Archive for the ‘Medieval Miscellany’ Category

5
Jul

Medieval Menu: Pease Pudding

   Posted by: Julia Redlich

Ingredients

1 cup split peas
2 thick slices of ham
1 cup water
Seasoning of your choice to taste

Method

Preheat oven to 135° C and prepare a lightly greased 23cm pie dish.

Wash the split peas and place in the dish.  Cut the ham slices into bite-sized pieces and mix with the peas.  Add seasoning, then pour the water over the mixture just enough to cover it.  Simmer in the oven until peas are dissolved and the mixture springs back when you touch it.

Serve hot to start your meal.  (Try it cold with a salad in summer.)

Note

You may find the water has to be topped up to stop the pudding becoming too dry while cooking.

25
May

Medieval Menu: Autumn Chutney

   Posted by: Julia Redlich

Ingredients

2.5kg apples’
1kg tomatoes
500g pears
1 large onion, chopped finely
1kg chopped dates
1kg soft brown sugar
500ml malt vinegar
1tsp pepper
2 level tsp mixed spice
1 tablespoon salt

Method

Peel and core apples and pears, then chop into small pieces. Plunge tomatoes into boiling water for a minute, then skin and chop roughly. Place apples, pears and tomatoes and remaining ingredients into a large pan and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for about 2 hours until fruit and vegetables are soft and the mixture is thick.

Test by drawing a wooden spoon across the mixture so that it leaves a slight channel for a moment.

Pour chutney into clean heated jars and cover with vinegar-proof covers, ie lids that are made of glass, plastic or coated metal. If a metal lid is used, make sure you give it a vinegar-proof lining.

6
May

Medieval Menu: Simple Meat Loaf

   Posted by: Julia Redlich

Ingredient (Serves 6)

1 kg minced beef
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup red wine
salt and black pepper to taste
sprinkling of sage to taste
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
½ cup almond milk (see above)
1 teaspoon honey
sprinkling of ground cloves

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

Combine all ingredients and place evenly in a lightly greased loaf tin, about 22cm x 12cm. Cover with foil and bake for about 1 hour.

When ready, remove and drain off fat carefully before turning onto a serving dish and garnish with fresh herbs.

Note

If serving cold later, cover with foil after draining and place in refrigerator with weights on top (tins from your pantry are ideal).

27
Apr

Medieval Menu: Autumn Fruit Pie

   Posted by: Julia Redlich

 

Ingredients (Serves 6)

4 apples
4 pears
1 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons plain flour
¾ cup sugar
½ cup dried figs or dates, chopped
½ cup raisins
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon lemon juice
a little red wine or brandy
shortcrust pastry to line and cover a 23cm pie dish

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Peel, core and slice apples and pears.  Place peel, cores and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 cup of water and boil until reduced by about one-third.

Toss sliced fruit with flour and remaining sugar.  Steep dried fruits with spices in lemon juice and wine.  Add to the sliced fruit mixture and pour the whole into the pastry-lined pie dish.

Strain the peel/core liquid and pour over the fruit.  Cover with a pastry lid, brush with milk or beaten egg.  Bake for about 30 minutes or until pastry is a golden brown.

14
Apr

Medieval Menu: Lenten Pottage

   Posted by: Julia Redlich

Digging in the vaults of this website, we came across the medievally-inspired recipes, which our long-time member Julia had provided.  It would be a great pity if they were forgotten.  Today we start with a recipe fitting for the last week of Lent:  Lenten Pottage.

 

Ingredients (Serves 8)

8 large onions, sliced
125ml sunflower oil
100g ground almonds
½ teaspoon honey
150 ml white wine
150 ml boiling water
8 rounds of bread, cut thickly, crusts removed if desired

Method

Simmer sliced onions in oil until soft and golden.

Soak almonds in honey, 75ml wine and water for about 10 minutes.

Toast the bread slices lightly and place in individual bowls.

Add remaining 75ml wine to onions and heat. Pour the almond milk over the toasted bread and arrange the onions on the top.

Note:  Almond Milk

This is used in many medieval recipes. For the ingredients and method, see above.
If using for a dessert, add a little extra honey and substitute milk for water.

14
Dec

A happy third Sunday in Advent

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis Tags: ,

Clare_College_-_Old_Court_-_geograph.org.uk_-_712555To help all our readers to get into the spirit of the season, here is a link to a rendition of the medieval carol ‘Gaudete’, performed by the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge.

