SIR JAMES TYRELL – CHILD KILLER OR PROVIDER OF A SAFE HOUSE ?

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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.

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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.  

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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.  

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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.  

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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

 

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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.  

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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. 

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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)

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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‘.

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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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ST MARY’S CHURCH, FAIRFORD: TUDOR ROYAL PORTRAITS

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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.

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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..

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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

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

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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.

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

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

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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?

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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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PERKIN WARBECK AND THE ASSAULTS ON THE GATES OF EXETER

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

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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.

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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?

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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.

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

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

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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

If you liked this story you might be interested in

A Portrait of Edward V and Possible Resting Place

Sir William Stanley – Turncoat of Loyalist?

Dr Argentine – Physician to the Princes in the Tower

The Privy Purse Accounts of Henry VII

The Ancient Gates of Old London

THE RAVENS OF THE TOWER OF LONDON

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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)

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

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Jubilee and Munin  conspiring – Whats not to love?   photo wikipedia.org

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.”

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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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ASTLEY CASTLE – HOME TO SIR JOHN AND ELIZABETH GREY nee WYDEVILLE.

 

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Ancient Gateway at Astley Castle.  Photo tysallsphotography.org.uk

Astley Castle, Warwickshire, was the marital home of Sir John and Elizabeth Grey nee Wydeville.  Sir John has somewhat been cast in the shadows by the eminence of his wife.   He fought and died for Lancaster at the Second Battle of St Albans in 1461 and his widow would go on to catch the eye of a king with tragic results.   This story is of course well known and documented and I won’t go into it here but rather focus on Astley Castle itself.  Astley has a long and rich history.  Beginning life as a Manor House in 1266, the then owner, Warin de Bassingbourne was given a licence to crenellate and enclose with a moat.    The medieval house was much added to during the 17th century but I’m sure John and Elizabeth would still have been able to recognise the old original rooms and features.

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Medieval fire place Astley Castle

In the 1960s the parts that had survived the centuries were in use as a hotel and perhaps the very rooms used by John and Elizabeth deployed as rooms for paying guests.  Alas in 1978 a disastrous fire took hold and Astley, reduced to a shell , was abandoned.  Various proposals to rebuild proved to be too financially prohibitive and the ruins were declared a Scheduled Ancient Monument.  However in 2005 the Landmark Trust came forward with a solution and what was left of Astley was saved by the novel idea of building and incorporating modern accommodation within the ruinous walls.  Astley arose, like a Phoenix out of the flames, as they say, and today its possible to stay in what was once the marital home of the Greys.

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An old photo date 1900 showing the stone archway.

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The same view during renovation work

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The Great Hall today in use as a dining room.  Note the remains of the lovely 14th century windows and brickwork incorporated into the renovated castle.

But that is not all.  In one of those strange quirks of history in the nearby church of St Mary the Virgin, a Talbot lies buried.   No other than  Elizabeth Talbot,  later Viscountess Lisle,  who was niece to Eleanor Butler nee TalbotElizabeth Wydeville’s very own nemesis,  who married John Grey’s brother Edward.   This Elizabeth Talbot was to become the heiress to John Talbot, lst Viscount Lisle.  John Talbot was the son of that staunch warrior, John Talbot lst Earl of Shrewsbury, Eleanor’s father and known in history as Great Talbot. Both father and son perished at the Battle of  Castillion 17 July 1453.   Elizabeth Talbot, having married our John Grey’s brother, Edward, was  thus also Elizabeth Wydeville’s sister-in-law. Elizabeth Talbot, having lived until 1487, saw the disastrous outcome of  her former sister-in law,  Elizabeth Wydeville’s bigamous ‘marriage’.  What her thoughts on the matter were,  frustratingly we will never know.

