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Archive for the tag “Winchester Cathedral”

The remains of Emma of Normandy found, and a fascinating exhibition of Winchester Cathedral’s history has opened….

“….Seven years after the remains of Richard III were discovered under a Leicester carpark, another legendary but lost English monarch has turned up in Hampshire.

“….Emma of Normandy, twice crowned Queen of England and the mother of Edward the Confessor, was interred in Winchester’s Old Minster in 1052 and was later transferred to the newly built Winchester Cathedral.

“Queen Emma, a powerful figure in late Saxon England, lay peacefully in a mortuary chest high above the cathedral choir for 600 years until the English Civil War….”

The above paragraphs are taken from this article.

Now there is a fascinating exhibition at Winchester Cathedral  .

“…. The opening of Kings and Scribes: The Birth of a Nation marks the culmination of an ambitious seven-year project to unlock the Cathedral’s stories and treasures by inspiring active engagement in the interpretation and exploration of our heritage….”

When it comes to Winchester, that heritage is vast!

A mysterious medieval tunnel rediscovered in Paisley….

“….The mystery of where a 100 metre medieval tunnel in Scotland ends has finally been solved thanks to recent excavations.

“….The intricate underground passageway next to Paisley Abbey in Renfrewshire is believed to have been a [14th century] drainage system but has been puzzling people for decades because no one could figure out where the exit was.

“….’Often these types of drains are in rural areas not urban ones where there will have been pressure on the land above it – but considering the amount of buildings on that site over the centuries, the condition of the drain is quite incredible.’

“….The find is now being covered up again but it could lead to a more permanent visitor attraction with access to the drain in the future….”

To read more, go to this article.

PS: The above url also has the following at the end! Tantalising. A couple more known generally than others.

A passing thought that the boys in the Tower might have been buried at Winchester….

The matter of these intriguing coffins at Winchester Cathedral and whether or not one of the skeletons might be that of Queen Emma, consort of Kings Ethelred and Cnut, is very engrossing. But of even more interest (temporary, I concede) was the thought that two of the twenty-three remains, of juvenile royal personages, might have been those of the boys in the Tower, particularly now that evidence can prove or disprove the identities of the bones in the urn.

The fate of Edward IV’s sons has always been a bone (no pun intended) of contention, with poor old King Richard usually on the receiving end of all blame. Wrongly, of course, but the ignorant traditionalist view still has a grip. Anyway, the theory about the remains at Winchester was only fleeting, because “….Although researchers believe the two juvenile skeletons discovered in Winchester Cathedral were of two boys ‘almost certainly of royal blood’ and aged of a similar age to the princes, they had died sometime between 1050 and 1150 – more than 300 earlier….”

Oh, well, the possibility had me sitting up for a moment! But please read this BBC article to learn more about the Winchester coffins. There are some good illustrations. Worth a visit.

A visit to Winchester

One of our members visited Winchester in September, with his family. Here is a selection of photos, relating to Alfred, the C12 Civil War, the Cathedral and the site of Jane Austen’s death:

 

Not a Hicksosaurus in sight …

   

THE RED KING–WILLIAM RUFUS

Amidst the spreading Oaks of the New Forest stands a solitary stone, once ten foot high with a ball on top, now truncated and protected from vandals.  Known as the Rufus Stone, it is the memorial to a slain king, William II, one of England’s most mysterious and little known Norman Kings.

On the stone, which only dates from the reign of Charles II and is not sited where the event it commemorates actually happened, is an inscription:

Here stood the oak tree, on which an arrow shot by Sir Walter Tyrrell at a stag, glanced and struck King William the Second, surnamed Rufus, on the breast, of which he instantly died, on the second day of August, anno 1100.
King William the Second, surnamed Rufus, being slain, as before related, was laid in a cart, belonging to one Purkis and drawn from hence, to Winchester, and buried in the Cathedral Church, of that city.

  William Rufus, son of William the Conqueror, is one of those historical figures who has attracted lots of mythology but about whom little is actually known. Due to his nickname, frequently he is described in modern writings as  red-headed, but in the medieval Malmesbury Chronicle, he is said to be ‘yellow haired’ with a very red face that grew more florid when enraged.

