Press Gleanings
Written and compiled by Valerie Offord

DNA may identify America’s founding father

Researchers have taken DNA samples from bodies in two 17th century tombs in All Saints Church, Shelley, Suffolk, England in an attempt to establish whether a skeleton found at the site of the first permanent English settlement in Jamestown, Virginia in 2003 is that of Captain Bartholomew Gosnold. The only way of confirming the identity is to match DNA with that of a close relative. It is the first time that Anglican authorities have granted permission for a grave to be opened in a British church for scientific research.

Gosnold came from a family of minor landed gentry in Suffolk and he planned an expedition to make his fortune. Having set up the Virginia Company of London, he captained the ship Godspeed and sailed from Britain in December 1606. Incidentally it is interesting to note that The Mayflower did not arrive for another 13 years! His expedition led to the founding of Jamestown in 1607, in what is now Virginia. In effect, he was an English-speaking venture capitalist but his actions had a profound influence on the history of the country as Jamestown was the first permanent English presence in North America!

Archaeologists in Suffolk have located what they believe to be the grave of his sister Elizabeth Tilney and her husband Thomas inside the 13th century church in Shelley. She was buried on 10 April 1646 almost 30 years after her brother’s death at the age of 36 in August 1607, four months after he arrived in America. Samples have also been taken from the body of Katherine Blackerby, Gosnold’s niece who is thought to be buried under the floor of St Peter and Mary Church in Stowmarket, Suffolk.

Once scientists from the team led by William Kelso, director of archaeology at the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities have checked whether the bones match Elizabeth’s age and gender a sample will be removed for DNA testing against those thought to be Gosnold’s in America. The process of comparing the Suffolk DNA with the Jamestown bones will be undertaken by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Kelso wants to see Gosnold recognized more for his role in the history of America. Historians see the establishment of Jamestown as crucial in having prevented Spain from colonizing North America and ensuring that English became the continent’s principal language.

USA TodayDNA match sought for Jamestown bones Thursday 16 June 2005.
The Times Scientists dig for DNA that may identify America’s lost father Tuesday 14 June 2005.
The Sunday Times Suffolk tombs hold key to US founding father 12 June 2005

‘Perform this at your Peril’

Royal Shakespeare Company Revives Sir Thomas More Play

The Royal Shakespeare Company has revived a play that was banned during the Bard’s lifetime and that they have never performed owing to uncertainty of its authorship. Sir Thomas More is included in this year’s summer season of political plays at the Globe Theatre, London. The play dramatizes the life of a leading Renaissance scholar Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) and is a sympathetic portrayal of this man who became Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor and ultimately a Catholic martyr. The part of the play probably written by Shakespeare centres round More’s time as Sheriff of London when rioting broke out in May 1517 to protest against the presence of foreigners (mainly Protestants who had fled religious persecution in Northern Italy) and the privileges they enjoyed under the law. They were said to be undercutting the Londoners’ trade. More pleads with the May Day rioters for calm and for people to live in peace and harmony with those seeking asylum. It is interesting to note that when the play was written in the 1590’s it was the French who were seeking asylum in London and the subject was before Parliament as tradesmen were again complaining that their jobs were at risk.

This Elizabethan play survives only in a single manuscript now owned by the British Library. Its main claim to fame is that two pages of it may have been written by William Shakespeare. The manuscript is a complicated text of collaborative writing, revision and censorship. It is generally thought that it was originally written between 1592 and 1595 by playwrights Anthony Munday and Henry Chettle. Then, several years later, the play was heavily revised by other playwrights including Thomas Heywood, Thomas Dekker and, perhaps, William Shakespeare. The manuscript also includes comments by the censor, Edmund Tilney, who found fault with the play’s depiction of anti-government protests and demanded the rewriting of several sections. In fact, he wrote in the margin beside a speech in which More addresses the rioters ‘Perform this at your peril’.

The complete play will appear in the Oxford Complete Works of William Shakespeare for the first time next year. The previous edition of 1986 included only the two short extracts from the play that were almost certainly written by Shakespeare. Jonathan Bate, Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature at Warwick University, remarked that it is an interesting play but feared that putting it into the Oxford Complete Works might give the impression that Shakespeare wrote it all whereas the academic consensus was that he only wrote 147 lines.

Leaving aside the authorship controversy, by performing this play which had been banned from being performed in the 16th century by Sir Edmund Tilney, the Master of Revels (censor), because he was concerned about some of the subject matter and, in particular, the riot scenes, the Royal Shakespeare Company will give it a certain respectability in the 21st century.

Jack Malvern ‘RSC stirs political debate with a play the Queen banned’ The Times 15 September 2004.

Living History at Gloucester Cathedral

Tudor Times were brought to life at Gloucester Cathedral this February when Sarah Stanford, wife of John Stanford, a prominent citizen who owned several buildings on Westgate Street in the 1500s welcomed visitors. She told them stories about the happenings in her lifetime.

Mistress Stanford knew about the stripping of the Abbey of its possessions in 1540, about its being established as a cathedral the following year. She was there when John Hooper was nominated Bishop of Gloucester in 1550. He not only refused any reference to saints or angels in the Oath of Supremacy but protested against the wearing of vestments at his consecration. She was still there when Mary Tudor came to the throne in 1554 and Hooper was arrested for heresy. She might even have watched his gruesome execution when he was burned at the stake in Gloucester on 9 February 1555.

The cathedral education officer, Sarah Law, who played Mistress Stanford remarked that ‘...this will really help bring the building to life and help youngsters learn about the important events that helped shape Gloucester Cathedral and the city’.

Perhaps we can persuade her to attend our Tenth Annual Tyndale Lecture in the Old Deanery at Gloucester Cathedral on 6 October 2005!

Church Times Report 25 February 2005

Good News for Macclesfield

A year ago in issue No 27 July 2004 of the Tyndale Society Journal (Press Gleanings p.79) we ran a report on the Macclesfield Psalter. The Psalter created in Gorleston, East Anglia in the 1320’s was sold to the Getty Museum in California last summer for more than £1.6 million after the Earl of Macclesfield left his home, Shirburn Castle, in Oxfordshire. The Government blocked the export licence to give the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge a chance to match the price.

In January 2005 we learnt that it was to stay in the UK thanks to a successful fund-raising campaign to stop its export. The Times reporter described it as ‘one of the finest chronicles of late mediaeval life’.

Chronicle stays in UK The Times 25 January 2005.