Category Archives: Uncategorized

Stir Wars: The Sauce Awakens

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, the dark forces of history were gathering. Preying on the innocent readers of historical fiction, or those unsuspecting viewers enjoying a BBC costume drama, the dark lords of misinformation planted such dangerous seeds as Richard III invented bail, or that Edmund Tudor was a rapist, or Catherine Howard was a slut. Worse still, in some small enclaves of resistance, these darth(in)vaders even managed to penetrate dedicated groups and equip them with anachronistic armour. But as the edifices of civilisation crumbled, there were those who could not hold their tongues.

It was a period of civil war. Rebel historians, striking from a hidden base, won their first battle against the evil didactic empire. Setting down their traditional weapons of facts and evidence in favour of the salty-edged tongue of satire, they managed to gather forces and unite under the iconic banner of Double History. From the safety of anonymity, they infiltrated social media groups, to a mixture of derision and applause, using humour to expose the ignorant and easily-influenced, to draw all true history lovers back to the way of the light. And the force was strong with them. For months they fought to liberate their people and restore freedom to the galaxy. But all warriors need rest, so, pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, they retired to gather their strength and plan their next move.

Now the time has come for the rebels to rise again. It’s a time of uncertainty; unrest grips the internet as the influence of the dark lords spread, but a glimmer of hope remains in the heroic forces of the resistance. The group of freedom fighters are stirring, watching the boiling pot of misinformation and awakening the skill and strength needed to forge a new future. From the crucible of darkness, Double History rises again, to challenge the historical faux pas, the deliberate blinds, the misinformation, exaggeration, assumptions, bias and romanticism rife among facebook pages. Love them or loathe them, the Jeffs are here to stay, reminding us that history must be constantly challenged, questioned and proven. That it is not a discipline for the faint-hearted or the lily-livered.

Fight us or join us. If there is a topic you would like the Jeffs to write about, or a common myth you would like to see given the Double History treatment, write it in the comments below and you may see your idea featured on the blog.

 

Jeff. R. “Skywalker” Vescent has awoken.

The Real Father of Edward of Lancaster: A Tale of Three Edwards

In his magisterial Wars of the Roses, historian Dr John Ashdown-Hill demonstrated beyond doubt that Henry VI could not have been the father of Edward of Westminster. The fact that he did so without offering any evidence makes his feat even more dazzling.

So who was the father of this misbegotten so-called prince? Although Dr Ashdown-Hill propounded the theory that Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, was the father, I find myself in the humble position of having to disagree, for once, with him. But I shall do so gently and respectfully.

Edward of Lancaster. Certainly illegitimate.
Edward of Lancaster. Certainly illegitimate.

As we know from Dr Ashdown-Hill’s equally magisterial Royal Marriage Secrets, Katherine of Valois’s sons Edmund and Jasper were fathered not by Owen Tudor, as those hidebound historians tied to tired ways of looking at things would have it, but by Edmund Beaufort. Why else would the eldest boy have been named “Edmund” instead of “Owen”?

Thus, logic dictates that we look for a man named Edward as the father of Edward of Lancaster. One name springs forth instantly: Edward, Earl of March.

Now, an objection, and a quite reasonable one at that, immediately comes to mind: Edward, Earl of March, born in 1442, was too young to father a child in 1453. But I would propound that Cecily, Duchess of York actually had two sons named Edward: one the legitimate offspring of Richard, Duke of York, the other the son of a lowly archer. The legitimate son was born in 1430, the date given by Sir Thomas More in his History of King Richard the Third, which goes to show that even a stopped clock tells the time right twice a day. Thus, as a randy twenty-three-year-old, the strapping Earl of March was more than ready, willing, and able to serve the beautiful, frustrated, and very French queen in any way she deemed necessary. Need I say more?

