Edward IV’s Final Christmas at Eltham Palace
and Richard III’s First at Westminster
Edward IV’s favourite place to hold his Christmas revels was not at Westminster but at the Palace of Eltham in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. The Palace originally was owned by the Bishop of Durham but was given to Edward II in 1305 and became a royal dwelling thereafter. Subsequent kings added such features as a walled garden and a bath house.
|King Edward IV (c) public domain|
Edward IV placed his own stamp upon Eltham by building the Great Hall, which still stands in magnificence today, 101 feet long and shadowed by an oak ceiling in ‘false hammerbeam’ style which was, when new, probably gilded. Exits near the dais went out to the royal apartments and were decorated with Edward’s emblem of the Rose en Soleil—the White Rose of York mingled with the Sun in Splendour.
In 1482, Edward held his last Christmas feast here…he would die the next spring at the early age of not-quite-41. There is some indication he may not have been well—he failed to join his younger brother, Richard of Gloucester, in the Scottish Campaigns earlier that year, despite promises to do so.
Nevertheless, he was well enough to hold sumptuous banquets for 2000 guests each day of the holidays. There was no lack of splendour, even if Edward had, by this time, grown very stout, and he wore new and unusual garments not seen before in England –robes that resembled a monks’ but with vast hanging sleeves, rolled over the shoulders and lined with the richest furs. The Croyland Chronicle said the clothing gave the king a ‘new and distinguished look.’
The guests were varied, with people from all over the realm, indeed one chronicle claims ‘the world’ attending, and some of the royal children were on display, being described in Ingulph’s Chronicle as ‘sweet and beautiful.’ One of these may have been Edward’s last child, a daughter, Bridget, named after St Bridget of Sweden, who was born at Eltham in 1480.
|Medieval banquet (c) public domain|
No menu for the banqueting still exists but other banquets around this era feature delicacies such as roast cygnet, capons crammed with lemon, pheasant or peacock with feathers intact, venison frumenty, pike in sweet and sour sauce, eels and even porpoises. Remnants of uneaten food would be gathered in voiders and given to the poor.
After Edward’s death in 1483, his brother Richard held his only two Christmases as King at Westminster rather than at Eltham. He was very lavish with gift giving in the first year, spending the modern equivalent of about half a million pounds. The royal servants and pages also got a nice Christmas bonus amounting to about £70,000 in modern money.
|King Richard III & Queen Anne, (c) public domain.|
He presented London with a jewelled golden cup and ordered new clothes for himself and his Queen, Anne Neville. A Genoese jeweller had also been licensed to bring his wares to England as long as Richard got first choice—it is assumed that was Queen Anne’s Christmas gift taken care of!
Eleanor Talbot, newly widowed after the Battle of Blore Heath, meets Edward, Earl of March.
It is a time of trials when the Lancastrians and Yorkists fight for supremacy...and the throne of England.
The Talbots are staunch Lancastrians; Edward is the Son of York.
The Battles of Mortimer's Cross and the bloodbath of Towton lead to Edward taking the crown.
A secret marriage is hatched between the young King and Eleanor, but the “secret queen” is never announced to the Council.
King Edward’s womanising reaches new heights as, within a short time, his eye falls on another widowed beauty, Elizabeth Woodville, whom he also marries in a private, hidden ceremony.
Mortified by all that has happened, Eleanor seeks atonement in religion...but will her past catch her up?
Will the secret remain secret?
A story of love and lust spanning two families, the Talbots and the Woodvilles, and two women both similar and yet very different. One who became Queen of England, and one who might have been.
J.P. Reedman is a Canadian-born author who has lived in the UK for over 30 years. She wrote her first historical fiction at five—a short illustrated story about Cleopatra! J.P. loves Robin Hood and Stonehenge—she worked at the latter for 10 years and actually knows Robin Hood (yes, really!)
In 2018, J.P. became a full-time author, writing many novels in her Wars of the Roses ‘I, Richard Plantagenet’ and ‘The Falcon and the Sun’ series, and Medieval Babes, a 10-book series of biographical fiction about the lives of lesser-known medieval queens and noblewomen.