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.

Monday 31 January 2022

Another relic of King Charles the Martyr

Having written yesterday about surviving relics of King Charles I the serendipity of the Internet yielded another in the form of an article in the Daily Express yesterday about a silver locket that contains what is described as part of a single strand of the King’s hair. It is interesting that the fragment is described by a label ( of what date?) on the locket as being hair of “S Charles”, so it was clearly seen very much as a relic to be treasured and venerated in the High Anglican tradition.

Sunday 30 January 2022

Relics of the Royal Martyr

Today is the anniversary of the beheading of King Charles I in 1648/9. The cult of the Royal Martyr has been accompanied by various relics, anf two of these have been in the news in recent years.

The first is what is believed to be the second shirt or waistcoat/vest he wore so as not to shiver with the cold, and be mistaken for showing fear.

What was once believed to be that shirt was acquired for the Royal Collection in 1911 and is preserved at Windsor Castle. However a report from 1998 argues that the item has been misidentified and that it is in fact a woman’s night dress of the period. This is set out in an article from The Independent which can be read at Charles I's shirt is really lady's nightie

What appears to be the real second shirt is now in the collection of the Museum of London and was due to go on display as part of an exhibition about London executions which has, I assume, been delayed by the pandemic. From the various press reports about this shirt it was clearly going to be the main attraction.

There are pictures of it, together with others of the gloves the King is believed to have worn on that day and of a monogrammed pocket handkerchief, in articles from the Guardian at Shirt worn by Charles I for his execution to go on display in Londonfrom the BBC News website at Vest worn by Charles I at execution to be shownfrom The Tatler at The blood-stained shirt worn by King Charles I on day of his execution will go on displayfrom the Smithsonian Magazine at See Charles I's Stained Execution Shirt and from the MailOnline at Was this the waistcoat that Charles I was wearing when he was beheaded?

A second link to that grim day is a games compendium that was sold at auction in 2012. The exquisitely made piece with its amber inlays allows for playing chess, draughts, backgammon and Nine Men’s Morris. It is believed that this was taken by the King with him from St James’s Palace to Whitehall, presumably to use to wile away the time before he stepped out onto the scaffold. There is an illustrated article about it from the MailOnline at Cheque mate: Chess board taken by King Charles to his execution sells for £600,000 to private collector

Thursday 27 January 2022

Vestments in fifteenth and sixteenth century paintings

Shawn Tribe has a beautifully illustrated article on the Liturgical Arts Journal website about the depiction of liturgical vestments by artists in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

It appears clear that these are paintings of actual vestments or at very least ones that correspond to what would have then existed in sacristies across Latin Christendom.

The ones shown in the article are not dissimilar to surviving examples such as those of the Order of the Golden Fleece which are preserved in Vienna or other surviving pieces and fragments of medieval textiles in museum collections.

The article with its fine selection of illustrations can be seen at Sacred Vestments from the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Century As Seen In Historical Paintings

Wednesday 26 January 2022

A wooden statuette from early Roman Britain

In the link to the report on the latest discoveries at Stoke Mandeville in my previous post there is a reference to the discovery on another site in Buckinghamshire of a small wooden Roman statue. This discovery st Twyford is covered in considerable detail in a report on Live Science. This stresses both the rarity of such an object surviving at all and also the insight it offers into another aspect, or indeed aspects, of life in early Britannia.

More discoveries from the site of Stoke Mandeville Church

The excavation of the site of the old parish church of St Mary at Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire continues to yield intriguing and striking evidence as to the early occupation of the plot.

I have posted about previous discoveries there before in 2020 in Dealing with evil in the Buckinghamshire countryside and in Roman statues from Stoke Mandeville church last year.

The latest evidence appears to be from the end of the Roman period or at some point in the earlier phase of Anglo-Saxon occupation. It appears generally accepted that the Chilterns remained under British control after the rest of this southern lowland region fell under Anglo-Saxon domination, which might stretch the time limits for dating. The evidence revealed is of the disturbance of eight cremation urns and of their being shattered, possibly as another corpse, having apparently suffered a violent death, was being thrown or rolled in on top. 

The report about these latest excavations is from the Daily Express and can be seen at Archaeologists baffled by ‘extraordinary’ skeleton that had been ‘rolled into a ditch’

Much as I deplore the HS2 project the excavations along its route are revealing very important additions to our knowledge of Roman and early English life, as I linked to in Roman trading town revealed in Northamptonshire

It is just a pity that the funds could not be made available for such archaeological research without the environmental disaster that is HS2

I can certainly see the story of the site Stoke Mandeville church becoming standard in books on Romano-British and Anglo-Saxon for future generations.

