A caricature is putting the face of a joke on the body of a truth–Joseph Conrad
If Joseph Conrad was correct (and I believe he was), whatever could someone in the late 15th c have been trying to tell us about Henry VII in this amusing manuscript doodle? Especially as it came from the Archbishop’s Register of the diocese of York.
That nose! That pinched expression! Is the King depicted trying to smell out someone’s hard earned money? Did a scribe in York not think terribly much of the new Tudor king?
And, just for fun, here’s a more recent (early 20th c?) cartoon of Henry chowing down with good old Bishop Morton (by then Archbishop of Canterbury), as they devise the idea of Morton’s Fork…
If you go to York and enter Micklegate Bar heading towards the City Centre, you will see a wonderful medieval gem on your right, the church of St Martin-cum-Gregory, of which Richard III was patron (below left). Its name is due to the fact that the present church is the result of two different churches’ fusion, St Martin and St Gregory. In the Middle Ages, York was a city with many churches but, at some point, especially after the Great Plague, the population was slashed and, as a consequence, many of them became redundant; St Gregory on Burton Lane was one of them. In addition to the reduction of the population, after the Reformation, St Martin was scheduled for closure but in 1585 it was decided to knock down St Gregory and to merge the two parishes. The nave of St Martin-cum-Gregory church was built in the 13th century while the side aisles were possibly added at the beginning of the 14th century, the chancel in the 15th century.
In 1565, the Lord Mayor had given 100 marks to buy three bells. The original steeple had to be removed as it was dangerous and it was rebuilt in 1677. Three years later, a clock and a dial were added. Due to the fact that the tower was made of bricks, the result is a strange combination of different styles. The upper part of the tower was added in the 19th century.
In 1828, the church-wardens and parishioners requested that the butter market, built for the second time in 1778, (the first one dating back to medieval times, had been blown away) be demolished and (sadly) this request was granted. The excuse was that for years no butter had been there and that the place had become an assembly point for riotous people. It had been used to view, search, measure, mark and seal the butter, that afterwards was sold elsewhere, even in London. The market was held every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, a place that today we would have greatly appreciated visiting.
St Martin-cum-Gregory is famous for its wonderful medieval stained glass and it is surrounded by a graveyard. The roof in the nave was panelled with beautiful sculptured bosses located at the angles of the intersections. In the west end of the steeple it is possible to see the remnants of a Roman family funereal monument.
Recently, the church, belonging to the parish of Micklegate along with Holy Trinity of Micklegate (to distinguish it from Holy Trinity in Goodramgate and the Methodist Church in Monk Gate) and the other parish church of St Mary Bishophill Junior, became surplus to needs and were closed.
In 2008, due to the beauty of its stained glass, it was reopened as the Stained Glass Centre. Many workshops take place there in summer and currently there is a plan to open the church to the public so it can be visited and appreciated again all the year round. This plan was set up in the hope of giving Micklegate the role it had had before, that of being one of the most interesting and visited areas in York.
This link takes you to an article about the medieval church cottages in North Street, York, next to All Saints Church. The article is about all the cottages, which were built around the time of Richard III, but concentrates on one in particular, number 31 North Street. There are some excellent old photographs.
After standing empty and almost derelict, in the early 1970s the cottages were saved and turned into dwellings again.
Oh, and the article also tells of a small building that had some claims to being the ‘smallest house in England’!
Beneath our feet and hidden away in nooks and crannies of Britain’s towns and cities, there is still a treasure trove of ancient wonders to be found–we’ve learned that from important finds in recent years such as the Staffordshire Hoard, and, of course, King Richard III’s grave in Leicester. Even more recently there have been some interesting historical places, including medieval roads, hermitages, castles and town walls, re-discovered in Yorkshire and gaining new interest from the public. Some were/are hiding in clear site, with the local towns growing up and over them. Others lay in the countryside, hidden away on estates or covered by foliage.
One site of particular interest is Common Hall Lane in York, which runs alongside the 14th c Guildhall, a place Richard would have known well. Both the hall and the medieval lane were constructed over the site of the Roman road that runs through York. In later times, the lane was closed off and now lies behind a locked wooden door which is on the water level. Being so near the river, it apparently floods often. The Guildhall is undergoing restoration at present and it is hoped that when the work is complete, Common Hall Lane will be re-opened as well.
Another site that has received recent attention is the medieval Hermitage that lies under the old Pontefract General Infirmary. A series of chambers run underground, containing a 72 step staircase, the hermit’s bed, bench, and fireplace, a well supposedly filled with magical, curative water and a macabre carved skeleton, representing death, who holds up a spear. At present, there is no general access to the cave…but there are occasional open days arranged by the custodians.
