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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 9, Number 2, June 2015

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Claire Everett
Northallerton, North Yorkshire, England


Middleham Castle

Shine out fair sun, till I have bought a glass,
That I may see my shadow as I pass.

—Shakespeare, Richard III

A clattering of jackdaws over the ruins of the gatehouse. All day they go, back and forth to their roosts in some lichened nook above a window arch, or the cornices and crannies of the keep where dabs of fairy foxgloves cling to the last of their summer mauve. Now, as then, when their forbears, the grey-naped, grey-eyed daws, first came clamouring to Alan Rufus’ motte-and-bailey castle on nearby William’s Hill. Out of the hands of histories unwritten, a foreshadowing of ink-dark wings.

Well-appointed, between the Cover and the Ure, the rise was swiftly fortified to offer clear views of the surrounding Dales, but a century or so later, during the reign of Henry II, the foundations of the stronghold’s successor had been laid some 500 yards away from that vantage point, on a fine stretch of land to the north west. It was palatial for its day, yet became successively higher, stouter, until by the time it had acquired garrison quarters, stables and stores, confined within a curtain wall, the Nevilles of Raby had claimed it as the cornerstone of their power.

Where arrows would have rained from the parapets, a squall of feathers from two birds fighting for the same foothold. Moss probes the vestiges of walls that would have been privy to the plans of princes. There is rumour of a drawbridge that once resounded with the clop of glad tidings, the clang of war.

was it your mother
who cherished that locket
of sapphire and gold
mostly for its keepsake threads
from the bishop's cloak?

while your father
rode to his defeat
bearing aloft
the colours of the rainbow
for a schoolboy's mnemonic

two shadows spar
in the ghost of the stairwell
today’s parry
is tomorrow’s riposte . . .
lessons from the Kingmaker

where the girl
watched you cast off the falcon
from white to red
and back again, a bee flits
between rain-ruffled roses

above the Round Tower
where your own prince entered
and left this world
the pillowed faces
of a passing cloud

maligned by the Bard
adored by Middleham . . .
a stone for a hearth
another for a mantle
and your name for the inn

the White Boar
casts its shadow still
in the town square
the stump of the Swine Cross,
the gift of a market


Author’s Note:

Middleham Castle in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, once hailed as the “Windsor of the North” was the childhood home of the infamous Richard III.

Under Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, better known to history as "the Kingmaker." Middleham became the main power base in the north, and it was here that Neville raised George, Duke of Clarence, and Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III) after their father Richard, Duke of York was killed at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460. The young nobles were raised alongside Neville's own family, including Richard’s future wife, Anne Neville.

Neville held Richard's elder brother Edward IV prisoner at Middleham in 1469. However, two years later, Edward was restored to the throne when Neville was killed at the Battle of Barnet.

The same year, Edward gave Middleham to his brother Richard, and Richard and Anne, now his wife, made their home at Middleham where their only child, Edward, was born in 1473. He also died in the castle at the tender age of eleven.

When Richard died in 1485, the castle reverted back to the crown and was briefly garrisoned during the Civil War, whereupon it faded from history and fell into disrepair with much of its stone acquired for other properties in the market town. It is now under the ownership of English Heritage.

A complex and mysterious character, Richard III earned the reputation of a villain from Shakespeare’s portrayal of him which is now considered to have been influenced by the latter’s bid to gain the favour of the Tudors. Whether or not Richard murdered his nephews (the Princes in the Tower) is one of the greatest debates of history. What we do know is, Richard III was the last reigning English monarch to die in battle and he was greatly mourned in his childhood hometown (requiem mass is still said in Middleham Church on the anniversary of his death). Many contemporary historians propose that he was unfairly maligned, loyal, brave, generous and much loved by his people.

A skeleton found beneath a Leicester car park in 2012 was later confirmed as that of Richard III. Experts from the University of Leicester said DNA from the bones matched that of descendants of the monarch's family.

The Richard III Society has details of the long-lost monarch’s recent reinterment and his controversial life.

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