The Intrepid Traveller: Born Skeptic turns Softie

When it comes to travel, I am a born skeptic.

Everything that can go wrong probably will.  The places we visit won’t be that great. The tour guides won’t tell me anything I couldn’t have learned from reading. The people on the trip may not be a good mix of personalities — or worse, they may all be annoying. The food will likely disappoint.  The days will be too long. Or, too short. The shows can’t be as good as the ones we have in Staunton.  What is the point, really?

I know this cynical view doesn’t sound like a good starting point for the person organizing a trip for 22 participants. To England. For 10 days.

But, I think that, instead of proving the wrong attitude, my take may have made the trip even more enjoyable than it would have been if I had started in a more “Pollyanna-ish” state. Maybe it has to do with my personal adage: If you expect to be disappointed, you may end up being pleasantly surprised — only, in the case of the 2016 ASC Land of Lords trip, “pleasant” would be a huge understatement. I was joyfully, tremendously, thoroughly, and completely delighted by virtually every moment, certainly every person,  and absolutely the experience of the trip as a whole.  

Myth #1: Everything that can go wrong probably will.

Director of Mission and ASC co-founder Ralph Cohen, Academic Resources Manager Cass Morris (or, as we call her, the person in charge of words for Education), and I worked for over a year to put together this adventure we called Shakespeare’s England: A Land of Lords.  The fact that our fearless (Shakes-Fear-less, to be precise) leader was working on his book, giving a couple of talks a month in various locations across the US, and travelling to Italy for about four weeks immediately before our trip began might have spelled doom for many.

Added to Ralph’s lack of available time in which to provide guidance, Cass and I, of course, hosted our biennial conference for 300 in October 2015, as well as adding a few other conferences and events to our schedule for the Legacy year (400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s death). Because that wasn’t quite enough, we also kept ourselves downright busy with other things like hiring new college prep staff and preparing to move our offices while we were in the UK. All of which should have added up to a trip that didn’t make — or at least, a trip that didn’t make with sufficient numbers for all of our team to attend, but instead, we found just the right number (and right mix) of intrepid souls to join us.

Moreover, excellent communication from Cass leading up to the trip (see her blogs here) built enthusiasm and provided essential facts to help us prepare for the group’s time together in England. With a couple of focused days (pinning down dates and addresses for our coach driver, calling and emailing all of the locations we would visit) and some true turns of luck — Why did flights suddenly drop 5 weeks out from departure? Anyone hear of Brexit (an unexpected boon to our budget)? — and the kindness of the group sales folks in the UK, we nailed every venue and tour guide down, we figured out every visit to the minute, and we began to look forward to a trip that would fill the non-skeptic with delight.

1It’s true, when travelling, the airport is the most likely place something can go wrong, so it proved to be no surprise when, yes, some flights were delayed. By some turn of fate, we still landed 19 of our 22 travelers with little to no delay (though stellar camper Rick M. unexpectedly added an extra leg to his journey in order to make it on time — two legs, if you count the walk between Terminals three and two).  Everyone got through passport control, we made it to our coach (and the amazing driver, Mike, who would guide us down all of the tiny roads one could find in Shakespeare Country) in good time after a lovely catch up and meet and greet in Terminal 2’s Caffe Nero at Heathrow.  What about the other three, you might ask? As Fortune would have it, they were on the same flight and landed the very next day, whereat, we were able to arrange for a car to chauffeur them directly to our lovely lodging in Broadway.

Myth #2: The places won’t be that great.

I just finished the final touches on our expenses, and that meant recalling every place we visited though the receipts they generated.  In 10 days, we visited 15 houses or castles, 10 gorgeous churches, 5 exceptional gardens, took 5 fantastic walks, ate en masse at 5 terrific places, saw two shows at the Royal Shakespeare Company (with some of our campers adding to that number in Cambridge), and saw not only Shakespeare’s birthplace and school but also, we were among the first 300 people in the world ever to see Will’s will in person–that three page document so closely associated with our reason for being in the UK. And, in addition to our own two fantastic faculty members (who gave lectures on almost every place we visited), we heard from four amazing guides, I’m exhausted just thinking about it.  

202But more than sheer quantity, we saw quality places.    My eyes were opened to powerful art at Burghley House, while Hardwick Hall’s architecture blew me away (not to mention a lovely exhibit on Arbella, the Stuart who might have been Queen, had Elizabeth acknowledged her lineage above James’s). Chatsworth’s and Powis’s gardens stunned, and Alwnick connected Downton Abbey, Harry Potter, and Hotspur in ways I had not imagined (but very much enjoyed). The ruins of Ludlow, Kenilworth, and Dunstanburgh presented space for quiet contemplation and re-imagining scenes, while walks to Heddon-on-the wall and Broadway Tower allowed me to get to know our participants better. When one travels with a certain Director of Mission, one should expect to see some churches.  But, oh, the churches we saw.  From the tiny churches like those Heddon-on-the-Wall, and Stanton (pronounced Stanton, believe it or not!), which revealed their periods of growth in architectural details outside and in, to the fantastic cathedrals in York and Norwich, we saw an array of churches which represented the changing faith of Shakespeare’s home land from his earliest History plays through to the period of his last.

Our day in the near-“Disney” Stratford-Upon-Avon was made perfect by a wonderful connection at Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Cait Fannin-Peel. Cait took our program in hand, arranged for a fascinating talk to introduce the ongoing work of the Trust (and won a few donors to the New Place project), she got us into three open properties and gave us a sneak peek of New Place — a site that was two weeks from opening. She didn’t personally arrange for the National Archive to display Shakespeare’s will just on the day we were touring, but I think she could probably arrange — and would — something of that magnitude.  She walked us to Anne Hathaway’s cottage, took us to Hall’s Croft, shared her stories of Holy Trinity (and tried her best to get us into it when a wedding prevented it — then DID get us into it on Monday morning, first thing), made sure we saw the Guildhall and Shakespeare’s school, and basically gave us her Saturday.  We encountered so many people of like generosity, at Chatsworth, at Norwich Castle, and in our lovely hotels, it felt as though England had rolled out the red carpet for us.

Myth #3: The tour guides won’t tell me anything I couldn’t have learned from reading.  

First of all, I knew better than to think this about either of our faculty members. But having had them both in class, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be hearing anything — or not much — new. Boy, was I wrong. If you have the chance to take Mary Hill Cole or Ralph Cohen on a jaunt around England, let me just say, I recommend it.  Mary Hill contextualized every location and made the coach trip fly by as we travelled from place to place.  Ralph has a knack for pointing out the visual clues to history and makes the being there matter.  He also falls into lovely coincidences, like the statue of the Saints Crispin in a Shrewsbury garden that wasn’t even on our itinerary–our leadership seminar uses Henry V’s Agincourt speech in every session we host, so I’ve heard that speech a dozen times in the last year at least–making concrete the words with which I work, and who knew they were the saints of Shoemakers?!

