Tag Archives: Worcester Cathedral

Prince Arthur’s tomb

IMG_7789Prince Arthur, born 1486 in Winchester- the heir uniting the white rose with the red, died on April 2, 1502 after a few short months of marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

Three weeks later he was buried in Worcester Cathedral parallel with the altar with much pomp and pageantry. We know about Arthur’s funeral because a royal herald, one William Colbarne or Colbourne (the York Herald) wrote a first hand account.  Being Henry VII’s son there is also a detailed account of the cost of the funeral.

A chantry where prayers could be said for Arthur’s soul was built two years after the prince’s death. It’s a two-storey affair that rather overshadows the fourteenth century tombs beneath it. His tomb chest is made from Purbeck marble and decorated with the arms of England, although he is buried beneath the cathedral’s floor several feet away from the tomb that visitors can see. Archeologists discovered the actual grave in 2002 with the use of ground penetrating radar that gave rise to speculation as to whether it might be possible to find out what Arthur died from. At the time it was announced that he’d died from sweating sickness. Historians tend to think it is more likely that he had tuberculosis, the disease that ultimately, probably, carried off his father (Henry VII) and his nephew (Edward VI).

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The inscription round the tomb’s edge reads that Prince Arthur was the first begotten son of the ‘right reknowned’ King Henry VII and that he popped his clogs in Ludlow in the seventeenth year of his father’s reign. Having lost his heir, Henry appears to have been keen to remind everyone how successful his reign had been, that he had more sons and that he was perfectly entitled to the throne, thank you very much, and hadn’t he done well arranging a marriage with a European royal house such as Ferdinand and Isabella’s. The symbolism on the chantry is typical of Tudor iconography. There’s the white rose of York and red rose of Lancaster for instance as well as the Tudor rose; the Beaufort portcullis; a pomegranate for Catherine of Aragon whose home was Grenada and a sheath of arrows which belong to her mother Isabella of Castille; a Welsh dragon and the white greyhound of Richmond – a reminder that Edmund Tudor, Henry VI’s half brother was the earl of Richmond. The prince of Wales feathers are also on display.

 

 

 

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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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Sir Reginald Bray – Tudor advisor, architect and spymaster

sir reginald bray.jpgSir Reginald Bray is often mentioned as Margaret Beaufort’s man of business and then as Henry VII’s advisor – a sort of Tudor prime minister and chancellor of the exchequer rolled into one politically astute package.  Bray first came to Tudor attention when he was master of the household to Margare Beaufort’s third husband (if you count the childhood proxy marriage and annulment from John de la Pole), Henry Stafford and given that Richard III issued him with a pardon of Lancastrian sympathies. His father is mentioned by Leland as one of Henry VI’s doctors. Indeed Sir Reginald is also mentioned as doctoring Henry. There seem no end to the man’s talents. In the meantime after Sir Henry Stafford’s death, following injuries sustained at the Battle of Barnet in 1471, Bray continued as the steward of Margaret’s household.

 

Somehow or other Bray often found himself at the centre of things. Whilst Margaret Beaufort was conspiring with the Duke of Buckingham  in 1483 it was Bray who carried messages for Buckingham on the advice of his ‘house-guest’ Bishop Morton of Ely who described Bray as “secret, sober and well-witted.” Following Bosworth it was Bray who allegedly retrieved Richard’s crown from a thorn bush so that Lord Stanley could place it on his step-son’s head. It was Bray who told Henry VII during his progress to York in April 1486 that Lord Lovell and the Stafford brothers (Sir Thomas and Humphrey) intended to break out of sanctuary in Colchester. Henry initially didn’t believe him because Bray’s source would not reveal the name of the person who had told him the information. On a later occasion Sir Francis Bacon records that bray paid a bribe of £500 from the king’s privy purse to Sir Robert Clifford to betray Perkin Warbeck.

 

Bray appears to be something of a polymath since not only did he do finance and spying but also a spot of doctoring and architecture. He had a hand in the design of Henry VII’s chapel at Westminster and also St George’s Chapel Windsor. The image  of the Sir Reginald on the left hand side of the picture in this post comes from the Henry VII window at Worcester Cathedral. Sir Reginald was one of the donors.

