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Richard’s Affinity and Good Lordship as Duke of Gloucester 1468-1483

(This article originally appeared in the Ricardian Register, the journal of the Richard III Society American Branch, and has been reproduced here with its permission.)

Allegation: Richard was an ambitious man, hungry for power and ultimately aiming for the Crown. He kept his intentions close to the vest, but in retrospect it’s apparent that he was forming a formidable power base upon which to usurp the Throne and weaken traditional power magnates like the Stanleys and Percies.   His infringement into these traditional regional hegemonies was meddlesome, divisive and ultimately the cause of his undoing as King.

Rebuttal Synopsis: (1) Richard was introduced to his “power base” with the sanction and approval of his brother Edward IV, as the result of a series of betrayals and forfeitures that occurred during the years 1468-1471; if anything, Richard ultimately chose to surrender spheres of influence that could have drawn him closer to the Westminster court circle. In all, Richard was “King Edward’s man” and his most powerful agent in the North, but did not seek to expand his influence in East Anglia, Lincolnshire or Wales, despite holding lands there. (2) Richard’s use of the powers and lands granted to him by Edward IV reflects nothing more than a strong talent for forming a medieval affinity, employing it effectively, maximizing its reach and capacity, and expressing the quintessential ideal of medieval “good lordship” to his retainers. (3) Richard’s use of his affinity in areas traditionally within the orbits of the Percy and Stanley families was a result of Edward IV’s national policy of containing but placating regional magnates. The nature of Richard’s land and office grants from the King placed him in an inevitably provocative position with regards to such regional magnates. On balance, the evidence shows that he frequently abandoned his interests in deference to such magnates and was largely able to work effectively within them without creating lasting divisions. For this, his ascension to the Crown in 1483 was largely supported by the Percies and other regional magnates with whom he had developed productive working relationships.

NOTE: this paper is largely based on Rosemary Horrox’s seminal 1989 text “Richard III: A Study of Service”. Unless otherwise stated, all quotations are hers. Professor Horrox is at Cambridge University and is a scholar of medieval history and affinity. She ranks among the generation of scholars inspired by Charles Ross, and is a contemporary of Michael Hicks. These individuals are not considered to be pro-Richard by any means.


Richard, as Duke of Gloucester, created what has been described as “one of the great affinities of the Middle Ages, both in scale and cohesion”. (Horrox, RIII: Study of Service, p. 87-88.) However, this was not a foregone conclusion merely because he was born into a powerful and rich family. As so movingly described by Dr. Livia Visser-Fuchs:
“In his early twenties Richard of Gloucester himself recorded that he had been ‘nakedly born into this wretched world, destitute of all possessions, goods and inheritance’ and that it had been God’s ‘infinite goodness’ that had granted him his ‘great possessions and gifts’. This claim was only partly rhetorical, for he was born the fourth [and youngest] surviving son of his parents and had no grand titles to look forward to. It is, in fact, possible that he was destined for the church, and no one could have predicted that he would die king of England. It was only when his brother Edward took the throne and recalled his young brothers, George and Richard, from exile in the Low Countries that Richard’s fortune changed dramatically: on 1 November 1461 (at age 9), Richard was created Duke of Gloucester and shortly after elected a Knight of the Garter.”(Richard the Third Society, webpage.)

Being made a Duke did not automatically bring any affinity, power, land or offices along with it. Indeed, while Richard had been given certain national titles at a very young age (Admiral of England, Ireland and Aquitaine at age 10; Constable at age 17; Great Chamberlain at age 19) these titles really did not bring any basis upon which to build an “affinity” or a retinue of supporters. Being the youngest son, Richard would have to be able to build upon whatever lands and offices would come to him through means other than inheritance; in this manner, all of Richard’s power as Duke derived from his brother King Edward IV, who used his younger brother for the purpose of extending his own royal authority and executing his own national policy.

At the age of 16, Richard would have come into his “majority” age, and he was starting from scratch. “A newcomer to the political scene whether lord or man, could not hope to operate outside this existing network” of affinities of patronage and retainership. All barons and the gentry operated within the system, and many powerful families were able to pass on their retainers to their heirs. Because Edward IV obtained the entirety of the Yorkist affinity held by his father, Richard was left to secure the service of men who were already servants of others. To do this on a significant scale, he had either to supersede or outrank another lord. But personality played a large part too, because a lord taking over a forfeited estate could not take for granted the good will of the existing retainers of an attainted lord. In this, Richard exemplified all the characteristics of “good lordship” but showed no desire to assert his own ambition for anything greater than being “the King’s agent” and most loyal and trusted servant.



Richard’s affinity was shaped by three major events: grants of attainted lands from the King in 1470-71; distributions from his wife Anne Neville’s inheritance of the Beauchamp estate; and transfers of Clarence’s northern holdings following his execution in 1478. The lion’s share was certainly from the hand of the King, as the other distributions merely enhanced what Richard already possessed.