Tuesday 25 January 2022

The church that Bishop Fleming built

Today, January 25th, is the 591st anniversary of the death of Bishop Richard Fleming, the subject of my thesis research.

Fleming was born at the village of Crofton, which lies just south east of Wakefield, and looks westward up the Calder valley. Politically however in the lifetime of Fleming it looked eastward to Pontefract as it formed part of the Honour centred on the castle there, and which was an important component of the estates of the Duchy of Lancaster. It was through that set of connections that Fleming made the connections that helped carry him to the episcopate.

Rather as men successful in politics in the later sixteenth century built grand country houses in or near the villages or towns in which they were born so fifteenth century bishops tended to rebuild, extend or augment the parish churches of their home villages. Thus Bishop Walter Skirlaw of Durham rebuilt the church at Skirlaugh in the East Riding, Bishop Nicholas Bubwith of Bath and Wells built the tower of the church at Bubwith in the same Riding, Bishop William Waynfleet of Winchester established a school in his home village of Wainfleet in Lincolnshire, Archbishop Henry Chichele of Canterbury established a collegiate foundation at his home parish of Higham Ferrers in Northamptonshire, Archbishop John Kempe of York did the same in his home parish of Wye in Kent, and Archbishop Thomas Rotherham did the same in his eponymous hometown. Bishop John Alcock of Ely founded a grammar school in his home city of Kingston-upon-Hull. Skirlaw, Waynfleet, Chichele, Rotherham and Alcock were all founders or benefactors of colleges in Oxford or Cambridge. Richard Fleming was similar - not only did he found Lincoln College in Oxford and attempt to turn his previous parish church at Boston into a collegiate foundation but he also rebuilt the church in his home parish of Crofton.

Crofton Church from the south west

Image: britishlistedbuildings.co.uk

A local tale claims that he moved the church site from a low lying position to the present one, but this I think unlikely. This is because the church has the remains of two Anglo-Saxon crosses - presumably found in the walls of the church during the nineteenth century restoration - and current opinion would suggest the tower arches date from about 1300. This would suggest Fleming’s rebuilding was carried out around a pre-existing structure.

His coat of arms is over the porch entrance and in the early seventeenth century the indefatigable Yorkshire antiquary Roger Dodsworth recorded a panel of glass - now alas list - which showed Fleming preaching ( he was a distinguished preacher ) and recorded him as the rebuilder and consecrator of the church. 

The unaisled cruciform church is simple in plan and any original fittings, other than probably the font, have long gone. Nonetheless this is a link to a famous son of the village. It is also a witness to Fleming’s commitment to his home. If we date the work at Crofton to his second period as Bishop of Lincoln, from 1426 until his death in 1431 this was when he was founding Lincoln College and trying to create the collegiate community at Boston, when his finances were certainly straightened. Crofton church may not be an elaborate structure, but the fact that it was rebuilt at all by Fleming is a sign of his filial devotion to his parish, his village and his family.

Sale of the King Henry III gold penny

I recently posted in Another gold penny of King Henry III about the forthcoming sale of a King Henry III gold penny, minted in 1257 and discovered by a metal detector in a Devon field last autumn. It is one of only eight known examples of this coin, the first gold coin to be struck in England after 1066.  Last weekend the coin was sold at auction for a record price, and happily the new owner intends to keep it in this country and to loan it to a museum for public viewing.

My previous post had a number of links to articles about the coin, its iconography and place in the monetary history of this country. Here are two more articles about it and the sale. The first is from the Mail Online and can be seen at Metal detectorist finds one of England's 'first ever gold coins' and the second is from the latest Medievalists.net posting on their website and is available at Medieval gold penny could fetch up to £400,000 at auction

This article draws out more about the design of the coin and what it sought to express to those who handled it. As a piece it is further testimony to the artistic sensibilities and patronage of the King and to his vision of his position as monarch.

I liked the finder saying that he had paid a visit to Westminster Abbey to thank King Henry III for having made the discovery and its resulting boost to his family finances. I rather think that the King would appreciate that.

St Dwynwen

Today, apart from being the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul, is also that of the fifth century Welsh nun St Dwynwen. 

