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.

Monday, 19 June 2017

June 19th - death of Piers Gaveston.

I have been so busy lately and have neglected this blog, but of course I cannot let today pass without mentioning the anniversary of the shameful 'execution' of Piers Gaveston.    Both Guy of Warwick and Thomas of Lancaster let their jealousy get the better of them and had Piers killed without a proper trial.   Little did they know they would unleash the vengeance of Edward II.   RIP Piers.



Sunday, 21 May 2017

Remembering May 19th

May 19th is of course the day Piers Gaveston surrendered to Amyer de Valance at Scarborough Castle on very favourable terms.  From a Tudor point of view, it's also the anniversary of the execution of Anne Boleyn - my heroine from very early childhood.  A remarkable woman, who had flaws and many virtues.   I've been to the Tower of London on May 19th previously, to see the famed basket of roses that have appeared for many, many years and the other bunches of flowers that have begun to appear over the years.   This year there were many more bunches of flowers than I've ever seen.  Here's a selection of photos from May 19th.   

And in my own garden, my Anne Boleyn rose bush was in bloom!


Sunday, 14 May 2017

The Royals magazine

The new issue of The History of the Royals has a fabulous article about Edward II by Kathryn Warner.    It's a 2 page article and focuses on the possible survival of Edward II.   It's a forerunner to Kathryn's book 'Long Live the King', out on June 1st.   Can't wait!