Sunday, May 30, 2010

Margaret of Anjou's Coronation

On May 30, 1445, Margaret of Anjou was crowned at Westminster Abbey by John Stafford, Archbishop of Canterbury. Margaret had turned fifteen just two months before.

Henry VI and Margaret had married on April 22, 1445, at Titchfield Abbey. Since then, Margaret had been making a leisurely journey toward London, during which she was entertained by various lords. On Friday, May 28, 1445, she finally arrived at Blackheath, where she was greeted by the mayor of London, the aldermen, and various commons in "costeous array." Behind Margaret in her splendidly decorated chariot rode chariot after chariot of ladies. Their names are unrecorded, but it's likely that anyone of rank who was present in England had come to London for the festivities. Margaret's destination that Friday, in accordance with custom, was the Tower of London, where Henry VI received her.

On her way to the Tower, Margaret was honored with two pageants: one at the Southwark approach to London Bridge, the second upon the bridge itself. Because Margaret's marriage had been made in exchange for a truce with France, the pageants emphasized--rather ironically in hindsight--Margaret's role as peacemaker. The figures of Peace and Plenty were on hand to greet Margaret for the first pageant (where she was also enjoined, equally ironically, to be fruitful and multiply). The second pageant compared Margaret to Noah's dove of peace. Six more pageants were in store for Margaret, many of them also emphasizing Margaret's role as peacemaker. Helen Maurer suggests that Margaret saw these additional six pageants on May 29, the day she journeyed from the Tower to Westminster, rather than on May 28.

Margaret rode to Westminster on Saturday, May 29, in a litter draped in white cloth of gold and drawn by two horses likewise decked in white. (Gregory's Chronicle describes the horses' coverings as satin; the Brut has the horses wearing damask powdered with gold.) Margaret herself, according to the Brut, was clad in white damask powdered with gold. Her hair was combed down around her shoulders; upon her head she wore a gold crown with rich pearls and precious stones. (Unlike the chronicler who recorded Elizabeth of York's coronation, who noted for the benefit of future novelists that Elizabeth had "faire yelow Hair," no one was helpful enough to record the color of Margaret's.) The city conduits ran with wine, both white and red, for the people to enjoy.

The next day, Sunday, May 30, was Margaret's big day. Unfortunately, a detailed description of her coronation ceremony does not exist, although the one we have for Elizabeth Woodville twenty years later gives us a reasonable idea of what would have taken place. Margaret, followed by a bevy of duchesses and other noblewomen, was probably led by bishops and by the Abbot of Westminster into Westminster Abbey, where she knelt before the altar and then prostrated herself. After that, she would have been anointed and crowned. Most likely Henry VI was not present during the coronation, as Edward IV is not mentioned as being at Elizabeth Woodville's coronation, and Henry VII, while able to watch his queen being crowned, was concealed from the sight of the public.

Later in 1445, William de la Pole, then the Marquis of Suffolk, was granted the manor of Kettlebaston in return for carrying a sceptre of ivory, with a golden dove on its head, at the queen's coronation, so he had presumably performed this office for Margaret. His son, John de la Pole, apparently performed this task for Elizabeth Woodville.

Following Margaret's coronation, a great feast was held, followed by three days of jousting. Who jousted is unrecorded, but Richard Woodville, married to Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford, was a noted jouster of his day and might have well participated in the 1445 festivities.

Henry VI, who could ill afford the expense of Margaret's coronation, nonetheless made certain that his young bride was appropriately decked out in jewels. Before the wedding, he had ordered that "the Queene most necessaryly have for the Solempnitee of hir Coronation . . . a Pusan of Golde, called Ilkyngton Coler, Garnished with iv Rubees, iv greet Sapphurs, xxxii greet Perles, and liii other Perles. And also a Pectoral of Golde Garnished with Rubees, Perles, and Diamonds, and also with a greet Owche Garnished with Diamondes, Rubees, and Perles, sometyme bought of a Marchant of Couleyn for the Price of Two Thousand Marc." A pusan was an ornamental collar, according to Sherman M. Kuhn's Middle English Dictionary. According to Harold Clifford Smith in Jewellery, a pectoral was a species of brooch, as was an owche, otherwise known as an ouch or a nouch. At what point in the ceremonies Margaret got to wear these fine jewels is unrecorded.

Margaret's coronation was attended by five minstrels of her father, Rene of Anjou (identified by his illustory title of "King of Sicily") and by two minstrels of the Duke of Milan, who were there to witness the ceremony and report back to their respective employers. In 1444, Henry VI had given a safe-conduct for eighteen Scotsmen to come to see the coronation, "provided, always, that they conduct themselves well and honestly towards the King and his People." As there is no record of Margaret's coronation being disrupted by Scotsmen running amok, presumably they behaved themselves.


