Archive for March, 2012

30
Mar

Lost in Castles

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News

Lost in Castles (formerly Loyalty Binds Me), who made the brilliant DVDs of a reconstructed Middleham and Sandal Castle, just let us know that they are not charging any postage until the end of April 2012.  The reason is that in May Royal Mail is set to increase its rates.  So this is a brilliant opportunity to order that Middleham DVD or the Sandal Castle DVD you had wished for.  I’m certainly going to make good use of this offer.

If you want to look at the trailers or see pictures of other castles, go to the Lost in Castles website.

Click on the titles below to reach the Paypal payment page:

Middleham Castle DVD – £9.99

Sandal Castle DVD – £9.99

Life of William Cowper CDs – £7.99

Middleham and Sandal Castle Gift set – £15.99

Enjoy!

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29
Mar

Richard III Today: 29 March 2012

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News, Richard III in the Media

It is good to see that our cause is getting out there.  Yesterday Lyn Gardner reviewed for the Guardian a new play, Iceberg Right Ahead!, written to coincide with 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster.  While the reviewer’s view of the play itself is not very positive, her comparison to Richard III is spot on:

Sticking to the known facts isn’t always the route to entertaining theatre – Richard III would probably have had much to say about Shakespeare’s doubtful portrayal of him…

Of course, a fair amount of studies have been published, which attempt to show a more balanced view of the last Plantagenet king, but their impact is mostly limited to those interested in the period.  However, finding little unconnected remarks that go against the stereotype is extremely hopeful.  They reach a far wider audience and their impact cannot be underestimated.  There just might be someone reading this review, who had never thought twice about Richard III, whose interest is piqued to find out more about the historical Richard.

Thank you, Lyn Gardner!

Lyn Gardner, ‘Iceberg Right Ahead! – review’, Guardian.co.uk (28 March 2012).  URL:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2012/mar/28/iceberg-right-ahead-review Date accessed:  29 March 2012

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29
Mar

Ricardian Calendar: 29 March 1461

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Events in History

Palm Sunday

Battle of Towton, Yorkshire. Defeat of the Lancastrians, Edward proclaimed King Edward IV.  It was the largest battle in British history and is considered to be the bloodiest ever fought in Britain.

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28
Mar

Palm Sunday Event

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News

Just a reminder that this coming Sunday (1 April) is Palm Sunday and thus the day to commemorate the Battle of Towton, fought in a snow storm on Palm Sunday 1461 (29 March).  As every year the Towton Battlefield Society is hosting an event to “commemorate those men from the House of York and the House of Lancaster who fell on that fateful day’.

As we have seen before, Helen Cox will be launching her new book Walk Towton 1461 at this event.  We are grateful to Adrian White and theTowton Battlefield Society for providing us with a link to their official programme.  What a pity that for us “down under” it’s just that little bit too far to go round – we can just be jealous of all our readers, who have the opportunity to visit the commemoration with its fascinating shows and walk the battlefield on one of the guided tours.

We all wish all those taking part in the commemoration, whether actively or as a visitor, an interesting day and hope that the weather will be better than on that fateful Palm Sunday 551 years ago.

To find out more and view the programme, visit the page of the Towton Battlefield Society.

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25
Mar

Future Members?

   Posted by: Julia Redlich    in Branch News, News

The New South Wales Branch of the Richard III Society is encouraged by the number of younger people – ie: those still students at school or university – who have an interest in the varying opinions about Richard III and contact us for more information.

Whereas the two young ones pictured are not even students yet, we hold out great hopes for their future membership. Samantha (nearly two) and Zachary, who was two weeks old at the time of the photograph, are the grandchildren of  Isolde Martyn, one of our Branch’s recent past presidents, and still a welcome and regular contributor to our meetings.

Isolde, of course, is also an author of some repute. Her historical novels* are not only well written but exceptionally well researched, and have won several awards both in Australia and the United States.  We’re looking forward to her next book about Buckingham, as well as a much anticipated novel about Elizabeth Lambert (Jane Shore).

Isolde, we trust you to keep Sam and Zach well and truly in the Ricardian loop!

* The Lady and the Unicorn and The Silver Bride both have a distinct Ricardian connection (in the United States the titles are The Maiden and the Unicorn and Moonlight and Shadow).  The Knight and the Rose is a delightful historical romance set in the time of Edward II.

Visit Isolde at http://www.isoldemartyn.com/

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23
Mar

Visiting Yorkshire?

