Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Edward IV Roll

Propaganda Wars 

“What is unique to the Yorkists is the degree to which they made effective use of imagery to reinforce their claims. In this manuscript its creators have combined heroic portraiture, quotations from the Vulgate that stress divinely-assisted triumph over enemies and genealogical diagramming that highlights the Yorkist line's ties to a rich legacy of British legend that far surpasses the Lancastrian”

The beautiful document shown below was not made just for commemorative purposes, it is a fine example of Yorkist propaganda. Edward IV, you could argue, like other monarchs from the fifteenth century, had a questionable right to the throne. This particular scroll is seen as the Yorkist dynasties attempt at establishing their legitimacy. It was produced in 1461 for the coronation of the Earl of March as King Edward IV and is just under twenty feet long, and shows the new kings genealogy as far back as Adam and Eve. Historians claim that these kind of scrolls were ‘mass produced’ this would mean that they were given to all members of the nobility so all would know of the royal families connection with God. 

Apart from the hand painted chart for the gentry, to get his message across to the rest of the country, Edward used posters tacked where all could see them, poems were read and songs sung and if that didn't work there was always the sermon. Symbolism was also a tool Edward used as way of showing divine approval of his cause, he, like the rest of medieval society, believed strongly in the sign...the omen. The most famous one of course, was the three sparkly suns in the sky before the Battle of Mortimer's Cross. From this Edward considered the day to be his and spread the word that it was the Holy Trinity and God was on his side, he also later he used it again, this time it was as a sign telling him to claim the crowns of France and Spain to add to England's.

Of course this kind of thing is not new, when the Lancastrian's were having a spot of bother in the mid fourteen hundreds, they too produced genealogy charts showing their family link to the almighty. In one chart the artist left out Lionel of Antwerp, second son of Edward III altogether, this would prevent any claims to the throne by descent from the older son, get rid of him and the Lancastrian's claim of descent though Edward III’s third son John of Gaunt would be legitimate.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Richard III: The Road to Bosworth

                                                 19th August 1485.

It is probable that Richard attended prayers in the Church of St Mary de Casto before leaving for Bosworth and no doubt he would have worshiped here when he visited Leicester Castle in 1483.

The Church of St Mary de Castro was built within Leicesters Castle walls, its name meaning St Mary of the Castle. It was founded by Robert de Beaumont, one of only fifteen men proven to have been with William the Conqueror at Hasting, in 1107. This church, along with many sites at Leicester lay testament to the importance of Leicester throughout history. John of Gaunt was the churches patron and it is known that King Henry VI was knighted here and that Geoffrey Chaucer may have married here.

My image below, taken early this year, shows part of the rear of the church, note the lovely line of grotesque heads.

Richard III: A Day of Dynasty, Death and Discovery at the Visitors Centre and the clever use of Light.


King Richard III is known to have stayed at Leicester Castle in 1483, he arrived just a few weeks after being crowned King of England. On the 18th of August, Richard III arrived in the City of Leicester and exactly 531 years to the day, I arrived there too.
Parking our car on the second level of a multi story car park, we could look down on all the continuing building work and see the spire of the Cathedral Church of St Martin in the distance. Walking through the newly paved streets we found ourselves in the grounds of St Martins, and standing with our backs to the cathedrals arched entrance we could see Richard III's statue, recently taken from Castle Gardens, standing in front of the entrance to the new visitors centre. This is what we had come back to Leicester to see following a day spent at the re enactment of the Battle of Bosworth the day before. We arrived at are pre booked time slot refreshed and eager.

 I was amazed how tasteful this new build is and how the glass and the brass effect complemented the red brick buildings of the of Grammar School on its left and the buildings that make up St Martins on its right.  The entrance is large and airy and incorporates the gift shop where you can purchase all the books you will ever need if you wish study the the life of king himself. There are a few gift items, and I emphasize the word few, such as mugs, key rings, pencils etc all the things that you usually find in any exhibition and it is nice to see that there is no 'tat' or cheap plastic rubbish aimed at children.

The exhibition is called Dynasty, Death and Discovery and it truly lives up to its name, anyone who doesn't know anything King Richard will understand the basics by the time they leave. As I am familiar with Richards story I found that I could wander around and enjoy the experience rather than spend too much time reading all the very informative, well presented, exhibits and displays. I will not tell you too much about them and spoil your enjoyment, but they cover Richards life, the archaeological dig, and there is a nice exhibit covering all the actors who have played Richard in film or television.

Although we were two among many I never felt rushed or that I should move along onto the next section. The whole place has a calmness and serene feel to it especially Richard's grave area, which I thought was cleverly lit with natural light, it is sensitively presented. Quite rightly, you cannot stand on or walk over the kings grave, but what you can do is look down and reflect on his death and his life with respect, or sit and chat to others on seating that is a little further back.
For those who have been mean and uttered nasty and uncalled for remarks about this exhibition with statements such as

               "Absolutely ghastly – words fail me. What a way to treat an anointed King of England"

should be ashamed of themselves, especially if they have never visited.

