Posts Tagged ‘Church’


31 OCTOBER 1517

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Events in History

Martin Luther (born 10 November 1483) nails his 95 thesis on the church door in Eisleben in the evening of 31 October 1517, because the next day, 1 November, is All Saints’ Day, when everyone would come to church.

In the 95 theses he explains his view based on the Gospel that salvation is a free gift from God and cannot be earned by good deeds or purchased by buying indulgences . This is often regarded as the starting point of the reformation.  While his original aim was to reform the church, the Pope saw it differently, which ultimately led to the split with the Catholic church.  As Luther was of the opinion that the Bible was the only source for knowledge of God, he translated it into German to make it accessible to everyone.

31 October is celebrated in the Lutheran church as Reformation Day commemorating Luther’s stand.



Two Archbishops and a King

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News, Reinterment

Leicester Cathedral - CopyIt has just been announced that both the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster and the Archbishop of Canterbury will be taking part in services in Leicester Cathedral to mark the reinterment of King Richard III.  The Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster is the most senior clergy of the Catholic Church in the UK and the Archbishop of Canterbury is his counterpart in the Church of England/Anglican Church.

Since Richard’s remains were found two years ago, the Anglican Diocese of Leicester has worked closely with the Catholic Diocese of Nottingham, which includes Leicester, to ensure that the reburial will be handled with dignity and honour.

Anglican and Catholic clergy will celebrate at major as well as other services during the week 22 to 28 March 2015.  At the reburial service on 26 March, other Christian denominations as well as the World Faiths will be represented.

It has been occasionally been said that Leicester Cathedral is too modern for a medieval monarch.  While it is true that its modern Cathedral status is relatively new (1927), there were already Bishops of Leicester from the 7th to the 9th century.  The actual church was built by the Normans, replacing an earlier Saxon church.  The Norman church was rebuilt and enlarged during the 13th and 15th century.  So we can assume that Richard would have been very much aware of the church during his visits to Leicester.

You can find the full schedule of the planned services here.

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‘Garden of Life’ – a Guest Post by Rosalind Broomhall

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News

On Saturday, 5 July 2014, the new Cathdral Gardens in Leicester ‘Garden of Life’ were opened. We are very happy to be able to bring you a report by Rosalind Broomhall, a friend from Leicester, who was able to attend this event. Thank you also to Jo Mungovin for the photo.

Leicester Cathedral Gardens  (Jo Mungovin)

“How do you open a garden?” said Canon Pete “…you ring the bells!” And ring out they did yesterday as, after an anxious night of heavy rain, the sun shone down and Bishop Tim and Sir Peter Soulsby cut the ribbon and celebrations began. Young people from Curve Theatre danced between the newly refurbished statue (sword restored!) and the artwork ‘Towards Stillness’ that tells the story of Richard’s final days and the centuries lost until he was rediscovered that day in 2012. The air of celebration continued with songs from the Emmanuel Gospel Choir and a concert performance of ‘Joseph and his Amazing Technicoloured Dreamcoat’ by the children of DioSing! Inside St Martin’s House, James Butler RA and Juliette Quintero spoke about their work and Dean Monteith posed the question of the relevance of the story of Richard III today. Outside people tried their hand at a drumming workshop and the All Saints dancing troup, young Asian Christians, expressed their faith through dance.

The race to complete the gardens – how many workmen can you get in one space? – had continued flat out all week but paid off magnificently as our new Cathedral Gardens were opened in style.

You can find the programme with further links here.

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   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News, Reinterment

The decision of the British High Court in the Judicial Review whether the granting of the exhumation licence for the remains which were later established to be those of Richard III was announced today at 10 am (7 pm in Australia).

The court found that “there are no public law grounds for the Court interfering with the decisions in question. In the result, therefore, the Claimant’s application for Judicial Review is dismissed.” This means Richard will be re-interred in Leicester Cathedral, just a stone’s throw away from where his been for the last 500 years.

At the press conference in Leicester Cathedral it was announced that the reburial is expected for (the northern hemisphere) spring 2015.

You can read the full judgement here and an article from the BBC here.

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St Mary de Castro in Leicester

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Ricardian Places

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.

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] .


i. ‘St Mary De Castro church shut for six months over spire collapse fear’, BBC News Leicester (7 September 2013). URL: Date accessed: 13 October 2013

ii.  Home page of The Collegiate Parish Church of St. Mary de Castro, Leicester.  URL:  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).

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: Date accessed: 31 October 2013

Visitor’s Guide to St Mary de Castro

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: 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


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   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News

For the festive season here is a special – a segment of  ‘Carols from King’s’ in 2010 at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, a chapel which was close to Richard’s heart. Beautiful singing in a beautiful setting.

King’s College Chapel, Cambridge (photograph:  Dorothea Preis)

On a visit to the King’s College Chapel in Cambridge more than 20 years ago, I bought a postcard showing “The Kings who built the Chapel”.  In spite of Henry VIII being depicted as the crowning glory, it was the inclusion of Richard III which made me buy the card.