Now for those of you have have never, or even scarcely, heard of her that excellent journal Country Life has an article about her life and cult as the Welsh equivalent of St Valentine. In recent years the revival of interest in her had come to my attention, but when I used to stay in North Wales on holiday as a schoolboy in the 1960s she was never mentioned at all.

The story of St Dwynwen shows the perils attached to getting in the way of such a saint’s vocation and has similarities to the later, eighth century, story of St Frideswide here in Oxford and her pursuit by Algar of Leicester.

The informative article, which also looks at the intercession role of St Raphael based upon the Book of Tobit, can be read at Curious Question: Was St Valentine beaten to it by 1,000 years by the Welsh patron saint of love?

Monday 24 January 2022

The Proclamation of the German Empire in 1871

January 18th was the 151st anniversary of the proclamation of the new German Empire in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.

I came by chance on an online video about the events leading up to and surrounding the formal proclamation. It is from a series about the Franco-Prussian War, but stands alone in its coverage of the day. The accounts brings out the improvised nature of the ceremony - presumably because of wanting to hold it on January 18th, the 170th anniversary of the coronation of the first King in Prussia and the fact that German forces were still engaged in fighting the French in the siege of Paris.

Up to the last moment there was a serious tussle over the new Imperial title between Kaiser von Deutschland, favoured by the Kaiser-designate and Deutsches Kaiser, the choice of Bismarck. The difference is, of course, not a just a matter or words, but had deep constitutional significance for the new union. In 1848-9 Wilhelm’s brother Friedrich Wilhelm IV, not lacking in Romantic neo- medievalism, refused the Imperial title proffered by the Frankfurt Assembly on the grounds that he did not want to pick his crown out of the dirt. Now in 1871 Bismarck, aware of the sensitivities of the other German ruling dynasties, predictably prevailed - as Wilhelm I was later to observe it was hard being Kaiser under Bismarck.

There is a short Wikipedia account of Grand Duke Friedrich I of Baden, the son-in-law of the new Kaiser who proclaimed him to the assembled throng in the Hall of Mirrors at Frederick I, Grand Duke of Baden

Crown Prince Friedrich, usually known in the Anglophone world as Frederick, was keen to revive medieval forms for the new German monarchy. It is recorded that he, together with his wife would look at books with illustrations of the insignia and emblems of the medieval Empire and he would say that these symbols must be brought back. 

When in 1888 he eventually succeeded his father as Kaiser there was to be a problem which did not confront either his father or his son, Wilhelm I and Wilhelm II. As the new ruler he wished to be styled Frederick IV, implying continuity with the Holy Roman Emperors and the fifteenth century Habsburg Frederick III, rather than using his Prussian regal numbering as Frederick III. Bismarck was insistent that the style Emperor Frederick IV would offend their ally the Austin’s-Hungarian Empire, and Frederick’s 99 day reign as both Kaiser and King was to be as Frederick III. 

That question touched upon the generally unspoken question as to whether the new Empire was German - or even pan-German - or whether it was in reality just a greater Prussia. The answer is, of course, that it was both. Prussia was far and away the largest constituent territory and had far more votes in the Imperial Council. The problems were, ironically, perhaps strongest in Prussia itself where in the east its Polish speaking subjects were content to be ruled by the King of  Prussia, but did not necessarily think of themselves as Germans, and resented a uniform language being imposed by the local administration. Similarly Rhineland subjects, added to the Kingdom in 1814-15 felt little in common with Berlin, and still less with Königsberg.

File:Wappen Deutsches Reich - Reichsadler 1889.svg

The cost of arms of the German Empire
This version was adopted in 1889

Image: Wikipedia 

Sunday 23 January 2022

The library of Roche Abbey

The Tudor Travel Guide has a guest post by Michael Carter of English Heritage about the dispersal and, seemingly all save eight volumes, subsequent destruction of the library of the Cistercian abbey at Roche, which lies at the southern tip of the West Riding, following the surrender of the monastery to the King’s Commisdioners in June 1538. The fate of the library is placed into the context of what else is known about how some books survived from other Yorkshire monasteries at that time. The article, together with additional links, can be read at Lost & Found: Remarkable Survival of Monastic Books

Some of the same material is used, together with other sources about the eighteenth century landscaping of the site by Capability Brown for the Earl of Scarborough, in an account of the abbey from the Yorkshire Post in 2017 which can be seen at The Abbey habit

In 2013 I also used some of the same material the other two authors used, the account of the ransacking of the abbey in 1538 written by Michael Sherbroke, born in 1535 and later Rector of the nearby parish of Wickersley 1567-1610. This was based on the recollections of his father and uncle. His full account can be read in my post The Suppression of Roche Abbey in 1538 - a personal view

That not only looks at the dissolution of Roche but also at my family connections with the abbey and its land and estates.

