Although the Battle of Tewksbury was fought on 4th May in the year 1471, this current weekend is the time chosen to re-enact the battle. This may be due to the majority of the population of the UK sleeping off the excesses of the May Day Beltane festivities on the actual date or may originally have been an error on behalf of the organisers. This year on that date they had booked the eminent Dr Don Ashtray Pill to give a talk on armour and sartorial elegance (which many visitors found could also have been an error.)
The battle was the culmination of what became known as the Wars of the Roses with Edward, the fourth king of that name, leading his troops to victory in a fight that led to the death of Edward, son of Margaret of Anjou and the pious, mild and unstable Henry VI, thus putting an end to the Lancastrian hope of restoring this line to the throne. Ultimately Henry also lost his life, apparently due to melancholy caused by the death of his son, but in reality possibly by murder, made possible due to the death of his son.
Many leading Lancastrians lost their lives that day. It was the sudden move of the Duke of Somerset’s men which marked the beginning of the end for the Lancastrians. Unsupported by the other two divisions Somerset drove his troops in the centre with disastrous consequences.
Panic ensued amongst the Lancastrians fleeing to Tewkesbury and hoping to escape but many of the nobles and knights, including Somerset, sought sanctuary in Tewkesbury Abbey. The Abbot of the Abbey then was John Strensham, who had been appointed in 1468. He was assisted in this ministry by Benedictine Monks Fra Declan O’Shea who came originally from Dublin and Brother Anthony Marris from Lincolnshire. Although friendships in monastic orders were frowned upon, the three men had known each other since seminary days and had a close rapport and enjoyed drinking their ‘own brew’ together.
King Edward attended prayers in the Abbey shortly after the battle and took communion from Strensham and his assistants and later allowed the Prince of Wales and others slain in the battle to be buried within the town and Abbey, but this leniency was not to last.
It was perhaps rather silly of those seeking sanctuary to not check official list in the ”Lonely Planet Guide to Sanctuary” that the Abbey was an officially sanctioned place of sanctuary before fleeing there.
It was not.
It is, however, doubtful whether this would have deterred Edward even if it had been and it is likely that after the battle he had decided that the only way to end the war was to brutally remove the Lancastrian leadership once and for all.
Two days after the battle, Somerset and other leaders were dragged out of the Abbey
Actual footage painted whilst this atrocity was being perpetrated. It takes real skill to get people to pose like that whilst in the grip of a red rage.
and were ordered by the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Norfolk to be put to death after perfunctory show trials. These trials were described by a contemporary Greek chronicle writer as the Μπους κουράζω** trials. The cries of those being dragged from the abbey were pitiful. They had believed they were safe, but a red rage had taken over the men charged with the deed and they were not about to spare lives or feelings, even for members of the cloth. John Strensham the abbot was among the number who were violently handled and he could be heard yelling from the outside.
Raucously he called his assistants Brother Anthony and Fra Declan to help him…
“Ant, Dec! I’m a Celebrant. Get me out of here.”
It is unknown whether he had to do any Μπους κουράζω** Trials.
Due to sampling rather too many (hic) glasses of Benedictine (hic) source material is not available today but will be served with a glass of hic hic… I feel a little sleepy. Please hicsuse me. Hic.
PS. Where can I get one of those black bears from?
** Μπους κουράζω loosely translates as ‘Bush Tucker’
He had worked for Leicester city council until his – I could hear the quote marks around the next word, “accident”… and then … but I get ahead of myself. I will begin at the beginning.
I was sitting in the waiting room of a famous burns unit somewhere in England having lost a fight with a chip pan, when this small and elderly man came in hobbling painfully on two sticks, his face and hands as badly deformed by the scars of burns as the face of the racing driver Nicki Lauder.
The only vacant chair was by me and the man came slowly towards it and with difficulty sat down and rested his sticks. He turned his head towards me and I realised he was trying to smile an acknowledgement or apology for me moving my paper to make room for his bottom and I gave a warm smile in response.
The clinic was running late and as gradually we began talking I noticed that his voice was young and that the apparent age was caused by his disfigurements.
He burbled on. I was only half listening but I felt he was lonely and was saying yes and no, hopefully in the right places. His voice continued – ‘generally, we repaired places of historic importance straight away – blah blah – if they are beyond repair then they should be replaced on a like for like basis – burble blah – like for like means same materials, design and level of craftsmanship’…
and so on and so on – and I was wishing fervently that my name would be called when my ears perked up – ‘Greyfriars, that was the one,’ he was saying.
