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From the Lizard to Deptford Bridge – a guest post

An Gof and the Cornish Rebellion 1497

As the early summer sun seared upon Bodmin Moor, sweeping south westwards to Goonhilly Downs , which straddles a swathe of the Lizard Peninsula , the tortured arid landscapes  weren’t the only features of 1497 Cornwall, threatening to ignite in a blaze of fiery agitation. In  1337 the great Plantagenet King Edward III decreed his young son (Edward) “Duke of Cornwall”. The relevant  Charter recognized that Cornwall , was one of the “remarkable places in our kingdoms”. The Duchy acknowledged Cornwall’s “difference” while maintaining a substantial connection to the dynastic regime . It also took jurisdiction of an earlier institution called the Stannaries, which were re-founded  in 1201 during the reign of King John. They offered Cornish tinners (who in 1586 were reported to be “so rough and mutinous , multitude , 10,000 or 12,000 the most strong men in England”! ) licence from the  regular system of law. The Stannary Parliament enjoyed considerable authority which could even overrule Westminster laws. However, there was no exemption from the king’s taxes. 

By  the early 1490s, due to a diminishing  annual tin yield, all was not well . Tensions arose when the Council of Prince Arthur, Duke of Cornwall , declared tougher regulations for the tin industry. Subsequently  as might have been expected of a maverick spirited people the rules were mostly breached . This show of audacity was swiftly curtailed  by an indignant Henry VII who suspended the Cornish Stannary government . Thus the scene was set for an even  greater conflict which revolved around the enduring contention of taxation.

Perkin Warbeck, who was a pretender to the English throne had garnered support in Scotland , which had the effect of precipitating additional national taxes to finance military action against his northern allies. John Arundell , Richard Flamank, John Trevenor, and Thomas Erisey, were the tax assessors in Cornwall. Not surprisingly the hard pressed  Cornish were soon griping about the unwelcome burden to be foisted on them . The initial expression of blatant insurrection was voiced in  the distant parish of St Keverne, situated on the Lizard Peninsula .  The poorest were exempted from the tax, and  it’s been indicted that a prime motive for the dissenters’ rage was the detested tax collector Sir John Oby. The chief advocates of Cornish disapproval were a tough St Keverne,  blacksmith called Michael Joseph , known as An Gof (The Smith) and an  articulate Bodmin lawyer , Thomas Flamank ; son of the tax assessor Richard Flamank . Consequently  their impassioned rhetoric had the effect of giving rise to an insurgent march towards London. On reaching Wells, in Somerset, they were joined by James Tuchet, “Lord Audley”, who became the commander of the force . By June , the rustic band of brothers were closing  on their destination but were to be disappointed as they weren’t reinforced by the previously rebellious men of Kent. Some became disheartened and deserted the cause. The Great Chronicle of London , described a rebel army of 15,000 who were “favoured” by the people of the territories they’d passed through….”but  which became reduced to between 9,000 -10,000 when it eventually  set up camp at Blackheath.

Tragedy at Blackheath:

The rebel encampment was wisely sited on top of a hill ; the plan being  to attack Henry Tudor’s  army (whose total number of 25,000 included 8,000 soldiers assembled by Lord Daubeney in readiness for war with Scotland) from the high ground ; however, in reality victory over  well equipped troops under experienced leadership  by a company  of peasants armed with little more than bows, arrows, scythes and pikes would have been a miracle . Thus, on the morning of the 17th of June 1497, the Cornish found  their position surrounded by the king’s  forces , though Henry, himself  with a huge reserve and artillery kept out of danger at St George’s Fields, in the suburbs of London !  Rebel archers were stationed to block entry to their chosen ground via Deptford Bridge ; letting fly with arrows a full yard long , “so strong and mighty a bow the Cornishmen were said to draw” ! Though initially tested , Daubeney broke through with (depending on conflicting sources) reported losses of between 8 to 300.  Inexperience told when the Cornish  failed to support the archers defending the bridge, offering Royal troops  the opportunity to storm across to engage their men  who had  neither horse nor artillery . Soon , outnumbered and with vastly inferior weapons, the rebellious enterprise, whose slain were put at between 200 and 2,000, which had started out with such burning  fervour was over and, by 2pm Henry VII was riding triumphantly through London . The three principal leaders of the rebellion were all captured and executed . An Gof and fellow Cornishman Flamank, were both drawn, hanged and quartered at Tyburn, on the 27th of June 1497 while Audley, their noble associate was beheaded at Tower Hill on the 28th. Their heads were then gibbeted on London Bridge.

