Category Archives: Richard

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.

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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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Howard and the Fall of the Monarchy

800px-Panorama_of_the_outer_curtain_wall_of_the_Tower_of_London,_2006
The Tower of London
Recently I had the honour and pleasure of attending the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London. It takes place every night at the Tower, and has done since the 14th century.
Detroit_Publishing_Co._-_A_Yeoman_of_the_Guard_(N.B._actually_a_Yeoman_Warder),_full_restoration
Yeoman of the Guard
At exactly 9.53pm the Chief Yeoman Warder, dressed in Tudor uniform meets the TOwer of London Guard. Together, the Chief Yeoman Warder and the Yeoman Warder ‘Watchman’ secure the main gates of the Tower. On their return down Water Lane, they are challenged by the sentry:
Sentry: “Halt! Who comes there?”
Chief Warder: “The keys.”
Sentry: “Whose keys?”
Chief Warder: “Queen Elizabeth’s keys.” (identifying the keys as being those of Queen Elizabeth II, the current monarch)
Sentry: “Pass Queen Elizabeth’s Keys. All is well.”
The party then makes its way through the Bloody Tower Archway into the fortress, where they halt at the bottom of the Broadwalk Steps. On the top of the Stairs, under the command of their officer, the Tower Guard present arms and the Chief Warder raises his hat, proclaiming:
 

Chief Warder: “God preserve Queen Elizabeth.”
Sentry: “Amen!”

The keys are then taken to Queen’s House for safekeeping, and the Last Post is sounded.

The ceremony is an amazing spectacle, but I digress.

The reason I mention it is the chat I had afterwards, with one of the Yeoman Warders. We were talking about the ravens and I mentioned the legend attached to them, which says that the monarchy will fall if the six resident ravens ever leave the Tower of London.

The Yeoman Warder laughed and said ‘yes, everyone falls for that one’. Intrigued – and not a little miffed at him laughing at me – I asked him to explain himself.

III
King Richard III

He told me a very interesting story that begins in the reign of Richard III.

We all know of the wise woman who saw Richard on his way to Battle at Bosworth, saying that his head would soon strike the bridge where his spur had just struck. Well, apparently there was a little bit extra to that story that the Tudor propagandists decided not to share with the little people.

The wise lady said something that confused Richard immensely – she shouted to Richard that “the monarchy will fall if the Howards ever leave the Tower of London.”

Now, Richard, as we know, took no notice of this warning and John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk was one of the men who fell fighting for Richard at Bosworth – and Richard lost his crown.

henry7bust
Henry VII

After the battle, the same wise woman sought out Henry VII and managed to shout the same warning – minus the comment about heads and bridges – to the king, before she was bundled away and unceremoniously thrown on a dung heap.

At first Henry dismissed the wise woman’s words as “fantasy and delusion”, but the events of 1487 (the Battle of Stoke Field) and the arrival of Perkin Warbeck made him think again. Being spiteful and nasty, Henry VII believed that the wise woman had meant a Howard had to be imprisoned in the Tower – and he started looking around for a suitable candidate.

Of course, his only problem was that Thomas Howard 2nd Duke of Norfolk, was annoyingly loyal and he could find no reason to send him to the Tower. He did manage to make him Lord High Treasurer, which meant he had offices in the Tower, and hoped that would be enough. Of course, shortly after this Henry’s son and heir, Arthur, died followed by his beloved wife, Elizabeth of York.

Henry started panicking.

However, not wanting to send the Howards into hiding, he bought 6 ravens, clipped their wings and had the rumour spread that if they ever left the Tower, the monarchy would fall.

He then warned his new heir, the magnificent Henry – soon to be the VIII of that name – that he should do everything in his power to keep a Howard in the Tower as often as he possibly could.

200px-Henry_Howard_Earl_of_Surrey_1546
Henry Howard Earl of Surrey

As we all know, Henry took his father’s words to heart. He tried to find a permanent solution, by lopping off the head of his 2nd wife, Anne Boleyn (whose mother was a Howard), and burying her in the Church of St Peter ad Vincular in the Tower, hoping that was an end to it.

But then there was the Pilgrimage of Grace…..

