Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Zooming Around!

In September 2002, a friend and I decided to 'zoom around' i.e. complete a sponsored ‘Castle Trail’ to raise funds for a new building on our Girl Guide campsite. The site was called Ashley, and the mascot was a rabbit, so of course we had to take ‘Ashley the Rabbit’ on our trail. Our aim was to visit 15 castles in a 12-hour period.

'Ashley' at Sandal Castle, Wakefield
We planned the route carefully and set off at 7.30am, heading from Manchester over the Pennines into Yorkshire. We were held up by traffic jams near Leeds, and by roadworks outside Wakefield, and so we were half an hour behind schedule when we arrived at Sandal Castle, just outside Wakefield. Time for a quick photo, and we were off again, to take Ashley's photo at Pontefract, Spofforth, and Knaresborough. At the latter, we attracted some curious glances as we had to park on the main street because there was no place to park near the castle. People must have wondered what we were doing carrying a large rabbit with us!

The next castle, Ripley, was closed, but we took a photo near the main gate. Then it was north again to Middleham, and a quick break for a soup and sandwich lunch at the Richard III pub in the main square. By this time we had done 128 miles and it was 12.15pm.

On again to Richmond Castle in North Yorkshire, and then into County Durham to visit Raby Castle, the home of the Neville family (and the birthplace of Richard III’s mother, Cecily Neville), Barnard Castle and Bowes Castle.

We then headed west into Cumbria, stopping at Brough, Appleby, and Brougham castles (which had all belonged to the Lancastrian Clifford family - boo, hiss!). Our final stop in Cumbria was at Penrith Castle, where a little girl in the park surrounding the castle was very excited at seeing our large rabbit!

We changed our plans slightly at this stage, as we’d intended stopping at Kendal Castle, but that involved quite a long detour off the motorway, so we continued south to Lancaster Castle, which we finally reached after going around the one-way system twice, and also ending up in the bus station at one point.

Last stop at Clitheroe
We still had some time left, so although Lancaster was our 15th castle, we decided to take a detour to Clitheroe. All went well until we reached the country lane leading to the town when we got behind one of the ‘Isn’t it a lovely evening? Let’s go for a drive’ drivers, who went about 20 miles an hour. However, we made it to Clitheroe for about 6.30pm, and finally got home at 7.25pm, just within our deadline, and after a 329 mile round trip!



Our route

Many thanks to you all for joining me on this A-Z tour
of 15th century England.
Look forward to seeing you here again,
hopefully sometime before next year's April A-Z Challenge!


Monday, 29 April 2013


Founded by the Romans in the 1st century A.D, the city of York has a rich heritage covering every period of history ever since then.
In the early Middle Ages, it was the capital of the kingdom of Northumbria, and in the 9th century, it was captured by the Vikings.
York Minster, the city’s most well-known edifice, was founded in the 7th century, but the current building dates from the 11th century. It is a beautiful church, and has been completely restored after the disastrous fire in the 1980s. The Rose Window, with its red and white roses, was added at the end of the 15th century  to commemorate the union of the houses of York and Lancaster when Henry Tudor married Elizabeth of York. After the fire, the 7,000 pieces of stained glass had cracked into about 40,000 pieces. Craftsmen took about four years to restore the window to its former glory.
It was also interesting to see the memorial window to Richard III, installed by the RIII Society in 1997.
The chapel of the medieval Archbishop’s Palace still exists, and it was here that Richard created his son Edward as Prince of Wales in 1483.
Substantial remains of the city walls still exist, as do the gates into the city, knows as ‘Bars’. The four main ones were Bootham Bar, Monk Bar, Micklegate Bar and Walmgate Bar. After the battle of Wakefield in 1460, the heads of Richard of York and his son Edmund were displayed on spikes on Micklegate Bar, adorned with paper crowns.
In 1472 Edward IV set up the Council of the North, and appointed his brother Richard as its first President. Thus Richard virtually ruled the north on behalf of Edward, and he was highly regarded by the people there, and especially by the City of York. The city archives contain this record, dated 23 August 1485 (the day after the Battle of Bosworth): King Richard, late mercifully reigning upon us … was piteously slain and murdered, to the great heaviness of this city.
It seems Richard intended to be buried at York Minster and planned to build a large chantry chapel there for priests to pray for his soul. Definitely a moot point now that his body has been found in Leicester, and plans are underway for him to be buried at Leicester Cathedral. 