So it was that the Cornish Rebellion of 1497 ended in military defeat , yet has since catapulted the names of it’s valiant local  heroes to Cornish legendary status. Uncannily  the last words of An Gof, are reported as being that he should have “a name perpetual and a fame permanent and immortal” . Thomas Flamank’s were said to be, “Speak the truth and only then can you be free of your chains”.

Other names mentioned as having joined the 1497 uprising are :

John Trevysall from Madron
William Antron from Antron
John Tresynny from Penryn
John Rosewarne from Rosewarne
Ralph Retallack from St Columb
Richard Borlase from St Wenn
Thomas Polgrene from Polgrene
John Allan from Stoke Climsland
William Ham from Stoke Climsland

Fifty priests and 69 women were also involved .

If Henry Tudor thought that the crushing of the Cornish at Blackheath , would discourage them from further insurgence, he was mistaken and, a mere two months later, they were again mobilising ; this time under the leadership of none other than Yorkist pretender Perkin Warbeck, who was proclaimed King Richard IV at Bodmin! A new force, numbering in the region of 6000 men which included members of the minor Cornish gentry marched into Devon, where they laid siege to  Exeter, but following hand  to hand fighting were repulsed and moved on to Taunton , which was the place where, bewildered and vexed, they were deserted by Warbeck ! Following their surrender some  were executed, but the majority were pardoned ; those with material resources having to pay for the privilege .

Henry VII imposed heavy fines  on Cornwall, which only served to sustain resentment . However, by 1508 he opted for a change in strategy to gain the allegiance the Cornish, with the Charter of Pardon, which restored the Stannaries.

 

Article by Max Retallack, a descendent of Thomas Flamank : 2019

Flamank Coat of Arms : Thomas Flamank was co leader, with Michael Joseph “An Gof “, of the Cornish Rebellion of 1497.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Statue depicting Cornish 1497 Rebellion leaders Michael Joseph “An Gof” and Thomas Flamank , sited at the entrance of the village of St Keverne, Cornwall, to commemorate the 500th Anniversary of the uprising .

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The holy wells and healing springs of our heritage….

holywell-jun-2012-014

St Winifride’s Well, Holywell

Holy wells and healing springs go back into history, and are still with us now. Maybe our belief in them has been tempered by the cynicism of the modern age, but many people still believe in them—and still resort to them.

Here is an interesting site that not only tells us all about the subject, but takes us to numerous wells and springs. There is also an interesting section about London’s Roman baths. Enjoy.
And here is another WordPress site—part of it anyway—which deals with the famous St Winifride’s Well, which is pictured above.

A COMMEMORATION IN WELLS

Recently, for this year’s anniversary of Bosworth Field, I had the pleasure of joining the Somerset branch of the Richard III society in a commemoration service held in the Bishop’s private chapel. King Richard’s personal prayer was recited, and the beautiful ‘In Memoriam: Ricardus Rex’ by Graham Keitch was sung to great effect by the talented choir. White roses were then laid before a candlelit portrait of Richard on a banner bearing the Arms of England.

Before the service, a tour of the ruins of the medieval Bishop’s s palace was also included. The palace was begun in about 1210 by Bishop Joscelin, with further  structures added down to the 15th c. Thomas Beckington, who became Bishop in 1443, ordered these last features. These later buildings include the imposing Bishop’s Eye, a tall tower that still stands today within the beautiful gardens.

From the exterior of the palace, some of the structure has a slightly martial feel, with its deep moat, crenellations, and portcullis. The unpopular Bishop, Ralph of Shrewsbury, added this particular design in the 1300’s. Ralph imposed heavy taxation on the locals of the town, hence he feared potential retaliation from the mob.

