The graffiti commemorating the Dudleys.  Beauchamp Tower.  Photo Spitalfieldlife 

I am, to be honest not a fan of graffiti, also known as graffito, neither do I know anyone who is. However, if you are talking historical graffiti, and from no less than the Tower of London, well that is definitely a different ball game and count me in.


Examples of graffiti including an oak leaf and acorns dated 1537.  Photographer unknown.

There are 268 examples of graffiti carved by prisoners who while incarcerated within the Tower walls, sometimes languishing there for many years,  wiled the time away leaving behind messages that have endured to this day.  I suspect they would have been shocked to know  their carvings would survive for so long, some over 500 years old,  to be marvelled  at as well as now carefully preserved.  Some of the prisoners were high status including Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester who was imprisoned with his brothers  after his father’s plot to put Lady Jane Grey, his daughter in law,  on the throne went pear shaped.     The Dudley graffiti which  is to be found in the Beauchamp Tower,  commemorating  Robert and his brothers features roses for Ambrose, carnation or  gillyflowers for Guildford, oak leaves for Robert, rober being Latin for oak leaf,  and honeysuckle for Henry.  The carving is thought to have been completed by John Dudley, the fifth brother,  who added his name at the bottom.  The carved letters read 

“You that these beasts do wel behold and se may deme with ease wherefore here made they be with borders eke wherein four brothers names who list to serche the grounde” 

 Guildford and Jane were unsurprisingly executed.   The other brothers were released but John died almost immediately afterwards at Penshurst Place.  He seems to have suffered greatly during his imprisonment and was said to have been ‘crazed for want of air‘ (1).  Robert would go on to become a close and dear  friend to Elizabeth Ist.  

Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel was imprisoned by Elizabeth.  His name is also to be found in the Beauchamp Tower accompanied with the words

‘The more affliction we endure for Christ in this world, the more glory we shall get with Christ in the world to come.

Arrested for practicing his Christian faith in 1585,  Arundel was to die in the Tower in 1595.


The Arundel Graffiti.  Beauchamp Tower


G Gyfford 1586 “Grief is overcome by patience Avgvst 8th, 1586”.  Photo Ann Longmore-Etheridge


One of the more poignant – ‘My hart is yours tel death’ Thomas Willyngar date unknown.  Photo Ann Longmore-Etheridge


Edward Smalley.   Smalley was the servant of a member of parliament who had neglected to pay a fine for assault. He was imprisoned in the Beauchamp Tower for one month in 1576. 


 Thomas Rooper 1570. Photo The Royal Mint Museum


A lovely example complete with the name Peverel,  fruit on a vine, shells and a little skeleton.  Photo The Royal Mint Museum. 

In 1912 because  of the perishable nature of the stone it was decided permanent records should be made of the prisoners inscriptions as some of them were in a state of powdery decay.  The Royal Mint was asked for their assistance to which they readily agreed.  At this time the Mint was busy using its newly-installed electrotyping plant for the production of postage stamp plates but nevertheless agreed to take on the project.  Wax moulds were taken of the whole series of 268 inscriptions with great care taken for the preservation of the original stone carvings.  The work was completed In 1914, and 458 electrotypes with a total area of 332.8 square feet were delivered to the Office of Works (2).



Unfinished graffiti.  Dated 1573.  Name and fate of prisoner unknown…

I have only been able to mention here a handful of the remarkable graffiti at the Tower of London,  the greater part of it from the 16th century and thus over 500 years old.  Now protected hopefully it will survive another 500 years and the plight of the prisoners of the Tower of London never forgotten.  


  1. Loades 2008
  2. Writings on the Wall.  The Royal Mint Museum.   Online article. 

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The Abbey of the Minoresses of St Clare without Aldgate and the Ladies of the Minories



Anne Montgomery nee Darcy.  One of the much respected Ladies of the Minories from the window of Holy Trinity Church, Long Melford, Suffolk.

Shakespeare said ‘all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players‘.  Following on from that if we may be allowed to say that the Wars of the Roses were a stage then surely some of the saddest players on it were the ladies of the Minories – the widows, mothers, sisters and daughters of some of the main players of that tragic and violent period who survived their menfolk but in what must have  been difficult and sometimes straightened circumstances.  I have here leaned heavily on W E Hampton’s excellent article, the Ladies of the Minories (1)

The Abbey of the Minoresses of St Clare without Aldgate was founded by Edmund in 1293 Crouchback Duke of Lancaster and his wife, Blanche of Navarre,  for the nuns that Blanche had brought to England with her.  Surviving until 1539  the abbey, which was very large,  was surrendered by the last abbess,  Dame Elizabeth Savage,  to Henry VIII.  The abbey had already suffered what must have been a catastrophic loss in 1515 when 27 nuns and other lay people i.e. servants died of the plague (2)


Edmund Crouchback, illustrations of his tomb in Westminster Abbey by Stothard from Monumental Effigies of Great Britain 1832

According to Edward Tomlinson who wrote A History of the Minories there is an old manuscript in British Museum ‘which appers to have escaped the notice of any historian‘ which states that Edmund’s ‘hart ys buryed at the North end of the high Awter in the mynorysse And his body ys buryed at Westminster in the Abbey‘.  This manuscript which is probably a transcript from a register kept in the Abbey contains ‘the names of all psones beyng of Nobull Blode whiche be buryed wthin the Monastorye of the mynnorysse‘.  The names of these illustrious burials are too numerous to name here but a few..

Dame Elizabeth Countess of Clare

Dame Isabel daughter of Thomas of Woodstock Duke of Gloucester

Margaret Countess of Shrewsbury daughter of Humphrey Duke of Buckingham

Agnes Countess of Pembroke

Eleanor Scrope wife to Lord Scrope and Daughter of Raufe/Ralph Neville

Edmunde De La Pole and Margaret his wife

Elizabeth de la Pole, Edmund’s daughter (3).

Among the burials I am focusing on here are those of the ladies who lived in the turbulent period known as the Wars of Roses.   I shall start with one of the leaders of this little band,  Elizabeth Mowbray nee Talbot, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk and who lived out the latter years of her life  in the Great House within the Close of the Abbey for which she paid a rent of 10 pounds.   Elizabeth was the daughter of John Talbot Ist Earl of Shrewsbury,  sister to another lady of great importance from that period, Eleanor Butler nee Talbot  and mother to the tragic Anne Mowbray child bride to Richard of Shrewsbury, Edward IV’s youngest son.   Elizabeth,  it will be remembered, on the sudden unexpected death of her husband was forced soon after to take a diminished dower in order to augment the revenue of her young son-in-law.  Frustratingly Elizabeth’s thoughts on this  were, as far as is known, never recorded.  The   marriage of her daughter Anne to the youngest son of Edward IV and Elizabeth Wydeville,  whose own ‘ marriage’ had ruined her sister, Eleanor,   ensured that the vast Mowbray estates would pass to Richard if it should come to pass that her daughter died, which as it transpired is exactly what happened.   Anne died shortly before her 9th birthday at Greenwich Palace one of her mother-in-law’s favourite homes.  Anne was buried in Westminster Abbey but her body was removed from there in 1502 when the chapel she was buried in was demolished to make way for Henry Tudor’s grandiose new chapel.  Anne was returned to her mother at the Minories and buried there –  ‘Dame Anne Duches of yorke doughter to lord moumbray Duke of Norfolke ys buried yn the sayed Quere’ (4)


Elizabeth Mowbray, nee Talbot, Duchess of Norfolk as depicted in the window of Holy Trinity Church, Long Melford, Suffolk.

Although the glory days must have been over for Elizabeth with the demise of her husband – her retirement to the Minories  would have been a serious case of downsizing –  a look at her will tells us that she had not lost absolutely everything  as did  her daughter’s mother in law, Elizabeth Wydeville whose pitiful will tells us that she was left more or less destitute.  Ah well Karma is a bitch as they say.

Jane Talbot, sister-in-law to the above, having married Sir Humphrey Talbot.  Humphrey was the son of John Talbot by  his second wife Margaret who was a daughter of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick.  Jane’s interesting will which left numerous bequests especially to her servants also requested that ‘I Dame Jane Talbott, wedowe late the Wif of sir Humfrey Talbott knyght…  my body to be buried within the inner choer of the churche of the Mynores withoute Algate of London nygh the place and sepulture where the body of Maistres Anne Mongomery late the wif of John Mongomery Squyer restity and ys buried within the same quere’.

Anne Montgomery widow of John Montgomery who was executed in 1462, brother of Sir Thomas Montgomery, Sir James Tyrell was her nephew.  Anne was clearly a person much revered.  As well as Jane Talbot, Elizabeth Mowbray also requested to be buried close to her in her will made 6 November 1506 – ‘And my body to be buried in the Nonnes qwere of the Minorsesses without Alegate of London nyghe vnto the place Wher Anne Montgomery lyeth buried’.

