Sunday, 26 January 2014

King Richard III and Queen Elizabeth Woodville, Friends or Foe?

“against the queen, her blood adherents and affinity, which have intended and daily doeth intend, to murder and utterly destroy us and our cousin, … by their damnable ways …”
~By Richard’s own hand, June 10, 1483 in an urgent message to York asking for help against the queen. [1]

The relationship between Elizabeth Woodville (Wydevile) or also known as “Elizabeth Grey,” and King Richard III is one of complex study. It is questioned that their relationship changed numerous of times during Richard’s life. Most importantly, the impact of her favor with him or against him is what aided Henry Tudor’s rise to power.  It is a relationship that can be examined to come to some attempt at understanding the events of 1483 and other events of Richard’s life such as the death of his brother George, and the inevitable his fall from power.

Some believe that if there was a true rift between Richard and Elizabeth Woodville, it started long before he came to the throne. It might have been as early when Elizabeth came to court as his brother’s wife. The Woodville’s were a large family, but not one of noble birth. This was not very popular amongst those in court at the time. Also they were quite affluent in the local governments, creating uneasiness for many.  We know Richard was greatly affected when his brother George was executed in 1478.  It is noted, Richard was “so overcome with grief for his bother that he could not dissimulate so well, but that he was overheard to say he would one day avenge his brother’s death.”  Richard now seeks revenge, but not quite.  The Italian chronicler, Mancini also stated that Elizabeth strongly disliked George, but it might have been because George knew about the previous marriage of his brother Edward IV, and the illegitimacy of her children and George seemed to have talked a lot. (Location: 521 of Richard III, Return of the King) The animosity might have started then.  Never put a woman between two brothers, in this case, three, it doesn’t go down well.

When examining events previously to Richard sitting on the throne, it is well known the Woodville’s were of Lancastrian loyalty. In the rebellion of 1469, he did not join their cause, but fought with his brother. Thus showing loyalty to his brother Edward, which he continued to show this loyalty by having an acceptance of them at court.  It is also important to realize Richard spent quite some time in Warwick’s household. Warwick was not fond of the Woodville’s; hence the feeling may have become mutual. [2] The thought of a Woodville or Lancastrian king on the throne might have been enough for Richard to choose the actions he did.  There were also others in the realm that was uneasy with the thought of a Woodville dominated king. Nobles had been deprived of “due inheritance” and the council had voted against Woodville regency, meaning more than likely to make Elizabeth regent of her son, from statements made by Dorset.

Richard’s loyalty was to the Yorkist cause and rule, hence why accepted the position his brother gave him as Lord Protector of his son, Edward V.  This acceptance shows how loyal Richard was to his brother.  Right before Richard decided to reach for the throne, questionably pressured by others, and the thought of the risk of having the country ruled from the throne by a 12 year old prince, through his Woodville mother; whom her favor with the people was questionable; her likeness at court was constantly teetering.  This more than likely worried Richard greatly.

By January of 1484 Richard’s reign was pretty much locked tight. Richard went to Parliament and instituted Titulus Regius, that January of 1484; which made the widowed queen’s children and all her heirs to the throne illegitimate.  It is hypothesized that his mother, Cecily Neville, likely supported this. The path to the throne for Richard was now very clear and secure. The major point made to Parliament was that Edward IV his brother, was previously married, and not divorced, making his marriage to Elizabeth invalid therefore, her children all illegitimate.  Elizabeth was also accused of witchcraft and sorcery with her mother whom was deceased, as her accomplished. Why she was thought of a witch is a whole different story. That’s a study in the belief system and mind of the medieval man, and one of manipulation.

After Parliament had secured his title, and he had been successful in squashing previous rebellions earlier the year before (Buckingham’s Rebellion in the fall of 1483.); to the public eye, the young king was going to be ruling for quite some time.  Meanwhile in sanctuary, Elizabeth and her girls were facing a different fate.  They were living in poverty and off charity, with the grim outlook that she and her girls were facing a life living in poverty.  Elizabeth had to come to terms with Richard. This is where we see the queen negotiating a future for her daughters. That March in 1484, she came out of sanctuary and entrusting the care of her daughters to Richard by allowing them to be at court.  We don’t know if she had Woodville motive, but did this make Richard look like a Woodville or Lancastrian sympathizer? Not really, more than likely it helped his image and reputation that he wasn’t the insidious bastard or murderer that the Middle Ages “press” was making him out to be.  It was a smart move on Richard’s behalf to help save his reputation from being further tarnished over the incident with the Princes in the tower. He also hoped it would win him some support from Southern England, which he was seriously lacking. For he promised:

"I Richard, by grace of God, etc., in the presence of you, my lords spiritual and temporal, and you, my Lord Mayor and aldermen of London, promise and swear...that if the daughters of Elizabeth...will come to me out of the Sanctuary of Westminster and be guided, ruled, and demeaned after me, then I shall see that they shall be in surety of their lives...nor any of them imprison in the Tower of London or other prison, but that I shall put them into honest places..."


Some hypothizied that Richard as well, attempted to arrange a marriage for Elizabeth, the queen’s oldest daughter, to his son Edward of Middleham, now the Prince of Wales as an attempt to keep Henry Tudor away from the throne. But these plans didn’t go accordingly, as Edward died that March in 1484. (Source: (Weir, Alison "Elizabeth of York" pg. 110, endnote #50 "St. Aubyn author was unable to find a contemporary source.")

