Category Archives: Plantagenets

The Much-Maligned King

Saint RichardWith the great historical discoveries we’ve had over recent years, there has been some major re-thinking on the history and reputation of one of England’s most hated and maligned kings – and rightly so.

While his mortal remains are now at rest this king’s legacy of evil and wickedness is still debated by eye-rolling, loony historians, fan-girls and sane history buffs on every Facebook page you come across (yes, I’ve checked, he even gets into groups dedicated to historical women *groan*).

He has, throughout, history, been demonised and vilified by historians and non-historians alike. Words such as “tyrant”, “monster” and “murderer” have been slung at this king for more years than I’d like to count.

The main beef for many is the propaganda levelled against this king by subsequent dynasties; the misrepresentation of his actions and the accusations of murder which just refuse to go away.

And mud sticks.

So it’s about time he was given the rights that all Englishmen have – the right to the “assumption of innocence until proven guilty”.

No, of course I’m not talking about Richard III! The man killed his nephews, why on earth should he be allowed to be presumed innocent?holbein henry

I’m referring to that great man of the Renaissance, the Hercules of England, Europe’s very own Alexander; Henry VIII, of course.

With this in mind I thought I would take a new look at the main accusations, strip away the propaganda and look at the deaths involved in their proper light; one at a time, rather than as one great killing spree.

Does responsibility lay at the king’s door?

Were the deaths justified for the good of the realm? Should I leave Cairo and move to more bridal climes? (Oops, sorry, that last was a personal question, not relevant – much – to this essay.)

The first person I looked into was Catherine of Aragon. Of course, Henry is not accused of killing her; but he is accused of treating her shamefully. Catherine married Henry having sworn that she’d never slept with her first husband Prince Arthur, Henry’s older brother. Catherine made thiCatherine_aragons declaration only after Arthur was safely dead – and therefore could not dispute it.

What was her motivation?

Well, Henry was a young, handsome – ok, gorgeous – 18-year-old Adonis who also happened to be king of one of the most powerful kingdoms of Europe, whereas she was a penniless Spanish princess who had been more-or-less abandoned by her own family. So, of course, she only said this out of her love for Henry, rather than any selfish reasons.

There was one problem with Catherine’s declaration; Prince Arthur had once sworn otherwise, declaring one morning, after leaving Catherine’s chamber, that he had “spent the night in Spain” (something no one bothered to tell Henry until many years later). Quite an unequivocal statement from a Prince who had no ulterior motive.

Poor Henry was a devout Catholic and knew that marrying his brother’s wife was a mortal sin and when he finally discovered the truth, what choice did he have but to divorce? And why would he do it with such vehemence and hatred? Surely it’s hard to be kind to someone who has endangered your immortal soul by making you commit such a heinous sin? Henry would have had to be a saint to be able to forgive. And it’s certainly not his fault that Catherine of Aragon stuck to this fib – through thick and thin – but neither is it Henry’s fault that he stuck to his own guns and fought to the very end to obtain a divorce.

So, now, we come to Henry’s “victims”.

Anneboleyn2Let’s look at Anne Boleyn first.

If Anne Boleyn was innocent of the crimes she was accused of – of sleeping with other men, including her brother and of planning the king’s death – then she is a true martyr and Henry is a monster worse than Darth Vader. However, thanks to the Daily Mail, we now know beyond any doubt that Anne did have an affair with her brother, George Boleyn. A French poem, written a few days after Anne’s execution by a Frenchman living in England, proves unequivocally that Anne slept with her brother.

And if one of the charges is true, then surely they all are?

And if Anne was sleeping around, what else could he do but execute her? Imprison her? Maybe, but an example from French history suggests the dangers in doing that. In 1314 the wives of France’s 3 princes were accused of adultery and imprisoned. However, the princes found obtaining divorces difficult (to cut a long story short) and all 3 ruled successively as kings of France, but were unable to  produce the much-desired legitimate male heir and the Capetian line died out.

With such an example from just a couple of hundred years ago, can Henry really be blamed for wanting a swift conclusion to his marriage?

And, to be honest, this same argument stands for Henry’s execution of Catherine Howard the poor chap is proof of the adage that lightning CAN strike twice in the same place).

One of the most heinous crimes that Henry is accused of is, of course, Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury. And well, to be honest, I’ll give his accusers that one. Poor Margaret. But, then, every king is allowed one over-reaction; Richard III has Lord Hastings, Henry gets Margaret Pole.

thomas moreAnd then there’s Thomas More…

Well, I have a theory…..

