Category Archives: Kings of England

Henry VIII pops his clogs

henryholbeinOkay – so I’m a couple of days out.  On the plus side at the end of January 1547 the news of Henry VIII’s death was kept secret for two days following his demise on the 28th Janury at Whitehall so that arrangements could be made to move young King Edward VI to the Tower from Hoddesdon and so that Sir Edward Seymour and Sir William Paget could persuade the sixteen council members identified in Henry’s will that it would be far better if Edward Seymour, earl of Hertford shortly to be duke of Somerset would be an infinitely preferable choice as Lord Protector rather than a regency council of sixteen  as envisaged in Henry’s will.

This post coincides with the date  (30th Jan) that Chancellor Wriothesley cried buckets of crocodile tears in Parliament when he stood to announce that Henry was dead. He had been on the throne since 1509. The King is dead! Long live the King!

Cranmer had arrived in the nick of time from his home in Croydon to administer the last rites to his master after Sir Anthony Denny eventually plucked up the courage to tell Henry that he was dying. To predict the death of the king was treason – even when stating the obvious.  At that time Henry could speak but by the time Cranmer arrived having been delayed on icy roads Henry was beyond words and could only squeeze his archbishop’s hand to show that he trusted in his salvation through Christ.  And let’s face it if anyone had need of forgiveness then it was Henry who’d shuffled two wives off this mortal coil somewhat before their time as well as rather a lot of his nobility, his monastics and his thinkers as well as ordinary citizens who hadn’t gone along with his religious views, been in the wrong place at the wrong time or had the temerity to have a family tree that was rather more distinguished than his own.  And that’s before we get to the dissolution of the monasteries and the harassment of his first wife and the Princess Mary.

Weir suggests that Henry died of a pulmonary embolism (Weir, 502). Earlier writers suggested that his wives failure to produce sons, his ulcerated leg and his increasing paranoia were symptoms of syphilis although an article in the Journal of Medical Biography states that these factors are not evidence of syphilis and more specifically Henry was never treated for ‘the pox’.   It has even been suggested that the king famous for getting steadily bulkier with each passing year was suffering from malnutrition bought about by fasting- and certainly not eating his greens. Certainly his own physicians record him suffering from constipation. A more recent writer, whose name escapes me at the moment (sorry) suggests that the ulcerated leg could have been caused by an over tight garter. It has also been suggested that Henry’s jousting accident on 24 January 1536 which knocked him out cold (Anne Boleyn claimed her miscarriage of the male infant that would certainly have saved her life had it lived was the result of hearing the news) caused many of his health problems in later years.

Henry certainly had a series of strokes as he neared the end of his life.  In the last year of his life he was carried everywhere, he could be smelled a room before he arrived, was short-tempered and he showed symptoms of depression. It has also been suggested that he had Cushing’s Syndrome and that’s only the start of it.  Robert Hutchinson opts for renal and liver failure not to mention the effects of being so obese as the causes of Henry’s death at the age of fifty-five.  He’d been on the throne since his eighteenth year.

By the nineteenth century Henry’s death had been somewhat embroidered including the idea that Henry’s last conscious words were “Monks! Monks! Monks!” whilst staring manically into darkened corners where the spectres of  his monastic victims lurked. He’s also supposed to have cried out for Jane Seymour.  Whilst the former is a work of fiction the latter does have an element of truth in it if we look at his will.  He wished to be buried in Windsor next to his “true wife” – or in other words the one who’d provided a male heir.

I couldn’t really finish this post off without the gory story of Syon Abbey.  Henry’s body was popped into its casket which in turn was covered with blue velvet. On the journey to Windsor the king’s body rested overnight in Syon Abbey – rather unfortunately the contents leaked of the coffin dripped onto the stone floor beneath the trestle upon which it was resting. When the entourage turned up in the morning to continue their journey they saw a stray dog enjoying an unexpected early morning snack, er, let’s just say soup under the coffin.  Friar Peto, a loyal supporter of Katherine of Aragon, had preached a sermon in 1532 comparing Anne Boleyn to Jezabel and Henry to King Ahab.  When Ahab died wild dogs licked his blood.  Peto hadn’t won friends and influenced people- most specifically the king- when he suggested that the same fate would befall Henry if he set aside his lawful wife and broke with the Pope. Sadly it seems according to Alison Weir that this is yet another Victorian flight of fancy.

Want to know more? Click on the link to the Journal of Medical Biography.

Cohen J. Did blood cause Henry VIII’s madness and reproductive woes? March 4, 2011. History Web site. http://www.history.com/news/did-blood-cause-henry-viiis-madness-and-reproductive-woes.

Hutchinson, Robert (2005)  The Last Days of Henry VIII: Conspiracies, Treason and Heresy at the Court of the Dying Tyrant.