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Elizabeth Talbot Viscountess Lisle.  John Ashdown-Hill suggests this portrait was painted in Flanders during the wedding ceremonies of Margaret of York (1).   Certainly the likeness is very similar to Elizabeth’s effigy in the church.  See below.  Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz Gemaldegalerie, Berlin. (no.532)

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St Mary the Virgin Church, Astley,  Mausoleum of the Grey family.  Photo http://www.tysallsphotography.org.uk

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The effigy of Elizabeth Talbot Viscountess Lisle now lies between those of Cecilia Bonville, Marchioness of Dorset (wife to Thomas Grey, son of John and Elizabeth Grey nee Wydeville) and her husband Edward Grey.  These effigies were not originally one monument and have been unfortunately moved together at some time (2).   Photo http://www.tysallsphotography.org.uk
  1. Eleanor the Secret Queen p.8.  John Ashdown-Hill

    2.  Memorials of the Wars of the Roses p.188.  W E Hampton.

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THE ETON CHAPEL WALL PAINTINGS – A PORTRAIT OF QUEEN ANNE NEVILLE?

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The Emperor and Empress – South Wall Eton Chapel

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The Empress from the Eton Wall Paintings.  Her eyes have been deliberately damaged. 

If you should happen to visit Eton College and enter the chapel there you will find the glorious range of medieval murals now known as the Eton Chapel Wall Paintings.  Painted between 1479-87 and thought to  be the work of at least four different artists they were whitewashed over by the College barber in 1560 as part of the drive by the Protestant Church to ban pictures of apocryphal miracles and largely forgotten until 1847 when they were discovered and finally, with the removal of stall canopies making it possible,  restored in 1923.   

The paintings on the north side of the chapel tell the story of the miracles of the Virgin Mary while those on the south the popular medieval story of ‘The  Empress Falsely Accused‘  (for a synopsis of this story see below).   Its the latter paintings I find the most intriguing not the least because I believe some of the portraits, particularly the Empress and the Emperor were  based on actual members of the royal family at the time – namely Queen Anne Neville and King Richard III.  Interestingly the Emperor and Empress have been painted  wearing the closed crowns of Edward the Confessor and Queen Edith which are so recognisable in portraits of our medieval monarchs. It is this which caused me to take a closer look at the portraits.  

The first facial representation of the Empress is the most detailed and with more of her personality shining through.    Could this be a portrait of Queen Anne Neville?  Compare it with the drawing of Anne from the Rous Roll.  Rous’ drawing should be a good likeness as he would have known Anne by sight.  Is it just wishful thinking on my part but I can see a resemblance particularly around the mouth although the eyes have been obliterated. REVERSE

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Queen Anne Neville from the Rous Roll wearing the closed crown of Queen Edith –  almost identical to the crown in the Eton Mural.

Sadly the portrait of the Emperor, amongst others, has,  with his livery collar been deliberately defaced.  But we are still able to discern the hairstyle is one very similar to the hairstyle worn by Richard in his portraits.

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Portrait of the Emperor from the Eton mural,  Note the strong chin.

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Portrait of Richard III  Society of Antiquaries.

We do know Richard –  no doubt sometimes accompanied by Anne –  visited Windsor, which is but a short distance from Eton on numerous occasions ranging from 19th July 1483 to 16th May 1485 – the last visit shortly after Anne’s sad death 16th March 1485.  Did they also visit Eton on some of their visits?   If they did they would have seen the murals which were then a work in progress having been begun in 1479.  Did the royal couple give their permission and were indeed pleased to see their portraits featured in the mural?  OR was the legend tweaked and the portraits added after Richard’s death at Bosworth in 1485 to be used as another fine piece of mud to be thrown at the now dead king.     Of course if this were the case then the likelihood of the portraits being those of the Yorkist King and his Queen grows more certain.   It does seem a little odd that Richard would have no objections to being depicted as the Emperor who, to be honest comes across as a bit of a plonker and is portrayed assaulting his wife.    Of course the legend predates the reign of Richard III and it’s just an unfortunate coincidence that it contains a couple of  similarities with the false story – given out by Richard’s enemies and hostile historians –  including a wicked brother who committed infanticide.  

Furthermore I believe at least one more of the portraits may have been based upon another member of the Plantagenet royal family, that of Anne’s sister, Isobel.  An interesting and plausible article found here has suggested that one of the ladies in the Luton Guild Book could be Isobel Neville, sister to Anne and wife of George Duke of Clarence.  Can anyone else see the quite remarkable similarity between that portrait,  shown below,  and that of St Catherine in the Eton mural?

