Monday, 13 September 2010

A guide to Winchester

A few days ago, I visited the city of Winchester for the first time. Winchester is a particularly special place for the subject of this blog for, in July 1554, Mary married Philip of Spain in the fine cathedral. Here is a (very!) brief guide of the Mary sites in Winchester that will hopefully prove useful to anyone planning a visit:

Winchester Cathedral

Philip arrived at Southampton on the 19 July 1554. He stayed there for a few days, reaching Winchester in the early evening of 23rd. Soon after, he celebrated mass at the cathedral, then retired to the Dean’s house, changed dress, and went to Wolvesey Palace to meet Mary for the first time. Winchester’s proximity to Southampton, and the splendour of the cathedral, made it an ideal setting for the wedding. Additionally, the couple were to be married by the bishop of the diocese – Stephen Gardiner, the Lord Chancellor. The favourable comments made about the cathedral from Spanish visitors attests to the success of Mary’s decision to hold her special day there.

The couple married on 25 July, an auspicious date for it marked the feast day of St James, patron saint of Spain. The groom wore white and gold and the bride wore purple and white (sounds ghastly, I know! But from a contemporary perspective the couple were dressed magnificently). Philip’s ‘suit’ was a gift from his bride, who had spent quite some time arranging her own dress. Clearly she was determined to see Philip – the new King of England – as well turned out as she.

When visiting cathedral today, it is hard to fully appreciate the setting of the wedding for the couple married on a specially constructed scaffold that was removed shortly after. Two days earlier, they had met for the first time and this had also been a public affair. We are told that another sort of a stage had been constructed (this time in Wolvesey’s Palace, a short walk from the cathedral), where the couple first greeted each other in front of their receptive, and rather large, entourages. Thousands crammed into the cathedral for the ceremony, so the platforms proved handy. Along the nave a raised walkway had been built so the grand procession could be visible. This was no shabby affair. The cathedral was covered in ‘ryche hanginges’ and two sumptuous chairs were placed in the quire where Mary and Philip would sit during points of the ceremony. As the officiating herald recorded,

First the said Church was richlie hanged with Arras and cloath of gold, and there was a stage made along the bodie of the Churche that is to saie from the west dore untill the Rode Lofte wheare was a mounte made of iiii degrees of height as large as the place wold serue. The Stage and Mounte covered with Redd saie and underneath the Rode Loft was there ii trauerses made, one for the quenes Matie. on the right hand an other for the Prince on the left side. The which places served very well for that purpose. The quier was aloft hung with rich cloath of gold, and on eche side the high Aulter was there a rich Trauers one for the queen on the right side another for the Prince on the left Side.’

None of the rich cloth that adorned the cathedral has survived. Yet, if you go into the Triforium Gallery (in the South Transept) you will see ‘Mary Tudor’s Chair’. This sixteenth-century seat was allegedly the one used by Mary during her wedding.

Remarkably, throughout the ceremony Mary was placed on the right and Philip on the left, a reversal of the traditional situation. Mary presented herself as the active monarch with Philip as her consort. Naturally this caused some murmurs though, on the whole, both English and Spanish commentators explained away this situation and presented it as perfectly normal.

Bishop Gardiner began with a sermon, then asked the congregation whether anyone knew of any lawful impendent why the pair could not marry which, thankfully, no one decided to provide. Mary had no father to give her away and in theory she was to be given on behalf of the whole realm. The Marquis of Winchester and the earls of Arundel, Derby, Bedford and Pembroke, represented the people and answered Gardiner’s request as to who was to give the lady away. When they replied that they represented the whole realm, the crowd gave a cheer and acknowledged their acceptance of the marriage. Rings were then exchanged – Mary famously asking for a plain band – and Philip gave Mary gold coins which she handed over to Margaret Clifford (her first cousin once removed), who was attending upon her. They then celebrated mass at the High Altar. The ceremony was over; now it was time for ‘triumphing, bankating, singing, masking, and daunsing, as was never seen in Englande heretofore’.

Whilst in the cathedral make sure to check out Stephen Gardiner’s tomb. Unfortunately his effigy was spoiled by parliamentary troops in the seventeenth-century. The magnificent tomb of Cardinal Henry Beaufort, is relatively intact. Beaufort was the son of John of Gaunt by his mistress, then wife, Katherine Swynford. He was the great-uncle of Margaret Beaufort, Mary’s great-grandmother. Mary’s paternal grandmother, Elizabeth of York, is represented in a stained glass window in the beautiful Lady Chapel (which also features some amazing sixteenth-century murals).

