Archive for July, 2011

Conference parallels ‘big society’ with medieval times

Does this mean the Welsh Assembly can invade on 22 August?

“Experts in the Middle Ages have been told the spirit of volunteering was strong in medieval times – drawing parallels with Prime Minister David Cameron’s modern-day vision of a ‘big society’.

More than 1,600 delegates have been attending the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds. The three-day conference – which ends today – is looking at the approaches and views taken by medieval societies to poverty and wealth and comparing them to modern-day issues.

Delegates have been told that the government’s current impetus on empowering communities by fostering volunteerism and redistributing power so communities might take over public services draws significant parallels with medieval England.

Dr Miriam Muller of Birmingham University, presenting at this year’s conference, said:

"Medieval society was devoid of a welfare state, and those in extreme poverty only had their neighbours or their parish to fall back on for support."

The study of medieval societies allows an insight into how communities developed their identities, and how this identity articulates itself in the present day. Muller added:

"As all communities are complex social and cultural constructs, one can not simply will a community into being."

Another expert, Dr Arie Van Steensel, sees a direct comparison between medieval society and Cameron’s ‘big society’. He said:

"The discussion was and is basically about the same question: the allocation of tasks and responsibilities with regard to the provision of public services within society.

"The concept of a civil society, both in the present day and the Middle Ages, can be used to describe the social organisations occupying the space between the household and the state, which enabled people to co-ordinate and manage their resources and activities."

The academic conference is the biggest of its kind in the UK, and the largest medieval themed conference in Europe. Muller presented her paper, ‘Rich and poor in the English village: some aspects of intra-communal dynamics’ yesterday and Steensel will present his paper, ‘Urban community building and public institutions in medieval Italy, England, and the Low Countries’, at 2.15pm today in the Club Room of Bodington Hall.”

John Baron

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Research uncovers history of Derbyshire churches

Research into a town more than 100 miles away from Ashbourne has thrown up an unexpected Derbyshire connection that dates back to medieval times.

Ilkley author’s fresh twist on ‘mis-represented’ Richard III

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10976?ns=guardian&pageName=Ilkley+author%27s+fresh+twist+on+%27mis-represented%27+Richard+III%3AArticle%3A1602523&ch=UK+news&“A former IT consultant from Yorkshire has put a twist on Richard III’s troubled life. Guest blogger Martin Hickes reports

A fresh twist on the troubled life of Richard III, arguably England’s most ‘mis-represented’ king, is the focus of a new novel from Yorkshire author Christopher Rae.

Chris, from Ilkley, Yorkshire, a former IT consultant has penned his third historical novel, ‘G – Loyalty Binds Me’, which traces the history of the infamous Yorkist monarch through the eyes one of his closest supporters, Francis Lovell.

Based closely on historical fact, the novel encapsulates all the turmoil, intrigue and machinations of the period surrounding the Wars of the Roses, with the drama of the Yorkist court in 1483 lying at the heart of the action.

The novel – which takes its name from Richard’s original epithet of Duke of Gloucester – gives a key insight into the mind of the man who would become Richard III.

But at its heart lies the loyal friendship of the pair, both caught up in the scheming of the succession crisis triggered by the death of Edward IV.

Chris says:

"Francis Lovell was the son of John Lovell, 8th Baron Lovell and Joan Beaumont, daughter of John Beaumont, 1st Viscount Beaumont.

"When his father died, he inherited the titles of Baron Lovell and became a ward of Edward IV, the Yorkist monarch.

"Edward gave him into the charge of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, where Edward’s youngest brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester (Richard III as he would become) also spent some time.

"And it was there that the two young men first formed their close association and a remarkable loyalty, certainly on the part of Lovell, was created.

"On the death of his grandmother, Alice Deincourt in 1474, Lovell inherited a large estate, including the feudal barony of Bedale, in North Yorkshire, thus becoming one of the wealthiest barons in England.

"Lovell became a follower of his friend, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, to whom he was also linked through their respective marriages: his wife, Anne FitzHugh was the first cousin of Richard’s wife Anne Neville.

"He then served under Richard in the expedition to Scotland in 1480, and was knighted by Richard for it, the same year.

"In Jan 1483, Lovell was created a viscount, and while still Lord Protector, Richard made him Chief Butler and UC Constable of Wallingford Castle.

"Richard then acceded to the throne 1483; and at his coronation, Lovell was shown favour again being promoted to the office of Lord Chamberlain, and was made a Knight of the Garter.

"Then came the great rebellion crisis of 1483 when Lovell helped in the suppression of Henry Stafford, the Duke of Buckingham."

In June 1485, Lovell was appointed to guard the south coast to prevent the landing of Henry Tudor.

However, Henry landed near Milford Haven avoiding the stronger defences of the English south coast.

While no chronicle account of the battle mentions Lovell, many historians agree he would have fought for Richard at the pivotal Battle of Bosworth Field (22 August 1485).

After the battle, Lovell fled to sanctuary at Colchester – but ever loyal to Richard, organised a revolt in Yorkshire against Henry Tudor.

After its failure, he played a key role at the final Yorkist rebellion against Henry VII at Stoke Field, in Dublin, [to many the very last war in the Roses conflict], alongside the Yorkist candidate for the throne Lambert Simnel.

