Tewkesbury is notable for two things, Tewkesbury Abbey, and the Battle of Tewkesbury, which ended in the abbey when the Lancastrian nobles who had claimed sanctuary there were dragged out and executed.
The Battle of Tewkesbury was when Edward IV.2 in the white corner stole the crown back from Henry VI (Part 3) in the red corner, who had stolen it from Edward IV.1.
Henry VI (Part 3) was a prisoner in the Tower of London at the time, so his son Edward, Prince of Wales, led the Lancastrian forces, and was killed shortly after the battle and buried in the abbey.
According to some accounts he was brought before Edward IV.2 and his brothers Richard and George, who hacked him to death with their swords. Here’s Shakespeare’s version from the justifiably obscure Henry VI part 3.
PRINCE: I know my dutie, you are all vndutifull:
Lasciuious Edward, and thou periur’d George,
And thou mis-shapen Dicke, I tell ye all,
I am your better, Traytors as ye are,
And thou vsurp’st my Fathers right and mine
EDWARD: Take that, the likenesse of this Rayler here.
[Edward stabs him.]
RICHARD: Sprawl’st thou? take that, to end thy agonie.
[Richard stabs him.]
CLARENCE:. And ther’s for twitting me with periurie.
[Clarence stabs him.]
Shakespeare wrote many brilliant lines, but surely none more classy than when he referred to the future Richard III as a “mis-shapen Dicke”. In a fit of typical medieval opportunism, Prince Edward’s widow Anne Neville then married Richard, who got to be Richard III by stealing the crown from Edward IV.2’s sons (aka The Princes In The Tower).
It was a bit of bloody and unnecessary tribal warfare, that didn’t end until a Yorkist king married a Lancastrian princess creating a super being with the best features of both clans: overwhelming ambition, ginger hair, and a tendency to run to fat. We know that early example of genetic engineering as Henry VIII. Trust me, those were the best features. You don’t want to know the worst ones.
The abbey is lovely, with the pillars and arches of the nave dating back to the eleventh century. It is the most beautiful Norman church I have ever been in. There is a tremendous sense of space and light there, in spite of the heavy pillars and round arches.
It was a monastery until Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, but the local parish stepped in to buy the abbey to use as their parish church, which it has been ever since. Of course, it has gone through changes over the centuries. After the Yorkist victory in 1471, they put a big Sun of York symbol on the roof.
Other gems in the abbey include the Milton Organ, so called because it was once played by the poet John Milton for the benefit of Oliver Cromwell.
Of course, they were both miserable buggers with no concept of fun, and Milton was going blind, so it was probably a selection of dirges with a lot of bum notes.
Talking of bum notes, there is also an angel playing bagpipes without actually squeezing the bag.
Barring divine intervention the result would likely be silence, which is about the best sound you can get out of bagpipes.
Then there’s the abbey gift shop:
“Not many shops can boast that the Duke of Somerset is buried under the till”