Keynes M. The personality and health of King Henry VIII (1491-1547). Journal of Medical Biography 2005;13:174.http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/096777200501300313

Weir, A. Henry VIII: King and Court, 2001.

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22 December in History

640px-Cromwell,Thomas(1EEssex)01

Where would I be without Layton and Legh – today on the 22 December 1535 the dastardly pair  of monastic visitors were beginning their northern visitation at Lichfield (yes – I know its the Midlands but to Thomas Cromwell it was the north).  Layton paused en route at Chicksand in Bedfordshire where the Gilbertine nuns  “refused to admit him as visitor.” (I bet that went down well).  He found two of the nuns were “not barren;  one of them impregnavit supprior domus, another a serving-man.”  How he discovered this if the Gilbertine prioress refused him admittance is open to speculation.  He must have taken himself off to the local tavern and listened to the gossip. Rumour had it that one of the nuns was bricked up alive – its always good to go with the stereotype and offers us our festive ghost story- not that this prevented the prioress receiving a pension when the priory was finally suppressed in 1538.

‘Henry VIII: December 1535, 21-25’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 9, August-December 1535, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1886), pp. 340-350. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol9/pp340-350 [accessed 6 December 2016].

old pretender.jpgJumping forward two hundred years James III of England also known as the ‘Old Pretender’ landed at Petershead.  The Jacobites had been up in arms since September on account of George I not giving governmental position to nobles who felt that they deserved posts.  However, the jacobites were disorganised and poorly led meaning that by the time James landed it was all over bar the shouting. By February it was all over and James was back in France. The National Library of Scotland has a useful time line which may be accessed here.

king-stephenThere’s one last event for the 22nd which requires slipping back in time to 22 December 1135.  Stephen of Blois, grandson of William the Conqueror, was crowned king of England in Westminster Abbey.  Stephen’s uncle Henry I had intended his daughter Matilda to rule but his barons, forced to swear their support for her, felt that a woman was unfit to rule so crowned Stephen in her stead.  It didn’t help that she was married to Geoffrey of Anjou – a chap who the barons weren’t terribly keen to welcome as the king – given that a woman, no matter who she was, would by necessity be required to be subservient to her husband.

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The fate of kings – Edward VIII, Edward II, Richard II and Charles I

king_edward_viiiThree kings plus a spare – what could be more festive than that?

 

The first of today’s faces is outside my usual time period but it is a significant event so far as the British monarchy is concerned. On the 11 December 1936 King Edward VIII, uncrowned king of the United Kingdom, renounced the throne, not by proclamation but through the very modern medium of a radio broadcast. He then joined Wallis Simpson on a boat bound for France. He’d been king for less than a year. In his abdication speech Edward was eager to observe that as a constitutional monarch he’d never done anything in opposition to his parliament. Churchill made much the same comment in a speech given in the House of Commons on the subject. He also said, “ What is done is done. What has been done or left undone belongs to history, and to history, so far as I am concerned, it shall be left.”

 

Since then history, journalists, biographers and anyone with an interest have speculated as to the whys and wherefores of the case of the only king in English history to voluntarily renounce his throne.

 

Edward’s decision was the result of a constitutional crisis bought about by his love for Wallis Simpson, an almost twice divorced American. I say almost because her second divorce from Ernest Simpson was still pending at this time. If Edward had hoped that the political elite would be tolerant of his love for Wallis he was sadly mistaken even though there was probably a big clue in the fact that his own father, George V, had refused to meet her in 1934.

 

Edward even went so far to ask Stanley Baldwin, the then prime minister, if it would be possible for him to have a morganatic marriage. A morganatic marriage in this context is a marriage between a couple of unequal rank in society. Although the marriage is recognized any children resulting from the union would not be permitted to inherit the throne. Nor would Wallis have attained the rank and privileges of her husband. This was a reasonably common approach to marriage in European royal houses but would have been unique in British history – no one dared mention to Henry VIII, of instance, that his marriage to Anne Boleyn, even with her drip of Plantagenet blood, was not a marriage of equals.

 

Baldwin’s cabinet deemed that the British public would not take to a twice divorced American with a scandalous reputation so said no to a morganatic union. This left Edward with three choices: he could say goodbye to Wallis and marry a woman deemed appropriate; abdicate or ignore the prime minister and marry Wallis anyway. This would have led to a direct confrontation between king and his ministers as they would have resigned resulting in a constitutional crisis.

 

By the beginning of December the scandal was all over the papers.  Edward made his decision and ‘lay down the burden’ of kingship – which rather suggests he felt there was a choice in the matter. The pair got married on June 3 1937. Edward’s younger brother Albert, now King George VI, created him duke of Windsor.  Edward and Wallis spent the rest of their lives in exile.