Elizabeth might have come to terms with Richard as well because she knew all too well what had happened to Margaret Beaufort for her aiding her son’s cause or the “great rebel and traitor.” She had been stripped of her lands, placed under house arrest, with her husband Thomas Stanley as her gatekeeper. Elizabeth more than likely did not want to face the same fate, as she would have gone to the Tower more than likely, if she were suspected of treason. She had also seen what had happened to her brother Anthony and one of her older sons, as well executed for treason.  Securing a future for her and her daughters was the priority, not the grief of her brother and sons deaths.

But the events after Richard’s fall show another side of the coin. If Richard ever had a reason to not trust her, he might have been correct in doing so. In 1487 she lost her dower (a widow’s share for the rest of her life of her husband’s estates normally monies.) due to a plot against the king, Henry VII. There was a Yorkist rebellion started by Lambert Simnel claiming to be the pretender Earl of Warwick. Her involvement is questioned amongst scholars today. ( Source:

Richard had every reason to hold some form of animosity towards Elizabeth. Did this directly influence fortune’s wheel and the outcome of events? Maybe, maybe not. It’s hard to say.  What is consistent is who and where Richard’s loyalties remained through out his life.  Richard’s goals in the end and above all were for his loyalty for his family, and for his plans for his reign.

1. Richard III by Charles Ross, 1981 ( accessed: 1/25/14)
7. Collins, Patricia J. Richard III: Return of the King. C. 2013

Friday, 24 January 2014

Mary Mary Quiet Contrary....

"By day, by night, I think of him 

In wood or mead, or where I be

My heart keeps watch for one who's gone

                                                          And yet I feel he's aye to me"
                                 ~Mary Queen of Scots, written after the death of Francis II

The fascination with Mary Queen of Scots is quite lengthily. Recently, she has been featured on the CW’s “Reign” and Swiss film maker Thomas Imbach, “Mary Queen of Scots” 2013.  What makes Mary such a fascinating topic, one of legend, one of children’s rhymes?  Her life was something that was a bit of a whirlwind romance with three husbands, all ending up dead, then later her death.

Currently Mary is gracing the screen every week on Thursday nights, in Reign. Adelaide Kane portrays her grace.  The show is supposed to be a loose adaptation of Mary’s life in France and leading up to when she returns to Scotland. But where the winter finale left off, we don’t know where Mary was running off too. All we know I she ran away. The Mary on the show is a bit head strong, willful, and not exactly virtuous, as she tumbles in the hay with Francis, before being wed.  I don’t think the real Mary would have done this, or would she have been allowed to.

Mary was the only child of James V of Scotland and Mary Guise of France. She was born in 1542 at Linlithgow Palace in Scotland. Her father James V soon died, conflicting sources say in battle and one states due to nervous collapse, and or drinking contaminated water.  Dates are also unclear. Wiki states 6 days after birth and another states one year.  The Scottish lords attempted to make peace with England.  A marriage was arranged between Mary and Henry VIII’s son Edward VI. The ink was barely dry on the treaty, when religious war broke out and the Catholic opposition took Mary to Sterling Castle.   The match was broken and Scotland went back to being France’s ally.  As a very young child, Mary was moved from castle to castle partly due to safety concerns. Part of the alliance, and the blood shed in Scotland, and due to Mary being such a young age, it questioned that the Scottish lords would not respect her authority, so she was sent to France at age 5 for her safety and well being.  Interestingly, it was while in France that her name of “Stewart” changed to “Stuart” for suit the French court. (Source:

Her arrival to France did not come with out cost. She was already betrothed to Francis II the son of King Henry II, of France’s son. Surprisingly, the depiction of Queen Catherine in “Reign” is actually pretty accurate, as she and Mary did not get along and were at odds many of the time. Mary and Francis II were married at Sunday, April 24th 1558 in the Cathédrale de Notre Dame de Paris.  Mary was 16 and Francis was 14 and Mary was 15. Unfortunately, the marriage didn’t last long, as Francis died two years later from an inner ear infection that had abscessed into his brain in 1560.  Months earlier in 1559, Henry II died from injuries obtained in a jousting tournament.  Her mother, died in Scotland also in 1560.  In the short amount of time, Mary lost her father-in-law, her mother, and her husband.  It is believed that she never truly emotionally recovered.  Loosing three people very close to her in such a short amount of time was devastating, yet it’s devastating to any person.

She returned to Scotland as Queen of the Scots aged eighteen in 1561.  When she left, Scotland was still predominantly Catholic, upon her arrival home; it was now a Protestant country, as a result of the teachings from John Knox.  It was in Scotland, she met the infamous Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley
--> (Mary and Darnley were first cousins). In the upcoming film “Mary Queen of Scots” Darnley is portrayed by Aneurin Barnard (The White Queen). I am eager to see this adaptation for many reasons.  Unfortunately, Darnley’s quick rise to fame brought a short ending to his life. He became arrogant, a drunkard and quiet overbearing according to sources. It is noted that he went into a rage because he believed that Mary’s secretary, David Rizzio were having an affair, and Darnley organized a gang and during one of Mary’s private parties stabbed him over 50 times. In June 1566 her son, James was born. Her marriage with Darnley continued to tumble in to ashes. The disastrous marriage ended on February 9th 1567 when Darnley was found by Mary and one of her servants murdered, by suffocation in the garden of Kirk O'Field. 
Mary quickly married after Darnley’s death. Her last husband was James Hepburn, Earl of Boswell.  Whether the marriage was consensual or forced, as it is rumored that Boswell raped her while they were in Durham, as they were married just three months after Darnley’s death in .  They were on their way back from visiting her son, that April of 1567.   They were married in a protestant ceremony in Edinburgh in May of the same year.  It is thought that she turned to Boswell when she was having marital problems with Darnley, and suggested that he helped orchestrate his murder, and the possible explosion at Kirk O’Field. This was perhaps one of the biggest mistakes she made and eventually caused her demise.  The word got out and this angered her subjects and fellow Scottish nobles. The lords rose up against her and she surrendered to their opposition in June of 1567 at Carberry Hill, which was near Edinburgh. She was taken to Loch Leven Castle where she was imprisoned but escaped in 1568.  During her imprisonment at Loch Leven, it is believed she miscarried twins, that July of  1567.  She fled to England, asking for Elizabeth I, her cousin for help but instead was arrested. Elizabeth's distaste for Mary’s decision to marry Boswell in the first place, was quite evident in one of her letters:

“How could a worse choice be made for your honour than in such haste to marry such a subject, who besides other and notorious lacks, public fame has charged with the murder of your late husband, besides the touching of yourself also in some part, though we trust in that behalf falsely.” (Letter to Mary, Queen of Scots, 23 June 1567." Quoted by Loades, 69–70.)

Mary was imprisoned for 19 years. What happened to Boswell? I guess you could say he took off. How noble and loyal… not. Apparently, he fled via ship and sailed to Demark. He was met with a surprise and surprisingly Anna Throndsen, a Norwegian noblewoman and a former wife of Boswells, with the backing of her family, assisted in arresting him. Had King Frederick not heard that the English were looking for him as a suspect in Lord Darnley’s murder, he might have gotten away. Boswell ended up in Dragsholm Castle, which was infamous for its horrid conditions. He went mad and died April 14, 1578.

Back in England, Sir Francis Walsingham helped build the case against Mary for Elizabeth I, as she was a direct threat to the throne.  Mary being Roman Catholic didn’t help Mary.  Religious uprisings broke out around the country as many rebellions.  The focus of the rebellions where attempts to free Mary and put her on the throne. The rebellion in 1569 was a loss that over 750 rebels were executed. The tension between Catholic and Protestant England only mounted while Mary was imprisoned.

It took many years for them to have enough evidence to convict her of treason, but more than enough plots were uncovered by Walsingham The fact that Mary was Catholic and to have the assumption or risk of a possible “Catholic” queen was not a popular subject by many.  It was noted, that Elizabeth was at first hesitant to sign Mary’s death warrant.  Mary dressed as a martyr, was executed at Fotheringhay Castle, north of London, on February 8, 1587.  Sad to note, Mary was not allowed to have her a Catholic priest present at her execution.  She brought her dog with her to her execution, as the dog came out and refused to leave its mistress. She was given 24-hour notice that she would die that day.  After Mary’s beheading, it was discovered that she was wearing a wig, a surprise to many. Her clothes, the wooden block, everything that was touched by her blood, and any personal effects were later burned to prevent people from taking pieces for religious or symbolic purposes. (Source:,_Queen_of_Scots, Fraser 1994, p. 540; Guy 2004, p. 9)

Suspicions even after her death continued and do so today. It is questioned that Elizabeth didn’t really sign the death warrant, or ordered it, yet her secretary at the time Davidson, was even told not to carry out it’s orders. This is still being questioned today.

As a result of Mary’s turbulent life and the challenges and defeats she bore; she has always been quite a popular enigma to many, both in film, novel, and scholar.  She is perhaps one of the most heroic women of Tudor Scotland and England.


Wednesday, 22 January 2014

What was Buckingham thinking? Crown Snatching 101

When looking at why King Richard III had such a turbulent two year reign; keeping the peace in the land wasn't exactly a walk in the park. One of the most pivotal rebellions during his reign was Buckingham’s Rebellion in the fall of 1483. Oh Henry Stafford, pulled a Lord Stanley but two years earlier. The rebellion was not just one incident but a series of events, that even included an attempt on Richards life. The rebellion, ultimately failed, and heads were lost. More damaging to Richard’s psyche was that this was a man whom he trusted, and was at one point of time in the inner circle of loyal supporters of his brother Edward IV. More than likely this installed a sense of distrust in Richard and the men whom he most trusted as well.

The intent behind the conspiracy was to depose Richard III and restore Edward V, Edward IV's son to the throne. In the midst's of events, word got out that the princes were gone from the tower. Interestingly, it was Buckingham who proposed getting Henry Tudor to come out of exile and claim the throne and to marry Elizabeth of York. Part of his plan was to have Henry invade England via Wales.  Henry Tudor didn't make it to the shores of England this time. Weather made him turn back and return to Brittany. Buckingham’s Welsh forces were defeated by Richard. Buckingham fled and attempted to seek sanctuary and arrange passage to Brittany. He was caught on a bounty put out by the King and tried for treason. He was beheaded on November 2, 1483 in Salisbury. Richards most trusted and also well treated right hand man, obviously had proven himself untrustworthy. How many people left at court could he trust? “Trust no one” hops into my mind, it probably did in Richards too.
King Richard III (Aneurin Barnard) "The White Queen"

The more and more I delve into these last two years and the ones leading up to Richard’s death, the more the whole ordeal seems to be like one big sub plot going on behind the scenes. Richard is the puppet, and his men in court are pulling his strings, and orchestrating events to make him look as bad as they can, and crown snatching becoming their main objective, making their move into power, as seamless as possible. This theory is quiet evident when one looks at the information that scholars have discovered about the disappearance of the princes.