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News

Helen Cox, author of the highly acclaimed The Battle of Wakefield Revisited:  A Fresh Perspective on Richard of York’s Final Battle, December 1460, told us about two upcoming events, which would be of great interest to all Ricardians.

Tomorrow, Saturday 24 March 2012, the event ‘Searching for Wakefield’s Battlefield’ is launched with the aim to find evidence of the battle, which cost Richard’s father, brother and uncle as well as thousands of others their lives.  If you should be lucky enough to find yourself in the area, make sure that you go to the Sandal Castle Visitor Centre and meet Helen in person.  And don’t forget to bring your copy of Helen’s brilliant Walk Wakefield 1460: A Visitor Guide to Battle-Related Sites along!

The feeling among the Yorkists was doubtlessly rather depressed after the loss of the Battle of Wakefield, however, just three months later with the victory of the Battle of Towton on Palm Sunday, 29 March 1461 the Yorkist supremacy seemed complete.

To commemorate this bloody battle (no, I’m not swearing – it is regarded as the bloodiest battle ever fought on British soil) there will be an event hosted by the Towton Battlefield Society on this year’s Palm Sunday on 1 April 2012.  At the event Helen is also launching her new book Walk Towton 1461.  To quote from the flyer:

With Walk Towton 1461, you can follow the Earl’s campaign from his first victory at Mortimer’s Cross to disaster at St Albans, the fierce contests of Ferrybridge and Dintingdale, and the bloody finale at Towton, with an illustrated guide to visiting sites connected with the battles. Each of the four main sections contains a short history, directions to sites (including maps), and information on opening times and admission charges

During the commemoration, you can buy this new book at the TBS Authors Stall in the Barn, Old London Road, Towton for £6.00.  And all of us, who can’t be there, can order a copy of Helen’s latest book as well as of her others from York Publishing Services on www.YPD-books.com for £7.50.

Helen Cox & Alan Stringer, Walk Towton 1461: A Visitor Guide to Battle-Related Sites, Herstory Writing & Interpretation/York Publishing Services, 2012.  ISBN 978-0-9565768-2-8 (Paperback, 70 pages, 20 black-and-white plates, 6 line drawings)

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17
Mar

Me Fieri Fecit

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News

This is the title of an upcoming symposium at the University of Kent on ‘the role and representation of owners, donors and patrons in medieval art’.

The programme sounds most interesting.  There is a talk ‘“Mon seul desir”: Self-presentation in the patronage of John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury’, who was the father of Eleanor Talbot, who is so instrumental in Richard III’s claim to the throne.  And another one on ‘The Changing Image of Plantagenet Kingship: Hagiography and political iconography in the owner figures of St Stephen’s Chapel’.

Once again we probably feel disappointed that we can’t simply go and attend an interesting event like this.  However, in this case we have something to make up for it:  The NSW Branch one day convention on the following Sunday in Mittagong!  An event not to be missed.

For more info on the symposium, click here.

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12
Mar

Bulletins are on their way

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Branch News, News

The March 2012 issue of the Ricardian Bulletin has been posted to all our branch members. You should find it in your mailbox shortly.

Please remember to keep us informed of any address changes.  Should your details change, please let the Secretary know.

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8
Mar

MEDIEVAL LIFE – Part 3

   Posted by: Barbara Gaskell Denvil    in Medieval Miscellany

Barbara Gaskell Denvil was born in England, grew up amongst artists and authors and started writing at a young age. She published numerous short stories and articles, and worked as an editor, book critic and reader for publishers and television companies. About 10 years ago she began writing medieval novels (mystery, romance, murder-adventure) set principally in 15th century England.

Her first medieval novel Satin Cinnabar is a historical crime adventure set in London during the last months of 1485 in the aftermath of the Battle of Bosworth.  It is available for Amazon Kindle and all other ebook readers (Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony, ipad etc..)

Her new novel Sumerford’s Autumn is also set during the last years of the 15th century and will make major reference to the fate of both King Edward IV’s sons.  It will be published for Kindle later this month or early in April.

Barbara also writes fantasy, though this tends to be more dark and adult.  Her fantasy novel Fair Weather is set in medieval England around the early 1200s. There’s a fair chunk of historical content, but the basic plot is pure fantasy.  It is also available for Amazon Kindle and from Smashwords in other formats.

Barbara’s novels are gripping and engrossing stories, real page turners, involving believable characters to carry the story along, while maintaining a high level of historical accuracy.

After reading Satin Cinnabar, we asked Barbara to tell us more about the medieval world she describes so masterfully in the novel.  This is the second part of her article “Medieval Life”, part 1 and part 2 were on this site previously. Thank you, Barbara, for sharing this with us.

