Tag Archives: conspiracy

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Medieval History’s Strange Phenomenon of Repeatedly Dying

We all know that many strange things happened in Medieval History; killer eels and disappearing princes spring to mind.

But, to me, the strangest thing was not one particular event, but the fact that so many people seem to have died more than once.

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Edward II, died in 1327, came back to life Edward III by 1338

Take Philippa of Clarence, the daughter of Lionel, Duke of Clarence and granddaughter of Edward III. I was reading about her the other day. She was born once, in 1355. But when did she die? apparently, she died in 1378, 1381 and ….. 1382. Now that’s a lot of deaths for one lady – and can you imagine the funeral expenses?

And we, of course, have the famous example of Edward II, murdered in Berkeley Castle who, for almost 700 years, died in 1327. But now, he seems to have died much later – and in Italy. How can you be dead in 1327 and yet still be alive to say ‘hello’ to your son in 1338?

And it isn’t just deaths.

Several Medieval people have numerous birth dates. Prince John of Eltham was born on the 15th and 25th August 1316. Richard of Conisbrough, son of Edmund of Langley – and another grandchild of Edward III – was born in 1375, 1376 and, finally, in 1384.

Which makes him 9 when he was born?

Something strange was definitely going on….

There are even phenomenon where Medieval people took part in events before they were born.

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The TARDIS pictured in 1020s France

William de Warenne, who fought with William the Conqueror at Hastings, actually fought a battle the year before he was born. Can you imagine the size of his sword?

This pre-natal battle of William’s has had me in a quandary for many years. Until last Saturday night when I sat watching a programme on BBC1 and had a bit of a Eureka! moment. Yes, that had to be it! What if, Dr Who visited Mr de Warenne sometime after Hastings. they probably got on well, got to drinking and the good Doctor has this idea:

Dr W: “Hey, I have an idea. In the future there’s going to be this thing called Wiki. It will be where everyone goes for their info. It’s totally trustworthy, but I’ve got a brill idea of how to mess with people’s minds”.

Mr W, of course, bored with a sudden lack of battles, fighting and bloodthirsty killing, replies: ” I’m in! Wait! What are we doing again?”

Dr W replies: “I’m taking you back in time [cue Huey Lewis music] to before you were born. You get to fight a bloody battle, and I get to mess with 21st century minds.”

“It’ll be a right laugh” says the good Dr.

This theory, of course, doesn’t work for the multiple deaths – unless220px-Bela_Lugosi_as_Dracula,_anonymous_photograph_from_1931,_Universal_Studios Wiki editors are too freaked out. But then, maybe Bram stoker was onto something with Dracula…..?

Vampires did tend to die twice – the second time with a stake through their hearts. Although that doesn’t explain Philippa of Clarence dying three times. Mmm, maybe they used the wrong kind of steak in 1381?

But that doesn’t explain the multiple birth dates.

Wow! This is getting confusing!

Mind you, they did have a habit of giving the same name to more than one child in Medieval England. Maybe that caused confusion, so they couldn’t actually remember which year the surviving child was born, hence Richard of Conisbrough was a still squashed into a cradle in 1384!

And then there are those who have no known death date. The Princes in the Tower and Edward, Prince of Wales, son of Richard III….. maybe, just maybe, they are still walking around….somewhere…..

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Sauces: Wiki with a side order of Alison Weir

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Photos: Wiki

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Jeff R Sun has spent too much time in the sun, I think. It burns!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Castle building through the ages

I was in the middle of a meeting. We were discussing why so many mediaeval castles were in ruins, dilapidated and falling down. Did those old kings just build broken castles, were they bad builders or was there some other reason that as yet had not been contemplated?

_45603658_castle_dsrl_466

The topic turned to why castles were so often in out of the way places and so often were very hard to find.  Why oh why could those old kings not have indicated the post code of their old broken castles on their old mediaeval documents?

I was thinking of these weighty issues as I left the meeting and not thinking at all about the young person who hangs around the house. He telephoned in a panic. The freezer in the student digs had broken down and there, rapidly defrosting, were 400 plus chicken nuggets. What could he do?

Having pondered the problem during the drive home, the 6 o’clock news, the glass of G and T, the dinner, I eventually turned to Google…

Not helpful!

No hints or tips or conclusions how to use up four hundred plus of the world’s worst culinary mistakes.