Noted, it is scholarly hypothesized that Buckingham was a prime suspect in the disappearances of the princes.  It is theorized that he too was trying to make claim to the throne that Richard was sitting on. Debating that he too had similar legitimate ancestry of the Beaufort line, and a claim to the throne which was yet stronger than Henry Tudors. This now adds a third person to the “Game of Thrones,”  but in 1483 style. The move (Act of disappearing princes.) was thought by some, as a way to blame and dispose Richard and then Buckingham and Henry would be left as rivals. This of course did not come to light, as Buckingham was caught and executed. 

Also interestingly, in 1980 a manuscript was discovered in the College of Arms, that cites the princes were murdered "be the vise" of the Duke of Buckingham. But there is some argument over whether "vise" means "advice" or "devise," and, if the former, in what sense. ( This claim alone makes it look like Richard was set up. Taking into consideration as well, the timing that all of this happened, it was right after Richard claimed the crown, and right before the rebellion took place. Was this in fact a warning to Richard that there were others that had been closer to Edward IV, and in his inner circle, that wanted the throne perhaps more than Richard? Time can only tell, and unfortunately for Richard, it did.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

King of the North: Richard III and the city of York

“welbyloued of my neyghbours, true to my frendes, obeysaunt & devoute in thynges religious…” from The Declamation of Noblesse

After Edward IV became king, he gave his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester lands in the north of England to govern, including the borderlands of Scotland and some of the most prominent cities in the north of England.  Richard had been in control of the north since 1461 under his brother Edward IV.  His relationship with the north had already been growing.  Soon after he wed Anne Neville, he was granted more lands, and the forfeited lands of Warwick.  Richard was then dubbed, “Warden of the West Marches of Scotland.”  During the summer of 1482, Richard invaded Scotland at King Edward's command to control unrest from the relations and political upheaval coming out of France.  Richard’s relationship with the north of England was not always one of championing for his brother the king, but one of good relations with its cities.  One such city, York, was not only was a city that he had close relations with, but it was also a city that greatly loved and supported him. By looking at this relationship between king and city; we can gather quite a different picture of what Richard was really like, definitely not one of tyrannical sorts. 
Battle of Bartlet c.Geoffery Wheeler
York was a great city that deeply honored and held Richard in highest esteem. They looked to him in economic hardship for help and in returned granted him the warmth and welcome befitting to a great king.  This is seen in by the many gifts of generosity to his family.  Because Richard had spent much of his youth in Northern England, Yorkshire and Middleham Castle, he was very close and had close patronage in the north. It was here he made generous donations and contributions to the church, held great parties displaying gifts to its citizens and gifts to him as well. In showing such support on the day of his coronation, the mayor and Alderman traveled to Middleham Castle to bring his son, Edward gifts of wine and food. (Source: History of York;

Besides growing up in the area at Middleham Castle, his visits to York seemingly few were actually of note of the times. We know that once he was king, he visited York a few times, one time for three weeks in 1483.  (One source noted that Richard was actually in York, when the famous princes in the Tower went missing or ill befell them.) Noted in the city chronicles, he was presented with gifts, and it was this trip that his son was crowned Prince of Wales, at the Minister in York. This was more than likely followed by great and elaborate festivities in the city.  Richard also had the bodies of his father, Richard of York and brother Edmund in 1476, moved to the church in Fotheringhay his birthplace, to the church for reburial. The reburial celebration not only did it bring jobs to the area by requiring masons to build of the additional tombs, but it brought great festivities honoring his father and brother.  The simple act of moving his dearly departed family back to rest in the north, not only shows closeness and ties to a land of his upbringing but it exhibits much love and admiration.

Being a very pious and openly religious man; he made many generous contributions to the church in the area, not just the placing of his family in Fotheringhay church.  It is speculated that he had planned to be buried at York Minister. A debate that has been quite a hot topic of late, adding that he had planned to have a large chapel built in his honor as well, to pray for his soul, once he passed on.  Whether his intentions were written down, this I am unsure of, his generosity and work to place various colleges in the area, and gifts could have been a result of his last intentions.  One of the biggest and surviving contributions Richard made to the north was the college he had in stalled in Middleham in 1478.

The relationship Richard had with his tidings in the north and the city of York, were quite evident and on good terms through out his reign. The city archives note with great sadness, emotion, and heartbreak with the outcome of the battle of Bosworth where their beloved Richard had fallen:

“Were assembled in the counsail chambre where and when it was shewed by diverse persons and especially by John Sponer send unto the feld of Redemore to bring tidinges frome the same to the citie, that King Richard late mercifully reigning upon us was thrugh grete treason of the ducof Northfolk and many othere that turned ayenst hyme, with many othre lordes and nobilles of this north parties, was pitiously siane and murdred to the grete hevynesse of this citie, the names of whome foloweth hereafter.”

23rd August 1485
York City Archives. House Book B2—4f. 169v.

The city of York was set to send 80 men to aid Richard in his battle but they came to late.  Blame over time has been placed on Henry Percy.  Owner of a manor, Percy as battle commander at Bosworth in 1485, failed to join the battle at command of the king aiding the betrayal of Stanley and defeat of Richard. It is even noted that Henry VII was fearful of his visit to York after Richard’s death, as the city was still quite loyal to their slain king and he feared for his life.  Under Henry VII rule, word was supposed to be dispatched by Percy and delivered to York that the king was raising taxes to fund a war in France. The kings response to his plea of the citizens complaint was to have the taxes stay, resulting in his return to town, a ransacked manor house, and his murder.  Obviously, a man who had been known to betray their beloved Richard, York’s “King of the North,” met his demise eventually.

