Sunday, 3 December 2017

Ludlow Castle - the apartments of Prince Arthur and Katherine of Aragon

 The eldest son of Henry VII, Prince Arthur, born in Winchester and named for glory and drawing on his Welsh ancestry, was sent to govern in Ludlow Castle at a very young age.  His father was following the example, set by Edward IV, of sending the heir to the throne to govern the troublesome Marcher lands on the Welsh borders.  It was deemed an ideal 'apprenticeship'.
 These photos show the inside and outside of the apartments occupied by Prince Arthur.

 In 1501, the young Prince was married to the Spanish princess, Katherine of Aragon.  It was a superb match for the Tudor family.
 The young couple were sent to Ludlow, to live, in my opinion, as husband and wife.   The idea of Prince Arthur being a sickly youth is a later invention.   No mention of sickliness was made at his wedding, when he and his bride were on view for all to see,and Katherine's parents would surely have enquired as to the health of the young prince.  There was no hint of the tragedy to follow.
Both Arthur and Katherine caught some type of sickness in April 1502.  Both were expected not to survive.   sadly, Arthur died, and Katherine was too ill to even know her young husband was dead.

The young couple seem to have been really happy here.  Years later, their private life would come under intense scrutiny.   Their apartments are currently under renovation.  If only walls could talk!

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Ludlow Castle

I've been very lucky to visit Ludlow twice this year.   The castle is spectacular, and of huge significance to anyone with an interest in Medieval history.
It has been held by the Mortimer family and the Dukes of York.
The chapel was added by the infamous Roger Mortimer, after helping Queen Isabella dethrone her husband Edward II.

Richard, Duke of York, abandoned the castle in the so-called 'Wars of the Roses', leaving behind his wife, Duchess Cicely, and her young children, including George, the future Duke of Clarence, and Richard, later Richard III.  He naturally made sure his eldest 2 sons were safe.

It was also the castle where the young Edward V was schooled as a prince, ready to take over from his father.   Henry VII subsequently sent his son Prince Arthur there and later, Henry VIII sent the Princess Mary there.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Belated Anniversary Wishes

November 1st 1307 was the anniversary of the wedding between Piers Gaveston and Margaret de Clare, niece of Edward II.  Margaret was the second daughter of Gilbert de Clare and the daughter of Edward 1st, Joan of Acre.   This was Edward's way of bringing Piers into the Royal family.   The Vita Edwardi Secundi says it was Edward's aim to 'strengthen Piers and surround him with friends '.  Margaret was aged 14 and doubtless had no say in the marriage.   We don't know how Margaret felt about her husband but we do know she accompanied Piers to Ireland on his second banishment and that Piers returned from his third banishment when Margaret was due to give birth to their daughter Joan.  If Piers was as chivalrous, graceful and  magnificently dressed as he was described, it's not difficult to imagine Margaret being impressed with her husband.   Being made Countess of Cornwall no doubt helped.   Whatever the relationship between her husband and Uncle, Margaret must have recognised the importance of her marriage to the King's favourite and saw a bright and successful marriage ahead.  If only......

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Mortimer History Society - presentation by Kathryn Warner

Saturday, October 7th, is I date I will never forget!    The Mortimer History Society were holding a historical event in Ludlow.    One of the speakers was Kathryn Warner, who was to give a talk about Isabella of France, based around her book 'Isabella, Rebel Queen'.     I've 'known' Kathryn for about 10 years, but only through e-mail and her superb blog on Edward II.  After all this time, we were finally going to meet and I was going to hear her presentation.   And what a wonderful day it was!

Ludlow is such a picturesque town on the borders of England and Wales, and of huge importance to the Mortimer family.  Kathryn was due to talk for about 50 mins - and I wondered how on earth she would be able to keep to 50 minutes!    How Kathryn managed to paint a superb 'pen portrait' of Isabella in such a short time, I'll never know!    But it was all there - the history of her parents, her childhood, marriage and her relationship with Piers Gaveston and the collapse of her marriage which ended with the deposition of her husband, Edward II.   I'm amazed that for almost an hour Kathryn didn't stop for a sip of water and made use of just a couple of cue cards.   Her talk was riveting, informative and entertaining!      Myths such as Piers receiving Isabella 's wedding presents were dismissed and there was laughter as any notion of William Wallace being Edward III's father were demolished.    The complicated lineage of Edward and Isabella was expertly explained.

Having read Kathryn's book and her blog, Kathryn's talk was still thought-provoking.   I hadn'I realised that Isabella's last child was born when she was only 25 - still at the height of her fertility.   It begs the question why?    Was it because of her fertility or her husband's?   Or did Isabella and Edward cease sharing a bed?   As Kathryn has shown, the marriage was happy and the couple were rarely apart and shared a bed frequently.   Isabella was an ideal Queen and provided huge support for her husband.   It may well be fertility problems weren't issue - or was it the influence of Hugh Despencer that changed Edward's attitude to his wife?   It's an intriguing thought.

It was a wonderful day and I really enjoyed chatting away to Kathryn about Piers, Edward, Isabella, Hugh........Made me realise once again how happy I was when recovering from a severe bout of tonsillitis, confined to bed, having just re-read Jean Plaidy's 'The Follies of the King', I googled 'Piers Gaveston ' and found Kathryn 's superb blog!

