Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’


Season’s Greetings to all our readers

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Events in History, NSW Branch News

Wishing all our readers a very merry Christmas

and lots of happiness and peace for the New Year.



Enjoy a carol from King’s College Chapel in Cambridge (click here).

Richard III was a generous benefactor of the building of the chapel, which had been started by Henry VI.  By the end of his reign the first six bays of the Chapel had reached full height and the first five bays, roofed with oak and lead, were in use. [1]  It was the Tudor kings, Henry VII and Henry VIII, who would eventually finish the chapel.


‘History of the Chapel’, King’s College Cambridge.  URL: [last accessed 23 November 2018]

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December Branch Meeting

   Posted by: Leslie McCawley    in Meetings, News, NSW Branch News

Our December Branch Meeting will take place on 8 December 2018 at 2 pm at the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, 280 Pitt Street, CBD (for a map go to our Upcoming Events page).

Our featured speaker for the last meeting of the year will be our own long-time branch member and long-serving executive committee member, Lynne Foley, who will give a presentation on some of the more colourful Christmas customs of the Ricardian era.

Please join us for this festive time of year!

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Next Meeting of the NSW Branch – 13 December 2014

   Posted by: Leslie McCawley    in Meetings, News, NSW Branch News

Australian Christmas TreeThe guest speaker for our Christmas meeting will be the NSW Embroiderers’ Guild President, Wendy Schmid, who will be discussing the history and styles of medieval embroidery that would have been found in the era of Richard III. As it is our Christmas gathering, please consider bringing some festive food to share at afternoon tea (but please remember to take any left-overs home with you).

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   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News

Wishing all our readers a very merry Christmas and lots of happiness and peace for the New Year.

The preparations for the holiday season lead us to consider what Richard’s Christmas would have been like, whether it would have been anything like ours.

You would have looked in vain for a Christmas tree in Richard’s family home at Middleham Castle.  For many cultures green branches have symbolised new life and hope for a long time, however, the first record of a Christmas tree can only be found in 1521, in Germany.  The first record for candles on a Christmas tree dates from 1611, when Duchess Dorothea Sybilla of Silesia is reported to have decorated her tree in that way (1).  While it seems that the Christmas tree was introduced to the British royal family by the early 1800s, its use only became widespread in Queen Victoria’s time (2).

And Richard’s son Edward would not have anticipated the arrival of Santa Claus with impatience.  Santa Claus is based on St Nicholas (3) (whose feast day is 6 December, when he leaves sweets and little presents in the shoes of German children).  However, Santa Claus is the predominantly American term for the figure called Father Christmas in England.  His association with Christmas can in Britain only be traced back to the 17th century (4).  While we see Christmas above all as a time for the family to celebrate together, in medieval times it was a time for communities to celebrate together (5).  Nor would the cook at Middleham have served turkey, these were only introduced into Europe from America in the 1520s, and the first record in England dates from 1541 (6).  As you can see, Richard’s Christmas would have been quite different from what we see as typical today. 

adorazione_del_bambino_-_beato_angelicoFra Angelico, Adoration of the Child (1439-43)

The season of Advent would have been strictly observed as a time of fasting, and Christmas Eve in particular was a day without any meat, eggs or cheese.  Only after mass on Christmas Day everyone could enjoy an unrestricted meal again (7).  The Middleham peasants would have expected their lord to provide them with a Christmas meal, often bread, cheese, pottage and two dishes of meat (8).  If you were a nobleman, however, you might be treated to a boar’s head as the main course, served with rosemary and an apple or an orange in its mouth.  If no boar was available [by the 16th century its domesticated equivalent had to be used to keep up with demand (9)], there was goose or venison.   At Middleham you might even have been served swan, smothered in butter and saffron,  as Richard would certainly have been granted the King’s permission –  they are still royal property today (10).

Mince pies did still contain minced meat and at least three spices (cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg)  representing the three gifts given to the Christ child by the Magi (gold, frankincense and myrrh).  The pie shell had an oblong shape to represent Christ’s crib, which is why no medieval person cut a mince-pie with a knife (11).   Our Christmas pudding of today goes back to the medieval ‘frumenty’ (from the Latin word for corn ‘frumentum’), which was made of thick porridge, wheat, currants and dried fruit.  If available, eggs and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg were added (12).

