Events at Stony Stratford

 

GOLDSMITH(1800)_p2_084_EDWARD_VIt was today, 532 years ago. What, you may wonder. It was on this day that Richard, Duke of Gloucester took control of his 12 year old nephew, the new king Edward V.

After finding out about his death April 14th, Edward, who had his household in Ludlow, under the charge of his maternal uncle, Anthony Woodville, Earl of Rivers, assembled the King´s escort on April 23rd and the following days started the journey towards London.

Apart from the King himself, Rivers, the King´s tutor, Bishop Alcock, his servant Vaughan and Sir RichardRichard_III_earliest_surviving_portrait Haute, there was 2 000 men travelling along Watling Street, the old Roman (originally Briton) road which stretches from the borders between Wales and England down towards Canterbury and Dover. By then the King´s older half-brother, Richard Grey, had arrived from London, bearing the urgent request from their Mutual mother, the former Queen Elizabeth Woodville – now in sanctuary in Westminster Abbey – to press on towards London.

After the arrival of Grey, he and Rivers rode on to the neighbouring village of Stony Stratford which is located fourteen miles further south. According to legend, Rivers commandeered the inn the Rose and Crown for his young master, and house that still stand and most likely would have stories to tell, could it speak. Having the King settled for the night, The Rose and CrownRivers returned to Northampton while Grey stayed with the King. By now the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Buckingham was waiting in Northampton, most likely angered by the fact that the King was gone, but keeping up appearances. There, on April 29th, they spent what has been passed down through history as a pleasant dinner and evening together.

What did they talk about? Someone once said in relation to history that reading it, studying it and researching it is like watching people through a thick pane of glass. You can see them talking, but you will rarely ever know, or find out, what they were actually saying. Much of the sources existing suggests that there already existed a conflict between Richard and Anthony Woodville, the former having been named Lord Protector during the King´s minority, and Anthony Woodville, having been able to form the King´s mind and affection since Edward set up his own household.

But at the same time, Richard of Gloucester and Anthony Woodville had a history together. Not least had they been exiled together during the rebellions of Warwick and George of Clarence. I would say that being privy to the conversations, and the thoughts of the men present would be a dream to many. Because it would soon start, the initial phase of what would lead to one of the great mysteries in English history – the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower – and the ground stone of the reputation of Richard III, this evening still Richard, Duke of Gloucester, would be laid.

Regardless of what was said in the evening, the next morning, April 30th, all joviality that may have existed the previous night was gone. According to Thomas More, who obviously wasn´t present and who had been born only five years before the actual events (but no doubt had access to credible sources when writing his chronicle), Gloucester, Buckingham and a ducal councillor from the north where Gloucester had his power base, Richard Ratcliff, had been up late the previous evening, long after Rivers had retired to bed, discussing more of what is now unknown to us.

The chronicler Polydore Vergil states that it was “commonly believed” that Richard´s plans to usurp the throne wasPontefract_Castle,_2010_(1) already well on the way by now, and that it had already taken form when the news of his brother´s death. This is also stated by both More and the Croyland chronicle.
When Anthony Rivers woke up, it was to find himself under arrest. The two Dukes had pressed on to Stony Stratford, where they fell on their knees for their King. The vail would soon fall, however, as also Richard Grey was arrested, and the King´s retinue was dismissed. And there he was, a 12 year old boy, deprived of those he knew well, in the hands of an uncle he hardly knew at all, as Richard had spent most of his time in the north.

The young King wouldn´t see his uncle or half-brother again. Both Rivers and Grey would be brought to the north for imprisonment and would during the following months have their lands redistributed to other nobles, more to Richard´s liking. They were both beheaded at Pontefract Castle on June 25th that same year, whether they received a trial is often debated.
Young King Edward V was brought to London to be crowned King, something that was never to happen. Like other Kings, he was taken to the Tower to await his coronation, but unlike them all, he was never to emerge from there again.

 

Souces:

The Princes in the Tower – Alison Weir

The Croyland Chronicles

The History of King Richard III – Sir Thomas More

Images:

Pontefract Castle – Tim Green

 

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Baptism of The Bard

Shakespeare's_birthplace,There´s been a lot about Shakespeare of this blog the past week, and I promise that tis will be the last post about him for a while. But it was on this day he was baptized. While there has been celebrations of his birthday on the same day as he died, on April 23, fact is that no one know for a fact when he was born.

The notion that he was born and died on the same day, which also happens to be St. George´s Day didn´t become popular until after his death in 1616.
But we do know that he was brought to Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon on this day. As that by the necessity of the time – high infant mortality and a preoccupation of making the best arrangements possible for the afterlife, he was most likely baptized just a few days after his birth.

So if not on the actual St. George´s Day, the Great Bard was born sometime around the 26th of April.

