Jul 182017
 

On this date in 1555, Mary I granted the College of Arms a new house called Derby Place or Derby House and a new charter. The College is still more or less in the same place under much the same charter, although the College’s fortunes have come and gone over the years. The College of Arms, also known as the College of Heralds, is a royal corporation consisting of professional officers of arms, with jurisdiction over England, Wales, Northern Ireland and some Commonwealth countries. The heralds are appointed by the British Sovereign and are delegated authority to act on behalf of the Crown in all matters of heraldry, the granting of new coats of arms, genealogical research, and the recording of pedigrees. The College is also the official body responsible for matters relating to the flying of flags on land, and it maintains the official registers of flags and other national symbols. Though a part of the Royal Household of the United Kingdom, the College is self-financed, unsupported by any public funds. I have to say that I despise the hereditary monarchy, hereditary privilege and all their trappings, including heraldic design, flag duties and all the rest of it. But there was a time in my boyhood when heraldry held my interest, along with ancient calligraphy, historical naval uniforms, and a host of other more or less useless things that now clutter up the dusty attic of my brain.  So, I’ll give the College of Arms its day in the sun.

At one time the College of Arms was an extremely important body, because it was responsible for the validation of hereditary rights to titles and property, including the right to be king or queen of England. For Mary I this function of the College was of supreme importance, not only because she had been declared illegitimate by her father, Henry VIII, when he invalidated his marriage to her mother, Catherine of Aragon, but also because certain factions in England were intent on putting Lady Jane Grey on the throne instead of her, and heralds of the College of Arms had dutifully certified that Jane was the legitimate heir to the throne and not Mary. Mary had an army, most of the citizens of London, and other powerful factions on her side, and, so, won the day without too much trouble – beheading Jane and her supporters into the bargain for their troubles. The officers of the College were also, of course, in a certain amount of hot water for backing Jane instead of Mary, but they pleaded that they had been forced to act under threat of death, so Mary, in an uncharacteristic act of mercy, pardoned them, and gave them a new house and a new charter, no doubt assuming they would be on better behavior thereafter. The thing is that in the turbulent times of the Wars of the Roses (when the crown changed hands multiple times), followed by the reigns of the Tudors and then the Stuarts, the succession to the throne was constantly in doubt, and the support of the College of Arms was vital on many occasions.

The College of Arms was originally founded by royal charter in 1484 by King Richard III, the first year of his reign.  The College had several functions related to heraldry and genealogical claims. Richard’s royal charter outlines the constitution of the College’s officers, their hierarchy, the privileges conferred upon them and their jurisdiction over all heraldic matters in the kingdom of England. The College was also granted a house named Coldharbour (formerly Poulteney’s Inn) on Upper Thames Street in the parish of All-Hallows-the-Less, for storing records and living space for the heralds. The house, built by Sir John de Pulteney, four times Lord Mayor of London, was said to be one of the greatest in the City of London, testifying to the College’s importance as supporters of Richard’s claim to the throne and of his grants of titles to his allies.

Unfortunately for the College, Richard was defeated and killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field by Henry Tudor who was crowned Henry VII soon after the battle, inaugurating the troubled house of Tudor. Henry’s first Parliament of 1485 passed an Act of Resumption, in which large grants of crown properties made by Richard to his allies were cancelled, and Coldharbour was taken from the College and given to Henry’s mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, for life. As a result, the heralds were left destitute and many of their books and records were lost. Nonetheless, the heralds’ position at the royal court remained, and they were compelled by Henry to attend him at all times (in rotation).

During the reign of Henry’s son, Henry VIII, the heralds were of supreme importance in a number of areas. Henry VIII was fond of pomp and magnificence, and thus gave the heralds plenty of opportunity to exercise their roles in his court. In addition, the members of the College were also expected to be regularly dispatched to foreign courts on missions, whether to declare war, accompany armies, summon garrisons or deliver messages to foreign potentates and generals. During his magnificent meeting with Francis I of France at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520, Henry VIII brought with him 18 officers of arms, probably all he had, to regulate the many tournaments and ceremonies held there.

