjacent room can be viewed on certain summer afternoons for a small fee (although due to the current pandemic it may be a long time before it opens to the public  again.)

The Almshouse first began as a House of Mercy in 1406, but what we see today is  from the New Foundation of 1437, where a house was built to Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist. A licence was obtained from King Henry VI with the assistance of Robert Neville, Bishop  of Salisbury (a brother of Cecily Neville, mother to Edward IV and Richard III.) Robert owned the manor of Sherborne at the time, hence his  interest in the charitable project.

The licence granted by Henry gave the House the rights to hold the property, and permission for the use of a seal for an almshouse containing ‘poor, feeble and impotent’ men and women. To assist these aged tenants‘ needs was chaplain and a housewife‘ were obtained. A prior was appointed from the  residents too oversee the running of the house. The cleaning lady was paid  quarterly and got a new gown and hood thrown into the bargain every year. The tenants themselves received white, woolen, hooded gowns and food to the cost of ten shillings served twice a day–‘reasonable drinking’ was also permitted in the evenings! If times were hard, however, the residents were initially allowed to beg out in the town streets, although later this practice was forbidden.

A facsimile of the Almshouse  licence  hangs on a  wall inside the inside the building. Written in English, it is sealed by Robert Neville, Humphrey Strafford of Hooke, and others donors who gave sumptuous gifts, including a local lady called Margaret Goffe who gifted the Julian Inn. Below the facsimile lies the house’s original money coffer with its five sturdy locks–all five key-holders had to gather in order to open the chest, so there was no chance of anyone with light fingers dipping into the community’s funds!

During the Reformation, the little house‘s existence was threatened since it  was deemed  a place  used for ‘superstitious’ rites. However, in the end it was not destroyed or sold off due to it being a charity run by lay persons.

 What is particularly interesting about the Almshouse is its ‘little secret’, hidden from the later Tudor era right down to modern times. Secreted  away in one of the rooms was a stunning medieval triptych painting crafted in around 1480. Due to having been folded up and kept in a dark place, it has retained its medieval colours in full glorious vibrancy. Lazarus  rises from the dead; a sinister Satan is cast out of a dumb man; the son of the widow of Nain and the daughter of Jairus rise again, and Bartimaeus is healed of his ills.

The Triptych  is now restored to a position of prominence in the little chapel, overlooking by 15thc stained glass depicting the Virgin and Child, John the Baptist and John the Evangelist.

The church of St Martin-cum-Gregory

IMG_20191126_122508If you go to York and enter Micklegate Bar heading towards the City Centre, you will see a wonderful medieval gem on your right, the church of St Martin-cum-Gregory, of which Richard III was patron (below left). Its name is due to the fact that the present church is the result of two different churches’ fusion, St Martin and St Gregory. In the Middle Ages, York was a city with many churches but, at some point, especially after the Great Plague, the population was slashed and, as a consequence, many of them became redundant; St Gregory on Burton Lane was one of them. In addition to the reduction of the population, after the Reformation, St Martin was scheduled for closure but in 1585 it was decided to knock down St Gregory and to merge the two parishes. The nave of St Martin-cum-Gregory church was built in the 13th century while the side aisles were possibly added at the beginning of the 14th century, the chancel in the 15th century.IMG_20191126_123143

In 1565, the Lord Mayor had given 100 marks to buy three bells. The original steeple had to be removed as it was dangerous and it was rebuilt in 1677. Three years later, a clock and a dial were added. Due to the fact that the tower was made of bricks, the result is a strange combination of different styles. The upper part of the tower was added in the 19th century.

In 1828, the church-wardens and parishioners requested that the butter market, built for the second time in 1778, (the first one dating back to medieval times, had been blown away) be demolished and (sadly) this request was granted. The excuse was that for years no butter had been there and that the place had become an assembly point for riotous people. It had been used to view, search, measure, mark and seal the butter, that afterwards was sold elsewhere, even in London. The market was held every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, a place that today we would have greatly appreciated visiting.IMG_20191126_123138

St Martin-cum-Gregory is famous for its wonderful medieval stained glass and it is surrounded by a graveyard. The roof in the nave was panelled with beautiful sculptured bosses located at the angles of the intersections. In the west end of the steeple it is possible to see the remnants of a Roman family funereal monument.

