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Medieval kings needed their queens emotionally and physically….

Royal 6.E.vi, f. 375 detail

We are always being told that medieval aristocratic marriages (and indeed most medieval marriages) were arranged and did not feature love. The object was to increase property and lands, enhance a family’s reputation and produce as many heirs as was humanly possible. I pity those women who had a child a year throughout their married life. No modern medicine should anything go wrong, just a sad demise and a husband immediately seeking a replacement.

medieval-childbed

Was it like that? Looking at records you’d certainly think so, yet there are some very famous examples of kings and magnates who fell apart when they lost their queens. I have chosen three  such men, Richard II, George of Clarence and Henry VII . Their marriages were dynastic, or at least arranged for profit, yet the brides seemed to have won these men’s hearts and dependence.

richard-ii-and-anne

Anne of Bohemia wasn’t much of a catch as far as Richard II was concerned, but he chose her over a much wealthier Visconti bride who would have brought a huge dowry and a lot of influence in Italy. Anne, on the other hand, had to be purchased from her brother! She was not a popular choice in England, but by choosing her, it’s almost as if Richard sensed she was the one for him. Yes, a fanciful notion on my part, but the pair were happy together, seemingly from the outset, and when she died he tore down the palace where she had breathed her last. It’s said he would not go anywhere he had been with her, although I think that is probably a myth. He could hardly refuse to go into Westminster Abbey, for instance.

Richard’s interests were in the arts, not warfare, and throughout his life, from being a boy king, he was surrounded my warlike barons and grasping uncles. He was, as the old song goes, “a lonely little petunia in an onion patch”. And those onions were big and generally hostile.

petunia-onion-patch

English history would have been very different if Anne had given him heirs. He certainly crumbled when she died suddenly, descending into a state that is always referred to as a tyranny. The petunia grew gigantic and poisonous, developed thorns and began to weed out the onions, spreading itself swiftly into their vacated places. But Richard went too far. His word was never to be trusted and he made some unbelievably bad decisions, so that he eventually lost his kingdom to his cousin, who became the first Lancastrian king, Henry IV. Had Anne’s gentle influence kept Richard in check? I would guess so. Without her, he went haywire.

george-and-isabel

I would also guess that Isabel Neville had the same soothing effect on George of Clarence, whose notoriously unpredictable and rash temperament eventually led to his death in the Tower, branded a traitor by his brother, Edward IV. The legend of George being drowned in a butt of malmsey may be just a legend, or it might be founded in truth. Did George have a drink problem?

He was certainly a very unhappy man, the middle brother, angry and resentful…and maybe possessed of the knowledge that his elder brother’s marriage was bigamous. That would make George the next trueborn heir to the throne. But the truth never came out, and although he’d misbehaved considerably before Isabel’s death in childbed, he certainly imploded when she was no longer there.

He had married her to get at the enormous inheritance of her father, the Earl of Warwick (whom he also hoped would help him to the throne) but Isabel proved to be good for him. Maybe you will not agree with my assessment of George, but the fact remains that he was never the same again after losing her.

henry-vii-and-elizabeth-of-york

Finally there is Henry VII. He was obliged to marry Elizabeth of York. He’d made a vow before invading England that he would unite the warring houses of York and Lancaster through marriage, and once treachery had made him king, he resented the thought of having a Yorkist bride forced upon him. He delayed as long as he could, until he was told to get on with it. So they were married. What that wedding night was like we will never know, because he was a resentful groom, and she was probably an equally resentful bride. But a son and heir was born eight months later, so they didn’t lie back to back until the morning.

Like Richard II and George of Clarence before him, Henry came to rely on Elizabeth’s gentle influence, and their marriage was certainly successful. She wasn’t the first lady of his realm, his mother had that honour, but Elizabeth was the one who shared his bed…and perhaps his confidences. The one with whom he could relax and enjoy a little welcome privacy.

When she died, he went to pieces. He shut himself away for weeks on end, broken with grief. He was never an easy man, but she had won his heart and his trust, and now he had lost her. The Henry who emerged from hiding was not the same man. All the worst aspects of his character, seemingly held in check when Elizabeth was there for him, now came to the fore with a vengeance. He was cruel, rapacious, spiteful, grasping and hated, and the populace believed he had nothing more on his mind than planning how to screw more money out of them. The royal coffers bulged. The illustration below is probably not far from the truth. He and his notorious henchmen, Empson and Dudley, putting their heads together in some new royal skulduggery or other.

king-henry-vii-of-england-with-sir-richard-empson-and-edmund-dudley-from-the-national-and

Very few mourned Henry when he finally passed away, leaving England in the tender clutches of his son and heir, Henry VIII, from whom all women should have been immunised!

Now, I do not deny that there were love matches in the medieval period—of course there were—but I do not think they were the majority. Most marriages were a case of gradual respect, affection, and if they were lucky, of love itself. I believe Richard II, George of Clarence and Henry VII loved their wives, and once those ladies had gone, the inner demons took over.