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Sunday Snippet

Another eight sentences from my work in progress 'Irish Inheritance' for the Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday.
Guy and Jenna have met at Dublin airport and are sharing a cab, but neither yet knows the other is the co-inheritor of a legacy and a house in Ireland.
This is in Guy’s POV.
Jenna laughed and splayed her fingers to push her long dark hair back from her face. For some reason, the movement was incredibly sexy, and he experienced a momentary urge to run his fingers through her hair, exactly as she’d done. He had a vision of her wavy hair spread on a pillow…
Cool it, Guy. You’ve only just met this girl - and she’s an actress.
He glanced through the cab window to divert his mind from the still painful memory of the way Suzie had dumped him when she went to L.A. “So do you have any recommendations about what I should see while I’m here in Dublin? I’m hoping to have a couple of free days after I’ve sorted out some legal matters.”
The River Liffey in Dublin
Many thanks to everyone who visits each Sunday, and for your encouraging comments.
Here's my first (very rough!) draft of the 'blurb' for 'Irish Inheritance' for those of you who want to know more about this story:
English actress Jenna Sutton and American artist Guy Sinclair first meet when they jointly inherit a house on the west coast of Ireland. Curious about their unknown benefactress and why they are both considered as 'family', they gradually work out their links to the original owners of the house. At the same time as they are uncovering a nineteenth century love story, they struggle against their mutual attraction to each other. The two lovers in the past were destined not to have a happy ending, and it seems the same thing will happen to their two descendants - or will it?
For more snippets from the 'Weekend Writing Warriors', please visit http://www.wewriwa.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/groups/SnippetSunday/

Saturday, 27 April 2013

X marks the spot - or does it?

The ‘Bloody Tower’ in the Tower of London is ‘traditionally’ the place where the two princes, Edward and Richard, sons of Edward IV, were reputed to have been murdered by, or on the order of, their ‘wicked’ uncle, Richard III.
In the 15th century, it was known as the Garden Tower, because it overlooked the gardens of the Lieutenant’s lodging in the Tower (now called the Queen’s House). It’s worth noting that the Tower at this time was a royal residence, and a contemporary French chronicler mention the boys playing and practising archery in the garden in the summer of 1483.
Nothing more was seen or heard of them but this doesn't necessarily mean they had been killed. Reams have been written about them, including the theory that they had been taken elsewhere for safety, possibly in Flanders, but I don’t intend to go into all this now.
The first ‘evidence’ came during the reign of Henry VII who defeated and killed Richard at the battle of Bosworth in 1485. One of Richard's knights, Sir James Tyrrell, ‘confessed’ (under torture) that he ) had killed the princes, with the assistance of two others, but was unable to say where their bodies were. However, there is no evidence that Tyrell's alleged co-murderers were ever interrogated, and Tyrell was not charged with regicide.

Thomas More, who gives the most detailed account of the supposed murder, says the bodies were first buried 'at the stayre foot, metely depe in the ground under a great heape of stones' and then moved to a 'better' site 'because thei were a kinges sonnes'. The priest who reburied them had died by this time, and so no one knew where the bodies were buried. How very convenient!

In 1674 (i.e. nearly 200 years later) workmen demolishing a stone staircase connecting the royal apartments with the White Tower, found bones in a wooden chest, about “ten feet in the ground”. This has been taken to mean they were found under the stairs, rather than ten feet further down. It was decreed that the bones were those of the two princes, and King Charles II commissioned a marble casket for them which still stands in Westminster Abbey.
The whole story seems to have more holes than a sieve! More says the princes were buried at the stair foot, and then moved to a ‘better site’ and the information board at the Tower reiterates this. It says the bodies were buried for 24 hours under the stairway leading to the Wakefield Tower which adjoins the Bloody Tower, and were then removed by a priest and buried under an exterior staircase leading to the White Tower. One wonders how that could possibly be called a ‘better site’? And pity the poor priest who supposedly dug up the bones from under one staircase - and promptly buried them under another! At the time, probably dozens, if not hundreds, of people lived in the Tower of London. So no one saw a priest digging under a couple of staircases and asked questions? Add to that the fact that, if (and this is a big 'if') the princes had been murdered, it would have been far easier to take the bodies through the gate very near the Bloody Tower which led to steps down to the River Thames, from which a boat could take them and dump them out at sea.
In 1933, experts were allowed to examine the bones in the casket, but scientific knowledge at that time was scanty at best, and concentrated mainly on dental evidence, much of which has now been discredited.

However, until the royal family allow further examination of the bones, with modern methods of dating etc, there is no way of proving whether or not the bones in the casket are really the bones of the princes. And even if they are, there is still no proof that Richard III killed them. There were others with far greater motives for wanting the princes dead.
The memorial in Westminster Abbey,
supposedly containing the bones of the Princes
P.S. For true Ricardians, I apologise for this much abridged version of ‘ what happened to the princes?’ I’m well aware it is far more complex than my basic summary here!