Recently, the church, belonging to the parish of Micklegate along with Holy Trinity of Micklegate (to distinguish it from Holy Trinity in Goodramgate and the Methodist Church in Monk Gate) and the other parish church of St Mary Bishophill Junior, became surplus to needs and were closed.

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In 2008, due to the beauty of its stained glass, it was reopened as the Stained Glass Centre. Many workshops take place there in summer and currently there is a plan to open the church to the public so it can be visited and appreciated again all the year round. This plan was set up in the hope of giving Micklegate the role it had had before, that of being one of the most interesting and visited areas in York.

 

SARUM LIGHTS–A COMMEMORATION

2020 is the 800th Anniversary of the founding of Salisbury Cathedral. Before ‘New Salisbury’ came into existence, the town stood on the windy cone of Old Sarum, a huge iron-age hillfort with massive earthen ramparts. There was a particularly forbidding Norman castle on the height, with a windswept bridge over a deep moat–here, Henry II kept his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine imprisoned for some sixteen years,  served by a single loyal lady-in-waiting. The old town also had a cathedral, begun somewhere after 1075. It was rather an ill-fated building, however, being severely damaged in a storm just five days after consecration.  Sometime in the late 12th century, it was decided to move the cathedral from the height due to the lack of water. The cathedral was dismantled and much of the stonework taken down to the new site near the river, where the town of Salisbury as we know it would grow around it. The first stones of the English-style Gothic building were laid in 1220, in the reign of Henry III, with foundation stones being laid by, among other notables, the King’s half-uncle, William Longespee and his wife Ela, Countess of Salisbury, a remarkable woman who later became Sheriff of Wiltshire.

To commemorate the founding of Salisbury cathedral, a light show recently took place within the great building  with projections of  charters, drawings, stained glass, saints and rulers who played a part in Salisbury’s history. On the bleak ruins of Old Sarum, beams of light were shot high into the night sky so that they were visible from Salisbury town centre.

There are many interesting monuments inside the cathedral, including that of founder William Longespee (who was thought to have been poisoned–and a RAT found in his skull when his tomb was opened was full of arsenic!), Sir John Cheney, the 6ft 6 giant who was unhorsed by Richard III at Bosworth, and possibly Lionel Woodville, who was Bishop there until Buckingham’s rebellion, when he fled to Brittany hearing of  Buckingham’s failure. Salisbury also has one of the copies of Magna Carta and the tallest spire in England. The building of the cathedral was fictionalised in the best-selling novel ‘PILLARS OF THE EARTH’ by Ken Follett, which recently was made into a TV series.

 

SARUM LIGHTS VIDEO

RICHARD III’s HORSES..

IMG_5875.jpgStained glass depiction of King Richard and his legendary horse, White Surrey.

As we now know sadly, Richard, did not own a horse called  White Surrey or, as he has sometimes been called, White Syrie  (1).  But  Richard did own horses aplenty and we are fortunate lists of these horses have survived – see below (2).  What I know of horses you could put on a postage stamp but the late John Ashdown-Hill explains in his book The Mythology of Richard III’  that liard or lyard are grey horses which could be described as white.  So therefore it can clearly be seen that Richard did have grey horses which could appear white.  If one of these horses was not called White Syrie…well..he should have been!   John goes on to explain it was once believed ‘that a horse called White Syrie was actually listed in a 15th century manuscript’  – see below  – ‘however this proved to be a misreading.  There is therefore no 15th century surviving evidence of the name of the horse that Richard rode in his last battle (3)’

