Born: Edward I of England, 1239; Sir John Cheke, learned writer, promoter of the study of polite literature in England, 1514, Cambridge; Louis, Due de Saint-Simon, author of Memoirs of the Court of France, 1675, Paris; Henrietta Stuart, Duchess of Orleans, 1644, Exeter.
Died: Hugo the Great, father of Hugh Capet, head of the third series of French kings, 956; Sir Richard Fanshawe, accomplished cavalier, ambassador to Spain, 1666, Madrid; Sir Tristram Beresford, 1701; John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, 1722, Windsor Lodge; Bishop Joseph Butler, 1752, Bath; Jean Baptiste Gresset, French comic poet, 1777, Amiens.
Feast Day: Saints Ferreolus, or Fargeau, and Ferrutius, martyrs, 211 or 212; Saints Quiricus, or Cyr, and Julitta, martyrs, 304; St. Aurelian, Archbishop of Arles, confessor, 552; St. John Francis Regis, confessor, 1640.
SIR TRISTRAM BERESFORD-LEGEND OF THE BLACK RIBBON
Although Sir Tristram Beresford was the direct ancestor of the Waterford family, and did something for the Protestant cause at the Revolution, he would not have been particularly mentioned in this place but for his connection with an uncommonly fascinating ghost legend-the foundation of a passage in one of Scott's beautiful ballads:
For evermore that lady wore
A covering on her wrist.
The lady to whom Sir Tristram was married, Nicola Sophia Hamilton, daughter of Hugh Lord Glenawley, was educated along with John, second Earl of Tyrone, and, according to the family legend, they were so taught that a belief in a future state was not among heir convictions. It was agreed, nevertheless, between the two young people, that in the event of one dying before the other, the deceased should if possible return and give certainty to the survivor on that solemn question. In due time they went out on their respective destinations in life; but still an intimacy and occasional visiting were kept up.
The Earl died on the 14th of October 1693, in his twenty-ninth year, and it was two or three days after when Lady Beresford attracted her husband's attention at the breakfast-table by a pallid and care-worn look, and her wearing a black ribbon round her wrist. He inquired the cause of these circumstances; but she declined to give any explanation. She asked, however, very anxiously for the post, as she expected to hear of the death of her friend the Earl of Tyrone. Sir Tristram ridiculed the possibility of her knowing such an event beforehand. 'Nevertheless,' said she, 'my friend died on Tuesday last at four o'clock.' The husband was startled when a letter from Lord Tyrone's steward was soon after handed in, relating how his master had suddenly died at the very time stated by Lady Beresford. 'I can tell you more,' said the lady, 'and it is a piece of intelligence which I know will prove welcome: I shall ere long present you with a son.' This prediction was likewise in due time verified.
During the remaining years of their union the lady continued to wear the black ribbon round her wrist; but her husband died without being made privy to the secret. The widow made an imprudent second marriage with an officer named Gorges, and was very unhappy during her latter years. A month after the birth of a fourth child to Colonel Gorges, the day being her birthday, her friends came to congratulate her, and one of them, a clergyman, told her with a blithe countenance that he had just learned from parochial documents that she was a year younger than she thought-she was only forty-seven. 'Oh, then,' said she, 'you have signed my death-warrant. If I am only forty-seven today, I have but a few hours to live, and these I must devote to settling my affairs.' The company having all departed, excepting one intimate female friend, Lady Beresford told that person how it was that she was certain of her approaching death, and at the same time explained the circumstance connected with the sable wrist-band.
During the night preceding the conversation with her husband Sir Tristram Beresford, she awoke suddenly, and beheld the figure of Lord Tyrone at her bedside. She screamed, and endeavoured, but in vain, to awaken her husband. At length recovering some degree of composure, she asked Lord Tyrone how and why he had come there. He reminded her of their mutual promise, and added, 'I departed this life on Tuesday last at four o'clock. I am permitted to give you assurance of another world. I can also inform you that you will bear a son to Sir Tristram, after whose death you will marry again, and have other children, and will die in the forty-seventh year of your age.' 'And how,' said she, 'shall I be certain that my seeing you now, and hearing such important intelligence, are not mere dreams or illusions?' The spirit waved his hand, and the bed-curtains were instantly raised and drawn through a large iron hoop, by which the tester of the bed was suspended. She remained unsatisfied, for she might, she said, exercising the greater strength which one had in sleep, have raised the curtains herself. He then pencilled his name in her pocket-book.
Still she doubted-she might imagine in the morning that she had written the name herself. Then, asking her to hold out her hand, the spirit laid a finger as cold as ice upon her wrist, which was immediately impressed with a black mark, underneath which the flesh appeared to have shrunk. And then he vanished. Soon after completing her recital, and having finally arranged her affairs, the lady calmly expired in the arms of her friend. The ribbon being then removed, the mark was seen for the first time by any eye but her own. It has been stated that the ribbon and also the pocket-book containing the spiritual autograph were, nearly a century after, in the possession of Lady Beresford's grand-daughter, Lady Betty Cobbe, whose husband (son of Cobbe, Archbishop of Dublin) died in his house in Marlborough Buildings, Bath, so recently as 1814. The peerage books inform us that Lady Beresford died on the 23rd February 1713, and was buried in the Earl of Cork's tomb, in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin.
