On this day in 1547 – King Francis I died

Francis was born on 12th September 1494 to Charles, Count of Angoulême and Louise of Savoy. He ascended the throne of France as his father in law and cousin, King Louis XII, died without a male heir.

Francis was a great supporter of the arts and helped the start of the French Renaissance by bringing many artists to work on his great home the Château de Chambord. Like his English counterpart Francis saw many changes during his time on the throne from the exploration of new worlds to the rise of Protestantism as well as the development of a standardised French language.

Chateau                                                   Château de Chambord

Francis was also engaged in many military campaigns mainly against Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. On these campaigns he courted Henry VIII as an ally and signed many treaties with the King of England. On one of the few occasions the two kings met was the Field of the Cloth of Gold, a 17 day event that was designed to build the friendship between the two countries, however at this event negotiations failed.

In 1505 Louis XII ordered his heir presumptive Francis to marry his daughter, Claude and the marriage took place on 18th May 1514. Louis died shortly after the marriage which meant Francis inherited the throne, Francis was crowned King of France on 25th January 1515 with Claude as his queen consort.

Francis died on 31st March 1547 at the Château de Rambouillet and was succeeded by his son Henry II who turned 28 on the day his father died. Francis was buried with his first wife, Claude, in Saint Denis Basilica. Francis died of fever and it was said that “he died complaining about the weight of a crown that he had first perceived as a gift from God”.

Francis I

On this day in 1533 – Thomas Cranmer was consecrated as Archbishop

On March 30th 1533 Thomas Cranmer was consecrated as Archbishop.

Upon the death of William Warham in 1532 Cranmer received the news of his appointment to Archbishop of Canterbury whilst in Italy on 1st October. Cranmer was ordered to return to England to take up his new post. Up until this point Cranmer had only ever held minor posts within the church but the influence Anne Boleyn had over Henry VIII changed this and Cranmer was appointed at the suggestion of Anne.

Henry VIII needed to acquire a papal bull to secure Cranmer’s position, something that could have been difficult if the papal nuncio (diplomat) had not been under orders from the Pope to keep Henry happy and grant him anything in an attempt to keep Henry from breaking from Rome. The papal bull arrived on 26th March 1533 and four days later on the 30th March Cranmer was consecrated at Archbishop in St Stephen’s Chapel at the Palace of Westminster.

As part of the consecration ceremony Cranmer was required to swear allegiance to the Pope, Clement VII, and any future Pope’s as well as defending the Roman Papacy. Henry had a problem with this part of the service because he wanted to eventually declare that the Pope had no authority in England, however he wanted the service to be correct in every way at the same time. A solution was found and before the ceremony Cranmer made a statement in the chapter house of Westminster before five lawyers. Cranmer proclaimed that he did not intend to be bound to his oath of serving the Pope that he was about to promise “if it was against the law of God or against our illustrious King of England, or the laws of his realm of England”

Archbishop Cranmer became the first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury.

Thomas Cranmer

On this day in 1555 – John Laurence burned at the stake

On 29th March 1555 Protestant martyr John Laurence was burned at the stake in Colchester. In his life he was a clergyman and a priest at the former Blackfriar in Suffolk.

Laurence was reported to have been taken to the stake in a chair because the irons that he was kept in during his time in prison had made him so weak.

Laurence’s story was recorded in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, who wrote;

“The next day being the 29. Day of this moneth, the sayd Iohn Laurence was brought to Colchester, and there being not able to go, (for that as wel his legges were sore worne with heauie irons in the prison, as also hys bodye weakened with euill keeping) was borne to the firein a chayre, and so sitting, was in hys constant faith consumed with fire

At the burning of this Laurence, hee sitting in the fire the young children came about the fire, and cryed, (as wel as young children could speake) saying: Lorde strengthen thy seruaunt, and keepe thy promise, Lord strengthen they seruaunt, and keepe thy promise.”

John Laurence was just one of the many Protestants killed by Queen Mary I.

Book review – The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory has a real talent for bringing alive the characters of her stories. Those who lived and breathed during the Wars of the Roses over 500 years ago are brought to life on the pages of her books. The King’s Curse is no different as we follow Margaret Pole through 40 years of her life.

Margaret Pole, Plantagenet by birth and niece to King Edward IV and King Richard III is now living in the Tudor court. Her brother, Edward, is locked away in the Tower of London his only crime is being the true Plantagenet heir to the throne. We are first introduced to Margaret in The King’s Curse after her brother has been executed on the orders of Henry VII at the request of the Spanish monarchs before they send their daughter, Katherine of Aragon, to England for marriage to the King’s oldest son, Arthur.

