Saturday, 19 May 2018

May 19th - this day in history

May 19th marks 2 important events for me.  The first if the execution of Queen Anne Boleyn at the Tower of London.  Being a Saturday, I had initially made plans to visit the Tower today, but due to other Royal event taking place (!) decided London was best avoided.    Rest in Peace, Anne Boleyn.

                       These pictures are from last year.

May 19th also marks the anniversary of Piers Gaveston surrendering to the Earl of Pembroke at Scarborough Castle after a failed siege.  Of course, Piers surrendered on very favourable terms and no doubt expected to wriggle out of this setback.  How wrong he was.

                           Entrance to Scarborough Castle.

And of course, the Royal event taking place at Windsor today will also go down in history.

This is St George's chapel at Windsor, burial place of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

The Ordinances of 1311

The Ordinances of 1311 were the result of an exasperated nobility seeking to curb the powers of Edward II and banish Piers Gaveston once and for all.  It was drawn up and signed by the Earls of Gloucester, Lancaster, Lincoln, Pembroke, Hereford, Warwick, Richmond and Arundel, as well as the clergy and nobility. 

The damning Ordinance against Piers - although there are thinly veiled attacks on him in others - is Ordinance number 20.

Because it is known, and by examination by the prelates, earls and barons, knights and other good people of the kingdom found, that Piers Gavaston has acted badly towards and has badly advised our lord the king and has incited him to do wrong in divers and deceptive ways; in taking possession of for himself all the king’s treasure and sending it out of the kingdom; in drawing to himself royal power and royal dignity, as in making alliances on oath with people to live and die with him against all men, and this by the treasure he acquires from day to day; in lording it over the estate of the king and of the crown, to the ruin of the king and of the people; and especially in estranging the heart of the king from his lieges; in despising their counsels, not allowing good officers to carry out the law of the land; in removing good officers, appointing those of his own gang, as well aliens as others, who at his will and command offend against right and the law of the land; in taking the king’s lands, tenements and bailiwicks to himself and his heirs; and has Caused the king to give lands and tenements of his crown to divers people to the great loss and diminution of the estate of the king and of his crown, and this as well since the ordinance that the king granted to the ordainers to act for the profit of himself and his people as before against the ordinance of the ordainers ; and in maintaining robbers and murderers and getting for them the king’s charter of his peace, in emboldening wrongdoers to do worse, and in taking the king into a land where there is war without the common assent of his baronage to the danger of his person and the ruin of the kingdom, and in causing blank charters under the great seal of the king to be sealed to the deceit and disinheritance of the king and of his crown, and against his homage; and feloniously, falsely and traitorously has done the aforesaid things to the great dishonour and loss of the king and disinheriting of the crown and to the ruin of his people in many ways: And in addition to this we having regard to what was done by the most noble king, the father of the present king, by whose adjudgment the aforesaid Piers abjured the realm of England and whose will it was that our lord the king, his son, should abjure forever his company, and that since by the common assent of all the realm and of the king and of the same prelates, earls and barons it was heretofore adjudged that he should leave the said realm, and he did leave it, and that his return was never by common assent, but only by the assent of some individuals who agreed to it on condition of his behaving well after his return: and now his bad conduct is established beyond doubt, for which conduct and for the great wickednesses aforementioned and for the many others that could befall our lord the king and his people, and in order to foster good understanding between the king and his people and avoid many kinds of discords and dangers, We ordain, by virtue of the commission our lord the king granted us, that Piers Gavaston as the evident enemy of the king and of his people be completely exiled as well from the kingdom of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales as from the ‘whole lordship of our lord the king overseas as well as on this side, forever without ever returning; and that he leave the kingdom of England and all the aforesaid lands and absolutely all the lordship of our lord the king between now and the feast of All Saints next to come; and we assign to him as port in the way aforesaid Dover and nowhere else for crossing and leaving. And if the said Piers stays in the kingdom of England or anywhere else in the lordship of our lord the king beyond the said day that has been given him for leaving and crossing as is aforesaid, then let there be done with him as would be done with the enemy of the king and of the kingdom and of his people. And let all those who from now on contravene this ordinance with regard to the said exile or the penalty that follows, be dealt with accordingly, if they are convicted of it.

