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The little chapel in Westminster Abbey, beloved of Richard II….

CHAPEL OF OUR LADY OF THE PEW. Doorway from N. ambulatory

Chapel of Our Lady of the Pew, Westminster Abbey, opposite Tomb of Edward the Confessor

Tucked away off the north ambulatory of Westminster Abbey, so small it doesn’t seem possible it’s anything more than an entrance to the adjacent Chapel of St John the Baptist (which is also known as the Chapel of St Erasmus) is the Chapel of Our Lady of the Pew. The original entrance to the St John the Baptist chapel was closed in 1524 to accommodate the tomb of Bishop Ruthall, and a way was knocked through from the tiny Chapel of Our Lady of the Pew instead.

It is situated opposite the Shrine of St Edward the Confessor, and is only 5’ square, so strictly standing room only. But there was once an important royal worshipper who went there alone. King Richard II knelt in prayer there, in front of the beautiful Wilton Diptych, which was kept on a ledge in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary. [Not the statue that is there now—the first image of the Virgin Mary was presented by Mary, Countess of Pembroke, who died 1377. The hooks and outline of this image still remain.]

OL_of_Pew

It is said that as a boy, Richard prayed here before riding out to face the Peasants’ Revolt at Mile End. As a man, he knelt to pray for the soul of his dearly missed wife, Queen Anne of Bohemia. And he would have been there countless times afterward.

The chapel has been described thus: “The vaulting has red stars on a white ground with a roof boss depicting the Assumption of the Virgin, who is dressed in red. The ribs have barber pole bands and rosettes and the walls are diapered over with pine-shaped designs, on each of which is a fleur de lys. This was a popular design in the late 14th century. The antlers and head of a white hart, a badge of Richard II, can still be made out.”

The name Our Lady of the Pew might have been taken from the French Notre-Dame-du-Puy, or, alternatively, from the original meaning of “pew”, a small enclosure. At the beginning of the reign of Richard II the chapel was even smaller than now! Little more than 4’ 9”.

There was at one time no access from the Chapel of Our Lady of the Pew into the Baptist’s chapel, but the two were probably joined by an aperture through the party wall to afford Richard II a view of the services held in the Baptist’s chapel. It must have been almost claustrophobic for him, but also how very private. He used it for his own personal devotions, and although it has been altered since his day, it somehow retains a sense of him.

Chapel St John Baptist, Westminster Abbey, showing narrow doorway knocked through from the Chapel of Our Lady of the Pew

Chapel of St John the Baptist, Westminster Abbey, showing in the centre the narrow doorway knocked through from the Chapel of Our Lady of the Pew

Looking into the Chapel of Our Lady of the Pew  from the Baptist’s chapel, showing how very small it is. To the left, beyond the niche in the wall, is the way out into the ambulatory.

You will find a great deal more about this little chapel in Fourteenth Century England, Volume 3 by Chris Given-Wilson.

One thing puzzles me, however. If you stand outside the chapel, with your back to the shrine of the Confessor, you will see two “angels” on either side of the arched entrance. They are label- or head-stops, depicting what appear to be two young men with shields.

The one on the left seems very like Richard II, and his shield is definitely royal, with leopards and fleur-de-lis. His eyes seem like those of Richard as depicted in his tomb effigy. The one on the right has much curlier hair, but similar eyes, and I cannot place the shield he holds. I recognize it, but cannot for the life of me identify it. Can anyone help?

The monarchs of Bradford City Hall….

Bradford City Hall

The exterior of Bradford City Hall is adorned with sculptural interpretations of the kings of England. There are forty of them, from William I to Queen Victoria. The website indicated below gives a brief description of each one.

So, let us examine the likeness and description of the four kings of concern to us, Henry VI, Edward IV, Richard III and Henry VII. Please note, there was no Edward V, but then, I suppose he was never crowned, so never officially became king.

We’ll begin with Henry VI, who appears to be beloved of Bradford pigeons.

bradfordthhenry6

King Henry VI (1422-1461, 1470-1471). The statue shows an austere figure in tight-fitting clothes under a dressing-gown like outer robe, one hand holding a sceptre, the other hand on his hip. His crown looks more like a mitre. The focus of the piece seems mainly on his long right leg.”

To be sure, those knee breeches look more late 18th/early 19th century than 15th. The barely-tied dressing robe and awkward leg rather complete the likeness of Lord Byron. Austere? No. Possessed of that purposeful chin? Not according to his portraits. And the pose is more vigorous than poor Henry was in his entire unhappy life!

