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On this day in 1562 – John Mordaunt died

John Mordaunt was born in 1480 and was the son of John Mordaunt of Turvey, Bedfordshire who was a speaker of the house.

Mordaunt is first noted in 1503 when he entered Middle temple to train as a lawyer. In the same year Mordaunt was made a Knight of the Bath when Prince Henry was invested as Prince of Wales on 18th February 1503. The following year Mordaunt succeeded his father and inherited his father’s Bedfordshire estates.

In 1509 Mordaunt was appointed as High Sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, at some point he also became a member of King Henry VIII’s court. In 1520 Mordaunt was present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold and in 1526 was admitted as a member of the King’s council. In 1529 Mordaunt was created Baron Mordaunt and just three years later, in 1532, he was able to take his seat in the House of Lords.

Mordaunt died in on 18th August 1562 and was buried next to his late wife, Elizabeth Vere, in Turvey Church.

tomb of John MordauntThe final resting place of John Mordaunt

alongside his wife Elizabeth Vere

Is this Shakespeare or a case of false identity?

On 19th May 2015 at the Rose Theatre, London, it was announced by botanist and historian Mark Griffiths that he had discovered a new likeness of William Shakespeare that had been hidden in plain sight on the pages of John Gerard’s The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes for over 400 years.

Shakespeare country lifeA new image of William Shakespeare as discovered by Mark Griffiths

The image Griffiths believes is now the only portrait that exists of Shakespeare that was made whilst he was still alive and he ages Shakespeare at approximately 33 years old. It all seems quite straightforward so far, the next part of the story feels like it has come straight out of ‘The Da Vinci Code’, Griffiths discovered who the portrait was of only after cracking a Tudor cipher!

Griffiths has shared his story exclusively with Country Life. He explains just how he came to the conclusion that the unidentified man on the page is Shakespeare and how he deciphered the hidden code. It was a midsummer’s night when the lightbulb or should I say candle sparked for Griffiths!

Botiny bookJohn Gerard’s The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Firstly, Griffiths identifies the other three men on the page as John Gerard, the author, Rembert Dodoens and Lord Burghley, Gerard’s patron.

Cipher Country LifeFrom the cipher Griffiths worked out that the 4 at the top of the cipher can be translated as the Latin ‘quarter’ but if you add the E that is positioned next to it that makes quatere, which is Latin ‘to shake’. If you add the diagonal line into the equation to link the 4 and E together it creates a spear so all together Griffiths claims that this clearly means ‘Shakespeare’. However, it doesn’t end there Griffiths states that at the bottom of the cipher is a W which clearly stands for William. Finally, in the centre is OR, which is the heraldic word for the colour Gold, the colour of John Shakespeare’s coat of arms. With all these added together Griffiths claims that the man stood on the fourth plinth is without a doubt William Shakespeare.

The most obvious objection to all this is that the man in the image is wearing Roman attire, why would William Shakespeare be wearing a Roman toga, holding an ear of corn and wearing a laurel wreath around his head? Well, Griffiths claims that it is homage to Apollo.

Why do all four men from different backgrounds appear on the front page of a botany book? Well according to Griffiths Lord Burghley was not only the patron of John Gerard but also William Shakespeare. He claims that it was Burghley who commissioned Shakespeare’s early poems, such as Venus and Adonis and not the Earl of Southampton. This is purely down to the fact that Burghley was Southampton’s guardian and controlled his finances until Southampton turned 21 in 1594. Therefore Burghley paid Shakespeare to write these poems and dedicate them to his ward urging him to marry, preferably his granddaughter, Elizabeth Vere. By claiming that Burghley was Shakespeare’s patron it disproves any theories that the Earl of Oxford was in fact the play writer as Burghley and his son in law Oxford openly disliked each other.

With revelation after revelation being divulged in this issue of Country Life there is still time for one more that armed with all this new information about Shakespeare Griffiths has been able to identify a new play that he now credits Shakespeare as the author of.

