Archive for the ‘Ricardian Places’ Category

The UK and Leicester is a long way away for us, so to hear from those lucky ones who are able to visit the city and the King Richard III Visitor Centre is a special treat for us.

Yesterday Denise told us about her impressions.  If that got you into the mood to go travelling in your mind, why not read what others said?   Denise suggested sharing a recent review by Matt Lewis and we would also like to mention one by Serpentine Black, which explains some of the thoughts behind the exhibits.

16
Nov

A Visit to Bosworth and Leicester

   Posted by: Denise Rawling Tags: ,

Recently Denise Rawling was lucky enough to spend a few days visiting Leicester and the Bosworth area and thought it was worth recording a few of her thoughts and observations, especially about the new King Richard III Centre in Leicester.

Bosworth Battlefield

We went out first to the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre. This attractive site, run by the Council, is built around an old farm on Ambion Hill where tradition indicated the battle had been fought. Archaeological work in 2009 now pinpoints an area around three miles (5,000m) from here, although it is thought that the Yorkist forces may have camped around here with at least some sentries posted on the hill.

There was a medieval village in the area, and a well has been preserved with an inscription by a Victorian admirer. The Council have established a trail between the centre and the battlefield which is on private land. The Centre has good facilities and parking is easy. We ate at the excellent up-to- date and atmospheric cafe that incorporates a wonderful donation to the Centre: a heavy wooden frame from a 14th-century tithe barn.

The exhibition is well laid out and informative. Some fictional characters are used in audio-visual presentations that occur throughout the exhibition. They give some continuity and context to help engage visitors’ interest and make the history more personal.

There is a good section on the battle itself, including all the recent research on the actual site. It is fascinating story. There are a small number of artefacts that work well with the information around them to bring the stories to life.
The most exciting story of the search for and discovery of King Richard’s remains makes a fine dramatic ending to a good exhibition.

Later we walked round the hill in glorious soft sunshine, loving the views across the countryside – such a peaceful place for such momentous changes in history.

There seemed to be an attempt to offer a balance of Tudor and Plantagenet images. Both Richard’s and Henry’s flags fly at the top of the hill and there was quite a lot of Tudor memorabilia in the shop. I was surprised. Has this always been the case? Do Tudor tourists come here to celebrate the founding of the dynasty? I was a bit taken back as I had always thought of this as primarily a Ricardian place. Happily the shop offers a tempting choice of things Ricardian.

We dropped by St James Church at Sutton Cheney on the way back. It is believed that Richard III took his final mass here in 1485 before the battle and the church has been associated with the Richard III Society for many years, holding an annual service during the August commemorations. There is a strong Ricardian presence with banners surrounded by white rose wreaths, one from the Australasian branches from the recent memorial service. The kneelers are all needlepoint designs featuring Ricardian images. What a lovely country church in which to remember all those lives lost so long ago.

Leicester

Next day we went into Leicester itself. The town was ‘modernised’ in the 1970s/80s so there are rather bland and slightly tired-looking suburbs, at least on the side from which we drove in. The many roundabouts and high rise parking weren’t too inspiring but, once we made our way into the older centre, that is largely pedestrian only, it got much more interesting. It is as though the old centre has turned its back on the bleakness of the ‘improvements’.

Forming an historic core is The Richard III Centre (formerly Leicester Grammar School) incorporating the original Greyfriars site, the Guildhall and the cathedral (formerly St Martin’s church). The lovely old Guildhall dating back to the mid-14th century has had many roles and would have been known to Richard. The cathedral is of course undergoing extensive changes in preparation for the re-interment there early in 2015. It is not a big church, but I found it very atmospheric even with scaffolding everywhere. We were the only ones there at Evensong except for the two ministers taking the service in a side chapel. There is such a strong feeling of spirituality and continuity in this old place of worship.

Our first real Ricardian encounter was actually outside the centre, with the bronze statue of King Richard by James Walter Butler (1980). This was originally placed in Castle Gardens but has been moved to stand between the centre and the cathedral. The statue was originally commissioned and the cost contributed by members of the Richard III Society. This area has been extensively remodelled to allow easy access between the two buildings. The statue looks fine here and it seems a fittingly triumphant image for this new era.

The King Richard III Centre: Dynasty, Death and Discovery

The Leicester Visitor Centre opened to the public on 26 July 2014. There have been mixed reviews for the new centre, from boring to offensive and a lot in between, so I was wondering what lay ahead for us.