The hatred of the nobility is crystal clear.  There was no way back for Piers - his third banishment should have been his last.  And yet, both Edward and Piers ignored it, and Piers was back in a few short months - if he had ever even left.  Whatever were they thinking of????

The Ordinances from the archives.

Friday, 27 April 2018

Edward of Westminster

In my last post I published photos I took of an April Fool in Tewkesbury a few years ago - an obvious spoof  of Richard III, 'The King in the Car Park'.   I was reminded of it because I've been reading books about the so-called Wars of the Roses.  I've visited Tewkesbury quite a few times in the last few years, and always visit the Abbey, the real site of the burial of Edward of Westminster.  There is no grand tomb for him - merely a brass plaque added years later.

Edward's story is a tragic one - of a life cut short and, like Prince Arthur, elder brother of Henry VIII, a life that promised so much.  Edward was the only son of Henry VI and his Queen, Margaret of Anjou.  He was born at Westminster, hence the name he is known by.  Deprived by his birthright by the usurpation of Edward IV, Edward was forced to flee with his mother to the French Court, whilst his father was shabbily treated and kept a prisoner in the Tower of London.   Whilst Edward remained in France, he was still a threat, and this is why Henry VI was kept alive.  When Edward IV and his staunch supporter the Earl of Warwick finally fell out, Edward's chance to reclaim the throne for his father had arrived.   Warwick fled with his family to France to beg Margaret of Anjou to join him in a plan to return her husband to the throne.  The bargain was sealed with the marriage of Edward of Westminster, and Warwick's younger daughter, Anne Neville.  

Warwick set off ahead of Margaret and her son, and was killed at the battle of Barnet.  This left the 17-year-old inexperienced Edward of Westminster to lead the Lancastrian army at the battle of Tewkesbury, a role he did not shirk.  George, Duke of Clarence, brother of Edward IV, was married to Warwick's eldest daughter, and was involved in the plot to restore Henry VI.  He changed sides, and was now involved in the battle fighting with his brothers, Edward IV and Richard, Duke of Gloucester.  There are varying accounts of how Edward died at Tewkesbury.  One version has him killed in battle, whilst a more sinister version has him brought before the 3 York brothers, and, refusing to acknowledge Edward IV as king, was stabbed to death by all 3.  He was hastily buried in Tewkesbury, with no tomb provided for him.  Edward IV wanted no memory of Edward of Westminster, and his death sealed his father's fate - Henry VI was put to death in the Tower.

One can only try to imagine how devastated Margaret of Anjou was.  Her beloved son, the Lancastrian hope, had been slain, and his death led to his father's.   Margaret was imprisoned in the Tower and eventually released.  She went back to France, and lived out her days there.  She died in August 1482.  If only she had lived a few more years, she would have seen the destruction of her bitter enemies, the Yorkists, and the Lancastrian cause led by Henry Tudor.

It's with some irony that George, Duke of Clarence, was later put to death on the orders of his own brother, the king.  He too was buried in Tewkesbury, and the vault in which he was buried, along with his wife, regularly flooded, and now only several bones remain.

Also buried, eventually, in Tewkesbury, was Hugh Despencer, former favourite of Edward II.

The grill covering the vault of George, Duke of Clarence.

Tomb of Hugh Despencer.
                                                                 Tewkesbury Abbey

Sunday, 1 April 2018

April 1st - my favourite April Fool

Saw this at Tewkesbury Museum a few years ago - definitely deserves a re-post!

Friday, 23 March 2018

Oystermouth Castle

One of my favourite castles - Oystermouth, near Swansea. Edward 1st once spent Christmas here!

 Recent renovations include a viewing platform to see the chapel at the top of the castle.

 View from the other side.
 To the right of the window and barely visible, are the flecks of paint of an angel from a fresco in the chapel.
 One of the murder holes for castle defence.
 The view of the sea from the castle - an ideal viewing point.
The view from the battlements.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

February 1312 - Piers is re-united with Edward II - and his wife.