Not everybody has backed these new claims. Professor Michael Dobson, director of the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham said;

“I haven’t seen the detailed arguments but Country Life is certainly not the first publication to make this sort of claim. One has seen so many claims on Shakespeare based on somebody claiming to crack a code. And nobody else has apparently been able to decipher this for 400 years. There’s no evidence that anybody thought that this was Shakespeare at the time.”

So if it is not William Shakespeare on the page then just who could it be? Firstly, it could be an entirely fictional character made up by the artist who designed the page. It could even be Dioscorides, a Greek physician and herbalist who served the Roman Legions. His book of herbal knowledge dated 1500 years prior to Gerard’s work.


However one suggestion is that the cipher is in fact the ‘sign of four’, a mark that was used by various merchants in the Elizabethan era and in this case by the printer. The sign of four is clearly seen at the top of the cipher but it is what’s below that relates to who it belongs to. In this case it could be William and John Norton. This is further backed up by Joseph Ames in Typographical Antiquities, 1749;

“This curious folio has the mark of William and John Norton together in a cypher”

What about the two images of William Shakespeare thaShakespeare first foliot we know for certain are of the man himself? The engraving that accompanies the first folio and the effigy of Shakespeare that overlooks his grave in Stratford upon Avon were both commissioned by friends and family after his death. So they must be a true likeness otherwise they surely would not have allowed them into the public domain to accompany not only his work but his final resting place. The121refore you must assume that if it was Shakespeare on the page of Gerard’s book then someone somewhere would have documented this and as Professor Dobson said why has no one else deciphered the code in 400 years!

Above – Shakespeare’s image in the first folio

Right – Shakespeare’s effigy, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford upon Avon

What about the play that Griffiths is claiming is Shakespeare’s work? It is not so much a play but a piece of Elizabethan political propaganda. Queen Elizabeth I visited Lord Burghley at his home Theobalds, Herfordshire on 10th May 1591. It was widely believed that Burghley, now aged 70, would be retiring from his duties as Lord Treasurer and chief minister. Burghley put on a spectacular display, which Elizabeth was a part of. First she was told that Burghley would not permit her entrance unless she handed over a decree that would allow Burghley to continue in his work. This was all via an unnamed actor who was hired for his role in the entertainment.

TheobaldsLord Burghley’s home, Theobalds

During the ten day visit the actor and a colleague appeared to perform in front of the Queen. This according to Griffiths was not only written by but also performed by Shakespeare. The performance consisted of an argument between a mole catcher and a gardener and the possession of a jewelled box. They were both to put their case in front of the Queen over the ownership of the box.

Griffiths believes that this short play was designed around promoting Burghley’s son, Robert Cecil and his suitability to be Sir Francis Walsingham’s replacement as Principal Secretary. The play uses the gardener as a metaphor for Cecil and the garden as England. The mole catcher is a representation of both Burghley and Cecil and the darker side of their roles in terms of espionage. Therefore the play is telling Elizabeth that her country is safe in the hands of the Cecils.

Whether William Shakespeare actually wrote this is unknown, certainly some aspects crop up in later work but as this took place during Shakespeare’s ‘lost years’ we will never know for certain unless some concrete proof is unearthed and not all based around a 400 year old cipher.

On this day in 1500 – William Dacre was born

William Dacre was born on 29th April 1500 to Thomas, Lord Dacre, and his wife Elizabeth Greystoke. Dacre in 1516 became 7th Baron Greystock and in 1525 3rd Baron Dacre after his parent’s death. With the death of his father Dacre also inherited vast lands in Cumberland, Northumberland and Yorkshire.

Dacre married Lady Elizabeth Talbot; the date of the marriage is unknown but believed to have been taken place before 1527.

In 1525 Dacre was serving as captain of Norham and Carlisle when Henry VIII gave the positions to the Earl of Cumberland. Dacre refused to surrender Carlisle Castle and the lands associated with the ward and so Cumberland found it difficult to rule in the county without Dacre. In 1527 Henry VIII finally gave Dacre the position he felt he was owed. Taking control of the ward was not as simple as Cumberland retained Carlisle Castle until 1529.