Thinking, as only a satirist can, out of the box, I eventually came up with a cunning plan. ‘Baldric’ I called… (forgetting that I was not Blackadder)… ‘I have a cunning plan’.

Baldric gently explained that he was a screen character and he was the one who came up with the cunning plans, so that firmly scuppered, I went back to the drawing board.

It was hard and cold trying to sleep on that drawing board, but by morning I had a solution. I also had goose bumps.

For this you will need four hundred chicken nuggets and four hundred (plus) cocktail sticks.

Spray paint.

Authentic landscape.

Place cocktail sticks in nuggets.

Bake at 100 degrees Celsius for 7 hours until rock hard.

Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Spray paint the nuggets in a stone grey and brown paint.

Allow to dry.

Join nuggets together using the cocktail sticks.

Place on landscape of pretend grass.

Market as Ruined Mediaeval Fort for small children.

The castle I built today.

The above photo is one I built earlier.

The amazing simplicity and beauty of this interlocking system is that many other types of left over or prematurely defrosted food can be used this way, therefore creating whole villages and shires for sale on eBay.

chicken-nuggets
Care MUST be taken with assembly or the whole thing lacks the authentic Mediaeval Castle look. The builder of this example is having further training.

One could also organise day trips to the ‘place’ and target wealthy people with more money than sense (except for the potential down side: get caught and imprisoned for fraud,) but some masterpieces are now changing hands for an amazing amount of money.

Ruined castleSo by accident I had solved the problems discussed at the meeting. Castles were hard to find as they exist solely in toy boxes and appear ruined simply because the ‘builder’ ran out of chicken nuggets!

I realise now there have been clues right in front of my eyes, like the advert from a world renowned burger chain that reads ”Live like a King – 10 chicken nuggets for only £1.49”

Digest and enjoy.

Sources:

Most often tomato, usually at extra cost.

© Jeff Jefferty Jeff 04/09/15

The Black Dahlia Murder: The Truth.

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Baby New Zealand White Rabbit. (Strictly speaking this picture has not a lot to do with this blog, but you may like some light relief to go ”aw” at.)

Hollywood. Tinsel Town. A town of smoke and mirrors, the epicentre of a global entertainment industry, but along with the glitz and the glamour, Tinsel Town has a darker side – one of dirty tricks, cover-ups and even murder

Hollywood is all about deception, always.

For more than a century Hollywood’s glamour, its people, its money has captivated people from around the world. Movies have as much power today as they did when they first hit the screens. When entering a cinema we are transported by from our humdrum existence to a world, literally as well as figuratively, much, much larger then real life as we gaze past the head of the person in front to the star who we are temporarily in love with.

With so much money and power flowing through the town many believe there were – and still are – people who would do anything to advance their interests and then cover it up in a passel of lies. That may be the clue to why Hollywood is so fascinating; you cannot believe anything about it and yet you want to so you do, you suspend disbelief to soak up what can only be described as Fairy Stories.

The ‘tradition’ of not letting the truth get in the way of a good story comes from Hollywood’s golden era, the 1930s and 1940s when names and biographies were invented for the ‘big names’ to portray the squeaky clean image that Hollywood required, with agents and producers working closely with Police to keep their stars out of trouble and their reputation unsullied. Indiscretions that broke every one of the Ten Commandments and invented another ten were not so much as hinted at, unless it was in the interests of the Powers That Be to so do.

It was into this place of outward glamour and clean living, bling, colour, sparkle and glitz that twenty two year old Elizabeth Short walked in 1946 hoping for an opening in films. She was an attractive, slim but well formed girl, with clear blue eyes and deep brown hair, her looks marred only by badly decayed teeth.

Like so many hopefuls, Elizabeth failed to find work as an actress and was employed as a waitress, (a job which does actually involve a fair amount of acting as I can testify from my own experience as a student.) She claimed she had been engaged to an airman who had died and whilst there is no evidence to suggest that she was ever a prostitute, she certainly used her blue eyes and charm to persuade men to lavishly subsidize her income.

Her big break came on New Year’s day 1947 when she met Harry Blackstove Sr., a courtly, ‘old school’ magician and illusionist. In the town where deception was a way of life, mind over eye tricks such as his were elaborate and sought after. Among his especially effective illusions was one in which a girl lay on a divan, draped with a gossamer shroud and then seemed to float high in the air and then disappear as Blackstove pulled off the shroud. In another illusion, a woman stepped into a cabinet in front of many bright, clear, lights. When the magician suddenly pushed the perforated front of the cabinet backward the light bulbs protruded through the holes in the front of the box (to the accompaniment of the lady’s chilling screams). The cabinet was then rotated so that the audience seemed to see the lady impaled by splinters of filaments.