(Photograph of the Old Court of Clare College, Cambridge:  © Copyright Scriniary and licensed for reuse under thisCreative Commons Licence)

 

14
Sep

The “Murder” of King Richard III

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis Tags: , ,

York House Books“King Richard late mercifully reigning upon us was thrugh grete treason of the duc of Northfolk and many othre that turned ayenst hyme, with many othre lords and nobilles of this north parties, was piteously slain and murdred to the grete hevyness of this citie”

([f.169v], York House Books, 1461-1490, Vol.1, ed. by Lorraine C. Attreed. Alan Sutton for Roichard II & Yorkist History Trust, 1991, pp.368-369)

 

When I read the word “murder”, I think of detective novels. One person kills someone else after careful planning trying to hide the fact that he/she is the murderer, sometimes even trying to disguise it as an accident or suicide. In the end, Hercule Poirot, Lord Peter Wimsey, Miss Fisher etc clears it all up and explains what had been going on.

In the above well-known quote from the York House Books, especially as it is used in the same sentence as the alleged treason of the Duke of Norfolk and others, the word “murder” seems to suggest some kind of whodunnit.   However, was this really what the York city officials wanted to say?  After all, a death in battle, though certainly hoped for by the opposing side, is not the result of careful planning, nor would the person responsible try to hide his deed.

When the other day, a friend of mine referred to the “murder” of Richard, my literature professor at uni came to my mind. He was very strict on interpreting any work of literature, be it fiction, drama or poetry, within its historical context. To this end it was important to find out whether the meaning of a word was at the time it was written the same as its modern meaning. So we would make our way to the library, and check in the many volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary.

What applies to works of literature, certainly applies equally to historical records. Checking out “murder” in the online version of the OED first showed me the detective novel explanation: “The deliberate and unlawful killing of a human being, esp. in a premeditated manner; (Law) criminal homicide with malice aforethought (occas. more fully wilful murder); an instance of this.”

However, a bit further down there was another explanation, marked as now obsolete and recorded for the last time in 1590. Here it said: “Terrible slaughter, massacre, loss of life; an instance of this.”

“Terrible slaughter, massacre” are words which describe a medieval battle perfectly and fit in with what we know about Richard’s death. Therefore I would suggest that the city fathers of York used the word in this sense, without any more sinister connotations.

1
Sep

Richard III: Elected Monarch or Usurper?

   Posted by: Barbara Gaskell Denvil Tags:

We thank our branch member Barbara Gaskell Denvil for her kind permission to use this article here.  It was first published on 30 August 2014 on her own website.

richard smlVery little reliable documentary evidence survives from the Middle Ages. The life and times of Richard III therefore remain a period of frustration and fascination for historians, scholars and interested amateurs alike. So why is it – when one very clear contemporary document survives from that period – that so many people choose either to ignore it, or disbelieve it?

This one original and incontrovertible document dates from 1484. It sets forth in plain language (of the time) the entitlement to the throne of the man crowned Richard III, and states that, after certain facts were brought to light which made it clear that King Edward IV’s sons were now considered illegitimate and young Warwick, Clarence’s son, was debarred by his father’s attainder, Richard, at that time Duke of Gloucester, stood next in line.

After lengthy investigation and consideration of the newly disclosed situation by the Royal Council and the members of Parliament originally called to London for the expected coronation of the young prince, (most of whom were present) the agreed conclusion was that the crown should be offered to Richard, who was already ratified as Protector of the Realm. He was petitioned by the three estates, being the Lords Temporal, the Lords Spiritual, and representatives of the Commons who included a good many leading citizens of London. He was officially and legally asked to take the throne. It could actually be said that he was elected. Indeed, the wording of Titulus Regius includes the words ‘this Eleccion of us the Three Estates’, And yet he is consistently accused of being a usurper, and of having ‘seized’ the throne.

The accepted modern meaning of the verb ‘to usurp’ according to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, is simply: “To take a position of power illegally or by force.” Using this definition alone, it is perfectly clear that a man who was asked after due deliberation by England’s government to accept the throne, a right which was then ratified by the full parliament, did not in any manner usurp that position.