Mary Tyrell.  According to Hampton ‘Almost certainly one of the sisters of Sir James Tyrell – probably the youngest – and therefore a niece of Anne Montgomery  (5 )

Elizabeth Brackenbury.  Daughter to the loyal Sir Robert Brackenbury, Richard III’s Constable of the Tower,  who died with his king at Bosworth.  Hampton mentions that Elizabeth’s poverty was clear in her will of 1504 and  that she found shelter under the wings of the Talbots and requested in her will that her debts to Elizabeth Mowbray were to be paid –  ‘I Elizabeth Brakkynbury..beyng of goode and hole mind’… all such money as my lady’s grace of Norff to whom I am most specially bounde of her charitie’   (6).  Hampton also adds that there was some connection between Sir Robert and Sir Thomas Montgomery which could partly explain his daughter’s connection to these ladies, although it is not certain if Brackenbury’s daughter was an inmate at the time of Anne Montgomery’s tenancy at the Minories.

Hampton wrote  ‘All of these ladies, with the possible exception of Jane Talbot had suffered great loss, but it would perhaps be unwise to to think too much of them as sheltering in the Minories, where life may not have been too severe.  They may as Dr Tudor-Craig suggests have gathered around the Duchess yet Anne Montgomery’s influence may have been greater spiritually’.

While some ladies had  been most grieviously  injured by Edward IV and his Wydeville wife – i.e. the shabby way Elizabeth Mowbray was forced to augment the revenue of her small son-in-law, the betrayal of her sister, Eleanor, the executions  of  William Tyrell and John Montgomery, further injury was inflicted by Henry VII with the unjust attainder of Sir Robert Brackenbury and the execution and attainder of Sir James Tyrell.

FullSizeRender.jpgWynegaerde’s Panorama of London (1543)  in which the Minories can be seen just above  and to the left of the White Tower/Tower of London.   Note the close  proximity of the scaffold on Tower Hill, shown to  to the left of the Minories.  

Doubtless they were great comforters of each other and it is very easy to imagine them being of a great solace to Elizabeth Mowbray when her daughter’s remains were returned  to her.

The beginning of the end for the once grand Minories came when the last abbess, Dame Elizabeth Salvage surrendered the abbey to Henry VIII in 1539.  Stowe describes how in place of  ‘this house of nuns is now built divers fair and large storehouses for armour and habiliments of war, with divers workhouses serving to the same purpose’ although there is  ‘a small parish church for inhabitants of the close, called St Trinities’ (7)  Some of the abbey walls survived until a fire in 1797.  Around 1566 the parishioners came into possession of what had once been the Minories church but  was now the parish church and set about ‘renovating‘ it.  This involved the removal and destruction of ancient monuments and the adding of a steeple.  Finally around 1705 , having surived the Great Fire of 1666,  begun the final destruction of the fabric of  the ancient church and the rebuilding of a new one although the medieval northern wall was retained.

FullSizeRender 6.jpg

Diagram of the 18th century Holy Trinity church showing the north 13th Century  wall retained.  This wall managed to survive the fire and bombs until clearance of the site in 1956-58.  


The remains of the abbey after the fire in 1796.  Etching by John Thomas Smith 1766-1833

FullSizeRender 4.jpg

Another print showing the abbey remains after the 1796 fire. Etching by John Thomas Smith 1766-1833

It would have been about this time that the building of new burial vaults begun in the process of which,  the ‘greater part of the ground beneath the parish church must have been evacuated which would have not been achieved without the unfortunate removal of the remains of those, who in the past centuries, would have been buried there‘ (8). Alas!

The 18th century  church was finally destroyed after being bombed during the war.   But that is not the end of the story of our intrepid band of  Ladies of the Minories or indeed the Minories itself, for in 1964 the remains of Elizabeth’s daughter, Anne Mowbray were  discovered by an excavator driver in a vaulted burial chamber of the church which had somehow been, fortunately,  overlooked.   Anne was once again reinterred in Westminster Abbey as close to her original burial place as possible but, that dear reader is another story.


18th century Holy Trinity Church prior to its destruction by a bomb.    It was during excavation of this area after the war that Anne Mowbray’s remains were discovered in a vault.


Holy Trinity Church looking slightly less stark in this painting,1881, artist unknown.


The area now covering where once stood the Abbey of St Clare (The Minories).  Such is progress.  

1. The Ladies of the Minories, W E Hampton, Richard III Crown and People p195-201

2.  A Survey of London Written in the year 1599. John Stowe pp 122.1233.

3. A History of the Minories pp68.69 Edward Murrey Tomlinson M.A

4. Ibid p 69.

5. The Ladies of the Minories W E Hampton, Richard lll Crown and People p.19

6. Ibid p.198

7. A Survey of London Written in the year 1599.  John Stowe p.128.

8. A History of the Minories p 299 Edward Murrey Tomlinson

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Old London – City of Churches.   Bow Church can be seen to the left.  Part of the The Visscher Panorama of London, 1616. Image Peter Harrington Rare Books.  

Orange and lemons say the bells of Saint Clement’s

You owe me five farthings say the bells of St Martin’s

When will you pay me say the bells at Old Bailey

When I grow rich say the bells at Shoreditch

Pray when will that be say the bells at Stepney

I do not know said the Great Bell at Bow..

This has to be perhaps the most charming of all nursery rhymes but did we, as kids, ever stop to cogitate about the six old London churches whose names rolled off our tongues?  On the whole I don’t think we did.  And yet there can’t be many adults who sung this old rhyme as children who can’t recall the names of those six lovely old churches some of which were destroyed in the disastrous conflagration known as the Great Fire of London in 1666.


St Clement Danes at nightfall.  Note the statue of Hugh Lord Dowding.  Photo

St Clement Danes There is some debate about which of two churches is the one mentioned in the rhyme but the consensus is that it is St Clement Danes.  According to Stow the church was named after Harold, a Danish King and other Danes buried there. Harold was the son of King Canute by a concubine but we won’t go into that here except to say that after he popped his clogs Harold’s remains spent some time in the Thames after being thrown there by an annoyed brother, Hardicanitus (and no dear reader I’m not making this up!). However a kindly fisherman retrieved him and he was reburied in St Clement Danes churchyard. Another story suggests that the church was named thus after the burial of Danes that were slain in the aftermath of a great looting, murder and general mayhem committed by them. Time passed and the medieval church was partly rebuilt in 1640. The parish of St Clement Danes was heavily hit by the Great Plague in 1665 with 1,319 deaths from that awful pestilence alone (1). However the church managed to escape destruction from the Fire of London 1666 only to fall into such disrepair in 1679, except for the tower, that it was declared unsafe and rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren. Spire rebuilt by James Gibbs c.1719, with the surviving tower being, happily, incorporated. Interesting members of the congregation included Samuel Johnson and James Boswell.  William Webb-Ellis, was a rector between 1843 and 1855, who as a schoolboy at Rugby ‘with a fine disregard of the rules of the game (football) as played in his time, first took the ball in his arms and run with it, thus originating the distinctive feature of the Rugby game’

The interior was badly damaged during the Blitz in 1941 but miraculously the exterior and tower survived. The remains of the medieval crypt were discovered in 1942. Restored in 1958 and now in use as the Central Church of the Royal Air Force. A Latin inscription now over the main door reads


which translates as 

“Christopher Wren built it 1672. The thunderbolts of aerial warfare destroyed it 1941. The Royal Air Force restored it 1958”

However, it should be noted that the church referred to in the rhyme could very well have been :

St Clement Eastcheap.  First mentioned in the IIth century, repaired in 1632 only to be destroyed in the Great Fire and rebuilt by Wren 1683-7.    The grateful parishioners presented Wren with one third of a hogshead of wine cost £4 2s.  The claim to being the church mentioned in the rhyme is based upon its close proximity to the wharves where citrus fruit from the Mediterranean used to be unloaded although it should be said there were other churches that were even closer.  Yet another church badly damaged in 1940.


Delightful carved cherubs from the 17th century pulpit St Clement Church.

St Martin Orgar  is gone.  Situated in Martin Lane and first mentioned 12th century.  Described by Stow as ‘a small thing’.   Popular with 15th and 16th century mayors and their families for a burial place.  Much damaged in the Great Fire,  although the Tower and part of the nave survived, it was abandoned.  French Protestants restored the tower and used it for worshop for over a century.  However it was finally demolished in 1820.