Bale's Chronicle

The Brut

The Great Chronicle of London

Gregory's Chronicle

Mary Ann Hookham, The Life and Times of Margaret of Anjou

J. L. Laynesmith, The Last Medieval Queens

Helen Maurer, Margaret of Anjou

George Smith, The Coronation of Elizabeth Wydeville

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Edward of Lancaster's on Facebook! And Some News

Just stopping by briefly to let you know that Margaret of Anjou has allowed her son Edward of Lancaster to get his own Facebook page! Do stop by--Edward is a gregarious chap who loves the company. Thanks to Karen Clark, his wife and Neville in-laws have already stopped by. (Incidentally, his father is on Facebook also. It's turning into a regular family gathering over there.)

I'm also pleased to announce that Sourcebooks has plans to publish two future novels of mine! I have to keep mum on the subject matter for now, but it probably wouldn't be too amiss to mention the T-word. Since I turned in my Margaret of Anjou novel this week, I've been starting on the research for the next one, and I've already found all sorts of misinformation on the web about my next subject. That's promising!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Blog, Button, and Barbie

First, I'm pleased to announce the addition of a new historical fiction blog to the blogsphere, Historical Belles and Beaus! Its contributors come from all around the globe and write about a variety of eras, so stop on by! You're bound to find something to your taste there.

Second, when my husband hauled some stuff out of storage for a yard sale, I found this button from the English Shakespeare Company's touring production of The Wars of the Roses at Stamford, Connecticut, back in the 1980's. This was an adaptation of Shakespeare's history plays from Richard II to Richard III. It was great theater. If you look on You Tube under "English Shakespeare Company" (no, I don't mean the Royal Shakespeare Company), you can see some video clips from the production in England.

Third, I'd forgotten I owned this Barbie doll:

If it weren't for her rather insipid face, she'd be perfect for the young Margaret of Anjou, wouldn't she? Speaking of which, I'm almost finished with my final draft of The Queen of Last Hopes, my Margaret of Anjou novel, so back to work!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ten Rules for Depicting Margaret of Anjou in Historical Fiction

Although this very blogger has propagated ten rules for writing fiction about Richard III (which, I am pleased to say, continue to be followed), and Kathryn has provided us with her excellent rules for writing about Edward II and Isabella, no one seems to have provided guidance for depicting Margaret of Anjou in historical fiction. So to simplify the writing process, I have taken it upon myself to provide these ten easy-to-follow rules:

1. Margaret must be depicted as being in absolute control of her husband from the very day she sets foot on English soil at age fifteen. Historians whose research has shown otherwise can and should be avoided, which has the added advantage of saving the novelist both research time and book money. (Indeed, a perfectly decent novel featuring Margaret can be written without consulting any secondary source written after 1955.)

2. While any male fourteen or older can be made to father Edward of Lancaster, the truly conscientious novelist will supply several possible candidates for the role, preferably with Margaret herself having no idea of the identity of the proud papa. The exception, of course, is Henry VI himself, who cannot be entertained for a second as a possible father of his nominal son. If you make him the father, you are a hopeless case and need not waste your time reading the rest of these rules.

3. At Ludlow, Margaret’s troops should behave in a manner that makes the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre and the Sack of Rome look like shoving matches. A novelist who does not take the opportunity to have the evil Margaret cackling at the terrified little Richard, Duke of Gloucester, thereby emotionally scarring the poor lad for life, should really find another career.

4. The executions of Thomas Kyriell, Lord Bonville, and (possibly) William Gower following the second battle of St. Albans must be depicted as illustrative of Margaret’s vengeful, twisted, and depraved nature. On the other hand, Yorkist executions of dubious legality, like Warwick’s executions of seven people at the Tower following the battle of Northampton and his executions of Richard Woodville, John Woodville, and William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke in 1469, should be ignored or shrugged off. Boys, after all, will be boys.

5. Hall’s noncontemporary, historically dubious account of a helpless and unarmed Edward of Lancaster being slain in cold blood after the Battle of Tewkesbury must be dismissed as Tudor propaganda and avoided at all costs. Hall’s noncontemporary, historically dubious account of a helpless and unarmed Edmund, Earl of Rutland, being slain in cold blood after the Battle of Wakefield must be followed to the letter.

6. When frail, helpless little Anne Neville arrives trembling and shaking in Margaret’s household as her new daughter-in-law, Margaret must be the living embodiment of all that is unpleasant in a mother-in-law. (Married writers who are at a loss for inspiration here should simply think of the negative traits of their own mother-in-laws and magnify them a hundredfold.) Big points to the writer who goes even further and has Margaret attempt to murder the hapless and pitiful Anne.