255Then, there were the tour guides. We found four people who not only really knew their stuff, but also, passionately, wanted to share it, in dynamic and delightful ways. Alan, of White Rose Tours  in York (chosen purely because Cass and Lia Razak, our College Prep Programs Manager, are such Yorkists) [Editor’s Note: #whiteroserightrose], led us on a humorous 90-minute excursion with perfectly timed stopping points and, yes, jokes. As it turned out, he is a stand-up comedian, so we were laughing about Richard III and the York wall, while also learning fascinating things about their history. Our Cambridge guides, Chris and Tony of Cambridge Tour Guides, had a gift for engaging the group, and as Alan had in York, for connecting Shakespeare to the surroundings. In Cambridge, as it seemed every tourist in the UK decided to visit the day we did, they expertly shuttled us around rambunctious teens from at least a dozen different countries and advised us on where to go and what to do post tour, too. They had a talent for getting us into sites just before a christening or between banquets so we felt like we had found guides with a magic touch — or superior timing, or both. Our staff guide at Alnwick seemed almost as delighted to talk about its use as a location in films from Harry Potter to Elizabeth and shows from Downton Abbey to The Hollow Crown: The War of the Roses.  As with all of our exceptional guides, his enthusiasm carried us right past the time set, and we almost all got to stay in Alnwick for the night; the gate began closing around us as we dashed back to the coach and on towards Dunstanburgh.  

Myth #4: The people on the trip may not be a good mix of personalities–or worse, they may all be annoying.

61In addition to places and guides, experiences, like breakfast every morning with a different friend to communal meals and banquets and teas, and even a rained out picnic, offered us all the chance to meet new people and deeply engage with their history and relationship to Shakespeare. We mixed up our seating on the coach, took opportunities for extra excursions (there wasn’t quite enough on the schedule already!), and made special dates for dinner and lunch just to visit with new group members.  At one of our first stops, I picked up a card set for one of the people I’d heard talking about wanting to know the Kings and Queens better, and thus began a tradition carried out by Cass, Ralph, and me.  At each gift shop, we would find something for each of our group — special to them. So Sandy, who looked for Green Men in each church, received a book on them at our final banquet. The ever-patient and sweet Ruth, always waiting for her photog husband Warren, found a folding fan to help her wait out his documentary excursions. Notebooks and poetry collections for our writers and teachers, our gorgeous Gay found a blue glass just the hue of her favorite necklace in wait, our “student” Donna will make use of her new book as she finishes earning credit for the trip, and Ed and Lois each got items to further their enthusiasm for learning more about the UK’s royalty. This project was as rewarding for me as for the gift recipients, as I delighted in thinking about them — what made each so special, George’s enthusiasm and kindness, Jim’s quiet intellect, Betty’s “just do it” attitude — and why each was such a special and perfect addition to our group.  

Myth #5: The food will likely disappoint.

162Well, that was just wrong. From our first lunch at The Mermaid in the charming Burford, to our speciality cocktail “Much Ado About Nothing” at Lygon Arms, to the unbelievable seafood at Craster–with a view of the ocean that only made it more sweet, to the meals out with friends–Indian (with an amazing Family size Naan) with Philip, Rick, Betty and Cass, and Scottish with John–to our Traditional Tea at the Swan in Lavenham, and finally, our last evening at the beautiful Felix Hotel, we ate our way through England quite, quite well.

Myth #6: The days will be too long. Or, too short.

When traveling, one must ask oneself if one wants to sit in a room (which would have been a great option at any of our hotels!) or see the places they came to visit.  Our guests felt free to choose, with almost everyone skipping at least one excursion to do something on their own.  Even those who didn’t, I would warrant a guess, enjoyed the easy balance of one day at each hotel stop which kept us close and allowed for some breathing space. We had among us, even, some adventurous types who visited a dance club in York — they shall remain nameless; I was only there to make sure everyone was safe, I assure you.

Myth #7: The shows can’t be as good as the ones we have in Staunton.  

Well… Yes, this part was true. But, what a wonderful chance to see some shows and draw comparisons. The different spaces and the choices made by the productions we saw generated fascinating conversations, and we each benefited from seeing the work.

147Myth #8: What is the point, really?

The point is, when we leave our comfort zone, especially with others, we learn about life in new ways. History feeds the present, perhaps most in Shakespeare Studies, but in many other ways as well.  Perhaps more importantly, and my biggest takeaway on this trip, is that present feeds the present, too.  Present people, present places, present presents, expand minds, hearts, and give way to the sincere hope that we will see one another again. And soon.

The No Kidding Shakespeare Camp convenes annually in Staunton to provide enrichment to fans of Shakespeare and of life, especially those who seek a unique way to fill the hours of their summer.  We built 2016’s Land of Lords trip to celebrate Shakespeare’s legacy in the 400th year since his death. The 2017 topic for our return to Staunton will be Shakespeare and Art. We hope to see you there.

–Sarah Enloe, Director of Education

Shakespeare’s England: A Land of Lords – Preview #10

Greetings from London! As I sit in the world’s nicest airport coffee shop, where tomorrow we will be greeting our NKSC 2016 travelers, I can share with you the final entry in our preview series: Stratford-upon-Avon, home to William Shakespeare himself.

Stratford is a town in Warwickshire roughly the same size as Staunton, Virginia, with about 25,000 residents. It, however, sees nearly 5 million visitors in a year (would that we were so fortunate!), and most of those do come to see the home of Shakespeare and productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company. It began life in the 12th century as a market town, but soon made its fortune off of Cotswold wool and tanning. Actor David Garrick was responsible for starting up the town’s tourism industry when he held the first Shakespeare Jubilee in 1769. Garrick built the first known theatre in the town for the occasion, nearly in the same riverside location as the modern Royal Shakespeare Theatre, but it was subsequently washed away when the Avon flooded.