Dacre held many positions in the North during his life including Steward of Penrith, Warden of the West Marches and Governor of Carlisle.

Dacre did not do anything to stay away from controversy when in 1534 he was accused of holding talks across the border with some Scots during the time of war. As a result a charge of treason was placed upon him and on 15th May 1534 Dacre was taken to the Tower of London where he was tried in Westminster Hall. Dacre defended himself to the judges for several hours and he was acquitted but fined £10,000 by Henry VIII.

With a heavy fine Dacre headed back North where trouble found him again in October 1536 when the Pilgrimage of Grace began to rise. Dacre was approached to lead the rebellion instead Dacre rode to Naworth when he left in November his tenants joined the cause of the Pilgrimage. In February 1537 Dacre again headed north when he was informed of the siege of Carlisle by the Pilgrims but learnt on arrival that his uncle, Sir Christopher Dacre, had dealt with the siege.

Dacre’s loyalty was rewarded by King Henry VIII when he was appointed to the council in the north. The reappointment of the wards was opposed by the Duke of Norfolk who felt that Dacre’s appointment would cause the feud with Cumberland to reignite and so they passed to Sir Thomas Wharton. Dacre was offered keeper of Tynedale, which he refused as he felt it an insult. Dacre was reported to have said that ‘he had rather loose one finger of every hande then to medle therwith’. As a result Henry refused to grant Lanercost Priory to Dacre during the dissolution of the monasteries.

Dacre was finally reappointed to his old posting on 17th April 1549 by King Edward VI’s Lord Protector, Edward Seymour.

During King Edward VI’s reign Dacre actively spoke out against the Book of Common Prayer and oppose a bill that would allow the clergy to marry. As Dacre stood protecting the north of the country against the Scottish he had some persuasion in the reformation of the country. However, when John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, was appointed Protector he swiftly made peace with Scotland and the reformation picked up its pace. As a result Dacre would again lose his wardenship.

With the death of the King, Dacre threw his support against Mary, a fellow Catholic. With Mary succeeding over Lady Jane Grey she was quick to restore Dacre to his former posting as a reward for his support.

With Mary’s death and the countries return to Protestantism Dacre saw him once again lose his wardenship under the new Queen Elizabeth.

In November 1563 Dacre fell ill at Kirkoswald and three days later died. He was buried in Carlisle Cathedral on 14th December following a traditional Catholic procession and burial.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACarlisle Cathedral – final resting place of William Dacre.

Theatre Review – Love’s Labour’s Lost at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

Love’s Labour’s Lost – RSC, Stratford upon Avon, 28th February 2015


What happens if four men sign an oath swearing to not see a woman and commit to three years of studying and fasting? What if those four men forget that a Princess of France and her ladies are due to visit the court in just a few days? The answer hilarious consequences and hijinks.

The Royal Shakespeare Company has teamed up the slap stick comedy with Much Ado About Nothing, playing under the name of the highly rumoured missing play Love’s Labour’s Won. Love’s Labour’s Lost is set pre World War I in the Edwardian era.

The King of Navarre and his fellow companions in study Berowne, Dumaine and Longaville played by Sam Alexander, Edward Bennett, Tunji Kasim and William Belchambers respectively fall into their roles as the opening scenes see them debating and discussing the oath that they are about to sign. Just as soon as the oath is signed and the punishment for breaking the oath is declared the men are reminded that the Princess of France is due to visit the court, this surely means that they will instantly break their oaths. Instead meet lodge the ladies outside the court in a field and meet them there, ensuring that the oath remains intact. Well that is until they see them!

Berowne and Rosaline’s first meeting, in a play where language is powerful and conveys double meanings, are a meeting of wits. However, Michelle Terry’s Rosaline in harsher in her words than I have ever interpreted before and is almost mocking Edward Bennett’s Berowne for showing an interest in her. I personally imagined that Berowne and Rosaline’s conversations were more flirtatious and jovial than they come across on stage.