For Ricardians, Bishop Stillington, who revealed Edward IV’s pre-contract with Eleanor Talbot, is the best known Bishop of Bath and Wells. However, like many churchmen of the day, Stillington  spent relatively little time in his diocese; in his case, it is thought he lived in Wells only a few months if as long as that!

However,  John Gunthorpe, Dean of Wells from 1472, did, in fact, live for some time in Wells from 1485 onwards.  Gunthorpe, who had a long and eminent career, served three Kings, Edward, Richard and then Henry Tudor,and was, for a time, Edward IV’s chaplain, and a Cambridge scholar (he obtained a Batchelor’s degree in theology). During Edward’s reign, Gunthorpe was also almoner, clerk, councilor and ambassador, and served as secretary to Elizabeth Woodville.

Despite Dean Gunthorpe’s  close connection with the Woodvilles, Richard seemed to trust him, and during the King’s short reign,  Gunthorpe became keeper of the Privy Seal. He assisted with the completion of various treaties, including that with Scotland, and in 1484, Richard wrote a letter to Gunthorpe in which the King spoke out against bribery: “…discharge Richard Bele from his place in the office of the said Privy Seal, to which he had been admitted contrary to the old rule and due order, by means of giving great gifts and other sinister and ungodly ways in great discouraging of the under-clerks, which have long continued therein, to have the experience of the same – to see a stranger, never brought up in the said office, to put them by of their promotion“.

Gunthorpe’s loyalty to the new King must have been in no question, for apparently in 1485 he gave the Dean a gift of the ‘swans of Somerset.’ Some have imagined this might relate to the famous  bell-ringing swans that have tenanted the Bishop’s Palace moat for many centuries, but I think it more likely that it is a general appointment to look after the King’s birds (swans had been ‘royal’ birds for centuries but obtained protected ‘royal status’ legally in  the ‘Act of Swans’ in 1482) or even a gift of a swan or two for the table, which only Richard would have had permission to grant.

Gunthorpe seems to have definitely taken up residence at Wells by 1485, and was later visited there by Henry Tudor, who came to the town on several occasions. His house still stands in the cathedral close and it marked by a plaque.

Wells is also well worth visiting for its attractive cathedral and other medieval buildings, including ‘Vicar’s Close,’ thought to be Britain’s only complete surviving medieval street.

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Is this a new Richard film? Or not…..?

Benedict Cumberbatch at Wells

http://www.blackmorevale.co.uk/Extras-sought-Somerset-appear-major-Hollywood/story-26757962-detail/story.html

http://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/Long-haired-men-requested-extras-Hollywood-film/story-26744545-detail/story.html

Before you examine the above links, let me say that the following tale of woe demonstrates the hazards of taking a press article at face value. Beware of doing so, for it can lead you up the garden path. . .

Right. To the links. They require some wading through a clutter of tiresome ads, as so many sites do, but this time there is a little mystery to be found in the actual text, which is the same at both sites:-

Extras sought in Somerset to appear in ‘major Hollywood feature film’ By Blackmore Vale Magazine – posted: June 24, 2015

Men with long hair but no tattoos are needed as extras for new Hollywood film to be filmed in Wells, Somerset.

The Casting Collective has put out an appeal male and female extras to appear in what they describe as a “Major Hollywood Feature Film”.

It is unclear at this stage what the film will be called or who will be starring in it.

According to the company’s website the extras will need to be available for a costume fitting around the week commencing Monday, July 6 and one filming day around Thursday, July 16.

Men ideally need to have some length to their hair, and facial hair is sought but it is not essential. Women wishing to take part as an extra need to have natural chin length hair or longer. Extras must not have any visible tattoos, for example on the face or hands. 

Right, the next thing to point out is that the whole of this follows beneath the picture at the top of this page, i.e. of Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III in the forthcoming “Hollow Crown” series on BBC2. The inference, it seemed to me, was that the ‘major Hollywood feature film’ being filmed in Wells was perhaps about Richard III. All bells and whistles, and Hollywood pzaz! Wow!

