Friday, April 24, 2015

Random Thoughts & Shots from the Reinterment Week

Cutest photobomb ever :)
I was going through all the photos that I took on my trip & decided to post a few random ones that I took here & there.  The above shot is from Sunday at Bosworth Battlefield.  We were really early, on the first bus, & the volunteer guiding us had this amazing standard (which was not for sale in the gift shop--boooo). She held it out so we could take pictures of it & was I surprised to see this little cutie show up in my photo! I didn't see her when I took the picture, but there she was.

Here are some various photos that I took in & around St. Mary de Castro, where Richard's father was knighted.

Chapel with Richard's picture in it.
I told myself to write down why this chapel has a connection to Richard, but nooo. But it does & it's important enough for the church to let you know that. Ah well, next time....

I love seeing how the sun makes the colors from stained glass shine inside churches.  St. Mary de Castro is essentially two churches in one: one side for the nobility & the other side was for the commoners (back in the day when John of Gaunt was around).  Now the wall separating the sanctuaries has been taken down & replaced with pillars, so the church is open to all.
Main Altar in the Royal side of the Church

Stained glass colors shining on the stone work

There are only three of these guys decorating the pews of the church:

Green Man (Victorian Era carving)

Spring flowers in the churchyard

St. Mary de Castro

The Tree of Life, a gorgeous artwork commissioned by Holy Cross Priory for the Requiem Mass celebrated there. I was lucky & shown to a seat in the Lady Chapel, which had a direct view of the main altar. As a result, I had my eyes on the vestment from Richard's royal wardrobe all night long. It is so beautiful & a miracle that it survived & was in good enough condition to use. I didn't get a photo of it because you're not supposed to take pictures during religious services.  But fortunately, I was able to get a photo of the Tree of Life afterward. It was especially commissioned by Holy Cross Priory for the Requiem Mass.
Tree of Life

Another of the original misericords from Fotheringhay Church. I'm pretty sure Richard also saw & touched this one. A rather "interesting" carving to put in a church, huh?
Unusual Misericord
Still not a fan of the blond wig on the facial reconstruction. If they went just a little bit darker (& curlier), it would be a lot more accurate.
Blondie doesn't look that bad in this light

Stood in line for 3 hours, but it was worth it to be one of the first to see Richard's tomb in place.

Richard's tomb & motto

Window that shines on Richard's tomb

The screen separating Richard's tomb from the main sanctuary
And a side view of what I call the "Everything is Awesome!" chair.

View of the screen & chapel beyond from the main sanctuary

I find it interesting that a month later, & I'm still thinking back to this week & everything I did, all the people I met, the experiences we shared.  From looking at my Facebook feed, I'm not the only one. But the week was an important one for those of us who went. We were part of something unique that will never happen again, so I guess it makes sense that we're all still thinking about it.

Monday, April 13, 2015

From Birth to Death in One Day & Sixty Miles

St. Mary & All Saints, Fotheringhay
While I will always remember the week I spent with my Ricardian friends, the day that stands out the most to me is the day we went to Fotheringhay for a special service in honor of Richard's parents & older brother, Edmund.

The day started early, as we had to set up refreshments in the community center before the church service started.  We weren't expecting many people, maybe the 15 who had said they would be there. To our surprise, 60 people attended, filling the pews of this beautiful little church which was built on orders of Richard's father, the Duke of York, before he was born.  A copy of the contract to build the church, the only one of its kind in existence dating to medieval times, is displayed in the sanctuary.

The Falcon & the Fetterlock, the device of Richard's father
The church of St. Mary & All Saints was once much larger than it now is, but thanks to time & the Reformation, just a small portion of it remains.  We were lucky that day. The sun was shining brightly through the windows of the church.  I could only imagine how it would look if all of the windows were made of colored glass.  An English version of Paris' gorgeous Sainte Chappelle! One of the guides told us that the church is popular for summer weddings. Imagine being married in such a beautiful place!

The York Window casting colors on the white walls
It was here at Fotheringhay that Richard was born & here he served as chief mourner at the reinterment of his father & brother Edmund. While their original tombs had to be rebuilt (on orders of Elizabeth I), the church still contains the original pulpit constructed on the orders of Edward IV, complete with the heraldic devices of both Richard, then Duke of Gloucester, & George, Duke of Clarence.  
Pulpit of Edward IV

You have to get up close & inside the pulpit in order to get clear pictures of the Boar & the Bull:
The White Boar of Richard, Duke of Gloucester
The Black Bull of Clarence:
Heraldic device of George, Duke of Clarence, the Jan Brady of the York Brothers
The tombs of Richard's parents & his older brother Edmund face each other on opposite sides of the main altar.  I had wondered earlier if Edmund had his own heraldic device, but it doesn't appear that he did. His tomb was decorated with the device of his father, the Falcon & the Fetterlock.
Tomb of Edmund, Earl of Rutland, who was murdered after battle when he was only 17.
After the service at the church, & refreshments & an interesting talk by Susan Troxell in the community center, we headed to another church nearby to examine some misericords.  These misericords were originally part of the church at Fotheringhay & were there when Richard lived there.  On one of them was a decoration familiar to Ricardians:
Look familiar?
It was so amazing & emotional to see & touch something Richard also saw & touched over 500 years ago.  So much from his time has been lost. It's a miracle anything survives & in such good condition that it is still in weekly use! We felt like teenage nerds, but ones who wander into churches (with the key!) & take pictures of misericords. 