Nevertheless, the College’s petitions to the King and to the Duke of Suffolk in 1524 and 1533 for the return of their chapter house were rejected, and the heralds were left to hold chapter in whichever palace the royal court happened to be at the time. They even resorted to meeting at each other’s houses, at various guildhalls and even a hospital. It was also in this reign in 1530, that Henry VIII conferred on the College one of its most important duties for almost a century, the heraldic visitation. The provincial Kings of Arms were commissioned under a royal warrant to enter all houses and churches and given authority to deface and destroy all arms unlawfully used by any knight, esquire, or gentleman. Around the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries this duty became even more necessary as the monasteries were previously repositories of local genealogical records. From then on, all genealogical records and the duty of recording them was subsumed by the College. These visitations were serious affairs, and many individuals were charged and heavily fined for breaking the law of arms. Hundreds of these visitations were carried out well into the 17th century; the last was in 1686.

And so we get to Mary I. Although it must have been embarrassing for both sides, after the heralds initially proclaimed the right of her rival Lady Jane Grey to the throne. When King Edward VI died on 6 July 1553, Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed queen four days later, first in Cheapside then in Fleet Street by two heralds, trumpets blowing before them. However, when popular support swung to Mary’s side, the Lord Mayor of London and his councils accompanied by the Garter King of Arms, two other heralds, and four trumpeters returned to Cheapside to proclaim Mary’s ascension as rightful queen instead. The College’s excuse was that they were compelled in their earlier act by the Duke of Northumberland (Lady Jane’s father-in-law, who was later executed), an excuse that Mary accepted.

Mary and her husband (and co-sovereign) Philip II of Spain then set about granting the College a new house called Derby Place or Derby House, under a new charter, dated 18 July 1555 at Hampton Court Palace. The charter stated that the house would: “enable them [the College] to assemble together, and consult, and agree amongst themselves, for the good of their faculty, and that the records and rolls might be more safely and conveniently deposited.” The charter also reincorporated the three kings of arms, six heralds and all other heralds and pursuivants, and their successors, into a corporation with perpetual succession.

Derby Place was situated in the parish of St Benedict and St Peter, south of St Paul’s Cathedral, more or less on the College’s present location. There are records of the heralds carrying out modifications to the structure of Derby Place over many years. However, little record of its appearance has survived, except the description that the buildings formed three sides of a quadrangle, entered through a gate with a portcullis on the west side. On the south range, roughly where Queen Victoria Street now stands, was a large hall on the western end. Derby Place’s hearth tax bill from 1663, discovered in 2009 at the National Archives at Kew, showed that the building had about thirty-two rooms, which were the workplace as well as the home to eleven officers of arms.

The College had its work cut out for it under the Tudors and Stuarts. Of the ruling monarchs, Mary I, Elizabeth I, Charles II, William III and Mary II, and Anne all died without direct heirs, and throughout Tudor and Stuart times, not to mention the Civil Wars, hereditary titles and property were in a constant state of flux. Under the Hanoverian Georges down to the present day, things in those quarters have been much more orderly and the College has gradually subsided into a largely ceremonial role (with ups and downs from time to time). Unless you are in danger of inheriting a castle from a distant relative, or you are intrigued by the archaic language and honors associated with coats of arms, this post will be about the sum total of your interest in, and knowledge of, the College of Arms.

Here’s 2 Tudor recipes for salmon.  It’s not rocket science to translate them into usable recipes for the modern kitchen:

Salmon Sallet for fish days From Thomas Dawson’s The Good Huswifes Jewell (1585, 1594, and 1596)

‘Salmon cut long waies with slices of onyons upon it layd and upon that to cast Violets, Oyle and Vineger’.

Here my main question is how the salmon is prepared first. I assume this is not a Tudor version of sashimi and that the salmon is cooked and then chilled before serving. I’d grill it with sliced onions, cool, then lay on violets, and sprinkle over oil and vinegar.

Salmon Rostyd in sauce  From Gentyll Manly Cokere, MS Pepys 1047 (c1490)

‘Samon rostyd in sause. Cut thy salmon in round pieces and roast it on a grid iron. Take wine and powder of cinnamon and draw them through a strainer. Add thereto onions minced small. Boil it well. Take vinegar or verjuice and powder of ginger and salt. Add thereto. Lay the salmon in dishes and pour the syrup thereon and serve forth’.