However, the modern definition of usurpation does not always sit easily in history. After the initial tyranny of kings was firmly established in 1066 with the unarguable usurpation of William I, over subsequent reigns England gradually began to modify and moderate her attitude to the royal rights of inheritance and the power of both kings and lords of the realm. Unlike the French model which continued doggedly with absolute power resting in the hands of royalty, England changed, adapted, and finally adopted a system of government by which an alternative administration could substitute for the rule of her monarch in certain matters when he was considered incapacitated either by age or health.

The Plantagenet line continued to uphold the right of kings to pass down the crown to their sons or grandsons, but clearly this was not always possible and under such circumstances, suitable but less direct heirs were necessarily sought within the bloodline. With this in mind, accusations of usurpation have been levelled against the first Lancastrian king, Henry IV who took the throne in 1399 and even against King Edward IV (1461). This went to the heart of the Wars of the Roses, but it is important to remember that in both cases, i.e. the enforced abdication of Richard II and the crowning of Henry IV as monarch in his place, and later the official acceptance of Edward IV’s father Richard, Duke of York, as the heir to Henry VI, these were actions carried out in circumstances where the monarch of the day had forfeited confidence and support by showing himself to be dangerously unfit to rule. And, of course, both these irregular successions were enacted and confirmed by Parliament. The term ‘usurpation’, therefore, now depends on whose side the speaker is on. Clearly the succession rights of kings were not inviolate and the later opinion (of Tudors and Stuarts, for instance) that an anointed monarch held an unarguable God-given right to absolute power, did not at all apply in the 15th century.

In 1483 following the death of Edward IV, it was expected that his eldest son would inherit the throne as Edward V. Yet shortly before his coronation, Robert Stillington (Bishop of Bath and Wells) announced that Edward IV’s marriage to the mother of the heir to the throne had been, to state it simply, bigamous, and that therefore all his children were illegitimate. Stillington was an important and respected ecclesiastical figure, and a previous Lord Chancellor of Edward IV, so his word would have been taken very seriously indeed. It is hard to see what possible benefit he would have gained from lying. Indeed, a good deal of detriment was the far more likely result had his story been false. His announcement, however, would never have been accepted without enormous investigation. Whatever proofs he offered we can no longer know. There is no surviving record of his exact report, nor of any witnesses called or other evidence shown at the time. But the lady who was named as Edward IV’s first wife was the Lady Eleanor Talbot, daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury and sister to the Duchess of Norfolk, a widow and member of a noble and highly important family. Not someone to make the subject of ludicrous and improper rumours. The Lady Eleanor was now deceased, but she had been very much alive when Edward married Elizabeth Woodville, the mother of his children. Many close and high-powered members of Lady Eleanor’s family were still alive and would certainly not have stood silent if they knew the lady was being wrongfully slandered.

Some now choose simply to disbelieve Stillington’s claim. Yet they have not one shred of evidence to support this, nor one hint that this first marriage never took place. Certainly direct proofs that it did take place are also lacking. A few bewildered souls ask where’s the marriage certificate? But no such thing existed in 15th century and you could, for instance, take a lady’s hand, vow to wed her, and if she accepted, you then tumbled her into bed to consummate the match – and lo and behold – you were legally man and wife. The church was naturally not happy with this sort of clandestine affair without banns being called and often without witnesses – but it happened all the time and it was legally binding.

That King Edward IV favoured this type of thing was blatantly obvious, because that’s also exactly what happened the second time around. He wed Elizabeth Woodville in secret, in exactly that same manner. Indeed, he is often said to have ‘married for love’ – an unusual thing for a king in those days. But it was a very strange sort of love – for he made no mention of his secret wedding for 5 whole months. During those months the lady was never invited to the palace, she was entirely unacknowledged, her existing sons (she was a widow), instead of being taken in and elevated by the king, were given elsewhere as wards, and the king even sent his courtiers off abroad to start negotiating for a foreign princess to become his wife. But then, quite suddenly after those long silent months, to the bewilderment of almost the entire country and the dismay of most of the lords. King Edward announced the marriage. He brought his suddenly admitted queen to court, and that was that. A clandestine wedding led to a new queen and eventually a parcel of royal children.

So had he done this on other occasions in the past, yet never acknowledged it? Certainly Lady Eleanor Talbot came into some unusual bequests for which there is no known explanation, nor clear manner in which they could have been acquired. She then retired into permanent religious seclusion.

