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Whatever happened to Henry Pole the Younger? (2011)

I am not sure that every Ricardian will have survived watching the first two series of BBC2’s “The Tudors”, as first mentioned here, with its historical anachronisms, miscasting in some roles, confused chronology and obsession with bedroom scenes. Nevertheless, the third series is showing signs of improvement, particularly with its focus on the Pole family.

Last Friday, a plot involving the various Poles resulted in three of them being arrested in 1538. It is easy to blame Tudor paranoia for Plantagenets being persecuted during the reigns of the Henries but Hazel Pierce (Lady Salisbury’s biographer) concedes that there probably was a plot on this occasion. So who was involved?

Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury (and niece of Richard III): shown being arrested – finally beheaded, messily, in May 1541 after Sir John Neville’s revolt.

Henry Pole, Baron Montagu: her eldest son, also shown being arrested – beheaded in the winter of 1538/9.

Reginald Pole, a Deacon (or sub-Deacon) and Cardinal: in exile on the Continent, seems to have conceived the idea of sending a foreign army to dethrone Henry – survived to become a priest and then an Archbishop under Mary.

Sir Geoffrey Pole: her other surviving son, arrested but not portrayed in the series. His servants were threatened with torture and he gave evidence against the other conspirators. Released and survived for twenty years.

Henry Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter: grandson of Edward IV and arrested but not portrayed and executed with Montagu.

Henry Pole the Younger: son of Montagu, the boy shown being arrested – last seen in the Tower in 1542, aged between 15 and 21.

Thomas Courtenay (became Earl of Devon): son of Exeter and arrested with his father but not portrayed. Unlike the Younger Pole, he was released during Mary’s reign and contemplated marrying either her or Princess Elizabeth. Went into exile and died in 1556/7.

Henry Pole the Younger should be of interest to all Ricardians. We are often asked: “If the bodies found in the Tower in 1672 are not Edward IV’s sons, who are they?” Although defence counsel are never obliged to name an alternative culprit, of course, IF the bones are human, male, youthful and late Medieval to early Renaissance, some of them could well be his remains. As a Clarence great-grandson, his nuclear DNA (if it could ever be of use) would be similar to that of Edward of Westminster and Richard of Shrewsbury. That he was not executed with his father and Exeter would tend to suggest that his age would be towards the bottom of the range given above.

One reason for caution is that that part of the Tower was substantially rebuilt during the time of Anne Boleyn and we know that she died some six years before his disappearance

The succession to Richard II

There was no ‘constitutional’ arrangement in place in the 14thcentury. For many years, father had been succeeded by son, and there had been no need to set out any arrangements for any other contingency.

Late in Edward III’s reign, the king, who was losing his faculties and very much under the influence of Gaunt, produced a document which purported to settle the crown on Gaunt in the event of Richard II’s death. Richard was, of course, only a boy at the time. The arrangement was not binding on Richard II, or on Parliament, and it seems to have been forgotten. Surprisingly, Henry IV did not use it as one of the supports of his claim.

Of course, everyone expected Richard to have a son, and it was only when it became clear he wasn’t going to have one – at least by Anne of Bohemia – that it became an issue. Richard appears to have nominated Roger Mortimer, Earl of March as his heir and this is stated as outright fact by the Westminster Chronicler, writing at a time when all these people were alive. Mortimer was the ‘right heir’ by the standards we use today, but his claim came through his mother, who was Gaunt’s niece.

The snag was that Gaunt was incredibly powerful. He had vast lands, a whole army of retainers – originally recruited, in many cases, to help him conquer Castile, and an almost unlimited amount of cash. He made Warwick the Kingmaker look like a country squire.

Hence the politics of the 1390s began to get interesting. Had Richard died in (say) 1395, there might well have been a civil war.

Then several things happened in quick succession. Richard, to secure peace with France, married an eight year old girl, meaning that there was no hope of a direct heir for 7-8 years at best. Bolingbroke, Gaunt’s heir, was banished. March died in Ireland, leaving a young son to succeed him. Gaunt died. Richard appears to have nominated Edmund of Langley his heir, and after him Edward of York ‘the King’s brother’ – later 2nd Duke of York. Richard toddled off to Ireland, leaving Langley in charge of the shop. Bolingbroke invades England – collapse of stout party.