Well, that was my initial impression. Oh, goody, thought I. A new film about Richard. However, on reading it again, for all the inclusion of the picture of Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard, there isn’t actually a connection between the BBC production and this mysterious new, unnamed movie. Unless you count filming in Wells.

So I went to the website of Casting Collective, to see what appears there. Here is the link to: http://www.castingcollective.co.uk/become-an-artiste/urgent-casting-calls#wells 

The text there is: Costume fitting around week of 6th July and one filming day around 16th July. Men ideally need to have some length to their hair, they like facial hair but it is not essential and Ladies need to have natural chin length hair or longer. No visible tattoos ie necks or hands Good rates of pay. Interested? Apply here and we will be in touch. You must be over 16, legally allowed to work in the UK with National Insurance number

The requirements for the extras suggest a historical story of some sort, but still does not actually mention Richard at all.

Finally, after more Googling, I found this utter deflater: http://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/…/story…/story.html  It’s only a prequel to “Snow White and the Huntsman”! So, not even the Monmouth Rebellion (when Wells Cathedral was looted for ammunition and the battle of Sedgemoor took place on 6 July) What a let down to this hopeful Ricardian.

Thus fizzled out my brief but dazzling excursion into the realms of fantasy. But there will be a really good film about Richard. One day. I just know it!

Should Richard come to ours, or we go to his…?

Time-Travel - Richard 

No, I’m not about to discuss whose house to go to for a friendly drink, but about whose period in history to choose for a time-travel novel. Richard’s? Or ours? So there he is in the above picture, with Old London Bridge behind him, and the modern London Bridge in front. Is he leaving his own time to come to ours? Or taking one look at our time before staying in the 15th century?

The advent of time-travel stories about Richard has been discussed recently on Facebook, and the subject has stirred me into wanting to write about it. I am engrossed by how different people regard the enigma of Ricardian time travel. Whether to bring Richard to modern times, go back to his times, take a step sideways into a more magical world, or for no one to ever go anywhere at all. Those are the questions.

My favourite time-travel book is ‘The House on the Strand’ by Daphne du Maurier, in which her modern twentieth-century hero goes back to medieval Cornwall by means of an LSD-type new super-drug, but he is an invisible witness to everything. That, I think, is my ideal of time travel (not the LSD element!) but I’d like a convenient extra ability—to become tangible, visible and audible if I feel like it! Well, I always want to have my cake and eat it. So, if I were writing a time travel novel about Richard, I’d be going back to him, to ‘join in’ if I felt the need. Otherwise I’d remain conveniently (and safely) out of sight. But I could go anywhere I wanted. Anywhere. I’d love to do that.

But if others were going to write a time travel, have written one, or would simply like to read one, what form would it take? Forwards? Backwards? Something else? My preference you already know, so I’ll continue at this point with those who are inspired by the thought of Richard coming from his time to ours.

Here is what the author Joanne Larner has to say on the matter of her own time-travel book:-

‘When I wrote my first (and so far only) novel, ‘Richard Liveth Yet’, I decided to make it a time travel one because I was tired of reading about Richard III dying at Bosworth.  I started to think “What if he’d won, he so nearly did…?” and then I read Joan Szechtman’s novels about Richard in the 21st century and loved the idea.  She made it that there was no disruption of history by substituting a dead ‘body double’ for Richard, but I had a different plan.  Everyone who asserts that “you can’t change history” misses the point – in a work of fiction you can do whatever you like – that’s the beauty of it, surely!  I hadn’t decided whether I would have history being changed to a great extent, to a small extent or even whether changing things would ultimately end up with an identical modern day (if, for example everything was fated to some extent and history just took an alternative route to the same main conclusions).  I finally decided that I WOULD change history, but I didn’t feel the need to make it drastically different – so for example we still have Queen Elizabeth II, but she is of the House of Plantagenet. I wanted to play with some ideas in a lighthearted way, and so had Richard finding out about different modern ideas and events and using them when he went back (examples being taxing alcohol, inventing forks, composing Greensleeves and financing Christopher Columbus).  Don’t forget, time travel is impossible at this moment so writing about it has no actual limits except those of our imaginations!’