Don’t forget to visit Barbara’s blog.

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However, not everything was risk and danger, and justice was far more readily available than many people now assume.

There was no organised police force of course, but there were sheriffs, constables, judges, law courts, solicitors, lawyers, and a careful system of law and order. This was sometimes open to bribery and corruption (Richard III took pains to try and eliminate some of this corruption) but folk were not generally vulnerable to outright anarchy and destruction. It is sometimes thought, for instance, that while ‘usurping’ the throne by force, Richard III was backed by a marauding army and therefore simply intimidated everyone into supporting him. This is absurd. This sort of thing did not happen either in his case, or for anyone else by the 15th century. Sometimes in some rural backwater the local lord might achieve some fairly horrid results in this manner, but this sort of feudalism was no longer possible to maintain, and criminals were usually brought to justice.

As a deterrent, execution was brutal. Nobility was beheaded, and that could take several strokes of a blunt axe wielded by a slovenly or even drunken executioner. Nobility was, however, often pardoned before the final act, depending on the crime. The common man was hanged, and if his crime was sufficiently heinous, especially if it involved treachery to the crown, he could be hung, drawn and quartered. He could also be cut down from the noose before dead, and publicly castrated. This had been accepted practise in previous eras, but by the mid to late 1400s this practise was dying out. Heretics could be burned, but NOT witches. Witches were not classed as heretics until the 17th century, and during medieval times witchcraft had no association with devil worship. Witches were often herbalists and midwives, wise women and astrologers. As long as they did not attempt to kill anyone or predict the king’s death – a crime punishable by execution – astrology was generally practised and in fact was an acceptable part of diagnosis and medicine.

Public execution is often now depicted as a callous celebration and a good day out for the local citizens, but the public nature of the spectacle was originally designed as a deterrent, not a diversion. Good men dragged along their sons to show them what terrible consequences came from evil living. Women sobbed and hid their eyes. Men offered a last cup of beer to the unfortunate condemned. Those who had been wronged were able to see justice done, and relatives could say goodbye. Some no doubt enjoyed the drama, but this was not the general attitude.

Prisons were appalling places and the conditions for the inmates were atrocious. However, torture was not used. It was entirely illegal in England until Tudor times. The Tower of London, now so closely associated with dungeons, torture and death, was simply a royal palace before the reign of Henry VII. It was used as luxury apartments, as a meeting chamber for the Royal Council, celebrations and feasting, as well as occasionally housing the rare important prisoner. The so called ‘princes in the Tower’ were not imprisoned. They were originally housed in the vast refurbished Royal Apartments while awaiting Edward V’s coronation, and even after this was cancelled, they were removed to other comfortable apartments. Those staying here had servants, access to the gardens and battlements, and could please themselves in many ways, sometimes even those who were denied the freedom to leave. There was even a zoo. Indeed, the Tower was busily occupied with a huge and bustling household. No damp silent stone, no dark secrets, no unlit and unused stairways, torture chambers or haunted corridors.

Unfortunately the Tudor dynasty brought many changes. Under some circumstances the rack was subsequently used, and although special permission was supposed to be given for the use of torture, other methods of persuasion were no kinder.  Confessions during the reigns of Henry VII, Henry VIII and the other Tudor monarchs were frequently obtained under torture and it is high time some of these confessions were seen as the useless and miserable lies they clearly were.

During Henry VII’s monarchy the rising middle classes and the growing independence of women also took a backward step. A great deal of this was due to Henry Tudor’s extremely severe methods of high taxation and his suspicious attitude towards his powerful nobles, whether allies or enemies. Some deterioration of lifestyle was also due to foreign wars and politics which influenced trade, and some was due to the start of worsening weather conditions. Britain and Europe’s warm period was coming to an end and the Earth was cooling. Within a few short years the Little Ice Age was starting to form. Poverty and beggary soared, and prostitution increased due to this growing destitution.

This was in direct contrast to the gradual improvement in living conditions during the reigns of the Plantagenets, in spite of occasional famines and prolonged storms. At that time the country was slowly becoming prosperous and a burgeoning middle class was expanding. Of course, what your actual business was would determine your way of life. Some jobs involved such noxious practises, (and this in a world where strong natural smells were an accepted part of life) they were banned from carrying out their trades within proximity of other dwellings. Other trades remained a struggle with long hours and little pay, but inflation was virtually non existent, and the cost of living remained generally stable.

