Friday, 23 March 2018

Oystermouth Castle

One of my favourite castles - Oystermouth, near Swansea. Edward 1st once spent Christmas here!

 Recent renovations include a viewing platform to see the chapel at the top of the castle.

 View from the other side.
 To the right of the window and barely visible, are the flecks of paint of an angel from a fresco in the chapel.
 One of the murder holes for castle defence.
 The view of the sea from the castle - an ideal viewing point.
The view from the battlements.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

February 1312 - Piers is re-united with Edward II - and his wife.

In January, 1312, Piers Gaveston's wife had given birth to their daughter Joan.   At the time, Piers was out of the country - having been banished for the third time from England.  There was even talk that Piers hadn't actually left England, but had been 'hiding out' somewhere, perhaps under the King's protection.  It would make sense that he would want to be near his wife Margaret in the late stages of her pregnancy.   

Joan was born in mid-January, and named for Piers mother-in-law and the king's sister, Joan.  Margaret had been taken North to give birth - away from the glare of court, and no doubt to make it easier for Piers to be at her side as soon as possible, which he was by February.  It would have been a time of great rejoicing for Piers and Margaret, and no doubt Edward II.  

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Best Books of 2017

As is usual for me at this time of year, here are my best books of 2017.

1.  Without a doubt, the book I've been waiting a very long time for.  Kathryn Warner's 'Long Live the King! The Mysterious fate of Edward II'  is a fascinating, well researched read.  I've been an avid reader of Kathryn's superb Edward II blog, and have been fortunate to read all her posts on the possible survival of Edward II.   Kathryn's meticulous research, and well-balanced arguments are extremely readable.  A book I literally could not put down.

2.  'Young, Damned and Fair.  The Life and Tragedy of Catherine Howard at the Court of Henry VIII', by Gareth Russell.   No doubt, Tudor bios are extremely popular and churned out regularly with very little, or indeed no new information on the subject.   There has been far too many on Catherine Howard, of whom we know very little.  Therefore, interpretation of her life has been the central focus, and revisionist historians have painted her as a victim of child abuse.  But not Gareth Russell, who opens his biography with a superb chapter on explaining attitudes in Tudor times, in particular, the Tudor attitude, and acceptance of, death.  We also get a Catherine set in her own context - in Tudor times, Catherine would not have been seen as a victim of child abuse - at 13, and once a girl had started her periods, she was deemed old enough to be a wife and mother.  Catherine Howard led a risqué life, knowing the consequences, and paid for it with her life.  She was not some innocent child dangled like an ornament by her family for Henry VIII to devour.   In many ways, she was responsible for her own fate.

3.  'Henry VII - The Maligned King', by Terry Breverton.  I always enjoys this authors books, and he has written an excellent, balanced biography of Henry VII, whose success is often over-shadowed by his much-married son and of course his predecessor, Richard III.  Henry VII is certainly maligned in that his successful financial and foreign policies are over-looked, as is his seemingly happy marriage to Elizabeth of York and his being free from scandal.  A worthy biography of a worthy king.

4.  'Richard II, a True King's Fall', by Kathryn Warner.  A well researched biography of the complex king Richard II.  Plenty of details showing many facets of Richard's personality.

5.  'Houses of Power -the Palaces that shaped the Tudor World' by Simon Thurley.  A well-researched and interesting book on the palaces occupied by the Tudors - those still standing and those that have disappeared.   There's a lot of focus on the design and architecture, which makes for a refreshing change for a book about the Tudors.

6.  'Richard III, Brother, Protector and King' by Chris Skidmore.  A balanced and fair biography of Richard III, and how it was circumstances, rather than personality, that 'bounced' Richard into the actions he took.

7.  'Take Courage - Anne Bronte and the Art of Life'.  A much needed biography of the neglected Bronte sister. 

8.  Just started 'Elizabeth's rival - The Tumultuous Tale of Lettice Knollys' by Nicola Tallis, and it's already shaping up to be a cracking read.

