Chivalry and the Perfect Knight

A knight endowed with heavenly virtuesThe medieval court of England (and, indeed, all the courts of Europe) sailed on the Seas of Chivalry. Chivalry was the doctrine or, one might say, the ideology of the court and of the warrior class that (with the clerics) dominated medieval society. That society was in theory composed of three classes: the military defenders or belletors, the educated clergy or oratores, and commoners or imbelle vulguso, the “unwarlike masses,” i.e., everyone else. The military, or knightly, class evolved out of pre-Christian warbands. The martial attributes of pagan warriors were combined with Christian virtues. Together they created a …
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Royal Castles & Cathedrals

ORFORD CASTLE & FRAMLINGHAM CASTLE, Suffolk

What IS a castle? The standard definition gives us two essential elements. One, a secure tower, or “keep,” and, two, outer defensive walls.
Suffolk is unusual in having two spectacular “castles” that, taken together, meet that definition. Orford Castle is all keep, with no walls. Framlingham Castle is all walls, with no keep.

Orford is one of the few castles built by Henry II that survives in recognizable form. (Henry built in strategic places; his castles were often dramatically expanded and updated by succeeding kings.)

Framlingham Castle is the reverse image of Orford. All that remains are its great exterior curtain walls.
Framlingham was fortified between 1190 and 1210 by the descendants of the Bigod Earls of Norfolk (the ones Henry II had intimidated with Orford Castle).
Picture yourself in the England of 1553. The throne of England is empty and the succession is …

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Are You Smarter Than a Tudor?

The Sons of Edward III

Every King longs for at least an heir and a spare. The lack of a direct heir has led to wars, murders and the overthrow of government. There are, however, times when you can have too much of a good thing. How well do you know the five sons of Edward III, and his queen, Philippa of Hainault, who survived to be adults and planted the seeds for the Wars of the Roses?

King Edward III with his sons
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Let’s Change History!

Edward the Black Prince becomes Edward IV!

Edward III’s oldest son, Edward the Black Prince, died before his father. His father died a year later and the crown passed to Edward’s very young son, Richard II, who was only ten. His uncle John of Gaunt and a series of councils ruled in his minority. When he grew up, Richard was not considered a very good king. He was increasingly at odds with his nobles. Richard executed a number of them and heavily fined their supporters. John’s son, Henry of Bolingbroke was exiled by Richard in 1397, and when John died in 1399, Richard disinherited Henry from his father’s vast wealth and properties. Henry returned to England and overthrew Richard who died in prison in 1400. Henry was the first Lancastrian king and the seeds of the Wars of the Roses were planted.

So Query… What if the Black Prince had lived to claim the throne? With his father’s presence to shape his life, would Richard II have been a stronger, better king, gaining the throne as a mature adult instead of as a child? Would Henry of Bolingbroke ever have had the opportunity to claim the throne as the eldest descendent of Edward III from the male line of the family, instead of the female line of his cousin Mortimer and the House of York? Would the Wars of the Roses have even begun?

Doth This Marriage Prosper?

King & Queen in bed - Katherine of Aragon

“My wife wears a hair shirt! She won’t give me the son I need. I’m young. I can still have a family.”

Katherine’s hopes of fulfilling her royal destiny were dashed when her first husband died. But then miraculously, his younger brother, Henry, wanted to marry her. Sure they had to get a papal dispensation to be married, but Henry seemed eager. It seemed as if Katherine would have her “happy ever after” ending after all. Except … fast forward 20 years and Katherine and Henry’s marriage is crumbling under the weight of dead babies, stillbirths and miscarriages. Henry is unfaithful and demanding a divorce. Will Henry’s consuming quest for a son swamp their wedding vows? Is there a way forward together for these two unhappy creatures? Or is England about to be torn asunder?

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