Saturday 22 January 2022

Queen Victoria’s Jewellery

This evening sees the anniversary of the death in 1901 of Queen Victoria. In her will she bequeathed a considerable part of her collection of jewellery as a permanent endowment for future Queens Regnant or Consort. 

These “Heirlooms of the Crown” - some more familiar than others - are described and illustrated in a post from The Royal Jeweller at Queen Victoria's Heirlooms of the Crown

St Vincent

Today is the feast day - along with that of St Anastasius - of St Vincent, the protomartyr of Spain, who is said to have suffered in 304. 

He is one of the three great deacon martyr saints along with St Stephen and St Lawrence, although he is perhaps less well known than the other two.

Devotion to him is focused on Saragossa, where he was deacon, Valencia where he was martyred and Lisbon where he was to eventually be enshrined.

I wrote about his depiction in art in 2016 in my post, although unfortunately not all the pictures downloaded successfully, at St Vincent

I have also come across a 2019 post from AnaStpaul about St Vincent has some of the same well-known images and others besides and can be seen at Saint of the Day – 22 January – St Vincent of Saragossa (Died 304) – Protomartyr of Spain

Wikipedia has an account of the magnificent and fascinating mid-fifteenth century paintings now known as the St Vincent panels in Lisbon, which depict the martyr - twice - surrounded by the identifiable elite of Portugal in the reign of King Afonso V and which can be viewed at Saint Vincent Panels

St Vincent with the members of the Portuguese royal house from the St Vincent Panels

Image: Wikipedia 

St Vincent Pray for us 

Friday 21 January 2022

“Son of St Louis ascend to Heaven”

Today is the anniversary of the beheading by the guillotine of King Louis XVI in 1793. It is often said that as the King mounted the scaffold the Irish born Abbé Edgeworth de Firmont said to him “Son of St Louis ascend to Heaven”. When asked about this in later years the Abbé said he had been in such a state of anxiety he could not recall what he had said. Nevertheless the story has persisted snd the phrase is indeed ‘dignum et justum’. It certainly has much more authenticity then the modern fable of a figure appearing, flourishing the severed head of the King and proclaiming “Jacques de Molay, you are avenged” in reference to the fate of the Grand Master and other members of the Order of the Templars in 1314. 

There is a brief biography of the Abbé Edgeworth from Wikipedia at Henry Essex Edgeworth and a much more detailed one from the Irish Times at Abbé de Firmont, the Irish priest who stood by King Louis XVI at his execution

louis xvi

King Louis XVI

Image: alpha history.com

I have not read John Hardman’s Thr Life of Louis XVI published by Yale UP but most reviewers see it as today’s definitive biography of the King, and one that presents a balanced picture of his reign, the issues he faced and balanced his personal gifts and strengths with his ultimately fatal tendency towards irresolution until it was too late. It certainly appears to dispel the idea of the King as a lumpen plodder. Whether he could have reigned over a series of sensible and presumably ongoing reforms - which he would have supported- designed to bring France into alignment with other European countries - is the crucial question, and one for which there is not time nor space here.

It was not just the “Ancien Regime” as described by Tocqueville or as used for the century and more preceding the outbreak of the revolution in 1789 that was symbolically destroyed along with the King in 1793. It was a constitutional dispensation that reached back through the Bourbons, the Valois and the Capetians, and before Hughes Capet and his descendants, the Carolingians and right back to thr Merovingians and the baptism of Clovis in 496. It was these ancient, mysterious and undoubtedly sacral origins of French kingship, of the French nation, indeed of a wider Christendom, that were symbolically attacked in killing King Louis XVI. So if the Abbé did so address the King in his last earthly minutes it was perhaps an inspired phrase. As a Bourbon he was the descendent of St Louis’ - King Louis IX - youngest son and the personification of the extended Capetian line and its antecedents.