 

May 032016
 

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Today is the birthday (1446) of Margaret of York  – also by marriage known as Margaret of Burgundy – the duchess of Burgundy as the third wife of Charles the Bold, and protector of the duchy after his death. She was a daughter of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, and the sister of two kings of England, Edward IV and Richard III. She was born at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire in England, and she died at Mechelen in Flanders, an important center for the duchy of Burgundy in the 15th century. What follows is my usual dribble about historical events and machinations centered on Margaret. But I can sum it up in a simple generalization, and you can skip to my recipe for white asparagus if you are not interested in the details. Nations such as England, France, Belgium, and Holland were not created by God soon after he separated sea and dry land on the third day of creation; they are artifacts of history emerging from an incredibly complex series of events occurring over hundreds of years. In the 15th century circumstances were remarkably fluid, with kingdoms and duchies vying for territory, money, and power. Sometimes women were simply pawns in the game, being used simply as marriage partners to cement ties between power blocs.  Margaret refused to be a pawn; she wanted to be an active agent for change and to be actively involved in contemporary  power relationships.

Duchess Isabella of Burgundy, the mother of Charles the Bold, was, through her blood-ties and her perception of Burgundian interests, pro-English. As a granddaughter of John of Gaunt, she was consequently sympathetic to the House of Lancaster. She believed that Burgundian trade, from which the duchy drew its vast wealth, depended upon friendly relations with England. For this reason she was prepared to favor any English faction which was willing to favor Burgundy. By 1454, she favored the House of York, headed by Margaret’s father, Richard, 3rd Duke of York. Although the King of England, Henry VI, was the head of the House of Lancaster, his wife, Margaret of Anjou, was a niece of Burgundy’s bitter enemy, Charles VII of France, and was herself an enemy of the Burgundians. The Duke of York, by contrast, shared Burgundy’s enmity towards the French, and preferred the Burgundians. Thus, when the Duke of York came to power in 1453–54, during Henry VI’s first period of insanity, negotiations were made between himself and Isabella for a marriage between Charles the Bold, then Count of Charolais, and one of York’s unmarried daughters, of whom the 8-year old Margaret was the youngest. The negotiations petered out, however, due to power struggles in England, and the preference of Charles’s father, Philip the Good, for a French alliance. Philip had Charles betrothed to Isabella of Bourbon, the daughter of Charles I, Duke of Bourbon, and Agnes of Burgundy, in late March 1454, and the pair were married on 31 October 1454.

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Margaret, being a useful bargaining tool to her family, was still unmarried at age 19, when Isabella of Bourbon died in September 1465. She had borne Charles a daughter, Mary, which made it an imperative for him to remarry and father a son. The situation had changed since 1454. Charles was now highly respected by his father, who had in his old age entrusted the rule of Burgundy to his son. Charles was pro-English, and wished to make an English marriage and alliance against the French. For her own part, Margaret’s family was far more powerful and secure than it had been in 1454: her father had been killed at the Battle of Wakefield on 30 December 1460, but her brother was now Edward IV, opposed ineffectively only by Margaret of Anjou and her son, Edward of Westminster. This made Margaret a far more valuable bride than she had been as the mere daughter of a duke. Because of this, Charles sent his close advisor, Guillaume de Clugny, to London weeks after the death of his wife, to propose to Edward IV a marriage between Charles and Margaret. Edward responded warmly, and in the Spring of 1466 sent his brother-in-law, Lord Scales, to Burgundy, where Scales made a formal offer of Margaret’s hand in marriage to Charles, and put forward Edward’s own proposal of a reciprocal marriage between Charles’s daughter Mary and Edward’s brother, George, 1st Duke of Clarence.

The marriage did not take place immediately, however. Continued talks were required, particularly since Charles was unwilling to marry his only child and potential heiress to Clarence, and these talks were undertaken by Anthony, Grand Bastard of Burgundy, Charles’ half-brother. But added problems were introduced by the French: Louis XI did not want an alliance between Burgundy and England, his two greatest enemies. Louis accordingly tried to break the two apart, by offering the hand of his elder daughter, Anne, to Charles, that of his younger daughter, Joan, to Edward’s youngest brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and that of his brother-in-law, Philip of Bresse, to Margaret. Edward showed interest in the latter two propositions, offending Charles the Bold, and delaying Anglo-Burgundian relations.

Instead, in 1466, Margaret was betrothed to Peter, Constable of Portugal, whom the rebellious Catalans had invited to become their king. Peter was himself a nephew of Duchess Isabella of Burgundy, and the betrothal thus signified an attempt to placate Burgundy. It was not to be, however. Worn out by illness, disappointments, and overwork, Peter died on 29 June 1466, leaving Margaret available once more.