THE NAMES OF HORSE BEING AT GRISSE IN HAVERING PARC

First Liard – trotting

Liard Clervax of Croft  – ambling

The Whit – ambling

Baiard Babingtone – ambling

Liard Strangwisse – Ambling

Baiard Rither – Ambling

Liard Cultone – trotting

The litille Whit of Knaresburghe  – ambling

My ladies grey gelding (name unknown) – Ambling

Liard Carlile – trotting

Liard Norffolk – Ambling

THE NAMES OF HORSES BEING AT GRISSE IN HOLDERNESSE

Liard Mountfort – ambling

Powisse Tomlynsone

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THE NAMES OF HORSES BEING AT HARDMET AT NOTTINGHAM 

Liard Danby – Ambling

Liard hoton – Ambling

The gret grey that came from Gervaux -ambling

Baiard Culton – trotting

Blak Morelle – Trotting

The Whit of Gervaux  – Ambling for my lady

The Walssh (hoby) nag – for my lady ambling

Jak

Liard Bradshare – ambling

The gret Bay Gelding of Gervaux  ……. (John Ashdown-Hill suggests this horse is a candidate for the  very horse  Richard rode into battle being stabled at Hardmet (Harmet) in Nottingham)

Lyard Say

Beyard Chambreleyne

The Blak of Holderness – trotting

Beyard Chamberlain

Liard Bowes

Alas no White Surrey or Whyte Syrie …it’s a great shame that the name of Richard’s horse t he rode into battle that day is lost to us  for,  without a doubt,   he would have been magnificent and as such surely deserves recognition.

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Armour for man and horse circa 1480.  Wallace Collection..

 

 

 

1.White Surrey Peter W Hammond.  Article in Richard III Crown and People p285

2. British Library Harelean  Manuscript p.4.5 Vol 1. Ed by Horrox and Hammond.

3. The Mythology of Richard III p117.118 John Ashdown-Hill.

The mysterious stained glass of Giggleswick

Giggleswick Church

Very few people know that there is a mystery surrounding the church of St Alkelda in Giggleswick. The whole matter started with a parish fair.  People from the two churches dedicated to St Alkelda, one in Middleham {pingback to March 28} and one in Giggleswick, were looking for items to sell at the fair in a Parish room. The room was a private house the church had acquired in 1932 and it was linked to the vicarage until the early Sixties. During the search, these parishioners came across a pile of old newspapers and they were attracted by something at the bottom. It was a beautiful stained glass that showed a woman being strangled with her feet in water. Everything matched with the description of St Alkelda’s martyrdom.

Giggleswick Church

Immediately after the discovery, the finders contacted the former vicar’s relatives with memories back till 1955 but they could remember nothing. Many questions arose: who was the artist who had made it? When and above all why the panel was never used? Some think that possibly it was considered extremely Catholic and this was perhaps due to the influence of a local historian, Thomas Braynshaw.

The reason the saint is showed with her feet in water, is because her name is the result of an Old English-Norse word haelikeld that is “holy well”. Possibly, she was associated with the wells that are located close to the churches both in Giggleswick and Middleham but her name was very likely to be a different one. The possibility that St Alkelda was a real person is very strong as in 1818, thanks to a refurbishment of the church in Middleham, a stone coffin was found with the skeleton of a woman inside and in the place where tradition refers the saint was buried.

As the stained glass panel was found, the members of the parish decided to clean it and try to get more information about it. During the cleaning, it was noticed that the blue and the red pieces of glass were thicker than the others.  This could mean that those pieces were made with a different technique possibly medieval coming from another glass depicting St Alkelda or a different subject. What is sure is that in A History of the Ancient Parish of Giggleswick by Brayshaw, a stained glass with many blue pieces was recorded in 1620 so it is likely that the glass was destroyed during the Commonwealth period. In 1890, a photograph shows that the stained glass reported in Braynshaw’s book had been replaced by a plain one. It is a possibility that the old pieces were inserted by the unknown artist in the new glass.

In order to have a more reliable opinion, in 2017, the glass was taken to York Minster’s glaziers. They affirmed that the glass panel was a modern one and that the thick pieces were a sort of imitation of a medieval technique but they were not able to give a definitive answer though. All this makes the glass unique and interesting. However, a question come to mind: why inserting just some pieces made imitating a medieval technique and not making the whole panel using it? It is more plausible that the unknown artist, found or was given the pieces and he had the idea to insert them in his own panel creating a very original artefact.