Stratford-upon-Avon is also the home of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, an organization caretaking those properties relevant to Shakespeare’s life:

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The current buzz in Stratford-upon-Avon is about Shakespeare’s New Place, his family home from 1597 until his death in 1616. The house passed through various owners until the 1750s, when Reverend Francis Gastrell, annoyed with curious onlookers, first destroyed the gardens, then demolished the entire house. The Birthplace Trust, however, has excavated the site and has been able to reconstruct a floorplan of what the house was probably like during Shakespeare’s lifetime as well as before or after. Evidence suggests that not only did he buy the second-biggest house in Stratford — suggesting that his wealth was already considerable by 1597, even before he had written some of his most famous plays — he also made additions and improvements to it. These revelations give a fascinating look at the home lives of middle class English families during the Tudor and Stuart eras, including information on what remodeling and gardening projects would have been considered status symbols at the time. During our trip, we’ll find out what the neighbors would have had to do to “keep up with the Shakespeares.”

unnamed (1)Originally a farmhouse, the building known as Anne Hathaway’s Cottage was in fact home to the Hathaway family for generations. It was constructed in 1463, and someone of the Hathaway line lived there until 1911. Fittingly, the Birthplace Trust uses this location to educate visitors about Tudor-era courtship, so our travelers will be able to learn about them and envision how William and Anne got their start in life.

Since we are, ourselves, educators, we’re excited to visit King Edward’s School. Though the school’s early records were lost in a fire, scholars believe that, as the son of an alderman, William Shakespeare would have attended King Edward’s as a boy. Originally a religious school from the 13th century, it passed into civic hands during the reign and Protestant reformations of King Edward VI. Along with it came lands, whose proceeds were intended to support the school and the education of Stratford-upon-Avon’s youngsters in the future.

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When Shakespeare has Jacques in As You Like It speak of the schoolboy “creeping like snail, unwillingly”, we can imagine young William doing so in the Upper Guildhall, pictured above. During the summer, school began at 6am and would continue until dark; winter brought a bit of a reprieve, with class starting later and ending earlier, though students were still expected to supply their own candles for the dimmer hours. From the age of six or seven, young Elizabethans would learn the trivium of education: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. If a boy stayed in school long enough, he might move on to the quadrivium, considered essential for philosophy: arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. King Edward’s is also likely where Shakespeare picked up the “little Latin and less Greek” Ben Jonson accused him of having, as well as where we can imagine him getting the taste for the stories of Roman authors Ovid, Seneca, and Plutarch.

We’ll also visit Hall’s Croft, the home of Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna and her husband, Dr. John Hall. Described as “a compassionate and diligent physician” by the Birthplace Trust, Dr. Hall preferred the use of herbs and animal extracts in his treatments, as opposed to relying on astronomy or bloodletting. The Birthplace Trust has re-created gardens much like what he may have kept in order to source his own supplies.

Though Shakespeare never wrote of Stratford-upon-Avon in his plays, Ben Jonson made reference to William’s origins in the introductory poem to the 1623 First Folio:

Sweet Swan of Avon! what a sight it were
To see thee in our water yet appear,
And make those flights upon the banks of Thames
That so did take Eliza, and our James!
But stay, I see thee in the hemisphere
Advanc’d, and made a constellation there!
Shine forth, thou star of poets, and with rage
Or influence, chide, or cheer the drooping stage;
Which since thy flight from hence hath mourn’d like night,
And despairs day, but for thy volume’s light.

Hopefully through these locations, we’ll be able to envision the life Shakespeare would have led at home, from boy to man. We’ll also be seeing two Royal Shakespeare Company productions: on July 15th, we travel over from Broadway for The Alchemist, and on July 16th, following our day in Stratford, we’ll enjoy A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

So that, dear readers, is the end of this preview series — but only the beginning of the adventure! If you’d like to follow along as we travel, check out the tag #NKSC16 on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I’ll be posting photos throughout the trip.

Shakespeare’s England: A Land of Lords — Preview #9

We’re just 20 days out from greeting our #NKSC16 attendees at Heathrow Airport. In this, the penultimate trip preview, I’m going to bring you back to the location that started the series off: York.

unnamed (3)York is very much a city built on its medieval footprint — though its history goes back much farther than that. As I discussed in the first preview email, York dates back nearly 2000 years. Known as Eboracum to the Romans and Jorvik to the Danes, York assumed much of its current shape — and much of its current architecture — in the 13th-15th centuries.

When we visit The Shambles, we’ll see how closely connected modern York is to its elder self. Known as “the most medieval street in England,” the Shambles was for centuries home to York’s butchers and meat markets. The street is mentioned in the Domesday Book compiled by William the Conqueror, and much of its architecture dates to the 1400s, including its famous overhanging buildings and timber-frame structures. (And if the Harry Potter fans are thinking that picture looks a bit familiar, you’re not wrong — The Shambles formed the visual inspiration for Diagon Alley).

The name “Shambles” likely comes from the (somewhat more gruesome) Anglo-Saxon word “fleshammels” — literally, “flesh-shelves”. Though the word long pre-dates Shakespeare, perhaps he did not have Henry VI use the term coincidentally during the opening confrontation in Henry VI, Part 3:

HENRY VI
Far be the thought of this from Henry’s heart,
To make a shambles of the parliament-house.
Cousin of Exeter, frowns, words and threats
Shall be the war that Henry means to use.
Thou factious Duke of York, descend my throne,
and kneel for grace and mercy at my feet;
I am thy sovereign.

unnamed (4)York Castle may not look like much, but for centuries, it had it where it counted: Standing between the River Ouse and the River Foss, this was once a prime fortification in Northeast England. William the Conqueror built it as part of the “Harrying of the North”, during his 1068-1070 campaign to secure this region of England.

York Castle grew from a simple wooden motte and bailey castle to a more complex limestone structure in the 13th century, when both King John and King Henry III used it as a personal fortress. Investment in its maintenance waned in the 15th century, however, and though Richard III intended to make extensive repairs, the Battle of Bosworth Field and his death there interrupted the plans. Queen Elizabeth I was advised that the castle no longer had strategic purpose, and it fell into significant disrepair until it was shored up as a Royalist stronghold during the English Civil War. Some buildings were later used as prisons, as was common with decrepit medieval castles, and now all that stands of the original structure is Clifford’s Tower (seen above).

York’s grandest and most famous structure, however, is York Minster.

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The cathedral seat for the Archbishop of York, York Minster is the second largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe, and it is another testament to the city’s long history. Christianity had a presence in York from at least the 4th century, though the Venerable Bede mentions chieftain Lucius of Britain calling for missionaries in 180. The first church on the site was built in 627 — a rush job, needed to baptise Edwin, King of Northumbria. Archbishop Walter de Gray began construction of the Gothic cathedral in 1215 and building continued all the way through its consecration in 1472. Despite rebellions, arsonist attacks, and freak lightning strikes that set the roof on fire, York Minster has been continually preserved as the pride of the city. Its flying buttresses were innovative at the time of its construction, and the cathedral features some of the best examples of Gothic sculpture in the country — look for angels, demons, animals, and humans adorning the walls.

unnamed (6)More than half of England’s medieval stained glass stands in York Minster. Across the nation, many of these works of art fell victim to anti-Catholic fervor during the English Civil War, but the stained glass at York Minster appears to owe its survival to the Lord General of the New Model Army himself — Thomas Fairfax, a Yorkshireman. York Minster’s stained glass features the East Window, pictured here, which is the size of a tennis court and depicts the story of the world from Genesis to Revelation; the Five Sisters Window, the nation’s only memorial to the women of Great Britain who lost their lives in the First World War; and a beautiful rose window commemorating the unification of the Houses of York and Lancaster.

