Shakespeare and Greenwich | The Shakespeare blog

The remains of the Tudor palace at Greenwich

There is something special about the place where important events took place, no matter how long ago. Even where there are no remaining signs on the ground people still visit: perhaps the draw is that these sites make us use our imaginations so strongly.

It’s always surprising to find bits of the London that Shakespeare knew beneath…

Source: Shakespeare and Greenwich | The Shakespeare blog

Leicester, Middleham and That Play | Matt’s History Blog

Antony Sher as Richard III for the Royal Shakespeare Company [1984]

Antony Sher as Richard III for the Royal Shakespeare Company [1984]

The performances of Shakespeare’s Richard III scheduled to take place inside Leicester Cathedral on 19th and 20th July 2017 are causing waves. There can be little doubt that the size and extent of …

Source: Leicester, Middleham and That Play | Matt’s History Blog

Shakespeare’s ancestors and Christopher Wren | Culture and Anarchy

I’ve never given much thought to Shakespeare’s family, but I’m currently staying at Wroxall Abbey in Warwickshire (on a ‘writing retreat’ focusing on teaching), and have found an unexpected history to the place. I knew that the building the hotel occupies was a Victorian Gothic building (which is beautiful) which has a history as a residence and then a girls’ school before it became a hotel, but it turns out that the Abbey from which the building takes its name was founded in 1141 on the site, and ruins (and I do love ruins) of the medieval Lady Chapel are on the site. Relatives of Shakespeare (and after all, we’re not far from Stratford here) were involved in the running of the Abbey: in 1501 Isabella Shakespeare was Prioress, and in 1524 Joan Shakespeare was Sub-Prioress. Later, in the 1530s, Richard Shakespeare, grandfather of William, was Bailiff of the Church. We know that Shakespeare was born and raised in the Anglican Church (as was usual at the time) but I wonder what he knew about his family at Wroxall? It’s interesting to speculate if the Abbess in The Comedy of Errors might owe anything to his forebears.

With the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the house became a private estate, with an Elizabethan manor which was…

Source:  Shakespeare’s ancestors and Christopher Wren | Culture and Anarchy.

Sir John Falstaff, the Notorious Highwayman – Here Begynneth A Lytell Geste of Robin Hood…

So committed to historical accuracy were Alexander Smith and Charles Johnson that in their respective History of the Lives and Robberies of the Most Noted Highwaymen (1714) and Lives and Exploits of the Most Noted Highwaymen (1734) they give us the life of Sir John Falstaff.

Falstaff lived, we are told by Smith and Johnson, during the reigns of Henry IV and Henry V. Being born of no great or distinguished parentage, they tell us that Falstaff took to the road with three accomplices to support his extravagant lifestyle. He was a very fat man, and his nicknames were:

– Ton of Man (a pun on the Biblical term ‘Son of Man’)
– Chops
– Sack and Sugar
– Fat-Kidneyed Rascal
– Bombast

Apparently Henry IV, who Smith tells us took to life upon the road for a short while, said to him:

You are so fat-witted with drinking of old sack, and unbuttoning thee after supper, and sleeping upon benches in the afternoon.

He was also a womaniser, and could often be found in the lowest bawdy houses of London, according to Capt. Charles Johnson.

Then came the wars of the roses, we are told by Smith and Johnson, and as a consequence of his acquaintance and friendship with King Henry, Falstaff received a commission to serve as a…

Source: Sir John Falstaff, the Notorious Highwayman – Here Begynneth A Lytell Geste of Robin Hood…

Scribbled forms on vellum: a living link with the past | The Shakespeare blog

Three cheers for Paul Wright, the Manager of William Cowley, interviewed on the Today programme on Monday 15 February (2hrs 49 mins in), about the decision to continue to print UK laws on vellum rather than move to archival paper. It’s a campaign that he has passionately promoted in the face of the inevitable march of progress: paper would be cheaper and more in keeping with our world, not the world of the past. But now the Cabinet Office has offered to pay for the tradition to continue. Cabinet Officer Matt Hancock has noted that vellum is “surprisingly cost-effective” and that “While the world constantly changes, we should safeguard some of our great traditions.”