As regards the name of the saint, we personally have an idea still not supported by evidence. Why dedicating two churches that are very close one to another to both the Virgin Mary and a local saint? Why not just St Alkelda? What if the saint’s name was Mary and the original name of Middleham or Giggleswick church was St Mary of the Holy Well referring to the martyr who baptised converted people using the water of the wells? If her name was Mary, it was easy to mismatch her with the mother of Jesus so this could be the explanation for the adding “of the Holy Well”. At the moment this theory is just our own speculation about this topic.

The good news is that In May 2019 the panel will be allocated in Giggleswick church with a great ceremony. This will be a good occasion to visit both Giggleswick and Middleham, the only two places in the world celebrating St Alkelda but the mystery continues. Giggleswick is also famous for the school, attended by Richard Whiteley and at which Russell Harty taught, did he not?

Edward of Middleham: the prince of Richard III

 

Edward in the stained glass at St Mary and St Akelda in Middleham

Edward of York, better known as Edward of Middleham, was the only legitimate son of King Richard III and his Queen, Anne Neville.

Edward was thought to have been born in Middleham Castle in December 1473, but this date is not certain. The historian Charles Ross wrote that this date “lacks authority” and was of the opinion that Edward was probably born in 1476. A document in which the Duke of Clarence thought that the marriage between his brother and Anne was invalid confirms that the child was not born at least until 1474. The Tewkesbury Chronicle estimates that he was born in 1476 so when he died he was probably 7 and not 10, as many think. No doubt he was already born on 10th April 1477 as priests of York Minster were asked to pray for King Edward’s family including his brother Richard and his family (wife and son).

For almost everyone he is Edward of Middleham, as he was probably born in the Nursery Tower of Middleham, today known as the Prince’s Tower in the west wing of the castle and it is thought he died there too. He grew up in Middleham with a wet nurse called Isabel Burgh and a governess, Anne Idley, married to one of Richard’s favourite courtiers.

During his short life, Edward was given several titles. On 15th February 1478 Earl of Salisbury, on 26th June 1483 Duke of Cornwall, on 19th July Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and above all on 24th August 1483 he was named Earl of Chester and Prince of Wales. He received this last title in York with his father himself performing the ritual. The solemn ceremony was held in the Archbishop’s Palace and was followed by four hours of banqueting. Edward walked along the streets of York to the delight of people.

It has always been said that Edward was not a healthy child. It seems that he was so sick that he went to York in a litter and not riding a horse as he was meant to do and he couldn’t even be present at his parents’ Coronation. Because of this, probably Richard decided to organise this solemn ceremony in York where the child was named Prince of Wales.

Edward was the only legitimate child of Richard but he had at least one half-brother and a half-sister. As it is likely that these two children grew up in Yorkshire, it is possible that Edward didn’t feel lonely as a child.

Unfortunately, we have no official portrait of Edward apart from a few drawings and stained glasses. The most famous is in St Mary and St Alkelda Church in Middleham, where he appears dressed as the Prince of Wales along with his father and mother. His physical appearance is not clear as he is different in the images we have of him. It is likely he was a fair haired child with blue eyes and a lean body shape.

As Prince of Wales, Edward was expected to be king after the death of his father but fate had decided otherwise for both of them. In April 1484, Richard and Anne were at the castle of Nottingham to enjoy a respite from their royal progress, when the news of Edward’s death arrived. The reactions of the poor parents is described in the Croyland Chronicles as they were almost bordering upon madness. This means that the death was sudden and unexpected and this explains the fact that they had left him in Middleham, as they didn’t suspect an imminent death.

 

The cause of death is not sure, it seems he suffered with tuberculosis but a sudden death is not typical of this illness. So possibly the cause was something completely different and it is very unlikely we will ever know.