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By 1467, the situation had changed again. Philip the Good had died, and Charles the Bold had become Duke of Burgundy. Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, had turned against Edward IV, and was plotting against him with French support. Edward in such circumstances needed the support of Charles, and provided no further obstacles to the marriage negotiations, formally agreeing to it in October 1467. Negotiations between the duke’s mother, Isabella, and the king of England’s in-laws, Lord Scales and Earl Rivers, then proceeded between December 1467 and June 1468. During this time, Louis XI did all he could to prevent the marriage, demanding that the Pope refuse to give a dispensation for the marriage (the pair were cousins in the fourth degree which was incestuous under contemporary church law), promising trade favors to the English, undermining Edward’s credit with the international bankers to prevent him being able to pay for Margaret’s dowry, encouraging a Lancastrian invasion of Wales, and slandering Margaret, claiming that she was not a virgin and had borne a bastard son. He was ignored, however, a dispensation was secured after Burgundian bribes secured papal acquiescence, and a complex agreement was drawn up between England and Burgundy, covering mutual defense, trade, currency exchange, fishing rights and freedom of travel, all based on the marriage between the duke and Margaret. By the terms of the marriage contract, Margaret retained her rights to the English throne, and her dowry was promised to Burgundy even if she died within the first year (often, the dowry would return to the bride’s family under such circumstances). For his own part, Charles dowered Margaret with the cities of Mechelen, Oudenaarde, and Dendermonde.

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The marriage contract was completed in February 1468, and signed by Edward IV in March. The Papal dispensation arrived in late May, and preparations to send Margaret to Burgundy began. There was little enthusiasm for it outside Burgundy; the French naturally detested this union between their two enemies, whilst the English merchants, who still suffered from restrictions on the sale of their cloth in England, showed their disapproval by attacking Dutch and Flemish merchants amongst them.

Margaret left Margate for Sluys on 23rd June 1468. Lord Scales and Richard Boyville were among those who escorted her to meet her future bridegroom. Despite Louis XI having ordered his ships to seize her on her journey, her convoy crossed without incident, reaching Sluys on the evening of the 25th. The following day, she met with her bridegroom’s mother, Isabella, and daughter, Mary. The meeting was a great success, and the three of them remained close friends for the rest of their lives. On 27 June, she met Charles for the first time, and the pair were privately married between 5am and 6am on 3 July, in the house of a wealthy merchant of Damme. Charles then left for Bruges, allowing the new duchess the honor of entering separately a few hours later.

The celebrations that followed were extravagant even by the standards of the Burgundians, who were already noted for their opulence and generous festivities. The bride made her Joyous Entry in a golden litter drawn by white horses, wearing a coronet. During this procession, she charmed the burghers of Bruges when she chose to wave to them rather than shut herself away from the wind and rain. In the city itself, wine spurted freely from sculpted archers and artificial pelicans in artificial trees; the canals were decorated with torches, and the bridges decked with flowers; the arms of the happy couple were displayed everywhere, accompanied by the mottoes of the pair: Charles’ Je l’ay emprins (“I have undertaken it”) and Margaret’s Bien en aviengne (“May good come of it”). The celebrations also included the “Tournament of the Golden Tree” that was arranged around an elaborately detailed allegory, designed to honor the bride.

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When the duke and duchess appeared there, both wore magnificent crowns: Margaret’s crown (made in about 1461) was adorned with pearls, and with enameled white roses for the House of York set between red, green and white enameled letters of her name, with gold Cs and Ms, entwined with lovers’ knots (it can still be seen in the treasury at Aachen Cathedral). The removal of the crown to Aachen was significant, since it allowed its survival from the ravages of the later English Civil War which involved the destruction of all the main English Crown Jewels. It thus remains the only medieval royal British crown still surviving.

Charles wore an equally splendid crown, accompanied by a golden gown encrusted with diamonds, pearls and great jewels. The parades, the streets lined with tapestry hung from houses, the feasting, the masques and allegorical entertainments, the jewels, impressed all observers as “the marriage of the century”. It is reenacted at Bruges for tourists every five years with the next event in 2017, the last one having taken place in August 2012.

