Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Hotspur and Lady Percy's tombs

I ruminated today upon the end of Harry Hotspur who was the Duke of Northumberland's son. He died at The Battle of Shrewsbury. According to Shakespeare he died in single combat with Prince Henry, later Henry V. In fact, he seems to have opened his visor at the wrong moment and was struck by an arrow in the face. Rather than parleying with Falstaff and killing Hotspur, the same fate actually befell the Prince of Wales, Henry V, at the same battle but Harry V recovered, carrying a facial scar for the rest of his life.

As told in Henry IV Part 1, Hotspur's remains were first buried in honour, but then, when Rumour (personified in the play as a man covered in tongues) got about that Hotspur was still alive, his body was quartered and then paraded round the country in pieces, by Henry IV. His head ended up on a spike in York. Shakespeare's Henry V gets into conversation about the difficulty of bits of bodies coming together again at the Resurrection. However, in the case of Hotspur, the four bits of his body did come together again. They were returned to his wife, who honourably buried them beside the altar in York Minster, where they lie today. By far, the best remnant of Hotspur's life is his putative birthplace, the scene of the first Act of Henry IV, Part II. It is the Percy family's fine windswept Warkworth Castle in Northumberland now run by English Heritage.

I have searched for the tomb of his endearing widow as hers was a spirited and mediating voice in the play, "gentle Kate". She was actually Elizabeth Mortimer and in the royal succession. Shakespeare loved calling wives Kate. Think Kate in The Taming of the Shrew, and Henry V's Kate, his French Queen. Did he call Anne Hathaway, Kate?

After Hotspur, by whom 'Kate' had three children, she married another soldier, Baron de Camoys, a commander at The Battle of Agincourt and became Baroness de Camoys. Baron de Camoys owned the whole of Hastings and manors near Oxford and Petersfield. So gentle "Kate" lies honourably buried under one of the finest medieval brasses in England in St George's Church, Trotton near Petersfield. The church is near the site of Trotton Place which belonged to the de Camoys family.

The church also has wonderful medieval wall paintings depicting among other things, the Seven Deadly Sins, which the character of Falstaff in Henry IV is also depicting.

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