Old Bailey.  The bells referred to are those of St Sepulchre’s, first mentioned in 1137.  Known in  Stow’s time as St Sepulchre’s in the Bailey.   Stow described it  as a fair parish church in a fair churchyard.  Another church gutted by the Great Fire with the outer walls surviving.  Famous burials include courtier Thomas Culpeper executed in 1541 accused of being the lover of Queen Catherine Howard and Captain John Smith d.1631 of Pocahontas fame.  In close proximity to Newgate prison, there is a story that posies were handed to the condemned as they passed the church on their way to execution.  A reminder of a less kinder practice is the hand bell kept in the church which was rung outside the condemned person’s cell the night before execution.


The Newgate Execution Hand Bell..

St Leonard’s Shoreditch.  Probably founded 12th century.  In the 18th century part of the tower collapsed during a service.  Rebuilt by George Dance the Elder in 1736 who attempted to build the steeple in the same style as that of Mary-le-Bow.  Another city church damaged during the Blitz but since repaired.  Among the famous buried here is Will Somers d.1560, Henry VIII’s jester and the only man able to lift Henry’s spirits who was in chronic pain through an ulcerated leg. However he did sometimes overstep the mark which resulted on one occasion in Henry threatening to kill him with his own bare hands.  Will managed to outlive his tyrannical boss and a plaque marks his burial in St Leonards 15th June 1560.


Henry VIII and his fool, Will Somers who was buried in St Leonard’s Shoreditch


St Leonard’s Shoreditch

St Dunstan’s and All Saints Stepney.  The oldest of the Orange and Lemon Churches.  A church has stood on this site for over 1000 years, the existing building being the third church on the site.  One of its oldest bells still in use was cast in 1385.  The churchyard was enlarged to cope with the massive amount of deaths – 6,583 in 18 months –   during the Great Plague of 1665.  A disastrous fire in 1901 caused a large amount of destruction including an organ carved by Grinling Gibbons.  The funds were raised to repair the church although of course some of the features such as the 15th century roof were irreplaceable.  Fortunately St Dunstan’s survived the Blitz unscathed although the surrounding areas suffered greatly due to the proximity of the docks.  For anyone wanting to read more about St Dunstan’s here is a link to an interesting article.  

st-dunstansSt Dunstan’s, a survivor amongst the destruction of the Blitz.  Modern window by Hugh Easton.  Photo thanks to david.robarts

St Mary-le-Bow Cheapside.  Almost totally destroyed in the Great Fire and rebuilt by Wren.  Norman crypt survived the Fire and was allowed to survive the rebuild by Wren.  Pevsner wrote   ‘The glory of the church is its steeple,  the proudest of all Wrens steeples.   Built in 1678 at a cost of £7,388 as against £8,033 for the rest of the church.   It is a triumph of the skill of Wren’s masons Thomas Cartwright and J Thompson that it withstood the fire inside the steeple and the crashing down of the bells during the Second World War (2).  Bravo gentlemen!  The bells of this church are the famous bells that according to London folklore persuaded Richard/Dick Whittington as a young lad to turn around, turn around and return to London!  Which he did.  Became Lord Mayor and a great doer of many, many good deeds.   The bells nowadays can be heard tolling on every quarter of the hour.

bowBeautiful St Mary-le-Bow at twilight.   

So dear reader we have come to the end of our armchair perambulation of the Orange and Lemon churches of Old London.  I have only been able to touch briefly upon the rich history of each church due to time and space but if you wish to delve deeper I can thoroughly recommend A Survey of London by John Stow 1598 and Pevsner’s Cities of London and Westminster.


1.The Great Plague of London p.113.  Walter George Bell

2.The Buildings of England, London, Vol.1.p.170.  Nickolaus Pevsner. Third Edition.

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Gloucester-Talbot-Shrewsbury-Book.jpegHumphrey Duke of Gloucester from the Talbot Shrewsbury Book


A print by an unknown artist now in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich depicting the Palace c 1487.

Greenwich Palace, or Placentia as it is often known, was built around 1433 by Henry V’s brother, Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, who named it Bella Court after he had been granted the Manor of Greenwich by his nephew Henry VI.  There had been   been an even older palace on  that site, perhaps dating from the reign of Edward I.  Henry IV dated his will from his ‘Manor of Greenwich January 22nd 1408′ and the palace appears to have been his favourite residence.  However, the grant in 1433 of 200 acres of land was for the purpose of enclosing it as a park.  It would seem that Humphrey was pleased with the spot because four years later he and his ill-fated wife, Eleanor Cobham,  obtained a similar grant and in that, licence was given for the owners to ’embattle and build with stone’ as well as ‘to enclose and make a tower and ditch within the same and a certain tower within the part to build and edify’ (1)


View of the Old Palace of Placentia at Greenwich.  English School National Trust Kingston Lacey

Accordingly soon after this  Humphrey commenced building the tower within what is now the site of the Royal Observatory which was then called Greenwich Castle,  and he likewise rebuilt the old palace on the spot where the west wing of the Royal Naval College now stands which he renamed from its agreeable situation, Pleazaunce or Placentia although this name was not commonly used until the reign of Henry VIII.


Greenwich Palace from Wyngaerde’s drawing c 1558

Upon Humphrey’s death the palace was granted to his nemesis, Margaret of Anjou.  Margaret added embellishments including terracotta tiles bearing her monogram, filled the windows with glass and built a landing stage and treasure house (2)

Later Edward IV enlarged the park, stocked it with deer and bestowed it as a residence upon Elizabeth Wydeville.  Greenwich has been mentioned as one of Elizabeth’s favourite homes and it certainly crops up regularly in Edward’s itinerary (3).  A joust was held there on the occasion of Richard of Shrewsbury’s marriage to Anne Mowbray and it was there at Greenwich  on the 19th November 1481 that Anne tragically died at the age of just 8 years old and a few short months later,  Edward and Elizabeth’s own daughter,  the 15 year old Princess Mary  was also  to die there on either the 20th or 23rd May 1482.  The manuscript covering Mary’s death says she died ‘in the town’  but it is probable this meant the palace and presumably she would have ‘lain in the chapel of the palace with appropriate services and perhaps the attendance of her parents‘(3).  A week after her death, on the 27th May,  Mary’s body was taken to the parish church of Greenwich on the first stage of the final journey to St Georges Chapel Windsor.  Mary may have been visited by her father,  Edward IV,  a few days before her death.  He was at Canterbury on the 17th and back in London on the 23rd which may have been the day that his daughter breathed her last so clearly if he did indeed visit he did not linger.  Numerous Wydeville ladies were conspicuous among the mourners including Jane, Lady Grey of Ruthin, sister to the queen and Jacquetta, another sister’s daugher,  Joan Lady Strange, wife of George Stanley.  Another niece, Lady ‘Dame’ Katherine Grey, possibly the daughter of Jane Wydeville was also present.  Dinner for the funeral group was at the palace after which Mary’s body was taken from the church and begun its last sad journey to Windsor.  Mary’s funeral is more than adequately covered in The Royal Funerals of the House of York at Windsor by Anne F Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs.  It may well be that sisters-in-law Anne and Mary knew each other well and that perhaps  Greenwich Palace was being used as a royal nursery in much the same way as Sheriff Hutton was later  to become, although the age gap would perhaps have prevented them from being actual playmates.

FullSizeRender.jpgThe Royal Window, Canterbury Cathedral.  Elizabeth Wydeville and her daughters.  Mary is shown as the last figure on the right hand side.  Greenwich was one of Elizabeth’s favourite homes and where her daughter Mary died in 1482.

Greenwich Palace was also one of the first places to be visited by Richard III after his coronation at Westminster which took place on Sunday 6th July 1483 for he stayed there between the 13th and 19th July.  A happy and promising occasion indeed.  It was from Greenwich that Richard wrote to Harry Duke of Buckingham, who was yet to turn his coat and be uncovered as that most untrue creature living…..a story well covered elsewhere.  

The Palace came into Henry Tudor’s hands when Elizabeth Wydeville was,  ummmmm,  retired to Bermondsey Abbey on an altogether frivolous charge. It is true to say that Tudor heavily rebuilt the palace between 1498 and 1504, renaming it Placentia, (the pleasant place),  and the result of which is that any reference to Placentia usually finds it referred to as a Tudor palace but it is the earlier years of the palace with its Lancastrian and  Yorkist links that I find the most intriguing.


Modern plaque commemorating the ‘building’ of Greenwich Palace by Henry Tudor.  Visitors could be forgiven for mistakenly thinking , with no mention made of the earlier palace, that Tudor was reponsible for the building of Greenwich Palace from the onset.  