Scarborough Town Walls have also recently been added in to heritage walking tours of the area. These walls were in fact raised on the orders of Richard in 1484, replacing older structures,. Only one section still remains–near a car park. A blue plaque commemorates Richard’s renewal of the town’s defences; the King also renovated the castle at the same time.
Archaeology isn’t all about the really old. The photographs accompanying this article show York digs in only recently gone decades. But, of course, there is also a lot of interesting information about York’s more distant past!
This article tells of various archaeological projects that took place in the 1970s and 80s.
When we buy a non-fiction book (in our case usually something to do with Richard III and the medieval period) we anticipate its arrival with some relish. This is how I felt when, after reading many praises for Peter Ackroyd’s History of England, I decided to buy Volume I online.
It arrived this morning, and I leafed eagerly through the pages, to get a feel of it before reading it properly…but when I came to Illustration 49 (of 51) it was an image of Richard III from the Rous Roll – just him, taken from the image above. Then I read the caption: “Richard III standing on a white boar; the white boar was his personal badge or ‘livery badge’. It may derive from the Latin name of York, Eboracum, since he was known as Richard of York.”
Um…oh no he wasn’t, Mr Ackroyd. His father was Richard of York, and so was his nephew, Richard of Shrewsbury, who was created Duke of York and became one of the boys in the Tower. Richard was always Richard of Gloucester, and then Richard III.
As you can imagine, my heart sank and my hackles began to rise as I sensed that I’d purchased a real turkey. I have indeed, because Peter Ackroyd goes on to relate in full the version of events according to the Sainted More, strawberries, withered arm and all. The murder of the boys in the Tower is taken for granted, but the possibility of Henry VII being responsible is “essentially a fancy”. Oh, right. Why, may I ask? Because his tricky, grasping, dishonest hands were suddenly lily-white? No, according to Ackroyd: “There can be little doubt that the two boys were murdered on the express or implicit order of Richard III.” Clearly this author has inside information that has been hidden from everyone else.
And there’s more: “There had been usurpers before, wading through gore, but Richard III was the first usurper who had not taken the precaution of winning a military victory; he claimed the crown through the clandestine killing of two boys rather than through might on the battlefield.” Really? Methinks Mr Ackroyd is too accustomed to composing eyecatching blurbs!
And Richard “set up a ‘council in the north’ to consolidate his power in that region. Excuse me? Richard was consolidating his own power? Um, where was Edward IV while all this was going on? Or was Richard now ‘king of the north’, and a law unto himself?
And Richard contemplated marrying Elizabeth of York…at least, he would have done if he’d been able to get away with it. No mention at all of the important Portuguese negotiation for both his own marriage and that of his niece. Indeed no, the only reason Richard didn’t rush her to the marriage bed was because he would not have been “able to marry the girl whose brothers he had destroyed”.
Polydore Vergil “states that Richard III was now ’vexed, wrested and tormented in mind with fear almost perpetually’.” In fact, Ackroyd is prepared to judge Richard solely on the traditional stories, which were (sorry to repeat it again) the work of the victor at Bosworth, in whose interest it was to blacken Richard’s name and memory as much as he possibly could. Henry VII was surely the best spreader of fake news in history!
Oh, and Richard was “buried without ceremony in a stone coffin. The coffin was later used as a horse trough and the bones scattered”. Really? No wonder Ackroyd thinks Henry VII was the best thing for England, they share a liking for telling stories!
The copyright for this abominable work of fiction is 2011. Oh, dear, a year later and Richard himself was able to refute claims of hideous deformity and being chucked in the Soar (Ackroyd missed that one, by the way.)
There are many other points in this book with which anyone of common sense will disagree. Those who have really studied Richard III, will know that he has indeed been cruelly maligned by history. He did not do all those things of which he was accused…and if he had Hastings executed without delay, you can bet your bottom dollar it was for a damned good reason. Richard didn’t execute people left, right and centre…there are quite a few he should have topped, but he was lenient! Which makes him a black-hearted, villainous monster, of course.
Anyway, I regret being swayed into buying this book. It is nothing but traditionalist garbage! I hardly dare turn its pages to my other favourite king, Richard II. No doubt Henry Bolingbroke gets the laurels and is patted on the head for having that other Richard murdered. Ah, but that’s different. It was OK to kill Richard II. So, in 1399 there was a Richard usurped by a Lancastrian Henry, and then another such thieving Lancastrian Henry happened along in 1485. Neither of the Richards (both married to Annes, by the way) usurped anything, but they both get the blame for everything.