Great_Blackstone_at_the_Pantages

His ‘sawing a woman in half’ involved an electric circular saw some three or four feet round mounted on a swing-down arm. Blackstove demonstrated the efficacy of the device by sawing noisily through a thick piece of wood. Then a female assistant was placed on the saw table in full view, as wide metal restraints were clamped upon her middle section. The blade whirred and appeared to pass through her body, as ripping sounds were heard, the woman shrieked and particles of what seemed to be flesh were scattered by the whirring blade. When the blade stopped she, of course, rose completely whole and unharmed.

Goldin's_illusion_1_svg
Join the dots to get a straight line.

Harry was looking for a new assistant to tour with him, his previous lady accomplice being so ‘great with child’ that the restraint no longer did fastened and Elizabeth seemed perfect for the position. She gave a week’s notice at the diner and undertook a rigorous week of training with Harry for her new role.

She was perfect!

ElizabethShortBlackDahlia

Harry also had another assistant, a large New Zealand White rabbit that for reasons unknown he called Rampant. Rampant Rabbit was the atypical stage magician’s rabbit, adept at popping out of hats and from sleeves at the right moment.

Everything seemed good in the lives of Harry, Elizabeth and Rampant.

But on the morning of January 15, 1947, the unclothed body of Elizabeth Short was found on waste ground in Leimert Park, Los Angeles. Local mother Betty Bersinger discovered the corpse about 10:00 am. and first thought it was a discarded shop display dummy. When she realized it was a naked body she rushed to a nearby house and telephoned the police.

Short’s body was completely severed at the waist and drained entirely of blood. The body also had obviously been washed by the killer. The lower half of her body was positioned a foot away from the upper, and her intestines had been tucked neatly under her buttocks.

It did not take the coroner long to rule out suicide and a verdict of murder by person or persons unknown was recorded. Short soon acquired the nick name The Black Dahlia from newspapers in the habit of nicknaming crimes they found particularly lurid. It may have been derived from a film noir murder mystery, The Blue Dahlia released the previous year.

Black-Burgundy-Dahlia-Flower-350
What a black dahlia really looks like.

There’s never been a shortage of suspects in the Black Dahlia murder — but even after sixty eight years police have never been able to pin the crime on any of them.

Here is, however, a reason for that.

Elizabeth Short was NOT murdered!

The ‘sawing a woman in half’ illusion went badly, badly wrong. Rampant Rabbit, fed up with sitting in a top hat, decided to investigate and hopped out and spying what he thought was food, nibbled through the hemp rope that was holding the safety guard in place. The safety guard zoomed up, the circular saw buzzed down and with a whir and a shower of entrails, Elizabeth Short was no more.

The magician panicked. Had he telephoned the ambulance or the police he may have got away on a rap of accidental death, but all he could think of was the dead woman, a murder rap, the electric chair and his own death. Freezing like a rabbit in the headlights (not Rampant – some other rabbit) he was unable to think or function for hours and then suddenly had a brilliant idea. In this town of many murders and hidden crimes one more stiff on a vacant lot would not be a big deal, but a world renowned magician cutting a woman in half for real? Why, he would never get a booking again!

He carefully washed the dead girl and stripped her, not for any sexual reason of his own but to make it seem like a sexually motivated murder. Under cover of darkness he loaded his van with some large illusion ‘furniture’ and concealed the two bits of the Black Dahlia beneath the self same gossamer shroud that she had lain under for the illusion just that afternoon.

He seemed to drive for hours looking for a dark and lonely place to dump her but at saw that Leimert Park was deserted. Getting out he looked this way and that and seeing no one he dragged the legs out and carefully put her intestines under her bottom – he was a very neat and tidy man. He was just dragging the top half into position when a police car siren could be heard somewhere near, so he left it where it lay a short way away from the legs and jumping in his van fled the scene.

As for Rampant, he went on to father 14,003 babies who in their turn have populated the United States with a further 2, 749, 307 rabbits, all of whom have a passion for hemp – the rope variety of course!

rabbit-antibodies-polyclonal-antibodies
Rampant rabbit relaxing after living up to his name.