Later in its long history the palace was to see many important events including the birth of Henry VIII on the 28 June 1491 –  Oh Happy Day!  Henry jnr was later to spare no expense in beautifying Placentia and his marriage to Katherine of Aragon was solemnised there on the 3 June 1509.  Many sumptuous banquets, revels and jousts were held there (including the joust where Henry had a nasty fall)  –  Henry’s ‘Manor of Pleazaunce’  – and it was where both his daughters,  Mary and Elizabeth were born.   Details of these and other less salubrious events such as the arrest of Anne Boleyn are readily available to anyone who is interested in the Tudors and their shenanigans and I will not  cover them here.  The Tudors were emulated  by the Stuarts in choosing Placentia  as a favourite residence until Charles II,  finding the old palace greatly decayed,  ordered it to be taken down and yet another new palace to be built.  Thus Greenwich or Placentia – whichever name you prefer arose, phoenix like from the ashes and a new chapter in its long history commenced.

imageGreenwich Palace c.1680.  Unknown artist.

As a footnote to Greenwich Palace and its rich history, much excitement has been created by the discovery by archaeologists  working on the painted hall at the Old Royal Naval College  of the discovery of two room, thought to have been used as kitchen or laundry rooms from the old palace.  One of these rooms featured a lead-glazed tiled floor and wall cavities which may have been used to store food and drink or even ‘bee boles’ which would have housed beehive baskets or ‘skeps’ during the winter when the bee colonies hibernated.


Lead glazed tiled floor believed to have been a service range  on the site of the kitchens, bake-house, brew-house or laundry room.


The cavities from Greenwich Palace believed to be for storing food, drink or even ‘bee boles’.


  1. Old and New London, vol 6 p.165 Edward Walford.
  2.  The London Encyclopaedia pp 345, 346.  Edited by Weinren and Hibbert
  3.  The Private Life of Edward lV John Ashdown-Hill pp 48,49,62,63, 87, 88, 114, 115, 117, 118, 119, 155, 157, 158, 188, 189, 190,191, 192, 204, 205, 206

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The Bones in the Urn again!…a 17th Century Hoax?





A young Henry weeping on the empty bed of his dead mother Elizabeth of York.  His two sisters Margaret and Mary sit at the foot of the bed.  From the Vaux Passional, in the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth

As an enthusiastic amateur I do love all the minutiae of history particularly the coincidences which crop up now and again and which really pique my interest.     One I mentioned only recently was the burial of Sir James Tyrell in Austin Friars Church where also lay buried Perkin Warbeck the young man who claimed to be Richard of Shrewsbury, son of Edward IV and who if he were Richard would have spent time in Sir James’ home of Gipping Hall if the Tyrell family tradition be true. 

There is also Elizabeth Talbot Viscountess Lisle.   Elizabeth was married to Edward Grey Viscount Lisle.   Edward Grey was the brother of Sir John Grey,  first husband of Elizabeth Wydeville,  bigamous wife to Edward IV.   However the coincidence here is that Elizabeth Talbot was also the niece of Lady Eleanor Butler (Elizabeth Wydeville’s very own personal nemesis) who was true wife of Edward IV.  


Possible portrait of Elizabeth Talbot, Viscountess Lisle c1468 Petrus Christus of Bruge Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.

Next on my list is the the coincidence of the timing of the deaths of the heirs and wives of both Richard III and Henry VII .  Strange to think that these two kings, so utterly different would have been able to commiserate with each other on the pain of having major bereavements so close to each other there was  scarce time to come to terms with their loss before another befell them. Richard’s small son Edward of Middleham, Prince of Wales  died some time around the 9th April 1484 – there is some confusion over the exact date – his wife Anne Neville passed away but eleven months later on March 16th 1485.  Henry’s heir Arthur,  Prince of Wales,  15 years old and recently wed was to pass away on the 2 April 1502 followed by his mother Elizabeth of York on the 11th February 1503 –  not quite the eleven months that were between Edward and Anne but pretty close.   Both kings are said to have taken the deaths of their wives badly and for Richard the death of his heir was catastrophic.  Henry at least had a spare, the young Henry Jnr – Oh Joy!


Holbein’s sketch of Henry VIII as a child.   What a little tinker..bless.  A  medieval Chukkie only more cuddly…Yikes! 

Elizabeth fared better than Anne,  well tombwise,  having a tomb and monument that cost a small fortune whereas  the grave of  Anne,   who was buried in Westminster Abbey  ‘with honours no less than befitted the burial of a queen’ , is lost and unmarked other than a plaque put up  courtesy of the Richard III Society in 1960 in the area where she is known to rest that is ‘by the South dore that does ledyth Into Seynt Edwardys Chapell’(1).  The plaque reads:





 ‘In person she was seemly, amiable and beauteous and according to the interpretation of her name Anne full gracious’



The plaque given by The Richard III Society           

Arthur lays at rest in a beautiful tomb in Worcester Cathedral.  Edward’s grave is now lost but I believe he rests somewhere in the Church of St Mary and St Akelda, Middleham as that is where Rous said he was and I’m inclined to believe him as he would have been in a position to know.


The tomb of Arthur Princes of Wales.  Worcester Cathedral.  Photographer unknown. Pinterest.


Prince Arthur Tudor.  16th century oil on panel.  Philip Mould Historical Portraits


Edward of Middleham from the Rous Roll

But back to Elizabeth of York.   The desperate attempts to get a doctor to her proved to no avail after she lay dangerously ill following the recent birth of a daughter who had not lived for very long.   

‘Itm To James Nattres for his costes going into Kent for Doctour Hallysworth phesicon to comme to the Quene by the Kinges commaundement.  Furst for his bote hyre from the Towre to Gravys ende and again iiij s, iiij d.   Itm to twoo watermen abiding at Gravys ende unto suche tyme the said James came again for theire expenses viij d.    Itm for horse hyre and to guydes by night and day ij s.iij d.and for his awe expenses xvj d.’ (2).

Having died on the 11th February  (which was her birthday and thus another coincidence) in the Royal Apartments at the Tower of London  her body lay in repose amidst the serenity of the beautiful chapel of  St John the Evangelist.   Her funeral was held on the Wednesday 22 February although she was temporarily interred in a side chapel in Westminster Abbey,  the tomb  her husband commissioned for  both of them having not yet been completed (3). However on completion of  the new Lady Chapel and tomb she was finally laid to rest besides her husband in a vault beneath their monument  as dictated in his will:

Also we wol that incontinent after our decefle, and after that our bodye be buried with in the said Towmbe, the bodie of our said late wif the Quene, bee translated from the place where it nowe, is buried, and brought and laid with oure bodye in ow said Towmbe, yf it be not soo doon by our self in our daies


It was here in the stunning simplicity of the Chapel of St John the Evangelist in the Tower of London that Elizabeth’s body lay in repose.   Photo James Brittain

That is not the end of the story though because much later on someone thought it was a good idea for the  coffin of James Ist (d.1625) to be interred with them despite the instructions left in Henry’s will :

AND we wol that our Towmbe bee in the myddes of the same Chapell, before the High Aultier, in such distance from the same, as it is ordred in the Plat made for the fame Chapell, and signed with our haude: In which place we wol,  that for the said Sepulture of vs and our derest late wif the Quene, whose soule God p’donne, be made a Towmbe of Stone called Touche, sufficient in largieur for The us booth’.


Elizabeth’s  bronze effigy on her tomb, Westminster Abbey, Torrigiano

I can only imagine Henry’s annoyance from up above when after the  fortune  shelled out for their tomb etc., a gooseberry albeit a royal gooseberry got to intrude on his and Elizabeth’s space. 

image  The Henry VII vault.  Opened in 1869.  Drawn by George Scharf.


Elizabeth of York.  Her wooden funeral effigy.  Westminster Abbey.

The inscription on Elizabeth’s tomb reads:

‘Here lies Queen Elizabeth, daughter of the former King Edward IV, sister of the formerly appointed King Edward V, once the wife of King Henry VII, and the renowned mother of Henry VIII. She met her day of death in the Tower of London on the 11th day of February in the year of Our Lord 1502, having fulfilled the age of 37 years’ (4).



  1. The Great Chronicle of London, written in the 1530s 
  2. The Privy Purse Expenses of Elizabeth of York Sir Nicholas Harris Nicholas 1830.
  3. Westminster Abbey p.171 Dean Stanley
  4. Online article.

