Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Murder Mysteries - Edward II

Not a promising start to Yesterday 's Medieval Murder Mysteries on Edward II.    The expert on Edward II?      Paul Doherty!   Defender of Isabella!   Kathryn Warner has cited numerous errors in his writings.  We also have the Berkeley family and various criminal barristers and psychologists, plus medical experts giving their views.   So you just know the red hot poker story will be centre stage.  Sure enough, Richard Felix, a 'historian' believes in the poker story entirely.   He states Edward II is a homosexual, and Isabella and Roger Mortimer were lovers.  He then repeats the poker story word for word.  Edward was murdered this way so as to show no marks on his body.   Yet Felix says his screams could be heard throughout the castle and lasted for 15 minutes.   No marks on the body but Edward's screams heard by all.   Isabella orchestrated it out of a perverse sexual jealousy to humiliate the king.  The programme actually showed a reconstruction and then computer generated skeleton/body with the injuries Edward might have suffered depending on how hot the poker was and the length to which it was inserted - yes, really!   It was gross - and I'm not going into detail here as do we really want to know these facts?  Edward may have died of a seizure, shock or a heart attack. The barristers and criminologists refute this as a ridiculous way to murder Edward.  Quite right!

The Berkeley family claim Edward was smothered in such a way as no marks were shown.   Linda, one of their guides, was the one who showed me around on my last visit, and explains this theory.  She concedes very few people viewed Edward's body and the body was hastily prepared for burial.   She mocks the idea of the survival of Edward living as a hermit in Italy - as if a Plantagenet king would do that!   A broken, weakened, tormented and repentant king may well have done this - especially to protect his son.

Doherty then puts forward the survival of Edward II.  He cites lack of witnesses, the burial not being at Westminster Abbey and Lord Berkeley's statement to parliament that he did not know the king was dead in 1329.   The Fieschi letter is only briefly mentioned.

So, the conclusion?   The red, hot poker story can surely be discounted as it was a complicated and a rather elaborate way to murder someone.   Natural causes seems too convenient, and most of the experts agree that Edward died at Berkeley Castle, probably suffocated, although his escape and survival cannot be discounted.   So basically, they don't know!  

I guess having the poker story demolished is a victory for historians like Kathryn and Ian Mortimer, and those of us who follow their blogs etc.   And the possible survival of Edward seriously considered another victory.  It's just a shame neither was invited to take part, and we had to have endless replays of Edward being tied up and gagged with a twisted look and cry of agony as the poker is inserted.   It was gratuitous and unnecessary.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

UK TV channel Yesterday's Medieval Murder Mysteries

UK TV channel Yesterday has a new TV series called Medieval Murder Mysteries on Monday Evenings.   This week was all about Christopher Marlowe.   Next week is all about Edward II.   Marlowe's was all about conspiracy theories - dare we hope the episode on Edward II may entertain the theory that Edward actually survived?   Or will the focus be on the dreaded red hot poker story?  Or murder of some sort at Berkeley Castle?    I'm daring to look forward to it and will review it next week.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Belated anniversary to Piers Gaveston and Margaret de Clare

I'm almost a week late but November 1st marked the anniversary of the wedding of Piers Gaveston and King Edward's niece, Margaret de Clare.   Margaret would only have been about 13 or 14, and undoubtedly would have expected to make a good match, being the King's niece.   We don't know what Margaret 's feelings were, but marrying the king's favourite and becoming Countess of Cornwall was a good match.  The marriage took place at Berkhamstead Castle.  Edward paid the grand sum of 7 pounds, 10 shillings and six pence in coins for well-wishers to throw over the couple at the church door.  He also gave the newlyweds jewels worth about 30 pounds - I'm sure Piers had first pick:)

Sunday, 25 October 2015

10 most Histrorically inaccurate films

Just read an article from Watchmojo.com about the 10 worst historically inaccurate movies of all time.  Not surprisingly, Braveheart came 3rd!  The site criticises the dating of the movie and the costumes.  However, they make a huge mistake of their own.  Correctly pointing out that William Wallace could never have fathered 9 year old Isabella's child, they credit Edward III being the father of, erm, himself?:)  In case you're wondering, 'The Alamo' came top.

Check the results out here
Worst Historical inaccurate movies

Monday, 5 October 2015

Reflecting on Helen Castor 's 'She -Wolves'

Helen Castor's TV series 'She Wolves ' has recently been repeated on the history channel 'Yesterday'.   I read the book some years ago, and appreciate that in the TV series Castor has limited time to tell the story of Edward II's Queen, Isabella.   Yet the TV series is heavily biased against Edward II and much in favour of Isabella.