I have had a lot of experience working in museums and galleries, and this one has all the signs of a new set up that is still bedding down. The staff were friendly and helpful but still had an air of not quite knowing how things work. The foyer, although modern and attractive, seems awkward and not yet functioning smoothly. I wonder if there might be some changes made soon.

Passing through the first set of doors from the foyer, the first encounter is a sophisticated audio-visual presentation. Unfortunately it didn’t work for me as I struggled to understand what was happening. Even with my bit of background knowledge, I wondered what a newcomer to the story would make of it all. All this was not helped by a confusion of sounds from the foyer and other audio-visual exhibits. I couldn’t hear well enough to follow all the dialogue. There is screen text but it is hard to read, watch the characters, try to hear what they are saying, and try to put it all together.

There are segments with different characters speaking, such as Richard’s mother, Cecily of York, with a young Richard beside her, Warwick and – most unsettling of all – Richard himself with a naked twisted torso seen from the back as he is dressed in armour. We now know that this was the reality of his physical body, but it is rather confronting seeing it as almost the first image. As he becomes fully armed his difference disappears and a knight emerges, but will visitors who do not yet know the full story be left with this image of the deformed king? The viewer is left with little except the images and only those determined to hear out the whole presentation, read the hard-to -find accompanying texts and give it some thought would leave with more than a jumble of medieval images and a distorted body.

However it does look good and the idea has merit, but it needs a better context to make sense and do it justice. There was an explanation about this “play” as you leave this area but it was “too little too late” for me.

There are various dates related to the history scrolling on the floor but they don’t relate directly to the screen action and for me only added to the confusion. It was a bit of an assault on the senses and not in a good way.

Apparently it could have been worse. On her blog site, in a succinct criticism of some aspects of the centre, Ricardian Annette Carson says “…. it was only by strenuous insistence that we removed the planned visual which was to greet visitors: the central throne was to be drenched in a sickening pool of blood which dripped down to form words written in blood on the floor below.”
The lower levels are an introduction to the general history of the period and the back story for King Richard himself.

Understandably there needs to be a little something for everyone from the clueless to the well-informed. Maybe there is a little too much of everything in an attempt to provide a little for all but it is a reasonable introduction when you consider the very short time frame for getting it all together. All permanent exhibitions are a work in progress and evolve with input from further research and their audience.

This is great history with something that all history does not have – an amazing end story!

And mysteries still not solved….all great ingredients for fantastic story telling.

The provided text states that the princes were probably killed by Richard, though their fate remains a mystery. Further on upstairs there is an excellent touchscreen exhibit showing how King Richard’s reputation was distorted, but surely this statement could have been better handled at this early stage, even taking into account the need for brevity and other myriad considerations of this complex subject.

Annette Carson gives another warning: “… no matter what they claim, do no suppose that the text exhibited at the Visitor Centre has been approved by the [Richard III] Society or by the ‘Looking For Richard Project’.”

Upstairs I enjoyed a lot of interesting material on the discovery itself and the science around it. Here we can follow the reproduction of the bones, the facial reconstruction and the DNA comparisons among a lot more. I had not read Annette Carson’s critique of the centre at this stage so was not aware of the missing details in the story of the search and the discovery presented there that she has detailed. It does seem a shame that an inclusive path was not followed, with those who have made this a long-term project with a lot of personal and financial investment have not been more properly involved or correctly acknowledged.

If you don’t know the background of the search and the discovery, of course you do not realise what is missing and how what is there is affected by those omissions. It appears to be another example of history being moulded by circumstance, convenience, self-interest and politics.

The air conditioning was freezing cold the day we were there so that might have put me off as we rushed through at the end to avoid frost bite!

The pathway through the exhibition leads the visitor to the actual grave site and dig area at the end of the displays. A simple but stylish wood and glass extension sits beside the older building reaching out into what was originally part of the car park. The grave is left open and the site relatively intact within reason. This was well handled. It will be quite emotional for many and the area has seating and a nice space for just sitting and contemplating the amazing story. Fading in and out, a ghost like projection of the bones shows how they would have lain in the space. This might sound a little odd but actually works quite well. They seem so fragile and insubstantial, and it underlined for me the wonder of their survival at all.

Annette Carson and others find this section offensive, even ghoulish, certainly disrespectful and against undertakings made on the proper handling of the remains. Here is a link to the full article with many worthwhile and thoughtful writings on the site.

The Looking for Richard team has to be admired, to put it mildly, for their dedication, resolution, robustness and general staying power without which none of this would be happening. They are continuing their vigilance and care through all the changes and obstacles.

