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The King of England and the King of Glam!

King Marc

If you know me, you will know that, apart from Richard III, I have a passion for Marc Bolan, the leader of the ’70s rock group, T.Rex, and the initiator of Glam Rock. I could just as easily have titled this post ‘Ricardus Rex and T.Rex’! Having been concentrating on Richard over the last few years, it was only recently, when I revisited a documentary about Marc, that I realised there are quite a few parallels between the two.

An obvious similarity is in their deaths; both died too young and in a violent way, from multiple injuries. As we know only too well, Richard was killed in battle in August 1485 at the age of thirty-two, surrounded by his enemies. Marc was killed in a car crash when he was just two weeks short of his thirtieth birthday, in the early hours of September 16th 1977; he was a passenger in a mini and that side of the car took the brunt of the impact. Both of their faces were left fairly intact, Richard’s deliberately in order for Henry to prove he was actually dead and Marc’s by lucky chance; when she viewed his body, his wife described his face as still beautiful with just a small mark on the temple.

Since Richard’s remains were found, we know a lot more about his appearance. He was about five feet eight but would have lost some three inches because of his scoliosis, making him five feet five, approximately. His bones were described as ‘gracile’ or slender and delicate. Marc, also, was of slender build and about five feet five inches tall.

Gracile build

Both had a determined chin, fine cheekbones and were handsome men. Both were clean shaven (at least as far as we know – Marc is reported as saying he didn’t think he could grow a beard as he only had to shave about every three days and most credible portraits of Richard show him as clean-shaven). The forensic reconstruction of Richard revealed that his resting expression was a smile – his lips turned up at the edges at rest and so did Marc’s.

Marc’s resting smile

Richard is often portrayed with frown lines between his brows and Marc had the same kind of lines when he frowned too!

 

Both of them married only once and both their wives were useful to them in their careers. Anne Neville, Richard’s wife, was a rich heiress and brought support in the North, whereas June Child, Marc’s wife, was an astute business woman and helped on that side, enabling Marc to concentrate on the creative part of his career.

Both men only had one recognised child, both male (yes, we know Richard had at least two illegitimate children but only Edward was legitimate). Marc’s son, Rolan, was his only child, born to his girlfriend, Gloria Jones, after his marriage failed. Regarding children, we know that Richard acknowledged his illegitimate children and took them into his household, which suggests he had some kind feelings and showed responsibility towards them. We also know that he and Anne were ‘almost mad’ with grief when their son, Edward, died suddenly, so he obviously loved him deeply. Marc, too, liked children. There is a song called Mad Donna which features a little French girl introducing it in French – it must have been wonderful for her to be able to have been involved like this. There is also a surviving interview where he teases another little girl telling her his guitar isn’t a guitar – ‘It’s a dog!” He obviously had a good rapport with children.

Marc with a little girl called Chloe

His own son, Rolan, was only two when Marc died but Marc was reported as being besotted with him and he had cleaned up his act after Rolan was born (Marc had gone a bit off the rails with cocaine and cognac), showing the same responsibility that Richard did. Of course, many of Marc’s fans were also still children – I myself was just fourteen when I first became a fan. He was considerate of them and took them seriously, often releasing records or doing tours to please ‘the kids’. He even had two children appear on his show, Marc, and seemed to have a great rapport with them.

Both of them were Librans (Richard October 2nd and Marc September 30th) and they both loved music. We know that Richard collected great singers for his own choir and that Nicklas von Poppelau commented that the music was ‘the loveliest’ he had ever heard. Marc’s whole life revolved around music – it was the only thing he knew anything about and was good at, according to an interview. Marc believed in reincarnation and thought he might have been a minstrel or troubadour in a past life – perhaps he once performed for Richard!

Marc in action at Wembley 1972 – I was there!

Marc wore this jacket which has a mediaeval design – do you think one or two of the people depicted look like Richard?

Mediaeval-type design on jacket

Speaking of mediaeval matters, when Marc began with his band, Tyrannosaurus Rex (before he shortened the name), he wrote not rock songs, but gentle, olde worlde, poetic tunes which he played on an acoustic guitar, accompanied by one bongo player. Many had mediaeval words and several have been covered by a singer called Catherine Lambert. They have been set to instruments which are more mediaeval in character and sound as if they could have come from those times! Here is a link if you would like to hear one of the tracks. The words and melody are Marc’s, just the vocals and arrangement has been changed.

Their station in life seems to have been as different as it is possible to be.  Richard was a noble from birth, a prince of royal blood, and had the best of everything available at the time. He loved rich clothes and fabrics as suggested by a list of items purchased which still survives. He would have been allowed to wear clothes, colours and items reserved for royalty and would have loved bright colours, which were considered appropriate for the nobility as they were more expensive. Some have even said he must have been something of a dandy!

Marc, on the other hand, was born to poor, working class parents in London’s Stoke Newington, although his parents gave him and his brother, Harry, whatever they could, such as an acoustic guitar for Marc when he was nine. However, growing up, Marc knew that he was special. He became involved in the mod scene of London and was ‘the king of three streets in Hackney.’ He was ambitious and determined and wanted to be a star more than anything. And one of his songs was called Dandy in the Underworld. His mod roots, which revolved around a love of clothes, led him to develop an individual way of dressing – clothes were almost as important as music to him, since it was all part of his persona and image. However, this was his own personality and not a construct. Marc, like Richard, loved bright colours and dazzling clothes of good quality, the epitome of glam. He dressed ‘glam’ all the time, not just on stage.

As king, it was important for Richard to project an image of luxury and privilege – to look the part – and Marc is quoted as saying that most of his success was down to ‘look and presence’.