Sir Thomas More was Henry’s friend. What if he committed an unforgivable betrayal. I’m not referring to his refusal to swear allegiance to the Act of Succession, rather I’m referring to his abominable, slanderous book about Richard III.

We all know Henry loved his mother dearly, and spent most of his childhood sat on her lap, listening to her stories about her childhood, her father and her wonderful uncle, Richard. We always think of the Tudors hating Richard III, but in Henry’s time the slanderous, legend blackening work of Shakespeare is still decades in the future. What if Henry knew of the gentler side of Uncle Dickon? What if he saw him as the loving uncle of a fatherless teenage girl, who gave her gifts and danced with her at Christmas.

EoY portraitThis is the intimate picture of Richard III that Henry grew up with, knowing him and loving him as a favourite great-uncle. And then his friend presents him with a manuscript saying “I’ve put together some ideas, have a look at it, just let me know what you think.”

Of course, Henry reads it and goes ballistic. How dare More write such hateful things about this great king, this hero, this Son of York, this man who saved the kingdom from the disasters that would, almost-definitely, have befallen the land had a child-king been allowed to live …. er, I mean, to reign?

Henry had no choice, More brought it on himself. Henry had to have him executed in order to prevent More’s slanderous work from reaching a wider audience. It was the only way to prevent publication.

It’s not Henry’s fault the “facts” still got out…

By Jeff R Sun

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Jeff R Sun has been supporting the Richards for years – I’m thinking of changing my allegiance to the Henrys. All advice appreciated.

If you would like to be the first to see the Jeffs’ latest blog posts, please like the Double History Facebook page.

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Photos: Wiki

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Sources: Measly Middle Ages; Terrible Tudors; Slimy Stuarts; Wiki; Daily Mail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Halloween Special: An interview with the ghost of Richard III.

As the evening of 31st October approaches, spirits the world over are preparing for Halloween. Jacquetta is sharpening her pointy hat and her daughter, another descendant of Melusine, is winding in a string attached to a ring (ouch!) to ensnare another sex slave. But what of Richard, former Duke of Gloucester and now revered king and guest of the Dean of Leicester Cathedral? We caught up with the ghost of Richard III sitting forlornly on a bench outside an ice cream parlour not far from the Cathedral. He agreed to answer a few questions if we would buy him a sorbet.

Richard, what’s it like to be a sex symbol 500 years after you died?

It’s a nightmare! Anne gets in a strip every time one of those brides starts swooning.

What do you think is your greatest achievement while alive or dead? Other than being the victor at Bosworth? I won, you know. How many people go there to lay a Red Rose??11899728_479447468895637_1236857115_n

My other greatest achievement is surely after my death {{sigh}}. If I had this many supporters while alive, there’s no way that wormy weakling Hank would have unhorsed me! Who cares if a lot of what they say is made up? That’s politics!

How did you come up with the idea of bail?

I invented bail – or did I?

Which is your favourite Stanley?

Matthews.

Do you like strawberries?

Despite stories to the contrary I have never eaten one. We are sitting outside an Italian ice cream parlour which claims to be selling Richard iii’s Strawberry Sorbet. I have been in there so many times to try it, but each time the call out the priests and the holy water and the exorcism routine   and back to the crypt I’m banished.

Have you any idea what Buckingham wanted to discuss before his death?

Yes. (Despite prompting Richard refused to elaborate and just did that naughty trick he has of dematerialising and reappearing a few times saying mwah hah haha.)

Tell us honestly, did you fancy your niece?

Oh, that again. I’ve said this before. I’ll say it again. It was dark, the candles were flickering, she was wearing the same dress as my wife and I was horny. A natural enough mistake to make, surely?

Did you plan to marry your niece?

I started that rumour. I had to. They wanted me to marry that ugly Joanna of Portugal and I had to find some way to get out of it. Imagine going to bed with that every night. After they heard the rumours her family made certain that the name of Richard was never mentioned as a prospective husband again. Round one to me I think.

Were you responsible for the thunder clap the moment the ‘Richard III’ character was struck down at Bosworth this year? I can’t take credit for the thunder clap -that was that show- off Margaret Beaufort’s doing (she steals my thunder too). I can take credit for THE clap. Should have listened to Eddie’s warnings -he would know.

What do you have to say about Hastings?