7. Following the marriage of Edward of Lancaster and Anne Neville, the novelist has some discretion, within reason, of course. She can have Margaret refuse to allow the consummation of the marriage (and have both Margaret and Edward make some mean and/or crude remarks about Anne). Alternatively, Edward of Lancaster must consummate the marriage in the most painful and degrading manner possible. By no means may the young couple mutually enjoy their wedding night, for this would preclude the glorious sexual awakening that is later in store for Anne at the tender hands of the sensitive, studly, infallibly G-spot-finding Richard, Duke of Gloucester. It is, after all, called the G-spot and not the L-spot.

(Remember, though, while Anne Neville and Richard are making glorious whoopee, the author should remind the reader that Richard is still emotionally scarred from Margaret’s cruel behavior at Ludlow. This may serve as a template:
“Richard, my dearest love, I heard you cry out in your sleep following our two hours of marital bliss. What troubles you?”
“I’m sorry, my dearest love. I was dreaming of cruel Margaret at Ludlow.”
“Oh, Richard, you poor, sensitive soul!”)

8. At no time should any Yorkist account that reflects poorly on Margaret be viewed skeptically as Yorkist propaganda, because there is simply no such thing. In a similar vein, the adage that “history is written by the victors,” which can be trotted out so usefully to discredit anything written about Richard III after the Battle of Bosworth, cannot be used to discredit anything written about Margaret after Edward IV took the throne.

9. When confused, remember this simple guideline: Yorkists are good, Lancastrians are bad. A person’s switching sides need not complicate this rule in the slightest, for when the (good) John Neville switches his allegiance to the House of Lancaster, he in fact can remain a closet supporter of the House of York, whereas when the (bad) Woodvilles switch their allegiance to the House of York, they can remain closet supporters of the House of Lancaster. When Warwick switches to the House of Lancaster, he is simply revealing his Inner Badness.

10. When in doubt, consult Shakespeare.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset: Died May 15, 1464

On May 15, 1464, Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, fought his last battle. Defeated at Hexham and captured immediately afterward, he was beheaded that same day in Hexham’s marketplace. He was twenty-eight years old. Despite his relative youth, he left a colorful career behind him when he was buried at Hexham Abbey.

Henry, described as “nearly of full age” on March 1, 1457, was born in early 1436. His parents were Edmund Beaufort, who was later made the Duke of Somerset, and Eleanor Beauchamp, daughter of the Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, commemorated in The Beauchamp Pageant. Henry VI stood as godfather to his namesake.

In August 1450, Edmund Beaufort, having lost Normandy to the French, returned home to England in high disgrace, a state of affairs that was exploited thoroughly by Richard, Duke of York. Young Henry Beaufort, who was fourteen at the time, had been with his father in France and must have felt his father’s shame deeply.

The struggle for power between Edmund Beaufort and the Duke of York (complicated by Henry VI’s temporary lapse into insanity and the birth of a son to Margaret of Anjou) culminated on May 22, 1455, at the first battle of St. Albans, where Edmund Beaufort was slain, by one account taking four of his Yorkist opponents with him as he fought his way out of an inn where he had taken shelter. As C.A.J. Armstrong points out in “Politics and the Battle of St. Albans, 1455,” there are hints in the various accounts that Edmund was not so much as killed in the fighting as specifically targeted for assassination. Whatever the truth of this, Henry Beaufort, age 19, was also present at St. Albans (he held the title of Earl of Dorset at the time) and was so “sore hurt” that he had to be carried off in a cart. It seems likely that he would have been fighting near his father and thus witnessed his death; perhaps he incurred his serious injuries trying to save Edmund Beaufort’s life.

Following the battle, Henry Beaufort was placed in the custody of the Earl of Warwick, who had been largely responsible for the Yorkist victory at St. Albans: as William Barker wrote in June 1455, “The Erle of Dorsete is in warde with the Erle of Warrwyk” (Paston Letters). Paul Murray Kendall in Warwick the Kingmaker writes, “If [Warwick] hoped to make a friend of young Henry, he utterly failed, for the new Duke of Somerset was to spend the rest of his short life seeking vengeance.” It is unlikely, though, that Warwick took Henry into his custody to gain his friendship; more likely he viewed the young man as a threat to him. By March 8, 1456, Somerset was presumably out of Warwick’s custody, since his widowed mother was granted 200 pounds a year for his sustenance on that date.