Both Richard and Marc are associated with the colour white. Richard’s emblem is the white boar and his house (York) associated with white roses. Marc’s first big hit was ‘Ride a White Swan’ and a white swan features in several memorials to him; there was a huge white swan in flowers present at his funeral in 1977. Marc’s favourite flower was the gardenia, a flower I knew little about. So I was surprised when, on Googling it, I found it was white and looked very similar to a rose!

Gardenia

I recently found out that there is a Marc Bolan rose, so he is now, like Richard, associated with roses, although his is not white but pink/purple. (At least it isn’t red!)

Marc Bolan rose

It is thought that Richard disliked being in London and the court life of the time – he preferred to live in Middleham in the North, surrounded by countryside. And although Marc was born a city boy, he actually preferred the countryside too and disliked politics, saying:

I don’t want to know about society as it is – it brings me down. I can’t associate with it at all. And I can’t be involved with politicians. I wish I could get away to another place where mountains rise unspoilt to the sky and you could ride horses as far as the eye could see.

He did actually own his own horse at one time.

Both Marc and Richard were leaders of men. Richard was known as a great general and lord, respected in the North where he was known and also a great warrior. Marc was always the central figure of T.Rex – he wrote the music, sang, played guitar and even produced later on. He really WAS T.Rex. His most iconic album was called Electric Warrior and he even sometimes wore ‘armour’.

Marc in ‘armour’
Electric Warrior LP cover

Richard went into battle with his battleaxe and Marc went to play his concerts with his ‘axe’ (slang term for an electric guitar)!

We know that in his final battle, Richard inspired his men to fight:

•‘…having donned his coat-of-arms began to fight with much vigour, putting heart into those that remained loyal, so that by his sole effort he upheld the battle for a long time’

Mickey Finn, T.Rex’s percussionist has stated that Marc had so much energy it helped him to keep on playing even when his arms were exhausted, and that his inspirational energy was so great that he would have continued to play until his arms came off!

Mickey would always look at Marc for direction

Both Richard and Marc were innovators, changing history in their own way. Richard did so through his laws and the way he treated the common people – something that may have led to his downfall at Bosworth, because the nobles didn’t like this new regime. However, some of his laws formed the basis for those we still have today, such as legal aid and bail laws, thus standing the test of time.

Marc changed the course of music history, as he was the instigator of Glam Rock – the first time he wore glitter under his eyes started the ball rolling and he also changed the way men were perceived; he made it OK for men to wear bright colours and make-up. There is an article from the New York Times which explains his influence on fashion, called ‘The Least-known, Most Influential Man in Fashion’. Also, his music was different from anything else in the ’70s and incredibly exciting. His lyrics were pure poetry and often misunderstood at the time, but he is now thought to be way ahead of the rest of his contemporaries, just as Richard was for his way of government.

Marc with his trademark glitter

Richard, as we know, was betrayed by those he thought he could trust and Loyalty Me Lie, his motto, and the concept of loyalty was of supreme importance to him, which is why he was so angry when Buckingham betrayed him. In Marc’s case, he was praised to the skies by the music press of the early 70s and could fill Wembley Arena (or Empire Pool, as it was then known), with thousands of screaming, adoring fans (I was one of them)! However, once he was at the top, the music press began to target him to bring him down from the pedestal where they had helped to put him and many of his fans defected to the Osmonds or David Cassidy. Marc has been quoted as saying that he thought his fans would stay with him forever. These two ‘betrayals’ must have hurt him deeply and his girlfriend says that it drove him to the edge of insanity. I still have some of the ‘reviews’ of Marc’s later records and have seen others of his later concerts, and many are quite vicious and cruel. But probably the worst ‘betrayal’ from Marc’s viewpoint was by DJ and presenter, John Peel. Peel had championed and promoted Marc when he was playing acoustic guitar in T.Rex’s previous incarnation, Tyrannosaurus Rex. Just as Buckingham helped Richard to become king, Peel helped Marc to attain the heights of popularity, but he didn’t like it when Marc’s sound became electric and much more rock ‘n’ roll. T. Rex’s third official single release, Get It On, was never played by Peel. Marc was very upset by this snub from his friend of four years and regarded it as an act of treachery. He ended the friendship at that point, just as Richard dealt decisively with Buckingham.

All Ricardians know of the major part Morton, the Bishop of Ely, played in Richard’s downfall. He was in league with Margaret Beaufort and the negative rumours about Richard originated in locations associated with him. Marc’s demise was not caused by anyone named Morton but, interestingly, on the night of his death he had been partying with Gloria and it is possible they had both been drinking (although I must stress that Gloria was never charged with drink-driving). Where had the celebrations been located? At a restaurant called… Morton’s!

Richard was famous for being a very pious man but what about Marc? Well, he wasn’t religious as such, but he did believe in God as a superior being and he was a spiritual person.

Note the white roses!

Richard was also renowned for his courage, even his enemies could not deny this – he was quoted as:

Fighting manfully in the thickest presse of his enemies

Marc also showed courage in his own way – some might call it cheek. He rang up a music manager and asked if he could personally bring round a demo tape for him to listen to. When he had the address he went straight round there and blagged his way in, playing his guitar in person for the man. He ended up taking Marc on. Marc told everyone he was going to be:

Bigger than the Beatles

They all laughed at him, this little unknown singer with a strange voice, but he had the courage of his convictions and proved them all wrong, bringing back the screaming fans just like the Beatles had done. The media called it T.Rextasy! He WAS bigger than the Beatles for a couple of years.

A few years ago, I did a fun analysis of Richard’s handwriting. Richard, in common with all mediaeval people, had angular handwriting and this is partly because of the use of quills. Angularity in someone’s handwriting can mean they are ambitious and a forceful, go-getting personality. Apart from this, Richard’s hand reveals he liked to be in control and that he was very intelligent.

