Sunday, May 28, 2006

A Knight to remember....or perhaps not?

I'm late with my next blog because I've been away in London for the day, visiting my editors Joanne Dickinson and Barbara Daniel at Little Brown. Our lunch, with my agent Carole Blake, was partly business and partly social and altogether enjoyable. Little Brown's offices are right on Waterloo Bridge and not far from The Temple Church. Since May 19th was the anniversary of William Marshal's burial there, and thus fairly close, I took some time out to honour him and lay a posy on his breast... or on his effigy's breast. No one knows whereabouts his remains are now, as they were moved some years after his burial, and the church has suffered bomb damage too. Suffice to say that his presence remains somewhere in the precincts. The posy was just three simple flowers and a bit of foliage, but I chose his colours - green, yellow and red, and made a donation to the church in his honour.
I was somewhat taken aback to find that the effigies had changed placards since I was there last year. (see the earlier post on my blog 'Marshalling my thoughts where the names can be distinctly seen). The knight on the right of the photograpy is William's eldest son, William Marshal II. However, the placard at his feet currently says that it's the 'effigy of a knight' and the title of William Marshal II has been given to another worn, ratty effigy, wearing what looks to me like much earlier kit.
I am convinced this is an error. The effigy beside William Marshal I bears the Marshal lion on his shield and stylistically is very similar to the effigy of Gilbert Marshal, who lies out of shot, below his father. The Temple Church's own website even says that William senior and William junior are side by side, not at diagonals! I queried the positioning of the placard with the chap at the door, but he looked at me as if I had lost my marbles and asked me on who's authority I had this information. He also said that he would ask the Master of the church (i.e. the vicar) but that the vicar was in the best position to know who was who. (implying I didn't know anything and was just a nutty tourist). I am currently following this up as I know my Marshal men upside down and inside out and I know I'm right!
While I was there, I was amazed at the number of tourists visiting the church because of its links to the Da Vinci code. Two years ago when I visited the Temple Church, I had William to myself, apart from 2 Americans and an Australian. Last year there were considerably more wandering about the precincts taking photos. This time the place was like the January sales!
As soon as I had laid my posy, people were taking photos of it. You could tell they had no idea why the flowers were there, or that this was one of the greatest men in England's history. I suppose I can understand the custodian being a bit dismissive. He probably gets asked hundreds of ridiculous questions throughout the day by the Da Vinci Code lot, so some woman coming to tell him the effigies have the wrong names is probably just par for the course!

June is going to continue busy. I am talking at Borrowash Library as part of Derby literary festival this Thursday June 1st from 2-4pm. The week after, I'm away all weekend at the Southern Writers Conference, which looks as if it's going to be fun. I shall have to take my laptop with me so I don't get totally behind. Here's the url.
http://www.southernwriters.co.uk/


12 comments:

Jen Black said...

The tombs popped up on tv footage this evening in Richard Hammond's BBC 1 programme about Da Vinci. THe knights were not named, but Richard seemed most impressed. I switched to Channel 4 and there they were again. The Master gives talks every Friday afternoon due to the interest generated by the Brown Book. Was the man you spoke to white haired, by any chance?
Jen

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

Hi Jen,

No, the chap I spoke to is just the one who keeps the desk during visiting hours. He's slim and bearded. I've spoken to him before because I asked him if he knew where the remains were located - he didn't, but to be fair it was a longshot question.
The Master of the temple is white-haired so I understand from the photographs on the Temple Church website. I've received no reply as yet to my e-mail, but I have a snail mail back up with pictorial evidence just waiting to go.

Carla said...

It seems odd that they would have moved the placards. I wonder if someone else had told them they were wrong, or if it was just an accident?

KC said...

My teenage son is going to be visiting London (and surrounding areas) next month. It will be his first time out of the States. He and some classmates are going on a theatre tour but they are also going to Temple Church (and some other Da Vinci Code locations). I told him he absolutely must have his photo taken next to William Marshall. Now I wonder if he'll be able to figure out which effigy to stand by.

I'm jealous of him because I've never been to England and it's my dream to do so one day!

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

Carla, I've had a reply from professor David Crouch saying that there hasn't been any new scholarship on the effigies and he's as surprised as I am.

KC, please can you ask your son to check if the placards have been altered back or are still the same - if he doesn't mind of course! At the moment William Marshal the first, is who he should be. The effigy lying at his side has a lion on his shield (you can make it out fairly well) and is his son, William II. At the moment he's just tagged as the 'effigy of a knight' which is what I'm trying to have rectified. Meanwhile some other earlier period effigy is written up as Marshal II.

How exciting for your son. I hope he enjoys his visit!

Gabriele C. said...

I had no idea there's a Da Vinci Code tourism. What next, courses in self-flagellation? :)

KC said...

I have asked my son to take pictures of the effigies and the placards around them. Once he gets back, I'll email them to you. Oops! Now that I've written that, I'm not sure if your email addy is up on your blog. If it is, I'll email them to you. He won't be back until June 27, so it will be a while before you get any info from me.

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

Gabriele, you would not believe the number of people there because of that book. I started visiting the Temple Church a couple of years ago when I embarked on my William Marshal novels. On the first occasion an American couple were discussing the Marshal tombs and the wife was busy telling her husband that William Marshal II was a crusader because his legs were crossed. I coughed gently and interrupted saying that William II had never been on crusade, but that his father, lying straight-legged beside him had - or at least on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. What he did there, no one knows. The woman smiled and thanked me and said 'You know why we're here don't you?' I shook my head, bemused. 'Because of the Da Vinci Code.' They'd already done the Paris thing.
Next year when I visited with some friends, the place was much busier and the Temple Church had organised Friday afternoon Da Vinci Code tours of the church. This year...you couldn't move for bodies, and all armed with cameras and cam corders. Absolutely mind boggling. They're all obsessing over fiction when the greatest knight of the Middle Ages lies at their feet. Still, at least he's receiving lots of visitors!

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

KC
Thanks for that, and thank you to your son as well. Hopefully the effigies will be correctly named by the time he gets there. See my next blog post - just a mini one.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm an american undergraduate in History. I just recently visited London and my friend insisted that I visit temple church (she's a Da Vinci code nut). Once there I was surprised to find William Marshal's effigy! I had read George Duby's book, but it had been so long I had forgotten he was buried there. Needless to say, I was very impressed by the whole experience. My friend of course didn't know what I was on about("William who?"), she was just interested in that movie. I was just searching for more information on William Marshal on google and your blog showed up.

Just thought you'd like to know even an American recognized his importance (in spite of the Da Vinci code!)

Mike from Illinois

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

Hi Mike,
Thanks for stopping by the blog. I do know many Americans realise the importance of William Marshal! I was in Wiltshire last week and most of the locals I spoke to in the Kennet Valley hadn't heard of him, despite him being their own native son made good!
Duby's book probably isn't the best on the Marshal these days - and he has some very strange ideas on William's relationships with women, especially his wife. I would highly, highly recommend professor David Crouch's biography of William Marshal - William Marshal, Knighthood, War and Chivalry 1147-1219. Painter's biography is good too, but professor Crouch, currently of the University of Hull, is the one that gives the best insights into the man and his career. I originally chose to write about him because I thought he had an interesting life, but it wasn't until I began researching in detail that I realised what I truly had on my hands. It's been a life changing experience.

John Cokeley Foster said...

I need not bother with that DaVinci code thingy. Thank you for straightening out my 23rd great-grand uncle's nameplate (William Marshal II).