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Although the marriage produced no children, Margaret proved a valuable asset to Burgundy. Immediately after her wedding, she journeyed with her stepdaughter Mary through Flanders, Brabant and Hainaut, visiting the great towns: Ursel, Ghent, Dendermonde, Asse, Brussels, Oudenaarde and Kortrijk were all impressed by her political shrewdness and capability. Less valuable, perhaps, were the family connections she brought. In 1469, her brother, Edward IV, attempted to present Charles the Bold with the Order of the Garter, an honor which would have made Charles guilty of treason against Louis XI had he accepted it. The dowager duchess, Isabella, warned her son to refuse the offer, which he did, in order not to give Louis XI an excuse for further machinations against Burgundy. In the same year, Edward IV and his brother the Duke of Gloucester were forced to flee England, when their brother the Duke of Clarence, and his father-in-law the Earl of Warwick, rebelled and drove the king into exile. Charles was forced to intercede on the part of his brother-in-law, ordering the London merchants to swear loyalty to Edward under threat of losing their trading rights in Burgundy, a threat that proved successful. But the next year, Margaret was left despairing when Clarence and Warwick supported a French-backed Lancastrian invasion of England: although she, together with her mother Cecily, Dowager Duchess of York, attempted to reconcile Clarence and Edward IV, the rebellion continued, and on 2nd October 1470 the Lancastrians were returned to power and Edward had to Margaret and Charles in Burgundy.

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Her brother’s overthrow lessened Margaret’s dynastic worth; this, together with regard for her brother, made her plead for her husband to support Edward and make measures to restore him. Nonetheless, Charles paid little attention to her and decided to support Edward only when it was in his best interests to oppose the Lancastrian rule of England, backed as it was by a France which had in early December 1470 been encouraged by the English situation to declare war on Burgundy. Even so, by 4th January 1471, Charles had agreed to support the King-in-exile in regaining the English throne, and this renewal of friendship between the two men was followed by Edward visiting Margaret at Hesdin until 13th January, the first time the pair had seen one another since Margaret’s departure from England.

By April, Edward was back in England: Margaret followed events carefully, requesting meticulous details of events in England, and was pleased to note the reconciliation between Clarence and Edward. She also provided her mother-in-law, Isabel, with information on the progress of Edward’s campaign to regain the throne. It was she, for example, who replied to Isabel’s questions over alleged disrespectful treatment of the Earl of Warwick, by explaining that Edward had “heard that nobody in the city believed that Warwick and his brother were dead, so he [Edward] had their bodies brought to St Paul’s where they were laid out and uncovered from the chest upwards in the sight of everybody.” Edward IV was successfully restored; Edward of Westminster, the son and heir of Henry VI, had died in battle, and Henry VI, who had been briefly restored, died in his cell in the Tower of London two weeks later. The two deaths brought to an end the direct line of the House of Lancaster.

By this time, Isabella’s health was beginning to fail; in June 1471, she drew up her will, in which she bequeathed her favorite residence of La-Motte-au-Bois to Margaret. Yet, at the same time, Isabella and Charles struck against Margaret’s family: with Henry VI and his son dead, Isabella was one of the most senior members of the House of Lancaster, and had a good claim to the English throne. She legally transferred this claim to Charles in July, which would allow Charles later that year to officially claim the English throne, in spite of the fact that his brother-in-law, Edward IV was king. Eventually he dropped the claim.

By 1477, Margaret’s position as duchess of Burgundy was no longer as brilliant as it had been. After Isabella’s death in 1471, Charles had become increasingly tyrannical and grandiose, dreaming of assembling a kingdom of Lotharingia from the North Sea to the Mediterranean. To accomplish this, he warred continuously with his neighbors, who responded by allying against him. Meanwhile, Louis XI had proved masterful at destabilizing the duchy: Edward IV had been detached from his alliance, Charles’ reputation and banking credit had been undermined by Louis, and Burgundian trade was choked by French embargoes. By 1476, the duke was regarded as a tyrant by his people, who were suffering from the French refusal to export their wine and bread to Burgundy, and who dreaded his terrible reprisals against rebels being unleashed on them. In 1476, he arranged for his daughter and heiress, Mary, to be betrothed to Maximilian of Habsburg. On 5th January 1477, he died in battle outside Nancy, in Lorraine.