 

edwardiiOf course, other kings have abdicated in English history – just they didn’t do it voluntarily and they certainly weren’t sent off  to be the governor of the Bahamas. The demise of deposed medieval kings reflects the way in which parliament gradually became more important as the centuries progressed and the kings themselves gradually found their power being eroded. Edward II was deposed in January 1327 when he was captured by his wife Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer. Parliament named his son Edward III as king. There wasn’t a great deal of debate about the matter but it is significant that parliament was called upon to recognise the transition. Edward II disappeared into Berkeley Castle where he was murdered – the medieval way of getting rid of a king who’d worn out his welcome.

 

tumblr_m94jocf45j1qeu6ilo1_500Two generations later Richard II renounced the throne in 1399. In reality, he too was deposed but his cousin Henry of Bolingbroke, who became Henry IV, recognized the importance of popular acclaim and legal justification for his actions- no need to discuss the fact that Richard II was being held captive at the time nor the fact that he didn’t have a great deal of choice in the matter. Like his great grandfather Richard found himself being escorted to a large castle (Pontefract) and quietly removed from the scene (starved).

During the Wars of the Roses, Lancastrians and Yorkists alike were careful to have parliament identify their reign as beginning prior to the key battle that saw them taking hold of power.  This ensured that the loosing side could all be attained for treason.

Charles_I_in_Three_Positions_1635-36By the reign of Charles I the law and parliament had evolved even further, though now is not the time to explore the reasons for that.  Charles found himself on trial for treason. The rationale for this came from the Roman idea that a military body could overthrow a tyrant and even then many people had doubts about the legitimacy of such an action. The Parliament of 1648 was notable for the way in which MPs were excluded from the House of Commons if they were not in support of Oliver Cromwell’s drastic actions. This parliament was known as the Rump Parliament.

 

The idea that there were fundamental laws and liberties which a monarch was required to uphold or to face penalties  imposed by parliament and the law would have come as a surprise to Charles I’s predecessors.  Having seen the power that they could wield parliament now invited Stuart monarchs to ascend to the throne, kicked them out if they didn’t like their religion and laid down statutes as to who could inherit the throne. This meant that with the advent of the protestant Hanoverian monarchs, the British monarchy was a constitutional monarchy.  Kings and queens are heads of state but within defined parameters – their role became increasingly ceremonial whilst the business of laws and governing rest in the hands of Parliament.

Who would have thought that this centuries long evolution would resolve itself in the first half of the twentieth century with the abdication of a monarch for the love of a woman?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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December 1st – a historical advent

henry-iIt’s that time of year again.  Sadly for me Cromwell appears to have received no interesting mail on December 1 1535 which is probably just as well for the rest of Tudor England.  I would have to say that in 1532 Sir Anthony Willoughby was suffering with the gout so sent his wife to talk to Cromwell because he wanted Cromwell to speak to the king on his behalf.  Whilst in 1533 Sir Christopher Garneys wrote to Cromwell thanking him “For his loving letters. Is eased of the unquietness he had by reason of a stroke given to a lewd person. Did it not out of malice, but for due correction. Cannot recompense Cromwell’s kindness, but will send him by next ship “a piece of wine of Gravys.”

Consequentially I have had to look a bit further afield for the historical equivalent of a chunk of chocolate.

Henry I died on December 1 1135.  He’s the king who popped off having indulged in a surfeit of lampreys. He’s also the chap with the huge number of illegitimate children but only one legitimate son who inconveniently drowned when the White Ship sank.  Henry then forced his barons to recognise his daughter Matilda as the heir.  Of course they promptly changed their minds upon his demise and selected her cousin Stephen.  This resulted in England’s first civil war. The war raged for nineteen years – the years “when Christ and his apostles slept.”  Cheery or what.

300_2511351Coming forward in 1420 this was the day when Henry V marched into Paris – good for the English less amusing for the French.

More positively  and somewhat outside my usual period but rather more positively the first female British MP, Lady Nancy Astor, took her place in the House of Commons. In America, in 1955, Rosa Parks famously started the bus boycott when after a long day she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a non-coloured passenger.

‘Henry VIII: December 1533, 1-10’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 6, 1533, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1882), pp. 599-613. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol6/pp599-613 [accessed 19 November 2016].

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Elizabeth Denton

Henry-VIII-enjoyed-gambli-008I have just been re-reading Philippa Jones book on Henry VIII’s wives and mistresses.  She suggests that Elizabeth Denton nee Jerningham was Henry VIII’s, or Prince Henry as he was then, first bit on the side.  Not only that but she was hand selected for the role by Lady Margaret Beaufort which rather knocks the idea of her saintly piety to one side; though it might give an insight into the prevailing views of the rights of kingship. Its a thought that certainly made me sit up and take notice!