The next Shakespeare’s England: A Land of Lords preview will be the last, and I’ll be discussing the home of the man himself: Stratford-upon-Avon.

Shakespeare’s England: A Land of Lords – Preview #8

As we sojourn through East Anglia, we’ll travel through two English counties with long and illustrious histories. Norfolk and Suffolk are among the longest-inhabited areas in England — in fact, in 2005, archaeologists found evidence of habitation in Norfolk up to 700,000 years ago. Through Romans, Angles, Saxons, Vikings, Danes, and Normans, these areas remained vital for their fertile farmland and their proximity to the European mainland.

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Norwich Cathedral, pictured above, is an excellent example of East Anglia’s long and sometimes turbulent history. It stands in an area once inhabited by the Iceni — the famous Celtic tribe whose Queen Boudicca rebelled against the Romans in the first century. Because of the disruption caused by frequent Danish raids (like those seen in Edmund Ironside, a play in the Shakespeare apocrypha), no permanent cathedral could be established until after the Norman Conquest. Work began in 1096 and continued through 1140, using cream-colored Caen limestone brought up the river through a purpose-built canal.

The cathedral was damaged during riots in 1272 and repaired over the next two decades. After that, work began on cloisters, but interruptions to building (including the Black Death visiting England in the 1340s) meant that they were not completed until 1430. Many of the ceilings were redone in the 14th and 15th centuries, and the spire was rebuilt completely after being struck by lightning in 1480. Like London’s theatres, the cathedral fell victim to the Puritans during the English Civil War. A mob stripped the building of its Catholic adornments, destroyed stonework, pulled down monuments, and even fired their muskets into the walls; at least one musketball remains lodged there to this day. Repairs began during the reign of Charles II, and other additions and renovations have continued to the modern day, making Norwich Cathedral a quilt of English architecture through the ages.

Norwich Cathedral also has an unexpected Shakespearean connection in one of the men buried there: Sir Thomas Erpingham, who lends King Henry his clothes to go among the men in disguise in Henry V, was a major benefactor in the 1420s.

unnamed (1)We’ll also travel to Norwich Castle, built by the Conqueror himself sometime before 1075. Norwich Castle was for many years the only castle in the region, and it played a role in the Revolt of 1173-1174, when Henry II’s sons rebelled against him (an event some of you may remember being referenced in The Lion in Winter). Converted to a prison in the 1220s, the castle then became a prison in the 13th century. It retained that usage until it’s conversion to a museum in the 1880s — following some alterations made in the late 18th century by Sir John Soane, whom some of you may remember from visiting his house in London during our 2013 trip.

Fittingly for such an important region of England, the Dukes of Suffolk and Norfolk have been influential throughout the centuries. You might remember Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, in Richard II, or the Suffolk who begins as a Marquess in Henry VI, Part 1, is made a Duke in Part 2, becomes Queen Margaret’s lover, and is then murdered by pirates.

SUFFOLK:
Come, soldiers, show what cruelty ye can,
That this my death may never be forgot.
Great men oft die by vile bezonians:
A Roman sworder and banditto slave
Murder’d sweet Tully; Brutus’ bastard hand
Stabb’d Julius Caesar; savage islanders
Pompey the Great; and Suffolk dies by pirates.

The Dukes of Suffolk and Norfolk were important in the Tudor Era as well: Charles Brandon, the first duke in the title’s second creation, was a close friend of Henry VIII and later his brother-in-law, after he married Henry’s youngest sister, Mary. (Fans of The Tudors will remember the handsome Henry Cavill in the role). All of Brandon’s sons died either before him or shortly thereafter, and the title was briefly recreated for Henry Grey, father of Lady Jane Grey — who was executed for treason a mere three years later, after trying to place his daughter on the throne.

The Dukes of Norfolk were, if anything, even more notorious during the Tudor reign, patriarchs as they were of the tumultuous Howard dynasty, a wide-spread, highly politically-involved, and recalcitrantly-Catholic family. The first duke (of this, the third creation of the title) died at Bosworth Field, fighting on the side of Richard III; his son eventually got the forfeit title restored to him. The third duke (pictured below in a portrait by Hans Holbein) was among those who maneuvered to make his niece, Anne Boleyn, Queen of England — as depicted in Shakespeare and Fletcher’s Henry VIII — and who then turned on her when Henry tired of her, even presiding over her trial. Another niece, Catherine Howard, became Henry’s fifth wife — and also fell from grace, almost taking the entire Howard family down with her.unnamed (2)

What finally landed the third duke in the Tower was his connection to the Earl of Surrey, who tried to overthrow Henry late in his reign. He narrowly escaped execution for treason, saved only when Henry VIII himself died before the sentence could be carried out. He remained in the Tower throughout the reign of Edward VI, only released and restored to his properties by Queen Mary. The fourth Norfolk couldn’t keep out of trouble, either: in 1569 he was imprisoned for plotting to marry Mary, Queen of Scots, and in 1572, he was implicated in the Ridolfi plot to put King Philip of Spain on the throne with Mary, restoring Catholicism to England, and was subsequently executed. The title lay in abeyance until restored to the Howard family by King Charles II.

We’ll finish the day with tea in Lavenham, a sweet little village in Suffolk known for its well-preserved medieval and Tudor architecture. Once one of the wealthiest merchant towns in England, thanks to its wool trade, Lavenham is now a prime day trip destination for anyone exploring East Anglia.

Shakespeare’s England: A Land of Lords – Preview #7

In this edition of the NKSC preview, I’ll be talking about the idyllic beauty of the Cotswolds — Shakespeare’s home turf. The Cotswolds region stretches through five of England’s western counties: Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, and Worcestershire. The area is best known for its rolling hillsides and picturesque beauty — in fact, it is the largest designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England. Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon is just at the northern edge, and the region stretches all the way down to Bath in the south. Since medieval times, the area has largely been devoted to pastures, giving rise to the “Cotswold lion,” a particularly large and fluffy variety of sheep. It is probably from these sheep pastures that the word “Cotswolds” derives, though scholars have argued it might also be a derivation of an early British ruler’s name. The picture below is typical of the landscape throughout the Cotswolds:

Cotswolds

 

Shakespeare mentions the Cotswolds directly twice in his plays:

Richard II, 2.3
NORTHUMBERLAND:
I am a stranger here in Gloucestershire:
These high wild hills and rough uneven ways
Draws out our miles…
Yet your fair discourse hat been as sugar,
Making the hard way sweet and delectable.
But I bethink me what a wear way
From Ravenspurgh to Cotswold will be found
In Ross and Willoughby, wanting your company.