It was in the wake of her husband’s death that Margaret proved invaluable to Burgundy. She had always been regarded as a skilful and intelligent politician; now, she went beyond even that. She gave guidance and help to her stepdaughter, Mary, now Duchess of Burgundy, using her own experiences in the court of Edward IV, where she had largely avoided being used as a pawn and contributed to the arrangement of her own marriage. She guided Mary in choosing a suitable marriage partner in the face of marriage offers that flooded the two duchesses in Ghent (especially from the recently widowed duke of Clarence, from the 7-year old Dauphin of France, Charles, and from a brother of Edward IV’s wife, Elizabeth Woodville). She stood firm, and advised Mary to marry Maximilian of Habsburg, the 18-year-old son of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III, to whom Charles the Bold had betrothed Mary, and who was ambitious and active enough, in Margaret’s opinion, to defend Mary’s legacy. She strongly advised Mary to accept Maximilian’s suit, and marry him immediately. He arrived in Burgundy on 5th August 1477, and by 17th August had arrived at Ten Waele Castle, in Ghent. He met Mary there – they were both “pale as death”, but found each other to their mutual liking – and Margaret took part in the traditional courtly games of love, telling Maximilian before the assembled nobility that his bride “had about her a carnation it behoved him to discover.” The carnation duly proved to be in the duchess’s bodice, from which Maximilian carefully removed it. The pair were married the next day, on 18th August.

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Burgundy was far from safe: the duchy of Burgundy itself had already been conquered by the French, who were continuing to attack from all sides, taking advantage of the state’s instability. Margaret now moved to secure military support from her brother, Edward IV. He sent enough support to allow Mary and Maximilian to resist the French advances any further, although the Duchy itself remained lost. Louis XI, recognizing the danger Margaret posed to him, attempted to buy her off with a French pension and a promise of personally protecting her. She contemptuously refused, and instead sailed in summer 1480 to London, where she was again attended by Richard Boyville and negotiated a resumption of the Anglo-Burgundian alliance, and renewed trade. When, on 22 July 1478, Mary gave birth to a son and heir, Philip, Louis XI had rumors spread that the child was in fact a girl. Margaret, who was standing godmother to the child, matter-of-factly disproved the rumor: as the christening party left the church of St Donat, she conclusively proved that the child was an undoubted male, by undressing him and presenting him to the assembled crowd. In 1480, the next child of Mary and Maximilian was a girl: the duke and duchess named her Margaret, after the dowager duchess.

Margaret was however dealt a devastating blow in 1482: her stepdaughter, Mary, fell from her horse whilst hunting, and broke her back. The injuries were fatal, and Mary died on 27 March. From a personal standpoint, this was a harsh blow to Margaret because politically, Mary’s death weakened the Burgundian state further. The Burgundians were now sick of war, and unwilling to accept the rule of Maximilian as regent for his son, the 4-year old duke Philip, or even as guardian of the children. They forced his hand: on 23 December 1482, the Three Estates of the Lowlands signed the Treaty of Arras with Louis XI, granting him the Burgundian Lowlands, Picardy, and the county of Boulogne. Margaret was unable to secure assistance from Edward IV, who had made a truce with France. Consequently, she and Maximilian were forced to accept the fait accompli. Maximilian brokered a personal peace with Louis by arranging for his daughter, Margaret, to be betrothed to the young Dauphin of France. She was sent to be raised at the French court, taking with her the Free County of Burgundy and the County of Artois as a dowry.

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This was not the end of the problems for Margaret and Maximilian: the Netherlanders still disliked his rule of the territory. In 1488, he was taken prisoner in Bruges by the citizens, and was freed only upon making far-reaching concessions. The next year, he was summoned back to Austria by his father, the Emperor. Burgundy was left to be governed by Margaret together with the Burgundian Estates, both of whom also undertook the guardianship of the young Duke Philip, although Maximilian continued to take a distant interest in the country, and a greater interest in his children.

By this time, Margaret had already suffered more personal tragedies. Her brother, the Duke of Clarence, had been executed by Edward IV in 1478. Edward himself had died of illness in 1483 and finally, her younger brother Richard, who took the throne as Richard III was, in 1485, killed at the Battle of Bosworth by the leader of the House of Lancaster, Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, a cousin and nephew of Henry VI, who went on to become Henry VII, and to marry the daughter of Edward IV, Elizabeth of York. With the death of Richard, the House of York ceased to rule in England. Margaret consequently was a staunch supporter of anyone willing to challenge Tudor, and backed both Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck, even going so far as to acknowledge Warbeck as her nephew, the younger son of Edward IV, the Duke of York. Warbeck was probably an imposter, and was imprisoned in the Tower of London and subsequently executed by Henry VII. Henry undoubtedly found Margaret problematic, but there was little he could do, since she was protected by her stepson-in-law Maximilian. She died on 23rd November 1503, at the age of 57, shortly after the return of her step-grandson, Philip the Handsome, to Burgundy.

