Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Lost Chord: An Experiment in Practical Musicology

Maurice Durufle, in front of an organ, very much like all other organs.
Maurice Durufle, in front of an organ, very much like all other organs.

Like many of you, I have always been struck almost viscerally by the unearthly quality of the organ chord which introduces the forte section of the setting of the ‘Dies Irae’ text in Durufle’s Requiem [at 2’36” inhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSQ14ObHPEE]. In search of the truth behind this mighty chord, I have read avidly about Durufle in English, French and Swahili (by mistake, since I understand not a word). Like most of you, I suppose, I am particularly intrigued by his role in the great Louis Vierne’s last, and indeed fatal, organ recital.

Vierne – as I’m sure you will recall – was a nearly-blind French organist and composer who like many of his ilk (Widor, Durufle and Messiaen to name but three) was adept in the difficult but impressive art of the improvised organ fugue. Before delivering his ultimate performance on 2 June 1937, Vierne had let it be known that he wished to die at the console of the great organ of cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. He had, according to witnesses, completed the main recital, drawn stops, and was about to improvise a fugue on a subject he had just been given, when he collapsed and died at the organ console, as he had wished; his eyes rolling back into his head like those of a exasperated, camp game-show host at a solemn reburial.

At his side in the organ loft, pulling stops, was a young Maurice Durufle.

Vierne, with someone other than Durufle pulling stops and managing not to collapse.
Vierne, with someone other than Durufle pulling stops and managing not to collapse.

It is my contention that the reason Durufle left him to die on the keys, rather than performing emergency first aid, was that Durufle was hurriedly scribbling down the chord that Vierne’s mortal remains had struck, with the intention of using it in a future composition. This was the chord noted above.

In the attempt to prove the plausibility of this hypothesis, I set myself the task of carrying out some experiments on the organ of St Dympna’s the next time I had a chance to play there. So last Thursday I had the chance to try it out.

Firstly, I simulated a heart attack and slumped forward across all three manuals with all stops out, sliding down into a hunched, fetal position on the pedals. The noise was impressively loud – making the whole church shake – but far too disperse to fit the Durufle Requiem chord. Clearly something else was required.

On attempt number 2, I tried twisting to one side and making contact on the Great Organ manual with left elbow and right hand. This was closer, but still contained chromatic clusters which ruled it out.

Finally, I imagined falling face-first on the keys and clawing desperately at the manual either side. This time, the family of the man whose funeral was taking place asked that I be removed from the church.

The organ of St Dympna's, photographed later by the police.
The organ of St Dympna’s, photographed later by the police.

Further research is necessary.

About the author: Jeff de Cuisine is a keen amateur organist. He is currently banned from over 23 churches, 3 town halls, 4 registry offices and an ice hockey rink.

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Tall Man Found Sulking In Leicester Park

Latest draft

King Richard III, the last king of England to die in battle, was found under a car park, apparently buried there by Henry VII. Since Monday the 22nd of March, Leicester’s streets have been flooded by Ricardians, tourists, town folk, the curious and even the occasional Tydderite.

While on my lunch break, I found a man looking sad and depressed in Town Hall park, looking as if he’s been through the ringer. I wondered if he needed some help (and I needed a story). When asked if he was having a problem, the man looked up at me and said:

“I’m a descendent of Richard III and no one gives a shit. You see, a couple years ago, I ran across a genealogy chart that connected me to kings! I always thought I was special. I mean look at me, I don’t even need the cables to put the cars up on my tow truck, I just push them up there myself! I’m tall and good looking and have offspring all over the place, just don’t tell my girlfriend that. I joined a couple of Facebook groups hoping to find some cousins but nobody cared. They told me to read some books or something, I don’t know, I don’t read books! Books are boring. They said they were something like history groups!  What’s a history group? I’ll tell you what it is! It’s a place where geeks go to play and are all jealous of people like me. They are asking me all sorts of stuff like where I got my info from! Uptight book types think they’re better than me. I don’t want to talk about history I want to talk about my uncle who was a king but no wants to hear it. I came down here this week hoping I can meet some cousins or something and still nobody gives a shit! I mean I am special right? It’s rare that you find someone who’s related to a king. I thought they would ask me my opinion on this whole reburial thing, I mean, I think I should have a say in this. Some lady handed me a paper and told me to join these FB groups about moving Uncle Dick to York because that’s what he wanted. After a sulk and a pint or two, I think I’m going to look into that. Do you know where the Blue Boar in is? Maybe I’ll find someone there?”

I gave him directions, grabbed a Richard III shake and went on my way.

 

Jeff Fuel is recovering in a very dark hotel room somewhere in Leicester after overdoing it at The Friary Pub celebrating the reburial of Richard III. He’s occasionally waking to eat ice cream and giggle over John Ashdown Hill’s heroic eye roll. He swears people were cheering all over the place but no one believes him.

Jeff Jefferty Jeff had to step in and put all the bells and whistles on this article because Jeff Fuel wasn’t functioning correctly when found behind the Friary. Just don’t tell him about my fee of 50 pounds I took from his wallet.

 

A Simple Explanation for a Simple Gesture

Since the reburial of our king on Thursday, I have been distressed and dismayed at the attention given by the unlearned and the unkind to Dr John Ashdown-Hill’s expressions at the service.

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Have these people never heard of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer, the father of English literature? Are they not familiar with his monk, described in Chaucer’s General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales?