The grave site seems a reasonable balance between respect and science. Everyone will have a different view based on what they bring to this most amazing and moving site. In a practical sense this is a now a historical tourist attraction which hopefully will engage and enlighten many new to the broader story.

From the moment I saw the first tourist signs on the outskirts of Leicester saying just ‘Richard III’ with an arrow, I felt this most controversial king had entered a new phase of a different kind of propaganda, as a tourist attraction. Perhaps the price of celebrity?
At least now the story is getting some balance and certainly world -wide exposure. King Richard the Third, King of England has weathered many ups and downs in his life and history. One thing is certain, now more than ever before, he is unlikely ever to be forgotten.

A church of special significance for Richard, duke of York:

St Mary de Castro in Leicester

In March 2013, I spent a weekend in Leicester to attend the Richard III conference, but also used my time there to do some sightseeing. I was also lucky to be able to visit the church St Mary de Castro in Leicester. The word “lucky” is appropriate in this context, as visiting hours were limited. And in September 2013, the church had to close completely because of fears the spire might collapse [i] .it only reopened on 24 August 2014 [ii].

St Mary de Castro in Leicester

St Mary de Castro, from Castle Yard (© D Preis)

The limited visiting hours meant, I a short window of time before having to catch the coach back to Heathrow and the flight back to Australia, but I’m very glad that I did rush back to see it. It is a beautiful church and the people assisting visitors were incredibly friendly and helpful. I’m glad to see that mine was not an isolated experience, because a blogger remarked: “If it’s the same man who opens it up most days as the fellow who did on Saturday, you will get a warm and knowledgeable, but never overbearing welcome” [iii].

1. Early History

St Mary is the church of Leicester castle, hence the Latin ‘de Castro’; it was founded in 1107 as the chapel of the castle by Robert de Beaumont, who was created Earl of Leicester by King Henry I [iv].   Initially, the church was a college of 12 secular canons and a dean.  However, it is possible that a Saxon collegiate church had existed on the site before the Norman conquest of 1066. A wall includes a stone, which might be a Saxon coffin lid and might have come from an earlier Saxon church.

St Mary de Castro in Leicester

Possible Saxon coffin lid in St Mary de Castro (© D Preis)

 

Robert’s son, Robert le Bossu (the Hunchback), founded Leicester Abbey and called it ‘St. Mary de Pratis’ (St. Mary of the Meadows).  It seems his own foundation was more important to him, as he endowed it with the properties, which up to that point had been set aside to provide St Mary De Castro with an income.  However, a few years later the Abbot and the Earl restored the college, though on a smaller scale.  At the same time, it also served as a parish church, which helped the financial situation of the church.  While the college was dissolved by the Chantry Act of Edward VI in 1548, it continues to be a parish church to this day.

The first Norman church was much smaller than today’s building, only approx. 40m long, without a tower or spire and no glass in the windows. Some arches and the carving of a little figure, which might depict a page or a squire indicated by the kirtle and hairstyle, remain from the 12th century church.

St Mary de Castro in Leicester

Little figure, possibly of a page or squire (© D Preis)

Then Robert de Blanchesmains, third Earl, the son of le Bossu, supported Queen Eleanor and her sons in their quarrel with Henry II, with the unfortunate result that the town was sacked in 1173 and the church severely damaged.

2. Rebuilding in the 12th century

Afterwards the church was rebuilt and in the process made longer and a chancel was built, possibly chapels were added on the sides.

St Mary de Castro in Leicester

Norman sedilia (© D Preis)

 

Of interest are the sedilia (three seats for the priest and his helpers) in the south wall of the chancel.  They are said to be among the finest examples of Norman work in the country, with double columns, fine chiselled decoration and characteristic chevron moulded round arches.   There was also a piscina (stone basin), but this was mutilated at a later stage and only re-discovered with the aumbries (i.e. the cupboards “for to lay anything in pertaininge to the High Altar”), in the middle of the 19th century.

3. 13th century extension

By the early 13th century with the increased importance and size of the castle, it was decided to extent the church, by enlarging the south chapel, for the use of the parishioners. This aisle had its own altar, dedicated to the Holy Trinity. As a result there were basically two churches under one roof, separated by the original outside wall. The new church also has sedilia (these with pointed arches) and a piscina, built in the south wall, these are in the Early English style.