I knew the name! Some history bloke had written a book a bit ago and said it was important. The man and I were talking in February 2013 and by that time Greyfriars was very, very important, suddenly shooting to global fame with the discovery of a medieval king, Richard III, in the car park the previous year. Just the day before there had been a news conference confirming that the DNA had proved that the remains were indeed that of the long dead king.
‘We found him,’ he said, ‘me and the team, we –‘
At that point my name was called and it was my turn to see the consultant. ‘Wait for me,’ I said, ‘We can go for a coffee after you have been seen.’ His eyes looked hopeful and then resigned. He did not expect that he would get either the coffee or to tell the rest of his tale, but tell it he did over enough coffee to refloat the Titanic.
His name was Dimitri Shukla (– my parents took the idea of United Nations into their own hands, said Dimitri whose father is second generation Indian and his mother Russian. ) He worked as overseer on site for Leicester City Council, his main area of responsibility being historic monuments and carparks. Car parks! That was where the problem had started.
It was in the spring of 2011 and the carpark of the council office worker’s building in the centre of Leicester was pitted deeply with pot holes following the icy conditions of the long winter of discontent and bitter cold of 2010 and 11.
The city’s finances were in a mess (a bit like my own) with far more going out than was coming in and no way to make the books look better in the foreseeable future. Revenue was desperately needed. Tourists were bored with Leicester and the only thing of interest to see was a crisp factory.
Dimitri and his team were told to ‘make good’ the council workers car park as the workers, social service personal, were revolting. His words, not mine.
Work began on 1st April 2011. Dimitri looked into the distance as he told the next bit, obviously still worried about telling his tale. He and the three man gang were to remove the existing tarmac and resurface. No sooner had the digger started when the shovel uncovered a bone, two bones, a whole skeleton. ‘‘We felt awful’’ he said with a shudder, ‘‘The JCB had punched a hole in this poor skeleton’s head and there he was all naked and boney and laying there. I called the boss at Glenfield and he said not to go offsite. One of the office workers came towards the window and then suddenly all the blinds were drawn.
“We were all sat round and not allowed offsite and there was this bloody thing in the hole we had dug, with its empty sockets just staring at us and that mouth grinning like he was laughing. Lost a tooth, it had. Laying all twisted and broken up a bit I reckon.’’
Dimitri was getting very worked up so I suggested a bite to eat and a chat about something else. The food – pastrami and gherkin with mustard mayo on rye – he accepted but the offer of another subject he rejected. I was glad. I wanted to hear the rest of the saga.
‘’The boss, Mr M, arrived and saw the body – the skeleton. I told him we had to call the police. I watch Time Team. They always call the police when they find human remains but Mr M said no, he’d call his superior and we must just wait.
‘it didn’t seem right. It was all wrong. This human laying there dead and us not telling the police or a pastor or someone.
‘’Waited most of the bloody morning, we did and then Mr M gets a call and another call and then three other suits from Glenfield all turn up and start looking in the hole and talking and arguing. Me and the lads, we needed a drink and we needed a p**s, but no, we weren’t allowed off site.
‘’Jase (I gathered Jase was one of the workmen) gets out his phone and one of them suits just dives at him and chucks it in the hole with the bones, then he says to put a tarpaulin over it and to go home and not say nothing to no one.
“Jim and Jase went in the van together and Stuey set off on his bike. My car was in for its MOT and it’s not far to the bus so I was about to set off walking when Mr M catches me up and pulls me round sharpish and says ‘Dim, you not to tell anybody this or you are finished here. No reference. No job. No future. No nothing.’
“ I was shocked. Mr M isn’t a bad sort for management and I just didn’t know what had had got into him. He looked scared sh*tless himself. Grey under his South of France tan.
“ Just then there was a squeal of breaks and Stuey went sailing past the gate, his bike following in a rainbow wheeled arch. Thud. Screeches, yells, shouts screams. Me and Mr M, we rushed for the gate and there was Stuey without a head in a mangled mess on the bonnet of a Skoda. Police. Ambulance. Sirens. The rest is a blur. A nightmare. Cops asking questions, Mr M saying we aint seen anything, protecting himself or protecting me? I don’t know. I remember Mr M saying he’d give me a lift back to the house I share with me mam and I remember her fussing and making me some tea in Great Grannies old Samovar that she only uses for special occasions.
“All that afternoon, all that evening, the phone was ringing, anonymous callers, breathers, scarers frightening poor mam, laughter, deranged laughter. It was a nightmare, the memory of the bones, the thought of mangled Stuey, the calls. I wept. I’m not ashamed to tell you I wept and wept and me mam she just sat there and stroked my head like I was a baby.