So he tried again with wife no.5, Catherine Howard, and this seemed to work. But then Henry got ill and even more paranoid, and started worrying about his son and the succession. In order to ensure the smooth accession of Edward VI, Henry made certain by imprisoning Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk AND Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey – then died content.

Unfortunately Edward VI’s regents released Norfolk – and Edward’s reign was cut short. Edward did manage to pass on the secret to his sisters, Mary and Elizabeth.

But she didn’t believe him – Howard was, after all, a Catholic. And as a result, Mary’s reign was short.

240px-ThomasHoward4HerzogvonNorfolk
Thomas Howard, Elizabeth I’s prisoner

Elizabeth, on the other hand, took the legend to heart and regularly threw a Howard in the Tower. Everyone thought that it was ‘just because she felt like it’, but she was just being extra cautious.

At this stage of the story the Beefeater started laughing uncontrollably. “Of course,” he said “they went to all that murderous trouble for nothing”.

Perplexed, I asked “what do you mean”

“The legend had nothing to do with the Norfolk Howards – in fact it was not so specific as to even mean a surname. During the Gunpowder Plot we discovered, that so long as someone in the Tower had Howard somewhere in their name, all was good.”

So, now, it’s just part of the recruitment process for Yeoman Warders, they have to be ex-military – and have ‘Howard’ somewhere in their name.

300px-London_tower_ravens
Raven Howard and a friend

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to be extra cautious – one of the Tower Ravens is also named ‘Howard’ – just to be sure.

 

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Jeff R Sun got locked in the Tower of London after a quick trip to the loo follow the Ceremony of the Keys. Can someone please let me out?
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All pictures taken from Wikipedia
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Sources: Ceremony of the Keys taken from Wikipedia; http://www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/stories/theravens; Horrible Histories; 1066 and All That; Yeoman Warder Howard Carter of the Tower of London.

Elizabeth’s Secret Marriage (part 1)

220px-Darnley_stage_3
Was Elizabeth Tudor Mrs? ?

Why did Elizabeth I never get married?

This question has been long pondered by historians.

Many posit that her father’s or – more likely – her mother’s marital experiences put her off the whole idea. Her father – Henry VIII for those who were unsure – married 6 times, but never seemed to find that marital bliss he so obviously, and desperately craved.

Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn, married only once, but it didn’t end well – to say the divorce was acrimonious is perhaps a mild understatement. And the way it ended cut off her chances of ever having a successful 2nd marriage, if you get my meaning.

Anneboleyn2
Anne Boleyn, with head

So there were obvious reasons for Elizabeth to remain a spinster her whole life – and who would blame her? Her father was a serial monogamist and her mother was a head short because of this, poor woman.

However, new evidence has come to light to suggest that the reason Elizabeth never married was because she already was – married, that is.

I know!

Why didn’t we know this?

We all know secret marriages come to light eventually, and usually at the most inconvenient times. It doesn’t usually take 500 years.

But we all know Elizabeth was clever and she had ample experience, within her own family, of how secret marriages could cause considerable – shall we say – ‘fallout’?

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532 years – coming, ready or not!

Elizabeth’s own great-grandfather, Edward IV, secret married Eleanor Butler, before he scandalously, secretly married Elizabeth Woodville. This led to no one knowing who he was actually married to and his sons running away to Burgundy, playing the longest-ever recorded game of ‘hide and seek’.

Luckily the wonderful Richard III stepped into the breach and saved the country from utter anarchy. Nonetheless, to this day no one is really sure who Edward was married to and the question regularly causes ‘fisticuffs’ on Facebook’s reputable history pages.

holbein henry
Cuddly Henry VIII

And if that wasn’t enough of an example for Elizabeth, there was the one of step-mother no.2 – sorry, no – it was stepmother no.3.

(It’s so confusing, haven’t a clue how Henry managed to keep up with so many wives – maybe that’s why the last 2 were called Catherine? But that’s another story…)

So, yes, stepmother no.3 (no.4 for Mary Tudor, of course, and no.2 for Prince Edward), the unfortunate Catherine Howard who ‘forgot’ she had married (or promised to marry, at least) Francis Dereham – until he reminded her. Sadly, Catherine was already married to Henry when she inconveniently remembered her first wedding.

execution of Jane Grey
Poor Catherine Howard (I know this is Jane Grey – but you get the idea?)