Margaret of Anjou, Lancastrian harlot
Margaret of Anjou, Lancastrian harlot

But tension was building not only between Lancaster and York, but between Legitimate Brother Edward and Illegitimate Brother Edward. As the 1450s wore on and Illegitimate Brother Edward approached the age of manhood, he brooded not only upon his base birth, but upon his older brother’s seduction of the beautiful queen. Consumed by jealousy, in 1459, he killed his brother.

Edward IV, looking guilty, as well he should
Edward IV, looking guilty, as well he should

Illegitimate Brother Edward had always lived out of the public eye, and he bore a remarkable resemblance to his dead brother. So Richard, Duke of York, who had come to rather like his wife’s bastard, and who did not wish to air his dirty laundry in public, hit upon a plan. He and Illegitimate Brother Edward would manufacture an excuse to flee abroad, stay a few months, and then return, with Illegitimate Brother Edward assuming the role of Dead, Legitimate Brother Edward, Earl of March. Their opportunity came in October 1459, at Ludford Bridge. When Illegitimate Brother Edward returned the following summer in the guise of his dead older brother, no man was the wiser, although a few marvelled at his youthful appearance and concluded that his exile must have been a very pleasant one.

But one woman was the wiser–Margaret of Anjou, who somehow had learned of her lover’s death. From that point on, she was determined to destroy the fake Earl of March, who had killed the father of her darling boy. Not until she was a prisoner and her son lay dead on the field of Tewkesbury would England be safe from her wrath. In the interim, countless lives were lost. We could blame this on  Margaret of Anjou’s lust for vengeance, Illegitimate Brother Edward’s lust for power and status, and Legitimate Brother Edward’s just plain lust –but we shall not. Instead, we shall blame it on young Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, who somehow managed to plan it all in order to put her own whelp on the throne.

Sources:

John Ashdown-Hill, Royal Marriage Secrets

John Ashdown-Hill, The Wars of the Roses

Sir Thomas More, The History of King Richard the Third

A dream I had before my dog woke me up to be taken outside. Damn dog.

Jeff Borden has been resting over the past few months. He is feeling much better, thank you very much.

The pains of beauty

This post was prompted by the sight that met me one morning as I entered the bathroom and found the lovely Mrs Sixwotsitdorf desperately trying to tame her whiskers, a process that not only requires hot wax but also garden scissors, rope, a shovel and a fair amount of duct tape – the latter one being used to muffle her own screams as she pulls off the earlier mentioned wax which she applies with the shovel after first trimmed the unlikely amount of hair under her nose with the garden scissors (I´ve honestly never been clear on what the rope is for.)

In any event, watching this and feeling fairly certain that we can all agree on the fact that women really need to do this, I mean; where would we be if women were judged simply on their intellect and persona? Mayhem, starvation and general anarchy, that´s where. So I´ve put together this little guide of beauty care through the centuries for everyone to get their inspiration. You´re welcome.

We have for example the most beautiful of them all, and a constant role beauty1model for all women to live up to; Nefertiti. There are suggestions that beauty in her part of the world and time was even a part of Ma´at, the way one perceived the world.

And in all fairness, who wants to perceive the world through “ugly”? None of us do, just admit it.

This gave a spiritual dimension to putting on makeup which women of today is clearly lacking; instead of just mucking away with mascara, eyeliners, blushers and stuff, they put their heart and soul into it. The even considered beauty as something holy. But. Then there is another thing. What is beauty, who is beautiful and how do we, or someone else – I am clearly flawless – go about obtaining said beauty?

But the ancient Egyptians with their eyes, primarily, painted with crushed malakite stone, a copper based ore, and kohl, which apart from fat contained a number of metals, weren´t the only ones to have seen the importance of beauty. They would eventually suffer from the occasional pink eye, and insomnia. And mental disease. But that must be more important than looking plain. Mustn´t it? I´d rather be insane than ugly. (As tragedy, the old Greek kind, would have it, I have turned out to be both insane and ugly)

Lead has played an important part of history. I mean, why not add a highly poisonous substance to your body if the goal is to look better. The fact is, that you won´t die the first 100 times or so that you add it to your facial powder. The aim was to look pale, and we have to respect the fact that it at one point was high fashion to look as if you dived head first into a sack of flour, what could it possibly matter if it *eventually* affected your health? When your skin peeled away, you could always hide it with a thicker layer of makeup. Add a little arsenic and mercury to the mixture and you were set to go. Someone who had the correct attitude to her looks was Marie Gunning, the Countess of Coventry, and one of the first official victims of beauty, dead from lead poisoning at the age of 27 (which should put her up there with Janis, Jimi, Jim, Kurt and Amy as far as I´m concerned).

