Paston Letters

Paston Letters (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Margaret Paston died.  She married into the Paston family, an example of mid-level Norfolk gentry during the Wars of the Roses.  She is chiefly remembered for the detailed correspondence she left behind her.  Totalling around one hundred letters, it provides a superb insight into daily life during the Wars of the Roses.  Most 0f the letters are to her husband Sir William Paston, who was often absent from home on court business.  However, while the Paston Letters are a superb resource, they should not be taken as providing a typical picture of gentry life during this period.  The Pastons were quite closely involved in local and national politics and in that they were by no means typical of the time.  The Paston Letters can usefully be contrasted with the Stonor Papers in this respect.

On this day in 1484


A interesting post, and one that’s exposed some gaps in my knowledge. I’d always been under the impression that the early to mid-Victorians (at least here in Britain) had generally looked askance at the medieval period as one of violence, lawlessness and despotism. This sad state of affairs was ended by the arrival of the Tudors who proceeded to introduce a properly constituted legal system, trade and the beginnings of modern government. Havig read what you say about the Church I can’t help but agree – although it’s not an argument I’ve come across before.

The Time Travelling Victorian

As I’ve done my work in New Orleans and read about the 19th century, I keep running into the Medieval past.  This was surprising to me initially.  With all the emphasis on progress and industrialization going on in 19th century America, why would the Medieval world, with its connotations of darkness and backwardness, have resonance?

In my career prior to Goddard, I was a religious studies scholar, and I primarily worked on American Catholicism.  I was keenly interested in how religion gave immigrants and other minority groups a sense of identity and the psychological bulwark to resist forces of oppression and assimilation.  (These are admittedly still interests of mine, but I’ve come to realise that religion as boundary maintenance is a universal phenomenon, not one limited to the modern period.)  One of the things Catholicism had working for it as an immigrant faith was its emphasis on the continuity of…

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Book review – ‘The Adventures of Alianore Audley’ by Brian Wainwright

If you love medieval history in general and the Wars of the Roses in particular then it will be almost impossible not to like this extremely funny, witty and well-polished romp through the political and military events of the years 1455-87.  Alianore wants nothing more than to be an ordinary knight’s lady but circumstances keep getting in the way as she finds herself acting as a spy for both King Edward IV and his brother Richard.  Wainwright’s use of modern language and idioms may take some getting used to but overall they add considerably to the story’s pace and humour.  For example:

“You ain’t just whistling Greensleeves, honey, I nodded.  Let’s hit the trail, before Tudor and his bunch of oiks start knocking on the door.”

or: ‘Roger wore his collar of golden Yorkist suns to show that he was one of the King’s knights, ludicrous piked shoes to show that he was fashionable, and a massive codpiece to show that he had a vivid imagination.’

The Adventures of Alianore Audley

Even die-hard anti-Ricardians will find an afternoon absorbing Alianore’s irreverent recollections time well spent as she offers her unique personal take on the key players in the Wars of the Roses:

‘Even King Edward wasn’t above having a crack at me himself.  However, once I’d given him a friendly punch in the groin he recognised that the game wasn’t on.  He never held it against me again.’

The one downside to this book is that some basic knowledge of the Wars of the Roses is needed to get the sly in-jokes that crop up in the text.  Even with that, it remains a real treat – a sound four out of five stars.