Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Saturday, 1 August 2015



The August illumination in the Très Riches Heures of the Duke of Berry is attributed to Jean Limbourg. In the foreground it depicts an aristocratic falconry party. The young man on the leading horse as well as the huntsman or groom wears a straw hat that looks very contemporary to the modern viewer, and is presumably the type of headgear, "a sorry straw hat", in which Henry Beaufort  Duke of Somerset was recorded as wearing on his head whilst jousting in 1463. Here once again the fashionable members of the aristocratic world of the early fifteenth century are out and about enjoying themselves in traditional country pursuits, and also courtly dalliance.

In the background are a group of bathers enjoying swimming in the warm weather whilst others gather in the harvest. The mood is relaxed and prosperous, suggesting long lazy days for some, and, for those working, warmth and sunshire, and the promise of plenty for the coming autumn.

In the background is the Château d'Étampes. Today, as the link explains, only the keep remains of the castle. This great tower of Étampes is of particular interest to me as it may have inspired the design of Clifford's Tower at York in the thirteenth century, and that in turn may have influenced, in the fourteenth century, the design of the great tower, the so called Round Tower, of the castle in my home town of Pontefract, and that at the nearby castle at Sandal.

In August 1415 King Henry V was in the last stages of preparing to invade France. At the very beginning of the month his whole plan of campaign was threatened by the discovery of the Southampton Plot, about which there is an online account and discussion at here.

With that problem dealt with,  on August 11th the King and his army sailed across the Channel, and began the siege of Harfleur.


Peter Varlow said...

Thank you for your excellent tour last Wednesday, John, and I look forward to next year's - the early Stuarts. Best regards, Peter

Once I Was A Clever Boy said...

Many trhanks indeed - the tours are always a pleasure., particularly with a group like yours from Rewley House with Sheila. See you next year, if not before!