Bishop Gardiner's tomb

Bishop Gardiner’s effigy which has been beheaded

The cathedral charges a small fee for entrance and photography is free (though prohibited in the library). It was one of the friendliest cathedrals I have ever been to and it is easy to spend hours in there. Jane Austen, one of my favourite authors, is buried in the Nave. Austen once remarked of Mary:

‘This woman had the good luck of being advanced to the throne of England, inspite of the superior pretensions, Merit & Beauty of her Cousins Mary Queen of Scotland & Jane Grey. Nor can I pity the Kingdom for the misfortunes they experienced during her Reign, since they fully deserved them, for having allowed her to succeed her Brother — which was a double piece of folly, since they might have foreseen that as she died without Children, she would be succeeded by that disgrace to humanity, that pest of society, Elizabeth. Many were the people who fell martyrs to the protestant Religion during her reign; I suppose not fewer than a dozen. She married Philip King of Spain who in her Sister's reign for [sic] famous for building the Armadas. She died without issue, & then the dreadful moment came in which the destroyer of all comfort, the deceitful Betrayer of trust reposed in her, & the Murderess of her Cousin succeeded to the Throne – '

Wolvesey Palace (aka ‘Wolvesey Castle’ and the ‘Old Bishop’s Palace’)

Wolvesey Palace is a short walk from the cathedral. Only ruins are left, but it is still worth exploring. For it was here, on the 23 July 1554, that Mary and Philip met for the first time. Philip arrived in Winchester on the same date, and moved into the dean’s house. Mary had only recently settled in the palace. Dressed in a ‘cloke of blacke cloth embrodred with silver, and a paire of white hose’, Philip proceeded to the palace with a huge retinue. Mary was waiting on the constructed platform which she ‘descended, and amiably receaving him, did kisse him in presence of all the people’. After what must have been a somewhat uncomfortable first meeting, witnessed by a large crowd, the couple retired to the presence chamber with prominent lords and ladies in attendance. One of the first challenges was figuring out how to communicate. As a young girl, Mary had been fluent in her mother’s native tongue. Now, she was no longer confident in her Spanish. So Mary spoke French whilst Philip replied in Spanish. They talked for some fifteen minutes after which Philip returned to his apartments. Before retiring he turned to the noblemen present and declared “Good night my Lords all”. It was the first and last time he spoke English. One of his companions alleged that he returned to the palace at ten at night, where the pair met once more, this time with fewer witnesses.[1]

The East Hall (the audience chamber). The wedding banquet was held here.

The palace was also the scene of the banquet and celebrations that commenced after the marriage service. Mary spent the first days of married life in seclusion (as was seen appropriate) and it is probable that she remained within the palace.

The palace is now owned by English Heritage and is free to enter. The presence chamber is clearly marked; walking through the main archway, it is situated in front of you.

Great Hall and Round Table

In 1522, Charles V visited England for six weeks. During the course of his stay, a betrothal was arranged between himself and the six-year-old Mary. As his arrival was celebrated in London, Henry VIII decided to take Charles to Winchester so he may see ‘King Arthur’s round table’. The table was constructed in the thirteenth-century by Edward III and painted in c.1516-7 (hence why King Arthur looks so like Henry!). Mary and Philip stayed in Winchester for several days after their wedding, and it is unknown whether Philip was show the table. However whilst Mary remained in seclusion following the wedding, Philip toured Winchester and it seems highly likely that he saw the town’s star attraction. The Great Hall remains a popular tourist site. Free to enter, it contains a magnificent set of nineteenth-century stained glass windows depicting the arms of individuals of importance to Winchester. Mary and Philip’s are included.

The Great Hall is free to enter and photography is permitted.

Westgate Museum

Westgate, one of the two surviving medieval fortified gateways in the city, is now a small museum and holds some interesting items. John White, Warden of Winchester College from 1542 to 1554, commissioned a splendid painted ceiling for his apartments that may have been ordered to celebrate Mary’s marriage. Mary and Philip visited the College after their wedding though it is unknown whether they saw the ceiling, or if it was specially made for the occasion.

Following conservation, the panels were given to the museum. Westgate also holds a portrait of Ralph Lamb, a wealthy resident of Winchester, who attended the wedding. The portrait is by an unknown Spanish artist and dates to c.1554, thus was commissioned to mark the event. He is probably depicted in the attire he wore for the occasion.

The museum is free to enter provides spectacular views of the city from the open rooftop.

[1] It is often stated that only one meeting took place. However one of Philip’s companions, Juan de Figueroa, mentioned another meeting at night.

(I have been working on the content for the Mary bibliography site, mentioned in my last post. I am not particularly computer savvy, so if anyone could give me some tips about which site I should use to create the website, I would be very grateful. Preferably something that I will find easy to use!)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for a wonderfully informative post! The photos, especially those of the cathedral are tremendous.