Drapers’ Hall opens up about Coventry’s past and future connections with The Princes of Wales

15 August 2018

Visit Drapers’ Hall to discover Coventry’s past royal connections and see The Prince’s Foundation’s plans for bringing the Hall back into public use

Royal Women of Influence in Medieval Coventry will be running at Drapers’ Hall through Heritage Open Days on 6th-9th September and 13th-16th September

The unique and lasting impressions two Queens of England have had on Coventry will be revealed to the public at a special free exhibition at Drapers’ Hall as part of Coventry’s Heritage Open Days on 6th-9th September and 13th-16th September.

Royal Women of Influence in Medieval Coventry: Queen Isabella and Queen Margaret of Anjou is being organised by Medieval Coventry in partnership with the University of Oxford and supported by Coventry City of Culture Trust.

Drapers’ Hall, which is normally closed to the public, will be unlocking its doors and revealing the secrets around two women of remarkable significance in medieval Coventry, Queen Isabella and Queen Margaret of Anjou.

Both were strong French women married to weak English Kings whose attempts to wield power led to them being dubbed posthumously ‘she-wolves’. Equally fascinating, but perhaps less known, is that they both established links between The Princes of Wales and Coventry that have lasted to today.

Queen Isabella, the wife of Edward II, began her connections with Coventry with the gift of the royal manor of Cheylesmore in Coventry by her son Edward III, who later granted the city an important charter of self-government. Through Isabella’s grandson, the Black Prince, Coventry became the patrimony of The Princes of Wales. The motto camera principis or ‘prince’s chamber’ remains on the City’s emblem and appears all over Coventry today.

Queen Margaret of Anjou who led the Lancastrian army during the War of the Roses, moved to Coventry with her husband, Henry VI and their three year old son, Edward, Prince of Wales, bringing the Crown Jewels with them.

For four years in the 1450s Coventry was the seat of royal power and the effective capital of England. Margaret’s Lancastrian forces were finally defeated in 1471 and Margaret was brought back to Coventry as a prisoner. She died in exile in France in 1483, but Princes of Wales continued to be closely associated with Coventry until the mid-16th century.

Drapers’ Hall, built in the Regency style in 1832, is the third building on the site. It is located in the heart of historic Coventry, next to the site of the Great Drapery, the largest medieval cloth market outside London. Coventry was the ‘boom town’ of late medieval England, its wealth based on the production of wool and woollen cloth.

Mark Webb, Director, Medieval Coventry, said: “Coventry has a rich and exciting medieval history that deserves to be told and shared more widely. A surprising amount of Coventry’s medieval art and architecture survives and much of it is now being recognised as being amongst the most significant in the country.

“Please come down to one of our Heritage Open Days and enjoy learning how Coventry was shaped by royal power, influence and force.”

An added attraction to the Heritage Open Days is that visitors will also be able to see behind the scenes at Drapers’ Hall. This is a unique opportunity to see the Regency grandeur of the Hall before it is restored and re-opened by the The Prince’s Foundation and the Historic Coventry Trust, who will be demonstrating their plans in the historic Ballroom.

The restored Hall is expected to open in time for the year of UK City of Culture in 2021 as a classical music and education venue for young people. During the Heritage Open Days there will also be musical performances from the Coventry Music Service, who will be the main tenants of Drapers’ Hall when it re-opens.

“We are thrilled to be able to share our drawings, designs and plans for bringing the Hall back into its original use as a performance space. It is a place that will train and support Coventry’s young musicians and provide enjoyment for so many classical music fans,” said Nicola Dyer, Senior Project Manager, The Prince’s Foundation.

Jacqui Ibbotson of the Coventry City of Culture Trust, said: “Coventry played a major role in medieval England and it’s important that we celebrate the stories and, through City of Culture, give more people the opportunity to learn about the city’s rich heritage.

“The exhibition tells the fascinating story of Queen Isabella and Queen Margaret of Anjou, two medieval queens who had a significant and lasting impact on Coventry. It also highlights the surviving medieval art and architecture of Coventry’s medieval ‘golden age’ which is now recognised as being amongst the best in the country.

“Not only that, there is also the added attraction of being able to see behind the scenes at Drapers’ Hall, which is a hugely exciting project for Coventry that will see this wonderful building restored and returned to use as a classical music and education venue in time for 2021.”

Royal Women of Influence in Medieval Coventry

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