Gaye Mack’s Blog

DISCOVERY OF 14THC DEVOTIONAL PANEL DEPICTING THE EXECUTION OF THOMAS, EARL OF LANCASTER

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Gaye's England, Scotland & Wales, Uncategorized Leave a comment

 

I recently came across the following article,(lightly edited here for readability) posted by the Facebook site, Medieval Histories Magazine. The discovery of this devotional panel depicting the 14th c execution of Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster is an extraordinary find, worth the read and certainly worth the visit if you are, or plan to be in London before the end of September, 2015.

 

In 2009, Archaeologists from Museum of London Archaeology(MOLA)  discovered a devotional panel, venerating Thomas, Earl of Lancaster in remarkable condition by the River Thames. The devotional Panel of Thomas of Lancaster found by MOLA on the riverside, is a 14th century lead-alloy devotional panel depicting the capture, trial and execution of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, political rebel turned martyr.  

A fascinating piece of political propaganda and religious art, it’s one of the largest and finest examples of its kind. Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster (c. 1278 – 1322) was a junior member of the Plantagenet family. From his father he inherited the earldoms of Lancaster, Leicester and Ferrers earldom of Derby. By his marriage to Alice de Lacy, countess of Lincoln he became Earl of Lincoln and Salisbury, 11th Baron of Halton and 7th Lord of Bowland and played a significant role in the reign of Edward II, at whose coronation he served. After the disaster at Bannockburn he became ruler of England. However, the Barons rose against him and at 1321 he was defeated at Battle of Boroughbridge, and taken prisoner.

In 1322 he was tried by a tribunal, but was not allowed to speak for himself, nor was anyone allowed to defend him. In the end he was convicted of treason and executed by beheading near Pontefract. Soon after Thomas’s death, miracles were reported at his tomb at Pontefract, and he became venerated as a martyr and saint.

In 1327 the Commons petitioned Edward III to ask for his canonization and popular veneration continued until the reformation. The newly found devotional panel is cast in metal and measures approximately 13 x 9 cm. The panel includes scenes that depict a cautionary tale for ambitious politicians, and reveals that Lancaster was elevated to an almost saintly status after his death. The panel tells the story of Lancaster’s imprisonment and execution and in slightly garbled French, is read clockwise from the top left: ‘here I am taken prisoner’; ‘I am judged’; ‘I am under threat’ and lastly ‘la mort’ (death).

The Virgin Mary and Christ look down from heaven, ready to receive Lancaster’s soul. Although a rare find today, the panel would have been mass produced at the time. A small number of parallels exist but these are fragmentary or in a poorer style. Sophie Jackson, MOLA archaeologist, said: “It’s thanks to the wet ground of the Thames waterfront that this beautiful metal object survived in such remarkable condition. It has an intriguing story and reveals a great deal about the political climate of the day.”

The panel is on display at the Museum of London until 

September 28, 2015.

 

EARL-O~1

 DEVOTIONAL PANEL DEPICTING 14TH C EXECUTION OF THOMAS, EARL OF LANCASTER

 

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WELCOME TO THE ENGLISH HISTORICAL FICTION AUTHORS’ ‘MAIN CHARACTER’ BLOG HOP!

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Gaye's England, Scotland & Wales, Writer's Work Leave a comment

This post is a departure from what you might be expecting, as I’ve been I have been tagged by fellow English Historical Fiction author, Mark Patton, to take part in a “Main Characters” blog hop.  The concept of ‘blog hops’ between authors is to introduce aspects of our works to readers and of course to support our writing colleagues across the ethers. For this ‘hop’ the  idea is to introduce a protagonist from a published or anticipated to be published novel. I’m currently working on the third novel of my historical fiction series which takes place across 12th, 13th and 21st century lines, mainly in Great Britain…although the current work in progress is built upon the esoteric story of the Cathars, the Gnostic sect persecuted by the Inquisition in 13th c southern France.  If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll have seen earlier posts on this gentle group of Christians labeled as heretics by Rome who met a fiery end at Montsegur on March 16, 1244.  

 

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Possible layout of fortress at Montsegur 1244

Photography©Gaye F. Mack, Inc.

 

 Each of my books is grounded in actual historical places, people and events around which I then build fictional characters and story. The participating authors in the blog hop are asked to address seven questions about their chosen protagonist.  My second book which is featured in this ‘hop’  is written in ‘alternating narrative’ which means that similar to the works of Diana Gabaldron and MJ Rose, the main protagonist is subject to images and influences from a past life–this said I’m going to introduce both of my female protagonists to you!

