Return to Home

Ricardian Castles!

We spent the day out with the curator of European Edged Weapons from the Royal Armories in Leeds today. He took a bus load of us around to a church and two castles that are associated with Richard III. (The King that they found under the car park in Leicester last year.) Okay, now, I think for you to be properly impressed, we are going to have to recap a little. I mean, off the top of your head, do you know who Richard III is? Uh-huh. I thought so.

Okay, so after the Black Death (you remember that, 1/3 to 1/2 of everybody dies of the plague in the fourteenth century?). Well after that, there is a bit of a dust up over the throne. There is a Richard (but not OUR Richard that we're talking about today), anyway, so there is a Richard on the throne, and a Henry takes it away from him. (That's Richard II and Henry IV.) So Henry has a baby and names him Henry —Royals, they do this. So Henry V is the King in the splendid Shakespeare play by that name. (Surely you've seen the Kenneth Brannaugh version? If not, stop now and put it on your Netflix list.) Eventually Henry V has a son and names him— wait for it— Henry.

So, that all looks like it's worked out, pretty well. These new Lancaster "Henrys" have just replaced the old line of kings. But it turns out not to be that simple. Eventually, baby Henry grows up to be Henry VI, and he has bouts of madness. When he's having one of those bouts, he's really, really not a good manager of the Kingdom. That leaves a spot open for a family called the Yorks, who also have royal blood, to raise rebellion because of Henry's mismanagement. This is where OUR Richard comes in. The Duke of York, who is fighting against Henry VI, has three sons— Edward, George, and Richard (OUR Richard).

So to just run through it all really quick— Papa York dies fighting. Edward picks up the banner, sees three suns in the sky one day (a parhelion/sun dogs), continues to fight, and eventually becomes King.

George turns out to be a fink and his brother (who is now King) has him executed. (Legend says they drowned him in a barrel of Malmsey wine).

Richard, the baby brother, turns out to be really loyal to his brother and hideously competent at "taking care of" the Scotts in the North of England. So his brother makes him the Duke of Gloucester and lets him marry a wealthy heirress named Anne Neville. (Her Dad helped put Edward on the throne.)

Okay, so is this starting to ring a bell yet? Richard, the Duke of Glouchester?

Alright, alright. A couple of more tidbits. So Edward has LOTS of children, and it looks like Richard wouldn't be in line to be king at all. But when his brother dies, a quandry comes out. Was Edward really married or not? Now in Oklahoma if you shack up with a woman and have a dozen kids—you are married whether you like it or not. But in the Middle Ages, that's not neccessarily the case. If you can't prove the marriage is legal, then the kids don't inherit.

This is where it all gets fuzzy. Is Richard a bad guy? Did he have his brother's children declared illigitimate just to get the throne, or were the accusations true? Was his brother already married to someone else when he married the mother of his children? And what about their two oldest boys? Richard puts them under his protection in the Tower of London, but then that's not that weird, because that's where the royal family lives sometimes. But here's the squidgy bit— the boys disappear. (They are known as "The Princes in the Tower.") Did Richard have them killed? Or did he just get blamed for it years later for political reasons?

See— that's the Richard III I'm talking about. (If you want a fun who-dunnit quick-read that is "pro-Richard," read Josphine Tey's The Daughter of Time.)

So the two castles and the church were places where Richard III and Anne, his queen lived or prayed or went to.

More details tomorrow, but for tonight, a few pics.

Trail up to the Timber Castle Site
Trail up to the Timber Castle Site
Our guide had us plow off into underbrush at both castles. Here he's taking us to the original castle at Sheriff Hutton, which was timber. It's no longer there, but the site still is.
The stone castle of Sheriff Hutton
The stone castle of Sheriff Hutton
This castle was built in 1383 next door to the timber castle. Our guide, Bob, said that around the 17th century, they just kind of let the castle go to seed.
From the top windows
From the top windows
Standing in a room looking out the top windows, you could have seen York Minster, which is miles away.
Recycling the stone
Recycling the stone
Once the castle was being "let go", the local townspeople started taking away blocks from it to make their houses.
The inner court
The inner court
The inner court of Sheriff Hutton is really impressively large. You could ride a horse around in it.
Erin Watching
Erin Watching
The four round shields over the door are the four generations of Neville's that had the castle. The one on the right is Anne Neville's father, the one who helped put Edward on the throne, the one they call "The King Maker."