The idea that Jones puts forward is that young men’s minds inevitably turn to the birds and the bees.  Lady Margaret Beaufort eager to avoid scandal and a mistress likely to make demands selected the lady mistress of the royal nursery for the role of…er…lady mistress on the grounds that she would know her place and not make any trouble.

For a man whose marital history has caused scandal for the last five hundred years relatively little is actually known about his mistresses and potential children but then the evidence against Denton seemed a little, well, vague.  As Licence observes the claim rests entirely on the evidence of grants given in 1509 and in 1515.

So, what have we got.  Well we know for sure that Lady Elizabeth Denton died in 1519 and that she was Henry VIII’s governess.  Already one of Elizabeth of York’s ladies, her wardrobe keeper, she was appointed in 1497 to the role looking after the royal children which would have been Henry, Margaret and Mary replacing Lady Elizabeth Darcy in the job.  The Princess Elizabeth was born in 1492 but died in 1495.  Prince Arthur had his own household.  We know that Lady Margaret Beaufort wrote the rules for the ordering of the royal nursery and that Elizabeth Denton received £20 per annum.  If nothing else we can always rely on the account books. Alison Weir speculates as to the role played by Elizabeth of York and the relationship she had with her younger children.

Its those same account books that give the ‘evidence’ of Elizabeth Denton’s having been the lady mistress of the nursery in more ways than one.  In 1509 she was awarded an annuity of £50 a year as well as the keepership during her lifetime of Coldharbour, Lady Margaret Beaufort’s former London residence.  In addition there was a tun of Gascon wine delivered each year throughout her life (Hutchinson).  It is based on this very generous remembrance that Jones bases her hypothesis.  She argues that royal servants might receive allowances but this was a very generous allowance indeed suggesting that Elizabeth Denton had done rather more than the known facts would account for.  This is the problem with many of Henry VIII’s women. Unless they end up married to him there’s very little concrete fact to go on.  It all comes down to looking at the evidence; adding up two and two to arrive at mistress or illegitimate offspring.  For a very public monarch much of Henry’s life is surprisingly private.

If we apply the same rule regarding the giving of grants and annuities across the board we should also be looking askance at Anne Oxenbridge another nursery maid who received £20 a year for life in 1509. In fact Hutchinson reveals that a whole series of generous annuities and appointments that were made by Henry at this time celebrating the start of his reign and rewarding loyal service to his parents by many men and women but no one is accusing Henry’s male french tutor of being up to no good! Nor for that matter has anyone suggested that Elizabeth Saxby who was also in receipt of a grant at this time was being paid for any of ‘those kinds of service’ rendered. It is a known fact that Henry VIII wanted to appear much more generous than his legendarily parsimonious father- so perhaps its not unreasonable that he should have looked kindly upon the men and women who cared for him during his childhood.

We know that an Elizabeth Denton went with Princess Margaret to Scotland in 1503 and that she probably returned when King James ordered that the number of English women serving her was to be reduced.  We also know that she lived in the precinct of Blackfriars until her death and that she raised her own monument, her husband John  having predeceased her before the contentious grant was given.

Nothing is known about John Denton but Alison Weir mentions a William Denton who served as Elizabeth of York’s carver as well as the king’s in receipt of £26 per year.

Elizabeth went on to be appointed to the care of Princess Mary’s nursery in 1516 having been appointed to the same position for the short lived Prince Henry in 1511. This in itself would suggest that she was a woman thought to be of sound moral values rather than femme fatale. It is, perhaps, unlikely that Henry would have put a woman of dubious morals in charge of his children’s welfare.

In fact, as much as I would have liked to have posted a highly inflammatory article I can’t because there is no direct existing evidence, that I know of, that Henry VIII was permitted a mistress before his marriage and that both his father and grandmother kept a very close eye on him indeed. Ambassadors recorded that he was kept as closely as a maiden which might, perchance,  account for his delight in the romantic chase of his various wives’ ladies in waiting once he became king. Having said that it does make an excellent story and Henry was known to like a more mature lady during his early years… and no, last time I checked just because its a good story doesn’t make it good history.

The next post, reflecting the fact that I am somewhat  Tudor orientated at the moment, will be about Cardinal Wolsey – someone else known for their flamboyant dress sense.  Not only was he Henry FitzRoy’s (Henry VIII’s only openly acknowledged illegitimate child) godfather but he also had a ‘nephew’ of his own.  Just think what the Sunday papers would have made of it, had they existed!

 

 

 

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Personal religion – A Tudor psalter and Book of Hours

H8P_4.jpgA psalter is a personal book of psalms. Henry VIII’s psalter was written in Latin and illuminated by Jean Mallard, a Frenchman who had worked for Francis I but moved to England.  He appears in Henry’s accounts from 1539-1541.   Henry then added his own notes in the margin in much the same way that other psalter owners contemplated the psalms and wrote down important information.

