Tag Archives: Castle

A-Z Challenge.

20130417-193509.jpg is for Pontefract Castle and the three executions of June 1483.

On the morning of June 25th 1483 three men, one a brother and one a son of the recently widowed Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, the other, an elder statesman, were executed by beheading at Pontefract Castle (sometimes known as Pomfret Castle)

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20130418-193718.jpg Pontefract Castle in the 14th Century

The brother was Antony Woodville, Earl Rivers. A learned, pious man and known for his chivalric interests, he had served the late King, Edward 1V well for many years. In 1473 the king had appointed Antony as governor to his son and heir; and nephew and uncle had lived at Ludlow Castle in Shropshire since that time.

20130419-211344.jpg Antony Woodville Earl Rivers

The son was Sir Richard Grey and also half-brother to the twelve year old prince of Wales.

The elder statesman was Sir Thomas Vaughan who had served the prince since infancy and was his chamberlain. Sir Thomas had also been a loyal Yorkist for well over two decades.

Brass of Sir Thomas Vaughan

The events that led to the executions began on April 9, 1483, with the death of Edward IV. Edward V was but twelve years of age at the time of his father’s death. The chronicler Mancini indicates that Edward IV had named his brother Richard in his will as the young king’s protector, but the Crowland chronicler does not indicate any such arrangement, and Edward IV’s will is not extant to confirm or deny it. What emerges when Mancini and Crowland’s accounts are read together is that Edward IV’s councilors did not want the family of the queen, Elizabeth Woodville, to dominate the new king’s government, but that some were also reluctant to see Gloucester in sole control. The councilors did agree on a coronation date of May 4, and Crowland reports that Elizabeth Woodville advised her brother Rivers, who would be taking Edward IV to London, to appease the opposition on the council by having no more than two thousand men escort the new king into London.

Both Edward V himself and Richard were far away from London when Edward IV died. Edward V was with his household at Ludlow, under the supervision of Rivers. Richard was at Middleham in the north, where his power base lay. Both men began heading toward London, as did the Duke of Buckingham. Though Buckingham was a wealthy man, he had never played a prominent part in the government of Edward IV, and he seems to have seized upon the death of Edward IV as an opportunity to extend his influence.

Gloucester, Buckingham, and Rivers had agreed to meet somewhere along the way so that the king’s entry to the city might be more magnificent. On April 29, Gloucester and Buckingham each arrived at Northampton, while Rivers, along with the king and his escort, went further south to Stony Stratford. The young king was awaiting Richard at Stony Stratford with a small household, having dispersed most of his attendants even closer to the city so that there would be more space for his uncle when he arrived.

Leaving the king behind at Stony Stratford, Rivers, and perhaps Richard Grey, backtracked to Northampton and met Gloucester and Buckingham there. By all accounts, the men passed a convivial evening, and Rivers stayed the night. He could not have suspected that it was the last night he would spend as a free man. But that was the case: the next morning, Rivers was taken prisoner by Gloucester and Buckingham.

Richard Grey was also taken prisoner on April 30, either at the same time as Rivers or later in Stony Stratford, where Gloucester and Buckingham rode to meet the king. There, Edward V’s chamberlain, Thomas Vaughan, was also seized. The shocked king was informed by Gloucester and Buckingham that his attendants were conspiring against him and that Gloucester was the man best suited to serve as protector. The young king made a spirited speech in defense of his men, but realized that he had no choice but to agree to Gloucester’s plans for him. The royal attendants who had not been arrested were ordered to disperse. Leaderless without Rivers, they obeyed.

Gloucester, Buckingham, and the king proceeded to London, reaching it the day of the planned coronation, which never took place. In response to reports that he had seized the king with the intent of gaining his crown, Gloucester had sent letters to the council and to the mayor of London stating that he had rescued the king from his enemies. Gloucester also put four cartloads of weapons in front of the king’s procession, claiming that they had been stored outside the capital by the queen’s family to use against Gloucester himself. Contemporary reports show that many knew this charge to be false, as the weapons had been stored when war was being waged against Scotland.

Was there a conspiracy to ambush Gloucester? Personally, I think it unlikely; as really, why would Rivers go back to Northampton to meet with Gloucester and Buckingham. And why did he spend the evening eating and drinking with them and then allow himself to be persuaded to spend the night there?