Hastings! My favourite battle – what other Hastings could you possibly mean?

What do you think of ‘The Head’? The best answer I can give to that is that I hope that someone someday does a reconstruction of the head of Dr Caroline Wilkinson that makes her look like a cross eyes moron with a weight problem.

Are you happy with everyone giving you white roses or do you want a bunch of daffodils or an orchid for a change? Atishoo!

Philippa Langley claims “In the second parking bay, I just felt I was walking on his grave.” Did you do any thing to make Philippa feel this way?
My ears seem to have decomposed over the centuries and I misheard. I thought it was Phillippa Gregory. I wanted to scare that woman so much that she stopped writing fantasy stories about my family and affinity.I’ll tell you something funny Mozart tells me every day. He lays in his grave making a strange noise and until someone says, ‘What is that noise?’ so the grave yard worker always says, ‘Oh, it’s just Mozart decomposing.’ How we laugh and laugh.

Do the people of the South have trouble understanding your northern accent? Mebe. There’s nowt as quair as folk.p308834570-5

Copyright http://www.ians-studio.co.uk/sales/

Do you have any plans for another exhumation and reburial?
Maybe a wrong choice of phrase, but over my dead body. All those fans throwing knickers and roses at me! I could have been killed.

What happened to the princes? You remember you asked if people in the South had difficulty understanding my accent? That’s what happened to the princes.

Which foot do you miss the most, your left or your right?  When I was alive I was really attached to both of my feet, but I am delighted I no longer have them. ULAS were excellent and very thourough with their research but it was embarrassing to have people read about my worms and my liking for eating swan. Just imagine how much fun they would have had discovering that I had Athlete’s Foot, Veruccae and a large corn.

Which of the Woodvilles did you despise the most? Which Woodville do I hate the most? Well Jaquetta the witch of course! If she hadn’t caused Bedford’s death with her spells and married that lusty Woodville fellow, none of this would have happened! I’d be on the throne to this day! Instead they bred their own army. Disgusting, I say! Nothing like MY dear sweet and frail innocent Anne! Harlot!

What was the worst thing ever dumped on your head – council worker’s Volvo or that hideous tomb? You ask that of a man who had a Victorian Sewer dug through his feet?

It is said that you haunt the Cathedral and that this is a picture of your ghost. Is this true? What? That? Do you seriously think I would stoop that low?

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Richard denies that this is a picture of his ghost.

Do you have any plans for another exhumation and reburial?
Maybe a wrong choice of phrase, but over my dead body. All those fans throwing knickers and roses at me! I could have been killed.

Which nickname do you prefer? Dick, Dickey, Rickayyyyy?  I heard my favourite sister whisper, ‘ I really like dick’ so let’s go with that…

At that moment another Jeff  handed me Richard’s gelatto and with that Richard disappeared leaving me holding a rather soggy cup of Strawberry Sorbet.

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Baby Brothers

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Two loving brothers

A little while ago I wrote an article about how badly middle children were treated in the Middle Ages. I got to musing on this point again this week, mainly because my baby sister was being her usual grandparent-cum-babysitter-hogging self.

I was, of course, being unfair to my baby sister; I know this because my mum-cum-grandparent-cum-can’t-babysit-because-your-sister-might-need-me told me so.

This got me running for the history books – my own form of escapism – and I decided to look into younger siblings throughout history. I was amazed at how loyal, loving and unspoilt baby brothers were in Medieval times (does the sarcasm come across ok? IT SHOULD!).

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Helpful Henry I

Baby brothers were always very helpful, loyal and supportive. Look at Henry I. On his death  William the Conqueror left Normandy to his eldest son Robert Curthose, and he left England to his second son, William II Rufus.

Henry, who was son no. 3, was supportive of this and in no way resentful. Staying in England, he followed his older brother, William, everywhere. It must have been some sort of hero-worship, as Henry was always close by. In fact, he was so close to William that he was with him when William was ‘accidentally’ struck by an arrow in the New Forest.

Henry was so distraught by his brother’s death that he forgot his duty to look after his brother’s body. Not knowing what he was doing, he rode wildly away and somehow managed to find himself in Winchester.

Luckily this was where the Royal Treasury was held.

Henry came to his senses in Winchester and decided the sensible thing was to take control of the Treasury and get himself crowned at Westminster Abbey as soon as possible. He knew this what was William would have wanted. After all he’d spent most of his reign arguing with their older brother, Robert, so he wouldn’t have wanted him to be king.