The first record of Richard receiving land was in 1468, when he was 16 and had participated in the treason trial of Henry Courtnay and Thomas Hungerford. Richard got the attainted Hungerford lands, and, in bold yet gallant fashion, he entered into an agreement with the widow by which he promised to protect her dower rights and to be her “good and gracious lord”.   In 1469, the King then granted a very large parcel of royal Duchy lands scattered throughout Lancashire and Cheshire — the heart of Stanley influence.   Moreover, the King gave Richard “all offices and rights” that came with those lands, much to the great antagonism of the Stanleys who viewed them as being within their family prerogative. According to Rosemary Horrox, the King simply did not have the resources or available land in 1469 to give to Richard, and he was willing to discomfort the Stanleys in order to give Richard an entrée into the political world.   Most of the King’s significant land gifts had already gone to George, Duke of Clarence, who was heir apparent, and there was not much else to give Richard.

In making Richard chief steward of duchy lands in North Lancashire, the King effectively put Richard at the head of the royal affinity there, and left him to deal with the Stanleys — who were ambivalent about the Yorkists to say the least. Richard awarded the best duchy farms, fees and offices to the King’s household men. While Richard was able to develop his own smaller retinue, it is the considered opinion of historians like Professor Horrox that in this geographic sphere, what was good for Richard was doubly good for the King and his household.

Unlike his brother George, Richard undertook his role with enthusiasm. At age 17, Richard was observed in the Paston papers to have been recruiting men in East Anglia to assist in putting down the Robin of Redesdale rebellion. Despite his youth, Richard had successfully recruited into his affinity John Howard and Sir John Say, the latter of whom had already submitted a dispute to Richard for resolution. He was already proving to be adept at the politics of securing the service of prominent lords.

With the death of William Herbert at the hands of the “Kingmaker” Earl of Warwick, in May 1469, Richard was given possession of his first important sphere of influence when he was given all the offices and lands in South Wales formerly held by Herbert, Earl of Pembroke. Richard put considerable energy into his new role, retaining the service of men – some of whom would die at Barnet in Richard’s service. But Herbert’s surviving son had the right to re-take all the lands and titles upon his attaining majority age. Perhaps knowing this, Richard showed no signs of desiring a power base here, and ultimately he relinquished this sphere of influence.

Richard’s fortunes changed dramatically with the betrayal of Warwick and Clarence in 1469-70, and following the death of Warwick and the outcome at Tewkesbury, Richard was amply rewarded for his steadfast loyalty to the King. He was given Warwick’s lordships of Middleham, Penrith and Sheriff Hutton amongst other Neville lands. This substantial grant came at a cost: Richard surrendered many of the Duchy offices in Lancashire and Cheshire he had been given earlier in 1469, in deference to the Stanleys. Later, Richard would acquire additional northern and Welsh lordships through his wife’s Beauchamp inheritance, and his brother Clarence’s execution. Nonetheless, these Neville lordships would form the core of Richard’s “great affinity”, and it was expected that he would place himself at the head of the now-leaderless Neville affinity.

By undertaking to lead Warwick’s affinity, Richard was not necessarily expressing over-sized ambition on his part. Indeed, the placement of Richard in the north advanced the King’s objectives. The region was hard to control from London, was England’s only land border with another country, and was a notoriously difficult place to exert royal authority given the presence of strong regional loyalties to local lords. After Warwick’s defection, and the practiced ambivalence of the Percy and Stanley families, the King had to decide how best to exercise royal authority in the north and what should be done with the attainted Neville estates. He used Richard for both.   As such, Richard was viewed as virtually the King’s agent there, as well as heir to Warwick’s affinity.

Richard’s role as leading royal agent in the north brought a merging of his connections with those of the Crown.   He had added power because of his connections to the King. “It is often claimed that a lord on the spot was of more immediate relevance to local men, especially in outlying regions, than the king at Westminster.” (Horrox, p. 60) Richard thus filled a “double role” of acting as good lord on local matters and representing his retainers’ interests with the King.

At the same time, Richard proved himself uninterested in building his affinity in such a way as either to usurp royal power or craft a way towards the throne for himself. This is exemplified in two areas, Wales and East Anglia, where Richard also held extensive lands and lordships. The Prince of Wales had his court in Ludlow, near Richard’s lordship of Abergavenny. As royal duke, Richard sat on the Prince’s council, but he did not play an active role on it; indeed, there is no evidence that he ever attempted to dominate or influence it in any way.   He showed himself willing to suborn his interests to those of the Prince’s affinity, and, significantly, he did not attempt to create a sphere of influence by building his own competing affinity there. Professor Horrox describes Richard’s presence in Wales as tertiary to his northern affinity. (Horrox, pp. 81-83)

In East Anglia, Richard was the beneficiary of the 1471 attainder of the Earl of Oxford and forfeiture of the deVere holdings in Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, and Essex. Richard also obtained lands in Lincolnshire following the attainders of other Lancastrian supporters. The location of these possessions brought him into direct contact with the Queen and her brother Anthony, who maintained their affinities in this region. Rather than compete with these two powerful figures from the Court, Richard instead showed himself willing to suborn his interests to theirs. He gave the Queen all but 4 manors he had acquired in Essex and Lincolnshire. He gave the Suffolk manors to John Howard. London similarly did not tempt him. The deVere London townhouse that he received in 1471 was sold. While Richard maintained land holdings in Cambridgeshire, Professor Horrox states that his conduct in East Anglia shows that he was “resigning any political role”, and simply preserving his financial interests.