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Possible portrait of Isobel Neville Luton Guild Book – thanks to The Dragonhound for their very  persuasive article on this theory..scan 1

St Catherine Eton Wall Painting.  A  resemblance to the possible portrait of Isobel Neville in the Luton Guild Book?

Finally to summarise the legend – An Emperor goes on a pilgrimage leaving the running of his realm to his chaste and beautiful wife.  After his departure his gittish brother,  whom  fancied her, tried to pursude her to be unfaithful to her husband.  She indignantly refused and morever imprisoned him in a tower.  After five years the Emperor returned.  His brother who had been released just prior to his return went to the Emperor and accused the Empress of infidelity and treason.  Whereupon the Emperor whacked his wife in the face when she came to greet him and ordered that his guards take her away into a forest and slay her.  Just in the nick of time a noble knight who happened to be passing rescued her and took her to his castle although he was unaware of who she was.  She took up the vacancy of the knight’s baby son’s nurse.  The knight’s brother, another evil git – where do all these evil brothers come from? – tried to have his mucky way with her.  She was having none of it and said evil brother, thwarted, plotted her ruin. He crept into her bedchamber, which she shared with baby, cut the infant’s throat and left the blood stained knife in the hand of the Empress.   However instead of putting her to death, the knight took pity on her and put her on a ship whereupon the captain and the whole crew were tempted by her great beauty.  So they marooned her on a little island just to be on the safe side.   Here the Virgin Mary appeared before her in a dream and assured her all her travails would soon come to an end and showed her where a herb grew that was capable of curing leprosy.  Gathering a supply of it she returned to the mainland where she proclaimed she was able to cure lepers.  Her fame spread although no-one recognised her as to her true identity. The knight on hearing of this wonder  took her back to his castle where none other than his gittish brother had contracted the disease.  However despite the great harm he had done to her the Empress still agreed to cure him on the condition that he owned up to the heinous crime he had committed.  This he did and was cured.  Then the Empress returned to her homeland only to find that none other than her brother-in-law had also become a leper.  Posessing a great heart she agreed to heal him if he too confessed to his sins.  Which he did.  Thereafter she revealed her true identity but,  presumably really hacked off by men and their silliness refused to return to her old life/husband and took herself off into a convent to live out her life in perpetual chastity.  

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The Emperor draws his hand back in order to strike the Empress..lawks!

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The Knight’s evil brother creeps into the bedchamber of the Empress to slit the throat of the baby..Yikes!

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Eton Chapel.  Photo etoncollege.com 

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Another view of the chapel.  Unknown photographer Pinterest.

If anyone wishes to delve deeper into the story of Eton Chapel and its paintings I can recommend Wall Paintings of Eton.  

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A Portrait of Edward V and Perhaps Even a Resting Place?- St Matthew’s Church Coldridge

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Stained glass image of Edward V Coldridge Church, Devon,  

This wonderful church in Devon contains some little gems including a charming portrait of the young Edward V  in  a stained glass window,  king for such a short while.  

The story of Edward and his brother, Richard of Shrewsbury is well known,  their disappearance still a matter of great debate and  well documented elsewhere so I won’t go into it here.    Over the years his ‘murder’ has, in general,  been attributed to his uncle Richard III but now more enlightened historians plus a great band of Ricardian followers have taken up the cudgel on his behalf and are now disputing that version of events and seeking to find the truth.  Whatever that truth is, and personally I think they were separated and then taken to places of safety, it is hard not to feel sympathy towards the young boy who for eleven weeks was king only to be informed this was not actually the case.  For all his short life up until then he had been shielded from the harsh realities of life and utterly indulged as heirs to the throne are.   Even while still a tiny child his wardrobe was extravagant.  A surviving account records clothing being delivered for his use not later than November 1472:  five doublets priced 6s 8d,  two of velvet –  purple or black  – and three of satin,  two being  green or black,  five long gowns price 6s 8d,  three being satin –  purple,  black and green and the others of black velvet;  two bonnets,  price 2s,  one of purple velvet lined with green satin and the other of black  velvet lined with black satin;  and a sixth,  even more splendid long gown cloth of gold on damask priced £1 (1) .   When they broke the news to him and  reality kicked in – there was to be no coronation, no crown and a complete and utter loss of status – it must have come as  a massive, massive shock and through no fault of his own.  Poor little blighter.  That fault and blame must land fair and square on his parents shoulders, particularly his father.  Yes the buck stops with Edward IV who kept his brains in his pants and a lot of people paid a heavy price for that…tsk.   Historian Michael Hicks in his biography of Edward V say as much:  ‘The blame rests firmly with Edward V’s father whose dishonourable conduct,  faithlessness and duplicity as much as his sexual immorality was two decades later to place in doubt the title of a son who had not then even been born’ (2 ). 