As one of the few escapees from such, his fate remains largely unknown. Chris says:

"The hope is that the reader will detect the irony in Richard’s motto, and the novel’s subtitle: ‘Loyalty Binds Me’.

"After all, Richard swore allegiance to Edward V – and then took his crown!

"But, at the same time, it was Lovell who proved most constant to Richard, continuing to fight for his friend and master even after his death, when the cause must have seemed pretty hopeless.

"The bond between the two men is notable – they became friends when they were both quite young, and were faithful to each other, in a time when loyalty was easily bought and sold.

"They meet at Middleham, when both were sent to be educated at the famous northern stronghold which still has strong associations with Richard III, and Lovell remains loyal to Richard even after his death at Bosworth.

"As the succession crisis threatens to spiral out of control, Lovell is drawn in, deeper and deeper.

"With his childhood friend at the centre of the struggle for the crown, Francis finds his loyalty to "G" tested by the machinations of those who seek to bring about the destruction of the Yorkist regime, and by the consequences of his own imperfections.

"’G’ is an imaginative account, a work of fiction, but one which is heavily reliant on real events, and I have attempted to give as accurate account of those events possible given the sparse and often contradictory nature of the sources on which the historical account is based.

"While many people have many views about the nature of Richard III, my view is that first and foremost he was simply trying to survive. He lived with the knowledge of his father’s brutal death, and also with the knowledge of the brutality of the society of the time.

"Buckingham was a former ally who rebelled against him, and in tumultuous times, what was driving Richard principally was his will to survive.

"Conspiracy and treason all poison the air of that sweltering summer of 1483, during which the succession, the fate of the Princes in the Tower, and the destiny of England are all decided.

"It’s written in the first person from Lovell’s point of view, so, a little like Nick Carraway in ‘The Great Gatsby’, you have a character in Lovell who is very close to Richard III.

"I hope both committed Ricardians and readers new to the story of Richard’s usurpation of the throne of England will find themselves transported into the very eye of the storm."

So was Lovell right to remain so loyal to the memory of Richard III?
Chris says we have to imagine the very different times which existed during the tumultuous period.

"To put things into context, say you are ‘Labour’ supporter and a ‘Conservative’ government comes in. As such, (under the extreme regimes in place in the Wars of the Roses) you face execution and confiscation of all your goods and property – so you know your wife and child will face penury after your rather unpleasant death.

"If you agree to forget all that ‘Labour’ ‘nonsense’ and become a faithful ‘Conservative’, the new regime might just decide to forgive, and let you off.

"But, if you insist on sticking to your principles, you will either be executed, or if you can get away, you will become a rebel and a fugitive.

"Throughout the Wars of the Roses, Englishmen had to make this decision, time and time again. Some bent with the wind, and tried to keep in with whoever was winning. Some stuck to their guns and sometimes paid the ultimate price for it!

"I don’t think anyone would have thought ill of Lovell if he had made his peace with Henry VII, but he chose not to do that. Perhaps he just couldn’t stomach it. I don’t think we will ever know for certain."

More than 200 years after Bosworth, in 1708, the skeleton of a man was found in a secret chamber in the family mansion at Minster Lovell in Oxfordshire and it was supposed that Lovell had hidden himself there and died of starvation. Legend has it that his bones turned to dust on being exposed to the air.
‘G – Loyalty Binds Me’ is available as an e-book from Amazon, as are Christopher’s two other historical novels Mandeville and Centrum.
More details can be found here. A second novel documenting the events and aftermath of Bosworth Field (1485) is planned.

Guest blogger Martin Hickes is a Leeds-based freelance journalist.”

News of the World hacking – what you can do

Roy Greenslade View article…

If you are asking yourself what can be done about the News of the World following the Milly Dowler hacking revelations, here are some ideas.

The public is not impotent. People can act in response to what the prime minister has called "a truly dreadful act."

1. Boycott the paper. Treat it just as the people of Merseyside did when The Sun ran its infamous Hillsborough story in 1989 following the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters. Boycott The Sun as well.

2.Pressure advertisers and media buyers not to buy space in the News of the World and to withdraw ads they’ve already booked.

In last Sunday’s issue, the advertisers included Tesco, Aldi, Currys, the Body Shop and Xtra-vision. If you’re reading this in Ireland, there were also ads for SuperValu, Bulmers, Aer Lingus,, Cost Plus Sofas, Steel Tech Sheds and Joe Duffy Motors.

3. Back the call for an independent public inquiry into the whole hacking affair. It will be officially launched tomorrow at a meeting in the Lords.

Among the organisers are media academics, lawyers, MPs and peers. More information will be found soon on the website.

There are so many aspects to this saga that require proper investigation: the roles of the paper and two police forces; the activities of various private investigators; the response of the Press Complaints Commission; and the relationship between the paper’s publisher, News International, and senior politicians.

4. Demand to know who has been, and is, paying the legal expenses of Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who was jailed for intercepting voicemail messages on behalf of the News of the World.

News International has consistently refused to confirm or deny that it is funding Mulcaire. Note clauses 15 and 16 of the editors’ code of practice, which is the PCC’s "bible". So…

5. Ask the PCC if it has inquired of News Int whether it, or any of its associated companies, has been responsible for paying the legal fees of a convicted man? If it has not, why not? And is it therefore time that it did so?