Thursday, 13 January 2011

Conjecture in black and woite (3)

Margaret of Anjou, hot-blooded, proud and wilful, went on to become a major figure in the Wars of the Roses, taking a leading role from her unwarlike and unstable Lancastrian husband, King Henry VI. She became a target for the opposing Yorkist forces, who slung every dollop of mud that came to hand. One of the slanders concerned the night before her wedding, spent in St Margaret's, the house I was privileged to live in for a few years when I was quite small. She was not alone, apparently. Fingers were pointed at William de la Pole, later Duke of Suffolk, an influential figure who had arranged Henry's marriage with Margaret, had stood in for Henry at the betrothal ceremony in France which preceded the actual marriage in Titchfield in 1445. It was he who had escorted Margaret from France to Titchfield. The most you can say about such allegations is 'well, they would say that, wouldn't they?'

5 years later, as the full fury of the Wars of the Roses was about to burst, William de la Pole was captured by Yorkists at sea, off Ipswich. His possibly headless body was left on the beach at Dover, where Queen Margaret had it recovered and taken care of. He had long been her favourite. She gave him a decent burial at Wingfield, in Suffolk.

What stands out for me in this account is the association of St Margaret's with a passionate young girl of noble family, on the edge of adulthood, being forced into an arranged marriage. I'm not quite certain what 'passionate' means in this context: a hapless martyr to her emotions, maybe.


Almost a century later Henry VIII broke with Rome, not so much over matters of doctrine as of authority, principally the authority to enable his divorce from Anne Boleyn. Short of money, it was also an expedient time for him to close down, annex or sell off the great religious houses, a 1536-9 movement known as the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Seeing which way the wind was blowing, an astute courtier and able servant of both Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell, a Londoner called Thomas Wriothesley (pronounced 'Risley') bought out the Abbot of Titchfield before his Abbey and its estates could be suppressed.

In due course, for services to Henry VIII, Thomas Wriothesley was created Earl of Southampton. He transformed Titchfield Abbey into a palace, which he called Place House, I don't know why. It's a ruin now, pictured above. Other estate houses were upgraded and enlarged. Maybe St Margaret's was among them. Thomas Wriothesley's grandson Henry, 3rd Earl of Southampton, was a favourite at the court of Queen Elizabeth I. In the early 1590s, in the course of court activities he met an up-and-coming poet and playwright, rising 30, attractive and intelligent, witty, educated and companionable, drawn to London from his native Warwickshire. His name was William Shakespeare.

Southampton and Shakespeare got on very well. In 1593 Shakespeare dedicated his long and sexually palpitating poem Venus and Adonis to Southampton, which maybe says more about the dedicatee than the poet. In the summer of that year the London theatres were closed because of the plague. It's a possibility that Shakespeare first came to Titchfield then, partly to escape the plague and partly to pursue his friendship with Henry Southampton.

I suppose it's also a possibility that, in riding together about Place House, Shakespeare asked his host - by now his patron - how Anjou Bridge, a bridge over the Meon close by the former Titchfield Abbey, had got the name it still has today. If he knew the story, Southampton would have been in a position to tell him about the passionate 15-year-old French princess, her overnight stay at St Margaret's and the marriage that had been arranged for her. Maybe those House Detectives, exploring the connection between St Margaret's and Romeo and Juliet in that BBC TV programme didn't look quite far enough outside the frame.

And for the multitude of serious historians whom come here, I did entitle this mini-series 'Conjecture....'

(to be continued or even concluded, who knows?)


Dave said...

Oh dear. Do serious people come here?

Christopher said...

There's always a first...

Rog said...

I'm here! I suppose Bill's view on Southampton was "any old port in a storm".

I'm cycling the "Way of the Roses" in May so will keep an eye out for any references to St Margaret's.

Sarah said...

I've forgoten what the begining was now...ho hum

Christopher said...

Thank you, Rog. I knew I could rely on you. But I thought Roses lived in Norwich or thereabouts? Doesn't sound much of a challenge.

Sah: Very pleased to see you. I thought this post was going to attract a record comment low and that nobody cared a jit or tottle about the finer points of personalised Shakespearian scholarship. I'll write it all again for you if you've lost the thread.

Anonymous said...

When I poked around my dilapidated Victorian terraced house (c.25 yrs. or so ago immediately after buying) I lifted worm ridden floorboards and found an old empty Kensitas fag packet in pristine condition and the flattened dried skeletal carcass of a baby bird. I also collected, on painful hands and knees, the below floor hand scoopings into two plastic (stout rubble) sacks the shiniest blackest coal. The location of my old home in which I still reside, as an irremovable (council evictors try as they may) bag-lady might, continues to challenge one’s decision as to whether to replace skip retrieved bubble-wrap, long-utilized as thermal speck curtains with appropriate Kevin McCloud shutters and floor-to-ceiling jardinière woven wispy nettings. My pad is very near the new Globe Theatre located on the Southwark Thames close by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s art gallery. Therefore, I too am convinced Shakespeare must have had something to do with my ‘Dun Roamin’ home. What I found under my floorboards says it all. If it wasn’t him, then, it is most definitely has to do with that other Elizabethan blaggard Sir Walter Raleigh (pronounced Rorly). Lol!

Christopher said...

You've left me wondering, Anon, if that Kensitas fag packet actually belonged to Sir Walter Raleigh. I expect the truth of the matter was that his servant, seeing his master light up, no doubt with a Swan of Avon Vesta, assumed he was on fire and ran for a bucket of water. London water, then as now, being used on average eleven times before it finally reaches the sea, was clearly too weak to extinguish the smouldering weed and Sir Walter was thus enabled to finish his gasper in peace.

Hector said...

"Almost a century later Henry VIII broke with Rome, not so much over matters of doctrine as of authority, principally the authority to enable his divorce from Anne Boleyn."

I am asked (nay commanded) by the ever-wise Andromache to point out a small error of fact re Henry's split from Rome. It was Catherine of Aragon who was divorced to make way for the pregnant Anne Boleyn - who, of course, was parted from her head at a later date.

Christopher said...

*hangs head in shame*

*cannot look Error in the face*

*breaks out in cold sweat*

*Cubs' historian badge is wrenched from his sleeve and trampled into mud*

*runs away into the night*

*is never seen again*

*neighbours hear banshee wailing from woods, as of one crying 'Errant Aragon arrogance! Errant Aragon ignorance!*

*Midi Libre carries short paragraph on p.31*

*mis-spells his name 'Combels'*

Hector said...

*hangs head in shame*

But still attached - one hopes!

Dave said...

I'm trying to give up pendantism, so hadn't wanted to mention that.

Christopher said...

Do you find that when you're trying to give it up it's that terrible pendantic (Pendentia capitis Eeyorensis) craving that gets to you, Dave? Maybe there's some kind of patch you can get at the chemist's? A firm surgical collar might help, too.

letouttoplay said...

I thought I'd left a comment last night. I think the gist of it was "I enjoyed that" and then something about Rubens. I wonder what.
Ah, I remember. He was in London between 1638 and 1630. Perhaps he read the poem and it inspired the painting.

Spadoman said...

Okay, I'm still reading this fascinating account of a place you lived when you were very small. The Shakespeare connection is a highlight. Did you find one of his quills or something?