. . . .His eyen stepe, and rollynge in his heed,
That stemed as a forneys of a leed

(His bulging eyes he rolled about, and hot
They gleamed and red, like fire beneath a pot)

Clearly, Dr Ashdown-Hill, overcome during a quiet point of the ceremony with the beauty of Chaucer’s prose as he happened to recall it, was unable to prevent himself from spontaneously acting it out. This often happens to me in public places, and is entirely understandable.

I hope that in light of this explanation, clearly the only tenable one, Dr Ashdown-Hill’s detractors will cease and desist. There is too much valuable work to be done, such as proving the illegitimacy of everyone connected with the ‘Tudor’ dynasty, to be distracted by such minutiae.

Sources:

No sources are necessary. The king is in his final resting place, the birds are chirping, the sun is smiling, and all is right with the world.

Jeff Borden plans to buy a cream-coloured suit just like Dr Ashdown-Hill’s, provided that Mrs Borden approves. 

 

Grandad Robin

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Robin Hood statue, Nottingham

Whilst walking through Sherwood Forest one day, I had the strangest feeling of deja vu.

The gentle breeze was ruffling the leaves in the trees, twigs crunching and cracking underfoot and the birds singing tunefully from their perches.

I felt dizzy and almost swooned. I had the weird sensation that I was in another time – the same place, just a different century, the 12th to be exact.

I can’t explain what made me think that, but I was convinced. The fencing faded away. A deer ran into the path in front of me. It’s frightened eyes stared into mine – and in the next instant it was dashing off into the forest.

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The Major Oak, great hiding place

For a while, I wandered aimlessly, the strange sensation still with me. As I reached the Major Oak I could hear horses in the distance, their hooves racing across the ground, and the shouts of men, as if there was some kind of hunt going on. They seemed to be coming my way.

I glanced at the Major Oak, thinking to hide in its trunk, when I saw a flash of light. Was that a sword blade reflecting the sun? Was someone in the trunk already? A head peered out, but in an instant was gone again. And was there a woman there too, with long flowing skirts?

220px-Robin_Hood_and_Maid_Marian
My 20th great-grandfather and great-grandmother, Robin and Marian?

I blinked, rubbed my eyes and looked again.

And the sensation was gone.

I was leaning against the fence, looking over at the major Oak; the majestic tree was old but peaceful. The dark shadows visible where the trunk is riven in two, revealing  the cave inside, Robin Hood’s ancient hiding place.

Confused – and not a little flustered – I turned around and made my way back to the Visitor’s Centre for a choc ice, before heading into the nearby village of Edwinstowe, to my Nana Sun’s.

When I told Nana Sun my story, I got a totally unexpected reaction. Instead of ‘stop being silly’, which is her habitual response, she said ‘well, I’m not surprised, your grandfather always felt the connection strongest at the tree’.

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Eye roll

I rolled my eyes.

Connection, what connection?

She went on; ‘Robin Hood, of course. He was your grandad’s 18th great-grandad, after all. He did the genealogy thing years ago. He must have  been the only person in history NOT to get a royal ancestor from ancestry-what’s-it’s-name.com’

‘Well, that’s ridiculous’ I said, ‘Our surname is Sun, for starters’

 

170px-Robin_shoots_with_sir_Guy_by_Louis_Rhead_1912
Robin Hood

‘Ah yes’ said Nana ‘about that…..your grandad’s parents either had a wicked sense of humour – or weren’t very bright, if you know what I mean. Anyway, your great grandma and great grandpa Hood, named your granddad Robin. It caused your grandad no end of trouble at school. He was teased mercilessly.’

A sip of coffee and she carried on, ‘so he changed his surname to Sun. He liked being Robin Sun – well, until that drinks’ company got famous. But grandad couldn’t be bothered to change his name again!’

‘Well, that explains my kleptomania,’ I thought to myself, as I nicked another Bourbon from Nana’s biscuit barrel.

.

Pictures, taken from Wikipedia. Eye roll courtesy of Twitter

Sources:

Outlaw: The Story of Robin Hood by Michael Morpurgo; Robin Hood: The tale of the great Outlaw Hero (DK Classic Readers Level 4); Nana Sun; Robinson’s Low Sugar Summer Fruits drink; Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre; Disney’s Robin Hood.

Jeff R Sun is now addicted to genealogy and will be taking a lifetime membership in ancestry-what’s-it’s-name.com – I WILL have a royal ancestor (Everyone else has one, why not me?)

 

If you would like to be the first to see the Jeffs’ latest blog posts, please like the Double History Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Double-History/370098793163839?fref=ts

 

 

 

Henry VII and the Strippers

Margaret Beaufort was a pious woman. Holy even. Fervent in her beliefs. A zealot beyond measure. Yeah, she was about as devout as one could be. But what about her son, eh? What was Henry Tudor really like behind the scenes? And why did it take so long for him to marry Elizabeth of York? What was he doing? The answer is as old as time. A male tradition long held and considered sacred. A stag party.

it-11_045-07439 003

Henry VII was a party animal. Records from medieval strip clubs show he ran extensive tabs, some of which remain unpaid to this very day (not surprising).  Journals kept by two different strippers show that he was a poor tipper, and very difficult to handle. Says  Saucy Bessie of Ye Olde Teats and Arse, “The new king never tosses coin, but gives coupons for a free horseshoeing at the smith!” and Wanda the Wench describes him thus, ” A meager tipper, but a lecherous kyng indeed.”

