Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Tewkesbury Abbey

There was once a battle in Tewkesbury.  Margaret of Anjou, widow of the murdererd Henry VI- her tiger's heart wrapp'd in a woman's hide- pitched her 18 year-old son Edward- a sadistic little git by all accounts- against the sitting King Edward IV in a bid to win back the throne for her branch of the royal family.  She was House of Lancaster, he was House of York.  Ranged against her son's army on May 4th 1471 were her fellow Shakespearians, Clarence (false, fleeting, perjured Clarence) and the hog himself, Richard Duke of Gloucester. The battle was one of the first in which cannon were used- and most of the soldiers on either side were archers- so we're not talking chivalry, we're talking a fire fight. Margaret watched the proceedings from the abbey tower. Once the Lancastrians broke there was a massacre. The rivers- as they always do- ran red with blood. Some of the fugitives took refuge in the abbey, but their pursuers broke sanctuary and started killing them there. Abbot Strensham came from the high altar, carrying the sacrament, and faced down the murderers, but all he won was a reprieve. The survivors were rounded up, bundled outside and later killed at leisure. Prince Edward may have died on the battlefield but was probably taken prisoner and done away with in private. There's a house in town- now used as the Job Centre- where they show you a floorboard with one of those spooky bloodstains that no amount of scrubbing can remove. Margaret of Anjou ran away.

The monks closed the Abbey church and spent three days cleaning it. Then they had it reconsecrated. Prince Edward was buried under the crossing- and King Edward arranged for his own heraldic device- the Sun in Splendour- to be placed on the ceiling immediately over his grave.*

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York.

Tewkesbury Abbey is Romanesque with late Gothic additions. It  was saved from demolition at the Reformation by the townspeople adopting it as their parish church.  The south wall still carries scarring from where the cloisters and monks dormitory were ripped away. 

*I am indebted to Peggy Clatworthy's pamphlet The Battle of Tewkesbury,

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