It does seem strange to many that this wronged and misused lady did not complain, did not announce her legal status as queen, nor denounce her legal husband, even when he took another wife. I have no answer to this beyond pointing out the logic of the situation. This was a high-born lady, and ladies, especially of a religious nature, did not whine or openly humiliate themselves by publicising the fact that they had been used, bedded, ravished, and then abandoned. Nor did they try to cause rebellion and unease (in a land so recently returning to peace) by accusing the king of dishonesty and immorality. She also ran the risk, if she made public announcements, that the king might deny the marriage and thus humiliate her further. Instead she accepted his apology and his gifts (my assumption), though continued to act (as in the manner of making her last will and testament) as a married woman with a living husband. And after all, while the king lived, it was a personal matter anyway and did not yet affect government or the people. It was not until he died and his eldest son’s legitimacy was in question, that the truth of this situation became politically imperative.

So with Edward V no longer considered of legitimate royal descent, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, stood as the one direct and legally legitimate heir.

The document itself (Titulus Regius) states clearly that incontrovertible evidence existed and could be forthcoming if and when required. It was later stated that proofs had already been brought before the Council “authentic doctors, proctors and notaries of the law, with depositions from divers witnesses.” Lady Eleanor Talbot’s powerful family surely stood witness. Certainly none of these relatives came forward to deny the claim, or to defend the lady’s honour by refuting the existence of this clandestine marriage. So why doubt such proofs existed? People were no more stupid at that time than they are now and it is highly ridiculous to presume that they would have accepted such a dramatic and inconvenient fact on the eve of the new young king’s coronation, unless they were well and truly convinced.

The frequent modern assumption that Stillington’s claim of bigamy was not only untrue but a clear manipulation by the evil and ambitious Richard III to usurp and seize the throne, is not only a leap of huge unproven prejudice, but it completely and naïvely overlooks the known power and position of the Royal Council and Parliament of the day. Ignoring the delightful genius of Shakespeare’s dramatic fiction, and the less delightful fiction of Tudor chroniclers who supplied the stories he told, we should at least respect the experience and intelligence of the lords, remembering also the obvious precedent of parliamentary decision regarding Richard II and Henry VI as mentioned above.

Stillington’s announcement must have been made during the latter half of May 1483. It is clear that in the following weeks the Royal Council and those representatives of Parliament present in London met in discussion many times.

The supposition that Richard of Gloucester had the power to threaten and bully all those poor cringing medieval lords is frankly laughable. For a start, Richard’s troops were miles away in Yorkshire, whereas most of the lords had their own armed retinues, not to mention huge private armies on which they could call. Many held particular powers and all were men of substance. These were not lords to be easily bullied, nor convinced without very good reason. A figure of 32 lords temporal, 66 knights, 44 lords spiritual with access to the Pope should they feel obliged to call on him, and 30 members of the Commons have been recorded during meetings of four hours or more, although the Royal Council itself was smaller in number.

Are we now arrogant enough to suppose that these were all corrupt fools to be duped or bribed, incompetent cowards to be frightened into compliance, or men without the slightest interest in the future of the land in which they lived and which supported them and their families and property? It appears that many of us completely underestimate the power of the lords, council and parliament during the 15th century and are happy to ignore the legal precedent for the lords and parliament to debate and determine the situation when the king’s rule was, for whatever reason, in question.

Some now argue that even if proved illegitimate, Edward V could still, with parliamentary agreement, have been accepted as king. But it is clear that parliament rejected any such compromise, since the lords logically and clearly preferred the proven competency of a grown man already ratified as Protector of the Realm and known for his leadership quality.

We also need to remember that King Edward IV had several illegitimate children by various mistresses. Making one illegitimate child legally able to inherit the throne, could even possibly have opened a chain of claims by others. Besides, bastardy called into question not only the capability of the bastard himself to inherit, but looking ahead down the generations, even if overlooked in Edward V himself, it invited later questions as to his dynasty.

The often repeated cries of “Bigamy? A pre-contract? No. It couldn’t be true. It was too convenient,” or “Too much of a coincidence,” can come only from those who already assume Richard guilty of ambitious connivance and malicious manipulation. Only by assuming his guilt and duplicity before the fact, can these accusations be made. This is why we cannot take at face value the handful of hostile narratives from those times, because their preconceptions are evident to even the most cursory scrutiny. And significantly, there are no surviving records from the governing council that supported Richard.