King’s College was founded by Henry VI in 1441.  After Edward IV came to power very little was done to continue and it “suffered severely from [his] hostility”.[Ross, p.135] This changed dramatically, when Richard became King.  He gave instructions that “the building should go on with all possible despatch”.  The result was that by the end of his short reign part of the chapel was in use.[‘History of the Chapel’]

His strong support for the construction of King’s College Chapel was part of Richard’s close and long lasting attachment to the University of Cambridge.  While his connection to Oxford seems to have been cordial enough, his attachment to Cambridge was much closer.  He and his queen Anne Neville had an especially close relationship to Queens’ College, to which they made their first endowment in 1477.

Queens’ was originally founded by Margaret of Anjou and further supported by Elizabeth Woodville, who came to be regarded as a co-founder, which explains the name.  During Richard’s reign, when he made further grants to the College, Queen Anne was also considered a founder, but that was “conveniently forgotten when political circumstances changed in 1485.”[Ross, p.135]  However, Richard is not entirely forgotten:   the badge of the college includes till this day a silver boar’s head.  [‘The College Badge’, Queens’]

When recruiting, Richard displayed a marked preference for Cambridge rather than Oxford graduates.[Ross, pp.132-134]

The special attachment Richard felt to Cambridge was reciprocated by the university and they regarded “King Richard and Queen Anne as liberal benefactors”, who “deserved the annual mass which the university formally established in their honour on the morrow of their state visit in 1484”.[Ross, p.136}

Enjoy the beautiful music.  And may your holidays be happy and peaceful!

‘History of the Chapel’, King’s College Cambridge.  URL: Date accessed: 27 July 2010 – This also includes a sketch showing the different construction phases.

‘The Heraldic Arms’, Queens’ College Cambridge.  URL: Date accessed: 1 August 2010

‘The colleges and halls: King’s’, A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3: The City and University of Cambridge (1959), pp. 376-408. URL: Date accessed: 11 March 2010

Charles Ross, Richard III.  Methuen, London, 1988

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Royal Devotion and Gold – a personal account

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News

We started our recent trip to Europe in the UK and the first item on my agenda was visiting an exhibition at Lambeth Palace Library:  ‘Royal Devotion: Monarchy and the Book of Common Prayer’.   Not being Anglican, rather than the Book of Common Prayer the drawcard for me was a book which predates the Reformation (and hence the Book of Common Prayer) – Richard III’s Book of Hours.

I had pre-booked my ticket for the first slot in the morning after the day of our arrival.  After a pleasant walk along the river, I arrived early and had enough time for a quick look at the beautiful front garden and the shop of the Garden Museum in the old St Mary’s church next door.

Lambeth Palace Gatehouse (© Dorothea Preis)

Then I joined a growing number of hopefuls waiting outside the main entrance of a brick gatehouse – which I found out later was built by John Morton.  However, it turned out these were members of an arts’ fund and waiting for a tour of the Palace, whereas the entrance to the exhibition was at the side of the complex.  Here a much smaller group of maybe 8 or 9 people was waiting and punctually at 11 the small door opened and we were admitted.

We were each handed a beautifully illustrated exhibition brochure and then our group was lead into the library (I was able to take some photos outside, but photography was not permitted in the exhibition itself) with some explanations on the building and its history.  Though the building itself is neo-Gothic, it creates the right atmosphere for viewing medieval books.

Lambeth Palace Library (© Dorothea Preis)

We were left to view the exhibits at our own pace and it was nice to be able to do so without being crowded.  The exhibition is displayed in 10 cases, the first of which was the most interesting to me, covering “Public & Private Devotion before the Reformation”.

The first book exhibited is the Chichele Breviary (MS 69), which belonged to Archbishop Henry Chichele (c.1362–1443).  It is one of only two books of his which are known to have survived to this day.

The second was the book I really wanted to see:  Richard III’s Book of Hours (MS 474).  A book of hours “was the private book of devotions of the layman in the later Middle Ages and the Renaissance”.  [Sutton and Visser-Fuchs, p.2]

It was open on the calendar page and I could read the entry for 2 October (or rather what the explanation card next to it said, as the original entry was somewhat cut when the book was rebound in the 16th century):

hac die natus erat Ricardus Rex Anglie III apud ffoderingay anno domini Mcc [cc lij]
on this day was born Richard III King of England AD 1452 near Fotheringhay (own translation)

This was added by Richard himself, obviously after 6 July 1483, as he refers to himself as king.  His handwriting is large, though tidy and even.

The manuscript was not made for Richard, but was produced c.1420 for an unknown owner.  As Sutton and Visser-Fuchs state it is “a very useful, solid, unflamboyant and English manuscript for his daily use”. [Sutton and Visser-Fuchs, p.2]

It is believed that he had the book with him at Bosworth and that it was found there after the battle.  In his speech at the opening of the exhibition, the Archbishop of Canterbury remarked:

There’s a personal book of ours belonging to Richard III in this library which does not seem to have brought him a great deal of good fortune, though he carried it at the Battle of Bosworth.