 

Henry didn’t take kindly to being 2nd.

In a fit of pique, Henry lopped off her head and introduced Elizabeth to stepmother no.4 (no.5 for Mary Tudor and no.3 for Prince Edward), Katherine Parr.

And what does all this mean? Well, if Elizabeth was ever going to get married secretly, she wasn’t going to tell anyone – ever!

But there was a secret marriage – apparently.

So there was I the other day, minding my own business, sitting in Costa Coffee, drinking a cappuccino (with chocolate sprinkles, of course) and reading. I think I was reading The other Boleyn Girl, by that excellent historian whose name quite escapes me for the moment.

Anyway, this chap came and sat on the next table, looked over to me and smiled. Then he looked round, leaned over and went ‘pssstttt!’. He had to do this a good few times before I stopped deliberately ignoring him.

I looked at him.

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Bishop Stillington? 

He whispered, behind his hand ‘I know a secret about her daughter’, nodding to the book in my hands.

‘Who? The writer?’ I replied, with a bemused (I hoped, rather than scared) look on my face.

‘No, the queen, Elizabeth. She was married you know. None of this Virgin Queen stuff is true, she was well and truly married.’

‘Who are you? How do you know?’ I asked., still not falling for it. Then he said something that totally made me trust him.

‘Oh, I’m Bishop Stillington, from Bath – and Wells. I have a letter. I found it in the attic. From Elizabeth to her husband.’

‘Really?’ I asked. I was totally drawn in. It had to be true. How could you not believe or trust a man with the name Bishop Stillington? Well, if he was lying, I wouldn’t be the first one to have been taken in by him, would I?

Magna_Carta_(British_Library_Cotton_MS_Augustus_II.106)
The letter? We’ll have to wait and see..

 

‘Do you want to see it?’

‘See what?’ I asked, bemused and not a little discomfited.

‘The letter – I can show it to you’ Bishop Stillington replied. ‘You’ll have to meet me….’

So, the meet was set up. I’m meeting Stillington behind the bike sheds on Tuesday at 10.30 am – to see the letter (I hope, gulp!).

Look out for my update.

Yours truly, Jeff R Sun (looking forward to Tuesday with trepidation)

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Photos taken from Wikipedia

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Sources: The Other Boleyn Girl, by Philippa Gregory; Eleanor the Secret Queen by John ‘eye-roll’ Ashdown-Hill; I, Elizabeth by Rosalind Miles; The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George; Carry on Henry VIII; The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell.

 

What Thomas More Didn’t Want You To Know

On April 12, 1534 Thomas More was asked to sign the Oath of Supremacy. Five days later, he was arrested and taken to the Tower where he spent the remainder of his days. So what was he doing during those five days? Was he taking the opportunity to persecute a few more heretics? Filling out the lengthy application for sainthood?  Was he indulging in some well-deserved self-flagellation? No, no, and no. The truth is… he had a bonfire party.

more's richard

You see, Thomas More had a lot of things to hide.  The ending to his “The History of King Richard III”, the whereabouts of at least one of the Princes in the Tower, and the directions to Utopia, just to name a few.  Thomas More had even figured out how to effect world peace, build a better mousetrap, and time travel.

More family portrait

More knew that the villain Henry VIII would see to it that he did not survive. But he would have his revenge on Henry and on the world, which he deemed sinful and full of vice. So he strolled out into his courtyard and he built  a pyre. He threw in the last chapters of Richard III, his decoder ring for his family portrait, and the iPhone he acquired on a trip to the 21st century.  He stood merrily by, toasting marshmallows and roasting sausages, as the answers to so many questions went up in smoke.

moreburningbooks

More languished in the Tower stubbornly refusing to sign the oath. His trial might have come much sooner, were it not for Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell had dined with More at Chelsea and had heartily enjoyed a wonderful pastry during the meal. For weeks, he browbeat More and history would have us believe that the Oath was his primary objective. In truth, it was the recipe for the marvelous dessert that Cromwell craved. Unfortunately, More had burned his cookbook along with the rest of the mysteries and refused to divulge the secret to the tasty tart.

tudor pastry

Almost five hundred years later, we still wonder what More meant by his History of Richard III and argue its relevance. Periodically, someone will point out a hidden message in the More family portrait and keyboards are ferociously pounded as historians great and small discuss the meaning of it all. Thomas More took to his grave the answers to some of the most puzzling questions in history.  But his stinginess in withholding the instructions to delicious pastry was just not a very saintlike thing to do.

