IS TO THE MEMORY OF
SIR RICHARD CROFT . KNT .
SHERIFF OF HEREFORDSHIRE
FOUGHT AT MORTIMER’S CROSS 1461
M.P. FOR HEREFORDSHIRE 1477
GOVERNOR OF LUDLOW CASTLE
AFTER THE BATTLE OF STOKE 1487
DIED JULY 29 1509
ALSO OF ELEANOR HIS WIFE
DAUGHTER OF SIR EDMUND CORNWALL BARON
OF BURFORD SALOP
WIDOW OF SIR HUGH MORTIMER OF KYRE
Sir Richard Croft (born 1429) lord of the manor of Croft Castle in Hereforshire was advisor to Edward Duke of York during the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross in 1461. The Duke was eighteen years old and had recently succeeded his father, Richard third Duke of York, to the title. Richard had been killed in the previous year at the Battle of Wakefield. Lady Eleanor Croft’s first husband had also also killed in that battle. These were Wars of the Roses times wherein the Houses of York and Lancaster vied bloodily for the British crown. The Battle of Mortimer’s Cross was fought on Croft land not far from the castle (and in the English Midlands nowhere near either York or Lancaster) and was a turning point in the conflict for reasons I’ll get to in a moment.
First I should say that this week’s theme at Paula’s Black & White Sunday is TIMELESS. And the reason I’ve chosen these photos is because there is quite another timeless connection – i.e. the words of William Shakespeare whose 400th memorial anniversary is being celebrated this year. In Henry VI pt 3 Act II scene i, he makes reference to a strange meteorological event that occurred before the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross, although the actual battle does not feature in the play.
This is Shakespeare’s version of what was seen, expressed in an exchange between brothers, Edward 4th Duke of York the soon-to-be Edward IV, and Richard, Duke of Gloucester, the future Richard III:
Edward: Dazzle mine eyes, or do I see three suns?
Richard: Three glorious suns, each one a perfect sun; Not separated with the racking clouds/But severed in a pale clear-shining sky. /See, see: they join, embrace, and seem to kiss, /As if they vowed some league inviolable./Now are they but one lamp, one light, one sun. /In this the heaven figures some event.
The phenomenon described here was a parhelion or sun dog
, a refraction of the sun’s rays through ice that created the impression of three separate suns rising simultaneously. According to historical accounts Edward decided that this extraordinary vision was a great portent promising victory, while his opponents were filled with terror. Thus inspired with holy certainty, Edward’s army won the day. A few weeks later Edward was crowned king. The sun thereafter featured as part of his personal emblem.
I’m afraid I have only one sun in my photo of Croft Castle and the chapel where Sir Richard and Lady Eleanor have their magnificent tomb, but then there are other interesting signs in the sky. Incidentally, Sir Richard served in his various official capacities (quoted in the memorial plaque above) under four successive monarchs, including Richard III.
Also to coincide with this year’s Shakespeare celebrations, the BBC is currently airing its own ‘Game of Thrones’ version of Shakespeare’s War of the Roses history plays, The Hollow Crown; proof of the timeless quality of good yarns, even if a few liberties have been taken with the playwright’s text. But then ‘the bard’ was nothing if not a past master at recycling other people’s tales and historical accounts, and giving them his own particular gloss; even during his own time players of his works apparently changed the words. It was ever thus with the art of good storytelling…
copyright 2016 Tish Farrell