Henry Tudor gave the manuscript to his mother Margaret Beaufort, who seems to have made some half-hearted attempt to scratch out his name at various places, though fortunately not this one.

Standing next to a book, which Richard held in his hands, and seeing his handwriting was certainly a special and moving moment for me.  It was probably the closest I would ever get to the king I have been studying for some time.

The rest of the of the exhibition contained various other beautiful and interesting books, most having some royal connection, from the centuries up to an order of service from the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in Case 8.  Coming from the Cologne area, I was pleased to meet Hermann von Wied, Archbishop of Cologne from 1515 to 1547, in Case 2.

However, before leaving the library I returned to Case 1 for a last glimpse of King Richard III, represented by his book.

Afterwards I made my way to the Goldsmiths’ Hall to visit another exhibition:  ‘Gold:  Power and Allure’, featuring more than 400 gold items from 2500 BC to the present day.  One of the exhibits was the Middleham Jewel, which is normally on display in York.

The gold lozenge-shaped jewel was found in September 1985 near Middleham Castle. It is beautifully engraved and a large sapphire is mounted on the front.  It is estimated that it was made between 1450 and 1475, certainly for a wealthy person.  Whether there is any connection to Richard III is not known, though it has been speculated that it might have belonged to Richard’s mother, Cecily Nevill.  It was beautifully displayed with both the front and back being visible.

Due to time pressure, I didn’t pay the exhibition the attention it deserved, though I spotted an Angel from the time of Richard’s reign.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Facebook page of the Richard III Society for alerting me to both these fascinating exhibitions.


Duffy, Eamon, Marking the Hours: English People and Their Prayers, 1240-1570.  Yale University Press (2006).  ISBN 9780300117141, p.33

Sutton, Anne F. & Visser Fuchs, Livia, The Hours of Richard III.  Alan Sutton Publishing Ltd (1996).  ISBN 0750911840

‘HRH Prince Charles opens exhibition at Lambeth Palace Library’, The Archbishop of Canterbury (1 May 2012).  URL: Date accessed:  14 June 2012

‘The Middleham Jewel ‘, The Richard III Society.  URL: Date accessed:  3 Nov. 2010

Karl, Werner, ‘Ananizapta and the Middleham Jewel’, Sammelblatt des Historischen Vereins Ingolstadt, 110. Jahrgang (2001), S.57 ff.  Available at URL: Date accessed:  20 March 2010

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Richard III as Law Maker

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Medieval Miscellany

As a law maker Richard clearly showed that his view on education was not only a religious duty, but went much further than that.  While trying to limit the activities of foreign merchants in England the statutes of his only parliament included a Proviso, exempting all merchants and craftsmen concerned in the book trade from the scope of the Act.  This was clearly intended to encourage a good supply of books. [Armstrong, p.276]  Books were in his day the most up to date means of spreading ideas and learning.  If he encouraged books, he must have supported the circulation of ideas.

Richard III as Law Maker

Abbey Gateway, St Albans (© D Preis)

The context between books and education becomes clear in the following example:  Only a few years after William Caxton introduced the printing press to England in the mid 1470s, there was a printing press  in St Albans as well, located in the Abbey Gateway.  This was the third one in England, after Caxton’s in London and one in Oxford.  We don’t know the identity of the St Albans printer, but he was referred to as “sometyme scole master of Saynt Albans”.  [‘Printing in England’]  The press in St Albans produced books between 1479 and 1486, eight of which have survived.  The first six, printed between 1479 and 1483, were Latin university texts.  It has been suggested that they were aimed at purchasers from Cambridge, where at that time no press had been established. [Orme, p.181]

We should not forget, however, that Richard’s appreciation for books was also a personal one.  There are eighteen surviving texts, of which we know for sure that they are connected to him.  In some he signed his name, two are dedicated to him and one has an indirect dedication.  It seems likely that these are just a part of a far more extensive library, though without an inventory it is impossible to draw too many conclusions. [Sutton & Visser-Fuchs, ‘Richard III’s Books’, p.374]  With these surviving books we can be sure that they belonged to him, because he put his name in the text itself.  With others his name might have been on the flyleaf, which has got lost since then, or they might have been marked with his arms, which have since been changed to someone else’s. [Sutton & Visser-Fuchs, ‘Richard III’s Books’, p.381]

From his books, Sutton and Visser-Fuchs conclude that he was “an industrious and committed reader”, who showed a high level of education and literacy.  This lead them to speculate that he could possibly in his early youth , as the youngest son, have been destined for the church, though this would have changed when his father and brother were killed and his brother  Edward became king.  [Sutton & Visser-Fuchs, ‘Richard III’s Books’, pp.384-385]  Considering that many of the learned (church-) men among his close connections had humanist interests, it is surprising that among the books we know he owned there are no works of theology or humanist interest.  All of us who like reading and books, can glimpse a kindred spirit when Sutton and Visser-Fuchs conclude that “He did not collect them [books] as objects but used them for what they could give him and others in the way of instruction, consolation and entertainment”. [Sutton & Visser-Fuchs, ‘Richard III’s Books’, p.385]

I think that all these examples of Richard’s relationships with learning, be it with learned men,  the centres of learning, books ,as well as his activity as law maker shows clearly that learning was something close to his heart.  I would like to close my talk with the words of the anonymous chronicler of Magdalen College in Oxford:  “Vivat rex in eternum!