The circumstance of the black ribbon, equally picturesque and mysterious, is what has mainly given this family tale the currency which it has in the upper circles of British society. It is, however, remarkable that in this particular it is not without precedent in the annals of demonology. Mrs. Grant, in her Superstitions of the Highlands, tells a story of a widow in good circumstances who, going home through a wood at dusk, was encountered by the spirit of her deceased husband, who led her carefully along a difficult bridge, but left a blue mark on her wrist, which the neighbours had opportunities of seeing during the week that she survived the adventure.
Calmet, in his well-known work, The Phantom World, quotes a similar tale as told by the reformer Melancthon, whose word, he says, 'ought not to be doubted.' According to this narration, an aunt of Melancthon, having lost her husband when she was far advanced in pregnancy:
'saw one day towards evening two persons come into her house; one of them wore the form of her deceased husband, the other that of a tall Franciscan. At first she was frightened, but her husband reassured her, and told her that he had important things to communicate to her; at the same time he begged the Franciscan to pass into the next room, while he imparted his wishes to his wife. Then he begged of her to have some masses said for the relief of his soul, and tried to persuade her to give her hand without fear; as she was unwilling to give it, he assured her she would feel no pain. She gave him her hand, and her hand felt no pain when she withdrew it, but was so blackened that it remained discoloured all her life. After that, the husband called in the Franciscan; they went out and disappeared.'
Richard Baxter relates, as coming under his own observation, a circumstance which involves the same kind of material phenomenon as the story of Lady Beresford. A little after the Restoration, when the parliament was passing acts which pressed sore on the dissenters, a lady of good quality and of that persuasion came to him to relate a strange thing that had befallen her. While praying for the deliverance of the faithful from the evils that seemed impending over them, 'it was suddenly given her, that there should be a speedy deliverance, even in a very short time. She desired to know which way; and it was by somewhat on the king, which I refused to hear out, whether it was change or death. It being set strongly on her as a revelation, she prayed earnestly that if this were a true divine impulse and revelation, God would certify her by some visible sign; and she ventured to choose the sign herself, and laid her hand on the outside of the upper part of her leg, begging of God that, if it were a true answer, he would make on that place some visible mark. There was presently the mark of black spots, like as if a hand had burnt it, which her sister witnessed she saw presently, there being no such thing before.'
Dr. Henry More heard from one Mrs. Dark, of Westminster, that her deceased husband, when young and in good health:
'going out of' his house one morning with the intention of returning to dinner, was, as he walked the streets, struck upon the thigh by an invisible hand (for he could see no man near him to strike him). He returned indeed about dinner-time, but could eat nothing; only he complained of the sad accident that befell him, and grew forthwith so mortally sick that he died in three days. After he was dead, there was found upon the place where he was struck the perfect figure of a man's hand, the four fingers, palm, and thumb, black and sunk into the flesh, as if one should clap his hand upon a lump of dough.'
SIR JOHN SUCKLING
One of the best specimens of the gay and accomplished courtier of Charles the First's time, ere the evil days of civil war fell upon the land, is afforded to us by the poet, Sir John Suckling. His father having been secretary of state to James I, and comptroller of the household to Charles, Suckling may be said to have been bred at court: yet his education was not neglected, and such was the precocity of his talent and facility in acquiring knowledge, that he was able to speak Latin when only five years of age, and to write it when no more than eight. Ere he had attained the full period of manhood, he had travelled over the greater part of Europe, and been received as a welcome visitor at the principal continental courts. He also served a short but stirring campaign under Gustavus Adolphus, in which he was present at three battles, five sieges, and several lesser engagements.
On his return from travel, Sir John at once took first place among the leaders of wit and fashion; as an old writer observes, 'he was allowed to have the peculiar happiness of making everything he did become him.' When Charles marched against the Scottish Covenanters in 1639, Suckling raised 100 horsemen for the royal service, so very splendidly equipped (the troop cost him the large sum of £12,000), that Charles, not wisely undervaluing his sturdy northern subjects, said that if anything would make the Scotch fight well, it would be the prospect of plunder exhibited by the rich dresses of Suckling's men. This ill-judged expedition produced little result, save a crowd of satirists to ridicule its fruitless display; and, in the only skirmish that occurred, near Dunse, the English cavalry, including Suckling's troop, galloped off the field, pursued by a smaller body of the enemy.
A satirical ballad was composed on this affair and Suckling's part in it, to a well-known and very lively old English tune, called John Dory, which became exceedingly popular, and was sung and printed with many variations. From its peculiar style and manner, we suspect that the ballad was composed by Suckling as a piece of good-humoured banter against himself, and that subsequently the more spiteful variations were added by others. A few verses of the original are worth reprinting:
Sir John he got him an ambling nag,
To Scotland for to ride-a,
With a hundred horse more, all his own he swore,
To guard him on every side-a.
No errant knight e'er went to fight
With half so gay a bravada,
Had you seen but his look, you'd have sworn on a hook,
He'd have conquered a whole armada.