Look at my two photograph and consider the fact that the people behind this exhibition have had Richard's own words, the words he himself wrote in his Book of Hours carved in stone above his grave. These people should be commended not criticised,

 "Lord Jesus Christ, deign to free me, your servant King Richard, from every tribulation, sorrow and trouble in which I am placed."  
The Richard III exhibition is not your normal medieval exhibition, there are no old objects from the past, no ripped or faded tapestries, no musty smells of age, it is a modern, highly technical, interactive interpretation of a dynasty, a death and a discovery that I thoroughly enjoyed, especially as I had forgotten all about the reconstruction of Richards skull until it suddenly appeared from behind a clearing opaque glass screen right in front of me!  
I am greatly impressed by the thought that has gone into this build, an old bay window has been replaced with a large glass balcony where you can stand and look out over a garden and the brick wall that once separated the now famous car park from the Grammar School. This wall has now been rebuilt in sandstone which blends in well with the glass walls and ceilings of the building. 

I had a enjoyable and relaxed couple of hours topped off with a rather nice cup of tea and a slice of cake in the cafe and would give the exhibition four out of five stars only because there were a couple of things that could be not improved, tweaked. The writing on the wall above Richards grave is difficult to read, maybe the letters could be in gold, so they stand out more, the area covering the Battle of Bosworth could be a little bit lighter and some audio exhibit are a bit difficult to hear, but that's about it.
 My money and time was well spent.

Leicester's exhibition The Story of King Richard III: Dynasty, Death and Discovery is of course about looking back, but also has a great emphasis on looking forward and this is cleverly done, and not necessarily though its interpretation of Richards story, but through its modern, airy architectural designed building that places Richard III and his future story in a completely new light.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Richard III at Leicester Castle 18th August 1483

 A letter dated this day, the 18th August 1483 and just a few weeks after being crown king of England, Richard III stayed at Leicester Castle, a Norman creation being built just after the conquest of England.

Richard letter states: 

“According to the right of the said truces. Upon which matter, in order that my said subjects and merchants be not deceived under the shadow of the same. I pray you that by my servant, this bearer, one of the grooms of my stable, you will let me know by writing your full intention, and at the same time if you desire anything that I can do for you, that I may do it with good will. And farewell, my lord my cousin."

Ending the letter he wrote 

"Written in my castle of Leicester, the 18th day of August 1483”

The image seen below is part of the remains of Leicester Castle wall, along with cannon ball holes from the time of the civil wars taken on a trip to Leicester earlier this year. A seventeenth century building, with its bricked entrance conceals the twelfth century structure that Richard III would have known. The Great Hall, was built three hundred years before and was a large open space with timber aisle posts, sadly nothing of this can be seen. Standing next to the Great Hall is a vaulted cellar known as John of Gaunt´s cellar, also seen below, it is believed that Parliament met here in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Apart from a visit from Richard III, the hall had received other royal guests such as Edward I, Edward II and Henry IV.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

The Raven Edger Allen Poe



The Raven by Edger Allen Poe is a poem about internal conflict. Poe writes early in his poem that the man of his tale has been trying to achieve "surcease of sorrow for the lost Lenore", by burying himself in old books. He is interrupted in his efforts by a knock on the door, on opening he only finds:

"darkness there and nothing more." 

He whispers into the darkness the name of his love, "Lenore" but all he hears in return is the echo of his own voice repeating her name. Only just returning to his book he hears again another tapping, this time it is at his window. Flinging open the window in steps a:

"stately Raven, the bird of ill-omen" 

On entering the room the raven perches on the bust of a Greek goddess. Staring for a while the man asks the Raven for his name, surprisingly the bird answers," Nevermore." Poe goes on explain that the man consideres the Raven has brought him bad news. 

"Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
`Doubtless,' said I, `what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore -
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "Never-nevermore."

The man becomes interested in what the raven means by Nevermore and proceeds to asks of the bird questions such as "Is there balm in Gilead?"  "Nevermore." Can Lenore be found in paradise? - "Nevermore." "Take thy form from off my door!"  "Nevermore." in the hope that the bird will bring an end to his sorrows. Getting no answer but Nevermore the man at realises that he is defeated and with this understands that he will never deal with the loss of Lenore, this one thought is represented by the Raven who does not move from the statue and continuing to croak the single word "Nevermore." 

A pointless conversation, and the conflict between desire to forget and desire to remember drives the man insane.

"And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!"

Wonderfully Gothic....great stuff!

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Creeping Concrete.

                                Castle similar to that of Binamy

In the north of Cornwall, not far from the sea stood Binamy Castle, a mid fourteenth century moated castle the remains of which can be seen on what is known as Binamy Farm. Binamy Castle has had a place in my heart many many years, sadly the foundations of this once fine medieval building and the site on which is stood will soon be surrounded by a large housing estate.
                      Aerial photograph of Binamy Farm and the housing development surrounding it.

Talk of the destruction of our countryside and its heritage has been a big issue for years, and still is. Philip Larkin wrote of it in his 1972 poem Going, going, which I read last evening.

Larkins penultimate verse reads:

And that will be England gone,
The shadows, the meadows, the lanes,
The guildhalls, the carved choirs.
There'll be books; it will linger on
In galleries; but all that remains
For us will be concrete and tyres.

Larkin's poem has a hard hitting environmental message that rings to true for me, not only in its historical sense but in also in real time, I have watched houses springing up around me where there was once an apple orchard, large oak trees and a stream.

Larkin's was commissioned by the Department of the Environment to write a poem to feature in their report ‘How Do You Want To Live?’ His work was used but edited, and lines taken out as controversial or offensive but he later published it if full. His poem smacks of fatalism, it can be said that it is as much about growing old as it is about the environmental issues, but was Larkin right, of course he was, but has any action been taken to prevent or at least control this destructive disease, this creeping concrete?   Has the words of  this fine Poet Laureate made a difference.

I don't think so!