The Merry Wives of Windsor, 1.1
SLENDER
How does your fallow greyhound, sir? I heard say he was outrun on Cotswold.

Cotswolds2As you can see, many of the buildings in this region still look much as they would have hundreds of years ago, with thatched roofs and honey-colored stonework or distinctive Tudor-era half-timbered walls. The Cotswolds have become a popular location for the second homes of wealthy Londoners, but even new buildings in the area often retain this aesthetic. A special conservation board oversees the maintenance of the Cotswolds’ particular character.

Our home base will be the Lygon Arms in the town of Broadway, considered “the jewel of the Cotswolds.” Broadway is a place of ancient heritage, with evidence of habitation dating back to the Mesolithic era. After the Norman Conquest, it became an important market town. The Lygon Arms began life as The White Hart Inn as early as 1532, and the inn served as a meeting-place for both the Royalists and the Parliamentarians during the English Civil War of the 17th century. Though it retains its early modern aesthetic, its comforts are 21st-century, with rooms updated for modern technology.

hidcote_garden2_originalOur Cotswolds journey will also include a visit to the Hidcote Gardens. Colorful and verdant year-round, these gardens are designed as a series of themed “rooms” which get less formal and more untamed the farther you get from the Hidecote Manor House. American emigrant Lawrence Johnson began work on them before World War I and kept creating and expanding until the advent of World War II.

For those of us used to suburban sprawl or a tightly-packed urban lifestyle, the Cotswolds are sure to be a gentle respite. Strolling through the countryside will hopefully help everyone recuperate from their jet lag and relax into enjoying the character of the English countryside before we move on to Stratford!

Shakespeare’s England: A Land of Lords – Preview #6

While in Northumberland, we’ll spend some time along the erstwhile borderland between Roman Britain and those people that the Romans considered barbaric, uncivilized, and uncouth in the extreme — the Scots. Or, more accurately, the Caledonians, as the Romans termed the people described as “red of hair and long of limb” by the historian Tacitus.

Rome endured uprisings from the conquered British tribes and raids and invasions from the northern Caledonians for most of the first century. Their territory in Britain reached its greatest bounds in 84 CE, when the general Agricola won a massive victory over the Caledonians in northern Scotland. A generation later, however, the Romans had to pull back to Northumberland — likely because Emperor Trajan was pulling legions from Britain to serve in his Dacian Wars. By the time Emperor Hadrian arrived in 120 CE, he determined that the Romans should build a defensive wall 80 miles long, demarcating the border between Rome and the wilds beyond. (Re-enactments of battles between the Romans and the Caledonians take place regularly along the wall today, as you can see below.)

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The exact purpose of the wall is questionable, however. In many places, it is not high enough to serve as a reliable defense, and though the Romans had small forts every five miles along the wall, the expense of patrolling all 80 miles would have been prohibitive. Some scholars have theorized that the wall’s purpose was more symbolic in nature, as Hadrian expressed an interest in defining Rome’s boundaries rather than continuing expansion — and indeed, the Empire began shrinking in size after his reign. Hadrian’s Wall may also have been a way of controlling trade for the purposes of taxation more than repelling invaders.

Hadrians-Wall-007The first major breach of the wall occurred in 180 CE, when the Picts crossed the border, murdered the Roman governor, and initiated the most serious war of the reign of Emperor Commodus. (Commodus is best known for the villainous role he plays in Gladiator, portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix, but the film Centurion better depicts the war in Britain). By 410 CE, Roman rule in Britain was at an end.

Over the centuries, portions of the wall were lost to building projects and road construction — including a road built to put down another Scottish rebellion, the Jacobite insurrection of 1745. What remains of the wall owes its survival to a lawyer from Newcastle, who bought large sections of land in the 1830s and began restoration projects. In 1987, Hadrian’s Wall was declared a World Heritage Site.

When we visit Hadrian’s Wall, think of what Shakespeare has to say about the conflicts between the English and the Scots — a contentious relationship, even after the union of the countries under King James. In Henry IV, Part 1, Prince Hal imagines the life of Harry ‘Hotspur’ Percy, living on the border:

HAL: I am not yet of Percy’s mind, the Hotspur of the north; he that kills me some six or seven dozen of Scots at a breakfast, washes his hands, and says to his wife ‘Fie upon this quiet life! I want work.’ ‘O my sweet Harry,’ says she, ‘how many hast thou killed to-day?’ ‘Give my roan horse a drench,’ says he; and answers ‘Some fourteen,’ an hour after; ‘a trifle, a trifle.’

We’ll also visit Dunstanburgh Castle, an important outpost on the sea. In the 13th and 14th centuries, this castle served as a garrison both for Englishmen fighting the Scots and for Englishmen fighting each other. Possession of the castle switched sides several times during the Wars of the Roses, and by the late 15th and early 16th century, Dunstanburg was falling into disrepair. It was used as a haven for pirates for some time, and though many different owners made efforts at repair, the castle was never fully restored. By the 1800s, poets and artists found it an inspirational destination, representing natural beauty, romantic decay, and the wilds of Scotland.Dunstanburgh_Castle_-_geograph.org.uk_-_924510

In the 20th century, Dunstanburgh became unexpectedly important again, as the bays to its north were deemed vulnerable to amphibious assault during World War II. Sir Edmund Ironside oversaw the construction of defenses, including lines of barbed wire, slit trenches, and concrete pillboxes — which still stand north of the castle today.
Today, Dunstanburgh is owned by the National Trust and maintained by English Heritage. It has become a focus for archaeologists, who have discovered evidence of habitation on the site dating back to the Iron Age. It has also become an important site for conservationists, who advocate allowing the area to remain waterlogged to provide a habitat for numerous bird, amphibian, and insect species.

Next time on the NKSC Preview: the gentle beauty of the Cotswolds!

There’s still time for a few more intrepid travelers to join us on our trip, so if you or any of your friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, or coworkers are interested, learn more on our website — or ask me for more information!

