Posts Tagged ‘York’


Review of 8 August 2015 Meeting of the NSW Branch

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

Review of 8 August 2015 Meeting of the NSW BranchThe August branch meeting of the NSW Richard III Society was held on Saturday, 8 August 2015, at the Sydney Mechanics’ Institute. Chair Judith welcomed all members and visitors and introduced Christine who has volunteered to as Treasurer at the AGM in October with the election of new officers. Words of concern were expressed for our several members who have been facing serious illness over the past year and the sincere hope for their successful treatment, full recovery, and swift return to our meetings.

Those present were asked to stand for a minute’s silence to honour our recently deceased long-time active member, Johanna. The Celebration of Life pamphlet from her service at St Thomas Aquinas Church in Bowral was distributed to those who knew her.

Renewal forms for Friends and Members of the NSW Branch of the Richard III Society will be distributed by email soon, along with nomination forms for the upcoming election of new officers at the AGM to be held in October. Judith asks that you please complete and return your membership renewals in a timely manner, that is, before the next meeting. The fees will remain the same as last year, which is good news.

The annual service commemorating the Battle of Bosworth and remembering Richard’s life and reign will be held this year at the very welcoming congregation of St James Anglican Church, 173 King Street, Sydney at 11:00 am on 23 August 2015. Refreshments will follow the service, and members may go to lunch together nearby afterwards. The branch will arrange an appropriate contribution to the Church in gratitude for their hospitality.

There will be a Bring & Buy table at the 12 December meeting, so you have time to start thinking about what you would like to contribute. Prices will be very reasonable, and proceeds will go to the branch coffers. It will be a good opportunity to share books you will not be rereading, or give novelty Ricardian items a new owner. Please be prepared to take home anything that does not sell, however, as there is no provision for storage on site.

Our guest speaker was University of Sydney English Professor Margaret Rogerson who gave an illustrated presentation on her area of particular expertise, being the Medieval Mystery Play Cycles of York and the ways in which Richard III may have been a supporter during his residence. Professor Rogerson is the author of Playing a Part in History: the York Mysteries and many other academic papers on the topic, and kept us deeply engaged.

Member Jean shared with us her recent experience visiting Leicester. She related how welcoming the people were everywhere she went, how pleased they were to have tourists as a result of all the attention on Richard III these past two years. Jean visited Leicester Cathedral, the Visitors’ Centre (including the famous council parking lot where Richard’s body was discovered), and took the 2-hour guided tour walking around to points in the city with any connection to Richard’s life.

After the raffle was drawn, members enjoyed a lovely afternoon tea provided by Joan, including lots of delicious homemade treats that everyone appreciated.

The next meeting will be the AGM on Saturday, 10 October 2015 when the executive committee will be stepping down and their replacements elected.

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Our Next Meeting – 8 August 2015

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

Our Next Meeting – Medieval plays of York

Next Meeting

On 8 August 2015, our guest speaker will be Associate Professor Margaret Rogerson, who is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney. She has written many academic papers and articles about early English drama, with particular focus on the York and Coventry plays. Her topic will be the Medieval plays of York.  Margaret is the editor of  The York Mystery Plays: Performance in the City.

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The “Murder” of King Richard III

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Medieval Miscellany, Quotes

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Greyfriars Dig, News

film_reel smOn Monday, 3 February 2014, BBC 1 broadcast a programme in the UK on what has gone wrong since it was revealed a year ago that the remains found in Leicester are indeed those of Richard III.  It investigates how a High Court hearing will affect the king’s final resting place.  Both parties, Leicester University and Plantagenet Alliance, were interviewed.  While we in Australia cannot watch the programme easily on the BBC iPlayer, some excerpts are available here.

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Helen Cox, author of two excellent books on the Battle of Wakefield, shares with us her views about the issue of where Richard should be reburied,  While she brings some welcome balance to the controversy, we would like point out that these are her views and do not necessarily reflect the views of all members of the NSW Branch or even the Richard III Society as a whole..  We are very grateful to Helen for making this article, which was first published on her blog, Helen Rae Rants!, available to us.  You can find out more about Helen on Herstory Writing & Interpretation.

As anyone watching the news, reading the press or visiting social forums will know, the discovery of Richard III’s remains under a car-park in Leicester last year has sparked a war of words as bitterly waged as any medieval battle. Practically from the moment his skeleton was unearthed, the tides of invective began to flow. An early target was Philippa Langley, a long-standing member of the Richard III Society whose years of research, lobbying and fund-raising had enabled the excavation project to go ahead in the first place. ‘Only in it to big herself up and get on TV,’ sniffed some folk of Ms Langley’s painstaking historical detective work. Hmm… is that the rank whiff of sour grapes I smell? Me, I think she deserves a medal for her efforts and the contribution she’s made to Ricardian history.