“Worse was to follow.
“Central News came on the television. Jase and Jim had been killed outright in a hit and run incident on the way home.
“Three of us – dead.” Tears formed in his lashless eyes and one oused it’s way down his scarred and withered cheek.
“The knock came at the door at 7 p.m. I knew it would be ‘them’ waiting to get me but it was Mr M battered, blooding heavily one finger hanging by a lump of flesh. Mam, she pushed past me to get the poor man off the doorstep – she was proud of her clean doorstep – genuflecting at her iron crucifix in the Prie Dieu as she went.
“What happened next is in tatters, in fragments in my mind. A shot, Mr M goes down with a bullet through his head jolting mam, the crucifix fell from the Prie Dieu impaling her through the jugular and a bottle came whizzing past my ear.
“Jesus saved our mam” he said, “Saved her”.
“You mean she lived with a heavy cast iron crucifix through her jugular?” I asked incredulous. Dim looked bewildered…
“No. Not mam. She was dead long before she hit the ground but Jesus saved her from seeing her little Dimitri Varunovitch like this. He was merciful to her, was Jesus.”
For once I was speechless but gathered myself enough to ask about the bottle. “It hit the wall and seemed to implode” he said, “I know nothing more. Months later I came out of a coma and found my body…” he indicated his battered livid and red scarred flesh, “I’ve been moved from hospital to hospital ever since. I’m still in one.”
He paused. “I didn’t remember my name at first and no one knew it as I was unrecognizable so when the horror came back into my mind I decided to stay unknown. They call me John Smith now.
“Last year they announced on the news that they had found that dead king, but Mr. Jeff, it was a hoax. It was me and the lads that found him and they tried to shut us up by any way they could till they got the maximum publicity. They need the money, you see. Money is all it is about.
Two men in hospital uniform approached the table. “Ready, Mr. Smith? Time to go home.” I saw their identification badges. Nurses from a psychiatric hospital.
“Has he been weaving his tales again?” one asked of me, “Great story teller is our John,” and they took him by both arms and walked him out of the room.
Jeff ‘Jefferty’ Jeff has recovered from the burn to the hand, but has not attempted deep fat frying since. Mr Shukla aka Mr Smith was never heard of again (except occasionally on Facebook someone who may be Mr Shukla under an assumed name insists that the dig was a hoax.)
A bag of Walker’s crisps.
A bag of McCoy’s Crisps
Finding Richard III, the unofficial account; by eminent mediaevalist Dr Don Ashtray-Pill
I have spent several years, now, musing on the reasons for the execution of George, Duke of Clarence. What that final act made Edward IV take the drastic, permanent action of executing his own brother?
He was convicted of treason.
What did he do? What was the piece of straw that finally broke the camel’s back? What was that final, totally unforgivable crime that George committed? What was that one step too far?
Was it the fact George took the law into his own hands with the execution of Ankarette Twynho?
Was it the murder and witchcraft accusations that he levelled against Edward’s queen, Elizabeth Wydevile, following the death of his wife, Isabel?
Was it the rumours of Edward’s illegitimacy?
Was it George’s discovery of Edward’s previous secret marriages – to Eleanor Butler and Eleanor Talbot?
Or was it a deeper, more dangerous secret? Something that, if discovered, could have toppled the monarchy itself – nay England, even?
Sitting in a cafe this morning, quietly drinking my cappuccino, eating a toasted tea cake and playing an addictive, well-known game (involving sweets) on my phone, I overheard a little boy having a joke with his dad.
And I had a light bulb moment.
Once the waitress had changed the bulb – and I was no longer in the dark – I started writing, fleshing out my theory.
And I now know – beyond any unreasonable doubt – why George, Duke of Clarence, brother of the king and Richard, Duke of Gloucester (perfection personified), was executed.
We all know Edward was the golden child of the York family. He was the most courageous and dashing personification of manhood that ever walked the earth. He was the most glorious of the ‘3 Sons of York’ (forget Edmund, for the moment – otherwise the argument doesn’t work and Mortimer’s Cross was fought for all the wrong reasons).
And Edward’s wife, Elizabeth Wydevile, was the most beautiful woman in the realm – nay, Europe – nay, the known world.
Their family was full of golden children; blonde-haired, blue-eyed angels who would not have looked out of place among the Gods of Olympus.
In short, the family was perfect.
As Edward grew older, one fatal, irreversible flaw appeared. No, it wasn’t his weight – that could have been easily solved with a sensible diet and exercise. And besides, kings had been overweight in the past – take Louis the Fat, for instance.