So much for royal politics in Europe in the 15th century. It’s all very complicated, but amounts, simply, to the fact that in England and on the continent, no one could ever agree as to what territory belonged to whom, and the nobility, all related to one another by blood, marriage, or both, seemed endlessly willing to fight it out. Margaret of York stands out in all of this as a strong and powerful woman always willing to look out for her own wellbeing.

Margaret died in Mechelen which is now in Flanders in Belgium, then part of the duchy of Burgundy.  For centuries it was the center of market gardening, and then as now produced white asparagus, for which it was famous. Here is a well-known recipe for Flemish white asparagus.

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Asperges op Vlaamse wijze

Ingredients

24 white asparagus stalks
4 eggs (2 hard-boiled and 2 poached or soft-boiled)
fresh, finely chopped parsley
150g clarified butter
freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper

Instructions

Peel the asparagus stalks from the base of the tips to the end of the stalks using a vegetable peeler. Bundle them together with butcher’s twine and stand them upright in lightly boiling water with the spears out of the water. Let them cook for about 10 minutes (the tips are tender and will cook in the steam).

Meanwhile, gently heat the clarified butter in a small saucepan. Mash the hard-boiled eggs (do not purée) with a potato masher, as you would for egg salad. Place the mashed eggs in the clarified butter with a handful of fresh parsley leaves finely chopped. Do not use the parsley stalks. Season to taste with salt and finely ground black pepper.

Place the asparagus on a heated serving plate. Spoon the butter, parsley, egg mix over the asparagus and break the soft-cooked eggs over the lot so that the runny yolk mixes with the parsley sauce.  Finish off with a scattering of freshly ground nutmeg.

Serves 4 to 6

Aug 222013
 

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Today is the anniversary of the battle of Bosworth Field that ended the Wars of the Roses in England, and inaugurated the Tudor era with the crowning of Henry VII. I’m not big on celebrating battles and am not going to concentrate on the battle itself.  Rather I am interested in the curious relationship between the battle and the recipe for Bosworth Jumbles – a sweet biscuit (cookie in the U.S.), as well as the discovery of Richard III’s bones in a public car park in Leicester.

Let’s dispense with the battle first. The Wars of the Roses were a series of dynastic wars fought between supporters of two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet, the houses of Lancaster and York (whose heraldic symbols were the red and the white rose, respectively), for the throne of England. They were fought most intensely in several sporadic episodes between 1455 and 1485, although there was related fighting both before and after this period. They resulted from the social and financial troubles following the Hundred Years’ War. The final victory went to a relatively remote Lancastrian claimant, Henry Tudor, who defeated the last Yorkist king, Richard III, at Bosworth Field, and married Edward IV’s daughter, Elizabeth of York, to unite the two houses.

If you listen to Shakespeare, Richard III was a thoroughly nasty man, but Shakespeare’s plays are heavily larded with Tudor propaganda. I would be inclined to believe that he was nasty, but not any nastier than most other kings of his era.  He had the habit of killing off claimants to the throne, but hey, who didn’t? However, his implication in the death of his nephews, who were better claimants to the throne than he was, as well as rumors he had killed his wife, unsettled the English nobility. Henry Tudor, exiled in France, seized on Richard’s difficulties to make his own claim on the throne (which was considerably weaker than Richard’s). Henry’s first attempt to invade England was frustrated by a storm in 1483, but at his second attempt he arrived unopposed on 7 August 1485 on the southwest coast of Wales. Marching inland, Henry gathered support as he made for London. Richard mustered his troops and intercepted Henry’s army south of Market Bosworth in Leicestershire. For centuries the exact site of the battle was merely conjectured but in 2010 archeologists discovered weapons, canonballs, and a silver boar insignia that Richard’s knights wore in a field near Stoke Golding that is the actual site.