4. The tower

Possibly before 1300, the tower was fitted inside the church, as on the outside it would interfere with the passage between the castle’s gates in case of attack. In the area underneath the tower is the font. In this area some floor tiles from the 14th century are preserved. The spire was added in 1400 and partly rebuilt in 1685. However, it was discovered to be in a perilous state and was demolished in 2013/14. There is an appeal to raise money for a rebuilding of the spire. (http://www.stmarydecastrospireappeal.co.uk/)

St Mary de Castro in Leicester

Tower inside the church (© D Preis)

 

5. Famous people with a connection to St Mary de Castro

St Mary De Castro has connections to a number of famous people. In the 14th century, the early dissident and translator of the Bible, John Wycliffe, preached at St Mary. The Lollards continued to have a strong hold in the Leicester area.

St Mary de Castro might be the church where Geoffrey Chaucer married Philippa de Roet, the sister of Katherine de Roet (Swynford), in the 1360s. Their great-grandson John de la Pole, second duke of Suffolk, married Elizabeth, a sister of Edward IV and Richard III, here in 1458. His parents were William de la Pole and Alice Chaucer, daughter of Thomas Chaucer, one of Geoffrey and Philippa’s children.

Katherine de Roet and John of Gaunt, who was also earl of Leicester from November 1362 onwards [v], are among the ancestors of both Edward IV and Richard III as well as the Tudors.

6. The Parliament of Bats

In 1426, the so-called Parliament of Bats was held in Leicester. This was a time of a power struggle between the chancellor, Henry Beaufort, bishop of Winchester, and the Protector, Humphrey, duke of Gloucester. As there was also a disagreement with the London mercantile community over tunnage and poundage, it was decided for parliament to sit in Leicester instead of London. John, duke of Bedford, returned from the war in France to resume his role as protector. The name ‘Parliament of Bats’ has nothing to do with flying mammals, but more with cricket bats. It refers to the lords’ retainers being armed with bludgeons, ‘battes’, although they had been instructed not to carry arms [vi].

At the time King Henry VI was only four years old. It was at St Mary de Castro that on 19 May 1426 Bedford knighted Henry VI, who in turn knighted 36 others. One of them was the then 14-year-old Richard, third duke of York (who was to become the father of Richard III) [vii]. We can only speculate that this must have been a very exciting event for the 14-year-old boy. Of course, at this time nobody could foresee the later disagreement between duke and king, which would lead to what is known today as the Wars of the Roses. All through this period the town was loyal to the Yorkists and send its forces to fight for Edward, Earl of March (later Edward IV), at Towton in 1461 [viii].

7. Richard III and Leicester

His son, Richard III, would have attended mass at St Mary de Castro. He visited Leicester [ix] several times before he became king and might very well have stayed at the castle. We know for sure that during his reign he stayed at the castle twice in 1483. During the first visit, 17 to 20 August, he wrote two letters “from my castle at Leicester”, which are extant. The second visit was 22/23 October, while assembling an army to fight Buckingham’s revolt. He also visited the town twice in 1484, but on these occasions does not seem to have stayed at the castle, which might have been in a poor state of repair by then. During his first visit of 1484, on 31 July, he visited Leicester Abbey and for the second, on 5 November, Edwards says in The Itinerary that he was at the “Town of Leicester”, though we do not know where. And of course, Richard stayed in Leicester 19-21 August 1485, before marching out to fight Henry Tudor’s army at Bosworth, supported by forces from Leicester. We do not know for sure where he stayed on this last occasion, though legend has it that he spent the nights at the Blue Boar Inn.

After his death, his body was displayed at St Mary-in-the-Newarke in Leicester, to show the people of the city who had supported him that he was dead indeed. In the meantime, Henry Tudor celebrated his victory at Coventry, where he stayed the night 24/25 August. Coventry citizens probably felt it was politic to welcome him lavishly, but in the city annals they recorded that King Richard “was shamefully Carryed to Leicester & Buryed their”[x] .

Notes:

i. ‘St Mary De Castro church shut for six months over spire collapse fear’, BBC News Leicester (7 September 2013). URL: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-23985692 Date accessed: 13 October 2013

ii.  Home page of The Collegiate Parish Church of St. Mary de Castro, Leicester.  URL: http://www.stmarydecastro.org.uk/  Date accessed:  10 October 2014

iii. James Alexander Cameron, ‘The medieval churches of Leicester and their many sedilia study trip’, Stained Glass Attitudes (16 April 2013). URL: http://stainedglassattitudes.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/leicester-april-2013/ Date accessed: 6 November 2013

iv. Information on the church:
‘The ancient borough: St. Mary’s’, A History of the County of Leicester: volume 4: The City of Leicester (1958), pp. 369-380. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=66579 Date accessed: 31 October 2013