A mystery surrounds the burial of Edward. Many think he was buried in Sheriff Hutton in a tomb of alabaster representing a child. Some investigations have proved the tomb is empty so there is a theory that the child was possibly buried somewhere in the church, along with the mortal remains of the Neville family’s members. Due to its age, it is not possible to see any inscriptions and it is very likely the tomb dates from much earlier than 1484. The theories around the actual location of Edward’s tomb are many and varied. Some people think it could be in Coverham, others in Jervaulx Abbey where, as a child, Edward rode horses with his father, others even it is in York. Some are of the opinion that any place he might be was a provisional resting place. At that time re-burials were very common so it was not impossible that Richard had in mind a different location but, as protecting his son’s body from being desecrated or displayed was apparently Richard’s desire, we can just hope nobody will ever disturb Edward’s eternal peace.

JOHN HOWARD, DUKE OF NORFOLK – HIS WEDDING GIFTS…

 

IMG_5207.jpgJOHN HOWARD, PAINTING OF A  STAINED GLASS IMAGE FORMERLY AT TENDRING HALL OR SOUTH  CHAPEL, STOKE-BY-NAYLAND CHURCH, NOW LOST.

John Howard, what a colossus of a man – Admiral of England, member of the King’s  Council, Earl Marshal, Knight of the Garter, Treasurer of the Royal Household, High Sheriff , a great shipowner and much  more.  Described by Anne Crawford as ‘an extremely versatile royal servant, as a soldier, administrator and diplomate he had few equals among his contemporaries’.(1)   A valiant soldier and loyal friend to King Richard III, dying with him at Bosworth in 1485.  Much has been recorded about him and there are good biographies to be had by both Anne Crawford ‘Yorkist Lord’,  and John Ashdown-Hill’s ‘Richard III’s Beloved Cousyn’ with the bonus of his household books surviving edited by Crawford.  The well known comment written, regarding an incident in Howard’s life,  by a John Jenney describing Howard as being ‘as wode as a Wilde bullok’ indicates that he was neither  a pushover nor one to get the wrong side of (2).   There is also the remark made by Howard’s first wife, Catherine, aimed at John Paston and helpfully forwarded on to Paston by his brother Clement,  who wrote urgently advising  that he should get to where he had been summoned without delay and with a good excuse  as ‘Howard’s wife made her bost that if any of her husbands men might come to yow ther yulde goe noe penny for your life: and Howard hath with the Kings a great fellowship’ (3).  John Paston did indeed get himself to London and was promptly thrown into the Fleet prison for a short while.  Perhaps this move saved him from Howard’s ire so every cloud as they say.    But its not Howard’s professional life I want to focus on here but his private life for he was it would appear both a  caring father and a loving husband and Crawford has noted that when he was in London at his house in Stepney for any length of time his family and household would move there too.(4)   stoke-by-nayland-k-howard-1.jpg

Brass of Catherine Howard nee Molines at Stoke by Nayland.  Engraved in 1535 with a Tudor headdress.  Catherine’s mantle has her husband’s arms on one side with the Molines on the other.  

Although little is known about his relationship with his first wife, Catherine Moleyns (died November 1465) there are indications that his second marriage to Margaret Chedworth was a love match as the long list of valuable bridal gifts Howard ‘showered’ on her has happily  survived and been included in the Paston Letters. The pair were married in ‘unseemly’ haste six months after the death of Margaret’s second husband, John Norris of Bray,  and before Norris’ will, leaving most of his lands to his young widow provided she did not remarry, was proved.  Crawford writes  ‘Now a wealthy and eligible widower, Howard could well have looked for a second wife among the ranks of aristocratic widows or those who had personal connections, but his choice was at once more personal…’ (5).   Margaret was cousin to Anne Crosby nee Chedworth, wife to Sir John Crosby, builder of Crosby Hall  and  brought with her to Tendring Hall two daughters from her previous marriages.  Here is just a selection of the many gifts Lord Howard gave to his bride…

Ferst ij rynges of gold set with good dyamawntes, the wyche the quene yaff my master

Item, a nowche (brooch) of gold set with a fine safyre,  a grate balyse and v perles

Item, a ring of goolde with a fine rubye.

Item, my master gaff her a longe gowne of fyne cremysen velvet furred with menyver and purled with ermynes.