Margaret is head of the household at Ludlow Castle serving Prince Arthur and his new bride Katherine. We see through her eyes the developing love between the newlyweds and the heart break when Arthur dies just months later.

Margaret is sent home to her husband, an arranged marriage at the hands of Henry VII in order to bury the Plantagenet name and memory of years past. Margaret and her husband struggle with money and to raise their own children and with the death of her husband the family are pushed into poverty. As a reader you really feel for Margaret who has to do anything she can to survive.

With Henry VIII taking the throne upon his father’s death he is keen to unite the once warring families, especially as his mother was also a Princess of York. He restores his aunt’s titles and lands to her and welcomes her to court once again running the household of the new Queen, Katherine of Aragon. Margaret is loyal to the new Queen as she was when she was in Ludlow. We stay with Margaret in the service of the Queen for more than a decade where she is witness to the Queen’s many miscarriages and stillbirths along with the birth of the only surviving child a daughter, Mary.

With the possibility of any more children born to the Queen we see Henry change from the boy that Margaret knew who was caring and loving to a bitter man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. This starts with putting aside Queen Katherine in favour of Anne Boleyn and raising his illegitimate son to a Dukedom.

Margaret remains loyal to the Queen and her daughter Mary, who she is the governess of. Margaret spends much of her time during this part of the story at her home and court news is relayed to her through hers son. Through this we learn of Henry’s break with Rome and the oath he makes every subject take throughout the country to the King’s new marriage and subsequently the birth of his new daughter, Elizabeth. With the news coming in the form of letters and her sons it does not place Margaret in the centre of the action so we are only told what is needed to be known and the less important details are left out.

Whilst at Margaret’s home we get to see the relationship with her family in particularly the strained relationship with her youngest son, Reginald. We are also able to see Margaret’s reactions to the Pilgrimage of the North and how the Pole family remain loyal to the Princess and want to act in her best interest as she is declared illegitimate.

Henry’s descent from the sweet child whose brother was destining to be King to the tyrant he became in his later life is really well documented in The King’s Curse his failures to produce many living heirs, his many wives and a country that drives him to be paranoid about anyone and everyone is clear to see and you have a clear understanding of what drove Henry to lose his way.

The tragic ending of the book shows just how far Henry’s paranoia stretched and I’d be surprised if you aren’t reaching for a tissue or calling out in support of Margaret.

As with many historical novels they don’t cover all the facts and truths but I find that they are a good starting place to jumpstart further readings to learn the truth.

The King’s Curse is well written each character is a good rounded person with their own personalities and the writing flows so easy that you find yourself constantly saying ‘just one more chapter’. Philippa Gregory once again shows why she is leading the way with historical novels.

The King's Curse

On this day – Sir Thomas Gargrave died

Sir Thomas Gargrave was born in 1495 where his parents Thomas and Elizabeth raised him in Normanton, West Yorkshire. He received a prestigious education at either Gray’s Inn or the Middle Temple.

Gargrave’s first employment was with Thomas Darcy, 1st Baron Darcy de Darcy (or Lord Darcy of the North). This employment helped Gargrave and was appointed Knight of the Shire for Yorkshire in 1553 – 1555. Gargrave received many more postings in the North ranging from Deputy Constable for Pontefract Castle to Reciever of the Exchequer for Yorkshire.

In 1559 Gargrave received a higher honour, he was elected speaker in Queen Elizabeth’s first parliamend and on 25th January 1559 he gave an address in which he urged the new queen to take a husband.

In 1562 Gargrave served as a Member of Parliament for York and on 5th November 1566 he was one of 30 MP’s that were called in front of the Queen to hear her message on the subject of her succession.

Sir Thomas Gargrave died on 28th March 1579 and is buried in St Michael and Our Lady Church within the grounds of his family home as Nostell Priory.

Sir Thomas Gargrave

On this day in 1489 – the Treaty of Medina del Campo was agreed

The Treaty of Medina del Campo was agreed on March 26th 1489. Henry VII needed a strong ally in a wealthy and powerful European country. The English crown was still vulnerable after Henry won the throne in battle against Richard III. Henry VII chose to enter into an alliance with Spain.

The Treaty of Medina del Campo agreed three main points

  1. A common policy between the two countries regarding France
  2. A reduction of tariffs between the two countries
  3. A marriage contract between Henry VII’s son, Arthur and the daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, Katherine.