Source material

Hemp rope making for intermediates (Adult education night school course)

Hemp by B. Stoned (purchased by accident.)

Fifty years in the saddle by Major Bumsaw

Trying to get tidy by Ina Mess

Insect Bites by Amos Kito

The photograph of the Black and Burgundy Dahlia was taken from the website http://www.fiftyflowers.com

© Jeff Jefferty Jeff August 12th 2015.

(Aha! The glorious 12th, when all self respecting game birds hide. This is my sort of game bird .blend_fam2 Anyone for some Famous Old Grouse?)

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!).

230px-Henry1
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.

120px-HumphreyGloucester
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

 

 

 

 

 

 

The truth about the death of the King of Scotland.

"Kenneth II of Scotland" by The original uploader was Benson85 at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kenneth_II_of_Scotland.jpg#/media/File:Kenneth_II_of_Scotland.jpg
Someone who may or may not be Kenneth of Scotland, drawn in the Autumn, as is obvious by the leaves that have fallen on his head just before this picture was drawn.

Anglicised as Kenneth II, Cináed mac Maíl Coluim, was the son of Malcolm I (Máel Coluim mac Domnaill) and was born sometime before 964,  succeeding King Cuilén (Cuilén mac Iduilb) in 971 as King of Scots (Alba).

Known primary sources, such as The Chronicle of the Kings of Alba were compiled in Kenneth’s reign, but many of the place names and events mentioned are entirely imaginary or corrupt.  It is always difficult sieving the wheat from the chaff when trying to establish a time line for his life and years of reign.

Whatever the reality, more reliable sources have always been available to tell the story of his death and at a conference in Wybunbury, the ceremonial county of Cheshire, following painstaking years of piecing together and translating a short parchment, an established version of the events leading to his demise and the immediate aftermath has now been recorded and accepted by all leading ‘Kenneth’ scholars.

The new material endorses part of what has has been known for many years, the account of John of Fordun writing in the 14th century. Kenneth attempted to change the succession rules, allowing “the nearest survivor in blood to the deceased king to succeed“, thus securing the throne for his own descendants. He did so to specifically exclude Constantine) and Kenneth (known as Gryme) in this source. The duo then conspired against him, convincing Finnguala (literally meaning fair shoulder) to kill the king which she is reputed to have done as revenge for Kenneth killing her own son.  Things got a bit complicated then as she turned into a swan and there was a wicked stepmother somewhere but I lost the will to live when it got to the fairy tale bit and so as we know they did not all live happily ever after, we will leave it at Finnguala killing Kenneth. That much is established now beyond doubt and is summed up below.

One day, Kenneth II and his companions went hunting into the wood. The hunt took him to Fettercairn, where Finnguala resided. It has now been established that Fettercairn is known better as Soweth Påk (South Park in modern English).

Finnguala approached him to proclaim her loyalty and invited him to visit her home, whispering into his ear that she had information about a conspiracy before  enticing him to  a small dwelling where a booby trap was hidden, a statue connected by strings to a number of crossbows. If anyone moved the statue, this would trigger the crossbows and be pierced by the arrows. Kenneth touched the statue and “was shot though by arrows sped from all sides, and fell without uttering another word.

Finnguala escaped through the woods and managed to join her co-plotters, Constantine  and Gryme.

Despite Kenneth having been killed at Soweth Påk, the hunting companions soon discovered the blood soaked king.  With the now world famous cry they proclaimed his death,

“Oh my god, they killed Kenny! You bastards!”

Jeff Jefferty Jeff is going to go and lick his salty balls – chocolate ones that is!

Source material:

Linen

Cotton

Silk

Polyester

Polly Esther

Denim

df2

© Jeff ‘Jefferty’ Jeff  08.06.15

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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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

Howard and the Fall of the Monarchy

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 2)

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Elizabeth in her wedding dress?

Behind the bike sheds: Well, after over 5 minutes of tedious waiting – and getting some very strange looks from the resident cyclists  – I was about to give up my quest when Bishop Stillington FINALLY appeared.

He seemed nervous, scared even. He kept looking behind him as he walked towards me. Did he think he was being followed? Was he being followed? I blinked, looked around and thought about it. No, he was definitely weird and not a little paranoid, but there was no one following him.

He walked straight up to me, slammed something into my hand – and left. Just like that. He was gone, swallowed up by the crowds of cyclists.

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A 16th century love letter?