 

Source:

Essential Shakespeare Handbook – Alan Riding

 

Curiousities of Shakespeare

The lives we lead are more influenced by the Bard than we probably know. And this doesn´t just entail people who are702px-Shakespeare born with English as the first language, but anyone who during his or her life span learn English, which at least in the western hemisphere include the absolute majority of us.

William Shakespeare invented 1 700 English words by changing nouns into verbs, changing verbs into adjectives, connecting words never before used together, adding prefixes and suffixes, and devising words wholly original.

Among the words you can thank Will for, you´ll find “birthplace” (Coriolanus, act IV), “jaded” (King Henry VI, act IV), “outbreak” (Hamlet, act II ) and many, many more. Do you even remember how often on an average week you hear the word addiction? Shakespeare used it first, and he did it in the play Henry V, act I.

Shakespeare's_family_circleWilliam Shakespeare had three children with his slightly anonymous wife Anne Hathaway, Susanna, born in 1583 (that fatal year in English history) and the twins Judith and Hamnet, born in 1585. Hamnet died at the age of 11 in 1596, and it´s maybe inevitable that some people have drawn a connection between Hamnet and the play written three years later by the presumably grieving father, Hamlet. Some Shakesperean scholars have also claimed to have found traces of the lost son in the plays King John, Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night and Julius Caesar.

And why not?

When and how do you, regardless if you´re a playwright or a peasant, let go of and forget a child who died before you. If you´re a parent, and maybe even if you aren´t you know that the loss of his son stayed with William Shakespeare for the rest of his days.

Very little is known about young Hamnet, other than he and his sister are believed to have gotten their names from friends of their parents, the baker Hamlette and his wife Judith Sadler.

It is believed that Shakespeare some time in the summer of 1596 would have been reached by the disturbing news that his son was ill. It is now known if Shakespeare was in London or on tour when the news reached him, or if he was able to return to say good bye to the son he had basically left in the boy´s infancy as Shakespeare did not return to spend too much time with his family after having his breakthrough in London. Shakespeare is sometime elusive. Some will even claim that this elusiveness even include his very existence and that we don´t really know who he was. I have already stated my standpoint on this particular subject, but the elusiveness can be found in relation to the loss of his son as well. While, as I mentioned above, some scholars claim to find traces of Hamnet in a number of plays, it is also in the four years following the death of his boy that Shakespeare writes some of his most cheerful plays; The Merry Wives of Windsor, Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It and apparently some have chosen to interpret that as the playwrights grief to be brief at best, but as Stephen Greenblatt points out in the article to which there is a link at the bottom of this post, there are moments of the deepest loss even in these seemingly carefree plays.

As for the plays, it is commonly perceived that the absolute triumph of an actor is to be allowed to play the part of OthelloHamlet. Whether that has something to do with the number of lines anyone blessed with this part has to learn by heart, I cannot say, but fact is that this is the one character of Shakespeare with the most to say. Hamlet has 1 500 lines to memorise, while, for example, Othello has only 887 lines which, in the terms of lines itself, makes it a smaller role than Iago in the same play, who beat Othello with the amount of 1 098 lines. The largest female part in any of the bard´s plays has Cleopatra with 668 lines.

While there is a huge number of actors who have lent themselves to the characters to the plays of William Shakespeare, far too many to be listed here, there are some that absolutely should be mentioned: Sir John Gielgud who has been called the most distinguished Shakespeare actor of the 20th century and who played Hamlet at the age of 26, Sir Laurence Olivier, who fittingly made his debut in Stratford-upon-Avon. Kenneth Branagh who in his role as a director/actor brought Shakespeare to maybe a younger audience and Sir Ian McKellen who did a marvellous portrayal of Richard III in modern setting.

Sources:

Shakespeare-online.com

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2004/oct/21/the-death-of-hamnet-and-the-making-of-hamlet/ (Stephen Greenblatt, New York Review of Books)

The Guardian/Essential Shakespeare Handbook – Alan Riding

Death of William Shakespeare

”Ay, but to die, and to go we know not where”

Today, it´s 399 years the man who put those words on paper died. As so many other things around the great bard William 702px-ShakespeareShakespeare, there are uncertainties and speculations as to what caused his death, as it apparently was very sudden. But he was 52 years old, and in a time when plague, syphilis, typhus, scurvy, tuberculosis, smallpox, malaria, dysentery and even toothaches made the average Londoner lucky if he made it passed the age of 40, we can conclude that Shakespeare still lived a comparatively long life.

Obvious is also that he will never be completely gone. His legacy consists of (generally accepted) 38 plays, a number that may rise as it´s during the last few years have arisen proof that he most likely also wrote the play Double Falsehood, a play that has earlier been attributer to Lewis Theobald, but which after analysis has shown to have a language and way of writing to it that is consistent with the work of William Shakespeare. He also wrote 154 sonnets and five long narrative poems.

Attempts have been made to “rob” the man from Stratford this gift and the creative work which resulted from it, and attribute it to other individuals, not least to the Earl of Oxford.