Friday, 26 April 2013


The Battle of Wakefield took place on December 31st, 1460, and this site in Yorkshire was the very first visit we made on our 15th century tour, on a cold but sunny day in January 1999.
In June 1460, the Yorkists had defeated the Lancastrians at Northampton, and King Henry VI had been captured. He was then forced to accept Richard, Duke of York, as the next in line to the throne.
Henry’s queen, Margaret of Anjou, who had retreated to Wales, refused to see her son disinherited, and gathered the Lancastrian forces at Pontefract in south Yorkshire. Meantime, York and his son Edmund moved to Yorkshire, occupying York’s castle at Sandal, just outside Wakefield, while Warwick remained in London to safeguard the custody of Henry VI.
A Yorkist foraging party was ambushed at Wakefield Bridge, and the survivors raced for Sandal Castle, pursued by the Lancastrians, who amassed in the area between the castle and the river Calder. Since they seemed to be trapped there, York decided to attack.
View of the battlefield from Sandal Castle
Unfortunately, he didn’t realise that the right and left flanks were hidden, and of course they came out of the woods and annihilated the Yorkists. Richard of York and his son Edmund were both killed, and York’s brother-in-law, the Earl of Salisbury was also captured and executed. Their heads, festooned with paper crowns, were hung on the Micklegate Bar in York.
Monument marking where Richard of York was killed
Sandal Castle must have been must have been an impressive construction in the 15th century. The large motte on which the keep stood is still visible from Wakefield Bridge, and there is evidence of an extensive wall and other buildings, as well as two moats surrounding the castle.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Villains - and one in particular!

The 15th century is not short of villains, but the interpretation of the word depends on whose side you were on. The Lancastrians looked on Richard, duke of York and his sons as villains; the Yorkists considered the weak king Henry VI, and especially his wife Margaret of Anjou as villains. Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, changed sides. So did Lord Hastings and the Duke of Buckingham. Then there was Margaret Beaufort and her son, Henry Tudor.

My top vote, however, goes to the Stanleys.
Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby, (1435-1504) was a landed nobleman in the 15th century who somehow managed to stay on the winning side throughout the Wars of the Roses. Because of his immense power, both sides needed (and sometimes demanded, threatened or begged for) his support.
His father held important roles at the court of Henry VI and Stanley’s early loyalty was to the Lancastrian king. However, his marriage to Eleanor Neville, sister of Richard Neville, Earl ofWarwick, brought him into alliance with the Yorkists. In 1459,when his father-in-law, the Earl of Salisbury, was mobilising his forces against the royal forces, Stanley was ordered by the Queen to intercept him, but when the two forces met at Blore Heath in Staffordshire, Stanley kept his 2,000 forces out of the battle.
The following year, Stanley openly cooperated with the Yorkists, and joined with his brother-in-law, the Earl of Warwick in his campaigns with the Lancastrians. When Warwick rebelled against Edward IV, Stanley lent him armed support. However, on Edward IV’s defeat of Warwick in 1471, Stanley became a member of the royal council.
The death of his wife around this time ended his connection with the Nevilles. His second marriage was to have far greater consequences, as his new wife was Lady Margaret Beaufort, who had previously been married to Edmund Tudor. Her child by this marriage was, of course, Henry Tudor.
When Edward IV died unexpectedly in 1483, Stanley was one of the members of the royal council who tried to maintain a balance of power between Richard, Duke of Gloucester and the Woodville family. When Richard denounced the council, Stanley escaped the fate of Lord Hastings who was executed, but he was imprisoned for a time. However, when Richard became king, he found it more advisable to appease rather than alienate the Stanley family. Thus Stanley continued to act as steward of the royal household and bore the mace at Richard’s coronation.
He supported Richard in suppressing Buckingham’s revolt in the autumn of 1483, even though  it is highly likely he was actually involved in the conspiracy. Certainly his wife was one of the co-conspirators in the plot to dethrone Richard and put Henry Tudor on the throne. Stanley only escaped attainder by promising Richard that he would keep his wife in custody and end her intrigues.
In early 1485, Stanley asked permission to leave the court to attend to his northern estates. Richard was clearly aware of the threat from the Stanley family, and insisted that his son, Lord Strange, remained at court as a token for his father’s loyalty.
When Henry Tudor’s forces advanced through Wales in the summer of 1495, Richard ordered Stanley to join him, but Stanley made an excuse, saying he had the sweating sickness. By this time Richard had evidence of Stanley’s treachery since Lord Strange had confessed that his father and uncle William Stanley had conspired with Henry Tudor. Richard sent a message to Stanley saying that Lord Strange’s life depended on Stanley’s loyalty in the coming conflict. Apparently, Stanley’s reply was, “Sire, I have other sons.” Nice father, huh?
Stanley and his brother William led their forces south to the Midlands, but they took up a position separate from both Richard’s and Henry Tudor’s forces at Bosworth Field. The general consensus of historians is that he was waiting to see who was the likely winner before showing his hand. Only when Richard led his magnificent charge towards Tudor did the Stanleys act. William led his forces to Henry’s aid, and Richard was surrounded and killed.