No, this was something that had never happened to a king – to God’s anointed – ever before.
It was at this point, on Facebook (the fount of all knowledge) that I saw a picture which totally convinced me of my theory.
It was a sign that I was on the right track.
Edward wasn’t York’s Golden Boy.
He didn’t have the luscious locks.
And this is what Clarence had discovered.
One morning, walking in on Edward early and surprising him at his toilette, George was taken aback by what he saw.
A reflection of the sun shining from Edward’s head.
And George couldn’t resist the same joke I had heard the child say to his father this very morning:
‘Oh look! There’s a hair on your head. Fooled you!’
Edward’s Groom of the Stool was combing over the bald spot – and George’s fate was sealed.
Edward called the guard and George’s feet didn’t touch the ground – until he was safely locked in his prison cell.
This also explains an obscure comment I once found whilst perusing ‘The Children’s Guide to the Croydon Chronicle’. This stated that Edward’s residences were ‘sparsely thatched’. I have spent many a year trying to decipher the exact meaning of this phrase, but now I know.
Edward was going bald and George discovering that truth was the final straw.
What else could Edward do? No king in history had ever gone bald.
Think on it. Name one – you can’t can you?
That’s because it has NEVER happened. It’s unheard of – and Edward had to protect his secret at all costs.
Ellison Weird, The Children’s Guide to the Croydon Chronicle; Steve Cole, Cows in Action – the Pirate Mootiny; HP Spicy BBQ Sauce; Ivy Hair Issues, Washing Instructions for Wigs.
Photos courtesy of Wikipedia and Google Images.
After writing this post, Jeff R Sun has realised how grateful he is for his full head of luscious locks.
Religion was very important to people of the 15th Century. In many ways, it controlled their lives; told them what to eat and when they could eat it, who they could marry and when, who could get into heaven and who couldn’t.
Okay, perhaps religion should have a big say on that last one, at least.
Religious piety was given great prominence as a way of deciding who was ‘good’ and who was ‘bad’, especially on the stage that was the Wars of the Roses. So here are 10 ways to identify which is which.
1. You may have been involved in the highest level of politics in your younger years; such as being married to the country’s Lord Protector, being mother of 2 kings, and related to most of the protagonists in the Wars of the Roses, but following strict religious observance in your later years, will make you saintly. Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, springs to mind.
2. Being a Yorkist, of course, makes it easier to be saintly. You could be mistaken for thinking that this is because, for the majority of the Wars of the Roses, they were on the winning side. However they were, eventually, the losers and yet still are considered highly pious, which highlights how incredibly remarkable a family they must have been.
3. You would have thought that being young and ‘disappeared’ may automatically make you saintly. However, Edward V and Richard Duke of York have a lot to overcome in order to make the saintly list. Yes, they were only children, imprisoned in the Tower of London and declared bastards by their uncle. However, they were a threat to that wonderful Uncle, who they would have had killed as soon as they reached adulthood. I have also heard say that they were ‘snivelling brats’. And the fact we don’t actually know, for certain, that they are, as yet, in fact, well, DEAD makes it difficult to conclusively declare them saints. Plus, they were part of the despicable Woodville – or Wydeville – clan, which, unfortunately, is an instant disbarment from sainthood.
4. A way to become saintly is to die young in battle. Edmund Earl of Rutland was only 17 and killed by Clifford at – or after – the Battle of Wakefield and his head put on a spike above Micklegate Bar in York. Apparently Clifford justified this ‘murder’ as Edmund’s father – the Duke of York – had, apparently, killed Clifford’s father at the 1st Battle of St Albans. Of course it helps if you’re also a member of the York family as
5. Dying young is no defence against you being a sinner. Edward, Prince of Wales was only 17 when he was killed in battle at Tewkesbury. Of course, it doesn’t help that he was a Lancastrian, that his father was catatonic when he was born, that – at 7 years old – he ordered the beheadings of 2 of Warwick’s men after the 2nd Battle of St Albans, that he was married to Anne Neville first, nor that he fought to reclaim his father’s crown from the Yorkists.
6. Founding religious houses and colleges almost automatically make you a saint. Richard III funded religious colleges at Middleham, and was in the process of setting one up at York Minster on his death. He was noted for his piety, so much so that his usurping of his nephew’s throne, the execution-without-trial of his brother’s friend, William Hastings, the subsequent disappearance – and possible murder – of his 2 nephews and the summary executions of his brother’s stepson and brother-in-law after a sham trial, doesn’t even put a dent in his piety. Of course, it does help if you are killed in an all-or-nothing battle for your life and crown.
