Monday, January 12, 2015

The Sunne in Splendour, Part 2

Of the many fascinating stories surrounding Richard III and the House of York, the story of the "Sunne in Splendour" is, to me, one of the most amazing ones.

On the morning of February 2, 1461, at Mortimer's Cross, three suns appeared on the horizon.  Medieval minds being what they were, many of Edward's troops viewed this as a bad omen.  Edward thought fast on his feet and convinced his followers that the three suns represented the Holy Trinity & meant that God was on their side.   But why did he make this allusion and why did it work?

Besides the obvious answer, that medieval people were more religious & superstitious than we are, what is often overlooked by many today is that February 2 is also the date the Catholic Church celebrates Candlemas.  Candlemas marks the 40th day after the birth of Jesus & the date of his first presentation at the temple.  It is the day people bring candles to Church to be blessed & borne in procession to signify Jesus' role as "the light of the world."  The origins of Candlemas stem from much older pagan traditions, which mark February 1 or February 2 as Imbolc, the halfway point between winter & spring, "the return of the light."  The appearance of the "Sunne in Splendour" on such an important day, then, had added religious significance for Edward & his troops.  So strong, in fact, that Edward adopted it as his personal device.

So what did this phenomenon look like?  A similar one appeared in my home town a few months ago, but it was at noon.  Yesterday, however, a much more spectacular one appeared in New Mexico, & in my opinion, is more like the one that appeared before the Battle of Mortimer's Cross than other pictures I've come across.  I posted a photograph of it, taken by Joshua Thomas in Red River, New Mexico, at the top of this entry.    See also here  

Even though we know what causes this phenomenon today, it still takes our breath away.  More than 500 years on, it is still easy for us to see why Edward & his followers were so in awe & considered it a sign of God's favor.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Forgotten Son of York

First of all, I hope everyone reading this had a wonderful & safe holiday season. 2015 will be a banner year for Ricardians worldwide, as this is the year King Richard III finally gets permanent tomb where we can visit to pay our respects.

Lately, however, I've been wondering about Edmund, Richard's older brother who died at 17 when he was murdered by Clifford the Butcher.  What would his life have been like, had he survived to help Edward win the Crown? What would have happened to George & Richard then, as well?  And what I really want to know is: what personal device did Edmund use?

My curiosity was piqued by a photograph of the pulpit donated to Fotheringhay Church by Edward IV, which includes the Sunne in Splendour, the Black Bull of Clarence, and the White Boar of Gloucester.  All of these are the personal devices of Edward IV, George, & Richard respectively.  But what about Edmund? Why did Edward leave his brother out?  As they were raised together at Ludlow, I don't think it was oversight, but that Edmund didn't have a personal device. I puzzled over this because George & Richard selected theirs when they were barely in their teens. Certainly Edmund would have chosen his around that age too, right?

Well, in answer to my query, several people pointed out that younger, unmarried sons used their father's if their father was still alive.  Since both Richard, Duke of York and Edmund, Earl of Rutland both died at & after Wakefield, Edmund may not have had his own device. He did, however, carry his own coat of arms, the same coat of arms used by Edward, Earl of March.

Someone else pointed out the possibility that Edmund's device was the peacock as that has long been associated with the Earls of Rutland. So of course, I had to go look that up.

It is true that the peacock is associated with the Dukes & Earls of Rutland, but only as far back at Thomas Manners, First Earl of Rutland, as created by Henry VIII in 1525.  Thomas Manners was not only a favorite of the king, they were cousins. Manners was the grandson of Anne of York, sister of Edward IV & Richard III. The peacock appears at the top of his Garter Stall plate:

While the peacock appears in many other places associated with the Earls, & later Dukes, of Rutland, titles still held by the Manners family, it does not seem to have any association with the York family in general nor Edmund in particular.  Or does it?

In medieval times, the peacock symbolized resurrection.  Could Henry VIII himself have selected the peacock as the symbol for the Earl of Rutland, as he was, in a sense, resurrecting a title that had died with his uncle Edmund 65 years earlier? And if so, why was Henry VIII going around resurrecting a Yorkist title?