Entry from the York City House book…’King Richard late mercifully reigning upon us was thrugh grete treason of the duc of Northefolk and many othre that turned ayenst hyme, with many othre lordes and nobilles of this north parties, was pitiously slain and murdred to the grey hevynesse of this citie’ (1)
“The memory of King Richard was so strong it laid like lees at the bottom of mens hearts and if the vessels were once stirred it would come up’…thus wrote Francis Bacon in his History Of Henry VII. He was writing about the North Of England, particularly Yorkshire and Durham but no doubt this could have applied in particular to the City of York and its stout citizens although of course, in many other places memories of the good and fair reign of King Richard still endured but lies unrecorded.
However York’s constancy to Richard’s memory has been well documented and snippets can be found in the surviving York House Books. In the aftermath of Bosworth it was recorded that “Tudor”‘s messenger , Sir Roger Cotam, was so in fear of his life to enter the city – despite the offer of a gift of ‘ii.gallons of wyne’ – that it was thought prudent that the ‘maire and his brethe shuld goo unto him’ instead. Which they did, meeting with the snivelling coward at the ‘sign of the boore’. Shame on you Sir Roger (2)
This affection and loyalty for Richard dates from the time he was Duke of Gloucester…
24 June 1482
John Davyson, a tailor, was sent to appear before the Mayor, Richerd Yorke. Davyson said he and others had heard Master William Melrig say that he, in turn, had heard Master Roger Brere say regarding ‘my lorde of Gloucestr’ ‘What myght he do for the city? Nothing bot grin for us’ (2). Oh dearie me, big mistake Master Roger! As Shakespeare was later to write “Give thy thoughts no tongue’ especially if they are daft. Melrig was sent for that very day and demands made as to what seditious words he had ‘at any time’ heard Master Roger utter against Gloucestr. Whether in truth or to pour oil on troubled waters Melrigh replied ‘noon’. The words ‘Nothing bot grin for us’ were repeated to him in an attempt to jog his memory. But Melrig stuck to his story…deftly batting the ball back into their court by assuring them he would not have stood for such words to be used unchallenged against the Duke. And that ended the matter. The truth is lost in time but begs the question did Master Roger utter those word or was a lie made up knowing that a very dim view would be taken over such utterances and would land him in deep and muddy waters?
Tellingly, years later, it was still remained hazardous to malign Richard, for on the 14 May 1491 an argument between a man called John Payntour and a schoolmaster William Burton (Burtan) was recorded in the Municipal Records. Payntour alleged he had heard the said Master Burton call Richard ‘an ypocryte’ and furthermore a ‘crochebake’ and who had ended up buried in a ditch ‘like a Dogge’. John Payntour, skilfully avoided getting into trouble with the new King (clearly it was not wise to be seen to stick up for Richard too stoutly) by adding that Burton had lied, obviously, because ‘the Kynges (Tudor) good grace had beried hym like a noble gentilman’! (3). Take it outta that Master William! I really, really like the sound of this man, Payntour, who earlier, in 1490, had to deny slandering the Earle of Northumberland by saying he was a traitor who had betrayed King Richard. . Kudos to you John Payntour and I hope, when you finally popped your clogs, you got to join good King Richard in Heaven…
The medieval Guild Hall in York where Richard and his consort Anne Neville were entertained at a great banquet in 1483.
Finally here are a selection of artworks, which I find preferable to photographs for catching the ethos of Old York from the time of King Richard, John Davyson, William Melrig, Roger Bere and the indomitable John Payntour. Their names live on…
Petergate, York. A painting by C Monkhouse 1849
Monk Bar. William Etty date unknown.
Bootham Bar..Anonymous c.1800
The Shambles Ernest Haslehurst 1920
Bootham Bar and the Minster c.1920 Noel Harry Leaver
The York House Books in two volumes. Editor Dr Lorraine C Atreed.
York House Books Vol.1. p368.9 Edited Lorraine C Atreed
Ibid Vol.2 p734
Ibid vol .2 p707
York Records: Extracts from the Municipal Records of the City of York 1843. R Davies.pp220.221
The article also give a plausible reason as to why Edmund’s christening ceremony at Rouen was much more opulent than his brother Edward’s earlier one – which has led to much debate and speculation that Edward was illegitimate.