I believe that, had Rivers intended to get the King to London before Gloucester arrived there, he would have refused to stay in Northampton and gone back to Stony Stratford as soon as possible. To act as he did if he was plotting any wrong-doing he would have to have been either very naive or very stupid. I really don’t think Antony was either. Perhaps he was a little too trusting of a man he felt he had no reason not to trust.

However, next morning, Rivers, Grey, and Vaughan were parted and swiftly sent north; Rivers to Sheriff Hutton, Grey to Middleham, and Vaughan to Pontefract. Richard Haute, Edward V’s comptroller, seems to have been arrested and imprisoned as well, though he was apparently pardoned.

What happened next is well known. Plans, in good faith or otherwise, were made for Edward V’s coronation, and Edward V was lodged in the Tower, soon to be joined by his younger brother. On June 13, 1483, William Hastings, Edward IV’s chamberlain and closest friend, was executed without trial. Soon it was put about first that Edward IV was a bastard, then (more successfully) that he had been pre-contracted to an Eleanor Butler before his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville and that the children of that marriage were therefore bastards. With Edward V’s impending deposition and the council terrorized into docility by the execution of Hastings and the arrests of others, there was nothing standing in the way of the executions of Rivers, Grey, and Vaughan. The future Richard III therefore ordered their deaths.

The day before their executions, Rivers and Grey were moved to join Vaughan at Pontefract, where the Earl of Northumberland and Sir Richard Ratcliff presided over their executions, witnessed by troops making their way toward London at Gloucester’s command in case trouble arose over Gloucester’s claim to the throne.

Some sources report Vaughan on his way to the block as speaking of a prophecy that “G” would destroy Edward IV’s children, but it is highly unlikely that any of the men would have been allowed to hold forth in this fashion with an audience present. Probably the prisoners were silent as they were led to the block or confined their words to prayer.

The beheaded bodies were supposedly stripped ( where it was discovered that Rivers was wearing a hair shirt beneath his fine clothes) and thrown into a common grave at a nearby monastery. This report may not be altogether true, though, as Vaughan ultimately came to rest in Westminster Abbey. It is possible, of course, that his body was retrieved after Richard III’s own fall. The inscription on his tomb read, “To love and wait upon,” a motto that describes Vaughan’s service far more aptly than Richard’s “Loyaulte me lie.” (Loyalty Binds Me) By executing with little or no cause the men to whom his brother Edward IV had entrusted the care of his son, Richard had proven his loyalty to his brother and to his brother’s heir to be a very transient thing.

20130419-224358.jpg Pontefract Castle ruins with Ferrybridge power station in the background

A-Z Challenge

20130416-223150.jpg is for Orford, its castle and The Merman.

20130416-225004.jpg Standing high and proud on its mound on the western edge of the village of Orford in Suffolk is Orford Castle.

Built by Henry 11 between 1165 and 1173, The Pipe Rolls record that the castle was built at a cost of £1414 9s 2d as a symbol of the King’s power and to guard the Suffolk coast from the threat of invasion by the French. Orford is also the earliest
castle in England for which documented evidence of its building still survives.

The magnificent polygonal keep is the only standing structure to survive and, standing 30 metres high is in surprisingly good condition and is built from at least four different kinds of stone. Blocks of septaria, a local sandy coloured mudstone, and limestone from Northamptonshire; as well as Caen stone and Coralline Crag

20130417-140310.jpg At the time of the castle’s construction, Orford was a significant Medieval port exporting wool (an important trade in Suffolk) and lead to Europe and it seems that the castle may have had a function in the control of the trade; collecting duties and safeguarding the money. Indeed, one of the chambers in the great tower was probably a treasury and a chamber in one of the turrets was a ‘muniment’ room where records were made and stored.

Significantly, this room does not have a fireplace but was warmed by the fire in the lower hall. This would not only keep the parchment rolls dry but would also lessen the risk of fires breaking out and destroying important documents. No wonder Orford’s records have survived so well with such for-thought by its designers and builders…and hurrah and huzzah for them I say.

20130417-144032.jpg The interior

20130417-144446.jpg The chapel & Great Hall. How they may have looked

20130417-144646.jpg The Chapel Today

During the reign of Henry 11 (1154-1189) a very curious incident occurred at Orford. Some local fishermen caught what they believed to be a merman in their nets. The poor thing was naked and had a long shaggy beard and was otherwise hairless apart from a very hairy chest.

