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February 10, 2004

Time slip

Every year in July, we have a time slip in Tewkesbury when the town is once again peopled by medieval knights, men at arms, archers and their supporters.

Armoured troops.JPG
A group of armoured men in the medieval camp.

There are re-enactments of the Battle of Tewkesbury (1471) when Henry VI's heir, Edward, Prince of Wales and Duke of Lancaster, was killed and Edward IV triumphed. The Abbey always finds itself at the centre of these festivities - as it was at the centre of the closing stages of the battle.

Last year we once more played host to the "King", his "Queen" and their "Court" as our "Prior", Father Peter, assisted by Brother Patrick and Brother Matthew blessed the Royal Standard at the start of the weekend while a large group of the Festival participants - all in medieval garb - looked on.

The Abbey is the last resting place of Edward the last Lancastrian Prince of Wales. It is also the resting place of the Duke of Somerset and all the senior Lancastrians who survived the battle only to be beheaded by Edward at the market cross the following day. The battle spilled into the nave of the Abbey and the Abbot expelled the soldiers with the Monstrance used for Benediction and the threat of everlasting damnation. He even refused the King entry while bearing arms, but was forced to surrender the soldiery that had taken refuge.

Fortunately the King did not demand the towns folks whereabouts - the women and children had been taken into the church and hidden in the roof above the nave and the transepts. Toys, household items and even childrens shoes were found in the voids in the 1960's when the roof was restored.

Today the Prince's tomb is unmarked, but a plaque in the Presbytery floor marks the fact that he is buried in the church. Behind the High Altar is the only subterranean part of the church, and here lie the bones of the Duke of Clarence - poor, purgered Clarence - and his Duchess. Ironically, it floods and the Duke is said to be swimming. Why ironic? He is purported to have been put to death by drowning in a butt of Malmsey wine - a fortified wine much like Port!

Even more ironic is the fact that he fought at Edward IV's side against the Lancastrians who occupy the North Transept and the Prince in the Choir - and they were all ultimately felled by the orders of the same man - Edward IV!

Posted by The Gray Monk at February 10, 2004 11:08 AM