The ladies ran all to the windows, to see
So gallant and warlike a sight-a,
And as he passed by they cried with a sigh,
Sir John, why will you go fight-a?
None liked him so well as his own colonel,
Who took him for John de Wert-a;
Bat when there were shows of gunning and blows,
My gallant was nothing so pert-a.
The colonel sent for him back again,
To quarter him in the van-a,
But Sir John did swear, he would not come there,
To be killed the very first man-a.
Suckling's best poem is certainly the celebrated ballad he composed on the marriage of Lord Broghill with Lady Margaret Howard, daughter of the Earl of Suffolk, commencing:
I tell thee, Dick, where I have been,
Where I the rarest things have seen,
Oh! things beyond compare.
Such sights again cannot be found
In any place on English ground,
Be it at wake or fair.
The description of the bride in this ballad has been universally admired; it must be understood that the person speaking is supposed to be a clownish countryman.
Her finger was so small, the ring
Would not stay on, which they did bring,
It was too wide a peck:
And, to say truth, (for out it must)
It look't like the great collar (just)
About our young colt's neck.
Her feet, beneath her petticoat,
Like little mice stole in and out,
As if they feared the light;
But, oh! she dances such a way,
No sun upon an Easter day,
Is half so fine a sight.
Her cheeks, so rare a white was on,
No daisy makes comparison;
(Who sees them is undone;)
For streaks of red were mingled there,
Such as are on a Katherine pear,
The side that's next the sun.
Her lips were red, and one was thin
Compared to that was next her chin;
Some bee had stung it newly;
But, Dick, her eyes so guard her face,
I durst no more upon them gaze
Than on the sun in July.
The grace and elegance of Suckling's ballads and songs were, in his own day, considered inimitable. Phillips says that, 'They have a touch of a gentle spirit, and seem to savour more of the grape than the lamp.'
One trait in Suckling's character must not be passed unnoticed; in language and idea he was one of the purest, if not the very purest poetical writer of his license-loving era. Indeed, his writings are more unexceptionable in expression, more fit to be read and circulated at the present day, than the productions of many of the so-termed Puritans, his contemporaries. Nor were all Suckling's writings mere poetical trifles. He was the author of a prose work, entitled An Account of Religion by Reason. Its aim is to answer the objections then made against admitting a belief in the Christian faith as a matter of reason, This is a work of considerable merit, written with great clearness, ingenuity, and force, and in a manner evidently indicating a sincere piety in the author.
In the short parliament of 1640, the gay poet was elected for Bramber in Sussex; but he was not destined to live much longer in his own country. Becoming engaged in a reactionary conspiracy, he was obliged to fly to Paris, where he lived for some time in great penury. There is in the British Museum a copy of a printed brochure, containing a ballad account of his distresses, as from himself, which gives us the one certain date connected with his life, 16th June 1641. It is believed to have been soon after this time that the cavalier bard, in despair of further happiness, put a period to his own life, when he could not have been much more than thirty-two years of age.
BATTLE OF STOKE
On the 16th of June 1487, the last contest between the rival houses of York and Lancaster -the last great battle on English soil-was fought near Stoke, in Nottinghamshire. The fortunes of the Red Rose prevailed, firmly securing the house of Tudor on the throne of England; but the destruction of life was lamentable, six thousand men being numbered among the slain.
The Earl of Lincoln, Martin Swartz, Lord Thomas Fitzgerald, and Francis Viscount Level, commanded the Yorkist party. Henry VII, aided by the choice of the English nobility, defended in person his right to the throne. The battle commenced by the Earl of Lincoln descending to the attack from a hill still called 'The Rampire,' hoping by a furious charge to break the first line of the king's army, and thus throw the main body into confusion. But, after fighting desperately for three hours, during which the German auxiliaries under Swartz exhibited great valour, and the Irish under Fitzgerald, armed only with darts and knives, obstinately maintained their ground, the royal troops prevailed, and the insurgents were routed with immense slaughter.
Lambert Simnel, the puppet set up by the Earl of Lincoln to clear his own way to the crown, was taken prisoner, and by an artful stroke of policy was made turnspit in the king's kitchen. But the dead bodies of the earl and all the other principal leaders, save that of Lord Lovel, were found where they had fallen sword in-hand on the fatal field.
Lord Lovel, as it has been often told, was never seen, living or dead, after the battle. Some assert that he was drowned when endeavouring to escape across the river Trent, the weight of his armour preventing the subsequent discovery of his body. Another report was that he fled to the north, where, under the guise of a peasant, he ended his days in peace. Lord Bacon, in his History of Henry the Seventh, says that 'he lived long after in a cave or vault.' And this last account has been partly corroborated in modern times.
William Cowper, Esquire, Clerk of the House of Commons, writing from Herlingfordbury Park in 1738, says:
In 1708, upon occasion of new-laying a chimney at Minster Lovel, there was discovered a large vault or room underground, in which was the entire skeleton of a man, as having been sitting at a table, which was before him, with a book, paper, pen, &c.; in another part of the room lay a cap, all much mouldered and decayed. Which the family and others judged to be this Lord Lovel, whose exit has hitherto been so uncertain.