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 15th century stained glass from  great east window St Nicholas Chapel, Gipping.  Did Elizabeth Wydeville gaze up at this very window if the family tradition is correct.    Photo thanks to Gerry Morris @ Flikr

While there is much information on Sir James  Tyrell, c.1455-1502  available,  unfortunately some of it is erroneous and distortion at its best,  a fine example of history being written by the victor.  As we know Sir Thomas More in his History of King Richard III painted a slanderous characterisation of Sir James who he said  ‘devised that they ( the princes) should be murdered in their beds..’  which has been and still continues to be used to malign a loyal Yorkist and I have to say  Sir Thomas was a writer of rubbish.   There may be some small kernels of truth in his History, for example the meeting of the Council in the Tower on the 13 June 1483 does have some ring of truth about it but on the whole and as the story of Richard waving a  withered arm about perfectly illustrates the bulk of History is  so far removed from the truth to the point of silliness.  Sir Thomas did add as a kind of afterthought that ‘some remain in doubt whether they were in his (Richard’s) day destroyed or no.. ‘ but by then the damage was well and truly done.  Recently, and thank goodness for it, more enlightened historians have shredded Sir Thomas’ daft  version of events.  I won’t go into it too much here as it’s readily available for those who wish to delve deeper other than to point out one of the most blatant errors/lies,  besides the gammy arm,  is that there was no need for a  page to introduce Richard, while he was sitting on the loo –  really Sir Thomas! –  to Sir James as Richard already knew him very well.   Sir James had fought for York at Tewkesbury in 1471 and  had in fact been knighted by Edward IV after the battle.   ‘By the following winter he was in the service of Richard Duke of Gloucester.  He became a ducal councillor and feoffee and was used by Richard on sensitive business'(1).   For example Sir John Paston wrote ‘The Countess of Warwick is now out of Beaulieu Sanctuary, and Sir James Tyrell conveyeth her northward, men say by the King’s assent‘.   However Sir Thomas was not going to let the truth get in the way of a good story.


The Tyrell Knot found carved above a door in the Gipping Chapel along with the words Pray for Sir Jamys Tirrell. Dame Anne his wyf.  Photo thanks to Simon Knott.

Moving on Sir James was not at Bosworth and was able to transfer his services to Henry Tudor.  However and cutting to the chase,  he become involved with Edmund de la Pole in 1499 which set off a chain of events that led to his arrest as well as that of his son, Thomas,  in 1502 and to their imprisonment in the Tower of London.    After a trial in the London Guildhall he was convicted of treason on Monday 2nd May and executed on the 6th.  After his execution it was given out that Sir James had confessed to the murder of the princes back in 1483.  No copies of the ‘confession’ have survived, quelle surprise!  

Now here’s a thing.   I  have recently become familiarised with the mystery of Coldridge Church in Devon and a very plausible story with some compelling evidence  that John Evans, who had been given the deer park and manor of Coldridge by none other than  Thomas Grey,  Marquess of Dorset,  could actually have been  Edward V incognito.  Dorset was of course half brother to Edward V.    This mystery is now being investigated by The Missing Princes Project led by Philippa Langley, who along with the late John Ashdown-Hill played such a pivotal role in the discovery of Richard’s remains in Leicester in 2012.   Philippa’s Devonshire team have uncovered much information, records and clues particularly in the church and   also the connections that certain persons such as Robert Markenfield and Sir John Speke had to John Evans.    

Surprising it is as well as a huge coincidence that it transpires that Sir John Speke was related by marriage to none other than Sir James Tyrell.   Anne Arundel, wife to Sir James, had a  half brother Thomas Arundel,  who in turn had a daughter Alice who was married to, yes none other than Speke (2).  Which leads me to the crunch point of my story – at last I hear you groan.   Audrey Williamson in her excellent book the Mystery of the Princes first published in 1972  unearthed a curious and intriguing story from a lady called Kathleen Margaret Drew,  a member of the Tyrell family,  who contacted Williamson following publication of her article in the Sunday Times Magazine in 1973 to inform her of  a ‘longstanding and specifically worded tradition  that had been handed down in the Tyrell family.   This family tradition had not been made public due to the stigma that was still, sadly, attached to Tyrells’s name as a murderer of the boys as well as the mistaken belief that Elizabeth Wydeville and her sons stay at Gipping Hall prior to the supposed murder of the princes.   For had not  the sainted Sir Thomas More himself named Sir James as the murderer ? – ergo it must be the truth.   This story had been handed down orally since before the 18th century (3).  I would suggest that the earlier Tyrells had felt it unsafe to talk openly about this  family tradition having received a stark warning by the execution of Sir James that it was dangerous to know or speak about the whereabouts of the missing princes.  The story told to Audrey Williams is that after Elizabeth Wydeville left the sanctuary of  the Abbots House at Westminster Abbey, she and the princes were ‘allowed to live at Gipping Hall by the permission of the uncle i.e. Richard III.   The  whereabouts of Elizabeth and her sons after Richard become king has always been a tantalising mystery.  


The Tyrell Crest.  A Boar’s head with peacock feathers issuing from its mouth.  15th century glass from the great east window Chapel of St Nicholas Gipping. Photo thanks to Gerry Morris @ Flikr

Towards the end of 1484 Sir James, this ‘ right trusty knight for our body and counsaillour ‘ was sent by Richard III  ‘over the See into the parties of Flaundres for diverse maters concernying gretely oure wele’ ( 4).  Was this task escorting one of the Princes to the continent where he may have surfaced later as Perkin Warbeck?   Perhaps both princes even?  Or  did one of them, Edward,  remain at Gipping Hall until after the Battle of Bosworth after which there was a change of plan and he was removed elsewhere?  Possibly to Coldridge?  More himself quoted the Duke of Buckingham, who  in one of the earlier attempts to get Elizabeth Wydeville to agree to allow her youngest son, Richard join his brother Edward in the Tower suggested that she would be allowed to live with her sons in a suitable designated place –  ‘And we all,  I think content that both be with her if she come thence  and bide in such a place where they may with their honour be‘.  Was this exactly what happened in early 1484 – was the offer repeated to her and she realising that the game was up accepted?  We do know that she appears to have made her peace with Richard and send word to her eldest son Dorset to return home.  

One question that lingers for me is why did Henry Tudor, after the execution of Sir James, feel it necessary to put out the story of his confession to what is now becoming clearer was  a non existent murder and hopefully one day will be proven to be so.   Why Sir James?  Was it because Henry had some knowledge of the fact that Sir James had indeed had some link to the princes but what exactly that was he had been unable to figure out.  


After Sir James’ execution his family were able to take his body for  burial in the west wing of Austin Friars church where his father William who had been executed in 1462 lay at rest.     Nearby, in a poignant coincidence,  lay the grave  of Perkin Warbeck – Pretender to the Throne or possibly a true son of Edward IV who may as a child have lived with his mother and brother for a time at Gipping Hall, home to the Tyrells.  


St Nicholas Chapel Gipping.  Sadly the manor house was demolished in the 19th century.  

1. Tyrell, Sir James c.1455-1502.  Rosemary Horrox ODNB 3 January 2008.

2.Sir James Tyrell: with some notes on the Austin Friars London and those buried there.  W E Hampton.

3.  Audrey Williamson explained that ‘Mrs Drew was directly descended from one of three French boys refugees from the Revolution adopted as sons and given the Tyrell name by a descendent of James Tyrell in the 18th century. Mrs Drew’s grandmother obtained a story not only from her husband but also from her mother,  the daughter of the original French adopted sons.   It is said to be already a tradition of long-standing in the family’.  

4. Harleian MSS 433

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Lady Katherine Gordon – Wife to Perkin Warbeck



St Michaels Mount.  ‘A Strong Place and Mighty’  wrote Warkworth in his Chronicle. Perkin left Katherine and their son here prior to his march to Exeter.  Note the causeway.  Thanks to John Starkey @ Flikr for this atmospheric photo.

It may seem prima facie that Katherine was a tragic figure, and perhaps she was for a while, but a further delve into her story and it becomes apparent that this lady was the epitome of a survivor.  

Born into Scottish aristocracy around  1474, depending on who her mother was,   she was  kinswoman to James IV.  Her father was George Gordon Second Earl Huntley, described as the ‘most powerful Lord in Scotland below the King himself’.  There is some confusion which has long plagued historians  as to the identity of her mother, who could have either been Annabella Stewart, a daughter of James I and his English wife Joan Beaufort,  or his third wife, Lady Elizabeth Hay, the sister of the Earl of Erroll (1).  However the consensus of opinion does seem to be that her mother was Elizabeth Hay.  This is of some importance which I shall come to later.  