St Mary de Castro (2006). URL: http://www.stmarydecastro.org.uk/history.htm Date accessed: 31 October 2013

Visitor’s Guide to St Mary de Castro, available from URL: http://www.stmarydecastro.org.uk/Visitors%20Guide.pdf Date accessed: 14 September 2013

v. Simon Walker, ‘John , duke of Aquitaine and duke of Lancaster, styled king of Castile and León (1340–1399)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2008.

vi. ‘The Parliament of Bats, 4 Hen. VI’, The History of Parliament. URL: http://www.histparl.ac.uk/volume/1422-1504/parliament/1426 Date accessed: 12 January 2014

vii. Ralph Alan Griffiths, The Reign of King Henry VI: The Exercise of Royal Authority, 1422-1461. University of California Press, 1981, pp.80-81

viii. Mathew Morris & Richard Buckley, Richard III: The King under the Car Park. University of Leicester Archaeological Services, 2013, p.11

ix. For Richard III’s visits to Leicester see Morris & Buckley, pp.11-12; as well as Rhoda Edwards, The Itinerary of King Richard III 1483-1485. Richard III Society, 1983.

x. DeLloyd J Guth, “Richard III, Henry VII and the City: London Politics and the ‘Dun Cow’”, in: Kings and Nobles in the Later Middle Ages: a Tribute to Charles Ross, ed. by Ralph A. Griffiths & James Sherborne. Sutton, Gloucester, 1986, pp.194-195

 

27
Mar

… AND LOVELL OUR DOG

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis Tags: ,

The following information I heard on the highly informative ‘Ricardian grapevine’.  I  have not been able to find any press notices or similar about it, but thought it might be of interest to visitors of our page.

Should you be visiting the Henley-on-Thames area in Oxfordshire between Easter and December this year, you might be interested to know that there will be a small exhibition on Francis Lovell, who once owned the property.   Though from what we heard, it will just be information and image displays, a visit to a place which belonged to Richard’s loyal friend is always a treat.

And if you are also a Downton Abbey fan, you might already have caught a glimpse of Grey’s Court:   the picnic scene in series 3 was shot there.  As this series is at present screening in Australia, viewers here will have seen the family outing only a few weeks ago.

You can find out more on Grey’s Court here, though there is no mention of the exhibition, at least not yet.

9
Dec

BOSWORTH AND WARFARE: NEW FINDS, NEW IDEAS

   Posted by: Judy Howard Tags: ,

A report from the 11th Triennial Conference of the Richard III Society,

Loughborough, 20 – 22 April 2012

Well, it is months since I attended the Triennial Conference in the UK and I will say that I enjoyed it immensely and would go again tomorrow if the opportunity arose, but I somehow feel that the events of the more recent months have almost overshadowed my experience.  Within weeks of my return to Australia the Greyfriars Dig commenced and next we have skeletal remains which may well be those of Richard himself.

However, at the Conference we were delighted by the presentations from the two academics who had made such monumental discoveries of the battlefields of Bosworth and Towton, and I will go into these presentations a little more.

Recent years have been good for investigation and discovery regarding Richard, the Yorkists and our Society.

You will already be aware of the programme for the triennial conference and if I was asked to choose which was my favourite it would be a hard call.  However, I think the tour of the new site for the battle of Bosworth was the most thrilling, followed by the presentation by Mark Stretton on the ‘Power and Effectiveness of the Warbow in Battles’.

We were also treated with a presentation by Dr Glenn Foard, the person responsible for identifying the new Bosworth and discovering all the wonderful artefacts which have generally enlightened thought on late medieval warfare.  In his presentation he not only brought the long and arduous investigation to light, but we heard about the importance of the discoveries of the great number of cannon balls found at Bosworth.

In terms of the confirmation of the site, the identification of the marsh, which was confirmed by soil sampling and then the analysis of the landscape, which matched the historical records, meant that the new site was now undisputed.

Dr Foard told us that artillery and guns were known to have been crucial to battle strategy and at the time were known to be important weapons of the future.  It was also interesting to know that there were no arrowheads found in the area, unlike the number of arrowheads found at the Towton battlefield site. In addition, there was not the quantity of evidence at Bosworth that was found at Towton, and Dr Foard thought this was attributed to the fact that the battle of Towton resulted in the deaths in battle of a far greater number of nobles than were killed at Bosworth.  At Bosworth a number of artefacts were found where the action was concentrated, and this was where the silver boar brooch and a fragment of the hilt of a gilded sword were found.