We get the usual starting point.   Isabella was brought up at the sophisticated French court.  Her mother was the ideal role model as to how a Queen consort should behave and influence policy - although no example is given.  Brought up to be a royal bride, Isabella knew her destiny was to cement an Anglo/French with her marriage to Edward II.  Married at the age of 12, Isabella was a child and her husband a grown man - surely she could not expect to be such an influence on her husband at a tender age?  Castor than repeats the infamous tale of the Royal Coronation - with Piers Gaveston dressed in royal purple and carrying the crown.  Let's not forget this was Edward's coronation, not just Isabella's, and whatever his attachment to Piers, as Earl of Cornwall, Edward would want him to play an important part.  Castor focuses on the banquet that followed, and we get the story of Edward 'giving away the wedding presents' to Piers <sigh>. Presents given to Edward, not the couple, and given  to Piers for safe keeping maybe?   Castor says Isabella knew Piers had taken her place - hmmm, was he named 'Queen', carried out her royal duties, given her household and made joint sovereign?   Of course not.   Quite how a 12 year old child hoped to influence and rule as Queen consort is a puzzle to me.

The 2 banishments of Piers are turned into one, and we have Isabella 'dragged' around the North of England so that her husband could protect his lover.   Thing is, Isabella was in absolutely no danger - Piers was.   Castor points out Isabella 'must have spent at least one night' with her husband as she was now pregnant.  As she was now 16, and reached maturity, she was ready to do her duty and produce an heir for her husband - why would it only take 'one night'?   They may have been sleeping together for some months.  Castor also neglects to mention Piers had his own wife and child.   So why shouldn't Edward be sleeping with his wife?  Just imagine - he may even have enjoyed it!

Edward and Piers agreed to separate- Piers preparing for a siege at Scarborough Castle and Edward and Isabella heading to York.   Castor phrases this plan as Edward and Isabella 'being alone for once' - as they must surely have been several times before.  Castor has Piers 'starved' out of Scarborough - no mention of the favourable terms of his surrender.   She does have the good grace to say Piers was murdered by Thomas of Lancaster - and then says we have no idea how Isabella felt about Piers!   That of course is true - but Castor has done her work in portraying Isabella as a neglected wife.

Hugh Le  Despencer is immediately introduced as the king's new predatory favourite making Isabella's life a misery, although she confidently says Hugh was not Edward's lover without saying why.   After fleeing to France, Isabella meets Roger Mortimer, who is described as an astute politician and a courageous man on the battlefield.  The implication being he was all that Edward II was not.  Mortimer becomes Isabella's lover - Castor offers no evidence for this, and together they are welcomed into England to depose Edward II.   Castor is evasive about how involved Isabella was in her husband's death - if indeed he was dead.   Mortimer is described as being given a traitor's death while Isabella mourned in private.   What interests me here is what Castor doesn't say - she totally omits the horrifying capture, torture and execution of Hugh Le Despencer, and that of his father.  There's no mention of Isabella dining as she watched the horrific spectacle.  What a fine PR Castor has managed for Isabella in 25 minutes!

Monday, 21 September 2015

Piers Gaveston and...........David Cameron?????

Piers Gaveston is in the news today, along with Britain's Prime Minister 'Call me Dave' Cameron.   I shall let the papers do the talking for me.  From The Guardian newspaper today -

What have we learned about David Cameron today?

An unofficial biography of David Cameron written by the Conservative donor Lord Ashcroft contains a series of allegations. They include that the prime minister spent time in a drug-taking environment at university, that he took part in a bizarre dinner club initiation ritual, and another claim about Cameron’s knowledge of the peer’s offshore tax status.
One specific allegation is that, in the words of the Daily Mail, Cameron took part in an initiation ceremony in which he “put a private part of his anatomy” into a dead pig’s mouth. It cites a source – a current MP – who claims to have seen photographic evidence. It allegedly took place at a notorious Oxford University drinking club, the Piers Gaveston Society.

What is the Piers Gaveston Society?

“Piers Gav” is highly exclusive, made up of a self-selecting group of 12 undergraduates. The men-only club, named after the alleged male lover of Edward II, king of England from 1307 to 1327, was founded in 1977 and carries the motto: “Fane non memini ne audisse unum alterum ita dilixisse.” It translates to:

Truly, none remember hearing of a man enjoying another so much.
The Mail reports that the club encourages “excess, high camp [and] ostentatious decadence”.
Piers Gaveston members are understood to be given obscure titles such as “Poker”, “Despenser” and “Catamite”, and they all follow the Sicilian code ofOmertà – or maintaining silence about the club. In fact, it prides itself on being a clandestine organisation.

