While the Castle has all but disappeared, the village retains half of its wonderful collegiate church. While Edmund, first Duke of York certainly planned the building of a new collegiate church, based on enlarging the existing church in the village, the actual building probably started under Edward, the second Duke of York. The chancel (eastern end of the old church) was enlarged and rebuilt after 1411 consisting of a Quire (Choir) and Lady Chapel and was still under construction when he was buried there after being killed at Agincourt. He envisaged a great collegiate church, together with a cloister, Master’s lodge and Chapter House to house a company of over 30 men who were to say prayers for the souls of previous kings and for the family of York. The building that we see today was the new Nave or western end built to match the existing Quire and Lady Chapel constructed 20 years or so before. This building was begun around 1434 funded by Richard, third Duke of York and designed to match the existing eastern end. This Nave was always the parish church of the village and so it escaped the fate of the eastern end and the college buildings when Protector Somerset dissolved the chantries in 1548. The Church is notable for its magnificent octagonal lantern tower and flying buttresses. The whole complex of buildings including the Church which was therefore once twice as long as the present structure must have made a magnificent spectacle in its day, visable from many miles away. Inside the Church, there are reminders of its links to the family of York. Two Elizabethan tombs, north and south of the altar, mark the burial places of not only Edward, the second Duke of York but also Richard, the third Duke, and his son Edmund, Earl of Rutland. All three were originally buried in the Quire and Lady Chapel end of the Church but reinterred in their present positions in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. For Richard of York (father of Edward IV) and Rutland, this was their second re-burial! They were first re-buried in the Church amid much pomp and splendour in 1476, having been originally laid to rest in Pontefract in Yorkshire, some 16 years earlier. Edward IV may have belatedly reburied his father in Fotheringhay to help scotch nasty rumours that the Duke of York was not actually his father and therefore, Edward was not the true king ! In 1476, Edward IV called the great and the good of the nation to Fotheringhay in order to put an end to the rumours. Fotheringhay helped to strengthen his regime !
Though the population of Fotheringhay has now dwindled to just over 100 souls and the village is tranquil and quiet, the Castle site and the Church tell us of Fotheringhay’s historical importance. The golden falcon enclosed in a Fetterlock, which stands proudly atop the lantern tower of the Church reminds us specifically of Fotheringhay’s links to the House of York and the very English Wars of the Roses. However, as we have seen, Fotheringhay was also important in the history of Scotland. The brutal execution of Mary Queen of Scots reminds us of the history of conflict between the two nations. Even more newsworthy has been the discovery of Richard III’s bones in a Leicester car park. Reinterment of his bones took place at Leicester Cathedral on the 26th March 2015 with great pomp and ceremony.
Colin Pendrill, Local Historian