Henry VIII is shown as King David – his favourite biblical character.  The psalter is in the possession of the British Library.  It’s seven miniatures provide an interesting view of the Henry VIII.  This image shows Henry in his private chamber contemplating the word of God day and night – an idea that many of his subjects might have found somewhat ironic not to mention Henry’s idea that he was amongst the blessed – he was after all God’s representative on Earth and Defender of the Faith.  He even had a medal struck to that effect in 1545 some two decades after the Pope awarded him the title and before he’d broken with Rome.  Double click on the image to open a new window at the British Library’s website. Amongst the illustrations are  Henry taking on the French Goliath.

Henry’s role model for his book of personal devotions may well have been his paternal grandmother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, who was well known for her own piety.  She had control of the school room and royal nursery during Henry’s childhood.  Amongst Lady Margaret’s prized possessions, apart from a piece of the True Cross, was her Book of Hours also known as The Beaufort Book of Hours.

A Book of Hours is a book of prayers that follows the canonical devotions – or the cycle of prayers said by monks and nuns.  At the heart of any book of hours for private use were the prayers for the Virgin Mary to be said eight times a day. Wealthy women often received richly decorated books of hours as part of their wedding present or dowry. They then recorded key family events in their prayer books.  Lady Margaret Beaufort was no exception to this.

Her Book of Hours also contained a calendar of saints days and she used this to mark in important events in her own family including the birth of Henry VIII although it is not as carefully recorded as the birth of Henry’s older doomed brother Arthur.  She also owned Richard III’s Book of Hours which he may have taken with him to Bosworth. She did not systematically remove his name from the text but did add her own at the back.

It is perhaps not surprising that I can think of two Books of Hours without very much effort.  Further study reveals that there are almost eight hundred of them in existence in various libraries as well as being depicted in various images. Owned by the very wealthy these books not only bespoke their piety but also their wealth as the miniatures and illuminated letters were expensive commodities. Duffy explains that several of the later Tudor Books of Hours were given by Elizabeth of York to members of the court but that these were not so richly illuminated and that there were increasing numbers of more cheaply printed Books of Hours which made the apparently generous habit of this gift giving a little more to Henry VII’s liking no doubt.

In fact the more closely you look the more that it is possible to find evidence of royal Tudor piety.  We even have Henry VIII’s rosary which is on loan from Chatsworth to the National Portrait Gallery.  He had many others which are listed in inventories of his possessions.  He used his rosary throughout his reign even though the growing tide of Protestantism would dismiss them as Popish by the time his daughter Elizabeth was on the throne. On a more anonymous but perhaps more moving note several rosaries were salvaged from Henry’s flagship the Mary Rose.

Duffy, Eamon. Marking the Hours: English People and their Prayers 1240-1570

 

 

 

 

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Worcester Cathedral

DSC_0102Bishop Wulfstan became a saint much admired by King John.  He was also a canny politician.  He’d been appointed bishop by Edward the Confessor  in 1062 and is said by his biographer a monk called Colman to have advised King Harold. This didn’t stop him from being one of the first bishops to offer his oath to William. The Worcester Chronicle also suggests that Wulfstan was at William’s coronation.

William set about reforming English Bishoprics, generally by removing Saxon clerics and appointing Normans. He demanded that Wulfstan surrender Worcester.  According to its chronicle Wulstan surrendered the staff to the king who appointed him – i.e. Edward the Confessor. No one else could shift it so William was forced to confirm Wulfstan as bishop.  King John trotted this legend out as an example of the way in which the king had the right to appoint English bishops rather than the pope having the right.

DSC_0114Wulfstan ensured that the Benedictine monks at Worcester continued their chronicle and he preached against slave trading in Bristol.  Meanwhile the priory at Worcester was growing (It was a priory rather than an abbey because it had a bishop as well as its monastic foundation- that’s probably a post for another time).  Not much remains of the early cathedral building apart from the crypt with its forest of  Norman and Saxon columns. Wulfstan’s chapter house draws on its Saxon past and is, according to Cannon, one of the finest examples of its time. In 1113 it suffered a fire rebuilding began immediately. Wulfstan’s canonisation in 1203 helped  Worcester Abbey’s and the cathedral’s economy although the Barons’ War ensured that Wulfstan’s shrine was destroyed on more than one occasion although when Simon de Montfort sacked Worcester he spared the priory.