King Richard III, was a man who was seen as a “perfect prince” to the city of York and the north. For the relationship he had with the city of York, was one of great loyalty brought together with justice from the laws he created, the harmony of his relationship with the city, and the church in the area.  His outgoing and well known display of public morality and loyalty had a huge impact on his reputation. It painted a perfect image of what and how a prince should be, one that was admired in the north. It’s this relationship that York to this day still holds dear.  
"loyalté me lie" ~motto of King Richard III


Monday, 6 January 2014

Tudors: The real Margaret Tudor a Scottish Queen

 Now fayre, fayrest of every fayre,
Princes most plesant and preclare,
The lustyest one alyve that byne,
Welcum of Scotlond to be Quene!

 Younge tender plant of pulcritud,
Descendyd of Imperyalle blude;
Fresche fragrant floure of fayrehede shene,
Welcum of Scotlond to be Quene!

 Swet lusty lusum lady clere,
Most myghty kyngis dochter dere,
Borne of a princes most serene,
Welcum of Scotlond to be Quene! 

 Welcum the Rose bothe rede and whyte,
Welcum the floure of our delyte!
Rejoysyng frome the sone beme,
Welcum of Scotlond to be quene;
Welcum of Scotlonde to be quene!


- William Dunbar (1503)

Margaret Tudor, the eldest of Elizabeth of York and Henry Tudor VII’s children was actually quite a different person in real life, when compared to Showtime’s “The Tudors” portrayal.   She was a woman who fought for her family, herself and for her crown.  She did not marry the King of Portugal, as depicted in the show and she definitely was not a strumpet nor trollop which is shown either. At times media, or shows temp to teach one thing, but get history and its people wrong. This is a definite case of misrepresentation.  The real Margaret was quite a different person as described below.

Margaret Tudor was born on the 28th of November in 1489. She is presumably named after her grandmother who interestingly was also her godmother; Margaret Beaufort.  By this time, the royal household had separate quarters for raising their children.  She grew up in a separate home from the palace at Westminster, in Eltham. It was here she was brought up as a princess. While at Eltham it is noted that she learned to play the lute and clavichord (all musical instruments period to the time).  She was also tutored in French and Latin. Surprisingly, she was skilled in archery and she knew how to ride horses, in particular sidesaddle. She was also fond of horses.

In 1502 under a treaty with Scotland, she was betrothed to James IV. Preparations for this betrothal had been underway since 1496.  Because James great grandmother was Joan Beaufort, sister to John Beaufort who was great grandfather to Margaret Tudor, they had to wait for papal dispensation. Margaret Tudor was a forth cousin with James IV, which was within the prohibited degree.  Hence approval from the pope was necessary.  The same year her brother Arthur, died on the border of England and Wales. A year later in 1503, her mother Elizabeth of York died in childbirth and the child, named Katherine died a year later. She left for Scotland in 1503 to be with her husband James IV. Her travel to Scotland was a strenuous one and one that tested her will as a future queen. Noted:

"Her first night in Scotland was spent at Fast Castle; the next at the nunnery at Haddington on the third night, at 'Acquik' or 'Dacquik' Castle, Dalkeith Palace, James came to kiss her goodnight. He came again to console her on 4 August, after a stable fire had killed some of her favourite horses. Her riding gear was burnt and a new sumpter cloth or pallion of cloth-of-gold with a velvet cushion cost £127. On the 7 August 1503, Margaret was carried from Dalkeith to Edinburgh on a litter."

(Source: Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer, vol. 2 (1900), 214-215.)

Margaret, 13 wed James, 30 on August 8, 1503 at Holyrood Abbey. This isn’t the king of Portugal that “The Tudors” speak of, and the actress who portrays Margaret isn’t 13.  At this time, Henry had just been married that June to Catherine of Aragon.  It is rumored he had a fit when he found out his sister was going to be “Queen” and he was still a duke, for how could she be of higher rank than him.  Lovely Tudor temper. Margaret and Henry for sure were not living in the same court as the show portrays and the age of both is questionable, as he was 12, and not king at the time she left for Scotland.  

Margaret at first was not happy in Scotland. Her writings to her father Henry VII suggest this. Despite her unhappiness in Scotland her arrival spurred the poet William Dunbar to write The Thrisseil and The Rois (Thistle and the Rose), one of the most famous poems to date.  The poem also honors the joining of the houses of York and Lancastrian of her parents. 

She had a total of 5 children with James. Only one, James V survived to adulthood, born in 1512.  I do not know if she suffered the same genetic blood disorder as it is suggested that Henry VIII suffered from (Carrier of Kell’s positive blood and McLeod syndrome) but it is interesting how many of her children, barely survived infancy. 

Due to strained relations between Scotland and Henry VIII, Margaret’s brother, the country broke out in war in 1513.  September 9th of that same year (1512) after James IV marched to the border, he died in battle at Flodden Field.  James V, her son became king, and Margaret became regent and was to stay regent as long as she did not remarry.  In 1514 she remarried again.  This did not help her to stay as regent.  She married Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus the 6th of August 1514. Meanwhile John Stuart, Duke of Albany, who was a cousin to the king, also next in line for the throne if something happened to Alexander, was voted by Scottish lords to be regent.  The position of Regent was passed to him.  He arrived from France in May 1515.

Margret had her children taken from her and in September of the same year. As a result, she and new her husband fled to England in September 1515. With the help from her brother, Henry VIII, she was able to stay at Harbottle Castle in the north of England. Here she gave birth to her daughter, Margaret Douglas. After she was born, Margaret became very ill and almost died. Alexander her son, died in December that year, but news was delayed due to her poor health. Margaret stayed in England and went to London until 1517. It was then she discovered that her husband Angus had been unfaithful and had taken a mistress. He had also been living off her Scottish revenue. She spent the next few years in a dreadful marriage, no money, and little to no contact with her son James.  Letters written between her and Henry VIII beg of needing money and wanting to leave Scotland.