Richard’s handwriting

Marc did not have to contend with the quill, but his handwriting is also very angular. As well as the ambition and drive, it also shows positivity and creativity. He was dyslexic, so his spelling isn’t the best. Both their hands show they have good communication skills and were articulate speakers.

Marc’s Handwriting

Both Marc and Richard have had their character brought into question since their passing. Marc was regarded (both before and after his death) as lightweight, his lyrics nonsensical and his guitar playing mediocre. It may be that the importance of image and the fact that he was so physically beautiful made some think his music was not to be taken seriously. Richard, of course, was terribly maligned after his death and it is only today that his character is being rehabilitated. Likewise, Marc’s reputation has now grown and he is seen as he always should have been, as a unique, talented musician and a lyrical, poetic song-writer. T.Rex were at last nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the first time in 2020 and on January 15th this year were accepted into the Hall. He would be so proud. The ceremony was supposed to be in May, but it has been postponed because of the Coronavirus, so Marc, like Richard, will have to wait a while before his reputation attains its rightful place.

T.Rex induction announced 15th Jan 2020

Both Marc and Richard had insulting remarks made about their physical appearance. After his death, Richard began to be called a hunchback and Shakespeare used many more cruel jibes relating to his appearance, such as ‘bunch-backed toad’ and ‘elvish-mark’d, abortive, rooting hog’ (referring to his cognizance). There were many references made to Marc’s small size, some unflattering. When Marc was struggling with drugs and put on some weight he was dubbed ‘the glittering chipolata’ and ‘the porky pixie’.

We know that many of the records from Richard’s time were destroyed by the Tudors – they even tried to destroy the Titulus Regius, his Royal Title. Marc appeared many times on Top of the Pops but only a handful of these recordings remain as they were wiped by the BBC, so both of them have had historically valuable ‘records’ lost.

Richard, although betrayed, fought on to the end and never gave up, and Marc did the same, metaphorically speaking. Many music artists would have given up and stopped trying to regain their previous standing, but Marc never did. He persisted and persisted until, by the time he was killed in the car crash in September 1977, he had cleaned up his act and slimmed down to his lean best, his records were again being praised, his concerts were popular again and he even had his own TV series, called ‘Marc’.

The final Marc show, with David Bowie

We Ricardians are well aware that Richard championed the common people and often found in favour of them in cases where they were up against rich or noble men, unusual for a mediaeval lord. He instructed his judges:

…to justly and duly administer the laws without delay or favour, (dispensing justice) indifferently to every person, as well as to poor as to rich

He also brought in a primitive form of legal aid, the Court of Requests so that anyone who couldn’t afford a lawyer could present their case directly before the king. Also, Thomas Langton, Bishop of St David’s said of him:

He contents the people wherever he goes best that ever did prince; for many a poor man that hath suffered wrong many days have been relieved and helped by hym and his commands …

What about Marc? Well, even when he became a mega-star, he never forgot his fans nor what it was like to be a fan. He wouldn’t allow the prices of concert tickets to be too high, overriding the advice of the venues, because he knew his fans, mainly teenagers, did not have much money. And he never endorsed the practice of releasing singles which were already on albums because he felt it was ‘ripping off’ the fans. When he did release a single there were usually two equally good tracks on the ‘B’ sides and albums often had extras such as posters or lyric sheets. He often said how much he appreciated the fans and would almost always take time to chat to them, sign autographs and even, in the early years, cut off locks of his hair to give them! One dedicated fan, who followed the band on a whole tour of the UK, also went to France for a concert. When her group ran out of money, Marc booked and paid for hotel rooms for them at his own expense.

After his death, Richard’s body was stripped, the valuable armour pillaged and his precious book of hours was taken from his battlefield tent by Margaret Beaufort, his enemy’s mother. After Marc died, his house was ransacked and many items stolen, maybe by fans, ‘pillaging’ for souvenirs or possibly to protect his assets from the taxman. These items included his guitars, his iconic clothes and his notebooks full of lyrics and poetry. His most famous guitar, his Gibson Les Paul, was not stolen at this time, but had already been filched while he was alive.

Richard’s Book of Hours with his own handwriting
Marc with his famous Gbison Les Paul guitar

There are many mysteries surrounding Richard, as we well know. Apart from the ubiquitous ‘Mystery of the Princes’, we are unsure of the reasons he executed Hastings, Rivers, et al, whether he had a relationship with Elizabeth of York (now refuted by the evidence of his proposed marriage to Joana of Portugal, but still argued by traditionalists) and who was the mother or mothers of his illegitimate children.

There are also a few mysteries involving Marc. Firstly, his death was, at the beginning, blamed on his girlfriend, Gloria, being drunk. But apparently the purple mini he was in had recently been serviced, yet there were some anomalies with the tyres. Some were worn down and there were some bolts which were not even hand tightened. However, the crash happened at a notorious accident blackspot, so these may be red herrings.

Secondly, there is some dispute about who it was who first thought to put glitter under Marc’s eyes, thereby launching Glam Rock. Some claim it was his manager, Tony Secunda’s wife, Chelita. However, Marc’s own wife, June, said in an interview that she had suggested it as she had seen it used to look like tears in a drama and thought it would have a good effect under the TV lights. Then Marc himself once made the claim that he had seen June’s glitter pot on the side and just used it on the spur of the moment!

Thirdly, there is a lot of discussion about how he came by his stage name, Marc Bolan. When I was a fan, I heard the name he chose originally was Bowland, but that he changed it later, or that the record company chose it. However, there are several other theories. He lived for a while in the same premises as the actor, James Bolam, and some say he was inspired by his name and just changed one letter. Another theory is that his hero Bob Dylan was being referenced by taking the first part of his first name and the second part of his surname: Bo(bDy)lan, making Bolan. He certainly was a fan of Dylan’s and mentions him in several songs. A new theory, which I love, is that it came from a book he had in his youth, called ‘The Wizard of Boland’, and that this inspired him! He certainly loved the idea of wizards and magic, so I suppose it is possible!