On a happier note, King John was buried there  partly because of his veneration of St Wulfstan.  He’s one of the saintly bishop’s whispering in the John’s ear (see first image). Henry III crowned at Worcester aged nine with a circlet belonging to his mother because the crown was too big and John had famously just lost rather a lot of bling in The Wash (assuming you don’t think there’s a conspiracy behind the whole story).  Simon de Montfort’s daughter Eleanor (whose mother Eleanor was Henry III’s sister) married Llewelyn ap Gruffudd, Prince of Wales there in 1278 having been held prisoner for three years by her cousin Edward I.DSC_0102

A building programme was required for the final resting place of a monarch not least because in 1175 the central tower had collapsed possibly because of dodgy foundations. In 1202 there was yet another fire and in 1220 a storm blew down part of the edifice.  In 1224 the rebuilding began ensuring that Worcester is a good example of early English gothic. The building continued to expand.  By the fifteenth century new windows were being added.

 

We shift now to the Tudor period.  In 1502 Prince Arthur died at Ludlow after only a few months marriage to Catherine of Aragon.  His heart in buried in Ludlow but the rest of him was interred in Worcester Cathedral. His tomb and chantry will be posted about separately.  The Tudor propaganda machine provided symbolism with bells and whistles.

In 1535 Latimer was made Bishop of Worcester.  He visited his see in 1537 by which time Cromwell’s commissioners had carried out the Valor Ecclesiasticus. Its income was £1,260.  It was the fourth richest of the monastic cathedrals behind Canterbury, Durham and Winchester (Lehmberg: 46). Holbeach had sent Cromwell “a remembrance of his duty” in the form of an annuity to the tune of some twenty nobles a year – presumably in the hope of being left alone.  Latimer found that the monks were sticking to their old ways of dressing the Lady Chapel with ornaments and jewels rather than new more austere Protestant approach. He laid down the law but three years later Worcester Priory was surrendered by Prior Holbeach on 18 thJanuary 1540.

Two years later it was re-founded as the Cathedral of Worcester. Holbeach became the first dean of the  cathedral. As with many other religious buildings it suffered during the English Civil War – lead was stripped from its roof valued at £8000. The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were a time of renovation for Worcester Cathedral.

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DSC_0151Somehow, thirty-nine fifteenth century misericords survive at Worcester.  There are also some fine spandrels (triangular bits between arches) depicting various scenes including a crusader doing battle with a lion not to mention the crypt and Arthur’s chantry with its tomb of Purbeck marble.

‘The city of Worcester: Cathedral and priory’, in A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 4, ed. William Page and J W Willis-Bund (London, 1924), pp. 394-408. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/worcs/vol4/pp394-408 [accessed 27 August 2016].

Cannon, Jon. (2007). Cathedral: The Great English Cathedrals and the World that Made Them. London: Constable

Lehmberg, Stanford. E. (2014) The Reformation of Cathedrals: Cathedrals in English Society. Princetown: Princetown University Press.

 

 

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Great Malvern Priory and Henry VII

IMG_7791.jpgHenry VII stamped his presence as King of England on Great Malvern Priory. His is the least of the medieval windows.  His son destroyed the monastery.

The window is called the Magnificat Window and tells the story of the Incarnation and scenes from Christ’s life including his presentation at the Temple and turning water into wine.

The bottom lights, or panes, depict the donors and send a significant political message alongside the joys of the Virgin Mary. The key donor is King Henry VII.  He is pictured along with his queen, Elizabeth of York.  Sadly her image is lost. There are tiny Tudor roses as well as the Tudor heir, Prince Arthur. Pictures of Arthur are rare so this is a treasure, that Worcester Cathedral copied.  The window was placed in 1501 or early 1502 to celebrate the Tudor success of an heir married to a Spanish princess. Arthur, the red and white rose combined, died in 1502 at Ludlow a few months after his marriage to Catherine of Aragon so the grand window with its less than subtle political message, trumping the Plantagenet west window of Richard, then duke of Gloucester, is rather flawed.

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Two other donors feature.  There is Sir Thomas Lovell on the far left, then Sir John Savage, his image is gone as well, and finally Sir Reginald Bray.

Lovell, a Norfolk man, was attainted by Richard III but under Henry VII, having fought alongside him at Bosworth, became chancellor. In 1487 he fought with Henry at the Battle of Stoke and in 1489 he became Constable of Nottingham Castle.  He had links with the Malvern area. He was also an executor for Margaret Beaufort. He died in 1524 having served Henry VIII but increasingly sidelined by the rise of Wolsey although in 1506 it was Lovell who went to Dover to collect Edmund de la Pole and transport him to the Tower.  It is said that Lambert Simnel attended Lovell’s funeral.

Sir John Savage, another of Henry VII’s privy council, commanded the left wing of Henry Tudor’s army at Bosworth.  He was also the nephew of Margaret Beaufort’s husband Thomas, Lord Stanley. The Savages were a Cheshire family with strong connections to Macclesfield. They were also linked to Malvern Chase being keepers of Hanley Castle. Savage and his father were both Sheriff of Worcestershire.

