Thursday, 1 June 2023

Anne Boleyn’s Coronation

 June 1st 1533 Anne Boleyn is crowned Queen of England.  At last my Anne Boleyn rose has come into bloom.  Very late this year.

Saturday, 13 May 2023

King Piers?

 May 6th 2023 saw the Coronation of King Charles III.  For many people, including myself, the Coronation was the first one I'd ever seen.  Naturally, it led back to thinking about previous coronations - not least, Edward II.   The Coronation chair, covered in graffiti, was built by Edward Ist, his father.  It wasn't built for Coronation purposes though.  Edward Ist had it built to house the Stone of Scone, which he took from Scotland in 1296.  In 1300, he ordered a magnificent chair to be built to enclose the precious stone.  However, it wasn't until Henry IV used it in 1399 that it was used  for Coronations.

Edward II's Coronation caused controversy - and it was down to Piers Gaveston - Earl of Cornwall.  Even being the Earl of Cornwall was controversial.  At the time Piers was given the title, there was jealousy amongst the nobility.  Then followed Piers' marriage to the king's niece, Margaret de Clare, and Piers was left as Regent when Edward went to France to bring back his bride, the 12 year old Isabella.  So who better to take the lead role in the Coronation?  I get the feeling that if Edward could have crowned Piers, he would have!  The Chroniclers were in shock at the elevation of Piers.  The Vita Edwardi Secundi wrote 'What an astonishing thing, he who was lately an exile and outcast from England has now been made governor and keeper of the same land'.   The chronicler went on to call Piers a 'second king', whilst another chronicler, the St Paul's annalist said there 'were two king reigning, in name and the other in deed'.

The date set was February 18th 1308.  However, it was delayed until February 25th,  allegedly because the Archbishop of Canterbury was not in the country to perform the crowning.  However, according to the Annales Paulini, it was delayed because of Piers Gaveston.  The English and French nobility were furious that Edward wanted Piers to play an important role in the Coronation - and they were jealous and outraged.  Edward would not give way - he would not give in to demands that Piers be banished from the Coronation.  Edward no doubt expected the nobility to be as charmed as he was by Piers at some point in the future.  Piers dressed in royal purple and wore numerous pearls for the Coronation, and one chronicler says he looked magnificent, 'like the God Mars'.  And no, it wasn't written by Edward!

Piers played 3 major parts in the Coronation.  Thomas of Lancaster, the King's cousin, carried the sword Curtana into Westminster Abbey.  The sword stood for mercy and justice, and it was Piers who took it from Thomas and carried it.  He also carried the crown of St Edward for the King to be crowned, and then finally attached the spur to the left foot of Edward after the Earl of Pembroke placed a boot upon it.  All these were highly honoured roles in the ceremony and jealousy guarded by the nobles.  They were furious Piers had been at the heart of the Coronation ceremony.  And they were even more appalled at the behaviour of Edward and Piers at the Coronation banquet.  But that's a post for another day.

Sources - Piers Gaveston, JS Hamilton, Edward II, Seymour Phillips

Thursday, 20 April 2023

Remembering William Shakespeare

 Stratford Upon Avon is one of my favourite places to visit.  I try to go every year!  It is almost the 'perfect Tudor town'.  William Shakespeare was born and baptised on April 26th 1564, and died April 23rd 1616.  We  actually know very little about Shakespeare's life in Stratford, but visiting Stratford, you can see the house where he was born, the school he attended, the remains of the house that he retired to and the Church, Trinity Church, where he and his family are buried.  You can also visit Croft Hall, the house where his daughter Susanna lived.  Just outside Stratford, you can visit his wife Anne Hathaway's Cottage and the farm where his mother's family lived - Mary Arden's farm.  As it's April, I thought I'd share my photos of the birthplace in Henley Street and Holy Trinity Church.

Below is the birthplace of Shakespeare.  It's been very much extended over the years.

The 'birth room' of Shakespeare - although of course we don't know for certain if this is the actual room.

The monument at Holy Trinity Church for William Shakespeare.

Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare, and his family, are buried.  You can easily visit all the places associated with Shakespeare in Stratford in a day. 

Thursday, 23 March 2023

Remembering Thomas Cranmer

 Tudor history is extremely popular, and with Wolf Hall, Thomas Cromwell has come to prominence .  He is appreciated as an astute politician and a 'more human' person.  He has become 'flesh and blood'.  I've always admired Cromwell the politician.  What he achieved to give Henry VIII his 'divorce' and begin reform of the Church in England was very impressive.  However, the achievements of Thomas Cranmer have somewhat faded.  What Cromwell achieved in Parliament, Cranmer achieved in the Church.  He started out as the Boleyn family's chaplain, and rose to become Archbishop of Canterbury.  He introduced the Bok of Common Prayer.  He showed loyalty to both Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell when they fell.   He managed to survive the cut throat politics of Henry VIIII's court, and was a loyal servant to Henry and his son Edward VI.  But he could not survive the wrath of Mary Tudor, and was burnt at the stake March 21st 1556 in Oxford.  