After a short stop at this tiny church, our group went in separate directions.  Since one person in the vehicle I was in had not been to Bosworth, we decided to head there so she could get some pictures before the sunset.  As luck would have it, we were close enough to Fenn Lane Farms before the sun went completely down, & so we were able to stand on the road which overlooks the field where Richard lost his life.  
Fenn Lane Farm, the actual battle site

While this picture may not look like much, I was so emotionally overcome at this moment, I started crying.  I actually "felt" the presence of the spirits who still wander this field, 530 years after the battle.  I'm sure all of the activity woke them up, especially since several men stood vigil for Richard the night before the procession to Leicester.  It was as though I felt the weight of a half- millennia's worth of unexpressed emotions clamoring  for an outlet, for release.  Perhaps all of the people in the crowds & those who felt drawn to Leicester were answering this call & now that these emotions have found voice, the healing & restoring of Richard's reputation can now begin in earnest.

It was later, on our way back to Leicester, that we realized we traveled the length of Richard's life in one day, & that the place where he was born & the place where he died are only 60 miles apart.  

Saturday, April 11, 2015

About the Queen....

I can't believe it has been three weeks since the dramatic events in Leicester. I'm still processing everything that happened. Friends & family who don't ordinarily share my love of history in general & fascination with Richard III in particular still comment on the events as they followed them via my posts on Facebook & news stories they saw in the papers & on TV.

And yet, there are still those who want to do nothing but complain about the events in Leicester because they wanted Richard III reinterred in York Minster. They hold themselves out as the only "true" Ricardians, & some of these elitist snobs showed up in Leicester bound & determined to find offense at every possible thing. And because you always find what you're looking for, they did. I've seen complaints about the young girl who placed the crown on Richard's coffin (just who in their right mind complains about a CHILD?), complaints that "true" Ricardians weren't allowed to hold up the repose line at the Cathedral so they could pray (read: perform) by the coffin (the fact that they were in a Cathedral with chapels set aside for that purpose apparently eluded them), and of course, complaints that the Queen did not attend the reinterment because she "hates" Richard. Seriously. The cattiness & pettiness these "true" Ricardians have put out there in social media is as embarrassing as it is ignorant & uninformed.

According to information I learned from a friend & from the Yeoman Warders who attended the reinterment themselves, the Queen very much approved of the events in Leicester.  But why didn't she attend the reinterment herself?  For many reasons, apparently, & none of them have anything to do with "Tudor propaganda."

First of all, the Queen does not attend funeral services & as it turned out, she had a prior engagement to honor veterans of the Battle of Britain.  As the niece of uncles & aunts who served in WWII, I dare anyone to tell me this event was "minor" or "unimportant.".  Second, however, is the fact that the Duke of Gloucester has long been the patron of the Richard III Society & has been involved in the search & discovery of Richard III's remains for a very long time.  If the Queen had attended the service, she would have taken attention away from the Duke of Gloucester at his own event, something that Royal protocol does not permit.

In a further show of her approval, the Queen asked the Countess of Wessex to attend the reinterment ceremony as her personal representative.  The Queen also permitted two or three Heralds from her own Household to attend, including the Herald of the Garter.  To keep from upstaging the Duke of Gloucester, however, they were only permitted to wear their chains of office & not their regalia.

Also in attendance with the approval of the Queen, and with permission to wear regalia, was the Lord Constable of the Tower.  The Lord Constable always travels with two Yeoman Warders as his personal escorts and they were also in their blue undress uniforms with permission from the Queen. (See photo above.)  Had the Queen not given her consent, the Lord Constable and his escorts would have attended in civilian clothing.

As you can see, far from disapproving of the reinterment ceremonies, the Queen was actually quite engaged & approved of them.  Yes, I am disappointed that I did not get to see her, but I am glad to learn that she permitted so many to attend, some in their regalia, because it added to the pomp & ceremony of the occasion.

The above picture was taken on Thursday, after the ceremonies, at the Queen of Bradgate.  My friends & I went to get some lunch & while we were there, the Yeoman Warders showed up.  They were incredibly friendly & very informative, patiently putting up with our questions & requests for photographs.  It turns out that they are Ricardians themselves (!!!) & were planning to come up to Leicester anyway on their day off just to stand in the crowd, when their boss asked them to escort him to the ceremony. They were taking back a couple of souvenirs for another Yeoman Warder who couldn't attend, but is also a Ricardian.

And as if that particular day couldn't get any more amazing, my friend Kim & I ended up sharing a cab back to our hotel with two of the Somerset heirs. How awesome is that!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

"Richard" by Carol Ann Duffy

As illustrated by photographs I took last week in & around Leicester. The last photograph was taken at Fenn Lane Farms, the actual battle site.