St Mary Spital

Braque_Family_Triptych_closed_WGADeath was ever present in medieval times (as to some extent latter centuries), and when we think about it, we may think that there was no such things as hospitals. And there wasn´t, not as we know them today. But there was places for sick people, one of them was St Mary Spital
In 1197, just outside Bishopsgate, a priory was formed by Walter Brunus and his wife Roisia. Its name was “The new hospital of St Mary without Bishopsgate”, but it came to be known as St Mary Spital. This came to be one of the biggest hospitals in medieval England and included a large cemetery with a stone charnel house and mortuary chapel, of which the latter was discovered by archaeologists. It was one of 200 hospitals founded in England during the 12th century, and it came to be one of the biggest hospitals in medieval times providing shelter for the sick, the poor, elderly and homeless.
The original name was Hospital (or priory) of the Blessed Virgin Mary without Bishopsgate and it was located on the east side of Bishopsgate Street. The means to found it came from an undated grant of lands in Bishopsgate Street to Walter Brunus and his wife, some of them by the Alderman Walter, son of Eilred, for the purpose of the foundation.
The parcels of lands given by Walter son of Eilred consisted of 44 ells* (from the Latin ulna) towards the king´s highway (Bishopsgate Street) and 117 ells on the east side towards Lolesworth field, 162 ells in depth west to east and on the opposite side of Bishops Street 13 ells towards the street as well as 16 ells on the west side as well as a depth of 78 ells. To this should be added additional 101 ells towards Bishopsgate Street and 149 ells towards Lolesworth field from contributors whose names have been lost to history.
The church was expanded in 1235, something which was confirmed by Walter and Roisia, who finally was said to have been buried before the altar of the church.

It was the Augustinian order which ran the house, and it contained both canons regular as well as lay brothers and St Mary Spital1sisters. One of the chief purposes of the house – and now we´re getting closer to my original intention with this subject – was to function as a lying-in hospital. An order from the 7th of January 1341 declare that the hospital was founded to receive and entertain pilgrims and the infirm who resorted thither until they were healed, and pregnant women until their delivery, and also to maintain the children of women who died there in childbirth, until the age of seven.
On the 8th of August 1279 the bishop of St Paul´s confirmed a grant to the hospital of a fountain called the tongue wriggling “Snekockeswelle” in his field of Lolesworth, including the right to enclose it with a wall and through a kind of waterconduit bring it to the sick and poor within the infirmary. Just over 20 years later, in 1303, the Archbishop of Canterbury – Robert Winchelsey – ordered that the lamps which had earlier hung between the sick people for their comfort should be returned (no information as to where they had gone in the meantime)

A number of royal servants were lodged at St Mary Spital at the beginning of the 14th century, such as a servant of Edward I´s confessor and three yeomen of Edward III. It also paid off to give alms to the monastery and hospital, in 1391 a papal relaxation in penance was issued for those who did just that, with the reference to the “very many poor widows, wards and orphans are continually sustained” within.

St Mary Spital2In a list of London parish churches and monasteries from around the mid-fifteenth century St Mary Spital is mentioned with the words “Seynt Marye Spetylle. A poore pryery, and a parysche chyrche in the same. And that pryory kepythe ospytalyte for pore men. And sum susters yn the same place to kepe the beddys for pore men that come to that place”

St Mary Spital lived on through the centuries, but when the dissolution hit, the priory itself feel. It seems however as if the hospital survived, not least since the Lord Mayor, Sir Richard Gresham, petitioned the king in 1538 that the London hospitals “Seynt Maryes Spytell, Seynt Bartholemews Spytell and Seint Thomas Spytell’ and ’the new abby of Tower hyll” should be governed by the Lord Mayor and the Aldermen.

In excavations of the area between 1991 and 2007, more than 10 000 human remains have been found, providing a unique insight to the lives in medieval London from the late 12th century to the early 16th century. Among many things one have been able to identify some of the earliest European victims of syphilis.

Charnel_House,_St_Mary_Spital_(6)

 

*An ell equated the linear measure of 45 inches. It seems the word ell has been taken to represent either the distance from the elbow or from the shoulder to the wrist or to the finger tips. It also seem that in some cases the measure “double ell” has taken over the original measure, and has taken its name. What an ell actually was differed from country to country. While an “ell” in England was, as mentioned, 45 inches, it was 37.2 inches in Scotland and 27 inches in Flanders. No accuracy is like the accuracy of medieval times! 😉
The word “ell” originate from the Latin “Ulna” which mean the bone of the forearm, opposite the thumb. Swedish potential readers – as I am Swedish – will recognise the old Swedish measurement “aln”.