John Hodgkinson’s passionate Spainiard Don Armando provides many laughs alongside his brilliantly underpraised page, Peter McGovern and when they are combined with Nick Haverson’s Costard it is a case of amazing casting. Nick Haverson as Costard completely steals every scene he is in, his comedic timing is spot on and he plays the hapless fool to many laughs from the audience. Haverson was very nearly the star of the show had it not been for the Dumaine’s teddy during the scene whether they each learn that the others have broken their oath almost as soon as they had made it. Set atop an elaborate rooftop each of the men reveal through letters, sonnets and talking to their teddy just how they feel about the ladies who have entered their court. Bennett’s Berowne shines here throwing in his quips as each man talks whilst concealing his own feelings. However, it is teddy, in his dressing gown to match his owner that gets the loudest laughs. Why replicas were not being sold in the shop is beyond me, the RSC would have a queue of people wanting to buy the adorable little bear!

Loves-Labours-Lost-2014-13-541x361                            Photo courtesy of Manuel Harlan and The RSC

With Berowne’s quick thinking talking them out of their oaths, the men decide to dress as Muscavites and visit the ladies. Along with this is the most elaborate song and dance that praises the women and their beauty. It was good to see so much effort go into the Russian entertainment with past productions just having the men doing a little jig on stage before carrying on with the scene, you can tell that a lot of effort went into getting this right and as such it really pays off. Jamie Newell’s wonderfully elegant and sometimes sarcastic Boyet, having informed the ladies of the impending imposters help them trick the haplessly in love men into declaring intents to the wrong women. When they return as themselves Leah Whitaker’s highly intelligent Princess of France and her ladies openly mock and exposes the men. The men apologise and all is righted with them learning that they have been tricked themselves. They settle down to watch a very amateur production of the Nine Worthies put on by Don Armado, Costard and companions. Full of wonderful costumes, forgotten lines and a fight between Costard and Don Armado, the play within a play could almost be staged independently.

The leisurely entertainment is interrupted by news that the Princess’ father has died and they must return to France. An unusual end to what is often portrayed as a comedy. The men are told to wait a year and a day to prove their love and that they will not break it as easily as their oaths to study. A harsh ending made worse when the King and his men return in full soldier uniforms as they head off to fight in World War I. A reminder that promises were broken at that time and that love was a difficult emotion to contain.

For a play that is about love, emotion and broken oaths the language is as important as the ideas behind the play. Misunderstanding and double meanings turn situations on their heads. The verbal jousting between lovers can be interpreted as jovial courtly love or the women mocking the men and accusing them of being false, which is how it felt at times in this production.

The impressive set, based on nearly Charlecote Park, looks like it could be straight out of Downton Abbey, really adds to the feel of the play, four gentlemen relaxing and shutting themselves away in a sumptuous house to understand the world in which they live in. The costumes as well were dazzling, in particular the ladies during the Muscavites scene, the sparkling jewel encrusted dresses and large statement pieces of jewellery kept catching my eye throughout the scene. Love’s Labour’s Lost and Love’s Labour’s Won compliment each other perfectly and that is down, I think, to the marvellous direction of Christopher Luscombe who has put on the two plays in a beautiful tribute to the centenery of the Great War.


Love’s Labour’s Lost is running at the RST in Stratford upon Avon until 14th March and special encore screenings are taking place in selected cinemas, with a dvd release most likely scheduled for later in the year.

The origins of the Tudor dynasty.

The Tudor’s are one of history’s most famous families and their association with Wales stems back to their origins all the way to Henry Tudor landing in Dale to begin his march towards Bosworth and the crown.