Then we have the corset. Take a cone formed contraption, have someone Catherine de Medici introduce it in France and soon you will have a serious breathing problem among women. But they looked like hourglasses and that was nice. We need the corset back, not least because the wives of the time didn´t have the air necessary to scream at their husbands in them.

o-CURVES-OF-YOUTH-570Another highlight in the history is the malady of double, or triple chins. There is a cure. Just strap a construction to your head and tighten those chins. It looks incredibly painful, and you can hardly wear the thing in public, as no makeup in the world would hide it, but there is no problem one can´t get around.

I could on. But I won´t. Point is: don´t whine about hot wax, garden scissors and rope.

Jeff Sixwotsitdorf (who uses makeup as soon as no one sees him)

Sources:

An empty mascara

Lot´s of lipstick

An ugly face (my own)

A bottle of wine

A cracked mirror

One hundred years of the Women’s Institute – (what have they ever done for us?)

theWI_Logo_IW_SPOT_pos
Are they? They don’t inspire me.

I have often been described as a misogynist, an unfair description I feel as my favourite sister is a women and even Mrs JJ was of the so called fairer sex.

Labelled with this tag, it surprised me to be selected to make a speech in celebration of one hundred years of the Women’s Institute.

It surprised me even more to be booed off the stage and to have a rotten tomato thrown at and hitting me square on the nose. What sort of person carries a rotten tomato around anyway?

I feel I have a lot left unsaid about the Women’s Institute I and would like to share my look at the WI with you here.

The Women’s Institute was originally founded in Canada in 1897 by Adelaide Hoodless, a woman with evidently too much time on her hands who would have been better employed making herself a hood. It is pretty cold in Canada and her pretty little ears must have been quite chilly.

It spread to the United Kingdom (the Women’s Institute, not having pretty little cold ears) and in 1915 was started in Llanfairpwllgwyngyll , Wales – (spell check is having a break down at that place name.)  They claimed to have two clear aims, to give an new lease of life to rural communities and to encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the War. Speaking from a purely male point of view, it is probable that a brother or son of one of these ladies thought up these aims retrospectively as I am fairly sure that women in 1915 were not capable of thinking such lofty thoughts. I would suggest they just wanted to have a get together and a chin wag once a month and needed an excuse. With the men folk away, they were bored. Nothing more, nothing less.*

The WI plays a very important part in giving women opportunities and encouraging women to go to work. I do appreciate there are some menial jobs that are better suited to women. Cleaning, toilet attendant, shelf stacker – all jobs that require no real thought and little commitment, real jobs would be unsuitable for woman as they have neither the temperament nor the skills and would be too afraid of breaking a finger nail or mussing up the lipstick.

It was with horror recently that I opened the door to the boiler man to find that it was a boiler woman (and a pretty little thing she was too,) and I am still wondering why she slapped my face and reported me to British gas when I asked to see her credentials.

The WI also gives the chance to learn new skills and encourages further education, yet I fail to see why women really need an education. They have us men and they have Google! What will they need men for if they know everything?

As for learning new skills, as far as I have been able to ascertain this means learning new recipes for making jam. The WI motto should be ‘why buy a jar of jam from Tesco at 84 pence, when you can get the fruit, the pectin, the sugar, the jar, the label and the fuel to cook it, for only £6.29??’

tesco_reduced_sugar_blackcurrant_jam_340g_1

The WI is also well know for it’s campaigns. I had first hand experience of that as a ten year old when my WI member Granny slept under canvas with us for a fortnight. Campaign? No Granny was a Camp Pain!

