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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.’ “

 

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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?

Henry Tudor to a T…?

Henry Tudor to a T...?

When I saw this dragon in the Tudor Pattern Book, I immediately thought of Henry Tudor. The dragon was green, so now he’s red, and has a white rose between his teeth. Seems like Henry to me.

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