Next we have a fine figure of Edward IV.

bradfordthedward4

King Edward IV (1461-1470, 1471-1483). The king is shown in plate armour, but has none of the muscularity of the statue of Henry V. One hand rests on the pommel of his sword, the other holds perhaps a scroll. The face is round and not youthful, and he wears no helm, suggesting he is posed in armour rather than likely to fight in it. He does not wear his crown either; it is on a tasselled cushion on a pedestal half behind him; the decoration of the pedestal with a carved olive branch indicates his peaceful rather than warlike intent.”

He is in armour, but has Beethoven’s head., and looks far too old to be Edward when he was able to squeeze glamorously into any armour. Because, as a young king, he was glamorous. As for being peaceful and unlikely to fight in armour, Edward may have gone to seed latterly, but had been one heck of a warrior. So we can dispense with the olive branch!

Now we come to Richard III and his description.

bradfordthrichard3

“King Richard III (1483-1485). Another statue which stands out in quality. He is shown looking downward, wearing a short tunic above and hose on his legs, and a short robe with fur edging. His left hand is almost clenched, and with his right one he is about to draw his sword, which hangs behind him. There is an emphasis on the muscles of his legs and breadth of his raised forearm to indicate his powerful physique, and coupled with the frowning expression, indicates a forceful king.”

Well, those Tudor bloomers don’t look right at all! The sculptor had the Bard’s Richard in mind, methinks. Nor does the San Andreas Fault forehead look right. If he screwed up his face like that all the time, I imagine he’d have a permanent headache. And I’m sorry, but he’s holding the sword in his left hand, while his right hand is in something resembling a fist. As for the powerful physique, well, we all know Richard was a slender man. Yes, he probably had powerful legs, but not as if he’d been on steroids. His legs had to be strong because when wearing armour in battles or jousts, he had to be able to clench his legs to stay on his horse while wielding a sword, lance or battle-axe. Puny legs wouldn’t have been much use. Was he a forceful man? No, he was far too lenient and trusting, and it cost him his life.

Now for Henry VII, who (heh, heh, heh) is covered in green mould!

Bradford HVII

“Henry Tudor (King Henry VII, 1485-1509). The sculptor has chosen to depict the king as a man of peace and religion, wearing long tunic and robe, holding sceptre and orb, the latter with a prominent cross on top. His expression is bleak, more so than his painted portraits would suggest, his face leathery, and on his head is a soft cap rather than a crown, though a heavy chain with medallion hangs prominently on his breast. Henry Tudor was particularly beloved by the Welsh, and there is a statue of him in Cardiff City Hall by Ernest Gillick. That statue is in full plate armour, and depicts a purposeful man striding to meet, or make, his own fate.”

Yes, the bleak and leathery face might do, especially toward the end of his life. A man of peace? Maybe…but only after he’d gone to war by invading England with a French army, killed Richard III through vile treachery and then plonked his scrawny Welsh posterior on the usurped throne. I’m glad to say that, thanks to the remaining Yorkists, it was a long time before his posterior could unclench! A very long time.

If you’d like to see the other thirty-six  monarchs, please go to http://www.speel.me.uk/sculptplaces/bradfordcityhall.htm Or visit Bradford City Hall, of course.

 

 

Swords associated (one way or another) with Richard III….

Richard at Bosworth

The sword was a vital weapon in the medieval period (as can be seen in the hand-to-hand combat in the illustration of Bosworth above) and there would not have been a knight, lord, magnate or king who did not possess a minimum of one. Most would have had a number. We will never know how many swords Richard III possessed, but as far as I am concerned, there are five swords I associate with him…and one of these may have been made for his son. These swords are not all real weapons, some are from art. Only the first actual sword in the following list could have belonged to Richard himself, and of this, only part may remain of the original, as he presented it to the City of Gloucester in 1483.

Mourning Sword, Gloucester

Mourning Sword of Gloucester

This was on display at the recent Richard III Exhibition in Gloucester. Tradition says that it is Richard III’s own personal sword, given to the Mayor of Gloucester during Richard’s 1483 visit. The silver decoration is in the Elizabethan style, and says ‘Francisco me fecit’. A bladesmith of that name was working in Toledo in the 1570s, which means that these elements of the sword post-date Richard’s period. But if you look closely at the handle you will see there is an iron core beneath the silverwork. This may be what remains of the sword given by Richard. I am not sure why it is called the Mourning Sword, which we also described here.

Ceremonial Sword of State for the Prince of Wales

“Though the blade of the above sword was made in Germany, its pommel and hilt are English. Its ornamentation indicates it was meant for the Prince of Wales: its engraved hilt shows the Royal arms of England being held aloft by two angels above the arms of Wales and Cornwall; the opposite has the arms of the Earldoms of March and Chester. This double edged sword was thus not meant for battle, but would have been carried before the Prince during ceremonial processions, such as when he was invested with his title.” Two Princes also held the title of Earl of Chester in the late 15th century. Edward IV’s oldest son, also named Edward…and Richard III’s son Edward… The above photograph is from the British Museum and you can see some very detailed photographs of this ceremonial sword here.