In 1524, with the help from the Earl of Arran, she was able to overthrow Albany’s regency, as her son was 12, and could now finally rule on his own. But this was short lived, as her husband, Angus returned and took control of the government and control of James V authority from 1525-1528.  She promptly applied for an annulment of her marriage to Angus in March of 1527 and Pope Clement VII issued the final decree.

Margret got married a third and final time.  In April of 1528, Margaret married Henry Stewart, Lord Methven. Angus who still had influence in Scottish court, had Lord Methven arrested on the grounds that he married the Queen without any approval. Margaret’s son, James who removed Angus and his family from power, overturned this. James was able to have Lord Methven as his stepfather and had parliament proclaim Angus and his followers “traitors.” Angus escaped to England and did not return until James V death.

Over the years Margaret had a good relation with her son James. She preferred to have closer relations with England, but her son favored France. On October 18, 1541 Margaret died in Methven Castle, Scotland.  She did not die due to foul play like “The Tudors” suggests.  Sad to note, her third marriage unfortunately went like her second.  Methven took a mistress and lived off her money. It is theorized that she died from a stroke. Like her brother and her a few others in her family, her weight later became an issue and more than likely impacted her health.

In watching the Tudors, the image of Margret is defiantly tainted and quite inaccurate.  She wasn’t the trollop or strumpet that is shown in the show nor did she marry any of the characters they portray her to.  She wasn’t defiantly was not brunette. Nor did she have raging fistfights with her husbands. That is a complete historical inaccuracy. Women never hit their husbands, especially if you were of nobility. It was just not done. Now she was known to have been a bit of an actress and spoiled, but it might have been because her brother Henry seemed to cater to many of her request. But she was Queen of Scotland for sometime and she was the eldest child to a victorious king, Henry VII. 

At times media representation of historical individuals sometimes is catered not to us historians, but to the masses, as I think was the reasoning behind “The Tudors” being scripted as it was. The show has its good points, yet it has its flaws. The depiction of Margaret Tudor is one of them.  Interestingly, the character of the show was based off both Mary and Margaret Tudor, for reasons I am not too sure why, but maybe to simplify the script and playing of the show and not to confuse audiences.  Tudor history is vast and complex and can be a demon within itself.  For whatever reason, it paints a very flawed and confusing image of a queen.  I am glad I re-watched the show and picked this up and found out who the real Margaret Tudor was and more.  


Saturday, 4 January 2014

“The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box,” Aims to Please

It’s Saturday, after the holidays, and taking a break from some medieval-ness for some Victorian, steam punk action.  When I first heard of the title the movie was under a different name, “Mariah Mundi and the Midas Box,” since then the movie has hence changed title.  The movie is based off of a series of books, the first being Mariah Mundi: The Midas Box. by G.P Taylor.  I bought all the books in the series once I knew about the movie. I am half way through the first.  Delightful!  I was immediately struck by the movie’s poster and its intriguing design.  This was something I wanted to see. 

Cast in the movie are: Sam Neill, Lena Headey, Michael Sheen, and the lovely and talented Aneurin Barnard ("The White Queen"), as Mariah Mundi, front and center. Even more reason to watch this film!

The movie opens with narration done superbly by Sam Neill. Did I say he makes an awesome narrator? It's fantastic. I did have a Jurassic Park moment then but it was more like “.. You did not keep the raptors out of the kitchen!”  Many of you will recognize him from that movie as well as Cardinal Wolsey from “The Tudors,” very talented.  His character Otto Luger is one of mystery and determination.  Next, pretty much the first major scene, we are introduced to Mariah and his brother Felix who is falling asleep at one of their fathers’ (Ioan Gruffudd) lectures while Mariah of course, is attentive and learning as much as he can.  You can immediately tell that this sibling duo is close knit, has some history behind it and is a team.

Michael Sheen wows the screen with his portrayal of Cpt. Will Charity (Jack Charity in the novel) or re-named by my 8 year old as “Chadwick”. I was quiet impressed. He is fantastic! Lena Headey absolutely charms as Monica, the hotel mistress.  Her work on Cerise from “Game of Thrones” really makes you believe the evil, secret plotting, and sinister appeal of this character.  She is just wicked to the core.  It doesn’t help that her costumes are just divine.

The costumes are one of my favorite part of this movie. Simply, the costuming is fantastic, bright colorful, and to detail, even down to the ladies bustles. And for those who fancy “Steam Punk” fashion, there is defiantly some inspiration in this film. A lot of inspiration can come from this alone. A+ here.  Major eye candy for a costumer.

When Mariah arrives at the mysterious Prince Regent Hotel, we are introduced to Sacha, delightfully played by Mella Carron. Sacha first interaction with Mariah is one to take note, as it ends on a quiet snarky note.  Spoiler here and a little background to the story; Felix becomes kidnapped as a result of both his own doing and the role of his parents in the story, but main reason is the desire of an object he is carrying, by Otto Luger (Sam Neill).  Mariah starts out to find him and ends up being a porter at the hotel which Otto Luger, owns, and where Sacha is employed as a maid and seamstress. 

After a brief exchange of looks and words, Sacha sends Mariah on his way with a warning, “I am not a boy..” Mariah states, “You are not a man either..” Sacha reminds him cleverly. Immediately, you know she has some wit to her. The two actors defiantly got along well as their candor is excellent and brings definite quality to the movie and script.

