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.  


  1. Absolutely beautiful tribute! Very well written and the photos make one wish they could have been there. :-( Thank you for sharing this!

  2. As to the final cavalry charge, they may have dashed across that last half or full mile slightly before or after Vespers... allow me to comment about all deepening shadows and that poor Richard's arrival in Leicester again is after the sun has again set... quite clearly your photo has a most appropriate timing, in light of this!!! (J.A.D)