Only two earls (Northumberland and Westmorland) backed Bolingbroke, but the vast army of Lancastrian annuitants, retainers and general hangers-on crushed all organised resistance. After some acts of terror that make Richard of Gloucester seem perfectly moderate by comparison, Henry captured Richard and his remaining supporters. In the circumstances it was inconceivable that anyone but Henry would be chosen by the Parliament as the new King. His armed supporters outside, and the backing of the majority of the Londoners made sure of that; his actual claim though was based on inheritance, and although Ian Mortimer has attempted to spin it otherwise it appears he relied mainly on his descent through his mother from Henry III. (Because in Henry’s fantasy world, Edmund ‘Crouchback’ was older than Edward I.) In other words Henry himself claimed through the female line! At no point (bewilderingly) did he claim to be the heir male of Richard II. Though on the face of it, he was just that, and many peerages were inherited on heir-male terms, so it would have been a perfectly reasonable argument.

He then spent the next eight years or so fighting an intermittent civil war against the assorted people who thought his claim was invalid. Some believed (or pretended to believe) that Richard II was still alive. The rest were for Mortimer.

Henry Tudor – ruler by right of conquest?

I have seen it asserted recently that Henry VII ruled ‘by right of conquest.’ This may be the de facto position, but it is not the de jure one.  Parliament would never have allowed him to claim by conquest – it would have destroyed everyone’s – and I mean everyone’s – title to their lands. (This is why Henry IV was not allowed to claim by conquest either, following the advice of Chief Justice Thirning.)

Henry VII ruled by virtue of a Parliamentary statute that acknowledged he was king. Though it is not generally acknowledged, all subsequent sovereigns of England have their ‘claim’ ultimately based on this statute.

Now, given that in 1485 Parliament had the right to create a sovereign by statute, it follows as night follows day that they had the same right in 1483. The only difference is that Richard had an hereditary claim that it was possible to publish and justify with arguments, whereas Henry’s statute did not contain any reference at all to his hereditary claim. Possibly because there were elderly peers and prelates attending the Parliament who might have wet themselves laughing at something so improbable.

It is surprising that so many Tudor devotees wish to stress the ‘conquest’ element of Henry’s kingship. In doing so, they are unconsciously arguing that the Tudor regime was an illegal and arbitrary tyranny, established against the law and custom of the land and against existing statute law – Titulus Regius. And ultimately with no more legitimacy than a German army of occupation would have had, had we been conquered in 1940. Which is a very odd position for a pro-Tudor person to take. If I were them, I should be inclined to put more stress on the accession statute.


Churchill, Celts and Common Ancestry (2009)

It was the new film, Into the Storm that started me thinking. Brendan Gleeson plays Winston Churchill and has commented widely on how ironic it is that an Irish actor is in the role. I recalled the rumours that Churchill fathered Brendan Bracken (a red-haired Irish-born MP and wartime Minister) and the fact that he too had red hair in his younger days. This is almost always the result of a Celtic gene but how exactly does it behave and where did it originate in his case?

Bill, A Scots-Canadian Ricardian, pointed out that his daughter has red hair but neither he, his parents nor grandparents did although his maternal great-grandfathers did. I searched for Churchill on Genealogics and looked back four generations (as with Bill). No given ancestor sounded demonstrably Scots or Welsh whilst the Irish peers listed could have been English in their descent. I stepped back slightly further and found two Scottish Earls, which potentially answers the first question.

Bill suggested that most people have a common ancestor within ten generations – one of 1024 – but there is an obvious flaw here. People, particularly the nobility, tend to intermarry so we have fewer unique ancestors to compare. If the theory really did apply, cubing that number to about 1.073 US billion would cover thirty generations or 750 years – back to Henry III’s struggles with de Montfort – to exceed the then population of the world. Because of duplication, we would need to go back further to pre-Conquest days or Alfred’s childhood.

Physical proof of age (2008)?

It isn’t even clear with the living, let alone those who have been dead for five hundred years:

The current method adopted for verifying the age of cricketers has come

under scrutiny from the ICC’s medical council, which met in Dubai recently to

discuss a variety of issues that impact the performance of an athlete.

The topic of cricketers’ legitimate age has long been debated, especially in the

subcontinent, with India and Pakistan doing exceedingly well in age-group

tournaments like the Under-19 World Cup.

At the moment a player’s age is determined by using X-rays, a method the

five-member panel thought was absolutely unscientific. “Presently X-rays of

the growing ends of the bone or the dental X-rays are used to determine the

player’s age which was unanimously turned down by the committee. The

margin of error can be as much as one or two years”, Dr Anant Joshi, the

Indian representative, told Cricinfo.

The alternative, the committee recommended, was to go by verification of

authentic papers like the passport, date of birth certificate and any other

relevant papers at every possible instance. Joshi, who is also the BCCI’s

medical consultant, said discrepancies could take place using this method,

too, but it was a much better procedure.