Arthur Tudor was only three years old at the time of the treaty with Katherine six months older. In accordance with the treaty they would be married when they come of age. Henry VII needed to build a strong Tudor dynasty and ensure the future generations so he needed to marry his heir to a Princess from a powerful nation. Katherine’s dowry was set at 200,000 crowns.

The other points of the treaty were that England and Spain would come to each other’s aide if they declared war against France; the terms of the treaty were more beneficial to Spain as they could call upon England to support any Spanish military campaign.

The full terms of the treaty were never held and it was renegotiated twice in 1492 and 1497. Arthur and Katherine were eventually married in 1502. Katherine bought with her half of her dowry; the rest would remain a sore point between Henry and Ferdinand in the years to come.

On this day in 1609 – John Dee died

John Dee was born on 13th July 1527 in Tower Ward, London to Rowland Dee and Johanna Wild. He was an only child. His father was a minor courtier in the time of Henry VIII.

Dee had a strong education studying at St John’s College in Cambridge. Upon graduation he travelled Europe a continued studying and lecturing. Along the way he picked up a vast collection of astronomical and mathematical instruments.

In 1555 Dee was arrested on the grounds of forecasting the horoscopes of Queen Mary and the Princess Elizabeth. Mary also added treason to the charge but Dee cleared his name and survived. Dee was a lifelong learner and an attempt to preserve books and manuscripts with a vision of a national library was dismissed by Mary. Instead Dee set about expanded his personal library and collecting many ancient books from across Europe.

In 1558, with the ascension of Elizabeth, Dee prospered he was appointed to be Elizabeth’s advisor on all astrological and scientific matters and was consulted over the best day to hold the new queen’s coronation.

In his time Dee published many books and advised on matters that ranged from navigation to the occult. The occult was something that Dee himself would dabble in, in later life, using the services of scryers in an attempt to communicate with angels.

Dee travelled to Europe in 1583 and lived a nomadic life travelling from court to court seeking audiences with rulers. However, they did not trust him; they believed he was a spy under orders from Elizabeth herself.

Eventually Dee returned to England in 1589 to his home at Mortlake to find his house vandalised and his impressive library destroyed and burgled. An increased distrust in the occult meant that Dee found it difficult to find a position and asked Elizabeth for help. She appointed him Warden of Christ’s College, Manchester.

Dee returned to London in 1605 after Elizabeth’s death to find that King James I was unwilling to help him. Dee returned to Mortlake in poverty and was forced to sell off many possessions to support himself and his daughter.

Dee died on 26th March 1609 aged 81.

John Dee memorial plaque

Richard III in repose and the King Richard III visitor centre

A visit to Leicester to see a King who died 530 years ago and is being re-interred on Thursday 26th March 2015.

When a skeleton was found in a car park 2 ½ years ago in September 2012 just six hours into the start of an archaeological dig that was funded on the feeling, no one knew just how much attention they would receive. After countless scientific tests and DNA matching it was confirmed the skeleton in a Leicester council car park was that of the lost King, Richard III. The last English monarch to die in battle in 1485 at Bosworth.

After 2 ½ years of testing, planning and even the odd argument about the treatment of Richard’s mortal remains it is finally time to put the last Plantagenet King to rest. A stunning final journey began on Sunday 22nd March where a coffin made from Richard’s descendant left the University of Leicester for the last time and placed in a hearse where his journey began. Travelling to Bosworth and the location of Richard’s death he was given a private ceremony before beginning his final journey. A more dignified journey than the last time he was taken from the battlefield, slung naked over a horse where he was attack and abused from the army escorting him to his grave. The cortège travelled through all the local villages whilst heading back towards its final destination of Leicester Cathedral. What started in a car park would end in a Cathedral.

When it was announced that King Richard III would lie in repose until he was re-interred and the public could visit the Cathedral to pay their respects, I was in no doubt, I had to go. So on Tuesday 24th March at 9am I set off for the hour’s drive towards Leicester. I was hoping more than anything that the weather would stay nice and the rain would hold off.

I parked up and consulted the map of how to find my way to the Cathedral, I really didn’t need to do that though as I only had to cross the street to find myself with the end of the vast queue in front of me in Jubilee Gardens. After reading reports from the previous day’s queues I prepared myself for a long wait. However, the queue was moving quite quickly and before I knew it we were the other side of Jubilee Gardens. Whilst here Phillippa Langley joined the queue to talk to a group of Richardians, it was quite strange seeing the lady ultimately responsible for all these events just standing casually chatting to others.

