Friday, 23 April 2010

God for Harry, England and Saint George!

Saint George's Chapel, Windsor.
In 1348 Edward III adopted Saint George as the Patron of his new order of chivalry - the Knights of the Garter. It is believed that the name of this order came from the garter shown in traditional depictions of Saint George and the insignia of the order is known as the George. The badge is of gold and shows a richly enamelled depiction of Saint George slaying the dragon on horseback. A second medal worn on the sash also shows Saint George. Although the early records of the Order were destroyed by fire, Edward also proclaimed Saint George as Patron Saint of England around this time, replacing Saint Edmund (Eadmund) King of East Anglia who had been England's patron saint since the 9th century and who was martyred by the Vikings.
Edward founded the religious college of Saint George's at Windsor and this became the home of the order.
In the fifteenth century Edward IV began to redevelop the chapel and this was continued by Henry VII and Henry VIII. It still remained the home for the order, as it is today, and saw much pomp and circumstance at the celebration of its patron saint's day.

William Hastings's chantry.

Edward and his long-time friend William Lord Hastings are buried here; Edward in a chantry with Elizabeth Wydeville and William in a chantry built by his wife Kathryn Neville with the permission of Richard III who had executed him!

Edward IV's chantry.

Warwick and his brother John as well as their father before them (and numerous Nevilles before that) had been made Knights of the Garter, though Warwick's garter stall plate was removed following his escape to France in 1470 after the debacle of Loose Coat Field. It is listed as having been in Stall S5 next to, of all people, that of Charles the Bold (whose plate is still there)! John and Salisbury's stall plates are still visible in Stall S11. William Hastings's is opposite them in Stall N9.
Saint George's Day stirred feelings of patriotism in the fifteenth century just as it does today and always reminds me of the WoTR and those who took part in it.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Requiescant in pace

Today is the 539th anniversary of the Battle of Barnet and hence the deaths, among thousands of others, of the Neville brothers - John Neville, Marquis Montagu and Richard Neville,Earl of Warwick and Salisbury.

The manner of their deaths vary with the author and the audience they were writing for and becomes more bizarre the further from the events one gets.

I believe John was caught up in the confusion surrounding Oxford's return to the battle after chasing Gloucester's men from the field (see earlier post); Warwick was holding together a disparate force and it isn't difficult to believe that thoughts of betrayal were not far from some minds. Though John had made an impassioned speech to the readeption parliament giving his explanation for remaining with Edward's camp, for some he had possibly remained a Yorkist too long and some may have found his hounding and execution of the Lancastrians after the Battle of Hedgely Moor in April 1464 difficult to forgive. But wearing Edward's livery under his own? Nope. John was Warwick's brother and in the end the Neville blood was thickest and when they rode out that morning they were true brothers-in-arms.
And Warwick. Scrambling for safety and a horse? We are talking here about the man who fought at Towton with an arrow wound in his leg; the man who fought at sea, where there is no escaping from an enemy once engaged! I prefer to have him make a noble last stand, circled by his enemies like the bear of his badge circled by dogs in the pit. Realistically he had nowhere to run to, having been let down by King Louis of France, and telling him in a terse letter exactly what he thought of him! And the thought of Warwick kneeling to Marguerite with a leering Somerset at her side after losing a battle doesn't bear contemplation! I prefer to think that Warwick knew that either he or Edward would die that day; when he lost the Battle of Barnet, Warwick knew he had lost everything. In July 1470 he had sworn on the True Cross in Angers Cathedral to fight for Lancaster and I believe that's exactly what he did to his last breath.

'Requiescat in pace'

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Battle of Towton 1461

I have talked about the Battle of Towton previously - mainly because it features at the start of my latest WIP, in fact it is Jack's first ever battle!
Sunday was the 549th Anniversary of the Battle of Towton. The Frei Compagnie, Towton Battlefield Society (TBS) and invited re-enactors provided an insight into both civilian and military life during The Cousins' War - The Wars of the Roses - and honoured the memory of the c28,000 who lost their lives that day in the bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil. In the last year TBS has had to defend the battlefield from the threat of inappropriate development and has championed the battlefield in the National media culminating in a documentary for the BBC which will be screened later this year.
On Sunday there was a brisk and bitter wind sweeping along the dale but not the blizzards endured by the combatants on the day. Even though we had sunshine rather than snow the conditions made me reflect on the ordeal of the mediaeval soldier who not only had to endure the remorseless elements, but the horror of hand to hand combat on a large scale with his fellow Englishmen. Artefacts and human remains from the archaeological investigations were on display and told the moving story of what they believe are the deaths in the battle of three brothers and their father - Shakespeare wasn't so far out when he talked of the tragedy of fathers killing sons.
In the words of George Neville, then Bishop of Exeter and brother to the Earl of Warwick: 'there was a great conflict, which began with the rising of the sun, and lasted until the tenth hour of the night, so great was the boldness of the men, who never heeded the possibility of a miserable death.'
I'm not certain about the last phrase, but the men, including Warwick who was wounded by an arrow in the leg but continued fighting, were certainly bold.