Warwick and York had every reason to be worried about the young duke. In the first few years after St. Albans he was certainly inclined toward vengeance, which suggests that he indeed regarded his father’s death at St. Albans as a murder rather than a death in plain battle. In October 1456 at a great council at Coventry, he tried to attack York, resulting in an affray in which several watchmen were killed. Humphrey Stafford, the Duke of Buckingham, whose eldest son was married to one of Somerset's sisters, had to intervene to protect Somerset from the townspeople’s wrath. Undeterred, Somerset in December 1456 got into a staring match (“grete visagyng to gidder”) with Warwick’s younger brother, John Neville, in Cheapside, which led to the young men going off to collect reinforcements so that they could rumble together properly; this time, London’s mayor intervened before the two sides could come to blows. Probably in November 1457 (though a chronicler gives the date as 1456), Somerset and others tried to seize Warwick himself at Westminster. When Henry VI called the parties together to make peace in 1458, the long-suffering mayor of London sensibly ordered Somerset to lodge his men outside of the city, while the Yorkist lords were allowed to keep their men inside the city.

Meanwhile, Somerset had been allowed to enter his estates on March 1, 1457, shortly before he came of age. After the peace of 1458 was concluded with the famous “Loveday” procession, during which Somerset walked alongside Warwick’s father, Somerset did indeed behave himself. During the Whitsuntide celebrations of 1458, Somerset jousted before the king and queen; the other named jouster was Anthony Woodville, whose family members still were Lancastrian stalwarts at that time.

War was soon to provide Somerset with a more satisfactory outlet for his energies and his desire for revenge. After the battle of Blore Heath, Somerset’s forces tried and failed in September 1459 to intercept Warwick’s forces at Coleshill. At Ludford Bridge the next month, Somerset is said to have been instrumental in persuading Anthony Trollope and his men to desert Warwick, setting in motion the events that led Warwick and company to flee. Subsequently, Somerset was appointed Captain of Calais, the hitch being that Warwick was in Calais and was not inclined to give it up.

As Michael K. Jones points out, it was Somerset’s attempts to seize Calais from Warwick that would change his reputation from that of a young hothead to that of a determined military commander. His efforts, albeit unsuccessful, won him the respect of both Charles VII and Charles, Count of Charolais, the heir to the Duke of Burgundy.

When Somerset returned to England, he would win the battle of Wakefield and the second battle of St. Albans for Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou. The victory at St. Albans must have been a particularly sweet one for Somerset, as it was the town in which his father had been slain and he himself nearly killed six years before. His luck changed disastrously at Towton, and in 1461 he fled to Scotland with Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou.

Somerset was sent on an embassy to Charles VII in July 1461; unfortunately, when Somerset arrived in France, he found that Charles had died, leaving him to deal with his slippery heir, Louis XI, who promptly arrested Somerset. He was freed after two months. An odd story has it that when Somerset finally met with Louis XI, he took the opportunity to inform the French king that he had had a love affair with the widowed Mary of Gueldres, the Queen of Scotland, who was serving as regent for her son James III. Mary, the story goes, furious when she learned of Somerset’s tale-bearing, then conspired with her new lover, Adam Hepburn, to kill Somerset. Such locker-room boasting by Somerset seems unlikely, however, given that Somerset knew well that Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou were still dependent on Scottish aid. More likely the story was part of a later attempt by Mary's enemies to smear her reputation.

After a sojourn in Bruges in the spring and summer of 1462, during which time his household clashed with English merchants, Somerset returned to Scotland, after which the Lancastrians succeeded in seizing several English castles. Besieged by Yorkist troops at Bamburgh Castle, where he and the garrison were reduced to eating horsemeat, Somerset then entered into the strangest episode of his career: on Christmas Eve of 1462, he surrendered the castle and made his peace with Edward IV. Why he did this is unclear. He might have become convinced that the Lancastrian cause was hopeless; he might have been concerned for his younger brother Edmund, who was Edward IV’s prisoner; he might have tired of the life of a rebel.

Edward IV quickly rewarded Somerset for his desertion of the Lancastrian cause. He was given money for his expenses, and the attainder against him was reversed by Parliament in the spring of 1463. Somerset was given the honor of sharing the king’s bed (a mark of favor without sexual connotations) and went hunting with the king. His brother was released from prison. Edward even arranged a tournament in Somerset’s honor, where Somerset’s “helme was a sory hatte of strawe.”

In July 1463, Edward IV’s forces, including Somerset, began moving north to encounter the remaining Lancastrians, who despite the loss of Somerset were doggedly preparing an invasion from Scotland. Somerset, however, never made it past Northampton. While the king’s entourage was staying there, a group of townspeople attempted to murder Somerset, who had to be rescued by the king. After winning over the surly townspeople with a gift of wine, Edward IV sent Somerset to Chirk Castle, which Cardinal Beaufort had acquired some years before. By late November 1463, Somerset had returned to the Lancastrian fold.