I think Edmund may have become a dependable and worthy member of the Plantagenets and his early death, at the age of 17, leads to a ‘what if?’. Everything may well have been so different. But it was not to be and its easy to imagine the grief that must have overwhelmed his mother, when the news was broken to her of the terrible outcome of Wakefield. Not only did she lose Edmund but her husband, who must have been her rock throughout most of her life. However Cicely was to carry on and to suffer even more tragedy later including the judicial murder of another son, Clarence, and the violent death of her youngest surviving son Richard at Bosworth. But that is another story.
To focus back on Edmund – his early life which he shared much of with his oldest brother Edward – is covered in the article as are the delightful letters written by the pair of them while at Ludlow to their father which alway make me smile. Assuring their ‘Lorde and Fader’ of their ‘wilfare’ at the writing of the letter, they tell him ‘We were in good helth of bodis thonked be God’ and ‘beseche your good Lordeschip that hit may plaese yowe to sende us Harry Lovedeyne grome of your kechyn whose svice is to us ryght agreable And we will sende yowe John Boyes to wayte on your good Lordeschip’ (1)! Nice try boys!..sadly we dont know if it worked..
Edmund’s and Edward’s signatures on a letter to their father June 1454.
But the madness that become known as the Wars of the Roses was to end Edmund’s life in the cruellest way. Edmund fought along side his father and maternal uncle at the Battle of Wakefield – 30th December 1460 – and its hard to read the suggestion that, had Edmund had travelled west with his brother Edward, he may have survived. But stay with his father he did – and died – after a failed attempt to flee, murdered some say by Lord Clifford or at the very least on his orders.
After the battle Edmund and his father’s heads, together with that of his uncle Richard Earl of Salisbury, which had been detached ty a mob, were placed upon Micklegate Bar, York. A further heartache no doubt for Cicely but an act which spurred the Yorkists on. Determined to avenge his father and brother’s deaths, but three months later, Edward finally crushed the Lancastrians at Towton. One of his first actions was to have Edmund buried with his father at the Cluniac Priory of St John in Pontefract. Later in 1476, they were both ceremoniously reburied at Fotheringhey in St Mary’s Church, York in the chancel, but it remains unclear whether Edmund was buried in the same vault as his father or in the Lady Chapel. When Cicely’s time came she was, presumably, buried in her husband’s vault according to a request in her will. Richard and Cicely’s bodies were moved into a joint tomb in 1573 on the instructions of Elizabeth I, where they rest to this day. The Lady Chapel was destroyed and it is not known whether Edmund was found and re-buried with his parents – no mention of it was made – or found and lost again or still remains undiscovered. It would appear, sadly, that his remains were forgotten about at the time and are now lost (2). I do hope very much that, whether his remains were found or not, they still lay not far from his parents.
The tomb of Richard Duke of York and Cicely Neville Edmund’s parents. It is unknown whether Edmund was reburied with his parents. Tomb erected at the instruction of Elizabeth Ist.
Excerpta Histórica: Or, Illustrations of English History p9, Samuel Bentley.
Creating and Recreating Yorkist Tombs in Fotheringhay online article Sofija Matich and Jennifer S Alexander.
A little-covered event took place at Worksop on 16th December 1460. It is covered in great detail in this excellent article. The whole of the Our Nottinghamshire site is worth exploring.
However, it the Battle of Worksop that is dealt with here, and it seems there is very little known about exactly where the battle took place. The above illustration is an imagined reconstruction of Worksop Castle, because there is not much known about that either. Worksop, Place of Mystery!
I take the following quote from the article mentioned at the beginning of this post:-
“The Duke of York, with the Earl of Salisbury and many thousand armed men, were going from London to York, in December 1460, when a portion of his men, the van, as is supposed, or perhaps the scouts… were cut off by the people of the Duke of Somerset, Edmund Beaufort at Worksop”
Well, here is an article that manages to blend my two favourite kings, Richards II and III, although overwhelmingly Richard II. It concerns actor Mark Burghagen (BBC, Opera North, York Mystery Plays), who has produced a short film based around Richard’s plight after being usurped by his first cousin, Henry IV. Richard is pictured in his prison cell in Pontefract Castle, pondering his fall from power, and coming to terms with his own humanity.
“…Although Richard is frequently maligned in history books as a tyrant with inflated ideas of his own majesty, Burhagen takes a more sympathetic approach, believing that Richard was simply ‘the wrong man at the wrong time, pushed into the role of king too young (he came to the throne aged just 10 in 1377) and pressured by a gang of powerful, ambitious uncles’….”
I confess to sympathising with Richard II. Like Richard III, I think he was a man ahead of his times. Certainly he was out of place in 14th-century England, when the nobility always thought in terms of financial gain through war and fighting. He preferred peace, making a monumental clash inevitable.