Once you set aside any existing bias, it is clear that this was highly inconvenient, and there was no coincidence at all. It threw everybody into chaos. We cannot even be sure if Richard wanted the throne. Perhaps he didn’t. Perhaps he did. It doesn’t matter. He was the remaining heir and he was asked to accept the throne. Thant’s on record. The matter was put to the three estates of English government who decided that Richard of Gloucester had a clear duty to take the throne. Richard accepted. Actually he had little choice.

Conflicting loyalties and self-interest produced protestors as always, but no one at the time actually refuted the accusation of bigamy posthumously directed against Edward IV. Even Elizabeth Woodville, the mother of the ‘princes’ now declared illegitimate, apparently placed no objection. She was now living within the precincts of Westminster sanctuary, comfortably in the Abbot’s house, where she had direct access to the considerable higher authority of ecclesiastical power (her own brother was Bishop Lionel Woodville) and could easily have made a direct plea to the Pope for a church ruling and intervention. She did none of these things. She accepted the ruling, just as if she had already known the truth of the matter.

Therefore whether you like the sound of King Richard or not – one thing is entirely clear. He was officially and legally petitioned to accept the throne of England, and contemporary legal documentation proves this. He did not usurp nor seize anything. He could be said to have been legally elected by Parliament. He was fully acknowledged and anointed as monarch when his coronation was duly attended by virtually every peer in England, even those whose families supported the Lancastrian dynasty.

So those, including those claiming to be ‘open-minded,’ but who begin their articles by calling Richard III a usurper, or stating that he ‘seized’ the throne, are either proclaiming their secret bias, or they should enlarge their area of research.

With thanks to many, and to various sources, but with particular gratitude to Annette Carson and her books “A Small Guide to the Great Debate,” and “Richard III: The Maligned King.”

25
Jun

The evolution of the Medieval Fair

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis Tags:

We are very grateful to Dr Mark St Leon to be able to bring you his fascinating talk, which he gave at our branch general meeting on 14 June.  Members and Friends of the NSW branch will also be able to read his talk in the 2014 issue of The Chronicles of the White Rose, due at the December general meeting.  

The evolution of the Medieval Fair

Preamble

I would like to thank the Richard III Society for inviting me to talk to you this afternoon. The title of my talk is “The evolution of the Medieval Fair”.

I do not confess to be anything more than a dilettante on Medieval history and society. My true area of knowledge and expertise is the history of the circus in Australia, in which earlier generations of my family played a key role for well over a hundred years, since before the gold rush period of the 1850s. My, I daresay, definitive history of the circus in Australia was published by Melbourne Books in 2011.

Nevertheless, the circus of the modern age – which was first conceived in London about the time Captain James Cook was charting the east coast of Australia in 1769 – has roots in the wandering entertainers who roamed the provinces and performed on the fairgrounds of Medieval Europe for well over a thousand years after the fall of Rome. Those wandering entertainers in turn can be traced to the people who amused the crowds with displays of acrobatics, ropewalking and animal training in between the gladiatorial events and chariot races of ancient Rome. Read the rest of this entry »

This essay was written by Rachel during the course of her studies towards a Master’s degree at the University of New England.

 “Have you drunk any malificium, that is, herbs or other agents, so that you could not have children?”[1]

Were contraceptives and other means of family limitation such as abortion, infanticide, and child abandonment practised in medieval Western Europe?  If so, what remedies and methods of contraception were used, to what extent, and were they successful?  Early research into the topic concluded that contraception was virtually unknown in the Middle Ages and that medieval people did not have a ‘contraceptive mentality’. [2]  However, more recent investigations have produced a plethora of writing which clearly demonstrates that medieval society not only knew about various forms of contraception and abortifacients; they used them to such a degree that medical texts, church doctrine and the common literature of the time are strewn with references to their use.  Documents are littered with contraceptive recipes and methods and contain warnings and prohibitions against certain herbs, many of these originating in antiquity.  Contemporary research into the history of human fertility control has therefore ceased to ask when contraception became common place and effective, and instead questions how family limitation was practised prior to the eighteenth century.[3] The idea and practice of controlling the number of children conceived and born has been employed across all cultures through time, although the methods and efficacy vary.[4]

Read the rest of this entry »