The Audley Case of 1431

It is sometimes asserted that Richard III ‘ought to have referred the legitimacy of the princes to a Church court’ or even ‘to the Pope’. Quite apart from the rather obvious fact that a late 15th Century Parliament was never going to allow the succession to be determined by a bishop or two, and still less by a foreign potentate, there was at least one precedent for Parliament effectively determining the legitimacy of an individual, at least as far as inheritance was concerned. The source, if anyone is interested, is the Parliament Roll of 1431.

However, to tell the story, we need to go a little further back in time. Coincidentally, it involves a member of the House of York who was an ancestress of (among many others) Anne and Isabel Neville.

Round about 1404, Constance of York, Lady Despenser, daughter of Edmund of Langley and widow of Thomas Despenser, Lord Despenser and Earl of Gloucester, involved herself in a relationship with Edmund Holland, Earl of Kent, who was at that time about a year under age and the ward of King Henry IV. They may – or may not – have contracted an irregular marriage. A daughter, Alianore, was born (although we do not know when) and early in 1405 Kent received a licence allowing him to marry any woman he chose ‘of the King’s allegiance.’

Unfortunately, matters then took an unexpected turn. Constance managed to sneak the Mortimer heirs out of Windsor Castle – where the boys were being kept as state prisoners. She fled with them towards Wales (and Owain Glyndwr) but the whole party was overtaken and captured near Cirencester. Constance temporarily forfeited her lands and goods and was thrown into jail.

Despite the licence he had granted, Henry IV now went to some trouble to obtain an alternative bride for Kent, importing the Lady Lucia of Milan from Italy. Lucia was supposed to bring a huge dowry – unfortunately for Kent (and his many creditors) it was never paid, and Kent himself was killed in 1408.

Fast forward to circa 1430. Kent, Constance and Lucia are all long dead. Alianore Holland, having lived for some time under the protection of her half-sister, Isabelle, Countess of Warwick, has married James, Lord Audley as his second wife. This pair go to the Church court with evidence – of what quality or honesty we simply do not know – in an attempt to have Alianore declared legitimate and therefore heiress to her father.

Kent had several sisters – indeed six of them – and those that were still alive, led by Margaret, Duchess of Clarence, and the heirs of the deceased sisters had long enjoyed possession of the Holland lands. You might think that they would have gone straight to the Church court to contest the Audleys especially since (this is known) Kent and Lucia had been married in regular fashion, in an actual church before witnesses that  (according to them) included Constance herself! This latter fact – if true – should have killed the Audleys’ case stone dead.

Instead they petitioned Parliament about the horrid injustice being done to them, and their petition was granted. In effect Parliament decided that – whatever the Bishop’s court might or might not determine – Lady Audley was not eligible to inherit her father’s lands. Moreover, there is no indication that Parliament gave any hearing to the Audleys’ case.

Now I am the first to admit that this case does not precisely mirror the circumstances of the Edward IV-Elizabeth Woodville case. Obviously it doesn’t. And, sadly, we do not know whether the Church court decided that Lady Audley was technically legitimate or not.

This however, is not the point. The Audley case of 1431 demonstrates that the Parliament of England was quite willing to rule on the legitimacy of an individual – insofar as it impacted on inheritance. And it would do as much for a private person, on the basis of a petition. So there is little doubt that it would have felt itself amply competent to rule on a matter which touched on the inheritance of the throne itself.

24-25 February

What an interesting week this is.

On 25 February 1475 Edward, son of the Duke of Clarence and Isabel Neville, was born.  He already had an elder sister, Margaret, although two other siblings died in infancy. By his third birthday, Edward had lost both his parents and his father’s attainder barred him from succeeding to the Dukedom or the crown, however he did receive his maternal titles as Earl of Warwick and Salisbury. He became a ward of the Marquess of Dorset, then Constable of the Tower, leading to rumours that he was held there at some time.  When the Three Estates petitioned Richard III to take the throne in 1483, Edward joined his household at Sheriff Hutton and is rumoured to have become Richard’s heir the following year.
On the accession of Henry “Tudor”, he was moved to the Tower and left it only three times: once for display in 1487, once in November 1499 to be tried at Westminster for plotting with his possible cousin “Perkin Warbeck” to escape and the following week to be beheaded at Tower Hill. By 1492, he was the only known remaining legitimate Plantagenet as Margaret had married.

On 24 February 1525 Richard de la Pole, the “White Rose” soi-disant Earl of Suffolk, was killed at the siege of Pavia fighting for France. He had been born in about 1480 to John de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, and Elizabeth of York. He left for France and then Hungary in 1504, first with his brother Edmund but then alone when Edmund was captured by subterfuge and subsequently executed. Richard then took a command in the French army and planned an invasion of England, but this was deferred after a treaty. He then moved to Lorraine, thwarting an attempted assassination by a “Tudor” agent (Alamire) and then took part in the 1523-5 phase of the Italian (Valois-Habsburg) Wars  under Francois I.
His years in Lorraine are intriguing in that someone claiming to be his daughter (Marguerite) was born there. Although Richard came from a large family, only Edmund of his siblings is known to have had issue- and his daughter became a nun.