Virginia Davis, William Waynflete, Bishop and Educationalist.  Studies in the History of Medieval Religion.  Boydell Press, Woodbridge, 1993. ISBN 9780851153490
Rhoda Edwards, The Itinerary of King Richard III 1483-1485.  Richard III Society, 1983. ISBN 090489309X
Peter Hammond, Richard III and the Bosworth Campaign.  Pen & Sword Military, 2010.  ISBN 9781844152599
Maurice Keen, English Society in the Later Middle Ages, 1348-1500.  Penguin Books, 1990.  ISBN 9780140124927
A. H. Lloyd, The Early History of Christ’s College, Cambridge, Derived from Contemporary Documents.  Cambridge Library Collection, 2010.  ISBN 9781108008976 (First published in 1934)
J.M. Melhuish, The College of King Richard III Middleham.  Richard III Society, London (undated)
Nicholas Orme, Medieval Schools: From Roman Britain to Renaissance England.  Yale University Press, 2006.  ISBN 9780300111026
Jeremy Potter, Good King Richard?  An Account of Richard III and his Reputation.  Constable Books, 1996.  ISBN 9780094688407
Charles Ross, Richard III.  Yale English Monarchs, Yale University Press, 1999, Reprinted 2005.  ISBN 9780300079791
John Stow, A Survey of London, witten in the year 1598 by John Stow.  Whittaker, London, 1842.
Anne F. Sutton & Livia Visser-Fuchs, The Hours of Richard III.  Alan Sutton Publishing Pty Ltd, 1996.  ISBN 9780750911849


P.S. Allen, ‘Bishop Shirwood of Durham and His Library’, The English Historical Review, Vol. 25, No. 99 (July 1910), pp 445-456.
Elizabeth Armstrong, ‘English Purchases of Printed Books from the Continent 1465-1526′, The English Historical Review, Vol. 94, No. 371 (April 1979), pp. 268-290.
W. H. G. Armytage, ‘William Byngham: A Medieval Protagonist of the Training of Teachers’, History of Education Journal, Vol. 2, No. 4 (Summer 1951), pp. 107-110
Michael J. Bennett, ‘Education and Advancement’, in:  Fifteenth-Century Attitudes:  Perceptions of society in late medieval England, ed. Rosemary Horrox.  Cambridge University Press, 2008, pp.79-96.  ISBN 9780521589864
Christopher Brooke, ‘Urban church and university church:  Great St Mary’s from its origins to 1523’, in:  Great St Mary’s, Cambridge University’s Church, ed. John Binns & Peter Meadows.  Cambridge, 2000, pp.7-24.  ISBN 0521775027
R.B. Dobson, ‘Richard III and the Church of York’, in:  Kings and Nobles in the Later Middle Age, ed. Ralph A. Griffiths & James Sherborne.  1986, pp.130-154
Rena Gardiner, ‘The Story of Magdalen’, Magdalen College (2003).  URL: Date accessed: 13 July 2010
Robert C Hairsine, ’Oxford University and the Life and Legend of Richard III’, in:  Richard III:  Crown and People, ed. J Petre.  Richard III Society, 1985, pp. 307-332.  ISBN 9780904893113
Rosemary Horrox, ‘Richard III and Allhallows Barking by the Tower’, The Ricardian, Vol.VI, No.77 (June 1982), pp.38-40
Rosemary Masek, ‘The Humanistic Interests of the Early Tudor Episcopate’, Church History, Vol. 39, No. 1 (March 1970), pp. 5-17.
Anne F. Sutton, ‘’A Curious Searcher for our Weal Public’:  Richard III, Piety, Chivalry and the Concept of ‘The Good Prince’’, in:  Richard III: Loyalty, Lordship and Law, ed. P.W. Hammond.  Richard III and Yorkist History Trust, 2000, pp.69-105.  ISBN 9781900289375
Anne F. Sutton, ‘Richard of Gloucester’s Lands in East Anglia’, in:  Richard III and East Anglia:  Magnates, Gilds and Learned Men, ed. Livia Visser-Fuchs.   Richard III Society, 2010, pp.1-30.  ISBN 9780904893199
Anne F. Sutton & Livia Visser-Fuchs, ‘Richard III’s Books Observed’, The Ricardian, Vol.IX, No.120 (March 1993), pp.374-388
Anne F Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs, ‘Richard III, the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and Two Turbulent Priests’, The Ricardian, Vol. XIX, 2009, pp.95-109
Anne F. Sutton & Livia Visser-Fuchs, ‘’As dear to him as the Trojans were to Hector:’ Richard III and the University of Cambridge’, in:  Richard III and East Anglia:  Magnates, Gilds and Learned Men, ed. Livia Visser-Fuchs.  Richard III Society, 2010, pp.105-142.  ISBN 9780904893199
Barrie Williams, ‘Richard III’s Other Palatinate:  John Shirwood, Bishop of Durham’, The Ricardian, Vol.IX, No.115 (December 1991), pp.166-169
B.P. Wolffe, ‘The Management of English Royal Estates under the Yorkist Kings’, The English Historical Review, Vol. 71, No. 278, Jan. 1956, pp. 1-27.