–Cass Morris
Academic Resources Manager

Shakespeare’s England: A Land of Lords – Preview #5

AttractionsThe northward leg of our journey will take us to Northumberland, land of the Percys. The family’s most famous son is also the Percy who features most heavily in Shakespeare’s works: the fierce and bellicose Hotspur, one of the chief antagonists of Henry IV, Part 1. Shakespeare places him in opposition to Prince Hal, the future Henry V, going so far as to have Henry IV lament:

Henry IV: Yea, there thou makest me sad and makest me sin
In envy that my Lord Northumberland
Should be the father to so blest a son,
A son who is the theme of honour’s tongue;
Amongst a grove, the very straightest plant;
Who is sweet Fortune’s minion and her pride:
Whilst I, by looking on the praise of him,
See riot and dishonour stain the brow
Of my young Harry. O that it could be proved
That some night-tripping fairy had exchanged
In cradle-clothes our children where they lay,
And call’d mine Percy, his Plantagenet!
Then would I have his Harry, and he mine.
But let him from my thoughts.

The Percy family is one of England’s most enduring, and Alnwick Castle (pictured in a 1750 painting, below) has been their seat of power since they were mere barons in the early 14th century. They were raised to the earldom by Henry IV, whom they later rebelled against, but found royal favor again during the Wars of the Roses, where they first supported the Lancastrian cause of Henry VI. The second earl (Hotspur’s son) died at the Battle of St. Alban’s, and the third earl died in the Battle of Towton. Shakespeare dramatizes both of these battles: Henry VI, Part 2 ends with St. Alban’s, and Act 3 of Henry VI, Part 3, featuring the famous scene where a father kills his son and a son his father. After Towton, the family briefly lost their title, but the fourth earl got it back by pledging fealty to Edward IV. From then, the Percys became Yorkists, fighting for Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Though taken prisoner after that battle, the fourth earl evidently won Henry VII’s regard, as the king released him and entrusted him with several prominent government posts during his life.

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The family fared less well under later Tudors. The sixth earl was briefly engaged to Anne Boleyn, until Cardinal Wolsey scolded him into jilting her — perhaps because Henry VIII had already expressed interest in Anne. His brother Thomas took part in the Pilgrimage of Grace uprising against Henry VIII, was convicted of treason, hanged, drawn, and quartered — though considered a Catholic martyr. The seventh earl led the Rising of the North, an attempt to replace Queen Elizabeth I with her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots. When the plot failed, he fled to Scotland, was captured, and beheaded at York. The Percys’ apparent inability to pick a winner continued into the 17th century. The ninth earl took part in the Gunpowder Plot against King James I, and the family supported first the royalists, then the Parliamentarians in the English Civil War.

After what could be regarded as two centuries of bad decisions, the Percys settled down, with the family raised to the dukedom in the 1700s. The Percy name has twice fallen extinct in the male line, but been revived when husbands of Percy daughters chose to take the surname — a testament to the family’s enduring legacy. They also have a few interesting American connections — one Percy was an early governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the illegitimate son of the first duke was James Smithson, founder of the Smithsonian Institute.

Downton AbbeyBecause the Percys’ Alnwick Castle is in better condition than many castles from the same period, it has enjoyed fame through film and television, appearing in Becket, Black Adder, and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. More recently — and perhaps more notably — its exterior played the part of Hogwarts Castle in several of the Harry Potter movies, and fans of Downton Abbey may recognize it as Brancaster Castle, site of the 2014 and 2015 Christmas specials.

Next time on the NKSC Preview: Hadrian’s Wall and a castle by the sea.

We  do still have a few slots on the trip open, so if you find these previews enticing and have been sitting on the fence, register now to join us in July!

Shakespeare’s England: A Land of Lords — Preview #4

Before I begin today’s itinerant interlude, a note: We do still have a few slots open, so if you’re enticed by what you’ve been reading on the blog, register now to join us in England in July!

Cambridge University is the second-oldest university in England, founded in 1209 by scholars who fled Oxford University in the wake of a dispute with the townsfolk there. Until the 1820s, Cambridge and Oxford were the only universities in England — unusual for a Western European country. During Shakespeare’s lifetime, the universities featured prominently (along with the printing press in London) in the development of humanism and the classical revival. Education was conducted in Latin and focused on the seven classical liberal arts — grammar, logic, rhetoric, math, music, astronomy, and geometry — along with history, philosophy, ethics, and poetry. While Shakespeare never attended university, many of his contemporaries did — including Christopher Marlowe, an alumnus of Christ’s College at Cambridge.

Playmaking had its place at the university, too, as Shakespeare mentions in Hamlet.

Hamlet. No, nor mine now. My lord, you play’d once i’ th’ university, you say?
Polonius. That did I, my lord, and was accounted a good actor.
Hamlet. What did you enact?
Polonius. I did enact Julius Caesar; I was kill’d i’ th’ Capitol; Brutus kill’d me.
Hamlet. It was a brute part of him to kill so capital a calf there. Be the players ready.
Much of our information about early modern theatre comes not from the public playhouses but from the universities, as they were often better at preserving documents, including scripts and actors’ parts.

We’ll begin our scholastic sojourn at King’s College, founded by King Henry VI — subject of three of Shakespeare’s plays — in 1441. Famous alumni of King’s include Robert Walpole (the first British Prime Minister), Alan Turing, John Maynard Keynes, George Santayana, and many famous writers, including Salman Rushdie, E. M. Forster, and Zadie Smith.

2016-03-31With its enormous fan vault, stained-glass windows, and elaborate wooden chancel screen, the King’s College Chapel is one of the finest examples of English Gothic architecture. King Henry VI began work on the chapel in 1446. Construction was slowed, however, and eventually halted by the Wars of the Roses. When King Henry was deposed in 1461, the walls were only half-finished. King Richard III resumed construction during his short reign, stating that “the building should go on with all possible despatch.” Henry VII took up the job in 1508. Each time construction restarted, builders had to use stone from a different source, resulting in a visible line between the older, lighter stone and the newer, darker stone (much like that we Americans are familiar with on the Washington Monument).

The interior of the chapel was finally completed under King Henry VIII, who added the wooden screen in celebration of his marriage to Anne Boleyn. To put their own stamp — quite literally — on a project begun by a deposed predecessor, Henrys VII and VIII added Tudor rose embellishments throughout the chapel. Be sure to look for these during our visit!

Our collegiate tour continues at the Wren Library of Trinity College. Though founded in 1546 by King Henry VIII, Trinity’s importance stretches for centuries both before and after. Henry VIII actually formed Trinity out of two older schools: King’s Hall, founded by Edward II, and Michaelhouse, a smaller and less wealthy school. Today, at over 1000 undergraduates, grad students, and fellows, Trinity is the largest college at either Oxford or Cambridge. Alumni include Francis Bacon (once a popular focus of Shakespeare authorship conspiracies), Isaac Newton, John Dryden, Lord Byron, several Prime Ministers, a host of Nobel Prize winners, and HRH The Prince of Wales. Much of the famous architecture dates to the late 17th-century, including that of the Wren Library, designed by Christopher Wren. Those of you who were with us in 2013 saw St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, also designed by Wren (and Virginians may be familiar with his work here in America, as the oldest building at the College of William and Mary is also his design).

