Tag Archives: Richard III

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did you come up with the idea of bail?

I invented bail – or did I?

Which is your favourite Stanley?

Matthews.

Do you like strawberries?

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

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

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

Tell us honestly, did you fancy your niece?

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

Did you plan to marry your niece?

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

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

What do you have to say about Hastings?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Richard denies that this is a picture of his ghost.

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

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

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

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baby Brothers

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Two loving brothers

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

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

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

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Helpful Henry I

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

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

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

Luckily this was where the Royal Treasury was held.

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

Robert_curthose
Robert Curthose, Henry I’s ‘guest’

And then there was Robert…..

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

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

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Durnstein Castle, Richard I’s holiday home in Germany

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

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

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Distracted Duke Humphrey

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

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

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

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Edward IV making the most of his leisure-time

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

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

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

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

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Edward V being saved from working himself to death

The grieving Duke then turned to his little nephews.

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

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

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

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Jeff R Sun still has no babysitter

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

Pictures courtesy of Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

Howard and the Fall of the Monarchy

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

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

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

The ceremony is an amazing spectacle, but I digress.

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

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

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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 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.

holbein henry
Cuddly Henry VIII

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

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

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

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

 

Henry didn’t take kindly to being 2nd.

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

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

But there was a secret marriage – apparently.

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

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

I looked at him.

29ef165692b30bd76b1b80f20739a98f
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.

 

Shocking twist in Richard III mystery: did the king fake his own scoliosis?

plant

Was the medieval herb Leechmold an early relation of today’s highly poisonous Caroline Jessamine, native to the US?

In a spine-tingling discovery, scientists working at the University of Leicester have uncovered an unbelievable possibility regarding Richard’s appearance. It is now over three weeks since the last medieval King was laid to rest amid great pomp in the Cathedral of St Mary Castro. Since the shock of his discovery, the curve of his spine lying less than a metre under the car park tarmac has led to all sorts of theorising and analysis. Yet his legendary “hunched-back,” now revealed to be scoliosis, continues to stir debate about the extent of his suffering and its visibility to others. Now, in the wake of all the tests, comes a new revelation. It may well be that Richard actually faked his own scoliosis. But how would he do this, and why?

A recent study suggests that Richard’s curved spine might not have been visible to anyone else, that he managed to keep it hidden all his life. This would appear to be likely, given that the comments about it uniformly appear after August 1485 and much was made of them by the Tudor spin machine which Henry VII kept well oiled like a circus act. Now a new report from a Leicester lab has been leaked, containing the suggestion, so damaging to Richard’s character, which has been hitherto concealed, for fear of the controversy it would spark in addition to the issues surrounding his reburial. The presence of certain substances in his DNA prove that Richard had consumed a high dose of a certain herb, well-known to medieval doctors as Leechmold, which had the effect of ceasing up the vertebrae of his spine.

The effects of the herb appear to have been dramatic. Its identity, however, is not clear; one manuscript illumination found in a twelfth century Leech Book show a small, modest-looking plant with heart-shaped leaves and a small yellow flower, but scientists are still struggling to identify it with any known species today. There is a chance that the crop was on the wane in the fifteenth century and has since died out in the UK. It does not feature in Culpeper’s herbal or any other manuals of medicinal plants in the Elizabethan or Jacobean eras, but it may have been taken across the Atlantic by the first travellers, and rooted itself there as today’s common Caroline Jessamine. Among its effects are listed: “to contracte and warp the spine,” “to bryng on the crampes in the back” and “to make a manne stoop when he walks.” Such a scarce and potent herb would have been highly prized, especially among those seeking to practise witchcraft and medicine and only available to those who could afford the significant cost. On 30 June 1485, one entry in the records of a well-known London doctor, John Fenygreek, includes the sale of two handfuls of “syrup of leekmolde” at 50s, to a client who is only recorded as “RG.” Fenygreek was a main supplier of the court, frequently at Westminster, and RG may have been Richard of Gloucester. Although he was King at this point, the doctor was clearly trying to hide this individual’s identity.

spine

But why would Richard have resorted to this herb, in the weeks approaching Bosworth? He had been anticipating Henry Tudor’s invasion since his first failed attempt in the winter of 1483 and in the spring of 1485, reports reached him that it would soon be a reality. Yet Richard was not afraid, not believing that Tudor was anything but a rank outsider whom he could easily defeat: his own marital plans for an alliance with Portugal prove that. So what was Richard doing? From his purchase, it appears to have been in Richard’s interests to make someone suffer from the ill-effects of the herb. Had he been intending to administer it to himself, or to a rival, or someone else entirely? Aware of the medieval correlation between physical deformity and morality, did he intend to capture Henry and parade him as a hunchback, an unfit, defeated King? Or had he bought it for his own use? The effects of the herb must have been rapid, perhaps immediate, depending on the individual’s build and weight. With Richard’s “gracile” stature, no doubt they worked quickly. Exactly what happened is unclear, but the Leechmold ended up in Richard’s system and its effects upon his spine were dramatic. Two possibilities arise. Did he ingest it himself, perhaps in an attempt to garner sympathy when the battle was lost? To present himself to Henry as a humble cripple, perhaps to spare his own life, to live and fight another day. If so, scholars need to reassess the King’s character. Alternatively, was it fed to him by someone he trusted in his camp at breakfast or in a drink, on August 22? If so, we need to start looking for the enemy within.

