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Colyngbourne was the rat….!

Colingbourne's buddies

The following passage is from The Darlington and Stockton Times

“The rat, the cat and Lovel our dog,
Rule all England under a hog.”

“This seemingly innocuous verse was in fact a searing criticism of those in power at the time it was written in 1484, and was found pinned to the door of St Paul’s Cathedral and other prominent places all over London. The rat was King Richard III’s confidante, Sir Richard Ratcliffe, the cat was Speaker of the Commons William Catesby, and Lovel was Viscount Lovel, who had a reputation for being the king’s ‘lap dog’ or ‘yes man’. King Richard’s emblem was a white boar, hence the reference to a hog.

“The poet was ultimately unmasked and found to be wealthy landowner William Collingbourne, a fierce opponent of the king, and he paid a heavy price for writing those few words as he was put to death for treason.”

Oh well, yet another writer who doesn’t realise that it wasn’t the verse that got Colyngbourne executed, but the treasonous plotting in which he was involved!

Here is the truth. Colyngbourne set himself against Richard III from the outset. He seems to have been caught up in Buckingham’s rebellion, apparently in favour of Henry Tudor. Clearly the fellow preferred a Lancastrian with no claim at all to the throne, to a king who was legally and truly on the throne.  

On 10 July, 1483 or 1484, Colyngbourne contacted Richard’s enemies, including Henry Tudor, “to declare unto them that they should very well to return into England with all such power as they might get before the feast of St Luke the Evangelist” (which was 18 October) and “to advise the French king, that negotiations with Richard were useless as the new King meant to make war on France.” He urged Tudor to invade and land at Poole. (Which Tudor did indeed try to do—unsuccessfully—during Buckingham’s Rebellion in October 1483). 

Colyngbourne was certainly stirring up dangerous trouble against Richard. His motives aren’t really known. He could simply have been in a miff for having lost positions, including that of being steward of the Wiltshire lands of the king’s mother, the Duchess of York. This position went to Francis Lovell, which probably accounts for the latter’s inclusion in the infamous lampoon. 

Whatever Colyngbourne’s reasons, he paid the price of communicating with and encouraging the exiled Henry Tudor to invade Richard’s realm and land at Poole. No king could let this pass without punishment, so Colyngbourne was arrested, tried, (rightly) found guilty and executed on Tower Hill. 

Yet even today, writers repeat that it was the verse that cost him his duplicitous life. According to Tudor author Edward Hall, Colyngbourne was executed “for making a small rhyme”. This was a charge that was picked up on by later writers, until Charles Ross corrected it, saying that Hall had carefully suppressed “the fact that the real indictment against him was that he had been encouraging Henry Tudor to land at Poole”.  

If I’d been Richard, I’d have condemned such a traitor as well! 

Wikipedia gives a fair account of Colynbourne’s activities.

 

 

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THE DARRELLS OF LITTLECOTE

Littlecote House in Wiltshire, now a Warner’s hotel (those with very long memories might remember it as a sort of theme park/tourist attraction in the 1980’s) is considered to be one of England’s most haunted houses. Amongst the many spooks that haunt its halls is a burning baby, said to be the spirit of  a child murdered by Wild William Darrell, the master of the house in the 1570’s, who supposedly threw an  illegitimate infant into the fire directly after its birth. (He was later said to have been killed by falling off his horse when the baby’s apparition appeared before him–he then became a ghost himself.)

Whether any part of the legend is true or not (and there’s some evidences parts of it are), there were certainly Darrells living at Littlecote house long before Wild William or the Tudor/Elizabeth mansion we see today–back in the late medieval period.

One of its residents at that period was Margaret Beaufort. No, not THAT Margaret Beaufort but the ‘other one’, who also had a notorious son called Henry. She was the mother of Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. Daughter of Edmund Beaufort, second Duke of Somerset and Lady Eleanor Beauchamp, Margaret first married Humphrey Earl of Stafford, son of the first Duke of Buckingham (also called Humphrey) and produced Henry and another son (Humphrey again!), whose ultimate fate is unknown. (He was taken into Elizabeth Woodville’s household and made a Knight of the Bath at the same time as Henry but references to him vanish after that–presumably he died young.)