British History Online:

‘Colleges: Barnard Castle’, A History of the County of Durham: Volume 2 (1907), pp. 129-130. URL: Date accessed:  5 November 2010
‘The history of All Hallows Church: To c.1548’, Survey of London: volume 12: The parish of All Hallows Barking, part I: The Church of All Hallows (1929), pp. 1-20. URL: Date accessed:  8 April 2012

‘The colleges and halls: Queens’’, A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3: The City and University of Cambridge, 1959, pp. 408-415. Online URL: [last accessed 22 May 2020]

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:
Cecil H. Clough, ‘Gunthorpe, John (d. 1498)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2009.  URL:  Date accessed:  10 March 2011
Virginia Davis, ‘Waynflete , William (c.1400–1486)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.  URL:  Date accessed:  20 Jan.  2011
Michael Hicks, ‘Neville, George (1432–1476)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008.  URL:  Date accessed:  14 April 2011
Jonathan Hughes, ‘Barowe , Thomas (d. 1499)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.  URL:  Date accessed:  10 March 2011
Peter Partner, ‘Wykeham, William (c.1324–1404)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2009.  URL:  Date accessed:  7 March 2011
A.J. Pollard, ‘Shirwood, John (d. 1493)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008.  URL:  Date accessed:  10 March 2011
John A. F. Thomson, ‘Russell, John (c.1430–1494)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008.  URL:  Date accessed:  10 March 2011
D. P. Wright, ‘Langton, Thomas (c.1430–1501)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2009.  URL:  Date accessed: 10 March 2011

Internet sites:

‘Middleham Collegiate Church’, URL: Date accessed:  27 March 2010
‘St Mary’s Barnard Castle’, URL: Date accessed: 17 March 2010
‘Church on mission to revamp building’, Teesdale Mercury (2 March 2010).  URL:,2513.html Date accessed:  17 March 2010

‘History of the Chapel’, King’s College Cambridge.  URL: [last accessed 22 May 2020]

‘Printing in England from William Caxton to Christopher Barker – An Exhibition: November 1976 – April 1977’, University of Glasgow.  URL: Date accessed:  16 April 2012

Part 1 – Richard III and Learned Men

Part 2 – Richard III as the Founder of Collegiate Churches

Part 3 – Richard III and the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge

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Richard III and the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge

For someone supporting learning and ambitious to provide a more learned clergy in parishes, it would only be natural to have close relations to the two universities at Oxford and Cambridge.

1. Oxford

After his coronation Richard left on a Royal Progress on 21 July 1483.  One of his first stops was Oxford, where he arrived on 24 July and stayed at Magdalen College [Hairsine, p.308] on the invitation of its founder, Bishop Willaim Waynflete.  Though geography certainly played a role, the fact that he visited Oxford so early in his reign, must mean that there was a keen interest as well.

He was not the first royal visitor to Magdalen though.  In September 1481 Edward IV had been staying at Woodstock, where Waynflete visited him and talked him into having a look at his College, which Edward did on 22 September.  He and his entourage arrived after sunset and were welcomed in style.  They spent the night and much of the next day at the College, where Edward listened to a brief speech congratulating him on his arrival and petitioning his support [Magdalen College Register ‘A’, ff.7b, 8, quoted in Hairsine, pp. 325-326].  A statue of Edward on the gate commemorates his visit.

Richard III and the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge

Gate of Magdalen College, Oxford – Mary Magdalen in the middle, William Waynflete on the left and Edward IV on the right. (© D Preis)

Richard’s reception was a grander affair.  He was “honourably received, firstly outside the University by the Chancellor of the University and by the Regents and non-Regents; then he was received honourably and in procession at the College of the Blessed Mary Magdalene by a speech by the lord Founder” (i.e. Waynflete). [Magdalen College Register ‘A’ f.27b, quoted in Hairsine, p.309]

The day after his reception, we see Richard following his own cultural taste. Unlike the short speech, which was given to Edward, he listened to two debates, one on moral philosophy and one on theology.  I think Hairsine is right when he remarks:

There was certainly no need for a medieval autocrat to sit through not one but two learned debates if he did not find a genuine interest there.  One is lead to believe that Richard’s visits to Oxford and Cambridge were welcome interludes from the cares of government [Hairsine, p.309].

Richard seems to have been impressed with the debates as well as his welcome and rewarded the participants and Magdalen College handsomely with venison and cash.  The whole event was in detail recorded in the Register of Magdalen College, which the anonymous Chronicler ended with the words Vivat rex in eternum, which can be translated as a “may the King live forever!” [Hairsine, p.309].