Legend has it that, when the battle was over, Thomas Stanley discovered the coronet that had fallen from Richard’s head, and placed it on his stepson’s head, no doubt to show that Henry Tudor owed his victory to the Stanleys. Thomas was rewarded with the office of High Constable of England, together with other estates and offices, and was godfather to Henry’s oldest son Arthur in 1486.
In the Derby chapel at Ormskirk Church in Lancashire there are effigies thought to be those of Thomas Stanley and his first wife, Eleanor Neville. He was actually buried in the family chapel at nearby Burscough Priory and it is thought the effigies were  brought to Ormskirk Church when the priory was demolished when the monasteries were dissolved in 1536.
It’s worth considering for a moment that the treachery of the Stanleys at Bosworth changed the course of English history. Without their intervention, Richard would probably have killed Henry Tudor, thereby securing his throne. There would have been no Tudor dynasty, no Henry VIII, no break with Rome, no Elizabeth I – and maybe Shakespeare would have written a play about the despised Tudor would-be usurper and his traitorous Stanley acolytes!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Uncles - good or wicked?

When Edward IV died unexpectedly at the age of forty in 1483, two uncles played a dominant part in the events which followed.
The new king, Edward’s twelve year old son, also called Edward, was at Ludlow Castle in Shropshire at the time of his father’s death, under the supervision of his uncle, Anthony, Earl Rivers. Anthony was the brother of Edward IV’s queen, Elizabeth Woodville. After making hurried preparations to travel, he set off for London with the young king, Edward V. At the time, this would have been a journey of several days.
The king’s other uncle, Richard of Gloucester, had been named as Lord Protector by Edward IV, which indicated Edward’s trust in Richard to rule the kingdom during the minority of the young king. When Edward died, Richard was at Middleham Castle in Yorkshire. He received information from the Duke of Buckingham that the Woodville family intended to take control of the young king, and of the kingdom.
Richard set off south from Yorkshire, intending to meet the royal retinue in the midlands. On April 29th, he met with Buckingham at Northampton, but Anthony Woodville informed them that the king’s party had moved on about twelve miles further south to a small town called Stony Stratford. His excuse was that there were not enough lodging places for both parties in Northampton.

Suspecting that the Woodvilles intended to make an early start the next morning to get to London first, Richard acted quickly. Very early the next morning, Anthony Woodville’s lodgings in Northampton were surrounded, and he was arrested. Richard and Buckingham headed straight for Stony Stratford and took the boy kindg into protective custody, so forestalling the attempted coup by the Woodvilles. A small cottage in Stony Stratford, which was once the Rose and Crown Inn, has a plaque commemorating this event.
Anthony Woodville and his nephew Richard Grey (the queen’s son by her first marriage) were both executed at Pontefract Castle on 25 June 1483.
So, having despatched the young king’s ‘other’ uncle, how did Richard III then become king himself, and earn the epithet of ‘wicked uncle’?
Reams have been written about Richard III’s path to the throne. There are those who believe he was consumed with ambition to be king; equally others are adamant that it was forced on him by circumstances. Certainly, after his arrival in London with Edward V, nothing seemed amiss. Plans were made for the young king’s coronation, but at the end of June, it emerged that Edward IV had already been contracted in marriage to Eleanor Butler before he married Elizabeth Woodville. This made his Woodville marriage invalid, and any children of that marriage illegitimate. Thus, it seemed, Edward V could not succeed to the throne, and Richard was next in line.

By J.E.Millais, 1829-96
And what of the ‘Princes in the Tower’? In a previous post, I mentioned James Tyrell who is supposed to have confessed (when being tortured) to murdering the princes on Richard’s orders. Of course, Henry VII had every reason to squash any rumours that the princes were still alive. He’d already had to cope with two ‘pretenders’ posing as Edward V or his younger brother, so what better than to announce they had been murdered by their uncle? This also fulfilled another Tudor need. Henry had basically usurped the throne with no strong ‘royal blood’ claim to it, therefore it suited his agenda to paint his predecessor as black as possible, and reassure his subjects that he had saved the kingdom from this monster who had killed his own nephews.