 

Richard-III-Broken-Sword-235456-Society-of-Antiquaries-of-London

Broken Sword Portrait

Not my favourite Richard portrait by any means, and certainly not my favourite sword because, being broken, it bestows an entirely false impression of the man himself – “…A broken sword can be interpreted as symbolic of failure; in a regal portrait, as symbolic of prematurely ended reign by violence, battle, deposition and usurpation…” The only reason Richard “failed” was because he was betrayed, not because of any shortcomings on his part. Just think, a few more yards and he’d have extinguished Henry Tudor! If only he had! As for usurpation, well we all know who did that, and it wasn’t Richard!

Damage to Richard's sword - statue in Leicester

Sword held by Richard’s Statue in Leicester

From the Leicester Mercury. A council spokesman said: “We became aware of the damage to the Richard III statue early last week and are liaising with specialist companies to investigate the best way of repairing it. “The joint at the hilt of the sword has been bent. We do not yet know the extent or cause of the damage. A detailed survey will be carried out later this week, but it is likely that the damage will cost several thousand pounds to put right. “In the meantime, the statue will be fenced off as a safety precaution.” There will always be morons around who think such criminal damage is funny.

From Rous

My fifth and final sword is from Rous. As you see, the illustration depicts Richard in full armour, holding a sword that seems to be half his height in length. He may have been a slightly built man, but he was master of the sword (and every other weapon a knight needed to use). This little picture rather brings the fighting Richard to life for me.

Well, that’s five swords. Would anyone add more?

 

 

 

Where’s Henry?

henry-vii-statue-exeter

In life, Henry VII was renowned for fighting his battles from a deckchair, behind a pike wall with a telescope. Even some of his statues are behaving similarly now.

The best example is, or was, in Exeter. It commemorated the two sieges of the city in 1497 when the two Cornish Rebellions were kept out but proceeded towards London, the First with more success than the Second. Henry held court here for a month that autumn. The first statue stood near Eastgate until 1784 and then moved to High Street until it was destroyed during the Blitz. The 1950s fibreglass replacement, designed by Sonia Newton, was displayed at Princesshay until 2005, when a new shopping centre took priority and he is in hiding somewhere in Belle Isle.

 

The Halloween horror of Henry VII….

huge-henry-statue

The people of Pembroke are proud of Henry VII, and are raising money for an 8′ (rather unflattering) statue of him – it’s about as complimentary as poor old Richard’s armless statue at Middleham. But, unlike Richard, it is highly suitable for a Halloween shock!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-west-wales-37695578

Anyway, this 8′ giant prompted me to ponder how big a Halloween statue the downtrodden people of England would have contributed—of their own volition—to a similar acknowledgement of the first Tudor king. If Henry had put the screws on, it would be 20′ tall at least, looming over London like an evil spirit, casting its spooky shadow over everyone’s threadbare purse.

However, it we’re talking voluntary donations… Hmm. It has been suggested that perhaps a 2″ statue would result. My Yorkist imagination ran riot, of course, as witness the truly terrifying illustration below. Can you imagine anything more chilling….?

henry-the-gnome

(the original gnome picture is from Bakker.com)

A new statue of Richard to be considered….

new-sculpture

It seems a new statue of Richard is being considered. I hope they decide to go ahead, and that it’s a splendid likeness. The above illustration comes from the link below, so I do not think it has any bearing on the likely appearance of the statue.

http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/14767611.New_Richard_III_sculpture_suggested/

PS: I do wish the eyebrows of the above likeness were under control. As they are, they look like great hairy caterpillars that are about to hurl themselves across his nose to headbutt each other!

Henry carved in stone…

exeter

Oh, dear, In Pembroke they want a statue of Henry Tudor. The thing is, if the real man stood on a plinth, would we be able to tell he wasn’t the statue? I mean, he always looks “carved in stone” to me…

http://www.tenby-today.co.uk/article.cfm?id=102491&headline=Maquette%20unveiling%20marks%20launch%20of%20Henry%20VII%20statue%20campaign&sectionIs=news&searchyear=2016Happy Henry

There was a stone statue of Henry VII in Exeter, near Eastgate, but it seems to have been lost during the Blitz. A fibreglass version was then erected near Princesshay (top), but that was removed in 2005 and is in cold storage. Perhaps someone is trying to tell us something?:
http://www.exetermemories.co.uk/em/_art/henry7.php

Similarly, there is one in Hay-on-Wye, described as looking like “a ghost in a nightdress”.

What a pity statues can’t come to life….

Richard's statue 25 years ago....

No justice for Richard twenty-five years ago, when his magnificent statue got the rough treatment from louts. I’d  love to think he ‘came to life’ and rammed that sword where their sun don’t shine!

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