I was in York last Monday afternoon. It was a showery day and around four o’clock there was a sudden downpour that sent everyone dashing for shelter. From the doorway of the art gallery I turned as the sun came out and looking up at the cloud dark sky I was rewarded with a vivid rainbow which appeared to come down onto the Minster.
Rainbows make me think of a variety of things. Beauty. A sense of wonder. A reminder that we are living on a sphere which turns in space. God’s promise after the flood. And the rhyme I was taught so many years ago to help remember the colours. Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.
Richard of York was a descendant of Edward III and after he had acted as Protector during the mental illness of Henry VI he pressed his superior claim to the throne. On 7th October 1460 parliament agreed that the crown should pass to York and his heirs after the death of Henry VI. But Henry’s wife, Margaret of Anjou, and her supporters were unhappy with this decision and raised an army to defeat the Duke of York by force. This was the beginning of what are now called the Wars of the Roses.
Facing uprisings by the Lancastrians, Richard of York sent his eldest son, Edward, the Earl of March, to put down a rebellion in Wales and he marched north to Sandal Castle, in Yorkshire, with his second son, Edmund, the Earl of Rutland.
No-one is sure why he left the castle on 30th December 1460, but the result was the Battle of Wakefield where he was hacked to death by his enemies and his seventeen year old son was murdered as he tried to escape the carnage. Both their heads were left to rot on Micklegate Bar in York following the Lancastrian victory.
So the rainbow over the Minster left me with feelings of both delight and sadness as I considered some of the history connected with the city and the dynasty of York.
Today is Mothering Sunday. It is a Christian festival which falls on the fourth Sunday in Lent and celebrates ‘mother church’. On this day people would return to worship at their mother church which was often a cathedral or large parish church. It was the place they had been baptised and where their family came from so it would also have been a day for family reunions. It was this that became the tradition of allowing servants to go to their family homes on this Sunday to visit their mothers and it was this that led to it becoming a celebration of motherhood as well. There was also a slight relaxation of the Lenten fast and traditionally Simnel cake was eaten on this day which is why it is also sometimes known as Simnel Sunday.
Here’s another interesting grave that I didn’t have room to include in my book Lancashire: Who Lies Beneath?
It is not the actual grave but the gravestone of Peter de Cestria, the first and only Rector of Whalley. It previously lay in the churchyard but was brought inside in 1950 to preserve it.
Peter de Cestria was an interesting man and a member, though not a legitimate one, of the de Lacy family. He was never actually a priest but rose to become a very influential man in the reign of King Edward I.
Although the remains of Whalley Abbey contain his chapel, that building pre-dates the abbey and Peter was set against the monks making the move from Stanlaw. They were only able to come after his death, eleven years after they had been promised the site by Henry de Lacy.
I’ve written more about Peter de Cestria on my page about the de Lacy family.
I went to Lyme Park in Cheshire today to see the exhibition ‘Charles I: King and Martyr’. Lyme Park has a set of chairs reputedly upholstered with the silk lining of the cloak in which Charles went to his execution. Also on display were a pair of the king’s gloves, his dagger and his eating knife as well as selection of images of him and his execution. It was fascinating but slightly chilling.
On the 30th January 1649, after reigning for almost 24 years, Charles went to his execution on a scaffold outside his palace of Whitehall in London having been found guilty of high treason.
He had ruled as an absolute monarch believing that he had a divine right to be king and had no need of parliament. His attitude had led to a civil war and even when defeated he refused to accept demands for a constitutional monarchy. At his trial he wore a hat throughout the proceedings to show that he did acknowledge the court’s authority and when he was found guilty he went to his death as a martyr. His final words were that he went ‘from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown’.
Following his death many people struggled with their guilt at the killing of an anointed king and a cult of sainthood grew up around him. Many of the pictures in the exhibition draw parallels between the execution of Charles and the death of Jesus.
Charles severed head was sewn back onto his body before it was taken for private burial at St George’s chapel, Windsor.