Did he therefore announce this immediately after Tyrell’s confession? Was Tyrell executed on a charge of regicide? The answer to both is no. Tyrell was executed, but on a much lesser charge of supporting another Yorkist claim to the throne, and it was several years before Henry made public Tyrell’s alleged confession.
John Morton and Thomas More, and later Shakespeare (who based his play on Thomas More’s ‘History of Richard III’) perpetuated the myth of the ‘wicked uncle’.
Did Richard III have his nephews murdered? The question still remains, and is still argued about by both sides.
For more information, the website http://home.cogeco.ca/~richardiii/tyrell.html has a good summary about James Tyrell and the Princes, and I would also recommend ‘The Daughter of Time’ by Josephine Tey. I don’t agree with her on some of her conclusions, as I think she has over-simplified some things, but it’s certainly a very readable introduction to the mystery of the Princes.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013


The battle between the Yorkists and Lancastrians at Tewkesbury in May 1471 was one of the most decisive of the Wars of the Roses. The king was in captivity in London, but the Lancastrian forces were marshalled in south west England on behalf of his queen, who returned from France with her son, Prince Edward. They marched north to the crossing point of the River Severn, hoping to link up with their Welsh supporters, but were refused entry to the city of Gloucester, and so continued on to Tewkesbury. Meantime, Edward IV’s army had marched from London to intercept the Lancastrians.

The two forces took up their positions early in the morning and, to begin with, it seemed that the Lancastrians had the advantage, with one force manoeuvring around a small hillock, unseen by the Yorkists, to attack the right flank of the Yorkist army. However, Richard, duke of Gloucester  (later Richard III) managed to push the Lancastrians back after some fierce hand-to-hand fighting. The Lancastrians, trapped been two Yorkist forces, fled towards the river Severn.

The rest of the conflict was brief, as Edward IV broke the rest of the Lancastrian line. Many of the Lancastrians were trapped between a small stream called Coln Brook and the river. The ensuing slaughter caused this area to be given the name of Bloody Meadow.

The Queen fled (but was captured the next day), but Prince Edward, who had been commanding the Lancastrian centre, despite his lack of military experience, was captured and killed. He was buried in Tewkesbury Abbey.

The battle of Tewkesbury marked the end of significant Lancastrian opposition to Edward IV. He made a triumphant return to London, and around the same time the Lancastrian king Henry VI was murdered in the Tower of London.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Shropshire Castles

We spent a great day in Shropshire, visiting three different castles.
The first was Moreton Corbet Castle, which is part medieval castle and part Elizabethan mansion. The castle was built in the 13th century by the Toret family, and was inherited by Richard de Corbet in 1235. His descendant, Robert Torbet, started to build a new mansion in the 16th century, but after he died of plague in 1583, his two brothers continued the building. The buildings  are still owned by the Corbet family (who live elsewhere) but they are managed by English Heritage.
It’s said that the grounds are haunted by the ghost of Paul Holmyard who was a Puritan at a time when they were being persecuted, and was given protection by Vincent Corbet. However, Vincent got scared and forced Paul to leave, taking shelter in the nearby woods until his death. One day, Paul appeared to Vincent and put a curse on him. From that day, Vincent never lived at the mansion house again (can’t say that I blame him!)

Acton Burnell Castle was a fortified manor house, built in the 13th century by Robert Burnell, Bishop of Bath and Wells, Chancellor of England 1274-92, and a close friend and confidante of Edward I. When the king stayed here in 1283, he summoned one of the first Parliaments to be attended by the Commons as well as the Lords. This Parliament passed a law for the regulation of trade, which as a result was known as the Statute of Acton Burnell.
Stokesay Castle is one of the best preserved fortified manor house, dating from the 13th century. It was built by Lawrence Ludlow, a leading wool merchant, and by some good fortune it escaped destruction during the 17th century Civil War, when so many other castles were destroyed. Thus it gives a very good impression of the homes of the rich in medieval times.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Sunday Snippet

Another eight sentences from my work in progress 'Irish Inheritance' for the Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday.

Guy has arrived in Dublin for a short stay in order to meet the lawyer who is dealing with the legacy in which he has a half-share. At the airport, he meets a young woman who is struggling with a broken wheel on her suitcase, and carries her bag to the taxi rank.

“If you're heading into Dublin, maybe we could share this cab?” At least it would be a way of prolonging his acquaintance with this bubbly girl. An attractive one, too, with her dark shiny hair framing her face.

As they set off, he smiled at his companion. “I’m Guy Sinclair, by the way.”

“And I’m Jenna Sutton - pleased to meet you.”