 

Edgar the Aetheling: Failure or Survivor?

Giaconda's Blog

edgar-the-aetheling-1

You could argue that Edgar was set up to fail from the start. As the last male heir of the ancient royal House of Cerdic of Wessex; Edgar had the bloodline but little else to support his claim to the English throne when his great uncle, Edward the Confessor, died in January 1066.

edgar-2 Edgar’s father, Edward the Exile who raised his children in Hungary for some time

His father, Edward the Exile, had mysteriously died shortly after being recalled to court by Edward the Confessor, to be his heir thus leaving Edgar’s claim unprotected by a strong male relative at the tender age of 6. His mother, Agatha, may have been related to the German Emperor but was far from assistance and before long would be surrounded by powerful men who were all set to devour each other in a violent contest of military strength in order to lay hands…

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Royal burials at St George’s Chapel….

st__georges_chapel

This article is quite interesting, although Richard only gets a brief mention, for moving Henry VI from Chertsey to Windsor. Edward IV is in there, of course, and Henry VII’s endeavours too, although he’s not buried there, of course. Wasn’t it grand enough for him? Whatever, he built himself an extravagant but truly beautiful resting place in Westminster Abbey.

Royal Burials: St George’s Chapel

See also our previous article.

Now Richard of Bordeaux murdered the boys in the Tower….!

buried-in-westminster

Oh dear, now it seems that it was Richard the SECOND who ordered the deaths of Edward IV’s sons. Our Richard, the THIRD, is accused of all the usual crimes, of course, but a little sensible proof-reading might have spared poor old Richard of Bordeaux from being dug up to be accused of murdering the boys—whose actual fate we do not know, except for being fairly sure it wasn’t any monarch named Richard who did away with them. In fact, we don’t even know if they were done away with at all! But at least the website admits it isn’t known if the bones in That Urn belong to the boys.

Please, londonpass.com, correct this glaring error! Let Richard the Second off the hook.

Who’s Buried in Westminster Abbey?

12 Places Richard Knew

Here is a nice blog post about Richard locations: Click here

Would Richard have recognised this view of Westminster….?

 

Abbey of St Peter and Palace of Westminster, circa 1532

This illustration is from a report about the Westminster World Heritage Site that dates from 2007. It contains some interesting information and rather good illustrations, especially of what the site looked like in late-Medieval times. Worth dipping into.

The view above is how it is believed the abbey and palace looked circa 1532, or thereabouts, so perhaps not that far removed from the Westminster Richard would have known.

Perhaps I should add that this particular illustration is much clearer and easier to read in the actual article.

http://tinyurl.com/goah5ay

More useful than ever

This is the story of a triple murder in Seattle. The trial took place in 1998 and the victims were two drug dealers and their dog, Chief. The case was also featured on an episode of CBS Reality’s “Medical Detectives” that British viewers may have seen on several occasions; most recently on the early evening of Monday 4th or 11th this month. It was established that DNA from other mammals, or almost any animal, is of as much forensic use as is human DNA. It helped that Chief was of a short-haired breed so his blood flowed easily over the killers.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/652373/Dog-DNA-helps-convict-2-in-murder-of-couple-pet.html?pg=all

Remember that human DNA was used to solve crime (the 1980s Pitchfork murder case in Leicestershire) before it could be used to conclusively identify historical individuals such as Richard III. So, thanks to the late Chief from Seattle, should you own a dog apparently descended from a Crufts champion or a horse apparently descended from a Derby winner, logic suggests that this can be proven one way or the other and not just from a pedigree on paper.

Furthermore, whichever species are in that Westminster Abbey urn, we can learn more about them.

Sir Thomas Vaughan (executed 1483)

If you try to research Sir Thomas Vaughan on the internet you may become quite confused. Some sites suggest he was of the Tretower branch of the Vaughans. Highly unlikely, you might think, given that that family were strong Ricardian Yorkists. Others link him with the Vaughan family of Hergest Court. There were of course several Vaughan families in Wales

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article on Vaughan, written by Professor R. A. Griffiths, should have removed this problem of identification. The fact is that Vaughan was the son of Robert Vaughan of Monmouth and his wife Margaret. Thomas Vaughan entered royal service under the Lancastrians and was granted the status of naturalised Englishman at the urging of the Earl of Somerset, which suggests that the Beauforts were his original patrons. Later he served as councillor of Jasper Tudor.

However, he was with the Yorkists at Ludford Bridge and subsequently attainted. Returning with the Yorkists in 1460, he recovered his office of Master of Ordnance and was also made Keeper of the Great Wardrobe. After Second St. Albans he fled abroad with all or part of the Yorkist treasure, but was captured by French pirates. Edward IV subsequently contributed £200 towards his ransom.