So how did a stag party last for months you might ask? It didn’t. The stag party lasted until word of the king’s failure to pay his bar tab got around, about 3-4 weeks. But one of the purveyors of these establishments, one John Goodgrabber, turned up on the doorstep of Coldharbour, the residence of Margaret Beaufort. It so happens that Elizabeth of York was the one to open the door.

edward4

Now, Elizabeth was really not all that shocked by Henry’s behavior. She was the daughter of Edward IV, and everyone knows that the only thing larger than his codpiece was his libido. What concerned Elizabeth the most was that Henry would be such a cheapskate as to not pay for services rendered. History has showed us that she was right to be concerned about this. Elizabeth misjudged the situation and, indignant, went to the king’s mother to seek payment for the man. Lady Margaret fainted dead away, and when revived went into such a fury that Mr Goodgrabber reported her “as one enraged, casting holy water and curses in Latin”. The poor man ran, his account unpaid.

margaret-beaufort-hever-castle

Word got to Henry that Lady Margaret knew of his misadventure and Elizabeth of his miserly  ways. He did his best to avoid the two for as long as he could, seeking redundant  dispositions from the pope and asking him if he knew of any cheaper strippers. Finally, his excuses wore out, as had his welcome in the various establishments. He returned to Coldharbour, where he was promptly grounded. When the term of his punishment was ended, the marriage followed.

 

Jeff “the wiz” Berlin

Sources:

“The Life and Times of Wanda the Wench”

“Taxicab Confessions”

The Pussycat Lounge around the corner from my office

 

author’s note: In search of Dewars, I stumbled into a rather charming establishment called the Pussycat Lounge. Extensive research for this article has led me to the same unfortunate fate of Henry VII. I am now grounded.

 

 

 

Was Richard III dig a hoax? Leicester council worker’s tale.

To prevent Brides digging Richard up prematurely LCC cannily ensured that his remains were hidden under a car park.
To prevent Brides digging Richard up prematurely LCC cannily ensured that his remains were hidden under a car park.

His story was a strange one.

Very strange.

Believable?

I will allow you to judge.

He had worked for Leicester city council until his – I could hear the quote marks around the next word, “accident”… and then … but I get ahead of myself.  I will begin at the beginning.

I was sitting in the waiting room of a famous burns unit somewhere in England having lost a fight with a chip pan, when this small and elderly man came in hobbling painfully on two sticks, his face and hands as badly deformed by the scars of burns as the face of the racing driver Nicki Lauder.

The only vacant chair was by me and the man came slowly towards it and with difficulty sat down and rested his sticks. He turned his head towards me and I realised he was trying to smile an acknowledgement or apology for me moving my paper to make room for his bottom and I gave a warm smile in response.

The clinic was running late and as gradually we began talking I noticed that his voice was young and that the apparent age was caused by his disfigurements.

He burbled on. I was only half listening but I felt he was lonely and was saying yes and no, hopefully in the right places. His voice continued – ‘generally, we repaired places of historic importance straight away – blah blah – if  they are beyond repair then they should be replaced on a like for like basis – burble blah – like for like means same materials, design and level of craftsmanship’…

and so on and so on – and I was wishing fervently that my name would be called when my ears perked up – ‘Greyfriars, that was the one,’ he was saying.

I knew the name! Some history bloke had written a book a bit ago and said it was important. The man and I were talking in February 2013 and by that time Greyfriars was very, very  important, suddenly shooting to global fame with the discovery of a medieval king, Richard III, in the car park the previous year. Just the day before there had been a news conference confirming that the DNA had proved that the remains were indeed that of the long dead king.

‘We found him,’ he said, ‘me and the team, we –‘

At that point my name was called and it was my turn to see the consultant.  ‘Wait for me,’ I said, ‘We can go for a coffee after you have been seen.’ His eyes looked hopeful and then resigned. He did not expect that he would get either the coffee or to tell the rest of his tale, but tell it he did over enough coffee to refloat the Titanic.

His name was Dimitri Shukla (– my parents took the idea of United Nations into their own hands, said Dimitri whose father is second generation Indian and his mother Russian. ) He worked as overseer on site for Leicester City Council, his main area of responsibility being historic monuments and carparks. Car parks! That was where the problem had started.

It was in the spring of 2011 and the carpark of the council office worker’s building in the centre of Leicester was pitted deeply with pot holes following the icy conditions of the long winter of discontent and bitter cold of 2010 and 11.

The city’s finances were in a mess (a bit like my own) with far more going out than was coming in and no way to make the books look better in the foreseeable future. Revenue was desperately needed. Tourists were bored with Leicester and the only thing of interest to see was a crisp factory.

A ‘must see’ sight on the Leicester tourist trail.

Brave words hide a sorry story. You may look at the complete statement of account at http://www.leicester.gov.uk/your-council-services/council-and-democracy/key-documents/annual-accounts/ but I would recommend that you pass on that dubious pleasure and get a life.

Dimitri and his team were told to ‘make good’ the council workers car park as the workers, social service personal, were revolting. His words, not mine.

Work began on 1st April 2011. Dimitri looked into the distance as he told the next bit, obviously still worried about telling his tale. He and the three man gang were to remove the existing tarmac and resurface. No sooner had the digger started when the shovel uncovered a bone, two bones, a whole skeleton. ‘‘We felt awful’’ he said with a shudder, ‘‘The JCB had punched a hole in this poor skeleton’s head and there he was all naked and boney and laying there. I called the boss at Glenfield and he said not to go offsite. One of the office workers came towards the window and then suddenly all the blinds were drawn.

Greyfriars,_Leicestershire_Council_Offices_building Credited to Greyfriars, Leicestershire Council Offices building by RobinLeicester
Greyfriars, Leicestershire Council Offices Building Credited  to Robin Leicester

“We were all sat round and not allowed offsite and there was this bloody thing in the hole we had dug, with its empty sockets just staring at us and that mouth grinning like he was laughing.  Lost a tooth, it had. Laying all twisted and broken up a bit I reckon.’’