Sources: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol27/pp21-23
Measurement in the Middle Ages – http://www.personal.utulsa.edu/~marc-carlson/history/measure.html
Centre for human bioarchaeology – British museum
http://archive.museumoflondon.org.uk/Centre-for-Human-Bioarchaeology/Database/Medieval+cemeteries/stmaryspital.htm

Advertisements

The Battle of Towton

Richard_Caton_Woodville's_The_Battle_of_Towton554 years ago, in 1461, Palm Sunday was on the 29th of March. Just like this year. Just like today.

And today, 554 years ago, Lancastrians and Yorkists met at the battlefield of Towton in Yorkshire. This is said to have been the bloodiest battle in English history and when the arrows stopped falling from the sky, the swords, axes and hill bards stopped crossing each other, approximately 28 000 men lay dead in the snow.

When the forces arrived at the battlefield to be, it was by no means a given that the Yorkist would win, fact is that it seemed likely that the outcome would be quite the opposite, as the Yorkist forces was heavily outnumbered by the Lancastrians, a fact underlined by the late arrival of John de Mobraw, 3rd Duke of Norfolk and his forces on the “scene”.

It was the sixth year of the Wars of the Roses, and in command of the Yorkist forces was Edward, Duke of York who had been proclaimed king in the beginning of March but not yet crowned, together with the Earl of Warwick, the future Kingmaker. Someone who wasn´t participating in this battle, however, was the recently reinterred Richard, who at this time hadn´t yet turned 9.

Francois_Gravelot's_Henry_VI_Act_2_Scene_5_(crop_2)Chronicler at the time claimed that both forces where huge, but recent historians has claimed that a total of 50 000, the majority Lancastrians, is more believable. The battle took place on a plateau between the two villages of Saxton and Towton, in a landscape that was, and still is, agricultural with open areas and small roads where the armies could be manoeuvred. Around the plateau flowed the stream Cock Beck from north to west, and the ground was also divided by the Towton Dale, running from west to the east and into the North Acres. At a bend of the beck, on the west side of the plateau, Castle Hill Wood grew, and it was the area north-east of this forest that after the battle was to become known under the name Bloody Meadow after the battle and the people who lost their lives there.

When the Lancastrians had deployed their forces and the Yorkists had just arrived at the plateau, snow began to fall, and this was one important reason to why the outnumbered Yorkists still won the battle. The Yorkists also had the advantage of being on the ridge, firing their arrows downhill against their enemies. The Yorkist commander, Lord Fauconberg, uncle of Warwick, also used the winds to the advantage of his men.

The falling snow blinded the Lancastrians to the falling arrows, while they themselves soon had fired all theBloodyMeadow arrows they had, against the wind and against the falling snow. The Yorkists on their part, collected the Lancastrian arrows shot in vain and returned them with deadly accuracy.  The Lancastrians moved forward up towards the ridge to engage the Yorkists in close combat. As a result of an attack on their left flank by horsemen from Castle Hill Wood, the Yorkist left wing became disorganised and men started to flee, but Edward soon took command over the situation and made the men instead stand their ground. The following clash between the armies and the Lancastrians superior number however forced the Yorkists to retreat up the southern ridge. If there was any way to speculate of an outcome, it might have been that the victory was about to go to the Lancastrian forces, but when the fighting had been going on for three hours according to research done by English Heritage, Norfolk´s forces finally arrived.

Norfolks contingent was out of sight for the Lancastrians as they moved up the Old London Road, and was thereby given the chance to attack the Lancastrian left flank. They continued to fight, but the Lancastrian line was eventually broken up and the men began to flee. According to the Tudor chronicler Polydore Vergil, the battle lasted for 10 hours.

The fleeing Lancastrians were cut down from behind, and it was then the name Bloody Meadow was born. Henry VI, Margaret of Anjou and their son who had been waiting if York during the battle sought refuge in Scotland, and England who at the beginning of the battle had had two kings now had only one.

DacreCrossTowtonIn 1483, more than 20 years after the battle, Richard III started to build a chapel for the fallen at Towton, but it was never finished before he himself was killed at Bosworth in 1485. Today a cross stands at the site, believed to be from the chapel which no longer exist. The cross is called the Dacre cross, after the Yorkist Lord Dacre who lost his life during the battle.

In 1996 a mass grave was found in York, believed to contain bodies from the battle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hauntin video from Towton Battlefield Society

 

Sources: Edward IV – Charles Ross

Henry VI – Bertram Wolffe

The Crowning Victory at Towton – Clements Markham

English Heritage

 

 

 

 

 

Richard III and the murder in the Tower

This is not a book to my liking. While that is not a general requirement for books, it is a requirement for books I read.

It´s not that I am unused to reading academic texts, but this is just too much, and fact is that when I read it I can´t avoid the feeling of being at a lecture where the speaker is so enthusiastic over his subject so he just don´t know where to start or really where to go.