The Wren Library boasts over 1250 medieval manuscripts and over 70,000 books printed before 1800, including an eighth-century manuscript of the Epistles of St. Paul, a 14th-century manuscript of The Vision of Piers Plowman, Isaac Newton’s 1659-1661 notebook and a first edition of his Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, where he set out his laws of motion and gravity, and the Capell collection of early Shakespeare quartos.

Newton Apple Tree

Speaking of Isaac Newton: not only was he an alumnus of Trinity College, but a tree on its grounds is said to be the one which inspired his theory of gravity (or a grafted descendant of the original arboreal muse). Unfortunately, the story is apocryphal, as Newton was likely not living in Cambridge, but in Lincolnshire at the time of his inspiration — but, as Shakespeare knew, sometimes true history needs a little legendary embellishment! The tree is located beneath the window where Newton lived and studied while he was at Trinity.

University life wasn’t, however, all work and no play. Students had a less-than-glorious reputation in the early modern era. Various plays of the period portray university students as profligate spendthrifts, always writing home for money, and as drunken debauchers, enjoying a life of little restriction, far from their homes. Shakespeare tells us as much through Vincentio in The Taming of the Shrew, who laments:

“While I play the good husband at home, my son and my servant spend all at the university.”

Some early modern writers also noted the pompous airs that university students put on, as in Thomas Middleton’s A Chaste Maid in Cheapside, where Tim, recently returned from Cambridge, disdainfully insists his mother call him ‘Timotheus’. He gets comeuppance for his snobbery when he speaks in Latin to his intended wife, the Welsh Gentlewoman (actually a knight’s cast-off mistress), who, thinking he cannot speak English, tries speaking back to him in Welsh, and whereupon he takes her for “a good scholar.”

DSC07031-1We’ll have a taste of traditional Cambridge entertainment when we go punting on the Cam. If you were with us in 2013, you’ll remember our adventure on the Isis at Oxford (picture at left). From what I gather, the River Cam is wider, shallower, and boasts far fewer obstacles in the way of overhanging trees and snarled underwater thickets.

Cambridge will be the last stop of our trip, and we’ll cap the day off with a fine feast of which any starving undergraduate would be envious.

Next time on the NKSC Preview: Northumberland, home of Hotspur and Hadrian’s Wall.

And remember — you can still register to join us!

Shakespeare’s England: A Land of Lords – Preview #3

In this edition of our Land of Lords preview, I’ll be taking you into Derbyshire. While Jane Austen fans may know it as the home of Pemberley, Mr. Darcy’s romance-inducing estate, for those of us of an early modern bent, it’s home to Hardwick Hall, one of the finest examples of Elizabethan architecture.

Hardwick1Hardwick Hall is fascinating both in its own architectural right and because of the personal history of the woman for whom it was built, the formidable and much-married Bess, Countess of Shrewsbury. The architect was Robert Smythson, who integrated Florentine Renaissance designs with the English Gothic style. Built in the 1590s by one of the richest women in England, Hardwick Hall was meant to show off its owner’s status and wealth.

As you can see in the picture above, Hardwick Hall’s windows are among its most stunning features. Large windows were not yet common, even in English great houses, and Hardwick Hall became famous for them, leading to a popular saying: “Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall.”

Unlike most English great houses up to this point, Hardwick Hall was built with the great hall — the sort of space playing companies might perform in — through the axis of the house, rather than at an angle to the entrance. Each floor of the house has higher ceilings than the one below it, pointing to the domestic tendencies emerging at the time. Less prestigious spaces were located downstairs: the ground floor is home to the kitchen, buttery, and pantry, among other rooms. The first floor had some dining rooms and parlors, but the second floor boasted a long hall that was nearly the length of the entire building (pictured below), grand chambers, and the finest bedrooms. Above these were six banqueting pavilions, used exclusively for entertaining and accessible only across the roof leads, each topped with Bess’s initials: ES.

Room view of the whole of the Long Gallery at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire, with the Gideon tapestries on the left

Room view of the whole of the Long Gallery at Hardwick Hall with the Gideon tapestries on the left. It measures to 162 feet long and 26 feet high. The Hardwick gallery is the largest of surviving Elizabethan long galleries.

So what sort of woman made Hardwick Hall her home? Bess came from relatively humble origins, born to gentry in Old Hardwick Hall, now a ruin nearby the great house she later built — but her life was certainly upwardly mobile. Her first marriage, to a local boy, was probably never consummated, as bridge and groom were 13 and 14 at the time. At age 20, she married Sir William Cavendish. They had eight children in ten years, six of whom survived. Bess managed to arrange good marriages for several of them, ensuring that many of her descendants would be Dukes and Earls (and, in fact, Queen Elizabeth II!). Bess claimed the bulk of Cavendish’s property upon his death, then two years later married Sir William St Loe. He died six years later, under suspicious circumstances (likely poisoned by his brother), and Bess again claimed her late husband’s property. Now a wealthy woman, Lady of the Queen’s Bedchamber, and still in her 30s and attractive, Bess waited a few years to re-marry.

Bess’s fourth marriage was her most famous. George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, was one of the foremost lords of the realm — and for this reason, when Mary, Queen of Scots, was forced to abdicate in favor of her one year old son James and had to flee to England, Queen Elizabeth put Mary in Shrewsbury’s charge. For fifteen years, Mary lived at the Shrewsburys’ various properties. She and Bess seem to have gotten on well for a while, but by 1580, Mary seemed to be causing trouble in the Shrewsbury marriage. Bess claimed that the exiled queen and the earl had an affair, though most historians think this was a falsehood. Mary does seem to have played some part in their eventual estrangement, however, and in 1585, the queen moved Mary to another custodian.

bessofhardwick1Bess wasn’t finished with politics, though — her granddaughter Arbella Stuart was, on her father’s side, also a great-great-granddaughter of Henry VII, and thus in line for the English throne. Bess aspired for her to become queen and kept her under strict governance, eventually locking her up to keep her from eloping. Arbella eventually rebelled and tried to run away, after which Bess cut the girl from her will and begged the queen to take Arbella off of her hands. (Arbella herself has a potential Shakespearean connection — her later life involved even more scandal, including cross-dressing to try to flee to France, and some scholars have seen the character of Innogen in Cymbeline as referring to her in part).