Very true. The whole point about fiction is just that. It’s fiction! So why do we impose rules upon it? There’s no need. Time is our oyster, and we can consume it however we darned well please.

Joanne’s intention is to write a sequel, which will be the reverse of the first, with the heroine going back to Richard’s time. So she is an author who is prepared to take on both aspects. A talented lady.

Another excellent writer who has whisked Richard forwards to the present day is Joan Szechtman. This is what she has to say:

  “Ever since I read, and reread A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain when I was but a girl of ten, I’ve loved time travel fiction, for many reasons, not the least of which is because one can examine culture and technology with alien eyes……One point of fascination for me is the mechanism the author uses to get the time traveler from his or her now to the past or the future……Authors use a variety of literary devices to get their character from one time to another. Many use natural objects or phenomena such as the “standing stones” in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Other authors such as H.G. Wells and Michael Crichton have “invented” devices that would enable time travel. Although I fall into the latter category in that I created a device that I call a Quantum Displacement Engine, I don’t go into any great detail as to how it might work. I am aware that there are some current theories that involve quantum mechanics that might point to how time travel might be accomplished, but this aspect is at its most nascent phase. I used time travel to enable the story that I wanted to tell……

Another consideration of time travel is that the Earth, our Solar System, the galaxy, and our universe are themselves all traveling through space at incredibly high speeds. So for anyone to go into the past to a specific point on this planet, would require knowing where the Earth was in space at that time. I haven’t read any time travel novels that even hint this might need to be solved. In addition, I haven’t read any that compensate for the laws of conservation of mass and energy. I have tried to do this in my novel, and have used the laws of conservation as a plot point……Even though my inner-geek not only made me consider the scientific considerations and the improbabilities of time travel, I do agree that novels that don’t try to cover the science, or even give it a nod, are worth reading. It is up to the skill of the author to convince the reader to suspend disbelief, regardless of what mechanism the writer chooses to use……

In This Time, my first novel about Richard III in the twenty-first century, I was interested in the attitudinal and cultural differences between fifteenth-century England and twenty-first century……Time travel gave me an opportunity to not only look at these differences between now and the past, but by my bringing Richard into this time, I was able to see the world today through my main character’s eyes. I hope the people who have read or are going to read my book will experience the same.” Joan’s blog post is Time Travel in Fiction.

So, fiction and time travel must be more precise and scientifically correct to be feasible for Joan, with, among other things, hints of the theory of quantum physics and matters of mass and energy. So the way the time travel takes place is as fascinating to her as what follows, when Richard is actually here in the future.

Someone else wondered if it might be intriguing to bring Richard halfway between his time and ours, and then meet him on neutral territory, so that you/your character are both in a new century, both faced with having to learn and keep your wits about you. Together, you face the same steep learning curve. Imagine it, you and King Richard III trying to evade Roundheads one day, and Cavaliers the next. Or some such scenario.

Janet Reedman, another author of time travel—and a writer of fantasy—introduces an Otherworldly aspect to Richard’s story. She has this to say: 

‘It [time travel] seems to be a little bit controversial. I have certainly seen a number of comments in reviews saying ‘stick to the history.’ However, as a fantasy writer, I don’t have problem with fantastic elements in Ricardian fiction, as long as it can truly ‘suspend disbelief’ and does not belittle the King. In Richard’s own time Mallory had written Morte D’Arthur which was essentially mythologising a possible dark age British war-lord and making him a ‘modern’ medieval English king, and this process had been going on since the earlier Middle Ages  when the Arthurian myths were first popularised by Geoffrey of Monmouth and others. In my own novella, Sacred King, Richard is initially in the ‘Otherworld’ after death rather than in modern times, but does come, for a time, to the 21st c, after he is found at Greyfriars and ‘given back his face’ and his identity.

A fascinating alternative, I think. What is it about Richard that inspires us all with so many different and exciting fictional possibilities? He is unique. A perfect tragic hero. And we love him for it.

Rachel Walker had yet another thought.

I think having him in the future would be more enjoyable in some ways, because he would be forced to believe you, and at the same time you would not need to worry about history. Saying that, if you did travel back then if history is set I would be worried about being the actual cause of something in regards to my actions.”