Peter A Hancock´s aim is to analyse the events surrounding the murder of Will Hastings by – even if by proxy – Richard III, or as he was titled at the time; Duke of Gloucester and Lord Protector under the minority of Edward V.

The author Peter A. Hancock want to find the answer to if Richard all along had the ambition to take the throne for himself, of if he was “just a man of his time” and acted on information given to him on the day of Lord Hastings death.

He makes the assumption that it may be connected to Edward IV:s alleged pre-contract with Eleanor Butler, and spends a great deal of time attempting to prove that such a contract even existed, which is quite a fruitless endeavour, because even in the event it existed at the time, any evidence is long gone.

But he goes through the connections of Richard of Gloucester and Edward IV to see how, where and when contact could have been made between Butler and Edward, he goes through William Catesby, well basically his entire family tree, as well as for Lady Butler, analyse the behaviour of Bishop Stillington who allegedly was the one who let the cat out of the bag; that is to say; revealed that there was a such a thing as a pre-contract which made the marriage between Edward and Elizabeth Woodville null and void, and thereby all their children illegitimate.

While there are many non-fiction books which work perfectly to read as a novel, this is not one of them, it may be better served in rather small portions, if at all.

It contains a lengthy reference list, but I find that Peter A. Hancock not to the extent I would like makes it clear in the actual text on what he based his assumptions, guesses and speculations on. This may sound like I belittle his work more than is required for making a point of not liking the book, but in this topic assumptions, guesses and speculations are all any of us have. The only “evidence” any of us have around the reason why Richard of Gloucester acted as he did when he assumed the crown for himself.

This book is clearly directed to the most staunch of Ricardians, and while I don´t see Richard as a villain, I´m not one of them, which may be a reason to why I can´t bring myself to think this is a book that was really worth the “trouble”.

 

 

Richard III murder in tower

Finally to rest

Crown of Richard III

Domine Jesu Christe, liberare dignetur ,

servus regis Ricardi de omni angustia ,

in quo positus sum …

Tribulationem et exaudi me,

in nomine tuo ,

pro eo quod gratias ago ,

et omnia dona concessit ei mihi,

quod nihil ex me tibi amorem et misericordiam ,

dignetur de redemisti aeterna damnatio aeterna pollicebantur .

Coffin, white rosesSo, today is the day. After being lost and without a proper grave at least since the dissolution of the Grey Friars friary, Richard III, the last Plantagenet king, will finally be put to rest.

During the week so far, thousands upon thousands of visitors has queued to pay their respect. Ceremonies has been held and prayers have been said. Every day during the past days people have been able to pay their respect to the former king, and while I haven´t been fortunate to be n Leicester myself during this week, friends I´ve never met has been kind enough to lend me their images, as well as Leicester Cathedral.

The day will start with a procession at 10.30 from the Guild Hall in Leicester and an hour later it´s time to finally letPlanta Genista and white roses - tree of life Richard rest at Leicester Cathedral.

The prayer at the top of the page is taken from Richard´s book of prayers. Maybe it won´t be said today, but in any event it may be fitting. English translation at the bottom.

May you rest in peace

Lord Jesus Christ, deign to free my, your servant King Richard, from every tribulation, sorrow and trouble in which I am placed…hear me, in the name of all your goodness, for which I give thanks, and for all the gifts granted to me, because you made me from nothing and redeemed me out of your bounteous love and pity from eternal damnation to promising eternal life.

Coffin

 

 

A final journey to Bosworth Field

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knights and rose - cathedral

 

Crown of Richard III – Photo Will Johnston, copyright Leicester Cathedral

 Crown of spear – Photo and copyright: Susan Vernon Photography

 Coffin and white roses – Photo Mike Sewell, copyright Leicester Cathedral

 Planta Genista and white roses – Photo and copyright: Rosalind Broomhall

Crown on spear – Photo and copyright: Susan Vernon Phopgraphy

 Coffin in Cathedral – Photo Will Johnston, copyright Leicester Cathedral

First Light Vigil

Leicester Cathedral, or rather the staff there of course, was kind enough to give me access to photos taken during the past few days.

This photo didn´t quite fit what I wanted to do with my post for tomorrow, but it´s so incredibly beuatiful so it gets a post of its own.

First Light Vigil at Fenn Farm, King Richard III cortege procession

Photographer Alistair Langham/Studio 17

King Richard III cortege

The passing of Elizabeth I

“I may not be a lion, but I am lion’s cub and I have lion’s heart”

On this day in 1603 Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen, passed into infinity. She was 70 years old and had been the Queen ofElizabeth-I-in-old-age England for 45 years, almost 10 years longer than her father, and decades longer than her siblings, Edward and Mary.