1. What is the name of your character, and is he or she a fictional or a historical person? 

In the 12th c portions of this bookEdana Morggon is the main protagonist who then re-appears as Dr. Dana Morgan in the 21st century.  Both women are completely fictional although, the characters they meet in both time frames are very much historical.

2. When and where is the story set? 

The primary historical setting is Glastonbury Abbey in England’s west country, just before the Great Fire of 1184 as well as ruins that remain in the 21st century. For those who have never been to Glastonbury, it’s one of those places that abounds in extraordinarily deep history, legend and myth.  King Arthur, Joseph of Armithea, Edward I, Henry II and The Goddess, each figure heavily into Glastonbury’s magic.  However, in 1184 and 2010, my protagonists are faced with events that involve the fire(and its suspicious origins), political ambition, greed and psychological dysfunction… all having to do with mystical secrets believed to have been embedded within symbols placed in the floor of the abbey’s ‘Holy of Holies’.

Scan0008Partial Ruins of Glastonbury Abbey

Photography©Gaye F. Mack, Inc.

3. What should we know about the character? 

12th c Lady Edana Morggon is a wealthy widow who accompanied her father and greedy, abusive husband to the Holy Land. Following the deaths of both men on crusade, Edana was imprisoned but surprisingly rescued by an unusual Sufi named Ghali.  Ghali for reasons only known to himself and Edana, enlists desert mystics to educate her in sacred arts and medicine before they both return to her estate in England.  Edana is a woman unusual for her time as she’s fierce in personality, smart, gifted and fairly self-sufficient…but she also harbors secrets.

21st c Dr. Dana Morgan is  a wealthy, University of Chicago historical archaeologist with expertise in ancient scripts, but who also possesses an inherited, although unacknowledged, gift of psychic sensitivities.  As the 21st c opens, her archaeologist husband of five years has suddenly died. Overtaken by grief, Dana retreats to the safe haven of her favorite aunt, Lady Fredi Morgan at her Oxfordshire estate.  When Dana is introduced to two historical archaeologists from Oxford University, she unwittingly becomes embroiled in 900 year old Glastonbury mysteries that have resurfaced and threaten her life.  Equally distressing, Dana comes face to face with  a past life through Edana Morggon. However predictably, as a scientist, she resists acknowledging such a possibility exists.

GLASTONBURY FLOORPhotography courtesy of Karen Pfiefer

 

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up your character’s life? 

Historically, Dana has categorized her feelings into intellectual exercises as a means of protection ever since the sudden death of her parents when she was fifteen. However, when she learns that her husband had a secret life which ended in suicide rather than murder, she struggles to come to terms with heart centered emotions she can’t control, her sense of failure in judgement and the recognition of her inherited psychic sensitivities.  As Glastonbury’s 12th century story resurfaces in 2010 through events that threaten her life, Dana is forced to deal with these unresolved aspects of herself.

5. What is the personal goal of your character? 

Dana has to learn to accept who she really is as well as putting trust in relationships, especially with men.  In addition, with the help of Edana Morggon, she begins to recognize that the veil between worlds is thin and can transmute to reveal universal truths.

6. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it? 

The book is entitled, A Conspiracy of Ravens’.  You can read more about it under the ‘Historical Fiction’ link on my full website: http://gayemack.com or under the link for ‘clients’ on http://globallionmanagement.com

7. When can we expect the book to be published?

 ‘A Conspiracy of Ravens’ and its predecessor, A Murder of Crows’ are currently represented by Peter Miller, CEO-Global Lion Intellectual Property Management, who is actively seeking a home for them.

 

 

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AUTHOR NANCY BILYEAU REVEALS HOW DARTFORD PRIORY ESCAPED HENRY VIII’S RAMPAGE

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Worth the Read, Writer's Work 1 Comment

While I’m  drawn more to England’s 12th & 13th centuries, it’s nearly impossible to ignore King Henry VIII’s murderous assault on  his kingdom’s religious houses.  His rampage was so vile and its impact on the course of history so indelible, it boggles the mind to remember that Henry’s zeal was sparked by the love for a scheming woman and let’s be frank, his greed for the booty held in the monastic treasuries!  One particularly brutal example is found in my post detailing  the brutal murder of wealthy Glastonbury Abbey’s last abbot, Richard Whiting in 1539.  