Popular entertainments were liturgical dramas, performed in church, as well as carols (13), which were more communal songs sung at specific feasts rather than in church (14).   Though this was probably changing already, as only 50 years later Martin Luther wrote carols specifically for the church (15).  Christmas gift-giving was usually between people with a legal relationship, such as tenant and landlord (16).

A popular drink was wassail, which comes from the Old English words waes hael, meaning “be well,” “be hale,” or “good health.”   Wassail is a strong, hot drink (usually a mixture of ale, honey, and spices), which was put in a large bowl, and the host would lift it and greet his companions with waes hael, to which they would reply drinc hael, which meant “drink and be well” (17).

And so we wish all of you waes hael for the festive season and the new year!


1   “Weihnachtsbaum”. de.Wikipedia. Retrieved 14 December 2009.

“Christmas tree” Wikipedia. retrieved 14 December 2009.

3   Alison Sim, Pleasures & Pastimes in Tudor England.  Sutton Publishing, 2002.  P. 85

4   “Santa Claus”. Wikipedia.  Retrieved 8 December 2009.

5    Sim, p. 85

6    Melissa Snell, “Medieval Christmas Traditions”  Medieval History.  Retrieved 8 December 2009.

7    Sim, p. 85

8    Peter Hammond, Food & Feast in Medieval England.  Sutton Publishing, 2005.  P. 34

9   Hammond, p. 18

10  Jane Gilbert, “A Medieval Christmas”Time Travel  Retrieved 8 December 2009.

11   Richard Rutherford-Moore, “Christmas traditions in the time of Robin Hood”. BBC Nottingham Feature, December 2002.  Retrieved 8 December 2009.

12  Gilbert

13    Snell

14    “Christmas”Wikipedia.  Retrieved 8 December 2009.

15  For example the lyrics for the popular carol “Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her”, based on Luke 2, 9-16, were written in 1535, the melody in 1539, both by Martin Luther.  Evangelisches Gesangbuch, hymn 25.

16  “Christmas”

17    Snell

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   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News

Should you be or live with one of those strange creatures – a Ricardian – you might wonder what would be a suitable present.  A few things showed up on my Google Alert and other sites lately, showing us something different for the Ricardian that has already got all the books (as if that was possible!).

There are some nice items from the University of Leicester [1] themed for the archaeological dig in which their scientists are playing such a vital role.  What about a mug in a Yorkist blue?  Or a T-shirt, either in blue or khaki?  Not only will this be your very own memento of this exciting period, the profits from the sale will go to support the University’s research commitment.

If the Ricardian in your life not mind Shakespeare’s more questionable portrayal of this king, s/he might like a window transfer [2] showing the image of Richard III falling from his horse, which is a reproduction of the Shakespeare window in Southwark Cathedral in London.  Unfortunately it also bears the famous – but untrue – quote about a horse.

If you want to splash out a bit more what about a coin [3] like the one which sold recently for £ 36,000?  It’s not just any old coin – though it is old, dating from 1484 to be precise.  It is a gold angel in almost pristine condition depicting bearing Richard III’s personal emblem, a boar’s head.  It was discovered earlier this year about 12 miles (about 19 km) south of the Bosworth battle site, but it is unlikely that it was lost by someone going to or coming from the battle.

Another suggestion for the discerning Ricardian might be something like the document bearing Richard III’s signature [4] which was recently auctioned for £ 109,250.  The document was written just a few months before Bosworth settling a property dispute in Warwickshire between a “pooer Subgiet Robert Dalby” by “oone Robert Worsley of Chepyngton”.  Documents signed by Richard as king are very rare as his reign was so short.

Having solved the problem of what to get, you might consider wrapping your present in a suitably themed wrapping paper [5], showing the famous portrait from the National Portrait Gallery in the UK (on the right of this post).

