Documentary Notes – British History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley: the Wars of the Roses


  • Story of past open to interpretation 
  • Carefully edited and deceitful version of events 
  • Not just a version of what happened – more a tapestry of different stories woven together by whoever was in power at the time 
  • Wars of the Roses was invented by the Tudors to justify their power 
  • Immortalised by Shakespeare – darkest chapter in English history 
  • Lancaster and York locked in battle for the crown of England – kings deposed, innocent children murdered, cousin fought against cousin 
  • 1485 Richard III slain and Henry Tudor took the throne 
  • Henry VII’s victory hailed the ending of the Medieval period 
  • Line between fact and fiction often gets blurred 
Late 16th Century portrait of Richard III, housed in the National Portrait Gallery.
Late 16th Century portrait of Richard III, housed in the National Portrait Gallery.
  • 1455 Stubbins in Lancashire scene of a legendary battle in the Wars of the Roses beginning with volleys of arrows but ran out of ammunition 
  • Lancastrians pelted the Yorkists with black pudding – local legend 
  • Yorkists pelted the Lancastrians with Yorkshire puddings – local legend 
  • Wars of the Roses in national memory 
  • History books – rivalry between Lancaster (red rose) and York (white rose) – bloody rivalry largely a creation of the Tudors 
  • 1461 bloodshed real in the middle of a snowstorm at Towton 
  • Lancastrians started out well but tide turned against them, chased by the Yorkists down the slope to a river and so a massacre began 
  • Blood stained the snow red, so location became known as the bloody meadow 
  • Shakespeare portrayed the battle as a bloody Armageddon – represented a country torn apart by war, nothing as bad in our history 
  • Somme 19,000 British soldiers killed on the first day, Towton 28,000 killed 
  • 20 years ago Bradford University revealed barbarity of fighting with remains of 43 men killed at Towton 
  • Head forced down into the spine, poleaxes – exceptional even for the Wars of the Roses 
  • Skirmishes, but real battles only around 8 in 30 years 
  • Not ravaged by all-out war – later myth 
  • Out of 32 years of wars, fighting on lasted a total of 13 weeks 

Continue reading “Documentary Notes – British History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley: the Wars of the Roses”

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Who’s Who of Tudor History


Katherine of Aragon by Lucas Hornebolte
Katherine of Aragon by Lucas Hornebolte

Aragon, Katherine of = First Queen to Henry VIII, marriage annulled 1533, died 1536.

Ashley, Kat = Governess and close friend to Elizabeth I from her childhood. Died 1565.

Aske, Robert = One of the leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536. Executed 1537.

Beaufort, Margaret = Mother to Henry VII. Outlived her son and saw the accession of her grandson, Henry VIII.

Blount, Bessie = Henry VIII’s mistress, and the only one to give him an acknowledged illegitimate child – Henry Fitzroy.

Boleyn, Anne = Second Queen to Henry VIII, executed 1536 for adultery and incest.

Boleyn, George = Brother to Henry VIII’s second Queen. Accused of adultery and incest with his sister. Executed 1536.

Boleyn, Mary = Sister of Henry VIII’s second Queen. Mistress of Henry VIII. Died 1543.

Brandon, Charles  Duke of Suffolk and best friend to Henry VIII. Married Henry VIII’s sister, Mary. Died 1546. Continue reading “Who’s Who of Tudor History”

Richard III: His Reputation and the Discovery of His Bones


Late 16th Century portrait of Richard III, housed in the National Portrait Gallery.
Late 16th Century portrait of Richard III, housed in the National Portrait Gallery.

Reputation

Richard III was a soldier, and proved an ‘excellent’ king – laws were to be followed, forced loans were abolished, and he protected the rights of the Church.[i] This is a more modern view. However, Richard III is often considered to be the most ‘evil’ of our nation’s kings.[ii] This idea has been built on from Tudor propaganda which was used to strengthen the Tudors own claim to the English throne. The main incident which inherently damaged the reputation of Richard III was the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower around 1483. It provoked ‘shock and indignation’ particularly as the princes were still children and had done nothing wrong.[iii] People believed that the Princes were in danger even before they vanished. People believed in Richard’s guilt. But this has more significance historically than whether Richard actually committed the crime.[iv] The disappearance of the Princes rather than the death, adds fuel to the idea that Richard was in fact innocent of their murder.[v] Edward IV displayed the body of Henry VI after his death, so that people would know he was dead, and not use him as a figurehead for rebellion. Continue reading “Richard III: His Reputation and the Discovery of His Bones”

Book Review – Philippa Langley & Michael Jones, ‘The Search for Richard III: the King’s Grave’


The Search for Richard III: the King's Grave by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones
The Search for Richard III: the King’s Grave by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones

Philippa Langley & Michael Jones, ‘The Search for Richard III: the King’s Grave’ (London: John Murray, 2013) Hardback, ISBN 978-1-84854-890-9

Title: The book was released in Britain as ‘The Search for Richard III: the King’s Grave’ and in America as ‘The King’s Grave: the Discovery of Richard III’s Lost Burial Place and the Clues It Holds’. The difference between the two (aside from America’s being more long-winded) is that, possibly, the Americans required more explanation, not being as familiar with the period and particularly English geography, as the English are.

Preface: I think the Preface to this book was particularly good compared to others that I’ve read. Possibly this is because the writers aren’t just writing from a historical point of view, but also in hindsight of the amazing discovery that was made, and their own personal bias about Richard III. It’s not really a historical work, but more a work to explain to the general public the importance of this find. The summary of the book is neat, in the final sentence of the Preface: “this is the story of one of history’s most infamous kings – now restored to us – and the man behind the Tudor myth”. It’s clear, concise, and immediately sets out their arguments. Continue reading “Book Review – Philippa Langley & Michael Jones, ‘The Search for Richard III: the King’s Grave’”

Burial of Richard III Getting Out of Hand


 

Richard III Head Modelled from Skeleton Found in Leicester
Richard III Head Modelled from Skeleton Found in Leicester

Burial of Richard III Getting Out of Hand

The burial argument over whether to bury the remains of Richard III at York or Leicester is getting out of hand. A decision has now been postponed until 2014. Although I think both cases have merit, I wish they would agree on one and let this tormented king rest. Surely that is more important than the where. That he is finally at peace in a recognised burial place where people can visit and pay their respects.

Click the above link for the full story from the BBC.