What do people say about it?

Valentine Guinness, one of the founders of the society, once told the journalist Toby Young that the appearance of Piers Gav and other similar societies in the 70s “was a conscious effort to say, look, you know, the country may be in a mess but we’re still going to have a good time”.
And so they do. For its summer ball, members each invite 20 guests – preferably more women than men, who were last year given 72 hours’ notice, when they were told to turn up for a hired coach that would drive them to an undisclosed destination in the countryside. “Cross-dressing is as likely to feature as speed-laced jelly,” says the Telegraph of these parties. “The rules are simple – there are none.”
The journalist Danny Kemp went to the Piers Gaveston ball in summer 1995. He has a different take on the club. “I guess the first thing to say is that it really wasn’t very debauched,” he said. “I was invited by a friend of a friend who was in the Piers Gaveston Society. The most obvious thing is that it is meant to be raunchy fancy dress. This means a lot of people going in drag [myself included unfortunately], others in what back then looked like bondage-type gear.
“Invitees were told to gather in a central Oxford location, where a coach picked everyone up and drove them to a location in a field on the outskirts of the city. There was a big marquee in the field, with what was again meant to look like louche decor, velvet, etc, and bowls of free punch to drink. I think they had some kind of burlesque-type dancing on a stage, but it was mainly just 90s house, techno and people dancing, in drag.
“I was expecting it to be a bit more interesting than it was. And, really, that was it. No pigs’ heads. The whole thing really seemed like not-terribly-debauched public schoolboys’ idea of debauchery.”
The broadcaster Julia Hartley-Brewer went to Piers Gaveston parties in 1989-91. She said they were “just big, fairly wild parties. Lots of drink, lots of very rich posh kids getting wasted – probably lots of drugs [but not my thing so I wouldn’t know]. They were fun bashes – very hot and sweaty and very much about getting off with people.”
Jules Evans, author of Philosophy for Life: And Other Dangerous Situations and policy director at Queen Mary’s Centre for History of Emotions, was a member of Piers Gaveston in 1997. He said it was not a secret society, rather just a club that organised a summer party. “They were pretty innocuous – basically a fancy dress rave. Not nearly as decadent as the media or the participants themselves liked to think. Didn’t stop the Sun sending a reporter and photographer and calling it an ‘orgy’,” he said.

What’s the difference between Piers Gaveston and the Bullingdon Club?

The Bullingdon Club is the other drinking society Cameron was known to be a member of. Most of the sonorous members of the Bullingdon are old Etonians. The prime minister was one such member, as were the London mayor, Boris Johnson and the chancellor, George Osborne.
The Guardian even publishes this picture.

Poor Piers - somehow being linked to ex-public schoolboys, pigs heads, strange and perverse initiation ceremonies and David Cameron - is not quite what he'd like to be associated with, I'm sure.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Summer Holidays.......

I guess September marks the end of the summer in the U.K.  As well as my visit to Rome, I also did some 'castle visiting' - all ones I've been to in the past, but if you get the chance to go, well, you just have to, right?  So here's some of the 'best of pix'.  Hope you enjoy!

An old favourite - Sudeley Castle.  

The Victorian tomb for Katherine Parr.
Not surprisingly, Sudeley has a huge focus on Richard III at the moment.  As Duke of Gloucester, Richard held the castle during his brother Edward IV's reign.   There is a replica of the head made of Richard III, as well as information about his life when Duke of Gloucester.  You can even buy a white rose flag in the gift shop!  Of course, as a Lancastrian supporter, I quickly passed by!

Next on my visits was Windsor Castle.  I hadn't been there for nearly 20 years!  It's not one of my favourite castles, but I always visit the chapel of St. George.  I'm always amused that Henry VIII has no fine tomb, and lies under a slab in a vault.

St. George's Chapel

Hampton Court is celebrating 500 years this year.  I've visited the palace quite a few times, and naturally prefer to Tudor part of the palace.   There are lots of celebrations and events taking place, so if you can get there,  Unfortunately, the 'mini-timeplays' have ended.  Highlights included the arrival of Henry VIII's court, entertaining us with singing and dancing.  Anne Boleyn was amongst the performers.  Elizabeth 1st interrogated a Scottish envoy about her cousin Mary, Queen, of Scots, Shakespeare and his company rehearsed  a play for King James, Barbara Villiers, mistress of Charles II, argued with his wife, Catherine of Braganza and George 1st had an English lesson.

Henry VIII's court arrives at Hampton Court.

Anne Boleyn, as a lady-in-waiting, is escorted into the palace.