It is claimed William was cruel and unpopular, but there is little written evidence of what his cruelty exactly consisted of. He did implement high taxation, treating his English subjects with disdain, but his main folly seemed to be in defying and even ridiculing the Church. (The Anglo Saxon Chronicle  said he was ‘abhorrent to God’.) The Church loathed him, and the clerics of the day spoke peevishly of his possible sodomy (he never married, nor had any known illegitimate children), his dissolute court and the fact he wore his hair nearly as long as a woman’s as well as enormously extended pointy shoes!

Despite his unpopularity, Rufus was a capable soldier, making forays into Scotland and putting down a serious revolt in Northumberland.

It is  his unusual death however, for which he which is best remembered , and here the folklore has grown and flourished most. On August 2, the day after the ancient harvest festival of Lughnasad, Christianised  as Lammas, William was out hunting in the forest with his brother Henry, a lord called William Tirel/Tyrell/Tyrrell and others of his entourage. Apparently, the night before he had been gripped by evil dreams in which he had been kicked by an angry cross, and this put him in an evil mood. As the party spotted a stag amidst the trees, he turned to Tirel, the best archer in the party and shouted, “Shoot, in the name of God, shoot!”

Tirel shot and the arrow struck not the  deer but the king, entering his lung. He tried to draw it out but collapsed, falling on the shaft and driving the arrow in deeper.

No one helped the dying king. Tirel immediately spurred his horse onwards and fled for France. The King’s brother Henry, not bothering with any niceties for the newly deceased King’s body, rushed for the nearby city of Winchester where he seized the treasury, then promptly rode to London where he claimed the crown before his other brother, Robert Curthose, who was away on the First Crusade, could hear of William’s demise.

It was, reportedly, two humble peasants who recovered William’s corpse, dumping it unceremoniously into a cart and carrying it to Winchester, with blood dripping through the cart-slats all the way along the road. In the great cathedral, Rufus was hastily buried in a plain chest tomb ( and some bones believed to be his still remain there, although the skull is missing.)

The Church of the day believed God had stricken down William for his wickedness, but later historians began to speak of murder and a potential plot to remove him from the throne. Henry was definitely present at the death and certainly had the most to gain; his actions when the King was stricken down were also not exactly those of a loving brother. Tirel was said to be an excellent archer and most unlikely to have missed his target in such a disastrous manner.

In the earlier 20th century the story was given another twist—anthropologist Margaret Murray wrote about  Rufus being a pagan who was sacrificed in an ancient Lammas harvest rite because he was ‘infertile’ and hence would bring famine and plague to England. (The chroniclers  did in fact say that in Rufus’ reign,  “thunders terrifying the earth, lightnings and thunderbolts most frequent, deluging showers without number, winds of the most astonishing violence, and whirlwinds that shook the towers of churches and levelled them with the ground.

As ‘proof’ Murray  pointed to the auspicious date of death at Lammas  and to  the fact another young royal relative had died in an identical manner earlier  that year…on May 2, the day after old Beltaine. She thought of this earlier death as a ‘proxy’ for the king himself, but when England did not flourish after  the substitute was sacrificed, Rufus himself had to die. The peasants who allowed Rufus’ blood to flow onto the earth on the journey to Winchester were also seen as continuing some sort of  ancientritual practice.

Pretty wild, unlikely stuff, intriguing though it is.

So Henry became Henry I and Tirel in France remained free and unpunished.  Who killed Rufus, and whether it was an accident or murder (ritual or  otherwise) remains another unsolved medieval mystery (although I would personally  put my money on Henry.) As for Tirel’s involvement, his name was in fact not immediately associated with the death; the Anglo Saxon Chronicle  just says the King was  ‘shot by one of his own men.’ Tirel’s name only appears in later writing, although he does seem to have fled England (and his daughter Adeliza was married to one of the men Henry took with him when he seized the treasury.)

It is a slightly strange and interesting coincidence that this surname for a possible ‘King killer’ is so similar to that of James Tyrell/Tyrrell who has been accused of overseeing the deaths of Edward V and his brother Richard of York in the Tower 383 years later, another figure obscured by time and by later mythologising.

William_Rufus_death

 

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