However this said, admittedly I’ve never given much thought about what happened to the Tudor nunneries!  Were the women as brutally treated?  Fortunately , Nancy Bilyeau, historical fiction author of The Crown and  newly released sequel, The Chalice, has.  In a recent article,  Nancy discusses how she came to create her books with particular attention to the historical fate of  Dartford Priory, England’s only Dominican house which was located in the county of Kent.  Thus, I’m happy to welcome Nancy as my guest by posting a portion of her fascinating article which can be read in its entirety as it appears in the Catholic Herald

I chose the sole house of Dominican Sisters in England, Dartford Priory, as the home of my protagonist, the fictional Sister Joanna Stafford. A priory of “strict discipline and plain living,” it was founded with great care by Edward III in the 1350s. The women who took vows at Dartford were from the gentry or nobility. There was even one princess: Bridget of York, the youngest daughter of Edward IV. Daily life was spent praying, singing, studying, gardening, sewing and teaching local girls to read. Twice a week the Sisters distributed alms to the local poor. The prioresses were learned and formidable women. Elizabeth Cressner, who died in 1537, oversaw her house of nuns with tremendous vigor for 50 years.

When the king’s commissioners visited Dartford Priory they did not find a house in decay. In 1535, the Valor Ecclesiasticus put the net annual revenue of the monastery at a robust £380 9s ½d. The number of nuns had not declined over the last century, but held at a steady number. I have not been able to find any contemporary reports finding fault with Dartford.

Yet in 1539 Prioress Joan Vane “surrendered” the priory to the king and it was demolished. Why? Most likely because closure was inevitable – by that time almost every other abbey had been dissolved – and those who resisted faced royal savagery. Abbot Richard Whiting, 81, refused to surrender Glastonbury in 1539. He was arrested, imprisoned in the Tower of London, convicted of treason and dragged on a hurdle to the top of Glastonbury Tor. There, he was hanged, drawn and quartered, his severed head nailed to the gate of the deserted abbey. You can certainly see why most of the monastics submitted to the will of the king.

After the nuns of Dartford were evicted from their home, they received small pensions. Although the stereotype of a medieval nun is someone who is pressured to take vows, some of the Dominican Sisters continued to live together in groups because they did not want to abandon their vocations.

When Henry VIII’s oldest daughter, Mary, took the throne, she granted the Dominican nuns’ request to re-establish their order in Dartford and seven nuns moved back in. But this restoration only lasted as long as Mary lived. Elizabeth’s officials ordered the nuns to leave. They did so, joining some of the last remaining Sisters of Syon Abbey. Mary’s widower, King Philip, quietly paid for the group to leave England for the Netherlands. They went from convent to convent, suffering poverty and ill health. In Paul Lee’s book, Nunneries, Learning and Spirituality in Late Medieval English Society, a letter from someone who saw the Dartford nuns in 1561 in a convent on the island of Zeeland says: “These are the most elderly of all the religious and the most infirm, and it seems that they are more than half dead.” But they hung on for quite a bit longer. The last of the Dartford nuns died in Bruges in 1585.

st. michaels

St. Michael’s Tower where Glastonbury’s last abbot, Richard Whiting, was murdered by Henry VIII’s Men  in 1539

Photography©Gaye F. Mack

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EXCAVATIONS AT BRITAIN’S 12THC FURNESS ABBEY REVEALS PHENOMENAL REMAINS OF ABBOT

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Writer's Work Leave a comment

     Approximately a year ago, archeological researchers from Oxford discovered remains of one of Furness Abbey’s medieval abbots. Furness, founded in 1124 by King Stephen.  Located in northern Cumbria, it was the second largest, wealthiest and obviously influential, abbey in the country prior to the dissolution rampage of King Henry VIII.  The following is an excerpt of a report of the find filed by Fatima Manji with Britain’s Channel 4 News:

    The skeleton was found by Oxford Archaeology North who were carrying out excavations during emergency repairs at the Cumbrian site.  The rare find could date as far back as the 12th century. The abbot’s body was buried with a very rare medieval gilded crosier and jeweled ring.  [According to] English Heritage curator Susan Harrison, “This is really significant because it’s the first time under modern conditions that an abbatial or abbot burial has been discovered intact with so much detail and information – from the skeleton to the mark of his office, his crosier, his ring, but also fragments of textile in there.”

     Oxford Archaeology North’s Stephen Rowland[stated],  “It’s extremely rare to find such a burial. Nationally he’s an important person; he’s a member of the Cistercian order which was the most powerful monastic order in England. He would have had estates across the Furness Peninsula, into Cambria, Lancashire and Yorkshire, control over large amounts of resources. He was a bit like a feudal overlord.”