The great “Bizzmulla” I will just say is charming, magical and quite mysterious. He is alluring at first glance and you go, “Who is he?” He was a definite treat.  I will say no more. The movie has subtle sneaky “scares,” as Sacha calls them that make you jump then laugh. Aneurin is quiet good at this. Also noted and probably one of my most favorite scenes is the one with the magic gypsy cards. This was amazing! Beautifully choreographed and made. Superbly pulled off by both Aneurin and Mella. 

Overall, I was quite impressed and thoroughly enjoyed the show. If you are looking for a fun, family, yet exciting movie to watch as a family or on your own, director Jonathan Newman has accomplished this. This is a must see. Superbly acted and well put together.  So get a post-it, your iPhone, what ever and write this title down, as it is a must see this holiday season.

“The Adventurer: Curse of The Midas Box” is available for rental on:

Official release January 10, 2014.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Richard and Anne's own Courtly Love Story

In BBC’s “The White Queen,” Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later King Richard III) portrayed by Aneurin Barnard finds Anne Neville, the Kingmaker’s daughter (Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick) portrayed by Faye Marsay, and rescues her after the battle Tewkesbury, where her husband is killed, and the Lancastrian cause is defeated.  He tells Margaret of Anjou to get back in her litter and go home while safely whisking Anne away to safety.  It is something out of a fairy tale. Handsome knight rescues princess in harms way. Did events shown, portray an accurate portrayal of how did these events actually did historically unfold? Did he really rescue her from crazed solders or was there another story, more fact that is more true to what really happened? How chivalrous was Richard to go chasing after Anne Neville?

The story of Richard and Anne, was highly popular because it exhibits and proves that chivalry was alive and well during the 15th century. Hence making the match one of admiration and desire in many people’s eyes. The same can be said about Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV’s relationship.

What do we know about Richard? We know he was an avid reader and had copies of many books while he lived in York in his younger years. One was found to have tales of chivalry, classical history, and two Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.  Proving he was quiet educated, which was expected of nobles. Also noted, he had a copy of Tristan, the Gottfried von Strassburg (d. 1210) version which was adapted from the 12th century legend of Tristan and Iseult . The story itself, is modeled after most popular courtly romances of the time and with rhyming couplets. A rhyming couplets is the style and structure of the poem meaning “two lines of poetry that rhyme and have the same meter. “

Also as an accomplished military man, Richard would have also known what the chivalric code was, a reason for it being in his books.  For he had to have studied it at one point in time, as loyal as he was to his brother, as well as upbringing. Some of the principles he would have been familiar with would have been:

Duties to countrymen
Duties to God
Duties to women.

The third is where we see how he handled what really happened with Anne; “the idea that the knight is to serve a lady, and after her all other ladies. Most especially in this category is a general gentleness and graciousness to all women.”  This popular notion might have been some of his motivation to find her, and desire to keep her safe and want to marry her, adding to his beliefs a strong moral and loyal disposition.

Now how did the cat catch the mouse? In reality, Anne was not at the battle with her former husband, Edward of Westminster, that May 4, at Tewkesbury. Where she actually was, is a little unclear.  What we do know is she was imprisoned after the battle by Edward VI and taken prisoner.

George, Duke of Clarence, in trying to make any marriage between Richard and Anne difficult, took Anne with him first to Coventry, then to his London house, where he kept her as his ward and opposed her getting remarried. She even wrote Elizabeth Woodville, Elizabeth of York, and Edward IV of her ordeal and to plea her case, yet all requests failed.  The assumption was that George was wanting access to both of the girls inheritance, wanted to keep Anne as his ward in order to do this so he could claim her share of the money. Interestingly literature of the time such as The Crowland Chronicle reported that;

"so much disputation arose between the brothers and so many keen arguments were put forward on either side with the greatest acuteness in the presence of the king … even those learned in the law, marvelled at the profusion of the arguments which the princes produced for their own cases'. Whilst the acquisition of land, wealth and power was a factor in Richard's determination to marry Anne Neville it is reasonable to assume that their marriage was successful for there is no hint of scandal or mistresses.”

Concluding, the rift between the York brothers, and Neville’s youngest daughter’s inheritance and initial intent, was a bit scandalous at first, but laid to rest once things played out.

Exactly how Richard found Anne, remains disputed. One account states she escaped and sought refuge at a cooking shop in London, disguised as a servant, and second, Richard actually went looking for her, tracked her down, then took her to sanctuary at Church of St. Martin le Grand, where they were later married.

Adding the whole courtly love theme into the dynamics of the actions of Richard and Anne being discovered, is also why some of the details of their childhood also have an importance to this theme.  They were acquaintances of each other. An interesting part about their relationship is that they actually knew each other before marriage, which was very uncommon. Marriages in the Middle Ages especially among the nobility, were for political and diplomatic reasons. Getting married for love or the notion of, was practically unheard of.  Both Richard and Anne had grown up in the same household for a while at Middleham Castle, in Yorkshire. But there is no documentation of how each other felt for one another. So the concept of a long drawn out love affair of admiration is hard to prove.

When looking at the elements of this relationship and the popularity of courtly literature of the time and the idea of their sought after relationship; makes their story very popular.  It is one that was perceived to many as one of romantic notion and of what many authors before and contemporary wrote about. It was a story with its own elements yet similar to Tristan and Iseult. Thus, their story became quite popular, and is still of popularity today. For it was a 15th century romance within itself.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Mincemeat Pies, Based off Medieval Recipe

The history of the mincemeat pie is quiet old. It can be traced back to the 12th century when crusaders brought back spices from the Middle East. The spices then where introduced into the medieval diet and used for various of things including spiced meat and fruit. This popular mix is what began the little pies that we know today. Mincemeat pies.