Dr Foard explained that the Bosworth discovery increased the understanding of the use of firepower and there was not much evidence of the use of handguns at Bosworth, unlike on the Continent and in Burgundy. The evidence suggested that a bigger calibre was used at Bosworth, lead with flint, lead with stone and iron with iron.  It is also now thought that the Wars of the Roses were important battles for the development of artillery and the evidence supports this theory.  The findings at Bosworth provided evidence of the battle tactics that were deployed at the time and also that the pressures and temperatures of different materials used to make guns were well understood by the commanders at the time.  For instance they understood muzzle velocity, whether to elevate guns or to fire point blank, that the cannon balls bounced on the ground and the angle of elevation that was needed to maximise the bounce and therefore increase the opportunity of hitting a target. Dr Foard thought that gunpowder was the determining factor in the development of artillery and guns.

The actual battlefield is now a working farm and great pains have been taken to conceal the actual site from the public, to avoid hoards of amateurs using metal detectors and collecting artefacts but who would also damage the site and interrupt the farm.  The farmer and his wife were very charming people who felt honoured and thrilled that such an important historical event occurred on a site they now own.  In this, everyone is very fortunate to have such custodians, who in conjunction with archaeologists and serious academics, will ensure the preservation of the site until it has been thoroughly and scientifically investigated so that all archaeological evidence can be properly collected and studied.  Dr Foard said there was much more work to be done on the site as it had not been fully surveyed, and this could take years of work to complete.

I must say, it was a thrill to visit the site, it was a special occasion where I got a true sense of battle that took place and the spot was pointed out where it was thought the battle was most intense, and where it was suspected that Richard had lost his life.

A view of a section of the new battlefield from the trail at the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre which opened up new avenue of research and is awaiting further archaeological investigation. (photo by Dorothea Preis)

The next lecture I most enjoyed was by Mark Stretton on the ‘Power and Effectiveness of the Warbow in Battle’.  This was extremely informative and entertaining. Mark has been entered in the Guinness Book of Records as an archer, he is a master arrowsmith and has made an in-depth study of his craft.  Through study and experimentation Mark has identified the uses for each type of arrow head from the period, its effectiveness in piercing armour and the amount of damage it was intended to inflict.  He told us that the bodkin type of arrowhead was the most commonly used because of its ability to pierce armour and was more likely the type used in battles around this period.  It will be interesting to hear any comments he has to make regarding the arrowhead found in the human remains recently discovered in the Leicester car park as I understand that this arrowhead was of a shape thought to be used for hunting boar (funnily enough!!) and is very different to the bodkin-type arrowhead and apparently not known for its ability to pierce armour.  It will be great to hear any comments about this and whether Mark will revise his thoughts, or indeed have any other comments to make.

Mark also explained that the greatest vulnerability to arrow shot, was in areas of the body where the armour was weakest, that is in the arm pits, elbows, groin and legs.  He also made the further comment that from a tactical point of view, an arrow wound would cause a nobleman to die slowly and when the nobleman was hit, it took the attention of his retainers, giving a tactical advantage to the opposing side.  These are unpleasant thoughts.

And as a last interesting comment, another presenter Tobias Capwell who is the Curator of Arms & Armour for the Wallace Collection in London, gave an interesting presentation on armour and how he thought it was pregnant with meaning – how it was an indication of status and wealth.  He thought Richard, on going into battle, would have worn a surcoat over his armour which was made of rich material, probably silk with gold embroidery.  The armour he wore at Bosworth was probably fully gilded and probably looked like a golden mirror and would have been worth several millions of dollars in modern currency.  This would have been evidence of conspicuous consumption; however this would have been expected of a King.  The armour or the surcoat could also have had jewels and pearls embedded in them.

Tobias explained that a king’s splendid armour was like a beacon on the battlefield, soldiers were drawn to it, he led from the front, the imagery was very important.  But the wealth displayed by the armour worn, by the King or his nobles, even though it caused enemies to be drawn to them on the field, it was also seen as an insurance policy – capture me, don’t kill me, I am worth saving as my ransom will be worth it to you.

The Conference was great and I’m really going to try to get to the next one.  I hope you can too.

8
Aug

Bosworth at Peace

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis Tags: , ,

During our recent European holiday, we visited the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre.  And I have to agree with what they say on their website, it “is a unique day out for all the family”:  My husband, who does not share my interest in medieval history, also enjoyed the experience.

