Guest Blog

Yorkist Realm Photographer Rae Tan

Rae Tan

Reflections of the Yorkist Realm

Visually depict historic landscapes and buildings through photography. Infrared and black and white being preferred mediums. She does a certain amount of research but much prefers being out in the field!

Rae kindly allowed us to use her images in our DVD Sandal Castle & the Battle of Wakefield. All the images in this interview were taken by Rae, with the exception of the King. 

Q1. What first got you interested in history?

A. It was seeing large posters of ancient classical sites in travel agents windows when I was around 7, I would ask them to save the posters for me when they took them down and I had them on my bedroom wall. About the same time I started to visit museums. Much to my Mother's annoyance I would be more interested in gazing around at the architecture of churches than the service. When I was still at school I worked on Roman Kiln digs at Doncaster and pot washed finds in the museum.

After saving money earned from Saturday jobs and walking dogs at 16 yrs I finally made it to Italy together with my classmate Susan to visit sites, a dream come true. 

Q2. What period of history do you find the most fascinating?

A. I am tempted to say whatever I am currently reading about. My first love was classical which I started to "study" on my own at Primary school and subsequently studied at secondary and college. After that came Roman Britain, then I jumped hundreds of years to the late medieval period, which holds a perennial fascination for me. Lately I have been trying to fill in the gaps particularly what is commonly known as "the dark ages" post Roman occupation until the conquest.

Bosworth, by Rae Tan

Bosworth, by Rae Tan

Q3. What is the highlight of your career (so far!)?

A. What career? I seem to have made a career out of not having one, not in the traditional sense anyway - yet I would not change a thing. My various roles in different countries have allowed me to travel a great deal, it has been enlightening and rewarding. Knowing David Santiuste for a number of years and collaborating with him on the website "Reflections of the Yorkist Realm" was a pleasure. We approach history from different angles but David has always generously and enthusiastically shared his knowledge and has encouraged me to remain objective, when I get carried away, as I engage with history on a very personal level. We have both been surprised and heartened by the response internationally. The project is still very much "work in progress" and the latest additions are Eltham Palace and Bosworth which includes some of the new information on King Richard III.

Q4. What is the most impressive castle you have visited? And why?

A. Dover castle. Fortifications at Dover span such an incredible time line.  It has often been called the key to England, a first line in the defence of the Realm, not only is the coastal situation looking out over the English Channel impressive but the site and the castle has been continually used for centuries. On approach the anti- tank traps are a reminder of the castle's more recent history and how real imminent invasion was. The recent improvements and visitor friendly information help to convey this history.

Dover Castle, by Rae Tan

Q5. What is the best history book you have read recently?

A. The Great Warbow by Matthew Strickland and Robert Hardy. It looks rather daunting in size but is actually very readable, lavishly illustrated and fascinating. It covers the longbow from Anglo Saxon times to its decline in the Tudor period.

  Q6. Who is your favourite monarch in history?

A. This is harder than who I don't like … Some Monarchs such as Richard III showed great promise in their careers and Parliament, unfortunately they did not reign for long enough. So I am going for a King I have long admired the 10th C King Athelstan.

Q7. He's surely one of our lesser-known kings. What is it that you admire about him?

A. King Athelstan was famous throughout Britain and Europe in the medieval period, but somehow seems to have unfairly faded. He was the grandson of Alfred the Great and inherited his famous wisdom. Although he came to the throne by dubious means, he did not rewrite history to cover that fact, unlike some.

William of Malmesbury said of him in 1130 "the firm opinion is still current among the English that no one more just or learned administered the state". He has often been compared to Charlemagne . A mighty warrior, fending off threats many times to a recently united kingdom. His victories are the stuff of saga and legend. His laws and trading standardisation improved life for his people. He promoted the arts and learning, a deeply religious man and generous relic-giver. He advanced the concept of a united England envisaged by Alfred the Great and is acknowledged as the first King of all the English.

Q8. Who is your least favourite monarch in history? And why?

A. King Henry VIII. I almost feel apologetic in saying this as Tudor lovers will be aghast but why is it that some monarchs sail through history with no derogatory "labels" or nicknames and others somewhat unjustly do not. My preferred nickname for him would be "Henry the vandal" or "Henry the beheader". Sorry but when I sit amidst the ruins of a once magnificent Abbey and wonder too about the nation's artefacts being melted down…well nothing convinces me all this was done to save England from the Pope!

I have sympathy for Anne Boleyn and think of her sad fate on my birthday as this was the day she was beheaded.


Q9. If you could witness one event in history, where and when would you go?

A. I would time travel back to George Neville's (brother of the Earl of Warwick "the Kingmaker") famous feast at Cawood Bishops Palace near York on his enthronement as Archbishop of York in 1464. Not so much for the truly mind blowing scale of the feast, the only dishes that appealed to me anyway are some of the desert puddings, but for the collection of nobles and dignitaries from all over Europe. What a wonderful opportunity it would be to walk among them and find out first-hand what they were really like as people.

Henry VIII

Henry VIII

Q10. How would you interest a 12 year old in medieval history?

A. Probably take them to the garderobe of a castle and explain how it all functioned! Children of all ages I find have a fascination with bodily functions – maybe this is something they can identify with and not too remote. At the I.M.C. last year, or maybe the year before a paper was presented entitled "shitting in the 15th Century" so you see it is not just toilet humour (excuse the pun!) but material for post graduate studies.

Q11. Given the time and resources, what would you still like to achieve in your work?

To share knowledge and hopefully do something positive to highlight the sad plight of many of the country’s Battlefields.  

Storm over Towton, by Rae Tan

Storm over Towton, by Rae Tan