Humphrey Stafford was badly wounded at the first battle of  St Albans and never seemed to fully recover. He died a few years  after the battle, possibly of plague, possibly through effects of his injuries, making Henry the heir to his grandfather’s title at the tender age of 4/5.

Margaret soon remarried,  to Richard Darrell of Littlecote. They had one daughter, Margaret (Henry Stafford’s half-sister), who married James Tuchet, 7th Baron Audley. James was one of the commanders in the Cornish rebellion against Henry VII in 1497. He was captured, along with the other leaders of the rebellion, and executed on Tower Hill on June 28.

Although now a hotel, Littlecote House still allows non-residential visitors to look around the gardens, several of the interior rooms rooms, and visit the amazing Roman mosaic that lies within its grounds. Look for the sign that says ‘day parking’ and park there for access.

 

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A History Walk in Wiltshire

Sometimes, in this very old country of ours,  even a simple afternoon’s walk out along the river  can come up with some rewarding historical data relating to the Middle Ages and the Wars of the Roses period. Recently I went for a walk near the Wiltshire Avon, from Figheldean to Netheravon, taking in  two little-known rural medieval churches, which proved to be of some interest.

At the Church of St Michaels and All Angels, where the worn effigies of two unknown 13thc knights lie in the porch, having been brought there from a now-lost nearby church or chapel, the advowsen was held in 1485-1487 by Francis Stourton. Stourton was the son of John Stourton who attended Richard III’s Parliament when attainders were passed on the Duke of Buckingham’s rebels. Unfortunately for Baron Stourton, his brother–in-law, Sir William Berkeley, had actually joined the Duke’s Rebellion. Richard said he would pardon Berkeley as long as John Stourton came up with a bond of 1000 marks. He agreed to pay the bond–but unfortunately, ungrateful William Berkeley promptly shot off to Brittany to join Henry Tudor, leaving Baron Stourton with a hefty bill. In-laws, eh?

One of the local manors, Alton Magna, also happened to belong at one time to the Earl of Warwick, Richard Neville. It is not certain  how he aquired it, as it had descended with the Honour of Leicester from Simon de Montfort, to Henry Duke of Lancaster, Henry’s daughter Maud, then her sister Blanche, the wife of John of Gaunt. When Blanche’s son became Henry IV in 1399 the honour of Leicester passed to the Crown.

Going along a pleasant leafy back road from Figheldean church, the traveller eventually comes to the village of Netheravon. Its church of All Saints has some similarities architectural qualities to that in Figheldean, including a very tall, stark tower. There was probably a Saxon  church originally  on site, and there is  visible Norman work that survives, including a carving of beasts on the capital of an exterior pillar.

The church was a prebendal church and one of the prebendaries in the 15th c happened to be Thomas Rotherham,who was first Bishop of Rochester, then Bishop of Lincoln and finally Archbishop of York. He was Keeper of the Privy Seal for King Edward IV and was appointed Lord Chancellor. When Edward died, Rotherham unlawfully handed the Great Seal to Elizabeth Woodville, and hence lost his position as Chancellor. He was present at the council meeting where Lord Hastings was arrested and then executed, and was himself arrested as part of the conspiracy. He went to the Tower, but not for very long; he was soon released and continued to be a player on the scene.

  As at Figheldean, the manor of Netheravon was held by the Duchy of Lancaster, first half of it, then eventually the whole. At one point one of the halves was held by the notorious Hugh Depenser the Elder and his family during  the reign of Edward II.  Upon their downfall, Queen Isabella was granted the estate  for life.  However, when her son, Edward III, captured her and Roger Mortimer at Nottingham in 1330, Edward gave the estate to Edward de Bohun. Later, through Mary, wife of Henry IV, it became part of the Duchy of Lancaster. Other local Despenser lands went to the Earl of Salisbury, which may be how Richard Neville came to own a manor in Figheldean.

Several local estates were also held by Sir William Beauchamp, husband to Elizabeth, suo jure Baronness St Amand; upon his death she held them jointly with her next husband, Sir Roger Tocotes. Sir Roger was a local landowner and sheriff who served George of Clarence for a while, but ended up as one of Buckingham’s rebels.