And the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker? No trade unions back then of course but the appropriate Guild would protect you, oversee your practises, watch over your apprentices, put on plays at Christmas and generally promote your business.

So before the trials of the Tudor dawn, life was improving for most. It was a small world, a cosy world, friendly, chattering and smelly. The population was so very much smaller than today and it was normal for people to be closely acquainted with all their neighbours. This – and the difficulty in getting hold of accurate news – created another of most people’s favourite pastimes – gossip and rumour.

The friendly neighbourliness could mean protection, someone to watch the children when you had to work, someone to bring you chicken broth when you were sick, someone to share their oats and parsnips when you lost your job, and even someone to adopt the baby if you suddenly died young. But this also carried its disadvantages – for those same friendly neighbours knew virtually everything you did, commented on it, criticised it, and gossiped far and wide about it.

So – the good, the bad, and the ugly!

And the rest is another story ————–

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7
Mar

MEDIEVAL LIFE – Part 2

   Posted by: Barbara Gaskell Denvil    in Medieval Miscellany

Barbara Gaskell Denvil was born in England, grew up amongst artists and authors and started writing at a young age. She published numerous short stories and articles, and worked as an editor, book critic and reader for publishers and television companies. About 10 years ago she began writing medieval novels (mystery, romance, murder-adventure) set principally in 15th century England.

Her first medieval novel Satin Cinnabar is a historical crime adventure set in London during the last months of 1485 in the aftermath of the Battle of Bosworth.  It is available for Amazon Kindle and all other ebook readers (Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony, ipad etc..)

Her new novel Sumerford’s Autumn is also set during the last years of the 15th century and will make major reference to the fate of both King Edward IV’s sons.  It will be published for Kindle later this month or early in April.

Barbara also writes fantasy, though this tends to be more dark and adult.  Her fantasy novel Fair Weather is set in medieval England around the early 1200s. There’s a fair chunk of historical content, but the basic plot is pure fantasy.  It is also available for Amazon Kindle and from Smashwords in other formats.

Barbara’s novels are gripping and engrossing stories, real page turners, involving believable characters to carry the story along, while maintaining a high level of historical accuracy.

After reading Satin Cinnabar, we asked Barbara to tell us more about the medieval world she describes so masterfully in the novel.  This is the second part of her article “Medieval Life”, part 1 was on this site yesterday and part 3 will follow tomorrow. Thank you, Barbara, for sharing this with us.

Don’t forget to visit Barbara’s blog.

———————————————————————————————————————————–

From smells to noise – and here the past was more friendly.

No screech of traffic, no thunder of passing trains, no whine of planes overhead, or the vibrating attack of pneumatic drills, bulldozers or cranes.

Medieval noise was cosy people sized stuff. Church bells, the scuffle of birds and rats, the beat of the wherryman’s oars through the river waters, wind in the trees, the calls from the market stalls, Horses’ hooves, gossip, rumour, an occasional hue and cry, and the hourly reassurance of the Watch.

Friendly bustle then, as long as you lifted your skirts and avoided the gutters, the pigs and the dogs.

Best avoid the rivers too, unless you knew what you were doing and owned a boat. Banks were not always solid barriers back then, so rivers overflowed and flooded more easily and there were far fewer bridges to aid escape. Over the Thames, for instance, where now nearly two dozen bridges span the waters, there used to be just one. I am often amazed at how many people believe that Tower Bridge is an ancient crossing. In fact it is Victorian. The only bridge in the 15th century was a stone masterpiece, its construction probably completed during the first years of the 13th century. Those nineteen pillars and twenty arches rose from the river bed and supported a solid walkway lined with houses, shops and businesses, many four or five storeys high and jutting out over the water. There was the chapel of Thomas Beckett, a portcullis, and at the southern end the sight of traitors’ heads tarred to preserve them from scavengers and stuck on poles above the gate to deter others.

Indeed, this bridge could become appallingly over crowded, and many people used the boats instead for crossing the river from London to Southwark.

The southern end of this bridge constituted one of the 8 entrances into the city of London, for it, and many other English cities, were protected by great stone walls (sometimes dating back to Roman times) and their gateways were locked each night. Travellers neither entered nor left during the night hours, and who entered at other times could be monitored at least to some extent.

