On Saturday 19 September, I gave a talk about Edward II to about eighty or ninety people at the seminary in the town of Vercelli, and was honoured by the presence of His Excellency the Archbishop of Vercelli, Father Marco Arnolfo, who was kind enough to attend and to say a few opening words. It was his predecessor Manuele Fieschi, bishop of Vercelli from 1343 to 1348, who told Edward III in the late 1330s that his father had escaped from Berkeley Castle and ultimately made his way to Italy.
|The seminary in Vercelli where I gave my talk. With many thanks to His Excellency the Archbishop for his hospitality.
On Tuesday 22 September, I gave another talk about Edward in an amazing old library called the Salone Teresiano at the University of Pavia, with another sixty or so people in attendance. On both occasions, I spoke in English and was translated into Italian, by Gianna Baucero of the Chesterton Association the first time and Ivan Fowler the second. Needless to say, it was the possibility of Edward's survival and death in northern Italy which caught people's attention the most. Both talks went down really well with the audience, if I do say so myself! With any luck I'll be going back next year. :-) I really felt like a VIP in Italy! People asked for my autograph after the Vercelli talk, lots of people took my pic all over the place - wow! And one of the most precious moments of my stay was being invited as a special guest to a concert of the Camerata Ducale orchestra in the San Cristoforo church in Vercelli, having my name read out to the entire audience beforehand by the priest Monsignor Salvini and being applauded by everyone there including the conductor Guido Rimonda, and being presented with a lovely gift by Monsignor Salvini. Actually I received quite a lot of delightful and unexpected gifts, including a collection of books from the mayor of Vercelli, Maura Forte, and from the staff of the university of Pavia. Everyone was so amazingly kind and hospitable.
I also visited the hermitage of Sant'Alberto di Butrio, or as the Fieschi Letter calls it, 'he [Edward of Caernarfon] changed himself to the castle of Cecime in another hermitage of the diocese of Pavia in Lombardy'. An empty tomb there is claimed to have been Edward's first tomb; lots more on all this coming up in future blog posts. Please do also visit the website of the Auramala Project; they're doing amazing work on the Fieschi Letter and are scouring archives for proof of Edward II's presence in Italy in the 1330s.
There's an article here in the local paper about my visit and my Edward II talk in Vercelli, in Italian, but there are lots of pics at the bottom you can click to enlarge. The pics of people milling round a desk were taken after my talk, and they were waiting to get my autograph and to talk to me. :) There's also a short video on Youtube of a dinner held in my honour at the Ca'San Sebastiano high in the hills of Montferrat, an amazing place.
|The hermitage of Sant'Alberto di Butrio.
|The hills around Sant'Alberto, taken on the way there; it's remote (and very pretty).
|An empty tomb at Sant'Alberto said to have been Edward II's, with a helpful info board provided by the Auramala Project.
|The view from Sant'Alberto (apparently you can see Milan, 60 or so miles away, on a clear day)
|Google map showing the location of Sant'Alberto, between Milan, Turin and Genoa. Vercelli, where Manuele Fieschi was bishop in the 1340s, and Tortona, where his first cousin Percivalle Fieschi was bishop from 1325, are underlined.
|In the middle of this pic you can just see the castle of Oramala, across the valley from Sant'Alberto (not visible away to the right). In the 1330s Oramala and the valley were controlled by the nephew of Cardinal Luca Fieschi.
|The Salone Teresiano, the gorgeous old library at the university of Pavia where I gave a talk about Edward II.
|My view of the room.
|Beaming with joy at Edward's tomb :-)
|Ivan Fowler and I at an archive in Genoa, searching for the testament of Manuele Fieschi's nephew.