Campaigns that they fight are wide ranging but seem to exclude us poor men entirely. How unfair is that? Examples of recent campaigns are, No More Violence Against Women, Women Reaching Women, Women and Climate Change, Fast Fashion, Mission Milk, Excess Baggage (most women I know carry a lot of that). A campaign that has been mooted this year follows the award winning chef Matt Gillan famously serving Billy Goat as a main course for WI centenary banquet, which would be fine except for the reason he chose that meat.

It was to save  the Billy Goats from slaughter.

(Think about it.)

If the good ladies are not making jam and saving old goats they are singing about Jerusalem. Jerusalem! They live in Leeds and Bristol and Mevagissey yet they choose as their theme song a song all about somewhere they will likely never see and would be too hot for their delicate health any way.

I am still wondering about the sexual nature of the line ‘Bring me my arrows of desire.’ I am not sure that women should be allowed to sing songs like this. It may bring on a head ache. Every mention of anything of a sexual nature to Mrs JJ always brought on a head of migrainous proportions. As for the line ‘ Among these dark Satanic mills‘, if Edward BulwerLytton had written those dreadful lines instead of William Blake, they would have been mocked, parodied and criticized as purple prose (or maybe purple poetry) and the poem would never have been set to music at all.

To sum up my original question, what did the WI ever do for us? Did they do anything? Anything to improve the lives of us men? I think there are two very great positives.

The first is  one night a month when our good lady does not have time to do what all good ladies  do and cook us our dinner, which allows us the freedom to go to the chippy to enjoy cholesterol and carbohydrate. We then get to  spend an hour alone in the house with a six pack and a computer game without the nagging to get on with the DIY.

The second is the Calendar Girls calendar, a much thumbed copy of which is in my locked desk draw for reference purposes of course. Just for reference.

Sources:

Pirelli Calendar 1989

Mediaeval queens jam recipes : Philippa Gregory.

***Richard III’s knight in: Dr Don Ashtray Pill

* Now in 2015 the WI has more than 212,000 members in over 6,300 WIs all getting together once a month to exchange jam and have a natter like women do.

** There wasn’t a two ** reference so you can stop looking now.

***(This new title by Dr Pill is a look at one evening from the perspective of Richard III when Queen Anne went to a local WI meeting).

Jeff Jefferty Jeff is currently writing his memoirs: ”The confessions of a Jeff” working title ”How being part  of Double History has brought a new lease of life to Jeff’s sex life.”

 

 

© Jeff Jefferty Jeff 25/11/15

 

 

 

 

 

Food, memorials to the dead and c15th PTSD – unravelling a long-forgotten mystery

dh

I recently perused a discussion on social media about whether medieval soldiers suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Opinion was divided between those who felt that Medieval men were, after all, men and therefore would respond to things as men do today, and those who felt that projecting modern ideas backwards 550 years is unjustified.

It is true that the term PTSD is of modern origin. But if we assume that men reacted to combat then as they do now, the emotional and mental health problems would be familiar to our ancestors. Reading in contemporary sources about the aftermath of the battle of Towton (29 March 1461), I was struck by the way the contemporary sources referred to often to the date (one early name for the battle was “Palm Sunday Field”). And then I discovered a little-known chronicle written by a monk of French origin named Brother Paul d’Houxbois source talking about the veterans suffering from what he termed “the marche paine”: “Those menne that foughter uponne Palme Sundaye Fyeld do say they oftentymes have euill dremes and see before them agayne and agayne what terrors they sawe uponne thatte daye. This do menne call ‘the marche payne’.”

His description chimes with that given by the American Psychiatric Association, which detailed the symptomns of PTSD as including “intrusive, recurrent recollections, flashbacks, and nightmares” (American Psychiatric Association:1994).

