By Kristie Dean
Ambereley Publishing, 2015
Richard III remains one of the most controversial rulers in history. Whether he was guilty of murdering his nephews or not is a mystery that perhaps will never be solved. Even the location of the battlefield where, on 22 August 1485, Richard was struck down, has been a matter of debate. This book leads you on a journey through the landscape of Richard’s lifetime.
Following Richard’s trail, you will visit resplendent castles, towering cathedrals, manor homes and chapels associated with Richard. The Middle Ages come alive again as you visit Tewkesbury Abbey, where Richard helped his brother secure his throne. Witness the stunning vista of Wensleydale as you visit Middleham Castle, Richard’s adopted childhood home. Each location is brought to life through engaging narrative and an extensive collection of photographs, floor plans and images. The world of Richard III is closer than you think…
Read an Excerpt from The World of Richard III:
Our Lady of Walsingham, Norfolk
Pilgrimage was a popular way of demonstrating piety in the medieval period. There were many shrines throughout England and the continent for pilgrims to visit. Some were much more popular than others, such as the shrines of St Edmund at Bury, St Thomas of Canterbury and Our Lady of Walsingham. Pilgrims came to honour God, to receive indulgences and to obtain healing.
Nestled in the beautiful countryside of Norfolk, the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham was reputed to be one of the richest shrines in England. Legend states that the shrine was founded in 1061 by Richeldis de Faverches, who claimed that as she was saying her prayers she was visited by a vision of the Virgin Mary. Soon after she received two more visions of Joseph, Mary and Jesus, and was instructed to build a replica of the home in which Mary had received the news from the angel Gabriel that she was to bear the Messiah. Geoffrey de Faverches, Richeldis’s son, endowed the church with the intention that it be made a priory and gave the church land from his manor. The priory was established in the middle of the twelfth century.
Our Lady of Walsingham quickly became a place of pilgrimage, destined to be as popular, or even more popular, than that of the later shrine of St Thomas of Canterbury. Pilgrims came from as far away as the Continent, and the main road they are believed to have traversed went through Newmarket and Fakenham and is still called the Palmers’ Way. Many notable foreign visitors arrived, including John, the Duke of Brittany; Guy, Count of St Pol; and Desiderius Erasmus, who left an account of his visit. The shrine was often visited by royalty, including Henry III and Edward I. Two of Henry VIII’s wives visited Our Lady of Walsingham, and Katherine of Aragon left money to it in her will. Richard of York came here as a pilgrim upon his return from Ireland.
Evidence remains in wills that the shrine was popular – several bequests are left for pilgrims to travel to Walsingham on behalf of the dead. In 1498, William Mauleverer left the priory, ‘a litell ring … that king Richard gave me’.
The ‘holy house’ of the shrine was described in 1847 as having a fine perpendicular east front, consisting of two stair-turrets covered with panelling of flint and stone, with rich niches … and fine buttresses connected by the arch and gable over the east window; but the window itself is destroyed. In the gable is a small round window, with flowing tracery, set in the middle of a very thick wall.
There is some confusion as to whether the writer meant to describe the larger priory church instead of the shrine. The priory church consisted of a nave with two side aisles, a chapel, a choir, and a square middle tower. The ‘holy house’ was attached to the priory church on its north side, while the chapter house was connected with the abbey and the cloisters. The pointed arches of the cloisters rested on octagonal columns, and the large refectory was nearby. A large stone wall surrounded the abbey grounds.
After the Dissolution, the statue of the Virgin was burned, and the house dissolved. The vast treasures of this magnificent shrine went to further the coffers of Henry VIII and the priory fell to ruin. If Erasmus can be believed, pilgrims approached the shrine by a narrow gate. Upon entering, they would be taken to the first relic, where after paying, they were able to kiss the finger bone of St Peter. They then were taken to the wells, where they could take the waters. After this, they were taken to see the statue of the Virgin, which was the main attraction for the pilgrims.
Richard, in the company of Edward IV, Elizabeth and several of the Woodvilles, visited the shrine in 1469. Normally the pilgrims’ final stop on the way to Walsingham was the Chapel of St Catherine of Alexandria, built in the early fourteenth century. The pilgrims would confess their sins in the little chapel and then remove their shoes to walk the last mile to the shrine barefoot. After reaching the abbey, the pilgrims would have entered its precincts through the gatehouse and porter’s lodge on the high street.
Upon entering the chapel of the Virgin, the first thing Richard would have noticed would have been the pervasive odour of incense. As the chapel was dimly lit by long, slender candles, he would have carefully made his way to the altar, where to the right stood the statue of Our Lady, surrounded by gold and the jewels of the shrine. Kneeling, he would have prayed for a time before presenting his offering, which an awaiting priest would have immediately taken up.
Making his way to the outer chapel, he would have prostrated himself at the altar and prayed. The canon in attendance, attired with a surplice over his cassock and a richly ornamented stole with a decorative trim around his neck, would have also prostrated himself on the ground in front of the altar and worshipped before offering the Virgin’s milk for Richard to kiss. The milk of the Virgin was encased in crystal to protect it from contamination and was set in a crucifix. The peace of the moment would have been a break from the turmoil of the past few months – turmoil that Richard would not escape for long. It was from here that Edward, Richard and the king’s retinue departed to head north to deal with the rebels.
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