Paul Wright too used the emotional argument that “We love our history” as well as the practical, reminding his interviewer that the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered after being lost for thousands of years, that vellum offers a “safe method of data storage”, and that other countries are now using vellum for their important documents: “our records are the envy of the world”.

Even so it’s a surprising turn-around. Parchment and vellum are made from…

Source: Scribbled forms on vellum: a living link with the past | The Shakespeare blog

Richard III – The Answers

Matt's History Blog

There are a glut of articles saturating the press at the moment posing some pretty unpleasant questions about Richard III. Maybe it’s time for some answers. We are constantly asked why we are celebrating a child-killing tyrant, or what Richard III ever did for us. Sadly many of the articles cannot answer their own questions because their content demonstrates such a fundamental lack of understanding of the real issues.

Richard III has divided opinion for over 500 years and shows no sign of ceasing to do so as he is laid to rest for the second time in his long and eventful after-life. The Richard III Society exists to promote the re-examination of Richard III and his times. Contrary to the popular impression, most Ricardians are not the ‘loons’ David Starkey sees or any of the other names bandied about, none of which are complementary and all of which are…

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KRIII Visitor Centre Review

Matt's History Blog

I have heard plenty about the King Richard III Visitor Centre in Leicester. Some positive, including the recent architectural award that the centre won, but plenty that was less complimentary. I finally made it there to judge for myself with my daughter and, for those who may be interested, here are my thoughts on the exhibition, entitled Dyansty, Death and Discovery.

Richard III Statue outside Leicester Cathedral Richard III Statue outside Leicester Cathedral

After buying our tickets, the first room to which we are directed is a flag stone floored chamber containing a throne, on which sit two discarded roses facing defiantly away from each other. This room offers an introduction to the Wars of the Roses from key figures in the live of Richard III – Cecily Neville, his mother, Richard Neville, the Kingmaker Earl of Warwick, Richard’s guardian as he grew to manhood, Vincent Tetulier, an armourer creating harness for Richard, Anne Neville, Richard’s…

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Guest Blog: Meeting Catherine – My Journey from Shakespeare’s ‘Henry V’ to ‘Catherine de Valois’

Interesting Literature

By Laurel A. Rockefeller

Henry V is one of the most beloved plays of all time. Though mostly about King Henry’s war with France and his victory at Agincourt on 25th October 1415, the play introduces us to Henry V’s future queen Catherine de Valois from Henry’s decidedly biased point of view.

But was Shakespeare’s version of Queen Catherine truly historical?

Following my successful launch of my short biography Boudicca: Britain’s Queen of the Iceni aimed at primary- and middle-school children in March, I decided to take on this very question. What I discovered along the way now makes me wonder how Shakespeare ever kept his head on his shoulders in light of the fact that Queen Elizabeth I was Catherine’s – but not King Henry’s – descendant.

Catherine_of_FranceCatherine de Valois was born 27th October 1401 in Paris, the youngest daughter of the paranoid schizophrenic King Charles VI and…

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52 Weeks of Historical How-To’s, Week 42: How to read minds!

Echoes from the Vault

“I’ll know thy thoughts.” – Othello, act iii. scene 3.

The Lighting the Past team has been working its way through the sizeable Reserve Collection of Shakespeare pamphlets and ephemera for some time.  There was a moment where we thought we had finished cataloguing the whole collection, only to realise that the other half of the collection was stored somewhere else and we had many, many more Shakespeare pamphlets to catalogue…

We were working on this Shakespeare collection one day in July on what we then thought was our last box of pamphlets, Number 20, labelled: ‘Miscellaneous’.  At the bottom of the box we noticed a small object.  We lifted out the little paper envelope with its portrait of a rather debonair Shakespeare.

Pic 1 Cover_1 The puzzle envelope, complete with debonair Shakespeare. Top right can be seen the stamp of the Shakespeare Memorial Association, a previous owner of the puzzle…

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