We left Hertford, where we had been staying for our first week, in the morning and travelled via Rugby, for a look at the school which gave its name to the game.  On the way we noticed – and were very impressed by – a Tesco storage facility, which is powered by its own wind turbine to lessen CO2  emissions.   I somehow doubt whether our Woolworths or Coles are as considerate of our environment.

If I have one whinge, it is about the sign posting to the Battlefield Centre.  For such an important attraction, the signage left a lot to be wished for.

We arrived around lunch time and therefore our first stop was the Tithe Barn Restaurant, where we had the pleasure having our sandwiches under the watchful eye of Richard in full armour.

Refreshed we went to have a look at the exhibition.  Though I might have liked some more in depth information, I would say that to visitors without too much previous knowledge it gave quite a good and relatively unbiased overview of the lead-up to the battle.   Some of the events were told by a variety of people involved with the battle, like a mercenaries wife or Lord Stanley (a very shady character!).  My personal favourite was the innkeeper’s daughter from Leicester.  We also did the more touristy things like trying on medieval armour (not particularly flattering!) and minting our own commemorative penny.  The BFI Gallery offered an interesting insight into the methods used by archaeologists.

The Sundial

And then – in warm sunshine (which is worth a special mention after this British summer!) – we walked the battlefield trail.  We admired the new sundial in the form of a medieval billhook, with Richard’s crown dangling from the end.  Near the sundial and white rose bushes are rather uncomfortable looking thrones for Richard and Henry Tudor as well as posts for other people who fought in the battle, like for instance John Howard, duke of Norfolk.   We also sat for a while on the bench donated by the Richard III Society in memory of Paul Murray Kendall.

The walk is well illustrated by informative plaques and exhibits.  While the actual battle site is not part of the trail – it is private property – it is possible to look out over it.  It was difficult to imagine that in this peaceful rural setting, with sheep grazing on lush green grass, such a bloody and decisive battle was fought, where King Richard III and so many others lost their lives.

On our way back to the gift shop, we spotted a lady of Hawkwise Falconry with one of their hawks on her hand, reminding us of the role these birds played in medieval times.

Maybe it reflects my personal bias, but to judge from what was on offer at the gift shop, I got the distinct impression that the battle of the gifts was a decisive win for Richard.  Ricardian themed souvenirs outnumbered those with a Tudor connection.  Needless to say that I was in shopping heaven!

St James, Sutton Cheney

We then went for some quiet reflection to the Church of St James at Sutton Cheney.  The church building dates mainly from the 13th and 14th century, though it may replace an earlier one.  According to local tradition, Richard heard mass here before the battle.  The Richard III Society holds each year on or near 22 August a commemorative service at this church.  During this service wreaths are laid at the memorial plaque, one of which is donated by the Australasian branches.  At the time of my visit (July), last year’s wreath had wilted and had been taken away, but the card which had been attached to it, was still in place.

Richard III Memorial in St James, Sutton Cheney

(The card from the Australasian and Canadian branches is on the shelf on the right hand side)

The connection to Richard at this church is very strong:  not only the memorial plaque, but there is a great number of needlepoint kneelers, which have been stitched by Society members.  Among the designs is the white boar; another shows the entry in the York Records, when they heard of Richard’s death; there is the York rose, but his faithful henchmen are not forgotten either (the cat, the rat and Lovell our dog).

After a day full of travel and lots of new impressions, the church was a quiet and comforting spot.  I hope that it felt the same for Richard, when he came here amid the bustle of the last minute preparations for his final battle.

Further Information:

Phil Stone, ‘Shine out fair sun – and tell us the time at Bosworth’, Ricardian Bulletin (September 2011), pp.10-11

Pewfinder, ‘Sutton Cheney Church – St James’, Leicestershire & Rutland Churches (19 October 2011).  URL:  http://www.leicestershirechurches.co.uk/sutton-cheney-church/  Date accessed:  7 Aug. 2012

All photographs are by the present author.

4
May

Ricardian Britain

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis Tags:

If our recent review of Walk Wakefield 1460 got you into the mood for travelling and visiting the sites of Ricardian history, the Richard III Society is here to help.  The latest addition to the main website of the Richard III Society is a feature on Ricardian Britain:  A guide to sites associated with Richard III.

This web-based guide is based on an earlier printed version published by the Society in 1983.  While the printed version was organised alphabetically, this one is by areas.  So when visiting an area you can be sure that you do not to miss anything of interest.  It also contains a list of places exhibiting portraits of Richard III and the sites of Society presentations (memorials and plaques) as well as some useful websites.