Travels in enemy territory (2006)

Arlington Court is not a particularly old building but it commemorates a family that can be traced back to the Battle of Hastings, with a twentieth century twist. It dates from 1820, however it is the third or possibly fourth grand house to occupy the same site since the sixteenth century. The grounds are extensive and the circular walk is reputed to take an hour; there is also a Carriage Museum. The whole estate lies about seven miles from Barnstaple.

Until 1949 it was the home of the Chichester family, Sir John having married a Ralegh heiress in 1385. The Chichesters were recusants from 1577 but maintained a loyalty to the Crown through the following centuries. Another John Chichester was awarded a Baronetcy in 1840 but left only one son and Sir Bruce’s only child was a daughter, “Miss Rosalie”.

It is through her eyes (1865-1949) that visitors see the present house, as she survived her father by sixty-eight years and her mother by forty-one. Her many collections, including model ships and family portraits, and individual style dominate the many rooms. Sir Bruce’s widow married one of his cousins, Rector of the adjacent parish of Shirwell, and his grandson was the 1967 solo circumnavigator Francis Chichester, knighted on board his Gypsy Moth IV. The National Trust, to whom she left the house and grounds, added a model of this to his “aunt’s” collection.

I am certain that she would have welcomed this posthumous augmentation.

George Joseph Smith and the Talbot-York precontract

Following the comparison between the remains that purport to be Edward IV’s sons and those that purported to be Mrs. Crippen, we revisit early C20 crime, although in this case we can be sure that a crime took place.

George Joseph Smith was born in January 1872 and contracted a legal marriage in 1898, to Caroline Beatrice Thornhill of Leicester. Although he abandoned the real Mrs. Smith several times, he did not harm or divorce her so she was to become his widow in August 1915 when the trapdoor opened. Margaret Elizabeth Lofty of Highgate, Beatrice Munday of Dorset and Alice Burnham of Blackpool were less fortunate. All drowned in their bath, a few days after “marrying” Smith and during his supposed absence on an urgent erand

Critically, Mr. Justice Scrutton allowed evidence to be introduced that Smith had followed the same procedure in all three cases: “evidence of system”, by which the evidence in one case strengthened that in the others. He was convicted solelyof murdering Beatrice Munday but a precedent was created. There were other bigamous “wives” but Smith had been able to defraud them and flee.

Now let us apply this principle to Edward IV. Between 1461 and 1465, he went through two secret marriage ceremonies with Lady Eleanor Talbot (older than himself and the widow of a Lancastrian knight) and Elizabeth Woodville (older than himself and the widow of a Lancastrian knight). There may have been more than two but Lady Grey, as Elizabeth Woodville had become, had an assertive mother and a few extra witnesses. Straight away, we can observe “evidence of system” and motivation: The bigamist Edward IV was led by his groin, much as the bigamist Smith was led by the love of money.

Shakespeare re-written …………..

Henry V

DRIVER (presses bell)

BUTLER (opens door)

DRIVER: Mr. Monmouth?

BUTLER: Sorry, he is busy at the moment.

DRIVER: Dauphin’s Sporting Goods here. I have a delivery for him; can he spare a moment to sign for it? Otherwise I’ll probably have to take it back to the warehouse.

BUTLER: He is with some Lollards at the moment but will be free when they go out. Can I sign for him?

DRIVER: I suppose so. He may be interested in our Ashes Memorabilia Catalogue, perhaps?

Richard III

CALL CENTRE WORKER: Hello, Animals for You. Can I help you?

RICHARD: I want a horse!

CCW: What sort of horse: size, colour, breed, gender?

RICHARD: I don’t know, just a horse!

CCW: I’ll try my best. Your name?

RICHARD: Richard Plantagenet.

CCW: Delivery address?

RICHARD: Somewhere near Leicester at the moment, or is it Coventry?

CCW: We will need a postcode. When would you like this horse?

RICHARD: As soon as you can manage!

CCW: We can try later in the week or you can pay a little extra for next day delivery.

How much are you willing to spend?

RICHARD: My kingdom!

CCW: We only take debit and credit cards I’m afraid. How much does your kingdom amount to?

RICHARD: I’m not sure.

CCW: Then there’s post and packing….

Additional inspiration from Stoppard, Flanders and Swann.

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