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Henry’s army was outnumbered by Richard’s about 2 to 1 (10,000 to 5,000), but nonetheless won a decisive victory culminating with Richard’s death. Richard’s circlet (battle crown) was recovered and Henry was crowned king.  Richard’s body was unceremoniously buried in the priory church of Greyfriars monastery, which was located within the city of Leicester, near Leicester cathedral, about 15 miles from the battle site.  Henry had put the body on display in the church for several days and then had it buried in an unmarked grave as a sign of disrespect.

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For decades historians and archeologists had sought to discover the site of the burial.  One of the major problems was determining the exact location of Greyfriars which had been dissolved as a monastery under Henry VIII in 1538, and demolished shortly afterwards. Another was assessing the probability that the body was still there (one narrative said that Richard’s body had been flung in a river).  In August 2012 an archeological team from the University of Leicester in partnership with the Leicester City Council began digging in a city car park in Leicester basing their location on exhaustive research. The dig was carried out by University of Leicester archaeologists, who uncovered a human skeleton on the first day of work. It soon became apparent that the body was that of a man in his thirties who had suffered multiple wounds from a variety of weapons and had been hurriedly buried in a grave that was too small. The skeleton had a number of unusual physical features, most notably a severe curvature of the back that caused the right shoulder to be higher than the left.

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Scientific analysis showed that the man had probably been killed either by a blow from a large bladed weapon that cut off the back of his skull, or by a halberd thrust that penetrated his brain. There were signs of other wounds on the body, which had probably been inflicted as “humiliation injuries” on a corpse that had been stripped of its armor. The bones’ age at death matched the age at which Richard died; they were dated to approximately the period of his death and were mostly consistent with physical descriptions of him. DNA analysis also showed that mitochondrial DNA extracted from the bones matched that of two 17th-generation matrilineal descendants of Richard’s sister Anne of York. Timing was critical. Both of these descendants are old and have no children.

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The battle of Bosworth Field is also associated with the recipe for Bosworth Jumbles, a light, sweet, buttery biscuit. Legend has it that these biscuits were the specialty of Richard III’s chef and they were so named because the recipe was found after the battle on the battlefield. The name jumble comes from gemellus, the Latin for ‘twin’ which gives us gimmel ring, a ring with two interlocking parts (often mistakenly called a two-fingered ring). Only the wealthy would have worn such jewelry.

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Likewise, only the wealthy could have afforded the sugar to make the jumbles. The first published recipe for Bosworth Jumbles comes from The good Huswifes Jewell by Thomas Dawson (London, 1585).

To make Iombils a hundred.

Take twenty Egges and put them into a pot both the yolkes & the white, beat them wel, then take a pound of beaten suger and put to them, and stirre them wel together, then put to it a quarter of a peck of flower, and make a hard paste thereof, and then with Anniseede moulde it well, and make it in little rowles beeing long, and tye them in knots, and wet the ends in Rosewater, then put them into a pan of seething water, but euen in one waum, then take them out with a Skimmer and lay them in a cloth to drie, this being doon lay them in a tart panne, the bottome beeing oyled, then put them into a temperat Ouen for one howre, turning them often in the Ouen.

I’ve never tried this recipe because I have no confidence I could make it work. Boiling the dough and then baking for an hour (even in a very slow oven) seems like a recipe for disaster without more detailed instructions. But the information that they were tied in “knots” is useful. I’m envisaging something like a pretzel shape to imitate a gimmel ring.  Here’s a modern recipe. These days Bosworth Jumbles are usually “S” shaped, but interlocking rings or knots would make a good talking point with friends.

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Bosworth Jumbles

Ingredients:

12 oz. (350 g.) self-raising flour
8 oz. (225 g.) caster sugar
8 oz. (225 g.) butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon anise essence (or almond)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C

Mix the flours and sugar together, and rub in the butter with the fingertips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.  Or you can use a food processor for this step. Pulse the mixture 8 to 10 times.

Stir in the egg and almond essence, and knead for about 1 minute until the mixture forms a smooth dough.

Roll the dough to make a sheet about ? inch (3 mm) thick and cut into pieces about 5 inches (13 cm) wide. Cut strips about ¾ inches (2 cm) wide and shape them into knots or interlocking rings.

Place the jumbles on a greased and floured baking sheet well spaced out so that they will not run together while baking. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 10 minutes, giving them a quarter turn after 5-7 minutes if necessary so that they all bake evenly.

Yield: 24