20150324_104724                             The back of the queue in Jubilee Gardens

As the queue began moving towards the Cathedral we soon approached the corner of Peacock Lane and was greeted with the ‘Waiting Time 2 Hours’ sign but we had been previously informed that the queue was moving at a quicker pace and it was be significantly less than the two hours. As we were moving along Peacock Lane many of the team who were involved with the dig for Richard were walking along the queue chatting to those waiting this included Richard Buckley (lead archaeologist), Dr Turi King (genetics analysis) and Jo Appleby (osteology expert).

012                             Richard Buckley talking to the crowds.

It was an honour to see them talking away to everyone and sharing in the experience of the day. Richard Buckley even said that about the interest and events’ surrounding Richard III was “anything beyond what anyone could have ever imagined”. I can understand what he meant, when it was predicting finding Richard was going to be a one in a million chance to then actually finding and identifying him, it’s so unbelievable they must constantly be pinching themselves.

The queue then began its approach towards the Cathedral, via the back of the Channel 4 temporary studio in the corner of the Cathedral Gardens. The queue was so well organised everyone was very patient with the wait and just got on and chatted to others. It was very well managed as well with clear signs as to where to go and how long was left. The Cathedral itself is magnificent and to see the approach adorned with Richard III’s banners and emblems really added to the spectacle of the event and brought medieval history into the present.

010                  Leicester Cathedral adorned by Richard III’s banners.

At 1pm we reached the front of the queue just as a Eucharist was about to begin. The Cathedral was staying open but photos were not allowed so I decided to move to the other queue and wait. So it was another hour but it was worth it. This is probably my only critism of the event we were moved to a smaller area where a queue began to form but as more joined it turned into chaos. It was clear it would be an undignified rush to get into the Cathedral but the security did handle it well even dealing with the few that were annoyed. But with that out my mind and not finding it much of a problem as we would all still get in I finally began my walk into the Cathedral at 2.15pm.

There were so many white roses walking into the Cathedral and walking in the coffin of the last Plantagenet King greeted us, a humbling moment to see history in front of my eyes. The black funeral pall embroidered with Richard’s life to his discovery. On top of the coffin lay a crown designed and commissioned by John Ashdown-Hill especially for the re-internment and also a 15th Century bible. Richard was a very pious man in a time when religion was everything. We were hurried through to keep the queue moving which meant I could not take a minute to think about the man, who controversial as he was, ruled England for just 777 days until I was back outside the Cathedral looking back into the coffin. The coffin was surrounded by a vigil of four retired veterans who did a fantastic job keeping the mortal remains of the King safe with honour.

038                                       King Richard III lying in repose

Leicester Cathedral did an amazing job. The tag line of ‘With dignity and honour’ has certainly been fulfilled by all of those involved.

After seeing Richard III I decided to go to the King Richard III visitor centre. It was also very busy with a small wait until an available slot. The centre itself is an impressive former school building overlooking the car park in which the King was found. To the left of the entrance the group was directed to a small room where a selection of art work was on display that depicted the events of the Wars of the Roses. With the instructions to return to the first room upon hearing the bells tolling we saw an introductory video that shows where the country was just before Richard’s reign began.

The start of the exhibition sees the death of Richard’s brother, Edward IV and the resulting chaos. It doesn’t focus much on the ins and outs of Richard taking the crown. There is a section of the Princes in the Tower, just enough to get you interested in the story so you can research it more when you leave. It swiftly moves onto what Richard achieved as King in his short reign before a good section on the Battle of Bosworth and the events that led to Richard’s death at the hands of the Tudor army.


The next part of the exhibition is via the cafe to warm up after spending so long queuing I needed a hot drink. Once refreshed I continued upstairs where we are to examine the many different interpretations of Richard over the years from Laurence Olivier’s Shakespearean Richard to Aneurin Barnard’s portray in Philippa Gregory’s The White Queen. It was an interesting and thought provoking section as to what we think of Richard. Was he evil? Did he kill the Princes? Or did he do a lot for his country in a short space of time?

Beyond this was the part many wanted to see how King Richard III was found. Many amazing artefacts from the dig accompanied the exhibition including documents that were filled in and the responses from parliament about the exhumation of the bones they found. This led into the science behind the discovery including a replica of the bones for all to see how he was found.