Richard III and the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge

Magdalen College, Oxford (© D Preis)

In the end of October 1483, Richard came for a second visit to Oxford, again staying at Magdalen College, though not much is known about this visit [Hairsine, p.311].  The last documented connection between Oxford University and Richard is in March 1485, when Richard recruited an Oxford graduate into his service [Hairsine, p.317].


2. Cambridge

Richard’s connection to Cambridge lasted over a much longer period compared to the one to Oxford, starting in the mid 1470, when he gave 20 marks to the university in 1475-76.   It seems to have been a very close and cordial relationship from both sides.  On 7 April 1481, the congregation of the university wrote a remarkable letter to the then Duke of Gloucester.  In it they announce that in gratitude for the many favours he had shown them, they would “ask every Cambridge doctor or bachelor of theology who preached at [two places in London famous for their Easter celebrations] to mention Richard by name, to commend him to their listeners, and ask for prayers for his well being,” an honour which had never been granted to anyone before.  In early 1480 or 1481 two representatives of the University travelled to London to see Richard – a six day journey in bad weather.  In 1482 the University staged a procession to celebrate his victory against the Scots. [Sutton & Visser Fuchs, ‘Cambridge’, pp.112-114]

The good relationship continued when Richard became king.  Probably in late June 1483, the University wrote to Richard to ask for his mercy towards one of their graduates, Thomas Rotherham, the Archbishop of York, who was Chancellor at that time.  He had been arrested on 13 June 1483 in connection with the Hastings affair.  Rotherham was released in due course. [Sutton, Visser-Fuchs, ‘Universities’, pp.95-99] Richard visited the University in early March 1484 and was welcomed with a procession and masses.  They also decided to say a special mass every year on 2 May for Richard and Anne.  They promised that as soon as they would hear of his death they would perform a special funeral mass, a promise they kept, as the accounts for 1485 show the expense for candles used at the ‘exequies of King Richard”. [Sutton & Visser Fuchs, ‘Cambridge’, pp.114-115]

There are especially three institutions in Cambridge, which benefitted from Richard’s generosity and which we can admire today.

2.1 King’s College

On a visit to the King’s College Chapel in Cambridge more than 20 years ago, I bought a postcard showing “The Kings who built the Chapel”.  Though Henry VIII is depicted as the crowning glory, it was the inclusion of Richard which made me buy the card and eventually investigate this subject.

Richard III and the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge

King’s College Chapel, Cambridge (© D Preis)

King’s College was founded by Henry VI in 1441, building work started in July 1446.  When Edward came to power in 1461, the workmen packed up their tools and very little was done to continue during his reign.  This changed dramatically, when Richard became King.  He gave instructions that “the building should go on with all possible despatch” and to “press workmen and all possible hands, provide materials and imprison anyone who opposed or delayed”.  He also sent his own master plumber and glazier to help with the building. This result was that by the end of his reign the first six bays had reached full height, of this the first five were roofed with oak and lead and were in use. The University thanked him for funding and “erecting the buildings of King’s College, the unparalleled ornament of England.”  Drawings of a planned tower still exist, which can be dated to 1484. [‘History of the Chapel’; Sutton & Visser-Fuchs, ‘Cambridge’, pp.116-117]

Henry Tudor was in no rush to continue the project, even though the college complained that the building “begun by royal munificence now stands shamefully abandoned”.  Only later Henry realised that the association with the “royal saint” Henry VI might help with legitimising his reign and decided to finish the chapel with work starting in earnest in 1508. [‘History of the Chapel’]

2.2 Queens’ College

While Richard left his mark on the King’s College Chapel during his reign, his relationship with Queens’ College predates his reign.

Queens’ was originally founded by Andrew Doket as the college of St Bernard in 1446, one year later Henry VI confirmed this, but as his foundation.  In 1448 a further charter declared it to be the foundation of Margaret of Anjou.  From 1465 onwards, Elizabeth Woodville came to be regarded as a co-founder, which explains the name (Queens’), though there is no evidence that either Margaret or Elizabeth ever gave the college any endowments. During Richard’s reign, when he made further grants to the College, Queen Anne was also considered a founder, but that was “conveniently forgotten when political circumstances changed in 1485”.  Andrew Doket remained as president until his death in 1484 and worked tirelessly for the benefit of the college.  [Sutton & Visser-Fuchs, ‘Cambridge’, pp.121-129; Ross, p. 135]

Richard III and the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge

Queens’ College, Cambridge (© D Preis)


Richard relationship with Queens’ began on 1 April 1477 when he gave the property of Fowlmere, Cambridgeshire, to the college, with the aim to fund 4 priests, fellows of the college, to say prayers for a number of Richard’s living relatives and for the souls of departed.  Among the people to be commemorated in the prayers were – apart from his family – also friends, who had fallen in the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury.  There were also to be prayers for John de Vere, the 12th Earl of Oxford, executed in 1462 by Edward IV, and his widow, to whom the manor of Fowlmere had belonged.  [Sutton & Visser-Fuchs, ‘Cambridge’, pp.120-124; Ross, p.135]