What distinguishes d’Houxbois from other chroniclers is that he goes on to propose a remedy. In all probability, d’Houxbois had some medical training – medieval doctors and surgeons frequently recommended a regimen of diet, rest or exercise. For “the marche payne” he recommended “a paste made of almandes and sucre mixed with rose water, whyche can balance the evyl humoures and restore reste to the tortured soule”.

The idea was also taken up by the wealthier survivors or the families of the dead, and a trend began of memorialising the higher-status victims by producing ‘subtleties’ (as the decorative centrepieces of c15th banquets were called), often consisting of the coat of arms of the person being memorialised rendered in ‘marchpaine’. Within a few decades, the original therapeutic reason for ‘marchpaine’ had been forgotten, and it had become merely a sweetmeat or delicacy for the rich (the same fate that befell such therapeutic substances as brandy, opium, cocaine and truffles).

References:
American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-IV. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
D’Houxbois, Br. P et Sr Marie de la Baie – “Chronique de la grande concurrence de cuisson Britannique, 1457-62” (unpublished)

Jeff de Cuisine has been attempting to treat his own psychological problems with a diet consisting exclusively of truffles, marzipan, brandy, opium and cocaine, with which he has successfully transmuted his anxiety into bankruptcy and arrest.

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Guido Fawkes and Nell the Fig: the Explosive Truth.

Nell

There once was a King named James

On whom history always blames

A number of quite heinous crimes

In foul and feeble semi- rhymes.

And yet perhaps the worst of all;

The one historians don’t recall,

Is a tale of something rather big,

Of Guido Fawkes and Nell the Fig.

Poor James had proved to be the worst

At following Queen Liz the first,

And Catholics hated his new foible

Of an English version of the Bible.

They met in secret, speaking treason,

Considering they had good reason

And cause enough to find the means

To blow the king to smithereens.

And one of them who talks the talk,

A gentleman named Guido Fawkes,

Became their chosen instrument

To blow up James’s Parliament.

Yet Guido’s heart was flowing over,

A-pounding in poetic clover,

For a filly in a powdered wig

Known to all as Nell the Fig.

She had him dangling on a rope,

With promises to make him hope

That in the coming days and weeks

He might slip in between her sheets.

And thus, when James’s foes conspired

They quickly saw what was required

A billet-doux from Mistress Nell

Could damn their foolish king to hell.

Poor Guido Fawkes received the note.

He donned his best beloved coat

His shiny shoes, his froth of lace

And dreamed of amorous disgrace.

For penned in Nelly’s crabby hand

A rendezvous for two was planned,

Where she would give unending pleasure

All day and night, at Guido’s leisure.

So filled with lust, the lucky fella

Set off at once to Nelly’s cellar

Which lay beneath the very boards

That housed the King and all his Lords.

“Sweet Nelly,” he cried out, “sweet Nell,”

For in the dark he could not tell

His Nelly’s face and Nelly’s end

From barrels set there by his friends.

And so he took his love’s advice;

He never needed telling twice;

To spark a light and strike a fuse

The better to embrace his muse.

And just as had been long expected

The hapless lover was detected

But not by Nelly’s beauteous face,

Instead he felt the guard’s embrace

So having sought a lovers’ bower

He found himself cast in the Tower

Protesting innocent intent

And not the harm they thought he meant.

Alas no words could save him now

And, forced to take his final bow,

He spoke his love for Nell the Fig,

Fruit seller at sign of the pig.

And as his friends were hunted down,

Accused of crimes against the crown,

Guido walked with limbs all loose

To place his head inside a noose.

Since then, historians have chosen

To paint his story all a-rosen

And claim him as a Catholic martyr

A sort of reputation barter:

They won’t admit the simple truth,

Of amorous and callow youth,

Guy cared nought for political measures,

But only hoped for Nelly’s pleasures.

Remember, remember, the fifth of November

Gunpowder, treason and plot.

I see no reason why Nelly’s true season

Should ever be forgot.

Sources:

Few

Far between.