Book thought to have been owned by Marc

Finally, one of his most famous songs, 20th Century Boy, causes opposing views on the internet regarding the lyrics. Some say the second line ends ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and others, ‘Robin Hood’. Even though someone has isolated the vocals and the latter is obviously what Marc sings, some still insist they hear ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and many cover versions sing this. Tony Visconti, Marc’s producer at the time, has also said it’s ‘Robin Hood’ but it still causes arguments and even fallings out in internet ‘discussions’, very similar to some of the controversies surrounding Richard! If you want to listen yourself here is a link to the isolated vocal version.

Something I have noticed in particular is that both of these men, who passed over years ago, still have a great following. Both have large numbers of Facebook groups supporting them and many ‘fans’ who speak about them in the present tense and often feel emotionally attached to them. Both have organisations who officially support their memory. Both have ‘new’ supporters, often very young (Marc has many fans who weren’t even born when he died). Both also have supporters who write about them, paint portraits of them and defend them to anyone who dares defame them. As you may know, I have written four novels about Richard. Below are my latest efforts to capture Marc’s likeness.

Both of their ‘fan’ groups have acronyms that they use regarding them: Richard’s is LML – Loyaulte Me Lie and Marc’s is KALMIYH – Keep a Little Marc in Your Heart.

They were both human and therefore flawed, but they both had the sort of lasting charisma that ensures they will never be forgotten.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All photos are freely available on the internet, but if any are copyrighted, let me know and I will remove them

The White Rose Of Mortimer?

RICARDIAN LOONS

Most historians now accept that, while the white rose of York was a heraldic badge used by the house of York during the Wars of the Roses, the origins of the red rose of Lancaster can only be traced back to Henry VII.1 After his accession to the throne in 1485 and marriage to Elizabeth of York he effectively invented it when he created the bi-coloured red and white Tudor rose, which symbolised the union of the houses of Lancaster and York. But what about the origins of the white rose of York?

The Welsh Marches – Yorkist Heartland

It is hard to over estimate the influence their Mortimer ancestry had on the Yorkists and their claim to the English throne. The Mortimers were descended from Lionel, duke of Clarence, the second surviving son of king Edward III, whereas the Lancastrian kings of England were descended from his third…

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A HATPIN & A MYSTERY

Edward IV’S Hatpin?

 

A fabulous archaeological find has turned up in a Lincolnshire fields–a beautiful golden hatpin shaped like the Sun in Splendour and bearing an intact amethyst stone. An extremely high status object without a doubt and estimated at £15,000.

But whose was it?

Unfortunately the article accompanying the find is full of hilarious errors. First it states the pin was made around 1485…but  goes on to mention Edward died in 1483. So he had it made after he was dead? It  goes on to call Edward Richard III’s father instead of his brother (this appears to have now been corrected, thankfully!) and worst of all, shows a picture of Henry Tudor wearing a similar brooch but labelled the portrait as Edward. (Um, Edward was called the ‘most handsome prince in Europe. Henry? Um, well…)

So, how to unravel this mystery? Well, it’s definitely not Henry Tudor’s. He would not have worn the Sun in Splendor and if you look at his hat brooch in the mis-described painting, the centre area appears to be a red rose and the outer edges more ‘frilled.’

Edward IV WAS in Lincolnshire as the article states, quelling a rebellion in 1470. However, therein lies the problem–the brooch is supposed ‘by experts’ to be from around 1485, some 15 years later… However, dating of such objects is done stylistically, and there has to be, of necessity, a range of dates.

What is interesting, of course, is that Richard WAS also in Lincolnshire but much closer to the 1485 provisional date for the hatpin. He was at Lincoln when he received the news of Buckingham’s rebellion in October 1483 and continued through Lincolnshire to Grantham, undoubtedly at a great speed. In 1484, he was in Lincolnshire again, when stopped at Gainsborough Hall… Although Richard’s main badge was the White Boar, he also used the Sun in Splendour as a badge of the House of York, along with the White Rose.

Sadly, the actual ownership of the pin will probably never be resolved. Here is a much better article on the hatpin that covers some possibilities for ownership, including John of Lincoln and others. Possible Owners of the Hat pin

The real Edward, unlike in the article…

British (English) School; Edward IV (1442-1483)

 

The inspiration for Richard III’s rosary….

The following article and extract are from Nerdalicious:

 

“ ‘In the nineteenth century the Clare Cross was found in the castle ruins. It’s actually a reliquary, containing a fragment of the True Cross, and it was probably made soon after 1450  so probably it belonged to Richard III’s mother. For that reason, when I got an agreement from Leicester Cathedral for a rosary to be buried with Richard III I chose a quite large, black wooden rosary which I bought years ago, when I was a student at the University of East Anglia, in Norwich. Then I had the cross and the central link replaced by George Easton (who made Richard III’s funeral crown for me too). George copied the Clare Cross for me, to replace the original crucifix, and he also made an enamelled white rose (like the ones he made for Richard’s crown) to replace the central link. A white rose is the symbol of the house of York, of course, but it’s also a symbol of the Virgin Mary, who is at the centre of the prayers of the rosary.’ “

 

Heraldic “devices” of the House of York

The origins of these devices is set out in Richard III as Duke of Gloucester and King of England by Caroline A. Halsted, volume 1, pages 404-5. The source quoted is Archoelogia vol. xxii, p.226. The main change here is to convert the text into modern English:

The dukedom of York – the falcon and fetterlock.