     The archaeologists are now carrying out carbon 14 dating to find out when the abbot actually died. The results of this could give them a 25 year window, which may help to identify which abbot he was. However, the window could be as much as 100 years either side of his actual death.  Ms Harrison explained how the burial was found: “It was noted that the walls of the east end of the church were cracking and subsiding. A major investigation was set up by English Heritage to work out what was happening with these walls and then to try and reduce any impact on the ground. Archaeological work was undertaken to enable us to find out what was significant in the area that we were going to do further works on to stabilise the abbey ruins.”

     Mr Rowland explained what they already know about the abbot. He said: “We think he’s about 40 to 50-years-old which we can tell from the wear on his teeth, the way the bones are fused together and the sutures on the skull and the aspects on the pelvis. He’s about 5’7 tall by measuring his leg bones and he would have been a very important person in the abbey.”  He said the abbot probably suffered from arthritis and was most likely a portly man. He said: “He’s got a bony growth going down his vertebrae. It’s a condition called DISH, which is associated with obesity and middle-aged onset type-2 diabetes. So it’s quite probable that he was having a fairly rich diet.  The abbot’s knees were also worn.” Mr Rowland added: “He could have been praying quite a bit on his knees. We’ve got arthritis around his platella on his knee cap – again this signifies more bony growth.  He could have spent a bit of time on his knees writing and reading quite a lot, but he wasn’t hugely active like other medieval people of lower status really.”

    Ms Harrison said the ring was probably a reminder of piety: “It tells us he was a man of status to wear a ring. It was found on one of the fingers of his right hand and what’s really interesting is that it’s a copper alloy but it’s been gilded and it’s got a point behind – can you imagine how uncomfortable it would have been to wear that? It’s possibly as a reminder of his piety, a reminder of his position and his oaths to god.”

    The head of the crosier is made of gilded copper and decorated with gilded silver medallions showing the Archangel Michael defeating a dragon. The crosier’s crook or end is decorated with a serpent’s head.  Ms Harrison added: “This abbot was obviously of high status because he was buried with a very nice crosier, rather than a wooden or a lead replica of that. It’s in good condition. The only damage is caused by corrosion in the ground.”

 

mortuary chest

Mortuary Chests Such As This One in Winchester’s Cathedral Were Often Used To Hold Ecclesiastical Remains

Photography ©Gaye F. Mack, Inc. 

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MOVE OVER KING RICHARD III, MAKE WAY FOR THE BONES OF KING ALFRED OF WESSEX

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Gaye's England, Scotland & Wales, Writer's Work 2 Comments

 Last week archaeological authorities in England’s north announced that indeed, the skeleton found last summer underneath a municipal car park in Leicester is that of the notorious King Richard III.  Now on the heels of this discovery, a team of archaeologists from the University of Winchester down in England’s southern Hampshire are hoping to discover the bones of Saxon England’s 9th century King, Alfred of Wessex believed to be buried in St. Bartholomew church in Hyde, located a little north of Winchester. 

The saga of Alfred’s tomb is a complex one with enough twists and turns of which medieval mystery writers dream.  According to various resources, Alfred was originally although temporarily, buried in Winchester’s old minster upon his death on October 26, 899 AD.  However, about 903 AD, a new minster was built and consecrated next door and at that point, Alfred’s remains were moved to the New Minster; but this move  proved to be another temporary one.

Roughly about 1109 AD, King Henry I ordered the New Mister to be moved north of the city to the suburb of Hyde Mead.  When the new ‘abbey church’ of Hyde was consecrated in 1110 AD, the bodies of Alfred, his wife Ealhswith and his son Edward the Edler, were interred before the high altar…until Henry VIII’s rampage against the monasteries and abbeys in 1539. 

Amazingly, although the abbey church was demolished by Henry’s enforcers, the graves of several royals were left intact only to be accidentally discovered in 1788 during the construction of a prison on the old abbey site.  As often happened in such instances, the tombs were robbed, the bones scattered.  One of the stories that continues to persist is that a vicar ‘bought’ Alfred’s bones, although from an ‘unreliable’ source, and moved them to St. Bartholomew.  Anything is possible of course; the bones could be Alfred’s, although the sale of suspect ‘relics and artifacts’ is a practice that dates back thousands of years and remains so today…often under the guise of ‘lost’ art that turns out to be expertly forged!

If permission for the excavation is given, radio carbon dating will be used to determine the bones authenticity and if it’s proven that they are the bones of England’s greatest king, experts agree that this would be one of the most significant archaeological discoveries ever made.  Stay tuned! 

 

saxon list

Photography©Gaye F. Mack, Inc.

PARTIAL LIST OF BONES BELONGING TO ENGLAND’S SAXON KINGS AND BISHOPS BELIEVED TO BE CONTAINED IN THE MORTUARY CHESTS AT WINCHESTER CATHEDRAL

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