 

Jeff “the wiz” Berlin

Sources:

The History of King Richard III

Thomas More The Saint and the Society

The Keebler Elves

 

Having sworn off strip clubs and agreeing to cut back on my consumption of scotch, I am happy to report that my wife seems less disgruntled than has previously been the case.  I am not long to linger in domestic bliss, however. My next super secret spy mission is taking me to Phuket, Thailand, and then perhaps on to Cairo. There have been reported disturbances in these places, in regards to reggae music and national and historical safety.

 

 

Saint Richard? Miracles in Leicestershire!

Last weekend, Easter weekend, I went to visit my cousin Jess and her husband Jezz in Tamworth. Jess suggested that we drove to Shackerstone, about 20 miles away, to the Railway Museum and maybe to have a ride on the wonderfully restored steam railway.

My own inclination was to sit in a quiet country pub and drink copious quantities of Real Ale and  so we went to the Railway Museum.

Thank you Jess.

Shenton Station
Shenton Station

Despite my slight reluctance, it was a very interesting and enjoyable trip and after picking up our cars at Shackerstone, we parted as I had to drive to London. This is when I realised where I was! Just fifteen days before King Richard III had been taken along this very route on his final journey, a procession from Fenn Lane Farm to the wonderful cathedral in Leicester, where he was to be  interred.

Richard III route

In case you have not heard of this unusual event – it was not very well publicized and hardly any one knew about it –  Richard III, a Mediaeval King, died in battle in 1485, came briefly among us and shared his secrets, told us what he ate and the illnesses he suffered, suggested to us his hair colour and body weight and wowed the ladies both young and old, before his time on earth again was over and he was returned to the soil from whence he came (or quite close to it anyway).

Driving along this processional Richard III route I noticed something strange and a little magical. Everywhere I looked trees were bursting into leaf; chestnut, crab apple, beech …taking on a vibrant green mantle along their branches, clothing themselves in leaf.

Crab Apple BudHorse Chestnutbeech

 

 

 

 

The Willow, Salix caprea, was covered with furry looking Pussy Willows, desirable for flower arranging but a bane to hay fever sufferers when the pollen starts to blow, but oh! how spectacular on this bright day.

Pussy Willow

Baby rabbits were hopping in the fields

Jeff the rabbit
Jeff the baby rabbit, from the recent article in the Metro. The baby rabbits that Jeff the adult man saw were a lot, lot smaller than this, (or that is a normal sized baby rabbit and a very tiny child. )

and lambs frolicked with their mother

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I really was enjoying all of the splendour of nature and felt what a pity it was that the hedgerows and fields had not been so abundant 15 days previously for the journey of the king. Even the flowers were showing their colours, shy violets peeping, primulas unfurling their primrose petals, jonquil escapees from gardens making little  sunshine patches in the green.2015-04-07 14.23.08 2015-04-07 14.26.19 2015-04-02 15.58.35

It was then that I began to wonder a strange and wondrous thought. Maybe Richard had not missed all of these miraculous happenings. Maybe he had caused them! Fifteen days before there had been no leafy buds, no lambs or baby rabbits, no flowers and now there were! What had changed?

HE had traversed this route.

Could Richard III be causing miracles to happen?

I stopped the car and tried to access Google. Of course I couldn’t. Richard may be able to make miracles happen in nature, but even he cannot get an internet connection in rural Leicestershire!

Later, safely in a hotel room, I found the Facebook pages I was after. Fans of the dead king were convinced that he should be canonised for his unerring goodness. Maybe they were right! Maybe this mere man, just a normal king, did have magical or miraculous powers.