Worse was to come when the vexed question of where to re-inter the king’s remains arose. The poor Dean of York and President of the Richard III Society received abusive communications from the pro-York camp simply for trying to take a neutral, objective stance on the issue. The Chief Executive of the American Richard III Foundation was derided for her passionate advocacy of York because ‘what’s it got to do with Yanks, anyway?’ The Richard III Society was accused of Machiavellian plotting, cover-ups and withholding information from members. The motives of many individuals concerned with the project, including the Mayor of Leicester, were publicly impugned in such terms that it’s a wonder nobody ended up in court for slander or libel. Venom has dripped from the pages of Facebook and sundry news sites. Altogether, it hasn’t been pretty – and frankly, I’m amazed I’ve escaped the vitriol after some of the stuff I’ve blogged on here. (ie. Helen Rae Rants!)

But now, at last, someone has effectively presented the case for a York re-burial. Yes – in the latest Ricardian Bulletin, (journal of the Richard III Society), David Johnson lays out the reasoning in a well-researched, eloquent letter mercifully free from the inaccuracies and hysterical over-statements that have bedevilled the arguments of some other York supporters.

I might challenge his statement that there is an ‘overwhelming public view that Richard should be laid to rest in [York] Minster’. It depends on the public you’re asking. The Plantagenet Alliance’s on-line petition for a Parliamentary debate on the matter closed with 31,260 names – almost 70,000 short of the 100,000 it needed; another petition for a York re-burial closed with 31,340 names – I’d call that distinctly under-whelming. Meanwhile a rival petition for Richard III to remain in Leicester has 33,247 signatories with three days left yet to run… so I think it’s fairer to say that public opinion is divided.

Otherwise, David Johnson’s letter is highly persuasive. It draws on the Privy Seal Register and Fabric Rolls of York Minster to argue that Richard III’s intention to found a college for 100 chantry priests, with six altars erected within the Minster for their use, parallels his brother Edward IV’s creation of St George’s Chapel at Windsor, and for the same reason – to make a new royal mausoleum. That the sources contain no mention of a tomb, or plans for a chapel to house a tomb, can be explained by the fact that the project was still in its infancy at the time of King Richard’s death.

It’s the best justification I’ve yet seen, and Johnson may well be right that if Richard III had lived out his full span, he would have expected to lie in York Minster. However, one problem is that it still doesn’t prove this was the case; we’re still second-guessing the intentions of someone who died over 500 years ago. And what might those intentions have been on the eve of Bosworth? Richard had the advantage, the ordnance and the larger army of home-grown soldiers to pit against Henry Tudor’s Welshmen and foreigners. I assume he expected to win, kill his rival and hang on to his crown; but it would seem strange if a soldier so experienced in the uncertain fortunes of war hadn’t at least considered the alternatives: that the battle might be indecisive, leaving them both alive to re-group and continue the campaign; or that he would himself die, if not on the field then later, as a defeated captive.

What then of his posthumous fate? Could he trust a new regime to honour his last wishes, if he made them explicit – or to take spiteful pleasure in thwarting them? To what degree, under those circumstances, did Richard III actually care what became of his body, beyond a conventional hope that it would lie in consecrated ground rather than in a mass pit on the battlefield? If he made a will, or issued any form of instruction, it either has not survived or has not yet been found. If he did not, what does that say about his state of mind – that he was sublimely over-confident of victory? That he didn’t want to ‘tempt fate’? Or that if he could not live as King of England, he was not greatly concerned about anything else?

David Johnson ends his letter by saying, ‘one assertion we can make with absolute certainty is that Richard III never chose to be buried in Leicester’. Or can we? It may not have been a positive choice, but one by default; he may have assumed that, in the event of his death, he would end up in a nearby village churchyard (like Lord Dacre of Gilsland, killed at Towton and buried in Saxton) – or in the nearest major settlement to Bosworth…

Of course, I don’t know – but the point is, nobody knows, conjecture as we will. The only things I am certain of is that the battle for Richard III will go on, ironically fought by larger armies than he or any other king could have commanded at the time; and that whether the decision goes with Leicester Cathedral or York Minster, I’ll be shedding no tears (except a few for Richard himself) – I’m just too pleased that he’s going to get a proper tomb somewhere, at last.

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   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Greyfriars Dig, News

Yesterday the House of Commons debated whether Richard III should be re-buried in Leicester or York, without a final answer in sight.  In this context I find the claim that the “late King’s descendants” support York somewhat misleading, as to the best of our knowledge Richard did not leave any descendants.  These can only be descendants of his brothers and sister.   I would like to quote the conciliatory note by  Jeremy Wright, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice:  “I am sure that we would all agree that wherever the king’s remains are finally laid to rest, they will belong not only to the location, but to the whole nation.”  And not only the “whole nation”, but to everyone who is interested in Richard III.  You can read the full debate here on the website of the British parliament (go to Contents and then the Westminster Hall tab).

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