Blood and Roses – Special Interest Weekend

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis   in News

Recently I had the pleasure to attend the Special Interest Weekend on ‘Blood and Roses:  England 1450 – 1485’, which took place at Christ Church College Oxford from 24 to 27 March 2011.  This is the eighth Special Interest Weekend Christ Church is hosting, past events included a variety of topics.

A group of overseas Ricardians – US, Canada and Australia – who had arrived early, met on the Wednesday evening prior to the official start for a highly enjoyable pub crawl and dinner at The Trout.  A big thank-you goes to Dave for organising this.  It was great that Christine, a Ricardian from Stroud in Gloucestershire, could join us for the evening.  Wherever Ricardians meet you can be sure they will have a lot to talk about and enjoy themselves.

On Thursday the conference started with a Welcome by the Steward of Christ Church, John Harris.  Then Dr Rowena Archer, the Academic Director of the weekend, gave a short introductory address, remarking on the difference between the snow storm which raged at the battle of Towton 550 years ago and the beautiful summery weather we were experiencing.

The first talk of the seminar was by Dr John Watts on ‘The Origins of the Wars of the Roses’.  Dr Watts, the author of Henry VI and the Politics of Kingship, suggested that the origins for the conflict should be seen in the inadequacies of Henry VI.  It was interesting to consider the Wars of the Roses in the context of the neo-classicism of the Renaissance.

The next morning saw us as assembled again in the Blue Boar Lecture Theatre for Diana Dunn, the author of the ODNB entry on Margaret of Anjou.  She showed us a Margaret that we could understand and sympathise with, not the She-Wolf of popular fiction.

This was followed by Dr James Ross on Edward IV.  He measured Edward’s kingship against the duties expected of a late medieval king which explains why is reign was reasonably successful.

Prof Caroline Barron brought us ‘The view from London’.  According to her the Londoners were primarily interested in getting on with their own lives and living peacefully, much less than any political principles.

The second day concluded with a fascinating demonstration by Magnus Sigurdsson of ‘Arms and Armour of the Late Fifteenth Century’, which took place in Christ Church’s beautiful Upper Library.  After dinner we had the opportunity to see and handle the armour and weapons.

Saturday morning started with Prof Tony Pollard on ‘Richard III, Reputation and Reality’.  This was probably the one  disappointment of the weekend.  He contrasted the positive reputation of Richard before 1485 with the negative one post 1485.  Unfortunately, the reality part of the title lost out.  His view seemed to be clouded by the post-1485 reputation he had outlined before.  Dave Luitweiler from the US Branch challenged some of his assumptions, but received no real explanation.

However, the next talk by Prof Anne Curry on ‘Armies and Soldiers of the Wars of the Roses’ more than made up for any disappointment.  Prof Curry introduced us to the new database of soldiers in English armies 1369 – 1453, www.medievalsoldier.org. While this does not include the period of prime interest to us,  there are plans to extend it up to the year 1558.  Her talk gave an interesting introduction into the structure of English armies during the Wars of the Roses.

In the afternoon we set off by coach to visit the church, almshouses and school at Ewelme.  Here Dr Rowena Archer first gave us a talk on Alice, duchess of Suffolk, and then took us on a guided tour of the church and almshouses.  What a fascinating institution, which has survived with only very few changes since the 15th century!  Our return to Christ Church was a bit delayed, as two of the coaches collided and we had to wait for a replacement.  Our thanks went to Rebecca for handling this crisis so admirably.

Sunday morning opened with ‘Dress Makes the Man’ by Rebecca, ably supported by Edward IV, aka Simon de Montfort-Broughton, who are both enthusiastic re-enactors.  This gave an insight into the practicalities of medieval dress and armour.

Dr Glenn Foard was supposed to talk to us on the findings regarding the site of ‘The Battle of Bosworth’, but unfortunately illness prevented him from coming.  However, he emailed his Power Point presentation to Prof Curry, who had been involved as historical consultant in the project.  We were very grateful for her to stand in at such short notice and competently explain to us the process of finding the actual battlesite.

The Special Interest Weekend was an exhilarating opportunity to hear these experts talk on the subjects which interest us so much.  Members of the Richard III Society from a wide variety of branches in the UK and world-wide were well represented.  It was, however, disappointing that nobody of the Executive Committee was able to attend, especially as the weekend had been sponsored by the Richard III Society. It was also a great opportunity to experience Christ Church and its hospitality.  A heartfelt thank-you goes to all lecturers and organisers, especially to Rebecca for her outstanding organisation of the event.

Next year Christ Church wants to tackle the Crusades, however, Rebecca told me that they are thinking of examining the Hundred Years’ War in the future – start saving!

If you are interested in hearing a more detailed report on the weekend, please come and attend our general meeting on Saturday, 9 April 2011.  More details under Upcoming Events.

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