There is one other interesting feature of Netheravon. As you pass down the lane near the church, you will see the name ‘Beaufort’ clearly affixed  to a gate. The large, rather sombre mansion in the next field was owned by the Dukes of Beaufort -although not in medieval times, but rather from the middle of the 18th century, when the surname (Beaufort) and title (Somerset)  were reversed. Their stately pile, built by one Henry Somerset,  stands close to a Roman villa and is likely on the site of the medieval manor house of the Cormayles family.

 

 

Found in Wiltshire …

This piece, “Christ Blessing”, as rediscovered recently in the Holy Trinity Church, Bradford-on-Avon,_92853172_church14 is by the Flemish artist Quentin Metsys the Elder (1466-1530), not his grandson (c.1543-89). How fortunate that it appears to have saved the church.

THE GIFFARD CHANTRY-MEDIEVAL PAINT AND EARLY PLANTAGENETS.

In the quiet village of Boyton in Wiltshire stands the Church of St Mary’s, known locally as ‘Blessed Mary of Boyton.’ Dating from the early 13th century it contains several unusual and startling features, including a medieval oven where priests baked the sacramental bread.
It is probably most famous, however, for the chantry of the Giffard family, who played an important role in 13th century politics and had connections to the royal family.
Sir Hugh Giffard instructed the young Prince Edward, son of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence, later to become Edward I, in horsemanship and ‘manly arts’, while his wife Sibilla assisted with both births and the education of  the other royal children.
The chantry was begun in 1270 for Hugh and Sibilla and all their family by their sons Walter and Godfrey. Both of these men rose to high prominence, with each in turn being appointed Lord Chancellor of England. Walter was also made Archbishop of York, while Godfrey was Bishop of Worcester.
The huge wheel window which dominates the chantry is probably its outstanding feature, and is unparalleled anywhere in Britain. The small roundels of glass could actually be moved in their grooves to display different points.
Nearer to the altar, lies a superb effigy of an armoured knight with his feet resting on an otter and three lions on his shield, thought to be Godfrey and Walter’s brother, Alexander, who was in Egypt during the Seventh Crusade in 1250. He fought in the Battle of Al Mansourah and died there, while, legend says, attempting to help wounded soldiers escape down the Nile. The effigy predates the chantry and was moved into its current position at a later date. Traces of gold paint still remain on the armour.
The central tomb chest belongs to Lady Margaret Neville, who appears to have been a niece of Godfrey and Walter. Originally, there was an elaborate painted canopy over the tomb, but excavations in recent years show that there was once a fire in the chapel, and the canopy burnt down. The ashes from the destruction were found trapped beneath the flagstones, along with two other extremely unusual finds.
One was a clam shell which still bears traces of medieval paint inside. It is thought to have served as an artist’s palette, in which he mixed colours. The shell is on display in a glass box in the church and its still-vivid colours have been used as a guide to restoring the paint on the angel carvings around the ceiling.
Along with the shell, a fairly substantial fragment of original stained glass was found, bearing the arms of Thomas Plantagenet. Thomas was the grandson of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence and the son of Edmund Crouchback (whose name came from his right to wear a cross on his back.) Thomas was prominent at the coronation of Edward I, carrying Curtana, the sword of Edward the confessor. He was also one of the judges who tried and convicted Piers Gaveston during the reign of Edward II; Gaveston had previously insulted him with unflattering nicknames such as ‘the Fiddler’ and ‘The Churl.’ Thomas attempted to wrest affairs away from Edward during the following four years, but could not keep order amongst the nobility.
Eventually he mounted a full rebellion against the King in 1321 and was defeated at the Battle of Boroughbridge. Having surrendered, he was given a ‘show trial,’ in which he was neither allowed to speak in his own defence nor to have anyone speak for him. Predictably, he was sentenced to death for treason and beheaded near Pontefract. Later, miracles were said to have taken place at his tomb.
Today, Thomas’s arms are back on display in one of St Mary’s windows alongside fine collections of medieval glass that were not originally in the church, but installed by later owners of the nearby manor, who were great collectors of ancient glass. Beneath Thomas’s arms lies an inscription mentioning the long-time friendship of the Giffards with the Plantagenets.

Alexander GiffardPlantagenets friendshipMargaret Neville's tomb/round windowartist's shell

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