086                  The digger that cleared the tarmac that led to the discovery

The exhibition then led towards the facial reconstruction of Richard, newly updated to incorporate the recent news that he had blue eyes and blonde hair as a child. I saw the replica at Sudeley Castle in 2014 with the dark hair so seeing it now did feel a bit strange with all the portraits and images we have of Richard with dark hair now to see him blonde just didn’t feel right to me.

111                 The updated facial reconstruction of Richard III

With the upstairs part of the exhibition done I headed back downstairs to the highlight of the exhibition, the exact spot where archaeologists found the remains of Richard III. After seeing Richard earlier in the Cathedral to see the place where he was originally laid to rest was special. Seeing the cramped location that Richard was hastily buried in really made me appreciate that he was found and now is being buried in a more dignified and royal way.

121                   The location where Richard was found in Leicester

Both Leicester Cathedral and King Richard III visitor centre did a fantastic job dealing with the crowds and attention that has been received over the last few days and tomorrow (Thursday 26th March) we will see Richard III re-interred with a service befitting a King.

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On this day in 1584 – Sir Walter Raleigh granted a charter to colonise North America

Sir Walter Raleigh was granted a charter by Queen Elizabeth I to colonise an area of North America. The charter specified that a colony was to be established or Raleigh would lose his rights to colonisation.

Elizabeth intended that the venture would bring many treasures and would allow the British to establish a base which they would use to send ships to raid the Spanish ships that were carrying treasure.

By April 1584 Raleigh had set out on expedition and by July a new colony was founded at Roanoke, Virginia to learn their ways and the geography of the area.

All appears to have gone well so a second expedition was arranged led by Sir Richard Grenville in order to gain military and scientific knowledge. Five ships set out from Plymouth but storms meant that one ship, the Tiger, was separated from the others and docked in Puerto Rico. The Tiger set off for Roanoake again on June 7th and slowly began meeting up with other ships from the expedition. On the way the Tiger struck a shoal and much of the food was ruined but still they landed in August 1585 where 107 men disembarked with a promise that Grenville would return in the following April with more men and food supplies.

Grenville’s promised date on which he would return passed and attacks began taking place upon the fort on the island. Sir Francis Drake on his way home from the Caribbean stopped at Roanoake and offered to take the men home. Grenville’s fleet arrived shortly after Drake’s departure with the promising men and food. A small amount of men stayed behind to protect Sir Walter Raleigh’s claim to Roanoake.

Sir Walter Raleigh

On this day in 1603 – Queen Elizabeth I died.

On March 24th 1603 Queen Elizabeth I died, aged 69.

In the years leading to her death she had lost many of the courtiers that were close friends of hers from Robert Devereux, who was executed for treason in 1601 to Robert Dudley, who died in 1588 and was believed to be Elizabeth’s true love. Elizabeth’s most trusted advisor William Cecil died in 1598.

In late 1602 Elizabeth was out walking and caught a chill and began complaining of feeling unwell. Elizabeth retired to Richmond Palace in March and refused to allow the doctors in to examine her, she also refused to take to her bed and rest. Elizabeth would stand for hours and sat occasionally. Elizabeth eventually lay on the floor for four days where she grew weaker and eventually was unable to argue with her ladies in waiting who moved her to her bed. Elizabeth’s Privy Councillors gathered around her in the hope that she would finally name her successor but she was too weak to even talk. Elizabeth signalled to Robert Cecil who understood that it was a sign to name James VI of Scotland as her successor.

Archbishop Whitgift was called to the Queen’s bedside to offer prayers and Elizabeth slowly drifted into sleep and never awoke finally passing away on March 24th. A proclamation was issued to declare Elizabeth’s death and the succession of James VI of Scotland. Due to the way the Elizabethans still followed the Julian calendar Elizabeth actually died on the last day of 1602, with each New Year taking place on 25th March. A new year for a new ruling dynasty.

Elizabeth’s cause of death was never known as no post mortem was carried out however two theories of her death were simply old age or blood poisoning caused by the white lead and vinegar mixture she used upon her skin.

Elizabeth was laid to rest of 28th April 1608 in Westminster Abbey.

Under her leadership England advanced significantly in the Arts through the works of William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe and John Donne. England also explored many new lands through Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Richard Greenville. She also successfully saw off many attempts of invasion from the Spanish. The death of Elizabeth saw the end of the Tudors and she left England in a better place than when she took the throne.

Elizabeth I tomb effigy (digitally altered so railings do not sh                        Tomb of Queen Elizabeth I at Westminster Abbey.

                               Photo courtesy of Westminster Abbey