Dimitri was getting very worked up so I suggested a bite to eat and a chat about something else. The food – pastrami and gherkin with mustard mayo on rye – he accepted but the offer of another subject he rejected. I was glad. I wanted to hear the rest of the saga.

‘’The boss, Mr M, arrived and saw the body – the skeleton. I told him we had to call the police. I watch Time Team. They always call the police when they find human remains but Mr M said no, he’d call his superior and we must just wait.

‘it didn’t seem right. It was all wrong. This human laying there dead and us not telling the police or a pastor or someone.

‘’Waited most of the bloody morning, we did and then Mr M gets a call and another call and then three  other suits from Glenfield all turn up and start looking in the hole and talking and arguing. Me and the lads, we needed a drink and we needed a p**s, but no, we weren’t allowed off site.

‘’Jase (I gathered Jase was one of the workmen) gets out his phone and one of them suits just dives at him and chucks it in the hole with the bones, then he says to put a tarpaulin over it and to go home and not say nothing to no one.

“Jim and Jase went in the van together and Stuey set off on his bike. My car was in for its MOT and it’s not far to the bus so I was about to set off walking when Mr M catches me up and pulls me round sharpish and says ‘Dim, you not to tell anybody this or you are finished here. No reference. No job. No future. No nothing.’

“ I was shocked. Mr M isn’t a bad sort for management and I just didn’t know what had had got into him. He looked scared sh*tless himself. Grey under his South of France tan.

“ Just then there was a squeal of breaks and Stuey went sailing past the gate, his bike following in a rainbow wheeled arch. Thud. Screeches, yells, shouts screams. Me and Mr M, we rushed for the gate and there was Stuey without a head in a mangled mess on the bonnet of a Skoda. Police. Ambulance. Sirens. The rest is a blur. A nightmare. Cops asking questions, Mr M saying we aint seen anything, protecting himself or protecting me? I don’t know. I remember Mr M saying he’d give me a lift back to the house I share with me mam and I remember her fussing and making me some tea in Great Grannies old Samovar that she only uses for special occasions.

“All that afternoon, all that evening, the phone was ringing, anonymous callers, breathers, scarers frightening  poor mam, laughter, deranged laughter. It was a nightmare, the memory of the bones, the thought of mangled Stuey, the calls. I wept. I’m not ashamed to tell you I wept and wept and me mam she just sat there and stroked my head like I was a baby.

“Worse was to follow.

“Central News came on the television. Jase and Jim had been killed outright in a hit and run incident on the way home.

 

“Three of us – dead.” Tears formed in his lashless eyes and one oused it’s way down his scarred and withered cheek.

“The knock came at the door at 7 p.m. I knew it would be ‘them’ waiting to get me but it was Mr M battered, blooding heavily one finger hanging by a lump of flesh. Mam, she pushed past me to get the poor man off the doorstep – she was proud of her clean doorstep – genuflecting at her iron crucifix in the Prie Dieu as she went.

“What happened next is in tatters, in fragments in my mind. A shot, Mr M goes down with a bullet through his head jolting mam, the crucifix fell from the Prie Dieu impaling her through the jugular and a bottle came whizzing past my ear.

“Jesus saved our mam” he said, “Saved her”.

“You mean she lived with a heavy cast iron crucifix through her jugular?” I asked incredulous. Dim looked bewildered…

“No. Not mam. She was dead long before she hit the ground but Jesus saved her from seeing her little  Dimitri Varunovitch like this. He was merciful to her, was Jesus.”

Molotovin_cocktail
Molotov Cocktail, similar to the bottle bomb that Dimitri described

For once I was speechless but gathered myself enough to ask about the bottle. “It hit the wall and seemed to implode” he said, “I know nothing more. Months later I came out of a coma and found my body…” he indicated his battered livid and red scarred flesh,  “I’ve been moved from hospital to hospital ever since. I’m still in one.”

He paused. “I didn’t remember my name at first and no one knew it as I was unrecognizable so when the horror came back into my mind I decided to stay unknown. They call me John Smith now.

“Last year they announced on the news that they had found that dead king, but Mr. Jeff, it was a hoax. It was me and the lads that found him and they tried to shut us up by any way they could till they got the maximum publicity. They need the money, you see. Money is all it is about.

“Murdering bastards’’.

Two men in hospital uniform approached the table. “Ready, Mr. Smith? Time to go home.” I saw their identification badges. Nurses from a psychiatric hospital.

“Has he been weaving his tales again?” one asked of me, “Great story teller is our John,” and they took him by both arms and walked him out of the room.

 

Jeff ‘Jefferty’ Jeff has recovered from the burn to the hand, but has not attempted deep fat frying since. Mr Shukla aka Mr Smith was never heard of again (except occasionally on Facebook someone  who may be Mr Shukla under an assumed name insists that the dig was a hoax.)

 

Source material

A bag of Walker’s crisps.

A bag of  McCoy’s Crisps

Finding Richard III, the unofficial account; by eminent mediaevalist Dr Don Ashtray-Pill

A kettle of fish

A bag of Kettle crisps

“Greyfriars, Leicester site” map by Hel-hama

© Jeff ”Jefferty” Jeff: March 4th 2015

Mary Boleyn – Sister, Harlot, Spy

Mary Boleyn is known as the Other Boleyn Girl, the Great Whore and the Mistress of Kings. She has been written about, portrayed on stage and screen, and there is speculation about her life to this very day. Yet the late Eric Ives, arguably the most knowledgeable person on the subject of the Boleyns since my great aunt Tessie, tells us that what we don’t know about her could fill a book.