Richard’s endowment to Queens’ has to be seen in connection with the foundation of his colleges at Middleham and Barnard Castle.  The statutes of his college at Middleham require that, should it not be possible to find a dean from among the 6 chaplains there, this position should be filled by one of the 4 men at Queens’.  This would ensure that Middleham and Barnard Castle had the best religious instruction, liturgy and music available. [Sutton & Visser-Fuchs, ‘Cambridge’, p.120]

Queens’ benefitted greatly from Richard and Anne during his reign.  Anne intended to give estates from her Neville and Beauchamp inheritance to the college, but it had to give all this up when Henry Tudor came to the throne.   Richard also gave the college a silver seal including a boar device, which might have been part of new arms, which survives to today as one of several arms.  [Sutton & Visser-Fuchs, ‘Cambridge’, pp. 126-129]

Queens’ is almost completely constructed of red brick, probably imported from Holland.  The oldest part, which Richard would have known is the Old Court.  Because of the durability of the bricks this court still is almost as it was built [BHO, ‘Queens’].

2.3 Great St Mary’s

In 1478-79, Richard gave £20 for the rebuilding of the university church, Great St Mary.  Even after his death his support for the church continued to have an effect.  On 21 January 1495, Thomas Barowe, a close associate of Richard and master of the rolls and keeper of the great seal, gave the extravagant amount of £240 to the rebuilding of the church and for “masses, prayers and ceremonies in honour of King Richard III and Dr Thomas Barowe – who were to be enrolled in the list of the university’s benefactors”.  Richard was for a while politely forgotten, but has more recently been restored.

Richard III and the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge

Great St Mary, Cambridge (© D Preis)

The rebuilding of the nave was begun in the late 1470s, at the time of Richard’s gift.  Barowe, who had intended the church as a monument to Richard, would with his gift have secured its completion.  Possibly he was continuing a process initiated by Richard’s gift of £20, as there are records stating that he acted as a messenger to bring gifts from Richard to Cambridge. [Brooke, pp.18-21; Sutton & Visser Fuchs, ‘Cambridge’, p.113]

Part 1 – Richard III and Learned Men

Part 2 – Richard III as the Founder of Collegiate Churches

Part 4 – Richard III as Law Maker (incl. bibliography)

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Richard III as the Founder of Collegiate Churches

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Medieval Miscellany

Richard as the Founder of Collegiate Churches

Where we today can come closest to Richard and his patronage of learning is through the centres of learning, which he supported.  There are the two universities, Oxford and Cambridge, but we must not forget the collegiate churches he founded.

The late middle ages saw the foundation of numerous chantries and collegiate churches to provide prayers for the dead.  A chantry was an altar endowed for one or more priests to say Mass for its founder and possibly other patrons.  The size of chantries ranged from a side altar in an existing parish church to separate chapels.

A collegiate church or college was a corporation of secular priests set up for the same purpose as chantries.  Sometimes they were not part of a parish, but most often they were added to an existing parish church.

It was not unusual to have almshouses or schools attached to chantries and colleges [Keen, p.273; Melhuish, p.1].  While Richard followed the fashion for college foundations enthusiastically – in total he was responsible for 10 chantry or collegiate foundations [Ross, p.130] – there is no evidence that schools (or almshouses for that matter) were to be included in the colleges he set up, but this does not necessarily mean that no education took place.  As with all these foundations “Divine service and the ability to sing God’s praise came first, education second, but they were closely interrelated.” [Sutton & Visser Fuchs, ‘Cambridge’, p. 106]  It also needs to be remembered that choristers would need a teacher of grammar and music, who could very well teach other boys as well. [Sutton & Visser Fuchs, ‘Cambridge’, p.120]

1. The College at Middleham

Richard III as the Founder of Collegiate Churches

St Mary and Alkelda, Middleham (© D Preis)

In 1477 Richard began to establish two colleges, one at Middleham and one at Barnard Castle, for both of them he procured royal licences on 21 February 1478. [Ross, p.130].

The origins of the parish church of St Mary and St Alkelda in Middleham might date back to Saxon times, but its elevation to college status was Richard’s work.  The college was to consist of a dean, 6 chaplains, 4 clerks, 6 choristers and a sacristan.  One of the clerks was charged with offering perpetual masses for the good of Richard’s living family and the souls of all the faithful departed [Melhuish, pp.1-2].

The statutes for the college are in English, and probably reflect the most detailed indication of Richard’s personal religious taste.  The dean had to have his continual residence at Middleham and it is emphasised that he had to have sufficient learning.  [Dobson, p.141]

Over time Richard settled property on the college, though his last settlement, made shortly before Bosworth, by which he wanted to make the college more financially secure, was not enacted by Henry Tudor. [Melhuish, pp.6-10]