Around the time of Perkin’s arrival in Scotland in November 1495  James paid the enormous sum of £108.17s.6d for fifteen and a quarter ells of crimson satin brocaded with gold and fifteen ells of velvet to be delivered ‘My Lady Huntly in Edinburgh‘ which would appear to have been for a gown suitable for her to meet the young man who was to become her husband,  Perkin Warbeck,  who as we we know was presenting himself as Richard Duke of York, son to the late Edward IV and one of the “Princes in the Tower’.   With her noble linage she was ‘the closest and noblest woman of marriageable age whom James could offer‘ (2). In a time when all ladies of nobility seem to have been routinely  described as beautiful it would seem there is this time a fair chance  that Katherine was exactly that.  No doubt Perkin, for I shall call him that although he may well have been Richard, was totally smitten and perhaps she for him.  Certainly there was no procrastinating for the couple  were  swiftly betrothed and married on the 13 January 1496 with a child being born in September.   The wedding sounds as if it were sumptuous with Perkin in an outfit made up from fourteen and a half yards of white damask which had cost £28,  his six servants also suitable attired in outfits of damask, his two trumpeters in gowns of tawny cloth and red hose (3). How splendid it all must have been and how promising.    What could possibly go wrong?

On 6 July 1497, perhaps having outstayed his welcome,  Perkin, Katherine and their small son left Scotland and sailed to Ireland on a ship purchased for them by James aptly named “The Cuckoo”!!?    James was not there that day to wish them bon voyage but he had presented Katherine with a goodbye gift of three and a half yards of tawny Rouen cloth for a sea-gown and two and a half yards of black Lille cloth for a cloak.  Oh and yes he also paid Perkin the July instalment of his pension early on 27 June (4).  James’ relief at the departure of Perkin is almost palpable even five centuries later.    After a short stay in Ireland and finding little support they clambered once more upon The Cuckoo and sailed to Cornwall accompanied by one other ship plus a ‘Breton pinnace’  and it is said about 200 men arriving at Whitesand Bay on the 7 September.  Cornwall was at that time in a state of high tension  after a rebellion,  later known as the First Cornish Rebellion,  in May 1497  triggered  by Henry Tudor’s high taxes had only recently been quelled on the 17th June.   Why Perkin should choose to have his wife and child accompany him on such a dangerous enterprise  as the invasion of England is rather baffling.   But of course perhaps this would merely indicate a scarcity of options open to him.    In the event Katherine, and it is thought their son, were left at St Michaels Mount, although they may have moved on to  St Buryan, while Perkin marched eastwards heading towards Exeter gathering followers along the way.    It was while he was a short ride away from the Devonshire Village of Coldridge it’s possible he  had a meeting with  John Evans who there is very good reason to believe was actually Edward V incognito.

We can only guess at the extreme fear and stress Katherine suffered  while she awaited news of  the outcome of her husband’s perilous venture.    It was not a long wait as it transpired.  After his arrival on the 17 September Perkin was defeated after a valiant but doomed attempt on the gates of Exeter, and was captured after surrendering at Beaulieu Abbey where he had taken sanctuary.   On the 5 October Perkin was taken to Henry at Taunton Castle where he confessed to being an imposter (5).   Well his choices being rather limited he would have wouldn’t he?   A John Bowes of Hythe would be awarded  £1 in rewarde for bringing Perkin’s standard to Henry (6).36763448822_53deb23c03_c

An interior shot of a room at St Michaels Mount.  Did Katherine look out of this very window while awaiting news from her husband?  Thank you Lee Sullivan @ Flikr for this photo.  

Henry Tudor sent men to St Michaels Mount –  or St Buryan  – to bring Katherine to him at Taunton. Henry’s Privy Purse accounts records a payment made to a Robert Southewell for ‘horses, sadells, and other necessarys bought for the conveying of my Lady Kateryn Huntleye, £7.13s.4d.’    There was also ‘To my lady Kateryn Huntleye, £2’ on December 1.  It is said he was much captivated by her beauty – ‘much marveled at her beauty and amiable countenance, and sent her to London to the Queen‘  – but whether that is a load of old flannel, as they say in South London, or the truth who knows.  It is known that Henry could be taken by the sight of a pretty face as his privy purse accounts bear out – September 5th 1493.  ‘To the young damoysell that daunceth £30‘ – really Henry!   However and moving on Henry sent Katherine to his wife Elizabeth of York  to be taken into her household.  What Elizabeth  and Katherine made of each other is lost to us.  But they must have surely had some interesting and perhaps awkward conversations, these two ladies who may or may not have been sister in laws.  Of course this was a clever ploy of Henry’s as no doubt his wife could be trusted to relay anything back to him of interest that Katherine uttered about her husband.  

Perkin was taken to  London where he and his wife were allowed to meet at times.   Their child has disappeared off the radar by this time, who knows where, and as  Henry instructed the couple were not to be  allowed to have a sexual relationship there were to be no more little Perkies to grow up and upset his heirs.  Could this indicate that Henry may have lived with a fear that Perkin was indeed Richard and not a base born pretender? Bernard Andrè a French Augustian friar and blind poet wrote a wordy description, much in the mode of Thomas More’s witterings on Richard III, describing the scene where with Henry present, Perkin and Katherine were brought together for the first time, Perkin ‘confessing’ to her of his duplicity.  

Then his wife with a modest and graceful look and singularly beautiful was brought into the kings presence in an untouched state with great blushing and breaking into tears.  Henry addressed her ‘most noble lady I grieve too  and it  pains me very much second only to the slaughter of so many of my subjects that you have been deceived by such a sorry fellow….. because it has pleased God that you should be reduced to this miserable condition by the perfidy  and wickedness of this lying scoundrel here’.  Katherine had sunk to the floor during Henry’s speech soaked through with a fountain of tears…  “.   Henry  then ordered her husband ‘to repeat to her that same thing he had said to the King..’  Perkin then repeated his ‘confession’ whereupon Katherine sobbed/screamed  ‘So after you seduced me as you wanted with all your false stories why did you carry me away from the hearths  of my ancestors from home and parents and friends and into enemy hands? Oh wretched me!  How many days of grieving,  how many worries will this give my most noble parents! Oh  that you would never come to our shores. Oh misery…  I see nothing before me now but death since my chastity is lost.  Alas for me.  Why don’t my parents send someone here to punish you?   Most wicked man.   Are these the sceptres you were promising me we would have.   Most accursed man,  is this the honour of a king to which you boasted that our glorious line would come?   And as for me hopeless and destitute.. what can I hope for?   Whom can I trust?   With what can I ease my pain I see no hope ahead…  Poor Perkin and no doubt at this stage he was rapidly losing the will to live in any case.  Addressing Henry Katherine said ‘I would say more but the force of pain and tears chokes off my words..’ and give thanks for that.  However as Wroe points out both she and Perkin would have fully been aware of how things would go if he were to fail and such a ‘confession’  would be forthcoming if things went pear shaped which indeed they did.  What a dreadful and bitter moment that must been as their hopes and dreams imploded around them.  Katherine was indeed up the Swanee without a paddle.  



No contemporary portraits of Katherine have survived.   However we do have this pencil sketch of Perkin c1560 as well as what is thought could be his portrait from the Valencienne  tapestry.  Note the blemish above the eye apparent in both these images.

Katherine seems to have been treated  kindly by the Queen while Perkin was taken on Henry’s progresses until on the 9th June 1498 he made his escape.  Gunn suggests this may have been with the king’s ‘connivance’.  Was this escape plan shared by Katherine?  The finale to Perkin’s story drew to a rapid conclusion shortly after when he was discovered at the Charterhouse at Sheen, the Prior begging Henry to spare his life. His end was ignoble, which if he was a true son of Edward IV, albeit illegitimate,  is rather disturbing.  Shackled he was displayed in stocks set up high on a scaffold made up of wine barrels from whence he was sent to the Tower of London.  There he became, conveniently, entangled in a plot with the tragic Edward of Warwick, son of George Duke of Clarence and a true scion of the House of York.  This plot was used by Henry as an excuse to kill two birds with one stone and after a trial in the White Hall of Westminster on the 16th November Perkin were found guilty, quelle surprise, and executed.  Warwick, found guilty two days later was beheaded but Perkin, his face said to have been bashed in by  Spanish Ambassadors who saw him , was drawn on a hurdle to Tyburn where he suffered death by hanging on the 23 November 1499.  His body was taken to Austin Friars for burial but his grave already lost in the 16th century when Stow undertook his  Survey of London would have been completely obliterated when the  church was destroyed in an air raid in 1940. 


Photo taken in 1947 of a service being held in the ruins of Austin Friars

What became of Katherine after her husband’s execution?  What were her thoughts?  Was she in turmoil?  Perhaps she was pragmatic.  In any case time is a great healer and after Henry’s death in 1509 Katherine went on to marry three more times –  

  1. James Strangeways – Usher of the King’s Chamber.   Upon her marriage to Strangeways in 1512 Katherine resigned  the grant of Fyfield Manor made to her in  1510 for life.  Freshly re-granted to both her and  James on condition that she did not go to Scotland or any other foreign country without licence (7)


Fyfield Manor.  Home to Katherine and second husband James Strangeways.  Also lived here with her last husband Christopher Ashton.  