So, that got me  wondering. Why would a woman of whom we hear so much leave so little evidence of herself behind? We don’t even know for sure when she was born. Then she spoke to me. I was finishing off a bottle of Dewars and studying her portrait. At least we think it could be her portrait. It probably is. Maybe not.  It could be. But I digress. Anyway, there I was with my Scotch, and all of a sudden, it hit me. Mary Boleyn was a spy. I even spotted some secreted writing in her portrait, but I have not been able to find it since, so stealthy were the clues.

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We know that Thomas Boleyn, a ruthless and grasping man, placed his daughters in foreign households. Mary promptly finagled herself into the inner sanctum of the king of France. But while she was under the covers, was she truly under cover? The answer is yes. Mary was engaging in espionage, learning all of Francis’ secrets and passing them on to her ambitious father and uncle, the archetypical villain, Thomas Howard. I know! I know that this seems outlandish because we know that Mary was an empty-headed yet fecund tramp, but that was all part of her ingenious cover.

After a while, Mary was recalled to England and prepared to marry. As the eldest daughter, she might have expected to marry James Butler, and make a nice little life as a countess in Ireland. At least we think she was the eldest. She might not have been. But she probably was. See how far this cloak of uncertainty was drawn over her? Anyway, instead of being shipped as a very attractive if somewhat  dimwitted parcel to Ireland, she married one William Carey. Carey was a bit of a nobody really. Some distant cousin to the king, but hardly the heir to Ormond. So why was she kept in England? So she could continue in her trade, duh!

holbein henry

Mary was situated among the ladies of Katherine of Aragon. There she was in an excellent position to sniff out information that passed between the queen and her Spanish ambassador. At the time, everyone wanted to know what was being said between those two. Henry VIII was a bit of a wanker where the saintly Katherine was concerned, and it did not take long for Mary’s kind heart to go out to her mistress. We know Mary was kind  because she portrayed the virtue “Kindness” in the Chateau Vert pageant. So, caring and fearing for her mistress, Mary tried to help her. She started sleeping with Henry.

Now, we don’t know when the affair started, nor when it ended, or if it was a love affair or a booty call, but we do know that at some point Mary was under cover again. She may even have born the king a couple of kids to complete the ruse. They might be his kids. Probably not. But they could be. Anyway, by this point, Mary was a double agent. She was spying on Katherine and the Spanish and Henry and the English. All this information went straight to her dastardly father and her infamous uncle. And where did they go? To France, of course. Yes, yes, I know she was spying on Francis earlier, but allegiances change. Besides, this is what fits with what little we know.

After Mary’s sister entered the game, things got really tricky. Anne either did not want Mary snooping around or maybe they just didn’t get along, but either way Mary again married some random fellow and got kicked out of court. However, she continued corresponding with Thomas Cromwell, and we all know what kind of guy he was.

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Eventually,  the feces hit the rotary oscillator between Henry and the Boleyns. He arrested a few, executed a couple, and just really did a number on them. Where was our dear Mary at the time? You might have guessed it. She was back in France. Calais, actually, the last English possession in France. Which is rather telling in itself, don’t you think? She was not brought back for questioning, nor persecuted in any way. There was still one Boleyn flitting about the queen’s chambers and doing all kinds of secret stuff.  That person was the notorious Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford. But I am all out of Dewars, so that story must wait for another day.

Jeff “the wiz” Berlin

 

Sources:

The Other Boleyn Girl ( both the book and unfortunate movies, which I do not recommend)

Dewars (which I highly recommend)

Whoever painted that portrait that is probably Mary Boleyn

Medieval and Renaissance Espionage For Dummies

My Great Aunt Tessie

 

Author’s note- As a daring super spy myself, this story was near and dear to my own heart. So much so that the wife has since removed the portrait of Mary from my study, muttering something about an unhealthy obsession.

The Bald Truth Behind the Execution of Clarence

George, Duke of Clarence, trying a bit too hard to compensate
George, Duke of Clarence, still alive at this point.

I have spent several years, now, musing on the reasons for the execution of George, Duke of Clarence. What that final act made Edward IV take the drastic, permanent action of executing his own brother?

He was convicted of treason.

Yes.

What did he do? What was the piece of straw that finally broke the camel’s back? What was that final, totally unforgivable crime that George committed? What was that one step too far?

  • Was it the fact George took the law into his own hands with the execution of Ankarette Twynho?
  • Was it the murder and witchcraft accusations that he levelled against Edward’s queen, Elizabeth Wydevile, following the death of his wife, Isabel?
  • Was it the rumours of Edward’s illegitimacy?
  • Was it George’s discovery of Edward’s previous secret marriages – to Eleanor Butler and Eleanor Talbot?

Or was it a deeper, more dangerous secret? Something that, if discovered, could have toppled the monarchy itself – nay England, even?

Sitting in a cafe this morning, quietly drinking my cappuccino, eating a toasted tea cake and playing an addictive, well-known game (involving sweets) on my phone, I overheard a little boy having a joke with his dad.

candle
15th Century light bulb

And I had a light bulb moment.

Once the waitress had changed the bulb – and I was no longer in the dark – I started writing, fleshing out my theory.

And I now know – beyond any unreasonable doubt – why George, Duke of Clarence, brother of the king and Richard, Duke of Gloucester (perfection personified), was executed.

We all know Edward was the golden child of the York family. He was the most courageous and dashing personification of manhood that ever walked the earth. He was the most glorious of the ‘3 Sons of York’ (forget Edmund, for the moment – otherwise the argument doesn’t work and Mortimer’s Cross was fought for all the wrong reasons).