The fishermen took the creature to the castle where he was immediately thrown into the dungeons.
He was, according to Medieval chronicler Ralph of Coggeshall, happy to eat anything that was given to him, but if it was raw, the man squeezed all the juice out of it first. He did not speak even when he was hung up by his feet and tortured in an attempt to force him. This torturing of the poor soul was a regular occurrence according to Ralph.

He was allowed to exercise in the sea only when nets had been placed across the harbour entrance. But he escaped by diving beneath the nets and swimming out to sea where he proceeded to taunt his captors by rearing up again and again and then plunging back into the sea.

Then, unexpectedly, the wild man returned to his captors to resume life on land. But interest in him waned and the guards became lax and some months later he dove under the nets and was never seen again.

Legend has it that the ghost of the merman still haunts the castle of Orford, where inside you will find a model of this legendary Man of the Sea covered in hair with his long shaggy beard. Orford Castle is now managed by English Heritage.

20130417-150929.jpg The Orford Merman

St Mary’s Church and Castle, North Bay, Scarborough, North Yorkshire.

As a follow on to the post, In Another Life I thought readers may like to see some images of the places which have, over the years made me feel so melancholy and sad. Merely looking at these photos is enough to generate those feelings of gloom and doom.

Perhaps these were the places frequented by two young men in the early days of the last century; where they grew up and played together as children. And later when they fell in love, perhaps they met at some of these places for secret lovers trysts. Not the church of course but the brooding castle ruins where the only witnesses were the ghosts of the past, the only sound the plaintive cry of the seagulls wheeling over head and the distant muffled roar of the North Sea swelling, ebbing and flowing far below.

Maybe now, they too have joined those ranks of ghosts from the past. And if you care to walk there at twilight, that magical time when the spiritual world can be seen oh so fleetingly by mortal eyes, you may, if you’re very quiet and still, witness something unimaginably beautiful. Two young men,their feet barely skimming the ground, run towards each other, and meeting they embrace. And so closely do they hold each other that, melded thus, they appear almost as one. They kiss so tenderly, their faces radiant with the joy of reunion and love and forgiveness.

Then, just before the twilight is swallowed up by full dark, the lovers end their embrace and hand in hand they wander slowly towards the cliff edge, where, after one last gentle kiss and amidst the swirl and chill of an approaching sea fret, they disappear; and all that can be heard in the ensuing silence is the sobbing of the gulls and the distant roar of the sea.

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Antony’s Last Poem.



In my story Somewhat Musing Antony is writing something which his squire, Robert cannot see properly. But he (Robert) describes how his master is writing in a column, left to right and down and down. Dipping the quill in to the ink pot and back to paper as he writes on and on in an attempt to transfer to paper his musings on the fickleness of Fate and Fortune.

This is the poem which I imagined he was writing. It is said that Antony wrote the poem at Pontefract Castle on the eve of his execution, but I like to think he did so while still at Sheriff Hutton.

After his execution on the 25th June 1483, and when his body was stripped prior to burial Antony was found to be wearing a hair shirt under his clothes.

He and his nephew Sir Richard Grey, and Sir Thomas Vaughan were thrown, un coffined into a communal grave at a nearby monastery.


Here is the poem in a more readable form as the photo above is a little blurred.

Somewhat musing
And more mourning,
In remembering
This world being
Of such wheeling,
Me contrarying,
What may I guess?

I fear, doubtless,
Is now to seize
My woeful chance;
For unkindness,
And no redress,
Me doth advance.

With displeasure,
To my grievance,
And no surance
Of remedy;
Lo, in this trance,
Now in substance,
Such is my dance,
Willing to die.

Methinks truly
Bounden am I,
And that greatly,
To be content;
Seeing plainly
Fortune doth wry
All contrary
From mine intent.

My life was lent
Me to one intent.
It is nigh spent.
Welcome, Fortune!
But I ne went [neer thought]
Thus to be shent [ruined]
But she it meant;
Such is her won [custom].

Image by Oscarimages<br

Somewhat Musing (part two)


Sheriff Hutton Castle, Yorkshire, June 1483

‘My lord, do you not think you should rest’, I ask, filling his cup with the wine which was brought for us earlier, ‘we do have a long journey ahead of us come morning’.
Raising his head he grins at me, ‘Ah, but Rob, you do forget that tomorrow’s journey will be as nothing compared to that which is to come…later’.

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