2. Sir Matthew Cradock  d.1531.   Chancellor of Glamorgan and Steward of Gower.  Married almost immediately on the death of Strangeways.   Cradock had a double monument  built for Katherine and himself  in St Mary’s Swansea although Katherine would finally be buried at Fyfield, Berkshire with her fourth and final husband Christopher Ashton.   She was noted on the Cradock tomb, which was destroyed during a bombing raid, as ‘Mi Ladi Katerin‘.   Referred to Cradock in her will as ‘dear and well beloved husband‘.


The Cradock tomb, St Mary’s Church Swansea after an air raid.  

3. Christopher Ashton of Fyfield.   Another  Usher to the Chamber.  Lived at Fyfield Manor.   Survived Katherine who having died in 1537  had requested burial in the Parish Church of  St. Nicholas Fyfield  (7).

Did Katherine herself ever leave any signs that Perkin was indeed the Duke of York OR that she herself had believed him?  Wendy Moorhen makes a good point in her article in the Richard III Society publication The Ricardian : 

“If Katherine was not the daughter of Annabella Stewart and therefore not related to the family of Edward IV through the Beauforts then the interpretation  of her description as Margaret Kyme as ‘my cousin’ in her will is reduced to them being cousins by marriage.“ This could indeed mean that Lady Katherine believed, almost forty years after his execution, that her first husband was the person he claimed to be for so many years, Richard, Duke of York’ (9 )

Lisa Hopkins also writing in the Ricardian in a similar vein points out that in her will dated 1537 Katherine left a bequest  to Mistress Margaret Kyme/Keymes whom she terms ‘my cousin‘. This Margaret Kyme was the daughter of Cicely Plantagenet, daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Wydeville who had disgraced herself by marrying a simple gentleman, Thomas Kyme,  after which she lived out her life in virtual exile on the Isle of Wight.  One of the possibilities this means is that if Perkin had indeed been Richard Duke of York, then Cicely would have been his sister and thus Margaret Kyme, Cicely’s daughter would thus indeed have been Katherine’s  first cousin by marriage (10).   If this was the case, and of course we can’t be sure,  it would be a clear indication that 38 years after her first husband’s death, Katherine had lived with the belief that her husband had truly been Richard of Shrewsbury Duke of York.  


  1. Lady Katherine Gordon, a Genealogical Puzzle Wendy E A Moorhen.  Article in the Ricardian December 1997 pp.191-213 
  2. Perkin, a Story of Deception p.264 Ann Wroe
  3. Ibid p.269
  4. Ibid p.313
  5. Warbeck, Perkin (Pierrechon de Werbecque; alias Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York).  S J Gunn Oxford DNB 4 October 2008
  6. Excerpta Historica:Or Illustrations of English History p.117.  Ed.Samuel Bentley 
  7. Parishes: Fyfield British History Online A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 4
  8. Ibid.
  9. Lady Katherine Gordon, a Genealogical Puzzle Wendy E A Moorhen.  Article in the Ricardian December 1997 p.207
  10. Lisa Hopkins. ‘Research Notes and Queries, Lady Katherine Gordon and Margaret Kyme: A Clue to a Question of Identity The Ricardian. vol. I0, March I994, p. I9.  See also (1) above.p.208

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The Privy Purse Accounts of Henry VII 1491 to 1505

Elizabeth of York – Her Privy Purse Accounts



St Mary’s, Fairford, Gloucestershire.  ‘A complete and perfect Perpendicular church’  and famous for it fine collection of medieval glass.

Described in Betjeman’s Best British Churches as ‘a complete and perfect Perpendicular’ church(1) this beautiful wool church was rebuilt by John Tame, a wool merchant from Gloucester , in the late 15th Century to replace a much older church.  The tower had already been rebuilt by Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick and Lord of the manor around 1430.  St Mary’s possesses a complete set of medieval stained glass, amongst the finest in England and it is this glass that I want to focus on now.  The glass was made between 1500 and 1517 and, other than the west window, which was severely damaged in a storm in 1703 and later restored, the glass has somehow miraculously survived, although how this has happened remains a mystery.  It has been suggested that their survival is due to the Tudor royal portraits contained in them. The windows are thought to have been a gift from Henry VII himself.  It should be remembered that when Henry had the young Edward Earl of Warwick executed in 1499 he seized his estates which included Fairford.  It has also been suggested that Henry may have then given the manor to Prince Arthur whose badge of ostrich feathers and motto appear in some of the windows and one of the portraits is thought to have been modelled upon his wife, Katherine of Aragon.  Thirty years after Arthur’s death Henry VIII presented Fairford manor to Katherine of  Aragon after he had divested her of her title of queen.  The portraits are mostly members of the Tudor royal family and influential people in the Tudor court  although one of them is thought to be of a Plantagenet, that of Henry’s brother-in-law, the young Edward V, one of the ‘princes in the Tower’ and with a Sunne in Splendour heraldic badge above his head. Other portraits were modelled on Henry himself, obviously, his wife Elizabeth of York, Catherine of Aragon, Prince Arthur, Henry’s  daughters Mary and Margaret and a young Henry VIII and last but not least Margaret Beaufort (2)   I also think its possible that one of them is based on Richard III, depicted as holding a severed head and a fine piece of Tudor propaganda but that is purely my own speculation.


Nave, north aisle, north Window.  The figure of the Queen of Sheba is believed to be a likeness of Elizabeth of York

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Chancel, north chapel, Lady Chapel, North window.  Jesus as a small boy in the temple modelled on a young cherublike Henry VIII possibly...ah bless..


Holbein’s sketch of Henry VIII as a child to compare.  What a dear little chap… whats not to love? IMG_3802.JPG

Nave,north aisle, west window.  The figure of Solomon is thought to have been modelled on Edward of Westminster, one of the ‘princes in the Tower’, for a short while Edward V and brother to Elizabeth of York


Nave, north aisle, west window.  Could this figure be Morton? It has been described as Wolsey but I disagree.


A wooden boss on the roof of Bere Regis church thought to represent Morton in comparison.

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Chancel, south chapel, Corpus Christi Chapel, east window.  This version of the Virgin Mary is believed to have been modelled on Mary Tudor, Henry VII’s daughter.   See picture below to compare likenesses.


A portrait of Mary Tudor to compare to her likeness in the above portrait of her at Fairford.


Nave, West Window.  The figure with the crown is thought to be that of Henry VII entering Heaven.


Chancel, north chapel, Lady Chapel, north window.  The Magus is believed to have been modelled on Prince Arthur.

Chancel, north chapel, Lady Chapel, north window.  Two royal likenesses here.  It it thought that the Virgin Mary was modelled on Catherine of Aragon while that of the attendant with the doves is modelled on Margaret Tudor, Henry VII’s daughter.  Could the lady in red be modelled on Margaret Beaufort?


Two kings here..Henry VI on the left and Henry VII on the right.

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Purely my speculation here but could the warrior holding the severed head be a Tudor representation of King Richard III?  For surely one shoulder has been depicted higher than the other one! 

If in the area I do recommend a visit to St Mary’s. It is quite stunning when you enter and thoughtfully binoculars have been made readily available.

I am  indepted to the excellent Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi  online for these images

(1) Sir John Betjeman, updated by Richard Surman, Betjeman’s Best British Churches p.270

(2) Sir Nickolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England, Gloucestershire 1. The Cotswolds, p367 

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This is thought to be a portrait of Perkin Warbeck/Richard Duke of York from the Tournament Tapestry at Valenciennes


Perkin Warbeck.  Pencil sketch c1560.  Note the eye blemish in both portraits.

Following on from my earlier post and the high likelihood that John Evans ,who lies buried in Coldridge Church Devon,  was indeed Edward V,  has led me to wonder did he ever meet Perkin Warbeck who  claimed to have been his brother, the youngest ‘Prince in the Tower’  Richard Duke of York.   Warbeck’s story is very well covered elsewhere, and I will only be focusing on the events of late 1497, the  Second Cornish Rebellion  and a window in time where it is possible that Warbeck met John Evans.  The one opportunity would have arisen  after  Warbeck’s  arrival  at Whitesand Bay near Land’s End, Cornwall on 7 September from Ireland on ‘2 ships and a Breton pinnace.’   Attainders would later  say that he came with a ‘a great multitude and number‘ while Raimondo Soncino, Milanese Ambassador to England ‘thought they amounted to 80 savage Irishmen‘ who arrived on ‘fishing boats‘.(1)  For some baffling reason, Warbeck chose to bring with him his wife, Lady Katherine Gordon or Kateryn Huntleye as she was called in Henry VIIs Privy Purse Expenses  and their almost one year old child, as you do when you embark on a perilous invasion of a country (2).  However common sense must have prevailed as both she and the child were sent to safety at St Michaels Mount then, according to Wroe perhaps to St Buryan, to await the outcome.