Conisbrough (presumably relating to ownership of the castle.) – The falcon, with a maiden’s head with her hair hanging about her shoulders and a crown on her head.

The Castle of Clifford – note, a property inherited from the Mortimers – a white rose.

The earldom of March – a white lion.

The earldom of Ulster – a black dragon.

(From Edward III) – a blue boar with his tusks and “cleis” and members of gold.

(From Richard II) – a white hart and the sun shining.

The honour of Clare – a black bull, his horns and his “cleys” and his members of gold.

(From the “Fair Maid of Kent” – a white hind.

(The principal connection with Joan Holland “the Fair Maid of Kent” is that Alianore Holland, Countess of March, her granddaughter, was the maternal grandmother of the 3rd Duke of York. Another granddaughter, Joan or Joanne, Alianore’s younger sister, married Edmund of Langley as his second wife.)

 

 

Most-Famous 20th-Century Tarot Deck Features Death’s Banner Emblazened with the White Rose of the House of York

White Rose of the House of York

White Rose of the House of York

The Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot Deck (RWS) is arguably the most famous of 20th-century Tarot decks. For decades, I’ve been using the RWS as an aid to developing fictional characters. Only recently did I notice the Death card in the Major Arcana features a skeletal knight carrying a banner on which is imprinted the White Rose of the House of York. As far as I can tell, the image of the Yorkist Rose does not appear on any Tarot deck – medieval or modern – preceding the RWS.

Death card in the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot Deck

Death card in the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot Deck

Who Designed the RWS?

Arthur Edward Waite (2 October 1857 – 19 May 1942), commonly known as A. E. Waite, was an American-born British poet and scholarly mystic who wrote extensively on Masonic, occult and esoteric matters. Coincidentally or not, he shared the same day of birth as Richard III. Waite was a member of the original Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, along with such Victorian notables as Bram Stoker, W.B. Yeats, and Constance Wilde (wife of Oscar Wilde). Waite co-created the deck with illustrator Pamela Coleman Smith.

Pamela Coleman Smith (16 February 1878 – 18 September 1951) was an English-American artist, illustrator, and writer. Among her first projects were The Illustrated Verses of William Butler Yeats and a book on the actress Ellen Terry, written by Bram Stoker. Yeats introduced Smith to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Waite was already a member, and Smith met him in 1901 when she joined the Order.

The Golden Dawn splintered in the early 20th century due to a number of its members having…let’s call them personality conflicts. At that time, Smith and Waite both moved to the Independent and Rectified Rite of the Golden Dawn (aka The Holy Order of the Golden Dawn). In 1909, Waite commissioned Smith to produce a Tarot deck meant to appeal to the world of art.

Regarding who designed what for the deck:

Waite is often cited as the designer of the Waite-Smith Tarot, but it would be more accurate to consider him as half of a design team, with responsibility for the major concept, the structure of individual cards, and the overall symbolic system. Because Waite was not an artist himself, he commissioned the talented and intuitive Smith to create the actual deck.[i]

It is likely that Smith worked from Waite’s written and verbal instructions rather than from sketches; that is, from detailed descriptions of the desired designs. This is how illustrators often work, and as a commercial illustrator, Smith would probably have been comfortable with such a working process. It appears that Waite provided detailed instructions mainly or exclusively for the Major Arcana.[ii]

The deck was called Tarot Cards when it was first published in December 1909 by William Rider & Son of London. It’s been said that Waite and Smith borrowed heavily from the Tarot of Marseilles, but the RWS’s Death card is very different from the Death card in the Tarot of Marseilles. 

Marsailles

Death card from the Tarot deck of Jean Dodal of Lyon – a classic “Marseilles” deck dating from 1701-1715.

It’s more likely that Waite and Smith took much of their inspiration from the Sola-Busca Tarot deck, which originated in Northern Italy around 1491. The Sola-Busca was displayed to the public shortly after it was acquired by the British Museum in 1907. This deck was the first and only fully illustrated Tarot deck available before the RWS was published, but the Death card of the Sola-Busca deck also bears no resemblance to the Death card in the RWS deck.

Death card of the Sola-Busca Tarot deck in the British Museum.

Death card of the Sola-Busca Tarot deck in the British Museum.

After examining these and other examples of Death cards in old Tarot decks, I can only conclude that A.E. Waite was the first to deliberately include the White Rose of the House of York in the Death card.

What Did Waite and/or Coleman Meeeeeean by Featuring the White Rose of York in a Tarot Deck?

What follows is only the smallest of attempts to begin unraveling Waite’s possible intent(s) when he chose to have Death carry a banner featuring the White Rose of York. Every Tarot deck overflows with symbolic meaning, and the RWS is no different. The problem with and the joy of all symbols is that their meaning is always subjective: what a White Rose of York means to me likely isn’t what it means to you, and every meaning is valid to the person holding it.

A.E. Waite included illustrations from the RWS deck in his Pictorial Key to the Tarot, which was meant to explain the deck, but Tarot and Golden Dawn scholars know that his summaries are deliberately incomplete.[iii] In addition to this, the history and meaning of the Tarot in general are hidden in the mists of medieval time, so you can spend months, if not years, researching both and make very little headway. Along the way, you discover there are Tarot references not only in medieval grimoires and royal courts, but far beyond – for example, in Marlowe and Shakespeare and Yeats. In the end, you come to realize that a Tarot deck is a tool meant to put the reader of a card spread in touch with his or her subconscious, so in the end the objects in the cards symbolize whatever they mean to the reader.