In the nineteenth century there was of course a cult of the King, his Queen, their son snd his sister Mme. Elisabeth. This was not only in the Restoration era but after 1871 when Royalism was still a force to be reckoned with. Nowhere is that more strikingly displayed than in the decoration of the apse of Sacré Coeur atop  Montmartre and looking down on the city where the King was killed. In the decoration the kneeling King, Queen, Dauphin-King and Mme Elisabeth are shown kneeling in prayer  before Christ. It is a forceful evocation of a France both Catholic and Royal built in three Third Republlic and still a focus of devotion under the Fifth.

Thursday 20 January 2022

Latin Liturgy in Anglican Oxford - and more besides

It is now quite a few years since I made it my custom, suitably begowned, to attend the Latin Holy Communion on the Thursday of Noughth Week in the University Church of St Mary the Virgin - having obviously checked with the Proctor’s Office the day before that the celebrant would not be a ‘lady clergy person’. On one occasion I attended the Latin Litany and Sermon. I left that all behind when I crossed the Tiber in 2005.

However Fr Hunwicke has recently had two related posts on his blog about the Latin Holy Communion service which I am happy to draw to the attention of my readers. He has written before about the origins of this intriguing liturgy and this time the discussion broadens out considerably.

His first post is in the nature of a reminiscence of his own time as celebrant and can be read at Saint John Henry's Altar

He returned to the topic a few days later with reflections on the history of the rite and generated a stimulating, informative and wide-ranging series of comments. This makes for very interesting reading at Latin Liturgy at Oxford

The discussion of what exactly either Queen Elizabeth I or, indeed, King Edward VI preferred is an interesting and important one, and which invites both research and speculation. What either monarch intended may be open for discussion, and in the case of Queen Elizabeth it does lead to wider reflection on just how effective her ideas and influence were. What was she aiming to achieve, how did she implement it personally and publically, and how successful was she? Are we looking at a magisterial settlement by the emerging Gloriana or is it an instance of what had been termed the “Crowned republic of Elizabeth I”?

This is a wide-ranging topic but one well worth thinking about for what it reveals about sixteenth century rulership and about the very nature of the Church of England and about Anglicanism.

Wednesday 19 January 2022

The trigger for the Little Ice Age?

With modern concern about climate change the causes of previous climatic fluctuations attracts the attention of scientists and of historians. 

The Independent has an article about the latest  scientific explanation that has been proffered for the beginning of the so-called Little Ice Age about 1400. I am not a scientist but the case advanced seems plausible and based on natural and established phenomena. The article can read at Scientists discover ‘surprising’ cause of Europe’s little ice age

Whilst looking further about the concept on the Internet I quickly came upon an article from last October which appears to be making more or less the same argument. It is from ScienceNorway and can be read at What actually started the Little Ice Age?

Tuesday 18 January 2022

A good night’s sleeps?

As one who has had their sleep pattern disrupted by the lockdowns, and having become increasingly nocturnal in my study habits, I was struck by an article I chanced upon on Open Culture about historical sleep patterns, and notably that of having. ‘first sleep’ and then, after waking up and being active. having a ‘second sleep’. I do recall having heard of this idea before and was interested to learn more. The article can be read at People in the Middle Ages Slept Not Once But Twice Each Night: How This Lost Practice Was Rediscovered

In it there is s link to a much longer article about the concept from BBC Future and which can be seen at The forgotten medieval habit of 'two sleeps'

I would urge readers to look at that account. which dress upon the work of various academic, notably Roger Ekirch and his history of the night  At Day’s Close: A History of Nighttime. His book is a tempting one and a quick glance at Amazon yields at least two more studies of sleep and nighttime in the early modern period.. From the reviews they sound to be unlikely to send one to sleep …,

So with that done I will go and have my ‘first sleep’ and see if wakefulness leads to more blogging before my ‘second sleep’…..

The Two Feasts of the Chair of Peter

Gregory DiPippo has an excellent article on the New Liturgical Movement about the history and evolution of the Feast of the Chsir of Peter into two celebrations, those of it at Rome on January 18th and at Antioch on February 22nd. This rather curious, not to say convoluted, story is set out together with the interaction of the celebration on January 18th with the commemoration of martyr saints in the succeeding days in the articl. The article can be read at The Two Feasts of St Peter’s Chair 

Monday 17 January 2022

Was King Edward IV illegitimate?

The online video series History Calling has recently uploaded a very good analysis of the arguments advanced both in the fifteenth century ( occasionally ) and in the twenty-first century ( more frequently ) as to the likelihood or otherwise of King Edward IV having been illegitimate.