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Long Live the King!

This is the book I've been waiting for from Kathryn Warner for a long, long time!  I'm sorry it's taken me some time to post this review, but I've had a very busy summer and am only now getting round to posting it.  I've been a longtime fan of Kathryn Warner's Edward II blog and have been intrigued by the possible survival of Edward II.  The sheer number of books about Richard III and the disappearance of his nephews has dominated royal mysteries for  years.  We'll never, ever know what happened, and in my opinion, it's obvious Richard had them killed to ensure his survival.   But the mystery of Edward II's supposed survival has far more evidence than any you can find on the mystery of the Princes.  Edward's possible survival needs far more attention than it's been given - and Kathryn does so in her marvelous book.   Biographies of Edward focus on his weaknesses and his tyranny, and any reference to his survival is quickly brushed over, usually dismissed, and even if not, deemed as unworthy of further investigation.   But it's a fascinating possibility, and anyone who likes a good detective story will find it here.  I won't give a way too much, but for me the most intriguing parts of the story are -

  • that such a personage as the Archbishop of York, Melton, someone who knew Edward, was utterly convinced Edward was a live.  An intelligent and powerful man was willing to commit to paper his belief that Edward was still alive and wanted to raise money to gather support for Edward.
  • the whole plot to 'entrap' the Earl of Kent, who believed his brother to be alive and was trying to gather support for him.  Why would Roger Mortimer and Isabella, having given out the news that Edward was dead, seek to 'entrap' Kent into believing his brother was alive?  Surely the last thing they would want was any speculation that Edward was alive?
  • We're not told what killed Edward at Berkeley Castle.  From being in good health, and we have evidence he was treated well in captivity, and with descriptions of him being strong and no sign of poor health, what exactly did he die of?
  • Whatever killed Edward, his body was never put on public view.  Think of when Henry VII paraded the body of the defeated Richard III, and how Edward IV and Richard put the bodies of Henry VI and Warwick the Kingmaker on view to prove they were dead.  Interestingly, it's the first royal funeral to use a wooden effigy.
  • The Fieschi letter.   I've read and re-read it so many times, and it's fascinating.  Is it a fake?  and if so, why would anyone want to fake it?  What would there be to gain?  If it was genuinely written by Fieschi and is a 'blackmail' attempt by the Papacy - it's a pretty flimsy attempt.  If Edward III ever received it as such, it seemingly had no effect.  There is one detail in particular that Kathryn has linked with her research - and I won't say what it is - but it certainly lends weight to the Fieschi letter being genuine.   
  • Key for me for the survival of Edward is his attitude to the crown.  In my opinion, he didn't want his crown back.  He knew he was unpopular, and I'm sure he wouldn't have wanted a Civil war for his son, so what better than to surrender his person into the hands of the papacy and live a simple life as a hermit?

This is a thought-provoking book and I literally could not put it down - constantly referring back to it and re-reading passages again and again.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Caerphilly Castle Visit

It's been a couple of years since I visited Caerphilly Castle.  It's always a pleasure to visit  and I managed a visit a few of months ago.  It really is a magnificent castle and is best known for it's incredible 'leaning tower'.

The castle has gone under some restoration since my last visit, and the Great Hall has been restored to what it would have looked like in the time of Hugh Despencer, favourite of Edward II and married to his niece, Eleanor de Clare.  The inside of the roof was most impressive.

The hall has been set up as if the Lord and Lady were dining, with 2 chairs at the head of the table.  The table itself is covered with a cloth which tells the story of Hugh Despencer.  It's the first time I've seen it and I managed to take some photos.

First up, the wedding of Hugh and Eleanor.

The story of Llewelyn Bren.  Not Hugh Despencer's finest hour!

 The alterations carried out by Hugh Despencer at Caerphilly.

An unhappy Isabella heads to France as Edward is seemingly ruled by Despencer.

 Isabella and Roger Mortimer prepare to invade England.

Edward and Despencer flee to Despencer's castle at Caerphilly before making their way to Neath Abbey where they surrender to Isabella.  Below is the execution of Despencer.  Those familiar with this famous depiction of Despencer's dreadful execution will realise the embroiders  for this cloth have respected Despencer's modesty!

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Pride, Power and Politics

Pride, Power and Politics is an exhibition touring Royal Historical Palaces and was at the Tower of London from May 26-27.   Here's a review from History Revealed magazine.

'See how this formidable fortress has played a role in Britain's LGBT+history.  From the days of Edward II and his betrayal of companion Piers Gaveston to Henry VIII's and Queen Victoria's attitudes towards homosexuality, learn why the Tower has been a symbol of prejudice in our nation's gay history '.

Erm, I'm puzzled by Edward's betrayal of Piers.   This is History Revealed's error, not the Tower's. I haven't been able to attend the exhibition, unfortunately, but I cannot see how Edward could be responsible for a betrayal of Piers, when in fact he did everything he could to save him.   I'd be interested to hear if anyone saw the exhibition and how exactly Piers and Edward were portrayed.   

A similar exhibition, Pride at the Palace, runs at Hampton Court sometime in July.

Here's Edward II when I 'met' him at the Tower a few years ago.