And Edward’s wife, Elizabeth Wydevile, was the most beautiful woman in the realm – nay, Europe – nay, the known world.

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The Perfect Princes

Their family was full of golden children; blonde-haired, blue-eyed angels who would not have looked out of place among the Gods of Olympus.

In short, the family was perfect.

Except.

As Edward grew older, one fatal, irreversible flaw appeared. No, it wasn’t his weight – that could have been easily solved with a sensible diet and exercise. And besides, kings had been overweight in the past – take Louis the Fat, for instance.

No, this was something that had never happened to a king – to God’s anointed – ever before.

It was at this point, on Facebook (the fount of all knowledge) that I saw a picture which totally convinced me of my theory.

11059657_1554665671470436_4651097333560421926_n
Richard, the true Golden Son of York

It was a sign that I was on the right track.

Edward wasn’t York’s Golden Boy.

He didn’t have the luscious locks.

And this is what Clarence had discovered.

One morning, walking in on Edward early and surprising him at his toilette, George was taken aback by what he saw.

A reflection of the sun shining from Edward’s head.

And George couldn’t resist the same joke I had heard the child say to his father this very morning:

‘Oh look! There’s a hair on your head. Fooled you!’

Edward’s Groom of the Stool was combing over the bald spot – and George’s fate was sealed.

Edward called the guard and George’s feet didn’t touch the ground – until he was safely locked in his prison cell.

This also explains an obscure comment I once found whilst perusing ‘The Children’s Guide to the Croydon Chronicle’. This stated that Edward’s residences were ‘sparsely thatched’. I have spent many a year trying to decipher the exact meaning of this phrase, but now I know.

comb
Edward’s comb-over would have looked something like this.

Edward was going bald and George discovering that truth was the final straw.

What else could Edward do? No king in history had ever gone bald.

Think on it. Name one – you can’t can you?

That’s because it has NEVER happened. It’s unheard of – and Edward had to protect his secret at all costs.

For England!

 

.

Sources:

Ellison Weird, The Children’s Guide to the Croydon Chronicle; Steve Cole, Cows in Action – the Pirate Mootiny; HP Spicy BBQ Sauce; Ivy Hair Issues, Washing Instructions for Wigs.

Photos courtesy of Wikipedia and Google Images.

After writing this post, Jeff R Sun has realised how grateful he is for his full head of luscious locks.

If you would like to be the first to see the Jeffs’ latest blog posts, please like the Double History Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Double-History/370098793163839?fref=ts

 

 

 

 

 

List of Documents…

…Relating to the Reign of King Richard The Third And Destroyed On The Orders Of King Henry The Seventh.

This is the definitive list, compiled over many years, following many clues, filing in gaps with logical precision and comprising the entire Lost History of Richard III.

The Great Vellum Destruction (as it was never known) was only one part of a two part process, the other part being The Great Evidence Forgery. Both activities were undertaken by monks from the Sancta et Secreta Ordinis Perniciem et Simulans which was housed in the cellars of what is now Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children. It was known only to a few people and they talked about it in code, referring to it only as The Slash, Burn and Make Things Up Squad. The monks were well fed, well housed and double sworn to secrecy, each of them personally pinkie-swearing with Henry VII himself. Once all the documents that needed to be destroyed were destroyed, and the ones that needed to be forged were forged, Henry attempted to disband the order but, with a thirty years supply of communion wafers and wine on hand, and secret tunnels that took them the length and breadth of London, they barricaded themselves in and refused to come out. It wasn’t until Henry VII’s son, Henry VIII, came up with the brilliant ruse of disbanding the monasteries and breaking with the Catholic Church that the heavy mob were sent in to sort them out. Heading this band of jack-booted toughs was one Bishop Stillington who may, or may not, have been the same Bishop Stillington who carried the secret of Edward IV’s first secret marriage not-quite-to-his-grave.

Jackboots
Jackboots

And so, at last, we come to The List Itself…

  1. Marriage certificate for Edward IV and Eleanor Butler Talbot Butler (Mrs), dated 9 September 1462, witnessed by one R Stillington (Bish).
  1. Letter from George Duke of Clarence to Isabelle Duchess of Clarence outlining his knowledge of the secret marriage between Edward IV and E Butler Talbot Butler (Mrs).
  1. Letter to Richard Duke of Gloucester from Edward V, King (Former) stating that he would very much like to go to visit his Auntie Margaret in Burgundy, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble. Co-signed R York.
  1. Confession of William Lord Hastings to all crimes that might be attributed to him any time over the next five hundred years.
  1. Letter from Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers, thanking Richard III for his diligence in uncovering his family’s plots and organising for him to be beheaded.
  1. Letter Elizabeth Woodville, Queen (Retired) to her sons Edward and Richard advising them to take clean socks and not bother their Auntie Margaret too much during their visit.
Clean socks
Clean socks

 

  1. Letter from Henry Tudor to his mother, asking her if she’d mind terribly getting his teddy bear out of the attic so he could give its rumbly tummy a comforting poke just before he went into battle.
Teddy bear (not authenticated as belonging to Henry VII)
Teddy bear (not authenticated as belonging to Henry VII)

 

  1. Record of trial of William Lord Hastings. (NB This is a short document consisting of the following words, “My Lord Gloucester, being Constable and all, pointed at him and said ‘Guilty’ whereuntohenceforth he was executed for being guilty”.)
  1. Postcard from Edward V, King (Former) to Richard III thanking him for letting him and his brother visit their Auntie Margaret in Burgundy and saying they both really liked it here and would he mind terribly if they didn’t come back to England for a bit. Co-signed P Warbeck.
  1. Letter Elizabeth of York to Henry Tudor saying he was a beastly beast and his mother was a nasty old hag and that she wouldn’t marry him if he was the last man on the planet.
  1. Letter Elizabeth of York to Henry Tudor saying she was going to hold her breath until she turned blue unless he let her off being married to him.
  1. Letter Elizabeth of York to Henry Tudor thanking him for the nice sparkly diamond and saying maybe it wouldn’t do any harm to meet up for coffee some time.
Late 15th century coffee.
Late 15th century coffee.