He, Richard, was most certainly the instigator, the very cause of the splendiferous nature display I enjoyed and witnessed that day. I consulted Wikipedia on how to make this king into a Saint and consequently wrote (not emailed) to the Pope.  Although the Pope does not make someone a saint – the designation of sainthood only recognises what is already there – I hope that he will respond favourably and try and progress this.

Miracles happened all along this saintly man’s processional route. His sainthood cannot be denied.

I hope to go to his tomb in Leicester Cathedral next week. I need a miracle to cure this ingrowing toenail.

Miraculous baby duck on a Leicestershire pond

(Source material is unavailable.

Cotton material and a bit of velvet material is available.)

Photographs are from http://homepage.ntlworld.com/candj_simmons/SHENTONS.HTM

The Hinckley Times

Wikipedia

Author’s own collection

© Jeff “Jefferty” Jeff: 09.04.2015

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. 

 

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

The Truth About Richard III’s Illegitimate Children

As the most moral of kings, Richard III is known to have railed against the sexual excesses of his enemies.  Non-Ricardians (or Richard haters, to describe them more accurately and succinctly) have pointed to Richard’s being the father of two illegitimate children of his own in order to accuse him of hypocrisy. But were the children actually Richard’s own?

Richard III. His benevolence simply shines forth.
Richard III. His benevolence simply shines forth.

First, it should be noted that the identity of the children’s mothers cannot be confirmed, though traditionalist historians have put forth various candidates. No chronicle mentions Richard’s having a mistress or mistresses, and Richard’s household records do not furnish any clues. While some have pointed out that Richard’s private life was of little interest before he became king, and that his household records are not extant, the far more logical explanation is that no source mentions Richard’s mistress  or mistresses because he did not in fact have a mistress or mistresses.

The question then becomes, if Richard did not have a mistress, where did his illegitimate children come from? A short-lived fling is out of the question, because a man of Richard’s probity, and one who wore his motto ‘Loyalty binds me’ as proudly as he wore the white rose of York, was clearly incapable of entering into a casual sexual relationship, a one-nighter if you will.

As we have established that Richard did not have a mistress and did not have casual sex, it is clear that  Richard did not sire his illegitimate children in person. Where, then, did they come from, as Richard acknowledged them as his? While immaculate conception (and think what an honour it would have been to be the woman chosen to bring Richard’s offspring into the world!) is a tempting conclusion, it is more likely that the children were foundlings, whom Richard kindly agreed to raise as his own.

Support for this proposition can be found in the overwhelming evidence of Richard’s kindness to children. In 1483, Richard’s twelve-year-old nephew, Edward ‘V’, had become king after his mother, Edward IV’s concubine Elizabeth Wydeville, poisoned her husband. Recognising that young Edward was suffering from the trauma of his father’s death, and that he had no real desire to become king, Richard cleverly arranged to have Edward and his younger brother declared illegitimate, thereby saving Edward the embarrassment of admitting that he was not up for the job of ruling the country in his fragile emotional condition. He then sent the two boys off to Burgundy, where they could immerse themselves in the culture of that fine nation, a task which naturally would take them the rest of their lives. As for their sisters, Richard swore a public oath not to harm them or to imprison them in the Tower–an obvious sign of his love for them.

With this evidence, we can readily surmise what happened. Two young women (or perhaps just one woman–some people never learn) came to Richard  pregnant and in desperate straits. The kindly Richard agreed to raise their illegitimate children–and, to spare them the stigma of being bastards of a commoner, to raise them as his own offspring.  So moved was Richard by their plight, and so eager to be of help, he was willing to face the consequences of being believed to have sired these children himself.

No wonder Anne, his childhood sweetheart, adored him. And no wonder Henry ‘Tudor’ had to murder this saintly, misunderstood man.

Sources:

John Ashdown-Hill, The Dublin King

Annette Carson, The Maligned King

The Lion King

Every Victorian novel with a kindly guardian, just like Richard

The Kama Sutra (which Richard consulted only to please Anne)

Jeff Borden is still patiently waiting for that invitation for the reburial. Clearly, the Royal Mail is not as efficient as it was when Richard invented it.