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74.5. Adding Insult to Injury in Yorkshire during the 1500's

JUL. 28, 2023


It’s Yorkshire day, you wazzock! A special guest host takes Ryan and Pete on a tour of Britain’s largest county. Uncover the mystery of the princes in the tower and the evil king who murdered them. Or did he? Find out how well you can live whilst under house arrest and the downside of being an unwilling jailer.. And discover the museum that smells of poo… on purpose! By ‘eck, it’s an HHE Yorkshire special!

this episode, featuring special guest presenter Jim Coulson, we celebrate Yorkshire day and Britain’s largest and, if Jim is to be believed, clearly best county.

Yorkshire Orientation
So, what is Yorkshire and where is it? It’s a region in the United Kingdom, covering a large area of the north of England. If you look on a map of England, there’s the bulbous bit in the south east (sorry East Anglia), then a thinner bit that stretches up to Scotland. Halfway up in the east, there’s a little indent, which is the Humber estuary and Yorkshire spreads out west and north from there, almost in a ball shape.

There’s rugged coastline, tracts of farmland, two massive national parks - the Yorkshire Moors and the Yorkshire Dales which are basically huge valley, there are big bustling cities, quaint villages, lots of sheep and a good number of mountains

It covers 11,903 km2 (4,596 sq mi), which means you need 46 Yorkshires to make a France, and it has a population of 5 and a half million people, which is about half the number of people who live in the Parisien metropolitan area.

Yorkshire is the largest county in the UK, but only because Scotland doesn’t have counties any more. It’s the biggest in England for sure. In fact, the tourist board Welcome to Yorkshire ran a campaign that called it “England’s biggest and most magnificent county.”

Technically, it is made up of four different smaller counties - North, South, West Yorkshire and the East Riding of Yorkshire. But North Yorkshire alone would still be England’s largest county.

It’s not a country so it doesn’t have an actual capital. And it would cause arguments between York, which is the historic capital, Leeds, which is the financial centre, and Sheffield which people might see as the cultural capital.

Yorkshire Facts
It’s the birthplace of Patrick Stewart from Star Trek, Dame Judi Dench, Any Johnson the Aviator, Maichael Palin, the author Barbara Taylor-Bradford who, ironically, is from Leeds, the Arctic Monkeys, Pulp, Louis and Zayn from One Direction, one fifth of the Spice Girls and Def Leppard.

If Yorkshire was its own country - as it should be - it would have finished 12th in the medal table at the 2012 Olympic Games - ahead of Canada and Australia.

Yorkshire has the highest pub in England - the Tan Hill Inn – which regularly suffers from snowy lock ins, much to the supposed shock of the poor souls locked in the pub for days on end.

History of Yorkshire
During the last ice age, a bunch of huge glaciers caused the deep valleys of the Dales to appear and, once the ice had gone, people started moving in. Earlyish man was here about 10,000 years ago, hunting boar and deer.

The Celts came around 500 BCE, closely followed by the Romans who set up camp in Doncaster and York most notably.

The Vikings captured York in 866, calling it Jorvik and laying the groundwork for the school trip every Yorkshire child goes on at some point - the Jorvik Viking Centre

Harold the Second had to march up to Yorkshire in 1066 to battle the king of Norway at Stamford Bridge near York. He won, but then he had word that there might be a little scuffle to be had near Hastings, so he marched his army back and the rest is history.

As the Industrial Revolution hit, West Yorkshire became the centre of the textile industry with its water powered mills using the force of the Yorkshire rain coming down from the hills. South Yorkshire was all about steel and coal, East Yorkshire farming and fish and North Yorkshire was all about farming the massive hills.

Of course, much of that industry dwindled, as the 20th century went on. Some cities like Leeds and Sheffield have thrived with regeneration whereas other areas have been hit hard and are still suffering from a lack of investment.

You have real poverty in parts of Bradford for example, but Ilkley is also part of Bradford and - out of 15,000 inhabitants - it has well over 100 millionaires according to research. One of the richest towns in the country. And these are old figures.

