by Anna Kathryn Lanier
For this week’s The Friday Record, I’m turning once again to Michael Powell’s book CURIOUS EVENTS IN HISTORY. It’s a fascinating little book with dozens of interesting historical facts. On page 36, Powell has an chapter on Edward IV’s Magic Vision.
Now here’s my disclaimer….I don’t know much of the War of the Roses, but here’s a brief history to set things up:
Edward’s father, Richard, Third Duke of York. and his brother, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, had been killed in the Battle of Wakefield, leaving Edward as the head of the House of York and fighting for the throne of England in the War of the Roses. Margaret of Anjou was the wife of Henry VI and mother to the man who would be king (unfortunately, the son died in the battle of Twekesbury at some point in the war). Owen Tudor, Earl of Pembroke was the leader of the Lancastrians.
Margaret was advancing from the North with her army and Pembroke was advancing from South Wales with his army. They planned to meet up and advance together on Edward. Edward turned toward Pembroke, meeting up with him at Moritmer’s Cross, before Pembroke could join forces with Margaret.
The day of the battle, Edward and his men witnessed a parhelion: “It occurs when sunlight is refracted through microscopic ice crystals, usually when wispy cirrus clouds high in the sky cover the sun, causing two ghost images to appear on either side of it,” Powell explains. In other words, the army witnessed what it thought were three suns raising in the sky, which then joined into one sun before their eyes. Now, this is 1461……the army was terrified and took it as an bad omen that they should turn tail and run. Edward, at the ripe old age of eighteen, saw it as a positive sign. He rallied his men with a speech quoted in Davies Chronicle (and Powell’s book): “Beeth of good comfort and dreadeth not! This is a good sign, for these three suns betokeneth the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, and therefore let us have a good heart, and in the name of Almighty God go we against our enemies!”
With his army believing God was on their side, they went forth into one of the bloodiest battles of the War of the Roses. They did, however, come out the victors and two weeks later, Edward was crowned King of England.
Powell goes on tell of two other “natural phenomena that altered the course of history.” During the two-year siege of Syracuse on the island of Sicily by the Athenians during the 5th century B.C., an eclipse represented a bad omen to the Athenians. About to abandon the siege and return home, they decided the eclipse was telling them that was a bad idea. So they stayed. It was a major mistake. The Syracusans were able to slip through the blockades and “destroy the Athenian fleet and Army.” This was the beginning of the end of the Greek empire.
Christopher Columbus used an eclipse to his advantage as well. Marooned on the island of Jamaica in 1504, he demanded food for his starving men. The Jamaicans told Chris where to get off and refused to give him any. Consulting his almanac, he discovered that an eclipse was predicted in just a few days. He told the natives that if they didn’t give his men food, God would blacken the sky as punishment. Well, they scoffed, but after the eclipse, they supplied Chris and his crew with supplies aplenty until they were rescued several months later.
We know that omens, tea readings, bone readings and such have been around for ions. Which one in particular has caught your attention? Would you use it in a story?
This post first appeared on Chatting With Anna Kathryn blog on August 14, 2009