The entries on the included sites include a short introduction of their relevance to Ricardians as well as information on addresses (incl. postcodes and telephone numbers), website addresses, email addresses and directions.

By publishing this guide on the web it can be accessed by Wi-Fi devices such as smart phones or mp3 players with Wi-Fi capabilities from anywhere while travelling.  And if you are not that IT savvy you can print out the relevant pages before leaving home (it is in a pdf format).

Bon yoyage!

(The above photograph of St Albans Cathedral is by the present author)

2
May

Walk Wakefield 1460

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis Tags: , , ,

Walk Wakefield 1460

Book Review:  Walk Wakefield 1460  – today

Helen Cox, Walk Wakefield 1460:  A Visitor Guide to Battle-Related Sites.  Herstory Writing & Interpretation/York Publishing Services, 2011.  ISBN 978 0 9565768 1 1 (available from YPD Books)

I finally received my copy of Walk Wakefield 1460 by Helen Cox.  The subtitle, ‘A Visitor Guide to Battle-Related Sites’, gives a clear indication as to the purpose of the book.  If you have read Helen’s excellent The Battle of Wakefield Revisited and now want to explore where the action took place, this little book is a must.

Helen gives short overviews of the individual battles (Worksop and Wakefield), but the aim is to identify the sites that a visitor today can see.  This is of particular interest for Sandal Castle and Pontefract Castle, where only ruins remain.  She explains clearly which part of the castle the wall fragments come from and what the purpose of the various features was.

She also provides valuable information on opening hours as well as addresses for further information.  Also included are directions on how to get to the places by car or foot.  The book is well illustrated with pictures of the sites as well as maps showing them in today’s landscape (in the case of Wakefield this can be compared to a map showing the outlay in the 15th century).

If you are planning to visit Yorkshire, I can only recommend Walk Wakefield 1460.  I can hardly wait to get a chance to visit the sites to which Helen takes us.

11
Apr

Bosworth Carving at Stowe School

   Posted by: Robyn Bliss

The following article was originally published in Tertian Fever, the journal of the former Queensland Group of the Richard III Society.

The stone relief of the Battle of Bosworth Field stands over the entrance from the Hall into the Gothic Library at Stowe School.  Probably of late 16th century workmanship and certainly not from 1485, it came from Castle Hedingham, Essex, the seat of the de Veres, Earls of Oxford, reputedly via Gosford, Lord Nugent’s seat.

In the carving, Richard III can be seen prostrate on the ground, clutching his crown, beneath the hooves of the conquering Earl of Richmond’s horse.  On the left side of the relief is a statue of Henry VII and on the right one of his queen, Elizabeth of York.

Over the years many have been impressed by the stone relief.  Mistakenly Horace Walpole thought it was made of wood and is reported to have said:  “But what charmed me more than all I had seen, is the library chimney … over it is an alto-relievo in wood, far from being ill done, of the battle of Bosworth Field … You would adore it.”  King Edward VII was likewise impressed and sent specially to have the relief photographed.  In July 1921 it was sold to Mr H Shaw, the purchaser of the building, for 1000 guineas and saved for the new school in 1922.

Editors’s Note:
Many thanks to J Nichols, Headmaster of Stowe School, for sending the information and photograph to Robyn Bliss for inclusion in Tertian Fever.

15
Jan

Corfe Castle in Dorset

   Posted by: Babs Creamer Tags: ,

Our thanks go to  Babs Creamer of the Dorset Group of the Richard III Society, who has for a long time been a good friend of our branch, who contributed this fascinating article.

 Corfe Castle in Dorset

The name of Corfe Castle in Dorset goes back to Anglo-Saxon times, where the word Corfe meant a cutting, pass or gap. When the River Wicken and the Byle Brook eroded the rock a steep-sided chalk hill was left suitable to be a good defensive site “Corfe’s Gate or Corvesgate” a name which was resurrected by Thomas Hardy for his 19th century novels.  Little is known about the earliest buildings there but we do know there was a timber-built Saxon hall as post-holes were found in the West Bailey during excavations. Queen Elfreda was very probably residing at the hall in AD978 when her stepson the teenaged Saxon King Edward called on her and his half-brother Ethelred whilst he was out hunting.  Legend has it that Elfreda ordered Edward’s death by stabbing so that her own son Ethelred (the unready) would become king.  I say legend as this story may be just as true as the one about King Richard III killing the Princes in the Tower!  In 1001 Edward was recognised as a saint due to miracles at his tomb. “Edward the Martyr”. Read the rest of this entry »