The first dean was William Beverley, who probably came from York and was a Cambridge graduate.   He had been the rector of Middleham before Richard set up the college and then became its first dean.  Richard must have liked him a lot.  When he became king, Beverley’s career took off dramatically.  He was promoted to dean of the king’s chapel of St Stephen’s, Westminster, and dean of St George’s, Windsor, and was granted many other benefices, among them that of dean to the collegiate church of Wimborne in Dorset.  He was also made precentor at York Minster.  Previously this had not been a valuable benefice, but this was changed when Beverley came, which might have been just as well, as he kept this position after Bosworth.  Towards the end of 1493 he contracted the sweating sickness and died.  He requested to be buried either at York Minster or the church at Middleham. [Sutton & Visser-Fuchs, ‘Cambridge’, pp.124-125; Dobson, pp.142-144]

While many of these collegiate foundations became victims of the reformation, the King’s College of Middleham was one of the few exempted from suppression [Melhuish, p.8] and continued as a college until 1845, when a special Act of Parliament had to be passed to abolish it.  Nor is Richard forgotten:  he and his family have a memorial window in the South Aisle and his pennant is flown from the tower on significant dates [‘Middleham Collegiate Church’].

2. The College at Barnard Castle

Richard III as the Founder of Collegiate Churches

St Mary’s, Barnard Castle (© Copyright David Dixon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence)

Compared to Middleham, nothing much is known about the college at Barnard Castle, but it has to be assumed that it was planned along similar lines, though on a far grander scale with twelve priests, ten clerks and six choristers.  This would have made it “the most ambitious late medieval chantry establishment in the palatinate of Durham”. [Dobson, p.141]  However, as the only existing document is the licence, it seems likely that it never came into being.  [Ross, pp.130-131; BHO ‘Barnard Castle’]  Nevertheless, Richard carried out extensive alterations to the church of St Mary’s from 1477 until his death in 1485.  If you visit the church today you can come face to face with Richard:  The chancel arch is decorated with Yorkist roses and two portrait heads, believed to be those of Edward IV and Richard.  Outside the church Richard’s badge, the Boar Passant, is carved in the exterior of the East window of the South Transept.  The church’s website remembers him as their “great benefactor”, [‘St Mary’s Barnard Castle’] and a newspaper article said:  “Fate smiled on St Mary’s in Barnard Castle when Richard III came to power”.  [‘Church on mission to revamp building’].

3. The College at York Minster

Richard III as the Founder of Collegiate Churches

York Minster (© D Preis)

As king, Richard planned an even larger college with 100 priests as an extension to St William’s College at York Minster, which had been founded by George and Richard Neville.   Contemporary information on this project rather limited.  At the time of Richard’s death, six new altars had been constructed within in the minster for the king’s chaplains and the building of their collegiate house had been started and he had given the Minster money, precious relics as well as a magnificent jewelled altar cross.  It is not known whether any of the priests had actually arrived, nor do we know what their exact responsibilities would have been apart from celebrating mass for Richard and his family.  [Dobson, pp.144-146; Ross, pp.130 +132; Sutton, ‘Piety’, pp.85+88, Melhuish, p.14]  Because of his grand plans for the York Minster, it has been suggested that this is where his son Edward is buried.  Richard and – probably – Anne visited York unofficially for three days in the beginning of May 1484, which might have been for their son’s burial. [Hammond, p.31]  It is even possible that he might have planned this chantry to serve as the tomb for himself and his family [Dobson,pp.146-147] with the priests looking after the family’s spriritual needs in this world and the next.

4. The College at St. Mary, Allhallows

Richard III as the Founder of Collegiate Churches

All Hallows by the Tower (© Copyright John Salmon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence)

The three previous colleges were all in the North, but Richard also “founded another in the church of St. Mary of Barking, by the Tower of London” [John Rous, History of the Kings of England; quoted in Potter, p.88].  St Mary was a chapel in the churchyard of Allhallows near the Tower of London, which had been founded by Richard I (the’ Lionheart’).

In 1465 Edward IV had had founded a chantry there with two chaplains, who were to pray for the king and his family including brothers and parents.  The chapel was governed by a fraternity, whose warden was John Tiptoft, earl of Worcester, another man of great learning and an early importer of printed books. [Armstrong, p.269]

Richard then wanted to erect a deanery and give it the status of a royal free chapel.  He persuaded Barking nunnery in Essex, to whom the mother church Allhallows belonged, to give up the mother church to the chapel in exchange for a pension.  Like Middleham, it was planned as a college with a dean and six cannons.  Edmund Chaderton was appointed first dean.   He had been treasurer of George Neville and became Richard’s treasurer of the chamber.  He was a trusted administrator and had taken “personal charge of most of Buckingham’s forfeited lands as receiver and surveyor”. [Wolffe, p.10; Ross, p.176]  The canons were to be all university graduates and hold M.A. degrees.  Stow writes about Richard’s “new built“ chapel, but it is doubtful how much building work was actually carried out during the short time.  The chapel only received its status as a free chapel in March 1485.  As soon as Henry VII came to power the Abbess of Barking Nunnery petitioned for the return of the church and regained it.  The chapel was destroyed in 1548 and the area was initially used as a garden plot and later a store house was built there. [BHO ‘All Hallows Church’; Horrox; Stow, p.50]

Part 1 – Richard III and Learned Men

Part 3 – Richard III and the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge

Part 4 – Richard III as Law Maker (incl. bibliography)

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