This is a long way of saying that if someone wants to do in-depth research as to why the White Rose of the House of York was chosen by Waite, he or she is going to have to set aside what that particular rose symbolizes for them. In order to discern what it might have meant to Waite, the researcher will need a firm knowledge of:

  1. Medieval tarot decks
  2. The history and symbolic meaning of the White Rose of the House of York
  3. Tarot history (veiled in medieval mystery)
  4. Tarot card meanings (multiple meanings for every card depending on the analyst you consult)
  5. Jungian archetypes
  6. The meaning of esoteric and occult symbols (Manly P. Hall is a good place to start)
  7. A.E. Waite’s life and times (Victorian to Edwardian)
  8. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and its various offshoots
  9. What the White Rose of the House of York may have symbolized to A.E. Waite, and why
  10. A great imagination with which to conjecture
  11. The knowledge that your conclusions can be nothing but subjective, and Waite’s inclusion of the White Rose of York might be coincidental…or not.

A better scholar than I regarding Alle Thinges Tarot and Yorkist is going to have to follow up on this…if they want to, and they have the time. All I can offer are the tiniest of tidbits and possibilities.

What Did Waite Say?

This is all Waite wrote about the RWS Death card in his Pictorial Key to the Tarot:

Divinatory Meanings

End, mortality, destruction, corruption also, for a man, the loss of a benefactor for a woman, many contrarieties; for a maid, failure of marriage projects.

Divinatory Meanings – Reversed

Inertia, sleep, lethargy, petrifaction, somnambulism; hope destroyed.

Inner Symbolism

The veil or mask of life is perpetuated in change, transformation and passage from lower to higher, and this is more fitly represented in the rectified Tarot by one of the apocalyptic visions than by the crude notion of the reaping skeleton. Behind it lies the whole world of ascent in the spirit. The mysterious horseman moves slowly, bearing a black banner emblazoned with the Mystic Rose, which signifies life. Between two pillars on the verge of the horizon there shines the sun of immortality. The horseman carries no visible weapon, but king and child and maiden fall before him, while a prelate with clasped hands awaits his end.

There should be no need to point out that the suggestion of death which I have made in connection with the previous card [i.e., The Hanged Man] is, of course, to be understood mystically, but this is not the case in the present instance. The natural transit of man to the next stage of his being either is or may be one form of his progress, but the exotic and almost unknown entrance, while still in this life, into the state of mystical death is a change in the form of consciousness and the passage into a state to which ordinary death is neither the path nor gate. The existing occult explanations of the 13th card are, on the whole, better than usual, rebirth, creation, destination, renewal, and the rest.

Description

[Card number] 13. Death. The method of presentation is almost invariable, and embodies a bourgeois form of symbolism. The scene is the field of life, and amidst ordinary rank vegetation there are living arms and heads protruding from the ground. One of the heads is crowned, and a skeleton with a great scythe is in the act of mowing it. The transparent and unescapable meaning is death, but the alternatives allocated to the symbol are change and transformation. Other heads have been swept from their place previously, but it is, in its current and patent meaning, more especially a card of the death of Kings. In the exotic sense it has been said to signify the ascent of the spirit in the divine spheres, creation and destruction, perpetual movement, and so forth.[iv]

Waite doesn’t point out that the rose is the White Rose of the House of York. Instead, he calls it a “Mystic Rose which signifies life.” Remember that Mystic Rose, we’ll be returning to it.

Waite does state that his Death card is “a card of the death of kings,” and the card does feature the body of a king and his upside-down crown laying behind the left hoof of Death’s warhorse. As far as I can discern after examining other medieval and modern Death cards, Waite’s design is the only one illustrating/symbolizing “the death of kings.” All the other Death cards – unless the deck is based on Waite’s design – feature a variation on the classic medieval image of skeletal Death on foot and scything a field (as in the Marseilles example above), or on horseback a la archetypal Death as a Horseman of the Apocalypse.

Whether Waite had the death of King Richard III specifically in mind when he designed his Death card is anyone’s guess. Still, a strong argument might be made that, given the fallen king on the ground whose crown has tumbled from his head, and the presentation of a medieval knight on a warhorse (however skeletal the knight may be), Waite may have had in mind the last English king to die in battle.

I’ve a number of other books analyzing the Tarot, and 95% of them use RWS illustrations to accompany their text. None of the authors comment on Death’s rose being the White Rose of the House York, so I’m left to ask: Why in the world does Waite have his Death waving a banner prominently featuring what’s obviously the White Rose of York, and why did he call it a ‘Mystic Rose’?

What the heck is a Mystic Rose?

Mystic Rose #1

Sometimes what someone doesn’t say speaks loudest of all, so it may be important to remember all Waite says about the Yorkist Rose in his Death card is that it is a “Mystic Rose.”

Throughout history, the rose has been a symbol of love, purity, virginity, sexuality, fertility, regeneration…and secrets. The White Rose of the House of York is white because, in the liturgical symbolism of the medieval Church, white symbolizes light, innocence, purity, joy, and glory.

Waite’s mother converted to Catholicism and took her children with her. To the medieval and modern Catholic church, the “Mystic Rose” is Mary, the mother of Christ. Among her many titles are the “Mystical Rose of Heaven” and the “Rosa Mystica,” but it doesn’t follow that, to Waite (who ended up a devout Rosicrucian), the White Rose of the House of York symbolized Mary. It does follow that, to Waite, a rose symbolized Mary, for he wrote about the Rose and the Cross in Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross:

“Thus the Rose is a symbol of Mary because of her motherhood, but in relation to her it belongs to divine things, even as she herself stands on the threshold of Deity, being Spouse of the Divine Spirit and bearer of the Divine word made flesh. So also is the Rose of Shekinah, a Divine Rose, as she whom it typifies is Divine Mother of souls.”[v]

The rose in general – not just a white rose – has also been a symbol for silence and secrecy in many secret societies. An ancient custom was to hang a rose over a council table to indicate that everything spoken during the meeting was to remain secret. This custom may have derived from an ancient Egyptian image of Horus, the divine son of Isis, sitting inside a rose and holding a finger to his lips, admonishing silence when it came to the Egyptian mysteries.