In January, 1312, Piers Gaveston's wife had given birth to their daughter Joan.   At the time, Piers was out of the country - having been banished for the third time from England.  There was even talk that Piers hadn't actually left England, but had been 'hiding out' somewhere, perhaps under the King's protection.  It would make sense that he would want to be near his wife Margaret in the late stages of her pregnancy.   

Joan was born in mid-January, and named for Piers mother-in-law and the king's sister, Joan.  Margaret had been taken North to give birth - away from the glare of court, and no doubt to make it easier for Piers to be at her side as soon as possible, which he was by February.  It would have been a time of great rejoicing for Piers and Margaret, and no doubt Edward II.  

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Best Books of 2017

As is usual for me at this time of year, here are my best books of 2017.

1.  Without a doubt, the book I've been waiting a very long time for.  Kathryn Warner's 'Long Live the King! The Mysterious fate of Edward II'  is a fascinating, well researched read.  I've been an avid reader of Kathryn's superb Edward II blog, and have been fortunate to read all her posts on the possible survival of Edward II.   Kathryn's meticulous research, and well-balanced arguments are extremely readable.  A book I literally could not put down.

2.  'Young, Damned and Fair.  The Life and Tragedy of Catherine Howard at the Court of Henry VIII', by Gareth Russell.   No doubt, Tudor bios are extremely popular and churned out regularly with very little, or indeed no new information on the subject.   There has been far too many on Catherine Howard, of whom we know very little.  Therefore, interpretation of her life has been the central focus, and revisionist historians have painted her as a victim of child abuse.  But not Gareth Russell, who opens his biography with a superb chapter on explaining attitudes in Tudor times, in particular, the Tudor attitude, and acceptance of, death.  We also get a Catherine set in her own context - in Tudor times, Catherine would not have been seen as a victim of child abuse - at 13, and once a girl had started her periods, she was deemed old enough to be a wife and mother.  Catherine Howard led a risqué life, knowing the consequences, and paid for it with her life.  She was not some innocent child dangled like an ornament by her family for Henry VIII to devour.   In many ways, she was responsible for her own fate.

3.  'Henry VII - The Maligned King', by Terry Breverton.  I always enjoys this authors books, and he has written an excellent, balanced biography of Henry VII, whose success is often over-shadowed by his much-married son and of course his predecessor, Richard III.  Henry VII is certainly maligned in that his successful financial and foreign policies are over-looked, as is his seemingly happy marriage to Elizabeth of York and his being free from scandal.  A worthy biography of a worthy king.

4.  'Richard II, a True King's Fall', by Kathryn Warner.  A well researched biography of the complex king Richard II.  Plenty of details showing many facets of Richard's personality.

5.  'Houses of Power -the Palaces that shaped the Tudor World' by Simon Thurley.  A well-researched and interesting book on the palaces occupied by the Tudors - those still standing and those that have disappeared.   There's a lot of focus on the design and architecture, which makes for a refreshing change for a book about the Tudors.

6.  'Richard III, Brother, Protector and King' by Chris Skidmore.  A balanced and fair biography of Richard III, and how it was circumstances, rather than personality, that 'bounced' Richard into the actions he took.

7.  'Take Courage - Anne Bronte and the Art of Life'.  A much needed biography of the neglected Bronte sister. 

8.  Just started 'Elizabeth's rival - The Tumultuous Tale of Lettice Knollys' by Nicola Tallis, and it's already shaping up to be a cracking read.

Biggest disappointments

A book I was so looking forward to - 'The King's Assassin - The Fatal Affair of George Villiers and James 1st' by  Benjamin Woolley.  I know very little about James 1st and was intrigued by the title and blurb of this book - but basically, it turned out to be a biography of George Villiers and gossip from the court of James 1st.

Anne Boleyn - Amy Licence.  OK, I know there is only 1 definitive biography of Anne Boleyn - the one written by Eric Ives.  I always try to read every new bio of Anne, and am inevitably disappointed.  There is no new information on Anne Boleyn - but there have been plenty of interpretations and speculation.  And that's what we get here - Anne might have met Leonardo da Vinci, she might have been present at this meeting, at that palace, might have read this book, could have seen this piece of art , met this person - and then of course she may not have done any of them. Nothing new again and padded out with maybes. I had low expectations, and was right.  Amy Licence can do better than this, as her  previous biographies have proved.