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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.

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A MURAL FOR QUEEN ELEANOR

Stony Stratford is a small place today but in the medieval era it was along one of the main routes towards London and frequently visited by passing notables. Historically, it is primarily remembered for being the spot where Richard of Gloucester and the Duke of Buckingham finally met up with Edward V…beginning the dramatic chain of events that occurred  in 1483.

However, several hundred years earlier, Stony Stratford was the temporary resting place for the body of Eleanor of Castile, the wife of Edward I, who had died at Harby in Nottinghamshire. An ‘Eleanor Cross’ was set up at each place along the route taken by her funeral cortege, at Lincoln, Grantham, Stamford, Geddington, Hardingstone near Northampton, Stony Stratford, Woburn, Dunstable, St Albans, Waltham, Westcheap and Charing. Only three are extant in modern times–the crosses at Geddington, Northampton, and Lincoln, although a few fragments from several other Eleanor crosses remain in various museums across the country. Most of the monuments were destroyed during the Civil War.

Edward I was a harsh King but he did seem to love his wife, with whom he had 16 children. Eleanor herself was not a popular Queen in her lifetime but was a rich heiress in her own right and an astute businesswoman. Her reputation has improved since the 17th century. It is good to see this rather forgotten queen commemorated by this new painting in the town where one of the crosses to her memory once stood.

 

ELEANOR OF CASTILE MURAL/VIDEO

 

ELEANOR OF CASTILE MURAL/ARTICLE

crossNorthampton’s Eleanor Cross–in need of TLC

ELCASStony Stratford’s New Mural

Edward de Wigmore existed, and left descendants….

 

stamford-main_14

Stamford, Lincolnshire

The general consensus is that there never was an Edward de/of Wigmore. Indeed, many say that his supposed parents were never an item at all, let alone married. The parents are, of course, Edward IV and Lady Eleanor Talbot. Their marriage is the mysterious pre-contract, the revelation of which in 1483 catapulted Richard III to the throne, and led to another mystery, that of the boys in the Tower and what happened to them.

I’m Richard’s supporter to the end, so do not believe he did away with his nephews, illegitimate or not. Nor do I agree with the statement in the following extract from Snow’s book below that “…There would have been no one whom those three monarchs [Richard III, Henry VII and Henry VIII] would sooner have seen out of their way to the throne than Edward IV’s eldest son [Edward de Wigmore] and any descendants of his, granted the validity at the end of the fifteenth century of precontract marriages…”

If Edward de Wigmore had existed, and survived, Richard would have regarded him as Edward IV’s rightful heir and the coronation being arranged for the elder of the two boys in the Tower, Edward V, would have been transferred instead to this other Edward. I have no doubt of this whatsoever. But, the situation did not arise, because the existence of Edward de Wigmore never came to light. The closest I can get to a possibility of his existence is that some believe he died not long after birth. (NB: Alison Weir claims that Edward de Wigmore was known as Giles Gurney before taking his more generally known name. I do not know her source for this.)

So, imagine my surprise when looking for something else (ah, those hallowed words!) Google took me to the publication A Time of Renewal by Philip Snow, published 1998. The book concerns Charles Percy Snow, Baron Snow, CBE (15 October 1905 – 1 July 1980) who held several important positions in the British Civil Service and briefly in the government. Philip Snow, the author of the book from which I have taken the following passage, was C.P. Snow’s brother, an author and cricketer, who died in 2012.

Extract from A Time of Renewal:

[The story of Edward de Wigmore, possible son from Edward IV’s clandestine] “…marriage in 1462 to Lady Eleanor Talbot, widow of Lord Boteler (or Butler), daughter of the 1st Earl of Shrewsbury and granddaughter of the Duke of Buckingham, never ceases to occupy us. But we fear we are up against Richard III and Henry VII and their bludgeoning supporters in our attempts to prove or establish direct [family] links with Edward de Wigmore, who reputedly survived by sanctuary in a convent (where Lady Eleanor died as a recluse) not too far from Stamford and demolished by Henry VIII…

“…There would have been no one whom those three monarchs would sooner have seen out of their way to the throne than Edward IV’s eldest son and any descendants of his, granted the validity at the end of the fifteenth century of precontract marriages. A subsidiary title of Edward IV was Lord of Wigmore. A Wigmore of the mid-eighteenth century living in Stamford where Edward IV frequently stayed—he was also Lord of Stamford—had drawn up a tree showing ancestry back to this first son of Edward IV, Edward de Wigmore, but there are still a couple of gaps which so far, not unexpectedly, defy filling in, except perhaps by some determined and diligent pedigree scholar, before achieving something no less sensational…

“…Charles was always amused by the thought of our possible descent from Edward IV but when Garter King of Arms was researching all the branches of the family for his baronial coat of arms Charles did not wish to spend the money necessary to have him look into the Plantagenets of around 1460. (I must say that Garter King of Arms did seem reluctant to upturn the stones along that particular path: it might have been more than his job was worth.) This was to the natural disappointment of his relatives who had done as much research as their resources and leisure allowed.”

Has anyone ever heard this version of events before? I thought Eleanor died (probably childless) in Norwich and was buried there, not that she lived and died in Stamford and left a hearty son behind. As for Edward de Wigmore eventually living there, openly presumably, and left children of his own… Oh, how interesting it would be to see the “tree” that the 18th-century Wigmore had drawn up.

This story makes me think of Richard’s son, John of Gloucester, who ultimate fate is not known for certain. What if he too had lived on, and like his cousin Edward de Wigmore, left a family from whom more generations descended. We will never know.

Opinions please?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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