 

Sir Reginald reaped the rewards for his service. As well as being made a knight of the Bath he also became a knight of the Garter, was granted the constableship of the castle of the castle of Oakham in Rutland, and was appointed joint chief justice of all the forests south of Trent, and chosen of the privy council. After this he was appointed high-treasurer and chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. He was also made keeper of the parks of Guildford and Henley, with the manor of Claygate in Ash for life. He was also high steward for the university of Oxford and a member of Parliament.

 

In Jun 1497 following the Cornish Rebellion and the Battle of Blackheath he was rewarded with more titles. He also landed Lord Audely’s estate in Surrey when the unfortunate lord was found gulty of treason and lost his head.

He was born in Worcester in 1440 and buried in St George’s Windsor in 1503 after a career devoted to the Tudors. Edmund Hall extolled him as “a sage and grave person.”

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John’s last days

king-john-of-england-grangerJohn’s worst fault perhaps was that he was an unlucky king.  The mercenaries he’d amassed to challenge his barons in 1215 were scatted and drowned during autumn storms at sea.  Things went from bad to worse for him after that.  By the following year John was fleeing from castle to castle with King Louis VIII in hot pursuit. He’d lost London and Winchester.  The french seemed to be everywhere and it was the fact that they pursued John into Cambridgeshire that sent John north to Lincolnshire where he followed a scorched earth policy and relieved Lincoln which was being besieged by the revolting barons.  John chased them off but failed to intercept King Alexander `ii of Scotland who was making the most of the chaos in England.  John’s letter record the fact that he was in Lincoln on September 22nd.  He inspected the castle and made its custodian, the indefatigable Nichola de la Haye Sheriff of Lincolnshire in her own right (I feel a post on her coming on even as I type).

From Lincoln John travelled back towards East Anglia via Grimsby, Louth, Boston and Spalding.  He arrived in Bishop’s Lynn on October 9th.  Historians cannot be sure what John was planning but Lynn was an important port and John arranged to have supplies sent to his northern castles.  It is reasonable to assume that he was planning a campaign in the north.  John was taken ill whilst in Lynn.  Ralph of Coggeshall assumed it was gluttony.  Morris makes the very good point that at 49 the king had been setting a ferocious pace.  He could simply have been exhausted.

In any event John set out once again for Lincolnshire on the 12th October. He travelled via Wisbech whilst his baggage appears to have taken a different and rather more disastrous route near Sutton Bridge.  He spent that night in Swineshead Abbey where famously he ate rather too many peaches, pears and cider becoming ever more ill.  Bereft of his household belongings and his treasures he arrived at the Bishop of Lincoln’s castle at Sleaford  on the 14th October where he stayed overnight.  On the 15th he wrote to Pope Honorius III (Innocent had died in July) that he was suffering from an ‘incurable infirmity.’  John took the opportunity to put his kingdom under the Church’s protection.  This was a stratagem that he hoped would save England from Louis for Prince Henry who would shortly become King Henry III.

By then he was too ill to ride, so John was carried by litter to Newark – a journey of some twenty or so miles.  He arrived at Newark on the 16th of October.  He wrote his will and that night the king died having given Margaret de Lucy who was the daughter of William and Matilda de Braoze, permission to found a Hospital of St John along with land for its foundation in memory of her mother and brother who’d starved to death in Windsor. John’s will along with his tomb can be seen in Worcester Cathedral.

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Locating King John

marketcharterAngevin kings spent a lot of time on the road. Henry II travelled widely across his vast empire administering justice, fighting with the neighbours, avoiding the lady wife, seducing his wards and hunting. Richard spent most of his short reign in foreign parts – fighting someone or other- and consequentially became a hero. King John also travelled frequently. It has been calculated that he only spent 7% of his time in Westminster. In 1205 there are 228 changes of location recorded which means that he moved 19 times a month! His problem was that he didn’t have such a vast empire to travel around – essentially he had England having lost the rest of his father’s empire and gained the nickname ‘Softsword’ into the bargain. Amongst the locations he favoured were Marlborough where he’d held the castle since 1186 as a gift from brother Richard; Nottingham which he’d held since his childhood and Winchester where his son Henry was born.