Every year on 1st August we celebrate Yorkshire Day and that’s why I’m here.

What is Adding Insult to Injury?
Let’s start with some Yorkshire insults.

● Mardy bum - grumpy
● Doylum - idiot
● Wazzock - someone who is annoying
● You’ve got a monk on
● Barmpot

Collins dictionary defines “adding insult to injury” as an action or fact that makes an unfair or unacceptable situation even worse.

So, you were stuck in traffic, got home and missed your reservation at Betty’s Tea Room in York. Then, to add insult to injury, you went to the takeaway section and there were no more fat rascals.

Or you broke your ankle ice skating at Doncaster Dome and you got rushed to hospital. While you were there, your car got clamped for being in the car park too long.

You get the idea.

I am aware that sometimes when these episodes go before Judge Dersley, he berates you for being too literal and sometimes for being too figurative. So, I’ve got two stories - one involves literal injuries and insults. The other is figuratively adding insult to injury.

For the first srtory - you’ll notice that the topic is “adding insult to injury” which means that the bit that made the situation worse has to fit into our time period, but there’s nothing to say that injury had to…would you agree?

I say this because, to understand the insult, you need to know about the injury. And that’s why the story begins somewhat before 1500.

Story 1 - Literal Insult and Injury
Stuffy history professors will claim that soap operas on TV are nonsense, but they get very excited about the Wars of the Roses, which makes Emmerdale look like a fly on the wall documentary (that’s a Yorkshire soap opera by the way). In fact, if you rocked up at Eastenders and tried to pitch the Wars of the Roses, they’d laugh you out of the room.

Wars of the Roses

Just to give you a brief overview - you’ve got the Plantagenets in charge of England. But there’s two factions, the House of Lancaster and the House of York. They’ve passed the throne between them and, by that, I mean they keep killing each other in a series of battles

Lancastrian Henry the 6th and Yorkist Edward the 4th pass the throne between them for a bit in the mid-1400s before Edward settles the argument by killing Henry and that leads to a decade of peace.

But Edward 4th dies in 1483. He wasn’t killed though, like most people in this story. In fact, there’s a mystery over how he died but a favourite explanation is “apoplexy brought on by excess”

Anyway, his 12-year-old son, also Edward - Edward the 5th - becomes king for 78 days until there’s word that Edward the 4th had a contract to marry someone else at the time of his wedding to Edward the 5th’s mum, making Edward the 5th and his brother Richard illegitimate.

This means that another Yorkist Richard - Richard the 3rd, son of Richard of York, brother of Edward the 4th and uncle of illegitimate Richard and Edward the 5th, takes over and becomes king of England on the 26th June 1483.

And Richard the 3rd is who is the sufferer of both the injury and, later, the insult.

The Injury
Now, this is a Yorkshire-based show and you would think that that would be a slam dunk seeing as one of the houses is the house of York. But, actually, the House of York was based in the south of England and south Wales.

There’s this funny thing that the British nobility does, where they give people titles relating to places nowhere where they actually live. The Duke of Devonshire is based at Chatsworth in Derbyshire, 250 miles away from Devon.

This is pretty handy though, because if the people of York ever want to disassociate themselves from a Duke of York - for whatever reason - this makes it possible.

As it happens though, the child who would become Richard the 3rd was brought up in Yorkshire - at Middleham Castle in Wensleydale. He was well respected in Yorkshire and spent much of his time in York. Edward the 4th gave him responsibilities to oversee the north of England, including Yorkshire. He was even known as the Lord of the North. And that is why he gave Richard the title of…Duke of Gloucester.

Gloucester is 200 miles south of York.

Now, we all know about what happens here. The two young, illegitimate princes who were living in the Tower of London suddenly disappear. No one knows where they’ve gone. And no one ever finds out.

The story goes that Richard the Third had them killed so he could reign unchallenged…just in case it turned out that they were not in fact illegitimate.