Horus was called Harpocrates by the ancient Greeks, and Harpocrates was the Greek god of silence. In Greek myth, Eros presents a rose to him. This is where the term “sub rosa” comes from, meaning “under the rose” or “the keeping of a secret.” As an aside, the rose is also the national flower of England…and Waite’s mother was English.

George Knowles writes:

After his sister’s death in 1874, Waite lost interest in the Roman Catholic Church, but retained a great love for its ritual ceremony.

“Waite had formulated the theory that all esoteric practices and traditions, whether Alchemy, Hebrew Kabbalah, Legends of the Holy Grail, Rosicrucianism, Christian Mysticism or Freemasonry, were secret paths to a direct experience of God. He was convinced that the symbolism in each of these traditions had a common root and a common end, and that their correct interpretation would lead to a revelation of concealed ways to spiritual illumination.”[vi]

However interesting this esoteric labyrinth might be, the tangled path doesn’t lead us any closer to explaining why the White Rose of the House of York specifically was included on the Death card of the RWS Tarot deck.

Mystic Rose #2 and #3

Both the Yorkists and Waite would both have been familiar with Dante (1265–1321). The Italian poet depicted Paradise as a White Rose or Mystic Rose in which God was at the center with the saints surrounding Him. In his Divine Comedy, Dante also described Mary as the mystic rose: “Behold the rose, where in the divine word was made incarnate.”

Dore

Gustav Dore’s 19th-century illustration of Dante’s Paradise/Mystic Rose

Gustav Dore illustrated Dante’s Mystic Rose in 1868. Dore’s illustration has more in common with the mathematician’s Mystic Rose, which is defined as, “A beautiful image created by joining together points that are equally spaced around a circle.” Any child who has played with a Spirograph knows what that’s all about, and an online animation lets you change the number of points around a circle to construct your own Mystic Rose. (The Mystic Rose poster illustrated below is available from nrich.maths.org as a PDF.)

 Poster compliments of and available for download from nrich.maths.org

Poster compliments of and available for download from nrich.maths.org

 

My Conclusion is Sub Rosa

I know that a fitting conclusion to this article would be a pronouncement along the lines of:

“It’s obvious the Death card in the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot deck features a deliberate depiction of King Richard III as both corpse and Death. A.E. Waite and his illustrator, Pamela Coleman Smith, lays before us a magnificent archetypal image of the skeletal king encased in black armor, riding a white charger, and carrying a black banner on which is emblazoned the White Rose of the House of York.

The white charger is obviously White Surrey, which symbolizes change, for the dead king’s power in our modern world has come to him through the mightiest of all changes – death.

“Richard’s skull peering at us from his helm symbolizes permanence as well as impermanence. Through the triumphant return of the dead king, Waite succeeds in reminding us of the impermanence of life, yet Richard’s soul (symbolized by his skull, which does not dissolve) remains visible to those of us still loyal to him and worthy enough to sense it.

“The inclusion of the White Rose of York obviously conveys the pure, white rose of Richard’s spirit – he has no body but thrives with life-force as we remember him. The ten petals of the White Rose of York indicate completion, for the House of York did not fall on Bosworth’s battlefield, rather it was completed and raised to a higher, mystical level.

“This card bears even more meaning now that Richard III’s remains have been found and reinterred….”

I could go on in this vein, but you get my drift.

I don’t know why A.E. Waite and Pamela Coleman Smith included the White Rose of the House of York in their Death card. I do know it’s up front and center, and the eye is drawn there first. Knowing Waite and his esoteric leanings, his inclusion of the White Rose of York on a black banner means something. I just don’t know what it is.

Sub rosa…under the rose…to keep a secret. I’m led to think of the debatable reasons why Richard chose a boar as his personal emblem, alongside the precise symbolism inherent in medieval heraldry and stained glass, illuminated manuscripts, and other medieval art. Medievals were attached to their symbols in ways we can’t completely understand at this distance. So are modern-day mystical scholars.

In the end, I must leave it to others to ferret out the myriad symbols behind Death’s banner emblazoned with the White Rose of the House of York. In the meantime, what does it mean? Anything you want it to mean.

 

(Reblogged from Merlyn MacLeod)

__________

[i] Waite, Arthur Edward. Shadow of Life and Thought. Kessinger Publishing, page 184.

[ii] Wikipedia entry on Pamela Coleman Smith: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pamela_Colman_Smith

[iii] You can automatically download a free PDF of Waite’s Pictorial Key to the Tarot by entering the following URL in your browser: http://www.hermetics.org/pdf/Waite_Tarot.pdf

[iv] Waite, A.E., The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, PDF of 1910 edition, page 39. Aavailable from http://www.sacred-texts.com at the URL cited in footnote iii.

[v] Waite, A.E., Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross, Kessinger Publishing, 2010, page 92.

[vi] http://www.controverscial.com/Arthur%20Edward%20Waite.htm (sic) George Knowles doesn’t cite his source, but I suspect it’s A.E. Waite’s autobiography, Shadows of Life and Thought (1938).

A Visit to Bury St Edmunds (Part Two)

Pic of Cathedral

St Edmundsbury Cathedral, previously St James’ Church

After we left Moyse’s Hall Museum, we wanted to visit St Mary’s Church, as we knew there was a wedding going on at the Cathedral. However, when we arrived, the church was closed a s a service was going on for the WI. By this time the bells of the Cathedral were ringing indicating the wedding was over and so we trooped back there for a while.