Leaked report LLR30497

Leaked tap in my bathroom.

Leeks, a few in my garden.

Jeff R Vescent is getting curiouser and curiouser.

What Thomas More Didn’t Want You To Know

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

more's richard

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

More family portrait

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

moreburningbooks

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

tudor pastry

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

 

Jeff “the wiz” Berlin

Sources:

The History of King Richard III

Thomas More The Saint and the Society

The Keebler Elves

 

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

 

 

Saint Richard? Miracles in Leicestershire!

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

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

Thank you Jess.

Shenton Station
Shenton Station

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

Richard III route

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

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

Crab Apple BudHorse Chestnutbeech

 

 

 

 

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

Pussy Willow

Baby rabbits were hopping in the fields

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

and lambs frolicked with their mother

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2015-04-02 16.02.42

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

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

HE had traversed this route.

Could Richard III be causing miracles to happen?

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

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

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

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

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

Miraculous baby duck on a Leicestershire pond

(Source material is unavailable.

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

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

The Hinckley Times

Wikipedia

Author’s own collection

© Jeff “Jefferty” Jeff: 09.04.2015

The Curse of Tristan: A look at Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde.

Following the 17 3/4 years of hype and media coverage of the exhumation and eventual re interment of Richard III, many of you will be heaving sighs of relief but others may be having some withdrawal symptoms so I want to wean you off gradually by talking about another Richard, Richard Wagner.

Looking at the life and works of Richard Wagner, I was struck by the amount of death and malfeasance that surrounds the opera Tristan and Isolde. At that point I had not heard of the ‘curse of Tristan’ but I was not surprised to find much authentic documentation on a supposed malediction and eagerly set out to find the details.

Wilhelm Richard Wagner (22 May 1813 – 13 February 1883) was a German composer, theatre director and conductor who is best remembered for his dramatic and lengthy operas. Throughout his seventy years of life, Wagner had a controversial lifestyle characterized by exile for his political beliefs and actions, frequent turbulent love affairs, poverty and repeated flights from his creditors. He was an unconventional man who did not hesitate to use subtle emotional blackmail on his main sponsor to get his own way and many more gulden!

Wagner began work on Tristan and Isolde in 1857 and almost immediately the curse began to have effect. In the entire history of the world until that point, the only disaster of any significance was the treacherous betrayal and slaying of the revered and saint like Richard III at Bosworth in 1485, yet as soon as Wagner had written the first notes in early March, France and the United Kingdom declared war on China, a war that would be known as the second opium war. On 21st March an Earthquake hit Tokyo, killing over 107,000 people and then on 21st May the Indian Mutiny began with the Sepoy’s revolt leading to the terrible Cawnpore massacre.

Wagner began to get worried and put the work on hold for a month or so whilst the world sorted it’s self out and the effects of the curse wore off. During this hiatus his eye strayed to Mathilde Wesendonck, the wife of his patron, and began affair that eventually led to the estrangement of the Wagners and another ‘notch in the belt of the curse’.

The lovely Mathilde. It is understandable why Wagner's eye should stray to her!
The lovely Mathilde. It is understandable why Wagner’s eye should stray to her!

Wagner had no sooner resumed work than on September 23rd the Russian warship Leffort disappeared with a loss of 826 in a storm in the Gulf of Finland.

Wagner was so busy with his new lady love that he only worked intermittently on Tristan for the next nine months and the curse did not have a chance to take too much effect and only caused local damage: a cook with a cut finger, a cat getting trodden on by a donkey, a pantile falling off a roof and squashing a crow – everyday things that happen every day – but suddenly on June 29th 1858, the curse struck again with the great fire of London Docks, followed in July by a far, far worse happening.

On July 21st spectators were charged for the very first time to see a baseball game!

It seemed the end of the world as people knew it.

Eighteen fifty nine may have seemed like the end of the world for Wagner too as a small pension he received from one of his previous lady loves ceased when he began an affair with another lady. Wagner never learned! but he did manage to complete the ill fated ‘Tristan’ during that year, with it only causing the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii to erupt for 300 days and the “Pomona” to sink in the North Atlantic drowning all 400 aboard.

Wagner himself was not ‘Tristan’s’ biggest fan, writing half-satirically of it ‘… This Tristan is turning into something terrible. This final act!!!—I fear the opera will be banned … only mediocre performances can save me! Perfectly good ones will be bound to drive people mad.’ Little did he know how true his words would be.