Why did Somerset desert Edward IV? It seems unlikely that he planned to do this all along. Michael Jones and Malcolm Underwood suggest that he was unnerved by the attack on him at Northampton, while Michael Hicks suggests that he was motivated by a sense of allegiance to Henry VI. Probably Somerset also felt isolated at Chirk, far from the royal favor he had enjoyed just months before. Whatever his motive, it was certainly not a desire to be on the side that was winning or to gain a material advantage, for the fortunes of the House of Lancaster were dismal at the time: the Scottish invasion had failed miserably, as had Margaret of Anjou’s efforts to obtain foreign assistance. With a truce being negotiated between England and Scotland, Henry VI would soon lose his Scottish refuge, and Margaret of Anjou was living an impoverished existence in one of her father’s castles. Somerset would also have certainly guessed that his chances of surviving if he fell again into Edward IV’s hands were extremely slim.

Having made his decision to trade the comforts of Chirk Castle for the uncertainty of life as a rebel, Somerset set off from Chirk with the intent of taking over Newcastle, which Edward IV had sent some of Somerset’s entourage to garrison following the Northampton incident. Somerset, however, was recognized at Durham, and, the story goes, was nearly taken in his bed but escaped in his shirt and barefoot. He eventually made it safely to Northumberland, where by December 8 Henry VI was staying at Bamburgh Castle.

Somerset’s change of heart temporarily revitalized the Lancastrian cause, but in fact Somerset’s share in it had just a few months left to run. When John Neville, now Lord Montagu, went to escort some Scottish envoys for further peace talks at York, he was attacked on April 25, 1464, at Hedgeley Moor by Somerset’s forces. Montagu’s men killed Sir Ralph Percy, scattering Somerset’s men. Meanwhile, Edward IV was mobilizing men to crush the rebellion in the north for good. It turned out, however, that only Montagu was needed for the task. He surprised Somerset’s men near Hexham on May 15, 1464. Somerset was captured and taken to Hexham, where he was beheaded that same day. Over the next few days, around thirty other men would be rounded up and executed. Less than two weeks later, Edward IV rewarded the industrious Montagu with the earldom of Northumberland.

Somerset was buried at Hexham Abbey, although the location of his grave is unknown. His half-brother, Thomas Ros, nine years older than Somerset, had served the Lancastrian cause consistently and had often fought alongside Somerset. The battle of Hexham was no exception. Having been captured in a wood after Hexham, Ros was executed at Newcastle on May 17, 1464. He was buried at Hexham; it’s pleasant to think that he might have asked to be interred near his younger brother.

Somerset left one remembrance when he died: at some point he had acquired a mistress, Joan Hill, who presented him with a bastard son, Charles, around 1460. Joan was granted an annuity by Henry VII in 1493, but otherwise nothing seems to be known about her. Charles Somerset was raised in exile in Flanders and in France; judging from his later career, someone took the trouble after his father’s execution to make certain that he was given the training suitable for a nobleman’s son. Like those of so many other exiles, his fortunes changed in 1485 with the invasion of Henry Tudor. Knighted at Milford Haven on August 7, 1485, he served both Henry VII and Henry VIII as an administrator, a diplomat, and a soldier and was made the Earl of Worcester in 1514. The magnificence of the Field of the Cloth of Gold was largely a product of his organizational flair. He died on April 25, 1526, and was buried in St George's Chapel, Windsor. In 1492, he had married an heiress, Elizabeth Herbert, the daughter of William Herbert, Earl of Huntingdon, and Mary Woodville (a sister of Elizabeth Woodville). From Charles and Elizabeth—and, of course, from Henry Beaufort and his obscure mistress—descend the present-day Dukes of Beaufort.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Mother's Day! A Letter from Henry VII to Mum

First, let me mention that The Traitor's Wife was picked as the discussion book for May by Shelfari's Medieval Junkies group! I just found this out yesterday. Thanks so much!

Second, over at my Facebook page, I asked my friends to name their favorite mother, and one person named Margaret Beaufort as one of hers. As I was casting about for a Mother's Day post, I thought I'd share this letter by Henry VII to his mother, Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, taken from Original Letters Illustrative of English History, H. Ellis, ed., series 1, vol. 1. S. B. Chrimes in his biography of Henry VII states that this letter was probably written in 1501. Note the postscript in which Henry apologizes for not writing more often "for verrayly Madame my syghte is nothing so perfitt as it has ben."