One of the most widely spread quotes attributed to Elizabeth is that she was “but a feeble woman”. That, too, is a way of ruling a court, its courtiers and a country, and a way to get adversaries to let their guard down. But I don´t believe that Elizabeth herself even for a second considered herself feeble. She knew her strength.

I won´t use this text to run through some spectacular moments during her reign – as I actually first planned to do – not least because they each and every one deserve their own time and post.

Let´s just take the time to give a thought to a remarkable woman and monarch who beat the odds and to a very large extent shaped her own destiny.

Elizabeth died around 10 o´clock in the evening while the rain was pouring down outside. She is said to have turned her face to the wall and fallen into a deep sleep from which she would never again wake up*.

Elizabeth_I_Locket_Ring_2After her death, a ring made from ruby, diamonds, gold and mother of pearl, was removed from her finger. Inside it, there was a small compartment containing two miniatures of Elizabeth herself and her mother, Anne Boleyn.

The ring was publically revealed for the first time in 2002, almost 400 years after Elizabeth´s death.

 

It is said that it was Robert Carey who removed the ring from her finger and thereafter rode for three days to reach Scotland and let James IV of Scotland know that he was now James I of England.

The proclamation of Elizabeth´s death was read by Robert Cecil – the queen´s advisor and son to William Cecil who had stood by Elizabeth for close to 50 years – first at White Hall and then at St. Paul´s Cathedral. No doubt there were those among her subjects who found it incomprehensible that the Queen was dead. After the turbulence that followed the death of Henry VIII, the people of England had now been ruled by the same monarch for more than four decades and many would not personally have remembered a time when good queen Bess was not on the throne.

On the 28th of April, Elizabeth´s coffin was drawn by four horses draped in black livery and over the coffin was a covered by a large canopy carried be six Knights of the realm, and behind her coffin came procession consisting of from the beginning 1 000 mourners, a number which swelled as the procession made its way through London.

She rests in Westminster Abbey.

Procession_of_the_Heralds_at_the_Funeral_of_Elizabeth_I

 

 

Sources:

The Reign of Elizabeth: 1558 – 1603 – J.B. Black

Elizabeth – David Starkey

The life of Elizabeth I – Alison Weir

 

 

Richard III:s final journey

 

Today starts a week that will in sorts be the conclusion of something that in theory in 1986 when the Leicester University lector David facialreconstructionBaldwin (I recently wrote here on the blog about his excellent book “The survival of Richard of York”, see literature folder) suggested in a paper that Richard III most likely still was to be found within the area of Grey Friars where he had been buried without much ceremony after being displayed naked for a number of days, most likely within the precincts of the Lancasterian Collegiate foundation of the Annunciation of Our Lady, to make it clear to every Yorkist sympathizer that the king was dead and Henry Tudor was now on the throne.

The Tudor chronicler Polydore Vergil was there and would later write that the former king was buried after two days without any pomp, “in thabbay of monks Fransiscanes at Leycester” which was confirmed by john Rous.

Henry eventually made sure that Richard´s body were enclosed in by a suitable tomb, and it seems a monument made from marble was also erected in the 1490´s.

All this was most likely destroyed in 1538 during the suppression of the friary in 1538. According to legend, the remains of Richard´s body should then have been carried through the streets of Leicester and eventually thrown in the river from Bow Bridge. David Baldwin however refers to the fact that a number of skeletons were unearthed in an excavation at the St Martin´s end of the site when New Street was laid in the 1740´s.

He concludes his paper by stating that “It is possible (though now perhaps unlikely) that at some time in the twenty-first century an excavator may yet reveal the slight remains of this famous monarch…..”

And then it happened. In March 2011 Philippa Langley of Richard III Society contacted the University of Leicester and its Archaeological Services for a possible excavation of the earlier mentioned Grey Friars site. Founding was raised and in a slightly compressed story one can say that the rest is history.

121210110__380434bA skeleton was found during the dig in the Grey Friars area in august of 2012, hands bound and with a curved spine. In February 2013 it was established, not least by the DNA of a descendant of Richard´s sister Anne – Joyce Ibsen – that the lost king had finally been found.

Today his coffin will leave the University of Leicester at 11.40 local time, after 50 minutes earlier for the first time have been presented to the public and taken of a journey past the places Richard would have passed before the battle and stopping at Fenn Lane Farm, the closest one will be able to stop to the place with Richard died.

At St. Nicholas Church the coffin will be transferred to a horse drawn carriage after a short service and finally arrive at Leicester Cathedral at 17.45 after a 30 minute procession through the city of Leicester.

During Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday the cathedral will be open to the public at certain hours, program here, and on Thursday at 11.30 am local time Richard III will finally be put to rest.

 

RIII-tomb-banner-1024x524

 

Sources: King Richard´s Grave in Leicester – David Baldwin

Leicester University

King Richard in Leicester

Leicester Cathedral