It may well have been just coincidental that Wagner was writing Tristan and Isolde at the time his personal life was falling apart, but what followed makes it seem as if the opera was trying to prevent itself from ever being performed. Even after its completion it was still another six years before it could be performed with difficulties plaguing the composer with funding and finding musicians who were able to sustain the pace during this long and difficult work. Ludwig and Malvina Schnorr von Carolsfeld, two of the greatest dramatic voices of the time, were eventually given leave from their court positions to sing the lead roles; Wagner had also secured the services of the genius conductor Hans von Bülow (it is unknown whether this is because or despite Wagner having an affair with Bülow’s wife Cosima at the time!)

Cosima, H. W. Ernst, Franz Liszt and Hans von Bülow (1865) in Pest. The real marriage wrecking 'pest', Wagner, was absent from the picture.
Cosima, H. W. Ernst, Franz Liszt and Hans von Bülow (1865) in Pest. The real marriage wrecking ‘pest’, Wagner, was absent from the picture.

The premiere scheduled for May 15, 1865 was cancelled at the last minute when Malvina suddenly lost her voice. It took almost an entire month for her to recover and for everything to be ready for the premiere on June 10, 1865 at the Bavarian State Opera. The reception of the work was disastrous, but Wagner was determined to carry on. His refusal to withdraw the work led to horrifying “coincidence” that Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld, the original Tristan, suddenly died on July 21, 1865. He was only 29 and the true cause of his death has never been established.

The curse kept quiet for most of the rest of the year, except for causing a forest fire in Oregon destroying about one million acres of timber and two events personal to Wagner. He was exiled from Bavaria and his estranged wife died. He probably would not have minded too much about his wife dying except that meant there was no reason why his mistress, Cosimo Bülow could not move in with him, a move that rather cramped his style with the ladies.

Nothing too great was attributed to the curse for quite a number of years after that except for a huge fire in Quebec destroying 2,500 houses, but suddenly two things happened in 1883. Cosimo broke three finger nails and Wagner died.

The curse was not over yet though. Remember Wagner’s words about good performances driving people mad? Wagner’s erstwhile champion, devoted acolyte and sponsor, Ludwig II, King of Bavaria,

The mad king Ludwig II of Bavaria, getting ready to do a spectacular eye-roll.
The mad king Ludwig II of Bavaria, getting ready to do a spectacular eye-roll.

who had been exhibiting signs of insanity for years, went completely mad and allegedly committed suicide by not drowning and beating up his doctor (long story – I will investigate this further in a future blog).

The next king, Otto, was totally mad and never properly reigned – another victim of the curse.

Not content, still the curse worked its evil causing the Boer war, the death of Queen Victoria after only reigning for 63 years, 217 days and in 1911, causing Felix Mottl to suffer a heart attack, from which he later died, while conducting the second act of Tristan and Isolde.

The next events that the curse of Tristan influenced were both the first and second world wars, the Suez crisis, the Cold War and the assassination of JFK and then in 1968, in a strange mirroring of an earlier event, 60 year old conductor Joseph Keilberth also suffered a heart attack during Tristan and Isolde’s second act.

All of this could safely be dismissed as superstitious nonsense except for my own personal experience.  In November last year Mrs JJ listened to part of Tristan and Isolde on the radio and  flounced out of my life shortly afterwards, never to return and even worse, the very radio she was listening to, fell onto the floor and shattered two days later.

I miss that radio.

People may roll their eyes at this and begin to think that Jefferty has lost the plot, but I seriously  consider that as proof of the curse of Tristan so be afraid everyone, be very afraid.  2015 is the 150th anniversary of the first performance and countries all over the world are planning to stage the opera.

Stay in bed. Hide under the stair well. Emigrate to Antarctica. Wear garlic and carry a stake. Anything (as long as you can still get the internet to read Double History!) Just stay safe and avoid this evil curse.

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Sources:

Dr Don Ashtray Pill: How to master head shaking.

Dr Don Ashtray Pill: Eye roll tutorial for beginners.

Dr Don Ashtray Pill: Sartorial dressing for funerals and other fashion tips.

Dr D Snarkey: The Common Loon.

Jolly N Fellow: How to describe medical conditions in a way designed to upset everyone.

Philippa Langley: How to hide under an  elegant hat to avoid eye contact with neighbour.

Radio Repair Workshop for beginners.

Jeff ‘Jefferty’ Jeff is currently staring sadly at the broken radio whilst accidently inhaling glue fumes and wondering why he is feeling floaty and spaced out.

Jeff has spent the past week searching for fifty quid that he was sure that he had until that day he helped Jeff Fuel.

If you would like to be the first to see the Jeffs’ latest blog posts, please like the Double History Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Double-History/370098793163839?fref=ts

© Jeff ‘Jefferty’ Jeff 29.03.2015