Item, my master gaff her vij scynnes  of fine ermynes.

Item, my master gaff her vij yerdes and di.of fyne grene velvet

item, my master gaff here a devyse of goolde with xiiii.lynkes and the ton halffe of the lynkes enamelled set with iiij rubyis and vij perles

Item, my master gaff her a lytell gerdyll of silk and goolde called a demysent and the harneys of goolde

Item, my master gaff here a coler of gold with xxxiii.roses and tonnes set on a corse of blank silk with an hanger of goolde garnished with a saphyre.

Item, my master gaff her iii. Agnus Dei of goolde.

Item, my master gaff her a cheyne of gold with a lock of gold garnished with  rubye.

Added in Sir John Howard’s own hand – And the vij.zere of the Kynge  and in the monithe of Janever I delivered my wyffe a pote of silver to pote in grene ginger that the Kynge  gaffe.

These are only a selection of the gifts, too numerous to mention here in full.    Also included were  several more gowns, rings,  gyrdles, holand clothe, Aras, cushions, silver spones, a bed with covers of cremysen damask and more..

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Lady Howard’s jewellery box..no not really!..this is the Cheapside Hoard but no doubt Margaret’s jewellery collection looked very similar.  

The Howards marriage endured until he fell,  loyally fighting for his king, at Bosworth.   Anne Crawford writes that ‘despite his age (he was sixty, an old man for his time) he was there in the middle of his infantry line’ and that ‘there is no doubt that if he had chosen to do so Howard could  have to terms with Henry before the battle as others did.  He could have despatched his force while remaining at home himself on the grounds of age and sickness.    The rhyme supposedly pinned to his tent the night before the battle warned him what to expect.. ‘Jockey of Norfolk be not so bold, for Dickon thy master is bought and sold’.  For Howard these considerations were irrelevant: he owed his dukedom to Richard and if the house of York was threatened, then the house of Howard would be in arms to defend it.  He died as he had lived, serving the Yorkist kings’.(6)    Crawford also wrote ‘Howard had no need to participate in the actual battle.   He was nearly 60 years old and having brought up his forces he could have delegated command to his son and remained in the rear and nobody would have thought the worst of him for it,  given the sheer physical effort and stamina required to fight on foot and in armour.  He fought of course’.(7)   As to how Margaret felt about her husband’s insistence to fight —  did she scold, did she plead, cajole  or did she accept nothing would stop her husband from what he perceived as his duty is not known.  As I wrote, at the beginning of this article, what a colossus of a man.  John Howard, bravo, you did well!.

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Thetford Priory Gate House – Howard’s funeral cortege would have passed through this gateway…

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John Howard’s remains were eventually removed from Thetford Priory to probably Framlingham Church at the Dissolution of the Priories.  See John Ahsdown-Hill’s ‘The Opening of the Tombs of the Dukes of Richmonds and Norfolk, Framlingham 1841’  The Ricardian vol. 18 (2008)

 

  1. John Howard first Duke of Norfolk Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Anne Crawford.
  2. Paston Letters Original Letters….ed. J Fenn p.111
  3. Yorkist Lord John Howard Duke of Norfolk  p.33 Anne Crawford
  4. Howard Household Books p.xiii ed Anne Crawford
  5. Ibid p.xxi
  6. Ibid p.xxix
  7. Yorkist Lord John Howard Duke of Norfolk p132 Anne Crawford

 

 

Stained-glass magnificence, courtesy of five Kings of England….

 

stained-glass window

This article provides an interesting interpretation of magnificent windows that are to be found in various churches, including King’s College, Cambridge. Henry VI, Edward IV, Richard III, Henry VII and Henry VIII had a royal hand in these masterpieces.

Henry VII, of course, went overboard with all his heraldic symbols, and at King’s College (see illustration above) he had all the usual Tudor badges on display, to which he added the hawthorn tree in which Richard III’s crown was supposedly found. Looking at the illustration, I suppose the greenery on the left depicts said hawthorn tree. Unless the hawthorn is in the part of the window that is not shown.

 

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. 