Jeff R Vescent might be. Equally, he might not be. That is the question.

The Truth About Barbie

It is no secret that around August 22 of each year, I become pensive. Pensive at the thought of Richard III, England’s greatest and least understood king, dying miserably at the hands of his traitorous, treacherous enemies.

Mrs. Borden, I am sorry to say, does not fully understand my grief. She has been known to ask, ‘Why get so wrought up about a bloke who died 500 years ago?’ To which I can only say, ‘Would you not want people to mourn your death 500 years in the future?’

Still, in the interest of marital harmony, I have tried to direct my thoughts elsewhere. And hence, I began to contemplate Mrs. Borden’s new Barbie doll.

Owing to a fortuitous coincidence of a modest bequest from a distant relation and a rise in my salary (for I am appreciated at my office if not entirely at home), Mrs. Borden recently acquired one of the first Barbies to be produced, known to collectors (so Mrs. B tells me) as the Number One Ponytail. As I gazed upon this doll, I suddenly realised the truth.

Barbie was created as an homage to the Victorian practice of photographing the dead.

It is necessary for me to explain that since thumbing through an old family album and having a photograph of Great-Aunt Sallie in her coffin fall into my lap, I have been interested in postmortem photography.  As many sources on the Internet explain, the Victorians were avid practitioners of this art, even going so far as to prop up their dead with posing stands to make them look more lifelike, as can be seen here:

Two dead boys. Note the prominent posing stands.
Two dead boys. Note the prominent posing stands.

(Some skeptics will tell you that the subjects of these photographs were actually quite alive at the time, and that the  posing stands were used only to help living people stand still. Skeptics are everywhere, like cockroaches. I choose to ignore them. The Victorians gave us the light bulb, after all. Cannot they be credited with having sense enough to figure out how to hold a dead person upright?)

So eager were the Victorians to make their dead look presentable for what was often the only photograph of them, that they would not only use posing stands, they would also repaint their eyes in an effort to make them look more lifelike.

Which brings me back to Barbie. With her coffin-shaped box, her  exaggerated eye makeup, and–above all–her posing stand, what else could have inspired her creator, Ruth Handler, but Victorian postmortem photography?10055800_1_l

Can this be proven, skeptics (those insects) ask? Perhaps not, Ruth Handler, after all, had every reason to keep silent. Handler was an American, selling her doll to American children, who no doubt would have been ‘grossed out’, as the Americans say, to learn of Barbie’s true origins. So Ruth Handler dressed Barbie in a swimsuit and marketed her as a teenage fashion model, and let it be assumed that Barbie was in fact inspired by a German doll, Bild Lilli. And for decades, that has been the accepted story. It may always be the accepted story. Such is the power of conventional wisdom.

But I, gazing at my (I mean, Mrs. Borden’s) Barbie, know the truth. And now, thanks to the Internet, so do you.

Sources:

eBay

Etsy

My family photograph album, full of dearly departed Bordens

Jeff Borden found writing this post to be very therapeutic. Mrs. Borden says that it’s all uphill from here, until August 22 rolls round again.

 

Documentary evidence… hidden in plain sight

Plain sight is often the best place to hide something, as Mr Dingle-Bell can attest vis-à-vis the chocolate hobnobs. Or rather, he can’t attest as he fails, quite regularly, to see them nestling in their jasperware container with the sliver lid – right there on the sideboard! So it has been for 500 years and more when it comes to the most blatant clue as to the (approximate) time and (approximate) venue of the secret wedding between Edward Earl of March (not then King Edward IV, nor indeed King Edward the Any Number) and the recently widowed (for she would have to have been, or the marriage would have been bigamous, and that would be too much of an historical oddity to bear) Eleanor Butler nee Talbot.

In this instance, the ‘plain sight’ is the Parliamentary Rolls of 1459, recording the words and deeds of the so-called ‘Parliament of Devils’. (Mr Dingle-Bell keeps hoping to stumble over the record of the ‘Parliament of Zombies’ but, as I tell him, he can find that in any modern edition of Hansard.)