I looked at my hand nervously (the paranoia was obviously contagious). What had I got myself into?

The paper looked old, frail. It was brown at the edges, and curled up a bit?

But then I remembered one of my old art lessons. Wasn’t it possible to make paper look old and frail, by wiping a teabag over it? It was a pretty good effect, I recall. So how could I know? The handwriting looked old – all squirly and fancy, not like kids learn to write these days. There were no obvious signs of forgery in the text: no OMGs, LOLs or xoxo’s. But I still couldn’t be certain.

I called in at the nearest Costa Coffee, grabbed a cappuccino and settled down to read the text:

“My dearest, darling Elizabeth,

It was lovely to see you the other day, and spend those wonderful few hours together.

My heart yearns for you still.

I often hark back to our wedding day, thinking of you in that wonderfully coloured dress. I am reminded of it every time I see a rainbow overhead. How adorable you looked – and you had eyes only for me.

I love you so much, you are queen of my heart and my world (and the country, of course). How are we ever going to be together forever, have we only stolen moments in dark corners to look forward to?

I know all has changed. You said that I must forget about us, that I must move on, but do you mean it? How can you? How can I? No woman is as wonderful and majestic as you – I am yours to command, always.

Sweet Elizabeth, you are my wife, you swore we would be together forever. Elizabeth, is the crown worth our parting?

Come home

Your ever-loving husband

Bob

Bob? Bob? Who on earth was BOB?

It was a nice, sweet, sad letter, but undated. Was it real?

I resolved to find out and took a trip to my old alma mater. Leicester Uni has recently had some success in dating 500-year-old ‘things’, so I thought I’d see if they would check out the letter for me.

Unfortunately, all the really clever professors were busy or out to lunch, but one of the lab rats took a look at it. He had a sniff and a nibble and declared it could be carbon dated to the 1550/60s, give or take a hundred years – or so. That was good enough for me. The letter must be genuine, as it was written at the right time.

I now turned my attention to the writer. Who could this ‘Bob’ be? I turned to Wikipedia – such a fabulous, accurate and complete research tool. It has been my saviour many times, during arguments on Facebook. No one can argue with Wikipedia and win.

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Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex

To the candidates:

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, was a favourite of Elizabeth’s later in her life. But did she marry him? It is possible. Given the example of her father – and she like to think she was a king of England, like him, it is entirely possible. Her father liked to chop the heads of his spouses when he tired of them. And Elizabeth did chop Devereux’s head off when she tired of him. Maybe it was cheaper than a divorce, certainly it was quicker.

Next there’s Robert Cecil, son of Elizabeth’s greatest adviser William Cecil, Lord Burleigh. Raised from childhood to serve the queen loyally. But to marry her? If he did, he got over the grief of her death very quickly – he was arranging for James VI of Scotland to take the throne before the poor woman was cold in her grave – actually, I don’t think she was even dead. So, no, not him. Surely?

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Bob

The penultimate candidate is Bob, page to the Lord Edmund Blackadder. A lively, adventurous, thigh-slapping chap, as I remember. He must have been great fun to be with – and Queenie did like Bob, as I recall. But….and it’s a pretty big but…. didn’t he turn out to be a girl? And run off with Lord Flashheart?

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Bob Dudley, Earl of Leicester

The most likely candidate, of course, is Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. He was Elizabeth’s own age and a close confidant until his death. But he was married – for some of the time anyway. He married Amy Robsart in 1550. According to Wikipedia, this was a love-match. But something went wrong. Amy took a nasty fall down some conveniently well-placed stairs and managed to break her neck. There were constant rumours about the two of them – stories abounded that they wanted to marry. But Elizabeth called him Robin, not Bob, didn’t she?

Of course, that may have been in public, to throw people off the scent, maybe. There’s nothing to say Elizabeth didn’t call him ‘Bob’ in private.

Is there?

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Jeff R Sun, alumni of the University of Leicester, fan of lab rats and growing quite fond of cyclists, too

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Photos taken from Wikipedia, except Bob which is thanks to Google Images

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Sources: Wikipedia; Tony Robinson’s Kings and Queens, by Tony Robinson; Wikipedia; Cows in Action 1, the Ter-moo-nators, by Steve Cole; A Rough Guide to Egypt, by Dan Richardson; Blackadder II episode 1 ‘Bells’ (1st broadcast on BBC One 9th January 1986)

Elizabeth’s Secret Marriage (part 1)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.