We hear that he was a Machievellian character, driven by malice, sending people to kill his brother and a host of other opponents. He becomes ever more paranoid as king, alienates even his supporters and faces multiple rebellions before he rocks up at Bosworth Field on 22nd August 1485 all cocky, ready to take on Henry Tudor.

Where he promptly dies. And not just dies, but dies with 11 wounds, eight of them to the skull.

So, there’s your injury.

Now we can actually move onto our time period and find out about the insult.

The Insult
Yorkshire’s very own Richard the 3rd is one of the most recognisable characters from history. With his slight frame, crooked back, limp, withered arm, ruthless ambition and psychopathic tendencies.

And how do we know this stuff?

As has always been the case, people have spent their spare time writing history books. So there were a slew of texts written about Richard’s reign that came out in the late 15th and throughout the 16th century.

Polydore Vergil in Historia Anglia writes that Richard was "deformed of body ... one shoulder higher than the right" and said of the moment Richard heard about his brother’s death whilst he was in York: “When Richard had intelligence hereof, he began to be kindled with an ardent desire of sovereignty; but for that there was no cause at all whereby he might bring the same to pass that could carry any colour of honesty”

Thomas More, who would become lord high chancellor said Richard was “little of stature, ill featured of limes, croke backed, his left shoulder much higher than his right, hard favoured of visage … he was malicious, wrathfull, envious, and from afore his birth, ever frowarde”

He also talks about Richard’s being “born feet first and ‘not untothed’”

John Rous also makes claims about his birth in Historia Regum Angliae, saying “Richard was born at Fotheringhay in Northamptonshire, retained within his mother’s womb for two years and emerging with teeth and hair to his shoulders” He also talks about him being stunted and distorted, with one shoulder higher than the other. In another passage, he says “King Richard, who was excessively cruel in his days, reigned for three years and a little more, in the way that Antichrist is to reign. And like the Antichrist to come, he was confounded at his moment of greatest pride”

He also suggests Richard killed Henry 6th AND his own wife too. Just to really stick the knife in.

Which is weird, because a few years earlier, that very same John Rous called Richard a “mighty prince” and a good king who was on top of law and order. In addition, whilst Richard was alive Rous had said that he may have had one shoulder higher than the other, but it was so slight that he couldn’t remember which shoulder was higher.

So…what changed?

John Rous’s kind contemporary words came from a work he created for the House of York.

After Richard died, Henry 7th ascended to the throne, ending the Plantagenet dynasty and kicking off the Tudor era.

When the Tudors took over…let’s just say Rous wasn’t stupid. He saw which way the wind was blowing.

Polydore Vergil was supported in the writing of his book by none other than Henry 7th who, let’s face it, could probably do with something to prove that he was righteous in overthrowing his predecessor.

And Thomas More? He finished writing the History of King Richard III - which further legitimised the rule of the Tudors - in 1518, just before he got to serve on Henry 8th’s privy council, the first step in an illustrious career. Although, he also later found out what happened when you annoy Henry 8th too, so perhaps this was sensible at the time.

The more you read, the more you see that there was a concerted Tudor effort to insult the memory of Richard. Clearly the thing about the two-year pregnancy is not true and it seems unlikely he’d have a full head of shoulder length hair and all of his teeth at birth. Contemporaries of Richard say there was no other deformity to his body than the slight difference in height of his shoulders.

In fact, in August 2012, a team comprising representatives of Leicester City Council, the University of Leicester, and the Richard III Society found Richard’s remains under a car park in Leicester. Examining them, they found that he had a curved spine of his skeleton which suggests he had Scoliosis, but nothing particularly remarkable as had been suggested.

And this throws doubt on other suggestions made by Tudor historians - did he kill the princes in the tower? He might have, but then again, their mum (Richard’s sister in law) sent her daughters to live with him after that. Would she have done that if she thought he’d killed them? There are plenty of other suspects, including Henry Tudor’s mum, Margaret Beaufort.

But, with all the insults flying in Richard’s direction, it’s easy to point the finger. It has been said that Richard the Third was the first ever victim of fake news.