Personally I agree with the conclusions of the presenter, and say so in a note I posted in the comments section.

I am repeating the substance of that here, with illustrations, to make my point.

The three portraits of Richard Duke of York used in the video are misleading. Only the illumination from the Earl of Shrewsbury MS is contemporary. 

Drawing of Richard, Duke of York

Richard Duke of York in 1445
From the Shrewsbury MS
Image: Wikipedia 

The statue, from the bridge gate in Shrewsbury is earlier snd probably of Richard’s uncle. The drawing of the stained glass in Penrith church is of a bearded man, which was not the fashion in Duke Richard’s lifetime. It is now thought to be much more likely his maternal grandfather the first Earl of Westmoreland.

However there are two surviving contemporary stained glass portraits of the Duke. One is in Cirencester church in a chantry chapel founded by some of his retainers. This shows him with fair or blonde hair - unless that is due to the techniques of glass painting with yellow -stain - and shows a typical military style haircut of the period 

Richard duke of York

Image: Wakefield Historical Society

The other is in Trinity College Cambridge and shows him with wavy hair, perhaps not dissimilar to the Shrewsbury MS. The two glass portraits are similar, or at least not dissimilar, as to their facial features,

Richard Duke of York
Glass in Trinity College Cambridge 
Image: History of Parliament Trust
Neither depiction enables any estimate of his height as he is shown alone. For that someone may have to open up his tomb in Fotheringhay church.
A final point is that in 1483 how many people in London would remember the appearance of a man who had died in 1460 and who had spent relatively little time in the city?

A new threat to the Order of Malta

A friend has forwarded to me a disturbing post from The Pillar about Vatican plans to more or less impose a new constitution on the Order of Malts. As my friend says, is there no end to the vandalism?

The post, which appears well sourced, can be seen at Order of Malta would be 'subject' of Holy See under new constitution and all the appended comments are telling in what they say.

Another religious group to pray for ….

A Roman commercial community discovered in the Mendips

The Daily Express has a report about the discovery near Winscombe of a significant Roman, and later, community adjacent to the lead mining area of the Mendips in Somerset. This appears not dissimilar in many ways to the discovery in south Northamptonshire I posted about very recently in Roman trading town revealed in Northamptonshire

In the example from the Mendips it was found during archaeological work in anticipation of the laying of electricity cables. What it seems to reveal is a community which developed alongside the mining activities, which are well attested at the village of Charterhouse and which was then developed in the Constantinian era with new roads and left significant numbers of coins. From the evidence it indicates cross-country trading links to the Fosse Way and also a potential link to the coast for the export of lead ore to other parts of the Empire.

Sunday 16 January 2022

Another gold penny of King Henry III

I posted a year ago in Gold penny of King Henry III about the impending sale of one of the few surviving gold pennies - worth 20d in the thirteenth century - minted by King Henry III in 1257. 

The Daily Telegraph now reports on the discovery by a metal detector of an eighth example of this beautiful coin. Their report also draws upon the enormous expertise of the King’s latest biographer Prof. David Carpenter to expound the significance of the coins, their artistic importance and economic impact. Professor Carpenter can even suggest who was the owner of the coin.

The MailOnline also has an account of the discovery of the coin at One of England's 'first ever gold coins' is dug up in Devon field

The Daily Mirror has an article from 2017 about the then impending sale of one of the surging coins which looks at why it was an Impractical unit of currency at First ever English gold coin worth a penny will sell for unbelievable amount

There is an article about the sale in Texas of another example of the coin a year ago at Henry III 1257 gold penny sells for £526k at Texas auction

However for a really detailed account of the coin and its place in English numismatic history there is a post from last month from the London coin specialists Spink about the gold penny at  A NEW HENRY III GOLD PENNY - ENGLAND’S “FIRST GOLD COIN” - INSIDER

All these articles add to our understanding of this famous coin and are worth looking at.

Saturday 15 January 2022

Portraying Queen Elizabeth I

The always insightful  Mefieval manuscripts blog from the British Library has an interesting post in connection with the BL’s current major exhibition Elizabeth and Mary: Roysl Cousins, Rival Queens. The post concentrates on the portraits in the display of Queen Elizabeth I and her attitude to sitting for her portrait, particularly in her youth and early years as Queen.