Thursday, 2 February 2023

Piers Gaveston's Opening Speech from Christopher Marlowe's play Edward II

 My father is deceas'd. Come, Gaveston,

And share the kingdom with thy dearest friend.

Ah, words that make me surfeit with delight!

What greater bliss can hap to Gaveston

Than live and be the favourite of a king!

Sweet prince, I come! these, thy amorous lines

Might have enforc'd me to have swum “from France,

And, like Leander, gasp'd upon the sand,

So thou wouldst smile, and take me in thine arms.

The sight of London to my exil'd eyes

Is as Elysium to a new-come soul:

Not that I love the city or the men,

But that it harbours him I hold so dear,—

The king, upon whose bosom let me lie,

And with the world be still at enmity.

What need the arctic people love star-light,

To whom the sun shines both by day and night?

Farewell base stooping to the lordly peers!

My knee shall bow to none but to the king.

As for the multitude, that are but sparks,

Rak'd up in embers of their poverty,—

Tanti,—I'll fawn first on the wind,

That glanceth at my lips, and flieth away.

The official title of Christopher Marlowe's play about Edward II was 'The Troublesome reign and Lamentable Death of Edward II, King of England, and the Tragical Fall of Proud Mortimer'.  It was first published in 1594.  I have been fortunate to see a couple of productions, set in the period of the time and modern day.  The opening speech sets the tone of the whole play.  Piers Gaveston has been banished by Edward's father, Edward Ist, and the play opens with his death and Piers receiving a letter from a besotted Edward, now King.  It is true that one of Edward II's first acts on becoming king was to recall Piers.   The relationship between Edward and Piers is made obvious from this opening speech, with Piers referring to himself as Leander.  Leander was a classical character from Greek mythology, who fell in love with Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite.  To meet with her in secret, Leander would have to swim to her.  Clearly, Piers sees himself returning to London to meet with his lover, Edward.  His intention is also to never bow and scrape to anyone else at court - and to be a thorn in their side and lead the king astray with his love of finery and frivolous activities such as poetry, music and masques.  

To read an excellent critique of the play, click here

Saturday, 7 January 2023

Best Books of 2022

 Here are my best reads of 2022.  Not all my choices were published in 2022 and they are in no particular order.

1.  So High  Blood - The Life of Margaret, Countess of Lennox, by Morgan Ring.  This is a superb biography of the woman best remembered to history as the mother of Henry, Lord Darnley.  She led a fascinating but ultimately tragic life, losing her 2 sons, her beloved husband - a genuine love match - and her granddaughter, Arabella.   

2.  John of Gaunt, by Kathryn Warner.  As usual, with her previous books, this is an extremely well researched biography of one of history’s most prominent  and powerful Dukes.

3.  The Forgotten Tudor Women - Margaret Douglas, Mary Howard and Mary Shelton, by S B Soberton    A real gem of a book that I stumbled on accidentally.  The three women’s lives are intertwined, particularly in their service of Anne Boleyn and their appreciation of ‘courtly love’, all contributing to the Devonshire manuscript.

4.  The Forgotten Tudor Women - Anne Seymour, Jane Dudley and Elizabeth Parr, again by S B Soberton.  Particularly enjoyed the story of Anne Seymour, although not enough of her early life is known.

5.  Sex and Sexuality in Medieval England, again by Kathryn Warner.  Previously blogged about this book.

6.  Crown and Sceptre by Tracy Borman  A concise but packed with research on British monarchs.

7.  Henry VIII in 100 Objects by Paul Kendall - objects range from portraits, palaces, tombs and documents, packed with fabulous photographs and descriptions and explanations.

8.  ‘‘Twas the Night before Tudor Christmas’ by Laura Loney.  Bought for me as a gift, this is a mixture of fun and facts, based around a Tudor Christmas.  There are explanations of Tudor Christmas traditions, craft projects, recipes and explanations of Tudor games.  Loved it!

9.  Matilda by Catherine Hanley - having read The White Ship by Charles Spencer, I wanted to read more on Matilda.   Undoubtedly confined by the expectations of women in the 12th Century, Matilda proved herself a formidable stateswoman and strong leader.  If only she had defeated Stephen of Blois and taken up her rightful position as ruler of England.  We still would have had Henry II and the Angevin dynasty ruling England, but we’ll never know how great a ruler she would have made.

10. Portraits of Shakespeare by Katherine Duncan Jones.  So much discussion and debate about Shakespeare and the authorship of his plays - and even if he ever existed.  Really colourful book looks at representations of William Shakespeare in monuments, sketches and portraits.