Biggest disappointments

A book I was so looking forward to - 'The King's Assassin - The Fatal Affair of George Villiers and James 1st' by  Benjamin Woolley.  I know very little about James 1st and was intrigued by the title and blurb of this book - but basically, it turned out to be a biography of George Villiers and gossip from the court of James 1st.

Anne Boleyn - Amy Licence.  OK, I know there is only 1 definitive biography of Anne Boleyn - the one written by Eric Ives.  I always try to read every new bio of Anne, and am inevitably disappointed.  There is no new information on Anne Boleyn - but there have been plenty of interpretations and speculation.  And that's what we get here - Anne might have met Leonardo da Vinci, she might have been present at this meeting, at that palace, might have read this book, could have seen this piece of art , met this person - and then of course she may not have done any of them. Nothing new again and padded out with maybes. I had low expectations, and was right.  Amy Licence can do better than this, as her  previous biographies have proved.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Merry Christmas!

It's that time of year again.   A very Merry Christmas to all and best wishes for 2018!

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Ludlow Castle - the apartments of Prince Arthur and Katherine of Aragon

 The eldest son of Henry VII, Prince Arthur, born in Winchester and named for glory and drawing on his Welsh ancestry, was sent to govern in Ludlow Castle at a very young age.  His father was following the example, set by Edward IV, of sending the heir to the throne to govern the troublesome Marcher lands on the Welsh borders.  It was deemed an ideal 'apprenticeship'.
 These photos show the inside and outside of the apartments occupied by Prince Arthur.

 In 1501, the young Prince was married to the Spanish princess, Katherine of Aragon.  It was a superb match for the Tudor family.
 The young couple were sent to Ludlow, to live, in my opinion, as husband and wife.   The idea of Prince Arthur being a sickly youth is a later invention.   No mention of sickliness was made at his wedding, when he and his bride were on view for all to see,and Katherine's parents would surely have enquired as to the health of the young prince.  There was no hint of the tragedy to follow.
Both Arthur and Katherine caught some type of sickness in April 1502.  Both were expected not to survive.   sadly, Arthur died, and Katherine was too ill to even know her young husband was dead.

The young couple seem to have been really happy here.  Years later, their private life would come under intense scrutiny.   Their apartments are currently under renovation.  If only walls could talk!

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Ludlow Castle

I've been very lucky to visit Ludlow twice this year.   The castle is spectacular, and of huge significance to anyone with an interest in Medieval history.
It has been held by the Mortimer family and the Dukes of York.
The chapel was added by the infamous Roger Mortimer, after helping Queen Isabella dethrone her husband Edward II.

Richard, Duke of York, abandoned the castle in the so-called 'Wars of the Roses', leaving behind his wife, Duchess Cicely, and her young children, including George, the future Duke of Clarence, and Richard, later Richard III.  He naturally made sure his eldest 2 sons were safe.

It was also the castle where the young Edward V was schooled as a prince, ready to take over from his father.   Henry VII subsequently sent his son Prince Arthur there and later, Henry VIII sent the Princess Mary there.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Belated Anniversary Wishes

November 1st 1307 was the anniversary of the wedding between Piers Gaveston and Margaret de Clare, niece of Edward II.  Margaret was the second daughter of Gilbert de Clare and the daughter of Edward 1st, Joan of Acre.   This was Edward's way of bringing Piers into the Royal family.   The Vita Edwardi Secundi says it was Edward's aim to 'strengthen Piers and surround him with friends '.  Margaret was aged 14 and doubtless had no say in the marriage.   We don't know how Margaret felt about her husband but we do know she accompanied Piers to Ireland on his second banishment and that Piers returned from his third banishment when Margaret was due to give birth to their daughter Joan.  If Piers was as chivalrous, graceful and  magnificently dressed as he was described, it's not difficult to imagine Margaret being impressed with her husband.   Being made Countess of Cornwall no doubt helped.   Whatever the relationship between her husband and Uncle, Margaret must have recognised the importance of her marriage to the King's favourite and saw a bright and successful marriage ahead.  If only......