Not surprisingly because of the window, which is in the Evans chapel, and a tomb with an effigy of a young man, John Evans, the story has grown that this church could be the final resting place of the disappeared Edward V.  John who died 1511,  is said to have came from Wales – thus the name Evans which is Welsh –  EVans – Edward V –  one time Prince of Wales – get it? – please keep up at the back dear reader.   It should also be remembered that Ludlow, where Edward spent most of his life up until 1483 was in the Welsh Marches and not Shropshire as it is today.   The effigy is  wearing chainmail under his robe and the story goes that John turned up in Coldridge in 1485 after the battle of Bosworth.  IF he had been Edward he would have been around 15 at that time.     It is indeed strange and as the author of an article on the Devonchurchland  website (and what a beauty of a website!) points out  why would a small church ‘in a gritty little village lost in the boondocks of Devon’  have such a wonderful royal and extremely rare window.   It  is also pointed out the plot thickens for John Evans was given ‘Coldridge Manor and a job as keeper of the deer park by Thomas Grey, the half-brother of Edward V’.  This much is true, confirmed by  historian Michael Hicks in his biography of Edward,  that  the village of  Coldridge was once the property of Thomas Grey Marquis of Dorset, Elizabeth Wydeville’s oldest son and that Sir John Evans was indeed his park keeper.  Crickey!  John must have at some stage come to the attention of Henry Tudor and left an impression as he appears to have been knighted  and thereafter known as Sir John Evans.  

There is also a medieval stained glass portrait of a man who appears to be holding an open crown very similar to the one hovering over Edward’s head  – you can clearly see the fleur-de-lis at the bottom of the portrait.   If you look closely you can also spot an ermine collar, ermine would of course only been worn by the nobility.    How strange. Is this a portrait of John Evans, who if he was indeed Edward would have been around 41 when he died.  

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Medieval portrait of a man.  He appears to be looking down at an open crown which is almost identical to the one in the image of Edward V.   Is this man the mature John Evans/Edward V? Compare to the image of the young Edward.

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John Evans, his effigy in the Evans Chapel, gazing at the window depicting the young Edward V. The effigy has an angel at his head carrying a shield inscribed with his name ‘John Evas’ (sic). 

Apparently according to the article,  and thank goodness for it,   there are ‘folk looking into it, one of them the lady who discovered Dick’s body in that car park’.   So lets hope the indefatigable Philippa Langley does indeed get to the bottom of this mystery and no doubt the late Dr John Ashdown Hill will be cheering her on.  Meanwhile John Evans’ effigy gazes in perpetuity,  at the portrait in the window said to be that of himself,  to this day.

However back to the church.  These are just a few of the many delightful photos I have taken from Devon Churchland, after being alerted to this amazing website by a post on the  Medieval Buildings Facebook page – thank you, thank you thank you!     

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Coldridge Church of St Matthew under a glowering Devon sky.

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Ancient priests door

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Carving in the Rood screen

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Another view of the Rood Screen

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Medieval pulpit.  Once possibly gilded.  Can you imagine?

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Detail of the Pulpit carving..

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Close up of the fine carving…just no words!

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Wooden ceiling of the church

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Screen carved by Breton craftsmen – rare.image

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Medieval benchends..