The clue is hidden (in plain sight) is an item describing how Henry VI – with ‘knightly courage’ – pursued the victorious (but traitorous and despicable) Earl of Salisbury from Staffordshire to Wales. xxx days on the road, never stopping (except, quite sensibly, on Sundays) the King kept up his relentless pursuit “…not sparyng for eny ympedyment or difficulte of wey, nor of intemperance of wedders, jupartie of youre moost roiall persone…”

I’ll let that rest for a moment…

Intemperance of wedders

I must have read that five or six times, skimming back and forth, looking for unambiguous evidence that, though the Earl of Salisbury was victorious he was most unrepentantly traitorous and despicable, when – quite suddenly – I felt a cold shiver on the back of my neck. When I came back to my desk after admonishing Mrs M* (who does for us) for failing to close the door behind her, the full enormity of those three words hit me like a very large thing that suddenly hits you, leaving you breathless and strangely exhilarated but – above all – enlightened.

intemperance – lack of moderation or restraint; wedders – do I really need to spell it out?

The King and his party came across a secret wedding while they were on the road and he did not let it stop him in his pursuit of the traitorous and despicable Earl. Why was such a seemingly trivial occurrence noted, let alone memorialised in such an important document? It could only be because of the identity of the bride and groom. The King could not stop his journey to see what was going on, nor attempt to persuade either party out of their venture, nor arrest the individuals concerned for marrying without license. He had other things on his mind. Places to be, people to behead. (Though I’m sure he’d have done that with a most decidedly heavy heart, leaving the dabbing of fingers in puddles of blood to his less restrained because, well, French, queen.) Yet this secret wedding must be recorded! Had it not been for everything else that was going on – battle, treason, cowardice etc etc – he might have been able to do something about it. He might have been able to stop it, to haul the handsome young man and the comely woman to their feet (for I am sure they were kneeling in the snow – too romantic!) and shake some sense into them. The reason he could not (ie his pursuit of the aforesaid despicably victorious earl) meant the incident must be recorded so that if at any time in the future questions were raised, he could, in all honesty, throw his hands in the air and say, “I was in a hurry. There’s nothing I could have done!”

Dame Eleanor Butler, carrying the Wrong Roses.
Dame Eleanor Butler, carrying the Wrong Roses.

Somewhere between Blore Heath and Ludlow, the King passed a church, chapel, cathedral or alehouse where, to his astonishment, he saw the young Earl of March kneeling in the snow, plighting his most earnest and desperate troth with the recently widowed (or, alternately, bigamous but, either way, comely) Eleanor Butler!

So, finally, we have the evidence required to put the debate to rest once and for all. Edward the Not-Yet-IV and Dame Eleanor Butler were married (where any passing King could see them) somewhere between Staffordshire and the marches of Wales, sometime between 23 September 1459 and xxx days later. One would have to guess the wedding took place closer to Ludlow than Blore Heath, as young Edward was off on his hols to Calais soon after that. Poor Eleanor! A honeymoon in Calais would have been the icing on the cake.

Given the circumstances, one simply must readjust one’s thinking about Edward’s motives and why he failed to acknowledge the marriage, as things rather got away from him after that. Rather than deliberately setting out to dupe the poor, innocent, widowed (or possibly bigamous) noblewoman some years his senior, it simply slipped his mind in all the excitement. By the time he remembered, it was too late! For he was already secretly married again to a poor, innocent, (indisputably) widowed commoner some years his senior and, as they sometimes say in the talkies, in a bit of a bind.

Poor Eleanor was left shivering in the doorway of a church, chapel or alehouse somewhere within, say, a day’s ride of Ludlow, newly married but not yet (alas!) consummated (for a quickie up against a tree seems rather more Elizabeth Wydeville’s style than Eleanor Butler’s) and weeping into her hankie.