The lack of light must have been one of the principal handicaps of everyday life. Anyone who knows the English climate knows that days of blazing sunshine are not that common, and besides even when the sun shone it did not always enter indoors. Streets were invariably extremely narrow and buildings could be several storeys tall, therefore enclosing most houses in shadow. Windows tended to be very small and the glass, when it could be afforded at all, was thick. The average household used polished horn instead of expensive glass, but this was only translucent rather than actually transparent. Poorer families made do with oiled parchment, or nothing at all. Of course no one expected the brilliance of electric light which we now demand, so no doubt medieval eyes adjusted, but the shadowed gloom must have been difficult to live with. Spectacles existed, came from Venice, were costly, and comprised simple magnification, so there was little escape from peering over your work with your nose to your tools.

Candles were either beeswax – expensive again – or mutton tallow – which stank, smoked and guttered easily. An average household might eat their supper by candlelight, (dinner was taken at midday or earlier) but opening hours, curfews and working routines were frequently (though not always) governed by the seasonal allotment of daylight. It’s getting dark? Well, if you can’t afford candles, then go to bed. Open fires were, however, the normal method of heating and cooking, and these offered more light than any candle, just as long as you could collect, or afford, the firewood.

Nowadays we tend to think of candlelight as perfumed romanticism. That was certainly not the experience of the medieval housewife trying to do her needlework after a long day at the brewery.

It is often supposed that every ordinary citizen in the medieval era was virtually ruled by the doctrines of the church. Indeed, orthodox religion was taken far more seriously then than it often is today and regular church attendance was normal – daily devotion for some, daily prayers for most. Christian orthodoxy controlled many aspects of ordinary life – no meat eaten on Fridays and many other days of religious significance for instance – but even here the people found some interesting escapes. Pleading ill health exonerated you from such severe dieting, and quite a few creatures which we would certainly classify as meat, were conveniently classified as fish back then. Beaver, for instance, duck and water birds.

Nor was the power of the church always as unquestioningly accepted as is now supposed. Since few working folk had the luxury of a private garden, they frequently kept their bulky tools and stored their firewood in the local churchyard. The church complained regularly and laws were brought in – to no avail as usual. What is more, greedy priests and monks abusing their vows and authority, or those whose behaviour was considered flagrantly immoral – not entirely uncommon – could be dragged off by the local people and locked in the stocks, thrown in the river, or generally humiliated. A boring preacher would sometimes be ignored while his congregation chattered amongst themselves, or wandered off entirely. Some churches including St. Paul’s Cathedral in London were often frequented by vendors selling from trays around their necks, beggars slumped against the walls, lawyers touting for trade, and passing shoppers sheltering from inclement weather. The priest trying to conduct a service simply had to ignore the general noise while hoping someone was listening to him. Although the message of the Lord was treated with enormous respect, the Lord’s messengers were only respected when they deserved it. The Bible, being available exclusively in Latin, was not understood by all and although blasphemy was punishable, adultery and fornication outside marriage were considered terrible sins with purgatory or even hellfire the promised penalty for the wicked, in fact the general population cheerfully blasphemed, fornicated and behaved just as wickedly as usual, hoping to escape hellfire by repenting their sins on Sundays and finally on their deathbeds.

They danced on Sundays, they played football through the graveyards and they complained bitterly about any attempts to limit their amusements. And after all, the medieval church did not embrace the puritan strictures of much later times. The Bishop of Winchester, for instance, benefited considerably from the rents of numerous taverns and brothels within his jurisdiction of Southwark.

Travel was slow and exceedingly difficult especially in bad weather. Roads were often unpassable, usually unpaved, thick with ruts and holes, and frequently left in bad repair. Rivers flooded, bridges were few and far between, road signs (stone markers) were mossy and grown over and without any maps it was hard to find the correct route. Maps in those days – if you were lucky enough to find one at all – were simply lists of the townships you should try to reach one after the other, thereby assuring a generally accurate direction leading to where you hoped eventually to arrive. Many travelled in consort or hired guards with a knowledge of the local countryside. Robbers and gangs were a constant danger along isolated roadways, and finding a place to stay overnight and stable your horse was not always that easy either. Inns and hostelries certainly existed, but there was no map telling where to find one, and when you did find one, it was apt to be overcrowded. You expected to share one large bed with several other travellers (of the same sex) whether they snored or no.

Therefore news of what had happened in one part of the country could take a very long time to reach the rest of the population, and the accuracy of that news once it arrived was certainly not guaranteed. Salacious rumour was rife, confusion even more so. With no newspapers in existence, the pulpit was one way of receiving important announcements, but there was no method of knowing whether you heard the actual truth, or simply what someone wanted you to believe. Propaganda had most certainly already been invented. This has made it increasingly difficult to discover what really occurred in the past, for even when rare documentation exists, it cannot always be entirely trusted.

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