 

  1. Letter Elizabeth of York to Elizabeth Woodville, Queen (Retired) asking her to please magic Henry Tudor into something a little less weaselly and ugly.
  1. Letter Elizabeth of York to Edward V, King (Former) asking him to please come home from Burgundy and be king again so she didn’t have to marry the ugly weaselly Henry Tudor.
  1. Letter Edward V, King (Absconded) to Elizabeth of York stating that it sucked to be her.
  1. Advice from anonymous Physician to Henry Tudor saying there really was nothing that could be done about his weaselly face that, admittedly, only a particularly obsessive, overly ambitious and sickeningly pious mother could love.
  1. Warrant for the arrest and immediate execution of all anonymous Physicians in England.
  1. Letter Elizabeth of York to Henry Tudor conceding that she might marry him after all so long as there were lots of sparkly diamonds and could be please wear a bag over his head?
Artistic interpretation of Henry VII on his wedding night
Artistic interpretation of Henry VII on his wedding night
  1. Letter Pope Sixtus IV inviting Richard III to apply for the position of Saint. (NB: This was heavily scored through and the following addendum added by an angry and forceful hand: “No! What the bloody hell does he think I am?” signed ‘Ricardus Rex NON Sancti!!!!’)

In extrapolating the existence, and subsequent destruction, of these documents from their very absence on any plane – physical, spiritual or metaphorical – I am left with no choice but to utterly admire Henry VII for his cleverness, decisiveness and devotion to his cause. Clearly, the documents themselves were forgeries, concocted in the last desperate days of Richard III’s reign and the first days of Henry VII’s. At first glance, it may be presumed they were designed to exonerate Richard III but Tudor – at his perspicacious best – recognised them for what they were: very poorly counterfeited mash-ups (as, I believe, the hip young things say) designed not to exonerate but to condemn Richard – to make him out to be so desperate to clear his name of his many crimes (both real and imagined) that he’d stoop to such obvious and shoddy fakery. It is because of this act of destruction that I can say with some confidence (and not a little surprise) that Henry Tudor was the very first revisionist, the first person to attempt to rehabilitate the blackened name of the man he saw as the most maligned king in history – Richard III. Henry VII was, in fact, history’s very first Ricardian.

images-10

This knowledge should allow us to read More’s History of King Richard III through fresh eyes. More, who despised Henry VII, didn’t write it under orders from his king or threat of death. It wasn’t intended primarily to blacken Richard’s name but to annoy Henry VII. More knew just what he was doing and far from Tudor Propaganda, his work was Tudor Irritata. And this was the tragedy of poor Henry Tudor. He had gone to England in hopes of meeting his hero, of perhaps, one day, following him (like so many before and since) to the Gates of Hell. Alas! due to his notorious cast eye, Henry failed to see it was his hero who faced him at Bosworth and not, as he’d hoped, the foul and miserable Traitor (and Stepfather) Thomas Stanley. Oh, how different history would have been had Henry been able to see the same thing with both eyes! When he knew Richard was dead, he did the only thing he could possibly do. In tribute to his dead paragon, he vowed to emulate him for the rest of his life, took up Richard’s fallen crown and placed it atop his own head in hopes the sacrifice he was about to make – to be king of a country that was notoriously difficult to stay being king of – for the rest of his miserable life.

Tortured by his inability to give Richard the funeral he knew he deserved, one can only imagine how much joy he must be feeling now (if he can feel it above the sizzle and pain of the Flames of Hell) that his king, and hero, is at last getting the send off he should have had all those centuries ago.

So now we know who to thank for the continued attempts to restore Richard III’s good name. If not for the work Henry VII, the first Ricardian, we’d all now be thinking Richard was a miserable (and very bad) forger. As well as all the other things we think about him. Like those poor little tots in the Tower (bless!) and his long suffering Queen, who really was very chuffed her husband sent her that lovely bunch of grapes when she was feeling so poorly…

WARNING! These grapes have not been screened for toxins
WARNING! These grapes have not been screened for toxins

If any doubt remains as to Henry VII’s devotion to his predecessor, a brief description of the final document in the collection should convince even the most hardened skeptic of the truth of it:

  1. Transcript of conversation between Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, Queen (Reluctant) where he demands she just admit Richard III never did anything wrong – ever! – and she says she won’t sleep with him anymore if he keeps up that kind of nonsense.

Sources:

Various letters and documents forged in the reign of Richard III and destroyed in the reign of Henry VII (see above).