Vaughan continued in Edward’s favour and was given a number of important offices over the years. His role was by no means confined to Wales. For example, he was Sheriff of Surrey and Sussex in 1466-67. This may reflect his marriage to Eleanor, daughter of Sir Thomas Arundel and widow of Sir Thomas Browne, since this lady had significant landed interest in South-east England.

As is rather better known, Vaughan was also a key member of the Prince of Wales’ household, and was involved in the delegated government exercised by the Prince’s Council in the Marches of Wales.

Vaughan should not be thought of as an ‘obscure Welshman’ or simply as a grey-haired innocent killed for simple loyalty. He was a man of considerable influence with his own mansion in Westminster, and by no means to be written off as insignificant.

Although it is sometimes suggested that the Welsh gentry came to prominence as a result of Tudor favour, Vaughan’s career is proof that a Welsh gentleman could gain considerable advancement under the Yorkists, and indeed under the Lancastrians.

We do not have sufficient information to say whether Richard III was justified in executing Vaughan, but what is clear is that Vaughan was a figure of significant importance, whose career perhaps needs to be looked at in more detail, instead of his being regarded as a footnote to Anthony Woodville.

At some point Vaughan was interred in Westminster Abbey where his tomb may still be found.

 

 

 

Henry Tudor….only Bess of York’s consort….?

Bess in Emerald Green

The link below constitutes one in the eye for Henry Tudor (guess which eye!) The demeaning whispers he always feared and hated…that he was Elizabeth of York’s consort, not she his, are still circulating all these centuries later.  Ha, suddenly this dull, wet, windy late-September morning isn’t so bad after all. It might be worth a visit to Westminster Abbey, just for the sweet sound of him revolving in his wife’s magnificent surroundings!

http://www.heraldscotland.com/opinion/13772419.Why_present_monarch_should_be_Elizabeth_III/

 

Examining an alternative theory

For several centuries, some historians and other writers have connected Sir Thomas More’s narrative of the murder of Edward IV’s sons to the bones found in 1674 and declared them to prove his case, even to the point of deluding Tanner and Wright in 1933 into calling the bones “Edward” and “Richard” before they even started. This theory has required its adherents to believe that More, who was five in 1483, was telling the absolute truth at first but suddenly switches to falsehood when he tells of the bones being disinterred and reburied somewhere else. Now, of course, modern medical interpretations of Tanner and Wright’s results (Carson, pp.214-32) express doubts as to the age, gender and number of individuals buried there whilst Carson herself (http://www.annettecarson.co.uk/357052362 and in the same chapter) notes the extreme depth of the burial, implying that it considerably pre-dated 1480-90, together with the evidence that “Edward” was likely to be mortally ill. The entire theory is becoming a colander and the probability of a real scientific investigation increases.

The Cairo residents, however, seem not to have given up. “Those may not be the actual bones and More’s second half may be accurate”, they claim, pointing us towards two small coffins found in Edward IV’s Windsor tomb in 1789 (http://www.stgeorges-windsor.org/archives/blog/?p=837). At first these were thought to belong to Mary and George, Duke of Bedford, Edward IV’s other children by Lady Grey, his “widow”, but these have subsequently (1810) resurfaced and are no longer candidates for these identities. This theory too, has several holes, relating to the times that the tomb was sealed. Edward IV died on 9 April 1483 and Lady Grey on 8 June 1492. Both were buried relatively quickly and the tomb resealed until 1789.

Suppose we test the theory that Richard III killed them and they are buried there, by assuming it. If so, one of these scenarios must have happened:
1) Edward Prince of Wales and Richard Duke of York both predeceased their father and were buried with him. Any source that gives either or both as alive after April 1483 is mistaken or worse.
2) Richard hid the bodies and someone else he trusted moved them into this tomb in 1492 – someone like Brackenbury, Catesby, Lincoln, Lovell, Norfolk or Ratcliffe, except that they were all dead and Brampton and Tyrrell were abroad. Lady Grey had to die some time and there would be such an opportunity.
3) Richard climbed out of his Greyfriars tomb one morning and bought a day return to Windsor after Lady Grey died, placed the coffins in the tomb himself (as (2)) during the days that it was opened for her funeral before catching the trains back to Leicester before his bedtime.
4) Richard didn’t die in 1485 but someone else was buried in his place. After smuggling the corpses into Edward’s tomb, as (2/3) above, he eventually really died and was substituted for the decoy corpse in Greyfriars – because he knew how important his mitochondrial DNA was to be five hundred years later. Nobody in the days after Bosworth had noticed that the wrong body was being exposed.

None of these are remotely plausible. The two small coffins probably relate to two of Edward’s unknown other children, by Lady Grey or a different mistress, or perhaps two of their young servants who died just before 1483 or 1492.

Back to square one for the denialists as their second theory is also a Swiss cheese.

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