She stuck out her hand to shake his and  he liked the way her face and eyes lit up when she smiled, especially her eyes - mid-brown, a warm coppery color. He was always a sucker for eyes.

He's in for a surprise when he discovers she's the co-inheritor, isn't he?
Here's how I imagine Jenna

Many thanks to everyone who visits each Sunday, and for your encouraging comments.

Here's my first (very rough!) draft of the 'blurb' for 'Irish Inheritance' for those of you who want to know more about this story:

English actress Jenna Sutton and American artist Guy Sinclair first meet when they jointly inherit a house on the west coast of Ireland. Curious about their unknown benefactress and why they are both considered as 'family', they gradually work out their links to the original owners of the house. At the same time as they are uncovering a nineteenth century love story, they struggle against their mutual attraction to each other. The two lovers in the past were destined not to have a happy ending, and it seems the same thing will happen to their two descendants - or will it?

For more snippets from the 'Weekend Writing Warriors', please visit http://www.wewriwa.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/groups/SnippetSunday/

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick

Born in 1428, the son of the Earl of Salisbury, Richard Neville became the most powerful noble of his time, and was dubbed the ‘Kingmaker’ as he played a large part in deposing Henry VI and assisting Edward IV’s efforts to gain the crown. When Warwick fell out with Edward (over the latter’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville), he then restored Henry VI to the throne, and imprisoned Edward in Warwick Castle for a short time in 1469. He was defeated by Edward at the Battle of Barnet in 1471, and killed.

Richard married Anne Beauchamp, daughter of the Earl of Warwick, and when the Earl’s son and granddaughter both died in the 1440’s, Richard succeeded to the title of Earl of Warwick and also gained huge amounts of land, and of course Warwick Castle. His daughters, Isabel and Anne, married Edward IV’s two brothers, George, duke of Clarence, and Richard, duke of Gloucester (later Richard III).
Warwick Castle in the English midlands is on one of the largest and most magnificent castles in the country, and it was a symbol of the power and wealth of the Beauchamp family who added greatly to it in the 14th century.
After Warwick’s death, his estates passed into the custody of the Crown, and in the 1480’s, Richard III built the Bear and Clarence Towers, but these were left unfinished after his death in 1485.

In St Mary’s Church in Warwick is the Beauchamp Chapel, with the tomb of Richard Beauchamp, Warwick’s father-in-law. We had to plead with one of the woman ‘on duty’ in the church to open the chapel, so that we could get a closer look at the tomb, and at Richard Neville, one of the figures on the side of the tomb (the ‘weepers’) - arrowed in the photo below.

Contemporary Novelists' Book Fair

This weekend, two dozen contemporary novelists are taking part in an online book fair. We're putting our latest novels 'on display' and hope you'll stop by to browse - and maybe to buy.

So come with me to Paris, and let's sit at a pavement cafe in the Place Saint Michel and enjoy a glass of wine with Anna and Matt.


Anna Richards has a dream of going to live and study in Paris, but when Matthew Carlton comes into her life, her dream changes direction. Attraction sparks between them, but Matt’s behaviour is strangely inconsistent. Anna is shocked when she discovers the reason and is sure there is no future for them. Can Paris work its magic and make her dream come true?
Here's their first kiss:

After crossing the main road that skirted the Seine, they descended the stone staircase to the walkway along the river, and slowed to a standstill as they drew level with the south transept of the cathedral, with its huge rose window. The streetlights reflected like silver pools in the dark water and, under the floodlights, the towers, spires, and flying buttresses of the cathedral stood in sharp relief to the night sky.

Anna gazed across the river. “It simply defies description, doesn’t it? All that stonework and carving, all done by hand.”

Matt’s hand tightened around hers, but when he didn’t reply, she turned to him. The soft heat which simmered in his eyes made the hairs on her skin stand on end. Everything inside her did a double somersault, but she stayed motionless, mesmerised as he leant towards her.

Slowly, almost hesitantly, his lips brushed hers, in a brief and tender connection. Warm pulses of pleasure danced through her. When he moved fractionally away, she brought her hand up to grasp his arm. He let out a quiet groan and his mouth returned to hers, now intense and hungry.

Stunned for a split second, she clutched his shoulders as her whole body weakened. He wrapped one arm around her while the other slid into the hair at the back of her head, pulling her closer to him. The tip of his tongue explored her lips and ignited every nerve in her body. Closing her eyes, she returned his kiss, relaxing her mouth and letting her tongue meet his in a sensual union.

Tendrils of desire sprawled down into her depths, and she melted against him, gripping his arms as she slipped into a state of oblivion where nothing else existed except him. This kiss she’d dreamed about was a million times more arousing than anything in her imagination, and time stood still.