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Examples of the numerous wooden roof bosses

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The alter with east window above

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The lectern.

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Could these portraits and the effigy be one of the same person – Edward V?

So is the portrait in the window really that of Edward V and was John Evans actually Edward reinvented? You will have to make your own minds up dear readers. Hopefully one day further research into Sir John Evans will prove or disprove this intriguing story once and for all.

In the meantime its tempting to speculate which leads to further questions :

If John Evans was indeed Edward what where his thoughts on the young man known as Perkin Warbeck who claimed to be Edward’s younger brother Richard? Would Warbeck’s brutal fate in 1499 have strengthened his resolve to remain incognito especially if he liked his head where it was – on top of his shoulders?

Did Elizabeth Wydville who died in 1492 go to her grave with the knowledge that at least one of her sons was safe and living in rural Devon on his half-brother’s property?

And finally did Henry Tudor,  who seems to have spent a substantial  part  of his reign being plagued by imposters,  actually knight the very person whose whereabouts were so elusive and troublesome to him?

(1)  Edward V, The Prince in the Tower, p.63.  Michael Hicks.

(2) Ibid p.48

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The English Medieval Cathedral

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Durham Cathedral in the moonlight..

A familiar sight to both medieval royalty and commoners alike our Cathedrals soar above us, centuries old,  constant, enduring, and kind of  reassuring.   There is nothing more thrilling as you approach a cathedral city than the first glimpse of their cathedral appearing on the horizon.   So to all that toiled to build these wonders – some of whom would have lost their lives – the architects, artisans, workmen, carpenters, stonemasons, labourers, roofers and any I have forgotten, thank you, bravo, we salute you.

As we draw to the end of the year, and thank God for that, here are some of the best of the stunning  photos of the year mostly from the Association of English Cathedrals although some are from other sources.

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A tantalizing glimpse of  Norwich Cathedral through an ancient gateway.

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This wonderful view of ‘Lincoln breaking through the mist…..’ Thanks to Adrian Fox for this wonderful photo..
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Worcester Cathedral at night..

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The Pipes of Rochester Cathedral

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Canterbury Cathedral…no words needed

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Fan vaulting Henry VII’s Lady Chapel Westminster Abbey

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Censing Angel – one of four.  Westminster Abbey.  Described as ‘supreme examples of English medieval art’.  From ‘The Glory of Westminster Abbey’.

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A mysterious door beckons at the top of these well worn steps at Wells….

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Winchester –  sublime

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Peterborough..

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Lincoln soars above the city rooftops 

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Another view of Lincoln .  Photo reposted from @italiangirlabroad

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Lichfield at night..image

Wakefield…

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York Minster by moonlight.

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Gloucester…

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St Edmundsbury

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Norwich at night.

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Wells Cathedral Library..

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Ely Cathedral..

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Peterborough…….

And last but not least, thanks to all the Cathedral cats who keep the pews warm for us, keep the mices away and can be relied upon to always provide a warm welcome:

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One of the Cathedral Cats.   This is Louie of Wells.  Sadly passed away last year.  

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The Construction of the Tower of Babel.  German.  Unknown artist..

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Cheyneygates, Westminster Abbey Elizabeth Woodville’s pied-à-terre

Canterbury Cathedral and the Royal Window

The Coronation Chair and the Stone of Scone.

 

 

 

ROYAL PECULIARS AND THEIR PECULIARITIES

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The glorious ceiling of the Chapel Royal, Hampton Court.  Photo James Brittain . Historic Royal Palaces.

 The main reason, and perhaps the only reason,  why the bones in the urn in Westminster Abbey supposedly to be those of the sons of Edward IV known as the Princes in the Tower, Edward of Westminster and Richard of Shrewsbury   cannot be re-examined is because the Abbey is a Royal Peculiar and is thus owned by the Queen who has refused to give permission for this to happen.     Are there any more Royal Peculiars?  Yes there are – fortunately  none of them have mysterious urns containing even more mysterious bones that are crying out to be examined and maybe help towards solving a 500 year old mystery and proving Richard III innocent of the heinous crime of having his brother’s sons murdered in the Tower of London.  They are :

St George’s Chapel, Windsor

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The glory that is St George’s Chapel, Windsor.