Madam, my most enterely wilbeloved Lady and Moder, I recommende me unto you in the most humble and lauly wise that I can, beseeching you of your dayly and continuall blessings. By your Confessour the berrer I have reseived your good and most loving wryting, and by the same have herde at good leisure such credense as he would shewe unto me on your behalf, and thereupon have spedde him in every behalve withowte delai according to yowr noble petition and desire, which restith in two principall poynts: the one for a generall pardon for all manner causes: the other is for to altre and chaunge part of a Lycense which I had gyven unto you before for to be put into mortmain at Westmynster; and now to be converted into the University of Cambridge for your Soule helthe, &c. All which thyngs according to your desire and plesure I have with all my herte and goode wille giffen and graunted unto you. And my Dame, not onely in this but in all other thyngs that I may knowe should be to youre honour and plesure and weale of youre salle. I shall be as glad to plese you as youre herte can desire hit, and I knowe welle that I am as much bounden so to doe as any creture lyvyng, for the grete and singular moderly love and affection that hit hath plesed you at all tymes to ber towards me. Wherfore myne owen most lovyng moder, in my most herty manner I thank you, beseeching you of your goode contynuance in the same. And Madame, your said Confessour hath more over shewne unto me on youre behalve that ye of your goodnesse and kynde disposition have gyven and graunted unto me such title and intereste as ye have or ought to have in such debts and duties which is oweing and dew unto you in Fraunce by ye Frenche Kynge and others, wherfore Madame in my most herty and humble wise I thanke You. Howbeit I verrayly [think] hit will be ryght harde to recover hit without hit be dryven by compulsion and force, rather than by any true justice which is not yet al we thynke any convenyant tyme to be put in execution. Nevertheless it hath plesed you to gyve us a good interest & meane if they woull not conforme thayme to rayson and good justice to diffende or offende at a convenyant tyme when the caas shall so require herafter. For such a chaunce may fall that thys your graunte might stande in grete stead for a recovery of our Right, and to make us free, wheras we be now bounde &c. And verrayly Madame, and I myht recover hit at this tyme or any other, Ye be sure ye shulde have your plesure therin, as I and all that God has given me is and shall ever [be] at youre will and commaundment, as I have instructed Master Fisher more largely herin, as I doubte not but he wolle declare unto you. And I beseeche you to sende me youre mynde and plesure in the same, which I shall be full glad to followe with Goddis grace, which sende and gyve unto you the full accomplyshment of all youre noble and vertuous desyrs. Written at Grenewiche the 17 day of July, with the hande of youre most humble and lovynge sonne

H. R.

After the wryting of thys Letter, your Confessour delyvered unto me such Letters and wrytings obligatory of your duties in Fraunce which hit hath plesed you to sende unto me, which I have received by an Indenture of every parcell of ye same. Wherfore eftsoons in my most humble wise I thank you, and I purpose hereafter, at better leisure, to knowe youre mynde and plesure further therein. Madame I have encombred you now with thys my longe wrytings, but me thyngks that I can doo no less, considering that hit is so selden that I do wryte, wherfore I beseeche you to pardon me, for verrayly Madame my syghte is nothing so perfitt as it has ben; and I know well hit will appayrea dayly; wherfore I trust that you will not be displesed though I wryte not so often with myne' owne hand, for on my fayth I have ben three dayes or I colde make an ende of this Letter.

To My Lady.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Margaret of Anjou's Last Days: Her Dogs and Her Burial

While doing Monday's post, I wandered inadvertently into a rabbit hole of research and spent pretty much the whole day there. Here's the result.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, Louis XI, who as a condition of ransoming Margaret of Anjou from the English had forced her to sign over all of her inheritance rights to him, wrote to Jeanne Chabot, Madame de Montsoreau, to demand that Jeanne give to him all of the dogs that Margaret had given to her. What I didn't realize until I took another look at the French original, though, is that Louis wrote the letter on August 12, 1482--while Margaret was still alive. (It can be found in Lettres de Louis XI, vol. 9, 1481-82, p. 276, on Google Books.) Historians writing in English have almost always overlooked this fact: Both Cora Scofield and Paul Murray Kendall, for instance, indicate that Margaret was already dead when Louis demanded her dogs.

To make matters more interesting, who was Jeanne Chabot, Madame de Montsoreau? Having labored under the wrong impression that Louis was asking for Margaret's dogs after Margaret died, I had assumed that Jeanne was someone in Margaret's household who had somehow got stuck with taking care of Margaret's dogs. In fact, Jeanne Chabot, Madame de Montsoreau, married to Jean de Chambes, was a lady of high standing. Louis XI wrote to her on March 3, 1472, asking her to house his queen during a measles epidemic, and her son-in-law was none other than the famous memoirist Philippe de Commynes, who married one of her daughters, Helene de Chambes. According to Kendall in his biography of Louis XI, the king paid 3,000 crowns to Jean de Chambes in return for Jean's giving the barony of Argenton to his new son-in-law. So when Margaret sent her dogs to Jeanne Chabot, she could be reasonably sure that they would be well fed.