150608_itinerariesjohnandhenryaskingKing John’s itineraries can be traced through his letters which reveal his location. There are currently several interesting sites on the Internet outlining John’s jaunts. One charts John’s movements in the run up to Magna Carta whilst the other charts his location on a map throughout his seventeen-year reign. http://neolography.com/timelines/JohnItinerary.html.

This image of John’s itinerary was accessed from http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/features/on-the-trail-of-king-john-before-and-after-the-signing-of-magna-carta (13/10/2015 @ 23:42) and shows how extensively John travelled in comparison with his son.  Interestingly John believed that the king was there to administer justice ‘even if it were to a dog’ – the same justice also happened to be a handy implement to bludgeon his barons with.

Other evidence of John’s involvement in English affairs can be seen in the charters he issued which, incidentally, offer an interesting counterpoint to the stereotype of King John with dodgy sheriffs in tow. Sheriffs undoubtedly have a bit of a bad reputation so far as the reign of King John is concerned what with all that taxation and general Anglo-Norman nastiness – oops sorry, I’ve moved out of history and into the realms of Hollywood. In reality King John sometimes did away with sheriff power and opted for ‘people power.’ Take York for example. In 1212 King John decreed that York’s citizens, rather than the sheriff, should collect and pay the annual tax to the Crown. Their charter also allowed them to hold their own courts and to appoint a mayor. John also granted a charter to Grimsby offering similar arrangements for taxation, law and administration.

Clearly if the king spent more time in England (there wasn’t a great deal of choice) then there are also more bricks and mortar locations with a link to that particular Plantagenet. In Knaresborough John took over the castle and Honour of Knaresborough on account of the fact that he was keen on the hunting. It was here that he distributed the first ever Maundy Money. John gave away forks and clothes in 1210. Knaresborough must have been one of John’s favourite castles because he spent rather a lot of time there. His accounts, another source, offer an insight into feasting, drinking, gambling and hunting.

John is known to have particularly enjoyed hunting – as did his father and before him his Norman forebears. It is not surprising therefore that the country seems to be littered with King John’s hunting lodges. Time Team did a dig a John’s hunting lodge in Clipstone. In Axbridge King John’s hunting lodge was a fourteenth century wool merchant’s house – so don’t get too excited about treading in John’s footsteps. Though in Romsey not only can you encounter his hunting lodge you can also smell the roses in his garden (a much later addition but it sounds good.)

Elsewhere in Yorkshire John visited Scarborough Castle on several occasions; made it across the county boundary into Cumbria and Carlisle where he administered justice and on to Corbridge where he did a spot of treasure hunting (without success). He received the submission of the Scots at Norham Castle ( a lovely little fortress). In a more Midlandish direction he managed to lose his jewels (of which he was an ardent collector) in the Wash allegedly near to Sutton Bridge; expired in Newark Castle and got himself buried in Worcester Cathedral.

I feel exhausted just looking at the list so I’ve no idea how John managed to travel so widely, hunt so extensively and chase, allegedly, so many women after hurtling around the English countryside in all sorts of weather with scarcely a break year in and year out.

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King John and St Wolstan

king john1According to Roger of Wendover, as King John lay dying he commended his body and soul to God and St Wolstan. Wolstan was the Saxon Archbishop of Worcester, consecrated in 1062, who remained in post after the Norman Conquest.  Legend says he was called upon to resign his bishopric but lay his crozier upon the shrine Edward the Confessor in Westminster from whom he’d gained his bishopric.  No one could move the crozier except for Wolstan.  This was taken as a sign that the devoted, but not especially learned priest, should retain his see. king john It is hard to find a rationale for King John’s appreciation of Wolstan – who incidentally was canonised during John’s reign. Certainly chroniclers do not record a lifetime of prayer on John’s lips.  Perhaps John admired a man who overcame his temptations and turned aside from ambition but who still ended his life as a bishop.  Whatever the reasons, John was drawn to St Wolstan.  He visited Wolstan’s shrine at Worcester twice – once in 1207 and again in 1214.  He may have visited more often.  He came to Worcester to negotiate with the Welsh and also to hunt in nearby forests. John asked to be buried next to his favourite saint which is why he lies in Worcester Cathedral, as does Prince Arthur (Henry VIII’s elder brother).  The cathedral library contains John’s will and one of his thumb bone’s in its collection.

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