Edward IV,  father to Edward of Westminster, for a short while Edward V,  and Richard of Shrewsbury, lies buried here as once did the boys mother Elizabeth Wydville although her remains are now lost.  Another two of Edward and Elizabeth’s children were interred here, Mary  aged 15 and her brother, three year old George.

 The Chapel Royal, Hampton Court

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Details of the Chapel ceiling. Photos chapelroyalhamptoncourt.org

Originally built by Cardinal Wolsey.  What can be seen of the chapel today is the result of two major refittings by Henry VIII with little of the Wolsey decor remaining.   For an interesting link to the chapel click here.

Chapel Royal St James Palace

Built around 1530 by Henry VIII on the site of a leper hospital run by the Augustinian order of  monks.   What became of them and their patients?   Altered in 1837 with much of the  Tudor interior decor swept away.    Original ceiling said to have been painted by Hans Holbein.  Bomb damaged from the War has been repaired and now the chapel is used regularly by the royal family including Diana Princess of Wales lying in repose there prior to her funeral in 1997 and lately  the christening of Prince Louis.

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The rather austere facade of the Chapel – see the window between the tower and the black gate.

The Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy,

Built where John of Gaunt’s Savoy palace once stood until it was destroyed in the Peasants Revolt 1381.     Henry VII left instructions in his will for the creation of  a charitable foundation to be known as the  ‘Hospital of Henry late King of England‘ which was completed in 1515 to provide a night’s lodging for 100 ‘pour and nedie men as well as ‘rogues and masterless menwho had fallen on hard times.   Dissolved in 1771 and falling into a poor state it was  finally demolished in the 19th century.   All that remains today  is the Chapel of St John the Baptist, now known as The Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy.  For more information on the Chapel click here

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The Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy as it stands today.  Repaired in 1723 and hemmed in by modern builds the Chapel stands as one of the remarkable  survivors of Old London.  

The Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula 

Original chapel may have been built around 1100, possibly even earlier,  and would have originally stood outside the perimeter of the Tower of London.  The one we see today built around 1519 after the previous one was destroyed by fire in 1512.  Interior dates from 1876 after yet another fire in 1841.    Burial place of some of Henry VIII’s better known victims including two wives,  Anne Boelyn and Catherine Howard, hapless Lady Jane Grey and her husband, Sir Thomas More and Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, one of the last Plantagenets.  An interesting link can be found here.  

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Yeoman Warder Moira Cameron standing in the nave of the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula.

St John the Evangelist in the Tower of London 

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The stunning simplicity of the Chapel.  Photo James Brittain

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Photo James Brittain

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Photo James Brittain

This chapel, stunning in its simplicity, is 900 years old.  From here in 1381 Simon Sudbury Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor was dragged out and taken to Tower Hill where he was beheaded by the mob during the Peasants Revolt.   It was also here in 1503, after her death in childbirth while she was in residence at the Tower that Elizabeth of York’s body lay in repose before her burial in Westminster Abbey.   Connected to what were then the Royal Apartments this beautiful chapel has been used for prayer by all monarchs while resident in the Tower.  Astonishing!

For an interesting link click here.

The Royal Foundation of St Katharine.

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The Chapel and Hospital of St Katherine’s prior to demolition.  

Today nothing remains of the  ancient church founded by Queen Matilda, wife of King Stephen in 1147 having been demolished in 1825 to build St Katherine’s Docks.   Matilda described the Foundation as My hospital next to the Tower of London”.   Stood close to the Tower of London.  When in use as a hospital it is probable the patients would be cut off by a screen when services were being held. The Royal Peculiar survives to the present day as the Royal Foundation of St Katharine To read more about the history of St Katherine’s  click here.  

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The Priory of St John at Clerkenwell and a visit by Richard III

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

‘RECENT INVESTIGATIONS REGARDING THE FATE OF THE PRINCES IN THE TOWER’ by L E Tanner and William Wright 1933

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