But what was the relationship between Margaret and Jeanne Chabot? The chateau of Montsoreau is in the neighborhood of Dampierre, where Margaret spent her last days, so the women could certainly have visited each other if they were inclined. Did Margaret owe Jeanne money and send her the dogs (presumably well-trained hunting dogs) as payment toward the debt? Was Margaret hoping to keep the dogs out of Louis's hands by sending them to a high-ranking lady? Or was Margaret simply sending her dogs to an old friend? I haven't the slightest idea of what the answers to these questions could be, but they're interesting to ponder.

A couple of weeks after Louis demanded her dogs back from Jeanne Chabot, Margaret was dead. Oddly, none of Margaret's biographers writing in English, not even the indefatigable Agnes Strickland, seems to have noticed the following description of Margaret's burial and the disposition of her personal effects, which appears in Louis de Farcy's Monographie de la cathédrale d'Angers, which can be found here. (I thought for a while that I might have been the first person to notice this reference, but alas, Margaret Kekewich in her biography of Rene of Anjou, The Good King, beat me to it. But she doesn't print any of the details that follow.)

Here is the description of Margaret's funeral, quoted by de Farcy from Manuscrit de Messire Guillaume Oudin, contained in Revue d'Anjou, 1857, p. 138:

Margueritte d'Anjou, noble dame, royne d'Angleterre, décéda le 2Oe d'aoust en la ville de Saulmur l'an 1482. [Note: the Revue d'Anjou, which is also on Google Books, doesn't include the "le 20" date.]

Item, le corps de la ditte royne fut amené de Saulmur à l'église de monsieur Saint Laud d'Angiers le 24 jour d'aoust l'an dessus dict.

Item, ledit corps fut porté de l'église de Sainct-Laud à l'église de Monsieur Sainct Maurice le dimanche ensuivant 25 jour dudit mois, par les chanoines et les sieurs des collèges de Sainct-Maurice, Sainct-Laud et Sainct-Martin accompagnés de tous les autres collèges séculliers et des quatre mendiants et aussy les religieux de Sainct-Aulbin vinrent conduire le corps depuis Sainct-Laud...

Et fut enterré ledit corps le 26 avril jouxte la sépulture de son feu père le roy de Sicille, auprès le reliquaire de Monsieur Sainct-Maurice ...

Thanks to the invaluable Kathryn, here's a translation:

M d'A, noble lady, queen of England, died the 20th of August in the town of Saulmur in the year 1482.

Item, the body of the said queen was taken from Saulmur to the church of my lord Saint Laud of Angiers on the 24th day of August in the year aforesaid.

Item, the said body was carried from the church of St Laud to the church of my lord St Maurice the Sunday following, the 25th day of the said month, by the canons [elles sieurs, sisters?] of the colleges of St Maurice, St Laud and St Martin accompanied by all the other secular colleges and the four mendicant orders and also the religious [nuns?] of St Aulbin came to conduct the body from St Laud...

And the said body was interred on the 26th April [not sure what 'jouxte' is - next to?] the sepulchre of her father the king of Sicily, [near, aupres?] the reliquary of my lord St Maurice...

So Margaret actually had a fairly elaborate funeral!

De Farcy also quotes this extract from Bibliothèque d'Angers, Ms. No 656. L'ami du Secrétaire, par Brossier:

Le doyen, Jean de la Vignole, fait exécuter le testament de la reine d'Angleterre. Il donne avis à Louis XI de sa mort. Celui-ci consentit qu'on prît sur ses meubles les frais de ses funérailles et les gages de ses serviteurs. Le reste demeura à l'église, qui eut 75 aunes de drap d'or bleu et un coffret, rempli de reliques

Per the lovely Kathryn:

"The doyen, Jean de la Vignole, executed the testament of the queen of England. He informed Louis XI of her death. He [Louis, literally 'this one'] consented that from her furniture [or possessions] the funeral expenses and the wages of her servants should be taken. The rest remained to the church, who had 75 ells of 'blue golden cloth' and a casket, filled with relics."

So Margaret, after her goods were sold to pay her servants and to pay her funeral expenses, did have some cloth and some relics to give to the Church. It's a shame we don't know what the relics were!