IMG_7792.jpgSir Reginald Bray was a Worcestershire man and as Chrimes observes it is unlikely that Henry VII, if he had been the key donor of the window, would have placed Savage, Lovell and Bray alongside his son – or himself for that matter.  Far more likely then that Bray and his fellow privy councillors paid for the window which Henry VII graciously permitted (Chrimes: 337). To find out more about Bray double click on his name.

Chrimes, S.B. (1999) Henry VII (The Yale English Monarch Series)

Wells, Katherine. (2013) A Tour of the Stained Glass at Great Malvern Priory.  Friends of Great Malvern Priory.

 

 

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Great Malvern Priory

IMG_7747.JPGWhat a gem!  Great Malvern Priory was founded in 1085 by a hermit, Aldwin, from Worcester Abbey on land belonging to Westminster Abbey.  This means that during the life of Great Malvern’s monastic establishment it looked to  Benedictine Westminster for direction which is why it’s a priory rather than an abbey in its own right.

Aldwin was supported and guided by Bishop Wulfstan of Worcester who went on to become one of King John’s favourite saints. The priory also received its charter and funding from  William the Conqueror who gave charters to many monasteries – a reminder that the conquest of England had the Pope’s blessing and that William was conscious of the need to give thanks for his victory. Henry I and Edward III confirmed and renewed the charter. The priory wasn’t without its problems though.  The fact that it was on Westminster Abbey land but founded by a monk from Worcester and looked to the Worcester for guidance led to friction at various times in the priory’s history.

DSC_0102The pillars in the nave of today’s building are Norman and there are odd clues to the Norman past scattered about the building but the priory as it stands today dates largely from the fifteenth century.  The Bishop of Worcester was called upon to consecrate the new build in 1460 – just as the Wars of the Roses really got started (Battle of Wakefield December 30 1460).  However, the new build ensured that assorted Lancaster and York monarchs added their ‘bit’ to the decor from Henry VI’s tiles via Richard III’s stained glass windows to Henry VII. At least those monarchs wanted to enhance the building, finished in 1502.

In 1535 Dr Legh, one of Cromwell’s commissioners and a bit of a thug by all accounts,  visited the priory.  Things can’t have been that bad as there is no report of his findings amongst Cromwell’s documents.  According to the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535, the income of the prior and convent amounted to £375 0s. 6½ d. It escaped the act suppressing the small monasteries, although a cell belonging to the priory wasn’t so fortunate.

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In 1539 the monastery was dissolved despite the please of Hugh Latimer the Bishop of Worcester (he would ultimately go to the flames in the reign of Mary Tudor for his Protestantism). He wrote to Cromwell on behalf of the prior; ‘at the request of an honest man, the prior of GreatMalvern, of my diocese,’ pleads for the ‘upstandynge’ of his house, and continuance of the same to many good purposes, ‘not in monkery . . . but to maintain teaching, preaching, study with praying, and (to the which he is much given) good “howsekepynge,” for to the “vertu” of hospitality he hath been greatly inclined from his beginning, and is very much commended in these parts for the same . . . The man is old, a good “howsekepere,” feeds many, and that daily, for the country is poor and full of penury. Alas, my good lord, shall not we see two or three in each shire changed to such remedy? . . Sir William Kingston can report of the man further.’ The letter dated 13 December 1538 finishes with flattery: “Blessed be God of England that worketh all, whose instrument you be! I heard you say once after you had seen that furious invective of cardinal Pole that you would make him to eat his own heart, which you have now, [I trow], brought to pass, for he must [needs] now eat his own heart, and be[as] heartless as he is graceless.”  Latimer went on to offer Cromwell 200 marks and the king 500 if they would spare the priory.

Not that it did any good. By January 1539 the priory had been suppressed and the lead stripped from its roof.  The prior, one Richard Whitborn, received h £66 13s. 4d. each year.  Ultimately, in 1541, the parishioners of Great Malvern purchased the priory for £20.00 as the original parish church was in a poor state.  They acquired the “stateliest parish church in England.” The parish church of St Mary and St Michael is without a shadow of a doubt a show stopper.

 

A second post will consider Great Malvern’s medieval tiles whilst a third post will explore the wonderful medieval windows and also a fourth post on the glass given by Richard III and by Henry VII.  As you might guess, I spent a very happy morning in Great Malvern Priory although I wasn’t able to study the misericords (the ledges on which the monks could rest during services) because of work being done in the choir of the church.  Great Malvern is unusual in that as well as depicting a mermaid on its misericords it also has a merman.

For fans of C.S. Lewis it is also worth noting that he went to school in Malvern College just before World War One and whilst he was there he may have been inspired by the enclosed east doors of the priory church which ultimately turned into the wardrobe by which the Pevensies entered Narnia.  A glimpse through the lock reveals a fir tree and a lamp post.