Now there’s a situation to ponder. To go back and find that we actually prompt some (perhaps awful) momentous event. Not changing the course of history, but setting in motion what is known to have happened. Perhaps we tried desperately to save Richard at Bosworth, but only succeeded in triggering Sir William Stanley’s last minute intervention, and thus Richard’s death? Not a weight with which to be burdened, I think. It would be devastating to return to the present knowing you’d been the final catalyst! 

But not everyone likes even the thought of fictional time travel, as someone who wants to be known only as Iris has written to me:- 

However fanciful to think of a second chance for everybody, including our hero, I personally shrink from time-stories in general and particularly in the case of Richard because: (1) It’s the kind of wishful thinking Charles Ross accused Ricardians of when discussing real history, indulging in this sort of fantasies does not help our category. (2) As a Roman Catholic I believe our time on earth is just a passage in a longer journey and I prefer to think Richard now rests in peace and is in heaven with his wife and children.”

So, for Iris, no time travel at all involving Richard. Not even going back to his time without changing a thing, but simply observing his story unfold. Iris wants nothing at all of this nature. Perhaps she chooses not to read general Ricardian fiction either. After all, to take it to a logical conclusion, putting any thoughts or words into Richard’s mouth is wishful thinking. Fantasising. Because what he actually thought and said in any given situation is simply not known. So, even writing that he shouted “Charge!” at Bosworth would be conjecture. To me, all this is no different from time travel. It’s all invention. Guesswork. Fiction.

To use the words of Brian Wainwright (a master of words): Here’s an arcane thought for you. Is not all historical fiction a sort of time travel? Albeit, in the reader’s mind only?”  Yes, yes, Brian. That’s exactly it. Reading a novel fixed in some past time, whether the late fifteenth century or not, is an escape for us, as is science fiction about the future, or even a story set in a distant but exotic part of our present world. It’s simply escapism. Time travel of the mind.

The actual ability to transport ourselves back and forth always eludes us. Well, it does as things are at present, but perhaps a version of H.G. Wells’ time machine will one day be invented. Or something like it. “Beam me back, Scottie!” If so, how many of us will rush to book a ‘journey’. And whichever way we wish to go, full steam ahead or astern, being Ricardians, we will all want to see Richard. See him, meet him, hear him, maybe kneel before him and kiss his hand? Just imagine that. ‘Imagine’ being the key word.

King Richard III is our abiding interest, and I see nothing wrong with wishing. All we lack is that Pumpkin Coach and a convenient Fairy Godmother to make the wishes come true. So we read books that at least take our imagination to him, in whichever direction the author chooses —forward, backward, halfway or sideways. Or, of course, we don’t buy a ticket, or a book, and thus stay exactly where we are—which I don’t fancy at all.

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s back to Richard I go . . .

(The above are mere samples of people’s views on time travel, and I have no doubt there are a lot more that have not been touched upon.)

Details of time travel books by the authors mentioned above, in order of ‘appearance’:-

Joanne Larner - 1

Richard Liveth Yet: A Historical Novel Set in the Present Day

by Joanne Larner

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00XBBDMDW?*Version*=1

Author’s Facebook page for the book:

https://www.facebook.com/RichardLivethYet

Janet Reedman - 2

Sacred King: Richard III, Sinner, Sufferer, Scapegoat, Sacrifice

by J.P. Reedman.

Available on Amazon Kindle and in print.  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sacred-King-Sufferer-Scapegoat-Sacrifice-ebook/dp/B00MFVN0UO/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=

Joan Szechtman - 2

This Time by Joan Szechtman

2010 Next Generation Indie Book Awards Finalist for General Fiction/Novel

ISBN-13: 978-0982449301

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/3935

Joan Szechtman - 1

Loyalty Binds Me by Joan Szechtman

Recommended by Midwest Book Reviews, ForeWord 2011 Book of the Year Finalist

ISBN-13: 978-1935188254

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/61786

Both of Joan’s e-books are available on iTunes, Kobo, Sony, etc.

 

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