Bess built Hardwick Hall in the 1590s, following the death of the Earl of Shrewsbury. She died in 1608, and Hardwick Hall stayed in Bess’s family through the mid-20th century, via the Dukes of Devonshire, and was then handed over to the National Trust. As such, it now holds centuries’ worth of artwork, tapestry, furniture, and embroidery, much original to the 1601 inventory of the home.

And, as a bonus bit of information for any Harry Potter fans — you may recognize Hardwick Hall as the exterior of Malfoy Manor, seen in Deathly Hallows, Part 1 and Part 2.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip into Elizabethan opulence — and the political tangles that often accompanied such grandiose personages. Next week: a peek into early modern university life.

Interested in joining us as we travel this summer? There are still a few spots on the trip open, so register now!

Shakespeare’s England: A Land of Lords — Preview #2

This is the second installment in our series about No Kidding Shakespeare Camp 2016: Shakespeare’s England: A Land of Lords. March 1st was St. David’s Day, a celebration of Welshness, and so for the second installment of our Land of Lords preview series, I thought I would discuss the areas we’ll be visiting in the Welsh Marches, the territory along the border of England and Wales: Shrewsbury, Powys Castle, and Ludlow.

First up: Shrewsbury, probably the most Shakespearean-ly famous of the sites we’ll be visiting in this area, thanks to the climactic battle in 1 Henry IV, where King Henry, his sons, and his allies overcome the forces of Harry “Hotspur” Percy.

ARCHBISHOP SCROOP
To-morrow, good Sir Michael, is a day
Wherein the fortune of ten thousand men
Must bide the touch; for, sir, at Shrewsbury,
As I am truly given to understand,
The king with mighty and quick-raised power
Meets with Lord Harry: and, I fear, Sir Michael,
What with the sickness of Northumberland,
Whose power was in the first proportion,
And what with Owen Glendower’s absence thence,
Who with them was a rated sinew too
And comes not in, o’er-ruled by prophecies,
I fear the power of Percy is too weak
To wage an instant trial with the king.

Battle_of_Shrewsbury_1403_01981Shakespeare stays reasonably close to the historical story: Henry IV was actually on his way north, ostensibly to support the Percys against the Scots, when he learned of their treachery. Henry swiftly changed directly and managed to reach Shrewsbury before the Percys could capture the town. Owain Glyndwr’s forces did not arrive in time to bolster Percy’s forces, allowing the king to cross the River Severn, cutting off Percy’s line of retreat. (At right, a 1781 imaginative illustration of the Battle from Thomas Pennant’s ‘A tour in Wales’)

Percy did have aid from his uncle Worcester, including some excellent Chesire bowmen who, according to one chronicle, made the king’s men fall “like leaves in autumn”. One arrow struck Henry, Prince of Wales — Shakespeare’s Prince Hal — in the face. He recovered, but was permanently scarred.

As in Shakespeare, Walter Blount was killed by the Earl of Douglas. Hotspur was killed not by Prince Hal in single combat, however, but during the charge, apparently due to an open visor. As Shakespeare depicts at the start of 2 Henry IV, there was some initial confusion about whether Hotspur or Henry IV had died. Had it not been for Hotspur’s death, the rebel forces might have won, as the king’s forces sustained much heavier losses.

The 1403 battle isn’t Shrewsbury’s only claim to frame, however. The town has ancient roots, serving as a capital for pre-Roman Britons and as the outpost of Viroconium for the Roman legions. Anglo-Saxons took over the area and built fortified earthworks in the 9th century; the Welsh tried to take it back in 1069, but were repelled by William the Conqueror. Shrewsbury came to further prominence during the late middle ages thanks to the flourishing wool trade. Today, the town retains its largely unaltered medieval street plan and boasts over 660 historical buildings, including several examples of timber framing from the Tudor era.

Powis CastleAerial North Castles Historic Sites

From there, we’ll cross the border into Wales itself, to Powis Castle (above), seat of a dynasty of Welsh Princes. It takes its name from the ancient Kingdom of Powys, a territory covering much of current Wales and Shropshire. (We can blame the English for turning that y to an i in the name). Owain Glyndwr, Shakespeare’s Own Glendower, was descended from these princes, and it was on that basis that he rebelled against King Henry IV at the turn of the 15th century.

Glyndwr proclaimed himself Prince of Wales and began his revolt in 1400, taking territory and castles throughout Wales. In 1405, he signed the Tripartite Indenture with Edmund Mortimer and Henry Percy (Hotspur’s father), an event which Shakespeare places before the Battle of Shrewsbury. Despite this alliance and help from the French, however, the rebellion foundered after 1406.

Owain remained free, a guerilla leader, and was never seen alive after 1412. He is presumed to have died somewhere between 1415 and 1421. However, he was never captured, nor was his body ever found, and so rumors of his survival continued for many years. He has since become something of a Robin hood figure for the Welsh, a noble and legendary hero.

And really, what better legacy could we want for the man whom Shakespeare has claiming:5f1b88d89a94476481b1cf3519e5fe1c

GLENDOWER
at my birth
The front of heaven was full of fiery shapes,
The goats ran from the mountains, and the herds
Were strangely clamorous to the frighted fields.
These signs have mark’d me extraordinary;
And all the courses of my life do show
I am not in the roll of common men.

We’ll finish the day with tea in Ludlow, a market town in Shropshire that’s about 28 miles south of Shrewsbury, nestled in the bend where the River Corve meets the River Teme. The de Lacy family, who came in with the Normans, began building Ludlow castle in the late 11th century, and the area rose to prominence during the Plantagenets’ various attempts to conquer Wales.

Like the town of York, Ludlow also featured heavily in the Wars of the Roses. The Duke of York (later executed in York) used it as a stronghold early on, but Lancastrian forces captured it in 1459 at the Battle of Ludford Bridge. When Edward IV became king, he set up the Council of Wales and the Marches at Ludlow and sent his son, Edward, Prince of Wales, to live there. The prince was there when his father died, and that is what brings Ludlow into prominence in Shakespeare. In Act Two, scene two of Richard III, Richard and the Duke of Buckingham discuss fetching the prince from that stronghold.

Ludlow_Castle_as_seen_from_the_tower_of_St.Laurence's_Church

Above, you can see the medieval town of Ludlow as it appears from St. Laurence’s, the parish church. Ludlow remained important in the Tudor period, remaining the headquarters of the Council of Wales and the administrative center for the Welsh territories. It was also where Prince Arthur, son to Henry VII, wed Catherine of Aragon.

So much for Wales! Next week: Hardwick Castle and the tale of Bess, Mary, and Elizabeth.

We do still have room in the trip, so if you enjoy beautiful venues, good company, excellent conversation, and all the history you can shake a stick at, register now!