The problem is, these Tudor accounts might have been discounted earlier had it not been for William flipping Shakespeare who came along in the 1590s, swallowed the Tudor line and encapsulated all the propaganda into Richard III, a play that cemented Richard’s unwarranted reputation for centuries to come.

Now that’s adding insult to injury and, for that, it’s safe to say William Shakespeare is a right wazzock.

Story 2 - Figurative insult and injury
Bess of Hardwick was renowned for being a formidable woman in the 1500s. She was born in 1527 into a family of respectable but impoverished Derbyshire landowners. They owned land in and around Hardwick and a modest manor house.

Over the years she built both her reputation and a couple of huge houses until she became one of the richest women in England and a friend of Elizabeth the 1st. While she was hanging out at court, she met George Talbot - one of the richest men in England and another favourite of Elizabeth, just behind Lord Melchett, Lord Flasheart and Blackadder.

Bess had been widowed three times by now, including once by William Cavendish, one of the Devonshires who lived in Derbyshire at Chatsworth House and George had just become a widower to the brilliantly named Gertrude Manners.

Two sickeningly rich people fall madly in love with each other - Like the Tudor Beyonce and Jay-Z - and how do you think they cement their alliance? That’s right - they marry two of his children off to two of hers. Nothing weird about that.

So, by all accounts they’re deliriously happy with each other and they have all of these magnificent homes between them, most notably Sheffield Castle in what is now South Yorkshire. Sheffield is George’s principal seat, which is why he’s known as the Earl of Shrewsbury. 115 miles south of Sheffield.

They have the blessing of the queen, who’s brought two of her mates together and they all live happily ever after. Except they don’t. Because being in favour with the queen is not always a bonus.

She trusts them completely and so, when her troublesome cousin Mary Queen of Scots arrives in England in 1568, Elizabeth has her arrested until Mary can prove she didn’t kill her own husband, Lord Darnley. Which she can’t do. Or at least, Elizabeth doesn’t want to listen because she’s suspicious of Mary.

And she asks George and Bess to be her jailers at their home. That’s quite a big ask for these honeymooners, just months after they’d been married. Now they have a controversial house guest playing the third wheel. After keeping her at Tutbury Castle in Staffordshire for a bit, George brings her to Sheffield and there she stays. For 15 years.

It’s not like putting someone up in a granny flat or an AirBnB annex, she’s a political prisoner and they have to dedicate a lot of time, effort and…a LOT of money to keeping Mary at Sheffield.

You see, George isn’t exactly strict. Conditions were pretty poor, yes. It was smelly, cold, and damp and Mary suffered with rheumatism and arthritis as a result. Oh, and the guards changed shifts at 5 am and beat their drums very close to her bedroom door.

But, he allows Mary out to visit places like Buxton Spa. And he lets Mary have an entourage of 30 staff, including her secretary, physician, maids, grooms and cooks. And then there was the food bill:

Mary’s meals were sixteen-course meals, four times a day, which were served buffet style with a choice of fish, meat, venison, rabbit and other such delicacies.

But Elizabeth was paying for this, right? She ordered them to hold Mary. Well, in theory. Except the allowance that came from London was nowhere near enough. And also, wasn’t exactly paid very frequently.

So, over the next 15 years, Bess and George’s fortunes dwindled. They were tired, broke and started arguing. George accused Bess of spending too much time and money doing up some of her other properties and even suggested she was trying to engineer her daughter into a marriage that could have seen her heirs have a claim on the throne.

Elizabeth tried to get them to patch up their differences, but things got so bad that Bess had to flee from Chatsworth House because George sent his men to attack her. Beats a passive aggressive Facebook post about your ex, though.

Needless to say, they split up and both had lost almost everything. George had to petition to get rid of Mary and, after leaving Sheffield, Mary became embroiled in a plot to kill Elizabeth and was sentenced to death. She was executed at Fotheringhay Castle - birthplace of Richard the 3rd - in 1587. One of the witnesses was George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury and, possibly, in what would be a real kick in the teeth to Bess - or, you could say adding insult to injury - rumoured lover of Mary Queen of Scots.

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