Pic of stained glass window

Stained glass window – St Edmundsbury Cathedral

The stained glass windows were impressive as well as the font which is gigantic, and we found a tapestry depicting King Henry VI visiting the shrine of St Edmund in 1433.

Pic of tapestry

Tapestry showing Henry VI at St Edmund’s shrine

I was pleased to see that the floral decorations included white roses. The cathedral was previously St James Church and became a Cathedral in 1914.

Pic of St Mary's Church

St Mary’s Church

We then tried out luck again at St Mary’s and this time managed to get in and see the tomb of Mary Tudor (she of the lock of hair). It is right at the far left part of the church, but is clearly marked.

Pic of Mary Tudor's tomb

Tomb of Mary Tudor

Pic of sign

Sign for Mary’s tomb

In addition there was the tomb of one William Carewe who fought at the Battle of Stoke and was subsequently knighted by Henry VII.

Pic of William Carewe's tomb

Tomb of William Carewe

All in all a thoroughly good time was had and we learned a lot.

Remembrance of a Wedding

Remembrance of a Wedding

In the sleepy village of Stanford in the Vale, now in Oxfordshire, but formerly within the boundaries of Berkshire, stands one of the lesser known Ricardian sites.
Stanford, like most English villages, is an ancient place. A corpse-path runs over the village green, and part of a cell once owned by Abington Abbey still exists, built into a later farm building still known as Abbey Farm. A Roman villa once stood close by, lost somewhere in now-grassy fields. However other secrets lie half-hidden in this rural setting, memories of a marriage long lost in time…
Looming over the quiet streets with their clusters of attractive cottages, is the tall grey spire of the parish church, which has a rather unusual dedication to St Denys. The church itself, although suffering some Victorian restoration, has a 12th century Nave, a 14th c south porch, and a 15th century spire and other additions. It also has an unusual reliquary that may have once held the finger bone of a Saint, lent to the church by the monks of nearby Abington Abbey.
However, it is the south porch, often missed by visitors, being on the far side of the church and not generally open for entry (the interior was used for storage when I visited!) , that is of greatest interest, for it is unique in the country.
Little exists to commemorate King Richard in the way of period architecture or decoration, barring the boar carvings and chancel arch head at Barnard Castle, several boars in Carlisle castle, and a boar pendant on the effigy of a supporter who was buried in Norbury Church. Even less commemorates Anne, who was Queen for such a short time before her death in 1485.
Here, in this unassuming Oxfordshire village, seemingly far from the doings of the great and good during the Wars of the Roses, there is a structure that commemorates both Richard and Anne. The south porch of St Denys was built in the 1470’s in honour of their marriage.
Stanford had been part of the Beauchamp inheritance, through Anne’s mother the Countess of Warwick. In 1484 Anne, as Queen, granted it in free alms to ‘Andrew Doket the president, and the fellows of the royal college of St. Margaret and St. Bernard within the University of Cambridge, which was of her foundation’.
Why this special attachment to this particular village and why the commemorative porch? Of course, the locals will tell you that Anne was very fond of her manor at Stanford, and that she and Richard were actually married in St Denys’church, hence the porch being added in their honour.
As with so many things about Richard’s life, the place where he married Anne is uncertain, although many say it was probably in Stephen’s Chapel at Westminster.
Could the marriage have been at Stanford instead? Less likely, but could the young couple possibly have visited the manor and church on their way north, and the building work undertaken to celebrate the brief, happy stay of the newlywed Duke and Duchess of Gloucester?
The south porch itself is sadly, today, in poor repair. It has an embattled roof, lined with shield plaques; the inner vault was apparently never completed. Above the door, the arms of York, the fetterlock and rose, impale the Ragged Staff of Warwick. Over the years the stonework has grown very soft and crumbly, flaking to an alarming powder even to a casual touch. As time goes by, the insignias grow fainter and fainter, less distinguishable. English Heritage has been notified and has spoken about restoration and conservation work being done in the future.
We can only hope that the uniqueness of this structure will be recognised and proper preservation given to these rare carvings commemorating the marriage of a highborn couple who, at that time in their lives, never would have imagined they would one day be crowned King and Queen of England.

stanford

Postscript: After Richard’s death at Bosworth, the lands of Anne Neville’s mother, Anne Beauchamp, Countess of Warwick were briefly returned to her by Henry Tudor, including Stanford in the Vale. She immediately ‘granted’ all of them to him and his heirs male….

The Black Prince’s White Rose?….

Black Prince and his son, the future Richard II - Getty Images

I do not actually know all the badges used by Edward, the Black Prince, but the ‘flowers’ depicted on his crown in this illustration look as if they might be the White Rose of York, although I do know that the White Rose was also a Mortimer badge. But is either likely to be adopted by the Black Prince? Admittedly the picture is in black and white, but they aren’t shaded except in the centre of each bloom. They may not even be flowers, although they look as if they are to me. I know I show my ignorance here.

The illustration is from British Costume during 19 Centuries by Mrs Charles H Ashdown, (London, 1910). (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)

History and cultural history (I)

As we have observed before, Shakespeare’s plays tend to be historically inaccurate but they make good cultural history for his own lifetime. As an example, we took King Lear (probably written 1605-6), in which Cordelia was executed for political reasons, something that almost never happened to women before 1536, in England or Scotland.

Similarly, the parts of Henry VI were (according to Malone) written in 1591-2. A famous scene, set in the early 1450s, shows the Dukes of York and Somerset selecting white and red roses from a garden as their badges. Most people doubt that this scene ever actually occurred but now one has spoken.

Dr. David Starkey has now confidently predicted that the red rose made no appearance before 1460 or possibly even 1485, promising to contribute substantially to the Fotheringhay Church appeal if his statement could be disproven. So who has evidence?

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