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 18 November 2023

Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1559 of the eighty five year old Cuthbert Tunstall, formerly Bishop of London and then of Durham. One of the great survivors of the age the Wikipedia biography of him can be found at Cuthbert Tunstall

The reason I am writing about him is that a few weeks ago a friend shared with me a short video which combines photographs and modern cartoon imagery to tell the story of Bishop Tunstall’s life and which has been produced under the aegis of Durham University. It can be viewed at Tunstall and The Tudors: The Calculating Bishop

At times it may be too ‘busy’ but it does include some interesting things about his life and times, including a view of his chapel in Durham Castle. There are also several portraits of the Bishop included in it, and I suspect these are not very well known.

Friday 17 November 2023

Queen Mary I and Cardinal Pole

Today is the 465th anniversary of the deaths of both Queen Mary I and of her third cousin Cardinal Pole.

When I was writing the other week about the Cardinal I checked the Wikipedia account of his life and found it now includes a portrait of him by Perino del Vaga dated to 1539. The young Cardinal is depicted in conversation with Pope Paul III.

Image: Wikipedia 

I had not seen the portrait reproduced previously and it shows a figure quite distinct from the well known images of the Cardinal with a patriarchal flowing beard which became ever more common amongst Popes and.members of the Sacred College in these decades.

What is especially striking is Pole’s close facial resemblance to his second cousin King Henry VIII.

The fate of the Princes in The Tower

The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail both have stories which trail a programme on Channel 4 at 8pm tomorrow about the fate of the Princes in the The Tower. It is apparently co-presented by Philippa Langley who was instrumental in locating the skeleton of King Richard III in Leicester. Given her strongly Ricardian sympathies it is not surprising that the programme argues that the former King Edward V and his younger brother Richard Duke of York and Norfolk were not killed by their uncle but escaped and were in fact the individuals known to history as Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck. Continental archival sources are claimed to favour such an explanation.

I must admit I am sceptical about such a thesis for quite a number of reasons but I will aim to watch and see what I make of the case as presented. I will aim to comment next week.

The two illustrated newspaper summaries can be accessed at Historian who found Richard III under car park claims Princes in the Tower escaped from the Daily Telegraph and at Princes in the Tower may have ESCAPED prison instead of being killed from the Daily Mail

Technical problems

Apologies to regular readers for not posting recently but my computer technology has been ‘playing up’ - my mobile phone is terminally ill and in intensive care, and has received the Last Rites. Hopefully next week things will be easier. I shall attempt to add a few notes to the blog in the meantime.

Monday 6 November 2023

Facial reconstructions

I have on several occasions linked on this blog to reports of facial reconstructions from archaeological investigations or other research. Some results, depending to a great extent on the methodology used, are better than others, or more credible as an actual human being. Live Science has now drawn some of these lines of thought together in an article about methods and also showing how new research is refining techniques and adding to verisimilitude by using extracted DNA to indicate probable hair and eye colour. Facial reconstructions as we know them are therefore to be seen in many cases at least as being ‘work in progress’ rather than a completed project. 

Thursday 2 November 2023

Sixteenth century silver ewer and basin to go on display

A rare surviving example of a late sixteenth century London made silver ewer and basin for hand washing before eating has been accepted in lieu of inheritance tax from the Earl of Dalhousie and will go on display at the National Museum in Edinburgh. 

Few pieces of this type have survived and this set, known as the Panmure from the first Lord Pamure who acquired it in the early nineteenth century, it appears to be a fine example of these items which would have graced royal and noble households. It is dated to 1586 or 1587 and is believed to be the work of the Dutch immigrant Harnan Copleman. It is of high quality in its design and detail. Changes in fashion and the impact of the Civil War meant that most were melted down. Because we rarely see such items we forget they once existed. I remember seeing some thirty odd years ago at one of the great London auction houses an exhibition of such grand and impressive tableware in silver gilt that dated from the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries that had been sold by King Charles I and had come into the collection of the Tsars of Muscovy and survives in the Kremlin. These were very dramatic pieces in the tradition of the slightly later Exeter Salt in the Crown Jewels, with heraldic lions in silver gilt as flagons and other grandiose pieces.

The ewer and basin are illustrated and discussed in an online article from stv.tv which can be seen from stv.tv at Rare silver 16th century basin and ewer to go on display at National Museum

The Daily Record has a very similar, if not identical, article at Rare 16th century basin and ewer to go on display at National Museum of Scotland