Unconsummated? you say. Well, yes, that would be the fly in the ointment, so to speak. For whereas we now have documentary proof the wedding took place, there is nought but a veil of silence when it comes to the honeymoon.

Sadly, the relevant record makes no further mention of the matter. Edward simply vanished out of Eleanor’s life and the young cruelly jilted widow (or bigamist) made her sad way, wedding dress trailing in the snow, to a nearby convent where she shut herself away … forever.

Edward, as we know, went onto bigger and better things, perhaps sparing the odd moment or two to wistfully recall the comely (or bigamous) widow he left behind in that doorway, somewhere near Wales.

*When i spoke with Mrs M about this over a nice cup of tea in the kitchen, she said, “I always knew there was something going on with them two. I could feel it in my waters!” She’s a wise, if simple, soul and always knows where the biscuits are.

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JEF Dingle-Bell (Mrs) is delighted to be able to bring to a close the continuing debate about whether or not this marriage took place. She plans to write a book about it some time in the near future. Perhaps she will call it Eleanor, The Bride in the Snow but she remains open to suggestions. In the meantime, she is rather busy finding a new hiding place for the chocolate hobnobs. Mr Dingle-Bell may be rather slow when it comes to locating biscuits, but he’s like a cat when it comes to sneaking up behind her and reading over her shoulder.

Sources

http://www.waitrose.com/shop/Browse/Groceries/Food_Cupboard/Biscuits_and_Crackers

http://www.mcvities.co.uk/products/hobnobs

Raven, Michael, A Guide to Staffordshire and the Black Country, the Potteries & the Peak

Lapat Rai, Josiah C Wedgewood: The Man and His Work

Rolls of Parliament

Brenda van Niekerk, How to Make a Swiss Roll: Step by Step Instructions and Recipes

https://www.wanderable.com/honeymoon-destinations/france/calais

Mrs M’s waters

Medieval Bride, Autumn/Winter 1459

 

Edward IV’s marriage and the small matter of the supposed pre-contract – new and explosive evidence

There continues to be much controversy and speculation about the marital status of King Edward IV, with arguments flowing back and forth like indecisive armies across a battlefield. I believe, however, that I may have stumbled across evidence that could settle the debate once and for all.

While following a family history lead in a little-known archive in the Midlands (I am not at liberty yet to say exactly where), I came upon a letter tucked inside the folds of another document, which apparently had not been opened or looked at for centuries.


I have not published this exciting finding anywhere else yet, as I am not entirely sure of it contents, but I wished you, gentle readers of Double History, to have first sight of the new evidence and perhaps help in its decipherment.


The evidence in question is a hitherto unknown letter from one of the Paston family who appears to have been present at Grafton around the time of the wedding of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville.


Here is an illicit photograph of the letter in question:

11817169_10153478014548638_8766178518686871167_n

The writing would appear to be a typical c15th cursive hand as used in many familiar documents of the period. What I think I can make out so far is as follows:

Righte [?worshipfull Syr],
As yt hath pleased Godde thys day, my Ladye Elizabethe Grey, daughter of Syr Richard [?Woodville] and ye duchesse of Gloucester hath [?marryed] the Kynge. He was asked by ye priest was he not marryed before, then quoth he “No, by my trothe.”
And then ??? did the priest asked my lorde the Kynge “Not even unto Eleanor Butler?” and Hys Majestye [?replyed straightway] ?? not to Eleanor Butler, for she is an [???]. And all presente there ?? ??.
God send you good speede yn alle matters. Written at Grafton the morn next after [?Anthony and ??.Your ?? cousin
?? Paston

Any help deciphering the remaining parts would be gratefully received.

Sources:
The Paston Letters (collectable magazine edition, in weekly installments from Patel’s newsagents on the corner, missing No 3, 7, 15, 18-23 and the deluxe binder)
Palaeography for Dummies

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Jeff de Cuisine is a scion of the Northamptonshire de Cuisines. He has traced his Cuisine ancestry back to the Roman writer Apicius. His favourite cheese is Blue Stillington.

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