The well illustrated post can be seen at Portraits of Elizabeth I

Some years ago I recall the announcement of the discovery of an early 1560s portrait of Queen Elizabeth which showed her dressed in dark plain clothing and holding what appeared to be a prayer book. A very different presentation from the familiar bejewelled and lavishly dressed Queen of popular perception. This austere, almost puritanical, image was discussed by David Starkey, who saw it as very much a piece of conscious image-making in the wake of the Church settlement of 1559. Unfortunately I cannot find the link to the specific article.

Look a little further on the Internet I found two other reports about discoveries of early portraits of the Queen.

The first from Royal Central from 2018 covers a painting that may be as early as 1559. It is very crude by comparison with later ones but interesting as a very early depiction. The article and link can be found at Newly discovered early portrait of Elizabeth I to be displayed

The second is a 2019 Guardian account of the discovery, restoration and identification of a very fine portrait dated to 1562. This may have been painted to send abroad as part of the negotiations for one or other possible marriage. The article can be viewed at Long-lost overpainted portrait reveals young Queen Elizabeth I

Golden Jubilee of The Queen of Denmark

Yesterday was the fiftieth anniversary of the accession to the throne of The Queen of Denmark. 

Only to be used in conjunction with Jubilee stories

The Queen of Denmark

Image: Per Morten Abrahamsen for Kongehuset

To an outsider she appears to have been an exemplary monarch, has a supportive and popular family, and that is reflected in her widespread popularity in her three realms of Denmark, The Faroes and Greenland. 

That popular esteem is not just a consequence of her position as Queen but also reflects the things that make her who she is. An always elegant figure, very stylish on ceremonial occasions, an articulate communicator through visual media, a talented artist and designer of books and stage-sets, a keen archaeologist, and definitely a character amongst the royal personages of Europe - and determinedly counter-cultural in her refusal to give up smoking.

Long may she reign!

Thursday 13 January 2022

The size of English medieval warhorses

An article appeared on my screen thanks, no doubt, to my algorithm about recent research into the surviving archaeological evidence for the size, and other attributes, of cavalry horses in England between 300 and 1650.

The article can be seen at Medieval War Horses Were Smaller Than Modern-Day PoniesThe title conveys a slightly(?) misleading image of knights charging into battle on Thelwell type gymkana ponies which is clearly not what the research highlighted is about. This is a case where I would particularly urge anyone interested to follow the link to the original article. Not only does this contain the research information but its interpretation is much more helpful and insightful than the summary provided by the initial account I linked to above.

One question it raises is that of the survival of quantifiable evidence and the identification of the appropriate horses. 

A second factor that clearly needs to be taken into account is the development by the later middle ages at least by English men-at-arms of actually fighting on foot rather than an horseback - horses got the man in armour to or. hopefully, from the battlefield rather than taking part in the actual combat. To what extent this came about because of the types of horse available or led to changes in breeding preferences is a rich topic in itself. It certainly appears to have affected the details of the design of knightly armour in the period. A specific concern to breed the right type of horse would be a further insight into past husbandry choices and management.

It has long been known that medieval warhorses were not shire horses - a development of the agricultural revolution - and much more like hunters or, I suppose, a type of steeplechaser. This research carries that discussion much further forward, and it will be interesting to see what new studies result.

Wednesday 12 January 2022

Roman trading town revealed in Northamptonshire

The MailOnline has a handsomely illustrated account of the discovery at Chipping Warden in south Northamptonshire of the site of an Iton Age community which originated about 400BC and which then, about seven centuries later had apparently evolved into a trading community with wide range of crafts being practised alongside an exceptionally wide road. The road and the nearby valley of the Cherwell appear to have been the routes which nourished this Roman community. Was it perhaps in some way the equivalent of a modern motorway service station or even of Bicester Village? The area, known from its soil as Blackgrounds has been known as having once been a Roman settlement since the eighteenth century, has been excavated in advance of the destructive and unnecessary impact of the dreadful HS2 project.

The article, with its numerous photographs, can be read at HS2 dig finds ancient road and 2,000-year-old coins

Food History

I came across a series of three videos on YouTube which were made in 2012 by the late, great and much lamented Clarissa Dickson Wright about the history of our three standard daily meals - breakfast, lunch and dinner - which are well worth watching. One of her major publishing achievements in her later years was a history of British food, and this series for the BBC doubtless derived from that. They combine actual cookery with social history and good location filming to evoke life in the past, and all suitably served up with a helping of traditional Clarissa D-W spice. Rather like a good meal they balance the wider picture with specific and pertinent delicacies. Served up by an enthusiastic and knowledgeable presenter they are in the best tradition of such television and communicate a great deal of information in an accessible way.

