Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Pease Pottage on the eve of the Medieval Battle of Tewkesbury?

Tewkesbury Abbey
A commemoration of the Battle of Tewkesbury of 1471 took place a few weekends ago in outlying fields of that same town, on 13-14 July. I recall that my cousin, who has been an historical re-enactor for very many years, mentioned that his Lord’s “levy” of foot soldiers always attended this particular medieval re-enactment. The success of the festival is such that participants in both the Medieval Fair and the battle re-enactment travel to Tewkesbury from all over the world. A significant date in the calendar of 'living history' events by any criteria.


Now Tewkesbury is not so far from where I live. And just one week previously I had signed up for a free six week FutureLearn online course run by the University of Leicester entitled “England in the time of Richard III”. A silly thing to do at the start of the summer holidays but there you are!  
Banners festoon Tewkesbury's buildings


That very week on my course I had learned about the long lived, on/off political and military feud between the Yorkists and Lancastrians - to decide which branch of the royal Plantagenet family would rule Britain. Since 1337, the start of the feud, England had been plunged into a sustained period of Civil War. It came to be known later as the “Wars of the Roses” - on account of the Yorkists’ white rose badge and the opposing red rose of the Lancastrians.
Historical re-enactor Colin Mutty

Over the years the fortunes of each side had often changed but finally the Yorkists gained the upper hand. Yorkist Edward Plantagenet had removed King Henry VI from the throne and was crowned King Edward IV in his place. Deposed (and many said mad) Henry VI was imprisoned but his wife, Margaret of Anjou, and son Edward of Westminster (Lancaster) - the Prince of Wales - continued their struggle for power from their base in France. However their Lancastrian army of 1471 raised from France, England and Wales was to suffer a resounding defeat at Tewkesbury. And their figurehead, Prince Edward, in whom their hopes of regaining the crown rested, was killed. Thus ending the Battle of Tewkesbury and leading to a “routing” of the Lancastrians, with no mercy shown to them. Edward IV’s brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester (and later to become King Richard III) was 19. He was an effective and loyal military campaigner on behalf of his brother the King during these troubled times and at Tewkesbury commanded the western flank of the victorious Yorkist army.

Days later Margaret of Anjou was paraded next to victorious King Edward through London before being imprisoned, and that same night King Henry VI mysteriously died in the Tower of London. Thus bringing to a conclusion that phase of the War of the Roses. 

Historical re-enactor's cooking set-up with cauldron and portable charcoal fire bowl

MedievalMorsels makes miniature medieval dollhouse food - pease pottage
I had a glorious time, meeting my cousin, enjoying the re-enactment and looking at as many medieval cooking set-ups as I could. Here’s one and my guess would be that a nutritious pottage with some bacon would have served as a filling and fitting last supper for some of those poor Lancastrians. Just like MedievalMorsels one inch scale medieval dolls house food - pease pottage - also pictured!