Of course, the celebrations are not all about the giving of gifts, there should be some feasting with family and friends, too.  May we suggest some ‘Richard III Wensleydale’ cheese [6] with a glass of ‘Battle of Bosworth’ wine from McLaren Vale [7]?  The wines are made from organically grown grapes.  To accurately assess Richard III’s brother, George duke of Clarence, might be a bit a sticky problem, but it might be easier with a glass of ‘Clarence Sticky Semillon’.  Though for special occasions like the holiday season the ‘White Boar’ has to be a must.

3.    Peter Warzynski, ‘Collector pays £36k for gold coin found in Leicestershire bearing Richard III emblem’, This is Leicestershire (8 Dec 2012).  URL: Date accessed:  9 Dec 2012
4.    ‘Richard III signed document tops estimate by 628.3%’, Paul Fraser Collectibles (13 June 2012).  URL: Date accessed:  8 Dec 2012

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Christmas cheer at the NSW branch

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Meetings, News, NSW Branch News

Our December general meeting will be taking place at our regular venue, the Harry Jensen Centre (17 Argyle Street, Millers Point), on Saturday, 8 December 2012 at 14h00.

We have a whole range of attractions for you to enjoy.  Judy will give an illustrated talk about the triennial conference of the Richard III Society, which she attended at Loughborough earlier this year.   This will be a unique opportunity to see pictures of the real site of the battle of Bosworth, which was visited as part of the conference.  This is on private land and normally not open to the public.

While we are all are waiting for the results of all the scientific tests being carried out on the male remains found in Leicester, there will also be a look back on how these remains were found at all.

And our regulars know that any item presented by Isolde and Julia promises to be great fun.  They told us that this year they will be acknowledging some characters familiar to all Ricardians, but who won’t be receiving Christmas cards from us.  Sounds intriguing.

It will also be an opportunity to pick up your copy of this year’s Chronicles of the White Rose, our branch journal.  In it you can find a variety of presentations from past meetings and some articles which appeared on our website, as not all our members have access to the internet.  And of course the volume also includes an entertaining and challenging quiz.  (The Chronicles will be mailed afterwards to members unable to attend.)

It would be appreciated if members could help to make our Christmas afternoon tea special by bringing a plate, but please do not be over-generous with the plate size!

Looking forward to seeing all our regular friendly faces and perhaps some new ones as well.  As always any guests, curious to find out more about us, are more than welcome.

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Happy New Year!

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in NSW Branch News

Richard III NSW Branch NewsThe NSW Branch of the Richard III Society wishes all its readers, friends and members a very happy new year.

Like with Christmas before, I was wondering what Richard III and his family would have done on New Year’s Eve.  Fireworks, champagne and ‘Auld Lang Syne’?  Well, not quite.  For starters ‘Auld Lang Syne’ was only written by Robert Burns in 1788 (1).  At that time fireworks were well established in England as Georg Friedrich Händel’s ‘Music for the Royal Fireworks’, composed in 1749 (2), shows, though they do go back to 12th century China and have been recorded in Europe since 1258 (3).  Read the rest of this entry »

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The NSW Christmas Party

   Posted by: Lynne Foley    in Meetings

Richard III NSW Branch NewsOur final meeting for the year and our Christmas party was held on the 12th December.  First, we welcomed Jennie, a visitor from England.  Further discussion was held on the design of the Australasian flag which will be a distinctive item along with our wreath at Sutton Cheney church.  This matter will be resolved after consultation with the other Australasian branches.  Our Secretary Julia spoke about next year’s speakers and their topics, and about the mini-conference to be held in May.

Our guest speaker was Chairperson Judith Hughes, who spoke on the topic ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ – the real meaning behind this popular carol, as well as an overview of medieval Christmas customs.  After this most interesting talk, we held our party – complete with Christmas cake prepared by Julia, and our ‘bring and buy’ table did good business.

The final part of the meeting was a game of scattergories.  A Scrabble tile is chosen and a sheet filled in with a person’s name of that letter, a town, river, battle and cathedral.  As usual, Kevin our Social Secretary prevailed.

Our Society has enjoyed a successful year and all members are looking forward to the next meeting in February.

Merry Christmas to all.

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