The earliest Tudors date back to 1240 where they were landowners in Four Cantrels (later Denbigh) and later served Llywelyn ab lorwerth. Ednyfed Fychan, steward to the Prince, married a daughter of Lord Rhys and his sons also followed into representing the Prince of Gwynedd. One of these sons was Tudur ap Ednyfed (Tudur son of Ednyfed) whose service was rewarded with land in North Wales, where the Tudor dynasties origins begin.

When Edward I successes the English throne in 1272 he set his sights on conquering Wales and the descendants of Ednyfed saw that it would be more beneficial for them to support the new King. Their decision to switch sides paid off when Edward I took control of the country. However, not everyone in the family was happy with the new King and they joined a failed rebellion against the monarch. One of these rebels was Tudur Hen, Lord of Penmyndd, who quickly swore his allegiance to Edward of Caernarfon and when he died his land passed to his son Goronwy ap Tudur (Goronwy son of Tudur).

Tudur Hen had five sons, they all held positions of importance in North Wales. They were all loyal to the current King, Richard II and two of the brothers Rhys and Gwilym served the King in Ireland whilst on campaign. Richard II was deposed in 1399 by his cousin Henry Bolingbroke, Henry IV. Unhappy with Richard II being usurped the Tudur’s cousin Owain Glyndwr initiated a Welsh uprising against the new King. At first the rebellion was a success with many Welsh lands gained, however in 1401 Henry Percy issued an amnesty to all Welsh rebels except Owain Glyndwr, Rhys ap Tudur and Gwilym ap Tudur. The Tudur brothers were later pardoned after they were captured at Conwy castle. The third Tudur brother Maredydd had his land confiscated and was removed from his positions.

Maredydd ap Tudur married Margaret ferch Thomas and they had a son named Owen ap Tudur ap Maredydd. In an attempt to turn the Tudur families fortunes around they moved to London and Owen, aged seven, was sent to the English court of Henry IV acting as a page. Owen now also went by the name Owen Tudor to make his sound more anglicised by having a surname. Owen also went on the serve Henry V and fought at Agincourt in 1415.

After the death of Henry V in 1422 Owen was appointed the keeper of the wardrobe to the Dowager Queen, Catherine of Valois. The story goes that they met and fell in love when he tripped over and fell into her lap, although this is unproven. The soon married, however it broke a law that stated that the King’s permission was required. Owen and Catherine had two sons, Edmund and Jasper who grew up in the court of their half brother Henry VI. They were granted the Earldoms of Richmond and Pembroke respectively and in return they remained loyal to the King and the House of Lancaster. Owen Tudor went on to lead Lancastrian armies during the Wars of the Roses and was ultimately captured during the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross by Edward, Earl of March (later Edward IV).

His sons Edmund and Jasper continued to fight for Henry VI. In 1455 Edmund was married to Lady Margaret Beaufort, descendant of John of Gaunt through his illegitimate children. Edmund Tudor died from the plague two months before his son was born. This child would grow up to become King Henry VII.

Henry VIII Margaret Beaufort

         Henry Tudor as King Henry VII and his mother Margaret Beaufort

During Henry VI’s reign, Jasper was charged with maintaining Lancastrian ties in Wales and also looked after his widowed sister in law and her infant, Henry. Upon Edward IV’s ascension and the rise of the House of York, Jasper remained loyal to Henry VI and his Queen Margaret of Anjou. Once Henry VI was captured and murdered and the Lancastrian cause temporarily lost. Jasper fled from Tenby, Wales with the young Henry and they fled to Brittany in order to keep Henry safe. Jasper taught and trained Henry. Jasper was always gaining support for the Lancastrian claim to the throne whilst Henry’s mother was promoting her son as the heir to the Lancastrian throne.

Jasper, Henry and 2000 men set sail from Harfleur, France on 1st August 1485 and landed in Dale on the west coast of Wales. They marched towards Richard III’s army capturing town and gaining more and more supporters as they went finally meeting on Bosworth battlefield on the 22nd August. Where Richard III was killed in battle and it saw the end of the Plantagenet rule and the rise of the Tudors to the throne.

403           The winning Lancastrian army kneel down to their new King.