Sunday 9 January 2022

The quest for 17 Bruton Street

As we approach the seventieth anniversary of the accession of The Queen and the lead up to the celebrations of the Platininum Jubilee next spring and summer there is additional interest in the details of Her Majesty’s life, including where she was born in 1926. That her birth took place at17 Bruton Street, the Mayfair home of her maternal grandparents the Earl and Countess of Stathmore, is well known, but what was the fate of the house which hosted the birth of Princess Elizabeth of York?

The BBC News website has an interesting article which sets out to dispel myths about the fate of the house and indeed as to its actual location. The account can be read at The mystery of the home where the Queen was born

Thursday 6 January 2022

Epiphany Water

As I was leaving Mass this evening in addition to seeing a basket full of blessed chalk I was reminded by a friend to take a phial of Epiphany Water from by the crib. This I did, carried it home and sprinkled it around and threw the last drops over myself.

There is an introduction to this particular type of Holy Water at Epiphany water is a powerful weapon against Satan and the full text of the blessing from the Roman Ritual as approved in 1890 can be found, with the rubrics, in translation at Liturgical Year : Prayers : Roman Ritual: Blessing of Water on Eve of Epiphany  Oh, for the days of such rigidity!

There is an article about its use in the Orthodox Church at THE SECRET OF THE Epiphany WATER: How and when is holy water used 

Which reminds me to wish a holy and joyful Christmas to my Orthodox friends for tomorrow and the ensuing season.

The birth of King Richard II

645 years ago today in Bordeaux the Princess of Wales was delivered of a son, who was to become King Richard II a decade and a half later. The second son of her marriage to the Prince of Wales he did not become the direct heir until the death of his elder brother, Edward of Angoulême, in 1371.

At the time of his birth his father, Prince Edward, was about to set off on what was to become the Nájera campaign in support of of King Pedro I ( The Cruel ) of Castile and some sources maintain that the Princess went into early labour because of her anxiety about her husband’s departure for a mid-winter crossing of the Pyrenees. There is an account from Wikipedia of the campaign and the Prince’s victory near Burgos the following April at Battle of Nájera

My post from five years ago about the future King’s birth can be seen at Birth of King Richard IIBorn as he was on the feast of the Epiphany in adulthood he, and his circle, appears to have drawn upon the symbolism of the day in such things as the Wilton Diptych and in literary works, as I point out in that post. In an age of sacral monarchy being born at Epiphany and reportedly having three kings at his baptism could clearly be presented as auspicious. Here was birth, baptism and naming, manifestation to the world in the Epiphany season of a child born, as it turned out, to be King. Furthermore he appears to have been initially baptised as John, from came his strong and self-acknowledged devotion to St John the Baptist, a saint who figures prominently in the narratives of Christ’s birth and baptism, and both commemorated in the traditional liturgy for today. Perhaps it is no wonder if it possibly all went to his head. That however might be too easy an explanation of the causes  and effects, of the political factors which shaped the life of a late medieval monarch, and which led finally to the death of Richard of Bordeaux in the castle of my home town at the age of 33 - or is there in that an ultimate violent fulfilment of his Christ-like quality? Shakespeare was not a contemporary but his poetic account conveys something of the sense of the deposition and murder as having a Passion-like quality. It may well not have been the view of the majority of the country in 1400, but it may have sustained the dethroned monarch.

That post I wrote in 2017 can now be supplemented by other online articles about the city of his birth, which was then the second city in the dominions of King Edward IIi and the capital of his father’s Principality of Aquitaine created by the peace treaty of 1361. This topic is covered in a very readable form by Michael Jones’ relatively recent biography The Black Prince.

The French website BORDEAUX-MEDIEVAL-DOSSIER-ENSEIGNANTS gives both an introduction to surviving medieval buildings in the city and also has a number of striking reconstructions of the appearance of late medieval Bordeaux, including the Ombrière and the area around the cathedral.

Wikipedia has a much improved and more detailed article about the cathedral at Bordeaux Cathedral and one about the neighbouring basilica of St Severinus at Basilica of Saint Severinus of Bordeaux

One of my intentions at the High Mass for Epiphany this evening was to pray for the repose of King Richard II. May he rest in peace.