St Michael’s Mount and the Causeway. Photograph © Richard Bowden/Shutterstock

Notwithstanding the defeat of the Cornish rebels at Blackheath on the 17th June  – known as the First Cornish Rebellion and sparked off by Henry Tudor’s heavy taxation –  Warbeck raised his standard at Penzance and begun his march eastwards gathering followers described as ‘undisciplined’ along the way. 

What was his route and did it take him close to Coldridge?  Bodmin is mentioned where his following had grown to three thousand.  Crossed the River Tamar at Launceston and entered Devon.  Crossed Dartmoor and thus to Exeter, the north Gate to be precise, his followers now amounting to nearly eight thousand men arriving on 17 September, St Lambert’s day.    It’s interesting to note that  Coldridge would have been as the crow flies just a little over 18 miles to Exeter.  Surely it’s inconceivable that John Evans/Edward V would not have made a short journey to meet up with this young man who claimed to be his brother and who was now being addressed in some quarters as King Richard IV?


John Evan’s effigy in Coldridge church.  Depicted wearing chainmail beneath his robe.  

It should be remembered that the Edward V and Richard Duke of York as children would not have had the chance to bond.  Edward grew up in Ludlow, in the Welsh Marches and the younger brother Richard grew up with his sisters in Westminster and probably Greenwich Palace where their mother Elizabeth Wydeville appears to have had a royal nursery.   A few short weeks were spent together in the Tower of London in  the summer of 1483 and then no doubt the brothers were speedily separated after failed rescue attempts forced Richard III’s hand.   However casting that aside it’s not hard to envisage that John Evans/Edward V would have for whatever reason been, perhaps  enthusiastically, interested in having a meeting with his possible brother.     This creates a number of  intriguing scenarios.

Working on the hypothesis that John Evans was Edward V –

  1.  Did John Evans on meeting Warbeck/Richard of York and ascertaining  that Warbeck was the genuine article perceive that his younger brother’s intention was to gain the throne from himself and not to put his older brother on the throne?  Did a row ensue?
  2. Did John Evans realise that Warbeck was a fake and thus turn around and leave him to it?
  3. Or did John Evans on meeting his genuine brother after such a length of time, realise that it was too risky to throw his lot in with him for some reason.  Perhaps he was underwhelmed by Warbeck’s followers, quickly perceiving that the enterprise was doomed to  fail? Henry Tudor made the comment ‘on Monday last,  the 18th day of September, there was not one gentleman‘ (3).
  4. Was John Evans comfortable with his life, living incognito as well as wealthy, and having no wish to risk losing it all plus the danger it would put his wife and children in not to mention Thomas Grey his half brother?
  5. Did a quarrel erupt? Noblemen of that time, even those living incognito,  were well known for their massive egos and were prone to throwing their toys out of their prams at any given time – picture Richard Neville aka Warwick the Kingmaker.   Did John Evans and his brother not hit it off  for some reason lost to us now resulting in  John Evans turning  around and riding back to Coldridge in a fit of pique?
  6. There is no indications that John Evans took part in the attempted storming of Exeter but might he have?  Could he possibly have taken part and perceiving it was going disastrously wrong made his escape? Alternatively did they meet betwixt Coldridge and Exeter – a meeting that amounted to nothing?

Please feel free to add any other possible scenarios to the above.   I think it was Sir Thomas More  who said you might as well shoot too far as to shoot too short – well if he didn’t say it he should have!

Despite ‘King Richard’s’ promise to the citizens of Exeter that he would make their city like ‘another London‘  the gates were closed to him. The attacks on Exeter’s North and East  gates failed, despite valiant attempts by Warbeck,  repelled by the doughty  citizens who amongst other thing were eager to prove their loyalty to Henry Tudor after the Cornish rebellion earlier in the year.     The attempts to take Exeter and its  defence are well told in Perkin a Story of Deception by Ann Wroe.  A further good account can be found  here Devon Perspectives which covers both Cornish rebellions and Warbeck/Richard’s flight to Beaulieu Abbey, where he took sanctuary.  The rest is history.


Medieval Exeter.   The North Gate can be seen to the left.  From a map c1587.


The North Gate from outside the city. Courtesy Devon Library Services


East Gate from the Exterior.  Steel line engraving by C J Sprake 1831.  The gate was demolished in 1784.

  1. Perkin, a Story of Deception p.324 Ann Wroe
  2. Excerpta Historica: or, Illustrations of English History p.115. Samuel Bentley.
  3. Perkin, a Story of Deception p.337 Ann Wroe

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The beautiful and irreplaceable Merlina…

It has recently been reported, 13 January 2021, that one of the famous Tower of London ravens has gone missing and it is now sadly presumed she has passed away. Merlina or Merlin as she was first known arrived at the Tower in 2007 after being found by the side of a Welsh road aged about a year old and later went on to become the favourite raven of Chris Skaife, present Ravenmaster of the Yeoman Warders – well one of them. She had originally been taken care of by the Swan Rescue Centre in Barry where she became well known for ‘throwing tantrums and mimicking the other birds‘. A strong character she refused to sleep with the rest of the ravens at night in their purpose built enclosure (thought to be built on the site of the Grand Hall where Anne Boleyn was imprisoned prior to her execution 1536) and instead had her ownprivate night box behind an old window on the ground floor of the Queens House on Tower Green where she graciously allows the Constable of the Tower and his family to live where she would return to most nights. Along with the other ravens she was free to leave the Tower and tootle around the perimeter , their flight feathers not being so harshly cut as in previous times thanks to Chris Skaife who prefers a more gentler approach, the idea being that with good plentiful food and accommodation the ravens would choose to live at the Tower of their own free will. This unfortunately entails some risk and give some ravens an inch they will take a mile as the old saying goes – However, some ravens have gone absent without leave in the past and others have even been sacked. Raven Munin flew off to Greenwich and was eventually returned by a vigilant member of the public after seven days. Raven George was dismissed for eating television aerials and Raven Grog was last seen outside an East End pub‘. (1)

The full, and amusing, story of the retaking of Raven Munin is in Chris Skaife’s book The Ravenmaster: My life with the Ravens at the Tower of London which is full of funny anecdotes and recommended if anyone wants to go more fully into the story of the Ravenmaster and the Tower Ravens.

Merlina and the other ravens are fed twice a day, the official diet being  6oz of fresh meat daily, including chicken, lamb and pig hearts, liver, kidney, peanuts in their shells, defrosted rats, mice, day old chicks, hard-boiled eggs, biscuits soaked in blood, and the occasional road kill rabbit. However her favourite food was crisps or Pringles if she could get hold of any i.e. purloin from unsuspecting tourists which she would soften by dipping into water. One of her favourite tricks was to lie on her back, legs sticking in the air, faking dead to the distress of passing tourists. What a girl!

Chris informs us in his book for ease of identification the ravens wear coloured anklets: Munin lime green, Jubilee Gold, Gripp Light blue, Harris purple, Rocky brown, Erin red and Merlina bright pink and quotes Charles Dickens who described their walks as ‘like that of a very particular gentleman with exceedingly tight boots on, trying to walk fast over loose pebbles’. (2)


A watchful Raven on the lookout for unsuspecting tourists and their sandwiches,  especially the ham version, sausage rolls and Pringles..


Jubilee and Munin  conspiring – Whats not to love?   photo

There is a legend that says Charles II initially ordered the ravens removal from the Tower following complaints from the Royal Astronomer,  John Flamsteed (1646 – 1719) that they were ‘flying in front of his telescope’ and interfering with his observations‘.  However,  after someone brought to his attention the story that if the Ravens ever left  the Tower, a great disaster would come about and both the Tower and the monarchy would fall,  a rattled Charles had a change of heart –  the ravens stayed  at the Tower and the Royal  Observatory found a new home Greenwich. I should think so too.  It is said that it was also Charles who decreed that the number of ravens should not fall below six and indeed at least seven are kept there just in case.

“History and prehistory, legends, fables, and stories, they’re everywhere here. I sometimes think that the Tower is just a vast storehouse of the human imagination, and the ravens are its guardians….” Chris Skaith Ravenmaster 

A spokesperson from Historic Royal Palaces said “Since joining us in 2007, Merlina was our undisputed ruler of the roost, Queen of the Tower Ravens.   She will be greatly missed by her fellow ravens, the Ravenmaster, and all of us in the Tower community.”



Ravenmaster Chris Skaith and raven38025486-9149317-image-a-113_1610666607254

Queen Raven Merlina..much missed and a very hard act to follow.  

  1. Historic Royal Palaces – The Tower of London On line article.
  2. The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London p.63 Christopher Skaith

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