The firm standpoint of this blog is however that William Shakespeare was the man who was born in Stratford upon Avon in 1564, and that standpoint will be in place until if and when something else is proved beyond any reasonable shadow of a doubt.

The work of Shakespeare has been translated into more than 100 languages, and since 1960 Hamlet has been played in 75 languages, which includes Klingon (!), Esperanto and Interlingua. From 2005 to 2014, there have been seven professional productions of Shakespeare and Shakespearean adaptations in Arabic. The play Romeo and Juliet has been played in 24 countries over the last 10 years and has been performed in languages which include English, German, Spanish, Korean, French, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Finnish, Russian, Dutch, Estonian, Czech, Hebrew, Ukrainian, and Romanian.

The physical body of William Shakespeare may have died on this day, 399 years ago, but his work will live forever.

(As no exact date of birth exist for William Shakespeare, but he was baptized on April 26, it is quite possible he was born around this day as well. More about the bard during the weekend)

Sources: British Council.org

Initial quote: Measure for measure, act III

 

 

 

 

 

The accession

“But when you know what a hero he now shows himself, how wisely he behaves, what a lover he is of justice and goodness, what affection he bears to the learned, I will venture to swear that you will need wings to make you fly to behold this new and auspicious star…If you could see how all the world here is rejoicing in the possession of so great a prince, how his life is all their desire, you could not contain your tears of joy.”
Lord Montjoy to Erasmus, 1509

1491_Henry_VIIIIt was a handsome man who was proclaimed king today, after the death of his father.
6.2 tall, broad shouldered, athletic and a face “so round and beautiful that it would become a pretty woman” as the Venetian diplomat Pasqualigo wrote back home about the English king Henry VIII about eight years after Henry VIII had been crowned.

As foreign emissary´s didn´t really had anything to lose in being honest about the English monarch, it has been assumed as a truthful testimony to the fact that Henry actually was an attractive man in the years preceding the injuries that left him obese, sickly, erratic and dangerous.

But on this day, in 1509, the Henry which has unfortunately been the one to survive into posterity lay far ahead in the future.
His accession was the first one without surrounding conflict in over 100 years, and it was greeted with bonfires and celebrations.

In the months to come, the 17 year old would be guided by his formidable paternal grandmother, Margaret Beaufort, who in him would have seen her vision transform into the making of a dynasty.

Sources: Henry VIII; a study in Kingship – Michael A.R. Graves
Henry VIII – Lucy Wooding

The death of a king

After the death of his son an heir Arthur, and then his wife Elizabeth of York and their new-born daughter Katherine, itKing_Henry_VII can be said that the personality of Henry VII changed somewhat. He was never the charming and larger than life persona his son Henry came to be, his earlier reign was characterized by caution and a strong economic sense. But even so, he had been described as amiable and friendly even if dignified in manner. He was also described as highly intelligent. But after the loss of two children and a beloved wife, his personality was now characterized by avarice and outright suspicion. Shortly after the death of his wife, Henry himself got very sick and came close to death, only allowing his mother Margaret Beaufort to attend to him.

Arthur_Prince_of_Wales_c_1500When Arthur was gone, Henry arranged a papal dispensation for the marriage between his younger son Henry and Catherine of Aragon as they through the initial marriage had become to close in affinity, being viewed by church as brother and sister. The years leading up to the wedding to Henry was no picnic for Catherine, with Henry VII treating her rather harshly, but that´s a story for another post.
Henry VII himself made vague plans to marry Joan, recently widow Queen of Naples, and he sent ambassadors to her to find out about her physical attractiveness. With them, they had a list describing what kind of physical features Henry expected in a future wife, and it´s hard not be touched by the fact that they basically was a description of Elizabeth of York, something that to me effectively put to shame all current day suggestions that there was no love between Henry VII and his Queen.

At the end of February, Henry VII travelled to Richmond, maybe to prepare for his own death. He had been sick in tuberculosis for quite some time, and once at the palace, he stopped receiving the foreign ambassadors arriving, who instead had to curtsey to an empty throne of estate and thereafter be received by the young prince and heir to the throne, Henry. By late march, it was obvious that Henry the King was dying.
By the evening on 20th of April, Henry had begun fading, but according to his mother´s confessor, John Fisher he struggled to hang on, “abiding the assaults of death” for up to 27 hours. When the first Tudor king finally passed away, it is said to have been with what at the time was considered an exemplary death with his eyes firmly fixed upon the crucifix held up in front of him.

When he died, Henry left behind him a solvent and reasonable united England. His death was kept secret for two days, and on the 24th of April, a new king was proclaimed
He was buried at Westminster Abbey, beside his Queen Elizabeth of York, in the chapel he had commissioned for the purpose.

HenryVIIdeathbed

Source: The Winter King, The Dawn of Tudor England – Thomas Penn
Henry VII – Stanley B Chrimes