A raucous car horn sounded from the street above them and he broke away.

“Oh God,” he muttered.

Her heart beat like a tom-tom as he stared at her with what seemed to be a mixture of desire and contrition. After a few seconds, he shook his head. “You shouldn’t have let me do that.”

“Matt—” But no more words would come.

He let out a deep breath. “Let’s go for a drink.”

They didn’t talk as they climbed the stone steps back to the road, but his hand gripped hers tightly. Her mind reeled and she was unable to latch onto any coherent strand of thought. Everything seemed completely surreal.
"This romance feels warm and inviting from page one, as you get to know Anna, Matt, and the world they live in. Furthermore, this story is spiced up with both the charms of Paris and - even more effective for me - the unexpected twists back home."
"Buy this book...if you love romance....if you love good stories." 
You can find 'Dream of Paris', and my other contemporary romances at http://amzn.to/KtlU6Y
Please take a few minutes to visit some other novelists and see what they are showcasing this weekend. You can find the list by clicking here

Friday, 19 April 2013

Queen Elizabeth Woodville

Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV’s Queen, played a pivotal role in many of the events of the later 15th century.

She was born about 1437 at Grafton Regis in Northamptonshire, and in about 1452 married Sir John Grey of Groby in Leicestershire. He was killed, fighting for the Lancastrian side, at the 2nd battle of St Albans in 146i and , leaving her with two sons from this marriage, Thomas, later Marquess of Dorset, and Richard Grey, who were deprived of their inheritance.

Tradition says that when Elizabeth discovered Edward IV was hunting in Northamptonshire, she waited for him, with her two young sons in each hand, under an oak tree, known afterwards as ‘the queen’s oak’. When he passed by, she threw herself at his feet and pleaded with him for the restoration of her sons’ inheritance.

Edward was evidently besotted by the young widow, who was said to be ‘the most beautiful woman in England.’ Their courtship took place in secret and so did their marriage, which, again according to tradition, took place at Grafton Regis on May 1st, 1464.

In the meantime, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, had been negotiating an alliance with France to thwart a similar effort also being made by Margaret of Anjou, wife of Henry VI. The alliance was to be sealed by the marriage of Edward to a French princess so, when Warwick heard of the king’s clandestine marriage, he was not unnaturally furious. It caused the rift between himself and the king that culminated in his death at the battle of Barnet.

Once Edward was re-established on the throne, his queen lost no time in securing advantageous marriages for her many siblings, including her youngest brother John aged 20 to the three-times widowed Duchess of Norfolk who was in her sixties.

She gave Edward three sons and seven daughters between 1466 and 1480, although two of these died as infants. When Edward IV died in 1483, the attempt by Elizabeth and her kin to gain power through controlling the new, young King Edward V was pre-empted by Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Her brother and oldest son were both arrested and later executed, and Elizabeth was accused by Richard of plotting to ‘murder and destroy him.’

She fled into sanctuary at Westminster with her children, but then allowed her youngest son to join his brother in the Tower of London. Less than a year later, she came out of sanctuary and returned to court, apparently reconciled with Richard. One can’t help but winder whether she would have done this if she believed Richard had murdered her two young sons.

However, she did form an alliance with Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry Tudor, and an agreement was made that Henry would marry her eldest daughter once he gained the throne. Thus Elizabeth of York married the Lancastrian Henry Tudor in January 1486, uniting the houses of York and Lancaster. The white rose of York was mixed with the red rose of Lancaster to form the Tudor rose.

About the same time, Elizabeth Woodville entered Bermondsey Abbey, although it is not clear whether this was her own wish, or whether Henry VII forced her to retire from court. She died in June 1492 and her funeral was a small simple one, with the result that one contemporary source criticises Henry VII for not arranging a more queenly funeral for his mother-in-law. She was buried with Edward IV at St George’s Chapel, Windsor.
Edward IV's tomb at Windsor


Thursday, 18 April 2013

Pontefract Castle

Pontefract is a small town in West Yorkshire – and our visit there was fraught with problems, namely some incomprehensible parking rules in the town centre, kamikaze pedestrians who thought nothing of stepping into the road in front of your car, confusing signs to the castle, and a closed Visitor Centre when we finally got there!

The castle itself was a little disappointing too. This painting from the early 17th century shows a magnificent structure, but the castle, a Royalist stronghold, was destroyed by the Parliamentarians in 1644 (during the English Civil War) and only the ruins remain.

It was first built by Ilbert de Lacy about 1070, having been granted the land by William the Conqueor in return for his support. The first castle would have been a wooden structure on a man-made ‘motte’ and was replaced by a stone keep, and other buildings around an inner courtyard (or bailey).