Archives of the Sancta et Secreta Ordinis Perniciem et Simulans, found in a small walled up room below the cellars of Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children, slightly foxed, torn to pieces and water damaged to the point where the ink went all runny and smudged. (Indecipherable)

Kunz, The Dissolution of the Monasteries (German edition)

Craddock, Scientific Investigation of Copies, Fakes and Forgeries

Bplan Xchange, Document Shredding Business Service Start Up Sample Business Plan! (kindle edition)

Macqueen, The Great Ormond Street Hospital Manual of Children’s Nursing Practices

Connell, Doctor Crippen: The Infamous London Cellar Murder of 1910

Fenton, Cellar Door (kindle edition)

Walters, The Cellar (kindle edition)

Chabrowski, Shreds of a Monk’s Robe

A Mashup: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-ZlRl1_4Ws

Tudor, I Was Only Trying to Help! A memoir (Destroyed)

More, The History of King Richard III

More, The Saint Who Fooled a King: You should have seen his face! A memoir (Destroyed)

Bolt, A Man for All Seasons

Bolt, Usain Bolt: 9.58

Harris, Keep on Pushing: Hot Lessons from Cool Runnings

Best Apps for Phone, Despicable Santa Claus rush through Snow Monster to deliver Gifts to kids: A cool running and dashing game for Surfer Fan FREE…

I’m actually getting a little tired of being asked for sources. I mean, this isn’t a university history course, it’s the internet, for heaven’s sake! And why ask me for sources anyway? Frankly, I find it offensive and insulting! Are you trying to catch me out or something, all you oh, so clever! people who just know everything there is to know about everything. I READ IT SOMEWHERE, OK? I can’t be expected to remember every single bloody thing I’ve ever read in the whole of my life. Failing that, IT’S MY OPINION, OK? Just take my word for it, and we’ll get along fine… WHAT THE BLOODY HELL JUST RAN OVER MY FOOT???

——————–

JEF Dingle-Bell (Mrs) is currently locked in a cellar somewhere beneath London. Phone receptions is patchy, the walls are rather wet and squidgy and there are some nasty blighters scritching in the corners. Could someone please send help and, if it’s not too much bother, pop down to the [Redacted] Village Local and let Mr Bell know she won’t be home in time to pop his dinner in the oven. Perhaps he could pick up a nice steak and kidney pie so she has something hot and nourishing waiting for her should she find the way out and make her way home before midnight.

 

Royal Mail Fail: Elizabeth of York’s Letter to her Uncle Dicky delivered 530 years too late!

letter1

Now, it is no secret that the British Royal Mail Service has had a troubled history. In recent years, the closures of local post offices, late and delayed deliveries have led to significant inconvenience for businesses and individuals alike. It has become a standing joke that holidaymakers invariably arrive home before their postcards and long lost parcels sometimes turn up weeks after a birthday has been celebrated. But this time, the service really has surpassed itself.

This week, Westminster Abbey took delivery of a rather battered, yellow-looking missive bearing a seal in red wax. The letter, addressed to King Richard, Westminster Palace, bore several marks that told of its unusual travels. Among the various stains and scratches, it had been postmarked three times: in Paris in 1789, in Lucknow in 1857 and finally, in St Petersburg in 1917. Yet experts insist that the letter was written on paper dating from the 1480s and its neat secretary hand confirms this dating.

Historian Elison Weird is very excited by the find. “There is no doubt in my mind,” she enthuses, “that this is the missing piece of the jigsaw; a letter written by Elizabeth of York to her uncle Richard III, in the early months of 1485. Its survival is a miracle. I think it was hidden away in some family papers until the eighteenth century, when someone attempted to post it and the letter began its remarkable journey.” If Weird is correct, this letter sheds fresh light on one of the most controversial relationships of the fifteenth century. Scholars have known about the existence of another letter from Elizabeth to Richard since the seventeenth century, when it was published by George Buck the younger in an imperfect form, after having been kept among the Howard family papers for years. Buck’s version suggested that Elizabeth was urging Richard to marry her, as his Queen Anne lay on her death bed, but other historians have argued the evidence is inconclusive, or points to Elizabeth’s imminent Portuguese marriage.

Queen Anne died on March 16 and tongues must have been wagging at court. Richard did issue a public declaration to quash rumours that had arisen regarding a marriage between him and his niece. He sent Elizabeth north to his castle at Sheriff Hutton and probably never saw her again. He was killed in battle at Bosworth Field that August and she married his conqueror, Henry VII. Yet this new letter shows in shocking detail that the affair was real. Historians will have to rewrite Elizabeth’s character, previously whitewashed as a paragon of passive virtue, to take her passionate words into account.

Thank you to the Houses of Parliament and to Elison Weird, who have assisted me and given their kind permission for the letter to be quoted here in full. The punctuation is a modern addition, to assist meaning.

Dear Uncle,

I commend me unto you, in the memory of your promises, with all I have, body and soul, and all that I am, is all for you. Since our last meeting, when my gracious King was so kind as to show me great favour, things have been well with me according to the will of God. But I wax impatient for the time when I can be in your arms again, and we can make arrangements for our future together.  You have been the kindest uncle and best friend a girl might ever ask for. You have been my treasure, my uncle Dicky, my dear one. You have raised me from desperation into the reach of the throne. Nothing less than your love would have convinced me to deny my mother and refuse her sanctuary, or to ignore the pleas of Lady Margaret and her rat-faced son, or to give the orders for the smothering of the brats. Do not forsake me, darling Dicky. Speed to your wife’s side and fill her cup with the brew the apothecary gave you. Make her last hours comfortable then hurry to my bed again. I will keep it warm for you, against the dawn of our coronation. Yours in devotion and blessed hope of eternal love, Elizabeth.

The descendants of Elizabeth of York have yet to comment, and we await their decision regarding compensation.

 

Sources.

Westminster Abbey, insider contacts with the Special Records Office.

The Idylls of the King Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Blog, Elison Weird

The King and I film

The Precipice Eileen Dover

Jeff R Vescent has embarked on a study of historical responses to satire as a superior manifestation of wit and concealed super powers.

He is a proud member of the Secret League of Jeffs, seconded from real life in the name of services to history and humour.