I got most of this recipe from my King Richard III class through University of Leicester. I had to do some improvising, as I did not have all the ingredients available to me.

What you will need:

1 cupcake tin (I made a dozen with this recipe)
a medium size pot to cook down the mincemeat
bowl for dough
pastry cutter

Shortcut Pastry Dough:
1 1/2 cups of flour (I like King Arthur flour the best)
1 1/2 sticks of butter
good size pinch of salt
4-5 Tbs of cold water

2 pork chops
1/2 cup of dried cranberries
1/2 cup of dried currants
1/2 cup of dried cherries (could even use dates. But my store didn't have any)
1/2 cup diced dried plums
1/2 cup of red wine
1/3 cup of rum
1 tbs, be generous, of molasses for color
1/2 cup of sugar
1 tsp cloves
1tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
a few dashes of salt
(when measuring out the spices I was quiet generous. But I cook like "throw it all in a pot")
two large tbs of marmalade
1 slice of orange
1/2 cup of bread crumbs for binding agent
1 table spoon of olive oil

Take the two pork chops, with no bones and place them in the pot. Dust them with cloves and put the olive oil in to tender the meat. Add about a 1/2 cup of water to steam them. Cook them until they are just done. You want the meat tender and easy to chop up into fine pieces.

Chop the meat up once it is cooked through and return to the pot. Next, with all the liquid still from the pork chops, add all the fruit, sugar, orange slice, marmalade, bread crumbs, wine, and spices all into the mix. Put the mixture on low and cover with a lid. Add the rum to flavor. Taste periodically, to see if you need to adjust any of the spices or add more. It takes about a good 3 hours for the mix to cook down at low heat. It should have a consistency of thick jam. When done, let it cool. Mincemeat can be stored for up to a year if canned in a jar with sealed lid. Brandy or rum is excellent to preserve the mixture.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Grease cupcake the tins with lard.

Mixing the shortcut pastry and final prep for the oven:

In a bowl, add the flour and salt mix well. Chop up the butter and add that as well. I don't have a food processor, so I used a pastry slicer and blended the butter and flour together. I next used my fingers to get the mixture to a consistency like bread crumbs. Then add the water and kneed to form a soft ball of dough. You can refrigerate over night or just roll it out.

Cut the dough large enough to fit in the cupcake tins and fill with the mincemeat mixture. Cut another circle to use as a top. Don't forget to poke with a fork for ventilation. Cutting the pastry in shapes such as stars or Fleur de Lis for the top is a popular decoration for this treat. I just made mini pies.

Cook for 20 minutes or until crust is baked and a tiny golden. Lift out with a fork or knife and cool on a plate.  The pies can be stored in a air tight container or tin for a good two weeks. Refrigerate or freeze. Enjoy!

The Very Merry and Medieval "Plum Pottage"

It's that time of year where family is in town, love ones are near, and what brings us together?Food. This time of year was especially important in many medieval households, as a time for celebration, giving and to for many to share the best of their kitchens with their guests. Where cooks cook and present their dishes with great pride.

Now what did they eat? or what was served? We have a good idea of what was served by many of the art work left to us today, as well as recipes that have been passed down have their roots in the medieval kitchen. For example, mincemeat tarts or pies, goose, special pies, roasted pig, swan with permission from the king, stewed vegetables mulled wines and ale were all presented on the table. Some modern theme'd cookbooks such as my cook book inspired by the book series, Game of Thrones, all of the recipes have a medieval origin and are quite fantastic. What is one of the most popular dishes today? I would go with Christmas Pudding.

Christmas pudding is another Christmas tradition in which sources say began in the Middle Ages but it might have been actually earlier than that, as there is a reference of it as far back as Roman times. The traditional name or "Plum Pudding" got its name later in the Victorian Era. But the fruit pudding we all know, was known differently as "Plum Porridge or Pottage" or "Frumenty."

Like many of the dishes from the Middle Ages which consisted of varieties of meat and raisin dishes; this dish was made from porridge or boiled wheat, raisins or "plums", eggs, sweetened by molasses or honey, as sugar was very expensive, fruits, currants, dates, then spiced with cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. The mixture was kept moist by treacle or molasses. Due to the puddings fair amount of alcohol content, it helped keep it preserved and not spoil. It would then be good to eat a month to even a year after it was made. We start to see variation and addition to the dish as early as 1420, and during the reign of Elizabeth I, plums were introduced as a fruit in the mixture. Due to popularity of the fruit, it was added to many other dishes, hence "Plum Pottage" came to be.

After the pudding was cooked, the original prep for the pudding was to be hung by a hook in a "pudding cloth." This was later changed to cooking or boiling/steaming later on. The round little shape it has today topped with holly began to circulate in 1836. This is where the food specifically becomes a Christmas dessert. Originally it was used to eat with pork as a topping, such as apple sauce which we use today. Authors such as Charles Dickens reference the new popular use in his story adding the dish to a Christmas popularity. Cards and printed articles also show families gathered and celebrating the holiday with the pudding dressed with its holly on the table.

On a funny note, both christmas puddings were outlawed to be eaten in the 17th century by the Commonwealth Parliament. The consumption of the foods were considered "heathenish and a papistical practice." This silliness was reversed under Charles II rule.
NB, Christmas Pudding, It's Medieval Orgin. The West Austrialian, Dec. 21, 1935 (