Richard III’s lost queen….

Ann and Richard - Rous Roll

What follows is a word-for-word opinion of Anne Neville, and Richard’s attitude/feelings for her. I make no comment, the article by Elizabeth Jane Timms speaks for itself.

“Amidst the chronicle of lost tombs at Westminster Abbey is that of Queen Anne Neville, wife of King Richard III. Queen Anne’s invisibility in these terms underlines the purported neglect on behalf of Richard III; this lack of a memorial was rectified however when a bronze plaque was placed to Queen Anne’s memory at Westminster Abbey, in an attempt to redress this act of historical forgetting. The fact though that no memorial existed to Queen Anne Neville up until the 20th century meant that whatever hope there had been in establishing the exact location of where she was buried, was slim, given the fact that her tomb is generally described as ‘lost’. This also added to the sense of mystery which already surrounded Queen Anne’s death.

“Instead of Richard III, it is Henry VII – who won victory over the former at the great Battle of Bosworth in 1485 and is remembered at Westminster Abbey. His legacy to it is most apparent in the magnificent Henry VII Chapel. All of Henry VIII’s (legitimate) children are also buried in the Abbey, thus as branches of the Tudor rose, which the marriage of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York helped to create through the union of the two hitherto warring dynasties. Henry VII’s spouse, Queen Elizabeth of York – who Richard III seems to have regarded as a possible wife after Queen Anne’s death, no doubt in an effort to neutralise the threat his niece represented to him as the undoubted Yorkist heir – lies in glory, in the tomb created for her and Henry VII by the great sculptor Pietro Torrigiano. Queen Anne Neville by contrast, lay technically ‘forgotten’ at Westminster Abbey until 1960.

“Queen Anne Neville also does not share a tomb with King Richard III, whose skeleton was, of course, discovered under a car park in Leicester, once the site of the Grey Friars church where his body, ‘pierced with numerous and deadly wounds’, was buried after Bosworth and – subsequently reburied at Leicester Cathedral in 2015. This was done, however, due to Leicester’s proximity to Market Bosworth, as opposed to any statement on the royal marriage; Richard III was simply buried alone because of the battle. By the time of Bosworth, he had not remarried after the death of Queen Anne. The tomb that was erected for King Richard in the church’s choir was paid for by Henry VII; posthumous respect for a King who had fought ‘like a most brave and valiant prince’, as even those who were not sympathetic to Richard acknowledged. The body of Richard III was of huge importance to Henry VII because it underlined his victory at Bosworth, proclaimed his new dynasty and proved that the last Plantagenet King was indeed, dead.

“Henry’s own claim to the throne was understandably one about which he was extremely sensitive, as we can see from his attitude towards both the young Earl of Warwick and pretenders such as Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck; he was, however, keen to stress that his own right to the Crown rested on a divine right won at Bosworth, as opposed to simply through the Yorkist heiress, Princess Elizabeth. Elizabeth, of course, had a far stronger claim to the English throne than his own, for which reason she had to be rendered submissive to his authority; she could have been his greatest threat – instead, she became his wife – but that fact was obviously never forgotten by King Henry.

“Some short time before Queen Anne Neville’s death, she and King Richard lost their only son. Indeed, this was a strange turn of events, given the fact that Richard III was widely supposed to have had Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, the historical ‘Princes in the Tower’, murdered, and now had lost his own ‘heir male’, for which reason it was easy to understand why a superstitious age might have ascribed this to God’s will, to avenge Queen Elizabeth Woodville, their mother. Queen Anne’s son, Edward of Middleham, died on 9 April 1484; cutting off Richard III’s direct line like this, meant that Elizabeth of York remained the true heiress in many minds, despite Richard’s Act of 1484, the Titulus Regius, which had declared her illegitimate. We may believe though, the descriptions of the Croyland Chronicle when it described Queen Anne and Richard III ‘almost bordering on madness by reason of their sudden grief’; it was alluded to in Richard’s reburial service in 2015. In parallel, we might be reminded of the scene when the news that the two Princes were thought to have been killed by order of the King, was broken to their mother, Queen Elizabeth Woodville, who ‘shriek[ed]… struck her breast, tore and pulled out her hair’ (Alison Weir, Elizabeth of York, Pg  105, 2013).