Robert_curthose
Robert Curthose, Henry I’s ‘guest’

And then there was Robert…..

Having taken on the onerous duties of kingship, Henry realised what a hard and difficult life it was. He didn’t want any one else to have to go through the hardships he was enduring, not even his brother the Duke of Normandy. After an hour-long battle – oops, I meant ‘discussion’ – at Tinchebray Henry very kindly took over the running of Normandy and sent Robert to Devizes Castle – and Spa – for the next 20 years, and then onto a hotel called the Cardiff Castle.

Of course, one of the better younger brothers was John, brother of Richard I. When Richard went on crusade to the holy Land, John did his best to look after Richard’s kingdom, even though he hadn’t been asked. He kept Richard’s enemies quiet by plotting with them – although he was never going to go through with the plots. He looked after some castles – such as Nottingham – so that Richard’s civil servants had their hands free to do other tasks.

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Durnstein Castle, Richard I’s holiday home in Germany

Even more helpfully John, knowing how onerous it was to run a country, tried his best to use his own money – and that of the king of France – in order to extend Richard’s holiday in Germany. Richard was having such a good time that John felt it a shame his holiday would ever have to finish.

There were, of course, younger brothers who took advantage of their older sibling’s generosity. Edward Bruce, for example, liked the idea of having a crown of his own and asked his older brother, Robert, to help him claim one by giving him an army to invade Ireland. Unfortunately, Edward got carried away and lost his head.

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Distracted Duke Humphrey

Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, also asked older brothers, Henry V and John Duke of Bedford, to help him carve out a little country for himself after he married Jacqueline de Hainault. Jacqueline had been chased out of her own country by her husband (her other husband, not Duke Humphrey) and her uncle.

Humphrey tried his best to win the country back for Jacqueline, until he got distracted by Jacqueline’s lady-in-waiting, Eleanor de Cobham.  Humphrey lost interest in his wife’s Dutch lands and legged it back to Ol’ Blighty and, on finding out he wasn’t actually married to Jacqueline as she already had a husband, married Eleanor.

And now we come to the best little brother of all……

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Edward IV making the most of his leisure-time

He was loyal and faithful throughout his brother’s two kingships. Richard of Gloucester did everything for his bog brother Edward. He hero-worshipped him; followed him into exiled; ran the North of England for Edward so that Edward had more leisure-time.

He was a model baby brother and that didn’t end with Edward’s premature death at the age of 40 (probably because he didn’t have enough leisure-time).

Richard obviously thought that Edward had died from over-work. He blamed all those around Edward who had not told the king to ‘take a rest’ regularly. When he came to London to commiserate with his beloved sister-in-law, Richard punished those he blamed for his brother’s early death.

Edward’s mistress, Jane Shore, who obviously had failed to make sure Edward was in bed nice and early, was made to do penance and walk through the city barefoot. Richard was so mad at Edward’s best friend – for not making sure the king took his ease after a hard day’s work – that he relieved the man of his head.

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Edward V being saved from working himself to death

The grieving Duke then turned to his little nephews.

Richard couldn’t bear the thought of little Edward V having to go through the life his father had endured.

One afternoon, when taking tea with Queen Elizabeth Woodville, Richard came up with a plan for helping Edward. Elizabeth was reminiscing on her wedding day, and how the sun was shining, how no one knew about it – she even mused on how much fun it was, keeping the secret. Richard jokingly said ‘it’s a wonder Edward hadn’t done that before’ and giggled.

Then he turned pensive and ….. well, you know the rest.

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Jeff R Sun still has no babysitter

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Sources: Cairo in Spring by JAH; Cairo in Summer by A Carson; The Best Spa Resorts in Germany by Richard T Lionheart; The best Spa Resorts in the UK by Robert C Hose; How to Invade a Country Without Success by Edward Bruce and Humphrey Gloucester

Pictures courtesy of Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edward, I am Your Father

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Edward III

Over recent years here has been a lot of discussion regarding the possible survival of Edward III‘s father, Edward II, beyond his supposed 1327 death date. The fact no one was able to find his death certificate seems to support these claims – Queen Isabelle brushed them off, saying that it was ‘somewhere in the [filing] cabinet’, but this just doesn’t seem to ring true.

There is also a letter; the Fieschi Letter.