7. Founding religious houses and colleges is not nearly enough to make you a saint if you are the Lancastrian mother of Henry VII. Margaret Beaufort had the gall to call herself ‘My Lady the King’s Mother’ when she was in fact – well – the king’s mother. She founded Christ’s College Cambridge and funded the restoration of churches. However, she helped to organise the royal household, supported her daughter-in-law’s sister when she fell out of favour with the king and supported her daughter-in-law, Elizabeth of York, in arguing against sending her granddaughter to a marriage in Scotland whilst still a child. Of course, it doesn’t help that Margaret Beaufort was a woman, a Lancastrian, adored by her son, the miserly Henry VII and loved by her grandson – the monstrous Henry VIII.
8. Of course, being a Lancastrian who married into the Yorkist, or a Yorkist who joined the Lancastrians, automatically prevents you from ever becoming a saint. To betray the Yorkists and fight for the Lancastrians in the last battle makes you the greatest traitor in history and a sinner beyond redemption – just ask the Stanleys. Conversely, having being married to a Lancastrian – who was killed in battle against the Yorkists – and then marrying the Yorkist king, and providing a male heir, automatically makes you the greatest traitor in history and a sinner beyond redemption – just ask Elizabeth Wydeville or Elizabeth Woodville (either should be able to confirm my point).
9. Being an adult king murdered by your ‘replacement’ king automatically makes you saintly. Henry VI, alone, defies the rules. He failed at everything except being highly religious. His piety was so impressive that calls for his canonisation were made as soon as he was dead. And yet he was a Lancastrian.
10. The final, most irredeemable example of a sinner in the 15th Century is, of course, Henry VII. That he was exiled from your home, and separated from his mother, from an early age. That he was Lancastrian heir following the deaths of – well – everyone else. That he was an able king who brought stability to a war-ravaged country. That he was a family man who loved his wife dearly and grieved for her deeply. All this is nothing compared to the fact he defeated Richard III and won the Wars of the Roses for the Lancastrians. What bigger sinner could there be in the 15th Century?
Jeff R Sun is continuously attempting to give clarity to the confusing parts of the Wars of the Roses. If you are still in doubt, please follow this basic premise: York, good; Lancaster, bad. Sticking with this simple rule, you won’t go far wrong, nor get shouted at, or be accused of trolling, on Facebook.
Sources: Wikipedia; Facebook groups galore; the Nile, which I live near; The Sunne in Splendour; The White Queen; The Red Queen; Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody; the Queen of Hearts; The Daughter of Time; Kind Hearts and Coronets.
I would like to take the opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy, and most of all healthy, New Year.
When Mrs JJ flounced off to her mother’s last week, she took with her the key to the cupboard with all the baubles and dangles and sparkly things and streamers and bunting and angels sans wings, so Christmas was looking bleak in the Jefferty-Jeff household until I came across a large and knobbly thing with a ‘use by 25th December 2014’ sticker on it. It also had a sticker on saying ‘Reduced to 83p.’ Mrs JJ, despite her faults and playing bridge and being bad at cooking (and that occasional funny smell,) is a most remarkably thrifty lady. She often spends pounds saving money.
Assuming by the use day date that this is one of her more bizarre ideas for Christmas decorating I have improvised to make the humble home look as festive as possible and I want to share my ‘Thing’ that adorns the hall in Chez Jefferty with you all and invite you to raise a glass of red with me to celebrate.
Do any of you realise that is was Richard the III who made Brussels Sprouts a traditional English Christmas meal food? When he and Edward had to flee to the Low Countries they had no money. Edward even had to pay for the sea voyage with the coat off his back. Desperately hungry they made their way to Brussels, sleeping in ditches and eating where they could. Some days the only food they could find were small cabbages – sprouts up a stalk of a Brassica.
That Christmas was cold and they were hungry and lonely and they were sitting around the fire cooking snow for Christmas dinner when someone tripped and dropped the small cabbage they were all sharing into the cooking post. After weeks of cold, hard and half-frozen small cabbages the taste of the overcooked, mushy, smelly green thing was such a welcome change that they vowed to take some back to England and always have them for Christmas day for ever more.
Eating sprouts at Christmas became law in 1479 and despite the Puritans trying to get the law abolished in the late sixteenth century, the statute still exists and that is why still we all have to eat Brussels Sprouts at Christmas!
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY!!!!!!!!!!!
Original source material and references:
Morrison’s own ‘Orange and Lemon Jelly Slices’ (85g)