‘Houses of Benedictine monks: Priory of Great Malvern’, in A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 2, ed. J W Willis-Bund and William Page (London, 1971), pp. 136-143. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/worcs/vol2/pp136-143 [accessed 16 August 2016].

Cleop. E. iv.264. B. M.Wright’s Suppression of the Monasteries,148. ‘Henry VIII: December 1538 11-15’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 13 Part 2, August-December 1538, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1893), pp. 438-455. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol13/no2/pp438-455 [accessed 23 August 2016].

‘Parishes: Great Malvern with Newland’, in A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 4, ed. William Page and J W Willis-Bund (London, 1924), pp. 123-134. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/worcs/vol4/pp123-134 [accessed 16 August 2016].

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Richard III windows Leicester Cathedral

IMG_7218It’s more than a year since King Richard III was reinterred at Leicester Cathedral in March 2015 after famously being discovered under a car park.

In addition to the rather large slab of Swaledale stone fashioned to represent a sarcophagus there are two fine new windows in the north side of St Katherine’s chapel designed by artist Thomas Denny which are truly beautiful.

The reds and golds are particularly eye-catching.  The more you look; the more you see. There’s even a football in the window for those who look carefully enough – a reminder of Leicester’s successful 2015-2016 football season.

I love the window depicting Leicester’s archeology including mosaics, Saxon treasure and  a skeleton – presumably Richard’s.IMG_7242The window on the left shows women tending to bodies in the aftermath of battle – Bosworth, although it could, of course, be any Wars of the Roses field. Above the women a window depicts a body slung over a horse reflecting Richard’s last undignified journey back to Leicester. Study of his skeleton revealed that his body was not treated honourably in the aftermath of his death.

The central panel depicts the road to Emmaus.  Above this scene young man learns to ride a horse at Middleham Castle and three children play at Fotheringay. Richard was born in Fotheringay Castle in 1452 and grew up in Middleham in the care of his Neville relations who held Middleham at that time.  Later it would become his own home.

IMG_7243The window on the right depicts Richard and Anne Neville mourning the death of their son Edward of Middleham who died on April 9 1484.  Richard’s journey through the shadow of the Valley of Death continued with the death of Anne in March 1485.  Richard was dead five months later.  Above the main panels there’s a boar – Richard’s emblem; the Battle of Tewkesbury and Kirkby Muxloe built by Lord Hastings.  There’s an oak and a castle representing a kingdom.  Richard became king in 1483 after serving his brother Edward IV loyally throughout his life.  Richard’s motto was “Loyalty binds me.”

Richard  reigned for two years. He was the last Yorkist Plantagenet king of England. It is the events leading up to his claiming the kingdom and the disappearance of his two nephews which focus people’s attention away from the loyal and good service that he fulfilled on his brother’s behalf. There’s a discarded crown as well in the main panel on the right as well as an orb and sceptre. Richard can be seen riding across Leicester’s bridge on his way to battle.

Half a millennia after Shakespeare’s hatchet job on the last Plantagenet kingIMG_7244, Richard III has acquired a breath taking monument which seeks to redress the balance.  I’m not saying the man was a saint – he was a medieval king and generally speaking they probably weren’t the type of people you’d wish to meet down a dark alley but neither was he the monster that the Tudors portrayed. Politics was a bloody and brutal affair-just ask Lord Hastings who was summarily executed for reasons we don’t fully understand even today and equally consider Francis, Lord Lovell who remained loyal to Richard when all hope was lost.

DSC_0055.jpgI’m not sure it it was intentDSC_0055.jpgonal or not but knowing the story of Richard III and his missing nephews I found it impossible to look at the Emmaus scene without pondering on the fates of King Edward V and his brother Richard of York – although the two young men are too old to be the princes their presence is something that continues to haunt Richard’s history.  Whether the question as to what happened to the princes will ever be answered is another matter – and generally speaking there’s nothing like a conspiracy theory to keep writers and academics in employment.

 

But that’s not to say the truth won’t eventually surface. We now know that Richard III wasn’t the hunchbacked monster of Tudor propaganda but that he did have scoliosis which developed as he grew to maturity – so a sort of middle ground between two differing historical views. Perhaps more than anything Richard III was the one thing which no medieval king could afford to be – ultimately unlucky.  He was the last English king to die on the battlefield.  Henry Tudor dated his reign to the day before Bosworth to ensure an act of attainder hung over the heads of all the nobility who’d been loyal to Richard.

But for all that, the one medieval king who most people can name whether they’re interested in history or not is King Richard III.

A trip to Leicester can also involve a visit to Bosworth Field and Kirkby Muxloe Castle.  There’s even a Richard III experience opposite the cathedral though I must admit I didn’t avail myself of that particular facility. I was more than happy with Thomas Denny’s windows.

 

 

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Filed under Fifteenth Century, Kings of England, The Plantagenets, Wars of the Roses