The ruins of the keep
In 1311 it passed by marriage to the estates of the house of Lancaster, and later in the century, John of Gaunt, as Duke of Lancaster, made it his personal residence and spent a lot of money improving it.

When his son, Henry Bolingbroke, usurped the throne in 1399, Pontefract became one of the main royal residences in the north of England. Henry’s predecessor, the deposed Richard II, was murdered there, traditionally thought to be in the Gascoigne Tower. Although Shakespeare says he was hacked to death, it seems more probable that he was actually starved to death.

During the early part of the Wars of the Roses, the castle was a Lancastrian stronghold. Their forces came from Pontefract to the battle of Wakefield in 1460, and one of the Yorkist leaders, Salisbury, was executed there after the battle. The bodies of Richard, Duke of York, and his son were also buried there, until they were removed to Fortheringhay for reburial.

Pontefract passed to Yorkist control after their final defeat of Henry VI, and Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III) used Pontefract as one of his official residences when he was appointed as ‘Lord of the North’ by his brother, Edward IV.

In 1483, after preventing the attempted coup by the Woodville to control the young king, Edward V, Richard had three of the conspirators executed at Pontefract.

In modern times, the ruins of the castle fell into total disrepair, until the 1980’s when the town council received funding to repair and improve it, and I understand a newly refurbished visitor centre has now opened, with displays and exhibits.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Old Churches

Here are some of the dozens of churches we visited during out 15th century tour.

Bere Regis
We visited this church in Dorset mainly to see its magnificent 15th century carved oak beams, even though these were said to be the gift of John Morton.
Morton became Archbishop of Canterbury in Henry VII’s reign, and it is possible (probable?) he conspired with Margaret Beaufort to put Henry on the throne instead of Richard III.
What is more certain is that Thomas More served as a page in Morton’s household and his later ‘History of Richard III', if not written by Morton himself, certainly contained Morton’s 'invented' account of the murder of the princes, and the Richard later portrayed by Shakespeare as
Deformed, unfinish'd, sent before my time Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them.
One of the central bosses of the roof shows Morton’s face, so he wasn’t particularly handsome himself, was he?

Chelsea Old Church
Actually, this one is not as old as many churches in Britain. Although it was originally built in the 13th century, it was extensively damaged by bombing during World War II, and was rebuilt after the war.
Ironically, the least damaged part of the church was the chapel on the south side, which had been rebuilt in 1528 as the private chapel of Sir Thomas More – who is definitely persona non grata to supporters of Richard III, as explained in the previous section!
Outside the church is a statue of More, and inside is a monument composed by him, commemorating his first wife, and expressing the wish that he and his second wife should be buried in the same tomb. More was beheaded in 1535, and his head, after being displayed on London Bridge for a month, was placed in a niche in the Roper Vault at St Dunstan’s Church in Canterbury. It’s likely that his headless body was buried in the chapel at the Tower of London, but there is a tradition that his daughter Margaret Roper, brought his body to Chelsea to be buried at the old church.

After those two churches with their Lancastrian links, we need some Yorkist links!

Sheriff Hutton
Sheriff Hutton is a small village about 10 miles north of York. It has the ruins of what was once a Neville Castle, which came into royal possession after Richard Neville’s death at the battle of Barnet, and was used by Richard of Gloucester when he was Lord of the North.
Tradition says that an unnamed alabaster tomb in the church is that of Edward of Middleham, Richard’s only son who died in 1484. However, there are doubts about this. One historian maintains that the figure on the tomb was wearing clothes that were fifty years out of date; another that as the son of the king, Edward would not have been buried in an ordinary parish church. On the other hand, it’s possible that this was a temporary resting place, as Richard intended to build a chantry chapel at York for himself and his family. Maybe it’s one of those questions to which we’ll never know the answer!

Gipping Chapel
This small chapel in the tiny village of Gipping in Suffolk has an interesting connection with Richard III. There had been an earlier chapel on the spot, but the present chapel was built by Sir James Tyrell, one of Richard’s knights, in the 1470s. The inscription around the doorway reads Pray for Sr James Tirell : Dame Anne his wyf.
It was this same James Tyrell who, in Henry VII's reign, supported Edmund de la Pole, the leading Yorkist claimant to the throne. He was accused of treason and, under torture, he ‘confessed’ to the murder of the two princes in the Tower of London, on Richard’s orders. Many questions have been asked about this supposed confession, since anything confessed under torture is suspect. You can read more about him here http://home.cogeco.ca/~richardiii/tyrell.html
15th century pew with the carved Tyrell knot