Thursday, 20 June 2013

A last sprig of Broom (plant-a-genet)

All this fuss about whether Richard III should be buried in York or Leicester! Well, anywhere is better than a car park! Of course he should be buried in Leicester. Just because he was of the House of York, does not give the City of York rights over his remains. After all, the Duke of Norfolk lives at Arundel in Sussex, Devonshire lives at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire - and I don't recall Queen Victoria being expatriated to Hanover!
Burying him in Leicester could also bring benefits to the town; something that York has less need of, having more than enough history and tourist attractions of its' own. York's claims to the body are irrelevant.

However, this article is not about Richard III, but his purported illegitimate son, Richard - known locally as Diccon. Living but a couple of miles from Eastwell Manor and the ruins of its church of St. Mary, I'm well familiar with both the legend and the supposed tomb of Diccon.

Eastwell parish records state that Richard Plantagenet was buried there on 22/12/1550. His tale was laid out in a letter written in 1733 by local clergyman, Dr. Thomas Brett.
The incumbent of Eastwell Manor at the time, the Earl of Winchelsea, stumbled across the fact whilst researching information on his own family, and those facts concurred with a tale handed down through his family.
Prior to Eastwell Manor being built, the site was occupied by Wilmington Manor, which was gifted by the Duke of Norfolk, before he died at Bosworth Field, to the Myle family. Wilmington Manor was pulled down to make way for the new house of Eastwell Manor.

When Eastwell Manor was being constructed in the 16th. century, the owner, Sir Thomas Moyle became curious about the chief bricklayer, who, whenever they took a break, would take himself apart from the others and read books in Latin.
After much questioning, Diccon told Sir Thomas that he had been raised by a Latin schoolamster, and that every quarter, a rich man, who always stressed that he was no relative to the boy, would come and pay for his keep and schooling, and see to his general well-being.

When he was about 15, the rich man took him to a 'fine great house' where he was introduced to a great man wearing a Star and Garter. Diccon's description of both men point to them being the Duke of Norfolk (former owner of Wilmington Manor) and King Richard III. The man spoke to him kindly and gave him some money.

Later, he was taken to Bosworth Field in Leicestershire, where he saw Richard again. Richard told Diccon that he was his father, and that on the morrow he would be fighting for his crown, and that if he lost that, he would lose his life also. The King said that if he won, he would acknowledge Diccon as his son, but that if he lost, Diccon was to tell nobody who he was, or of this meeting.

Richard had good reason to fear for Diccon's life. He had several illegitimate children, of whom he had acknowledged two, John and Katherine. After the Battle of Bosworth Field, Henry VII, the victor, at first treated John well, but then susequently imprisoned him for a long time before finally executing him.

After the death of his father, Diccon apprenticed himself to a bricklayer, but never lost his love of reading and learning. Sir Thomas Moyle was deeply moved and offered him a living and residence in the big house, but Diccon merely asked permission to build himself a one-room house in a field, where he lived quietly until his death in 1550.

Had Diccon been 16 at the date of Bosworth (1485), he would have been 81 at the time of his death. Quite an old man for that time, but far from impossible, given his good upbringing and the fact that Moyle probably took care of him for his life's duration.

There are further records of both a Plantagenet Well and Plantagenet Cottage in the Eastwell area, and in the churchyard of St. Mary's stands a tomb ascribed to Richard Plantagenet.

Much has been made of the fact that this tomb probably pre-dates Diccon's death by 50-60 years, and people pooh-pooh the idea that it is indeed his final resting place, saying that it is almost certainly the tomb of Sir Walter Moyle, who died circa 1480. I don't disagree...........

.........but, consider this. Sir Thomas Moyle firmly believed that Diccon was who he said he was. Therefore, when he died, would have felt a compulsion to honour him in some way. Building an overtly ostentatious tomb for an old bricklayer would have been both inappropriate and risky. There was still a great deal of ill-feeling towards the House of York even 60 years on. So how about a commemmorative slab in the side of the local landowner's tomb?

Maybe Diccon is buried alongside the tomb of Sir Walter; it is not entirely inconceivable that his body was placed inside the same tomb.

I certainly feel that there is more than sufficient local knowledge and belief to warrant further investigation and excavation to be performed.

And now they have the proven bones of Richard III, a DNA connection could easily prove the veracity of this intriguing local tale

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