Incidentally, it's often reported that the tomb of Rene of Anjou, Margaret's father, was destroyed during the French Revolution. Rene's coffin, however, survived: as Kekewich, quoting de Farcy, reports, it was found in Angers Cathedral in 1895 and opened. Rene's skeleton and his crown were found inside. A photograph of the skeleton and the crown is in Monographie de la cathédrale d'Angers. Sadly, Margaret's remains were not found.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Comic History of England

Remember a few posts ago, I showed you an old print of the marriage of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou? I knew the style looked vaguely familiar, and that's because it is by John Leech, a well-known illustrator for Punch. John Leech did a whole series of illustrations for a 1847 book called The Comic History of England, written by Gilbert Abbott a Beckett, a humorist who also served as a police magistrate and whose admirers included Charles Dickens. He seems to have been a very pleasant man, who upon his untimely death from typhus while on holiday with his family was remembered in his obituary in The Times as for his "acuteness, humanity and impartiality" in rendering justice. As for John Leech, his credits include some of the illustrations for A Christmas Carol.

Anyway, I ran across The Comic History of England in Google Books today, and had some splendid giggles over the illustrations of the people those who read this blog know and love. Here's a few.

Edward II and Piers Gaveston (sorry, folks, there's none of Hugh the younger):

Queen Philippa Begs for the Burghers of Calais:

Somerset Quarrels With York:

Rene of Anjou:

The Marriage of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou (in case you missed it before):

Queen Margaret and the Robber:

Edward IV Meeting Elizabeth Woodville:

Richard, Duke of Gloucester Greeting the Duke of York (if you're the cranky breed of Ricardian, this is the place to stop reading):

Richard Being Offered the Crown:

Richard III Puts on Mourning for His Nephews:

Henry Tudor:

Richard III and White Surrey:

Henry VII Is Crowned:

You can download the book (and get a better look at the illustrations, which shrink when I download them) on Google Books. Take a look at the whole thing--it's a hoot!

Monday, May 03, 2010

So What Did Margaret of Anjou Look Like?

Though contemporaries had a great deal to say about Margaret of Anjou, complimentary and otherwise, scarcely anyone troubled to write about such a mundane detail as her personal appearance. The most detailed description is a secondhand one, which appears in a letter from Raffaelo De Negra to Bianca Maria Visconti, Duchess of Milan, dated October 24, 1458: "The Englishman told me that the queen is a most handsome woman, though somewhat dark and not so beautiful as your Serenity."

Flattery aside, what exactly does "somewhat dark" mean? Did it mean that Margaret was a brunette? Did it mean that she was a dark blonde? Did it refer merely to her complexion in general? For the record, I know next to nothing about the Duchess of Milan, but it appears from her portraits that she had very fair hair and a very light complexion, so compared to her, many if not most women might have looked "somewhat dark."

Despite this one description of Margaret as "somewhat dark" the contemporary illustrations of her that show her hair color depict her as a blonde. The most famous is the one shown at the beginning of this post, from the manuscript presented to Margaret upon her marriage by John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury. (It depicts Henry VI as having dark hair, which seems to be the way he's depicted in all of his portraits.)

A less well known portrait of Margaret is from Margaret's prayer roll, which is kept at the Bodleian Library as Jesus College Oxford MS 124. A black-and-white reproduction of Margaret's portrait, from which the image below is taken, was reprinted in 1851 in The Archaeological Journal:

I haven't been able to find a book that reproduces the illustration in color. According to The Archaelogical Journal, Margaret's hair in the prayer roll is auburn; according to Joanna Laynesmith in The Last Medieval Queens, it's blond. The color of the hair in the illustrations may not be indicative of how the real Margaret looked, in any case, for as Laynesmith notes, it was conventional to depict queens with blond hair.

With the less than helpful description of Margaret as being "somewhat dark" and the manuscript illustrations that may owe more to convention than to reality, it's anyone's guess what Margaret looked like. I chose to depict her in my own novel as a blonde, on the theory that the Earl of Shrewsbury when having his manuscript illustrated for presentation would have chosen to have Margaret depicted reasonably close to her appearance in reality. At least I do feel safe portraying Margaret as an attractive woman, for as Margaret Kekewich in her book about Rene of Anjou notes, no one in England ever complained about Margaret's appearance.

Edit: I should have added that there is a medal of Margaret of Anjou by Pietro da Milano, which was made in 1463-1464 during Margaret's exile in France. This (taken from L. Forrer, A Biographical Dictionary of Medallists, vol. 4, 1909) may well be the most authentic image of Margaret--but it doesn't answer the all-important question of hair color or complexion. It does, however, show that Margaret, who was then in her early thirties, was an attractive woman.