Manuele Fieschi (d. 1349) was a Genoese priest who became Bishop of Vercelli. He wrote his letter while in Avignon in 1337, telling the story of Edward II’s escape from Berkeley Castle and subsequent journey, via Corfe Castle and Ireland, to obscurity on the Continent.

In addition, diplomatic documents seem to back up the Fieschi letter, purporting to claim that Edward III met with his father in Koblenz in 1338.

The story goes that while Edward was in Koblenz to be installed as Vicar of the Holy Roman Empire  he met someone called William le Galeys, or William the Welshman, who claimed to be the king’s father.

You can imagine how dubious Edward must have been. After all, he had buried his father on the back of the fact he was dead. He’d even had to order the execution of his uncle, Edmund Earl of Kent, for trying to free his already-dead brother from Corfe Castle in 1330.

But what if it was someone else who was claiming to be the king’s father?

Mel Gibson wearing makeup that is meant to look like woad.
William Wallace

I was watching a wonderful documentary on the History Channel the other night – no, sorry, for some strange reason it was actually broadcast on Film 4. I thought that strange at the time, but got so engrossed in the documentary that it didn’t matter. The documentary was all about Scotland’s history and its struggles with England during the late 1200s.

A Professor Melvin Gibson argued that although  Edward II – then Prince of Wales – was married to Isabelle of France, he was not the father of his eldest son. Isabelle was seduced by the marvellously charismatic William Wallace. Wallace was the Guardian of Scotland; still a Scottish national hero. Isabelle and Wallace had a wondrous love affair which was only cut short by Wallace’s ‘apparent’ execution for treason in London, ordered by Edward I (just for clarity, Edward I is the father of Edward II and grandfather of Edward III – and great-grandfather of Edward the Black Prince).

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Contemporary portrait of Isabelle of France

At first I was derisory of Professor Gibson’s premise. There are a couple of issues with it, such as the supposed age of Isabelle of France – but then, what woman doesn’t lie about her age and try to take 10 years off whenever she can? And then there was the fact that, surely, William Wallace was even more dead than Edward II?

After all Edward II had a little accident with a poker.

Wallace, on the other hand, was hung, drawn and quartered with his head displayed on a pike afterwards. But was he?

I watched the documentary again and noticed that one fact didn’t agree with the historical record. According to Professor Gibson William Wallace was, about, what 5ft 4in?

And yet the man executed by Edward I’s henchmen was described of being of ‘uncommon height’. Of course, this could mean uncommonly short, but another commentator described him as a ‘giant’ and yet another as ‘7ft’.

So I can only conclude – seeing as the evidence points that way – the man executed by Edward I’s minions was not, in fact, William Wallace but a stunt double. Stunt doubles were used very rarely, according to the documentary, as most actors – sorry – historical heroes tended to do their own stunts.

However, it seems that Wallace wasn’t keen on the beheading scene of his execution, so he chose one of his fans to take part in this part of his life – and fled to the Continent, parting from Isabelle with the oft-used phrase; ‘I’ll be back’.

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William Wallace’s stunt double, executed in 1305

So, now we have 2 possible survivors of horrific deaths – and 2 possible fathers for Edward III. Having finished watching the documentary I decided to go back over the evidence.

I stopped at the name of Edward’s father, the one he was using in Koblenz; William le Galeys. This has been translated as William the Welshman and, seeing as Edward II was born in Caernarvon, it was obviously deciphered as referring to him. However, there is one problem with this assumption.

Edward II’s name was not William – and Edward II was not Welsh. As the Duke of Wellington is famously quoted as saying ‘just because you are born in a stable, it does not make you a horse’.

And this is when I had my ‘lightbulb moment’.

William le Galeys sounds an awful lot like William Wallace, if you say it fast enough. This was obviously a mis-transcription, much like the fact that we have spent 2 millennia calling Boudicca, the Queen of the Iceni, Boadicea.

So, William Wallace was, in fact, the man who walked into the audience chamber of Edward III in Koblenz and said to the king, in a rather breathy voice:

“Edward, I am your father.”

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Jeff R Sun is now going to sit in the back garden and relax, before deciding which historical myth to dispel next.

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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

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Sources: Braveheart by Professor Melvin Gibson; Star Wars Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back by Dr Vader; Wikipedia; The Life and Times of Edward III by Paul Johnson; Terminator by Arnold Schwarzenegger; Monarchy, a novel by Dr David Snarkey; Wellington by Lady Elizabeth Longford

Pictures courtesy of Wikipedia