this day in 1455, the Wars of the Roses began with the First Battle of
St Albans in Hertfordshire, England. The wars were fought between the
rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet who were competing for
the English throne: the houses of Lancaster and York. The First Battle
of St Albans resulted in Yorkist victory, with Richard, Duke of York
defeating the Lancastrians (led by Edmund, Duke of Somerset) and
capturing King Henry VI. The wars continued until 1485 and led to the
founding of the Tudor dynasty, as the Lancastrian Henry Tudor (Henry
VII) defeated the last Yorkist King Richard III and married a Yorkist.
Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, and his remains
were only found in 2012 under a car park in Leicester; in 2015 the last Plantagenet King was ceremoniously reburied, 530 years after his death.
Long ago, oh so long ago, the woods and wealds of these isles housed only a few great houses. They did not even call themselves houses then, did you know? They just had magic and could trace their lines to ancient powers - The Wledig clan, now Weasley could go all the way back to Boudicca - a muggle but a warrior who fought for her lands and daughters and people and the magic of their holy druids.
Then there were the Prewetts, then Prytherch, and the Nancarrowes, now the Carrows. They each had their family lines too, and their own interactions with magic. They all have their own folklore. The Weasleys almost never have daughters do you recall? They say it was a curse laid on them, for they are descended of Boudicca and Boudicca’s daughters, fierce warrior women all, and in fear men cursed them to only birth women every fifth generation. Or only after six boys had been first birthed. No seventh sons for them. But the girls of the Weasleys, Boudicca’s daughters all, flame haired and fire hearted and fierce as the one who mothered their line. The father of their line traced down to Amlawdd Wledig, who sired Igraine, dam of Arthur, king of Camelot, and their Squibs mingled with the line of Aberfraww, which sired the warrior princess Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd, known so well to resemble Boudicca-who-came-before. Their ties to muggles have left them long loyal to that kind.
Notts, Seiðmenn from across the ocean, weaving futures from thread and thought, weaving bad luck to lines they disliked. Rowles, with their shields and their battle fervour. From across the sea; Rosier and Lestrange, Macnair and Mulciber and Malfoy and all, sweeping down the plains on the battlefield of Hastings.
How they warred amongst themselves.
Yet many years later, when it seemed their land was in crisis - kings who cared little for the prosperity of the land so much as for the prosperity of their names (and their treasuries), they bound themselves with many great oaths. In those troublesome days they all came to England’s holiest place and there laid their arms down - never take up arms against each other save in the name of the land; of doing that which was best for it - for England’s glory and honour. There, in the last days of the last true Plantagenet king they swore a terrible oath to bind them to the fortunes of the land; to ever seek the best for it. And should they break this oath, then death take them all.
This is not to say they agreed at all about that which was best or true and therein lay the problem.
They were not all of one mind, save that they loved the land that they all called their own and even in that, they contested each other sorely. The Blacks and Weasleys, Carrows, Selwyns and Weasleys - first settlers of the land - believed the land to have been stolen from them by the invaders. The rift went even deeper, beyond war and to their womenfolk. Until the Angles and the Saxons the Normans came ashore, bringing with them their muggle notions of how the sexes should behave, these ancient families had been led by their menfolk as by their women. Now, these strangers, invaders, came with rules of their own. Women were to be quieter. Modest. Mild. Meek.
Should a warring Celt suffer such an insult without taking up arms to avenge themselves?
No. For many long years they had been at war with each other, determined to make the strangers break and send them back home. They did not bear it - to bear such follies with their heads bowed meekly was not their way. But then, they came together at Llechllafar - the talking stone, where Merlin had once prophesied the failure of a king - and they swore a great many things and agreed to a great many rules all in the name of service to their country. A higher aim united them all - as it would time and time again, though they despised each other deeply.
The world, such as it is, changed and their womenfolk, though not stripped of their power, gradually faded away, to leave the warring to their men. Such effects, purely unintentional, were produced by these oaths. This is the absurdity of the world.
Greater ones were yet to follow.
Families swore oaths, on swords, on houses, on blood, to uphold one set of values, one set of beliefs. How many still do? How many instead, are fading, weakened by vows let down, or indeed, vows twisted or misplaced? How many disappeared, their long lines torn apart by the oaths they had once sworn and then swiftly forgotten?
Its hard to know, so many set to decline by twisted oaths are gone already, and where an oath-curse falls it is subtle and twining, gradually, slowly, throttling out family vines, as though they are little more than dust, to blow away in the breeze.
A collection of hair taken from 18th-century pigtails and stored for
more than a century in an old tobacco tin has arrived in London for
analysis that could prove it belonged to some of the most famous
troublemakers in naval history – the sailors responsible for the mutiny
on the Bounty.
Scientists hope to extract mitochondrial DNA, using the same technique that identified Richard III
after the skeleton of the last Plantagenet king was found under a
Leicester car park. Researchers would then have the even more
challenging task of identifying an unbroken female line to a living
descendant, to get a crucial match.
“If the hair is in good condition, I don’t see that it would be
impossible to extract the DNA – it’s a technique we regularly use in
forensic work – but that’s where the difficulties will really begin,”
said Denise Syndercombe-Court, the project leader from the analytical
and environmental sciences division at King’s College London.
The 10 pigtails alongside the tobacco tin they were stored in.
Photograph: King’s College London
#Bosworth1485: On this day in 1485 the Battle of Bosworth, one of England’s defining battles, took place. The reign of Richard III ended, the last Plantagenet king and last the last English king to die in battle.
Richard III’s standard: featuring his symbol, the white boar, and his motto ‘Loyaulte me lie’ (loyalty binds me).