August’s Letter from the Curator (2018)

Dear Friends

August is upon us! This is the month when fairy dust is sprinkled on the castle and the grounds come alive with princesses and pirates! Our Fairytale Weekend will be held on Saturday 25th-Monday 27th. This event is held each year at the castle and has never failed to deliver an enchanting and entertaining day out for all the family! We will have a fun-packed schedule for each day as well as various stalls to explore. Tickets are still available online, but this event has proven very popular in previous years and once the tickets are gone- they’re gone! Book now to avoid disappointment!

In last month’s Curator’s Letter, I spoke of Margaret of Anjou, wife of Henry VI and Shakespeare’s “She-Wolf” of the Wars of the Roses. I was inspired by a red rose growing on the grounds and reminded of her link to Tutbury Castle. However, Margaret of Anjou was not the only figure from this turbulent time to visit the castle. Richard III is a much more well-known figure of the Wars of the Roses, particularly since the discovery of his body beneath a carpark in Leicester in 2012 grabbed headlines nationally! What is not widely known is that Richard visited Tutbury during his brief reign. In fact, evidence of his time in Tutbury has only been discovered recently!

Richard received a villainous reputation after his death at Bosworth in 1485. His death marked the end of the Plantagenet monarchs and the start of the Tudor Dynasty, with the coronation of his rival, Henry Tudor, after the battle. Whilst Henry wore the crown after 1485, his throne was far from secure. Many believed Henry to be a usurper and both Henry VII and his predecessors, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I, would face threats to their reign- Perkin Warbeck, Edward Stafford and Mary Queen of Scots just to name a few! One tactic used by the Tudors and their supporters to strengthen the legitimacy of their reign was through anti-Yorkist propaganda (and you thought ‘fake news’ was a new concept!). And who was the most popular target of this propaganda? Richard III of course! Richard III has been painted as one of the most evil villains of British History- a ruthless usurper who mercilessly killed his nephews in the Tower of London. More recently historians have re-evaluated Richard’s reign, analysing the validity of Tudor writers (Shakespeare, we’re looking at you!) and have discussed how Richard may not have been the murderous scoundrel history has painted him to be.

Due to this new interest in his reign, information about Richard’s time at Tutbury has been brought to life. We know Richard visited Tutbury for five days in 1484, most likely checking up on building work taking place at the castle. This possibly included the timber-framed building which housed Mary Queen of Scots just over a century later when she came to Tutbury for her final stay in 1585. We know little else about his time at Tutbury- but who knows what could be unearthed in the future! During August the castle is remembering Richard’s life and reign, as he met his end in the month of August- 22nd August 1485 to be exact- famously dying on the Bosworth battlefield whilst battling Henry Tudor. To commemorate his life, the castle will be filled with white roses during August, the flower associated with the Yorkist rulers. We will also be hosting our very popular Evening Buffet with Richard III on Tuesday 21st August 2018. Dr Gareth Williams, curator at the British Museum, will be providing an entertaining and meticulously researched performance as Richard III. His talk is titled “The Night Before the Battle’, therefore it has aptly been scheduled for 21st August, 533 years after Richard himself spent his final night preparing for battle. The evening starts at 7pm, with a delicious evening buffet starting at 7.30, followed by the talk. This is a treat for anybody interested in Richard’s reign, the Wars of the Roses or Medieval History! Tickets for this event must be purchased in advance through our website. Tickets are selling fast, so don’t delay!

When you explore the castle and see the white roses, stop and consider the lives of those who visited the castle. Think beyond the years that have past and the Tudor propaganda that have permeated this time and consider the person behind the story- Richard Plantagenet, youngest son of Richard Duke of York, who died on the battlefield at 32 years of age having outlived both his wife, Anne Neville and young son, Edward. Beneath these dramatic tales from history are real people. That’s why places such as Tutbury Castle are so important. They remind us of the people in the past who no longer have a voice and it is our responsibility and privilege to provide one for them.

Best Wishes

Lesley Smith, Curator.


The White Rose, symbolising York.

Portrait of Richard III, which can be found in the Great Hall.

Dr Gareth Williams as Richard III.