“Perhaps it was the death of her son, which weakened Queen Anne Neville; we simply do not know. It is possible that grief may have debilitated her nervous system, making her more susceptible to a medieval infection. The grief could have brought a closeness between the King and Queen – instead, we read in the Croyland Chronicle, that the King ‘shunned her bed’ (Ibid, Pg 127). The ‘Chronicler’ further reported that Queen Anne fell ‘extremely sick’ several days after Christmas; common opinion had it that the cause was tuberculosis. Croyland emphasises the ‘wound in the Queen’s breast for the loss of her son’ when referring to Christmas, 1484 (Ibid, Pg 121).

“We know little about Queen Anne Neville, even her appearance is elusive – but then, Richard III’s reign was of course, short. She features in the famous Rous Roll, illustrated on several occasions. Richard III’s marriage to Anne – the widow of Prince Edward of Lancaster – was likely to have been one borne out of political strategy because of the mighty Warwick lands which she brought with her as a daughter of the great Richard Neville, Warwick the Kingmaker. However, Anne was also Richard’s cousin, so perhaps he chose a girl he knew, as well as understanding what she would bring with her. A papal dispensation had been granted for Anne Neville’s marriage to her Yorkist cousin, Richard. Their wedding took place – fittingly, in the light of Anne’s missing tomb – at Westminster. Anne was crowned with Richard on 6 July 1483; the King and Queen walked on red cloth from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey. Lady Margaret Beaufort – mother of the future Henry VII – carried the Queen’s train (Ibid, Pg 102).

“Queen Anne died on 16 March 1485 – five months before the massively decisive Battle of Bosworth; she died ‘upon the day of a great eclipse of the sun’ (Ibid, Pg 128). On 22 March, less than ten days later, Richard III had sent an envoy to begin negotiations for a Portuguese marriage; this again was not a comment on his own personal feelings for Queen Anne Neville. Richard III would have been desperately aware of the fact that he had to maintain a tight grip on his throne and replace the son that had so recently died because his direct branch of the Plantagenet dynasty could die after him. After the Queen’s death, vicious rumour bussed about that the King had had her poisoned, but historically, there is no evidence for this. More importantly, these rumours show that the King was thought capable of such a thing, as he had been believed to have murdered the two Princes, so the attestation is valuable for how Richard may have been regarded by recent posterity. Although admittedly, this was a posterity in which Tudor propaganda was a powerful tool, as subsequent portraits of Richard which have been later tampered with, have shown. Any physical ‘deformity’ of Richard III would have been viewed significantly in an age when this was thought to be reflective of character; Richard III – as his skeleton shows – suffered from scoliosis, but apparently no – Shakespearean – withered arm.

“It was indeed a far cry from another Queen Anne by another King Richard; Queen Anne of Bohemia was greatly loved by Richard II, who was utterly distraught by her death from plague in 1394. They share a tomb at Westminster Abbey with clasping hands. There is nothing like this for Queen Anne Neville and Richard III.

“Queen Anne was believed to have been buried on the south side of the altar, according to the Victorian cataloguer of the Abbey’s monuments, A. P Stanley, Dean of Westminster, in his book Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey. The grave is unmarked, and the plaque instead commemorates the Queen herself. Westminster Abbey states that she was buried in this location, in front of the ‘Sedilia’, or chairs for the priests. It may have been exposed when Sir George Gilbert Scott was making preparations for his new High Altar in the late 19th century.

“A stained glass window exists in Cardiff Castle, depicting Anne Neville next to one of Richard III.

Anne and Richard - Cardiff Castle

“The bronze plaque in the south ambulatory to Queen Anne Neville was erected at the behest of the Richard III Society, bearing a quotation from the Rous Roll (‘full gracious’) and her heraldic shield is topped by a crown. It is the primary memorial that exists to an – almost – forgotten queen.”

©Elizabeth Jane Timms, 2018

 

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