Richard was uniquely talented in the way he leveraged the offices and lands given to him by the King in the north of Lancashire. In the early days of his possessing the Duchy estates and offices, he was aware that he was expected to place himself at the head of existing officials, but he also grasped the concept of being selective and judicious in distributing the rewards and benefits that came along with his offices. In addition to being chief steward, which was the prime influential position from which to hand out benefits, he had also been granted numerous offices of forestry and sheriffdoms, and therefore he was charged with assigning rights to logging and other similar ventures that came along with local resource management, as well as handing out key posts in the legal and civil administration.

As stated above, Richard chose to reward the King’s household men with the prime benefits, but by doing so he was making connections beyond his own limited sphere. These provided him a valuable opportunity for him to win over some of the King’s men to his own retinue. For example, he attracted the allegiance of Charles Pilkington and Robert Harrington, both of whom remained steadfastly in his retinue through 1483 and beyond. (Interestingly, Hastings had been expected to do the same by being vested with duchy lands and offices elsewhere, but he did not nearly succeed in doing what Richard accomplished.)

There was nothing suspicious about Richard recruiting the King’s household men to his own retinue. After all, most junior royal sons would be given “secondments” from the king’s royal household staff in which to establish their own households. The King had done the same with Clarence. While there may have been some ambiguity with retainers recruited in this manner, the ultimate beneficiary was the King, as he could rely on Richard to assert the royal prerogative notwithstanding local counter-pressure. And for the retainers themselves, they would find they had a key ally in Richard when they had a matter that needed to be presented to the King. This was an essential ingredient of showing “good lordship” in the medieval period.

Richard’s ability in building his affinity is probably best demonstrated by the continuity he was able to achieve when succeeding to Warwick’s sphere of influence in the north in 1471. As best summed up by Professor Horrox (p. 52):

“Such continuity was valuable to Gloucester, but it is important not to exaggerate the extent to which he simply took over a ready-made connection. Although Neville men were predisposed to look to the duke, Gloucester still had to work at being a good lord in order to give substance to the relationship. Nor was Gloucester’s northern connection ever just that of the earl of Warwick. Noble affinities were in any case constantly evolving as their members came of age, married and died, but Gloucester’s lordship brought other changes. As he acquired further land and offices in the north, the affinity inevitably widened. Not only were men from other areas drawn into Gloucester’s circle but, by a cumulative process, the duke’s new interests made him a more attractive lord within the Neville lands themselves.”

Richard achieved this continuity of service by being generous with whatever political tools he had within his reach. He promised pardons for Warwick’s men prior to the battle of Barnet, and as a result many of them turned out for the King that critical day. He rewarded prominent Warwick supporters, such as Sir John Conyers, by doubling his wages, making him steward of Middleham and constable of its castle. Thomas Witham, and his brothers Robert and George, all from Sheriff Hutton, became Richard’s men even though commissions of arrest had been issued for them as late as June 1471. When Sir William Parr of Kendal declared for Edward IV in 1471, his past loyalty to Warwick was not held against him. As a result, Parr recruited his brothers-in-law to Richard’s service, and they were later recruited to steward and bailiff of Penrith. By doing all this, Richard was able to prevent former Warwick men from being attainted and losing their estates. Indeed, one of the most notable things about the fall-out of 1471, is the relatively low number of attainders compared to what usually followed armed rebellions. As a result, Richard inspired trust and loyalty.

Another aspect of Richard’s affinity was the unity and cohesion in which he employed it, despite his land holdings being scattered across many parts of England and Wales. His retainers could be gainfully employed throughout his sphere of influence, and he did not hesitate to bring in men outside the locality in order to get a project accomplished. For example, when outfitting his ship the “Anne”, Richard captained the craft with a northerner, but had it victualed by a southerner from Hampshire. His retainers thus found many rewards by being in his service, because they could migrate between localities and pick up work elsewhere when it was lacking at home.

Because Richard was willing to work at being a good lord, he found his influence growing exponentially, but he recognized a wider responsibility to those other than his own servants. Richard was much in demand as an arbiter and as a person willing to give considered legal redress, and it is clear he also took that seriously and was viewed as a firm but neutral decision-maker. He once said in a proceeding “We intend, nor will none otherwise do at any time, but according to the king’s laws”. On at least one occasion, he was prepared to rule against one of his retainers. On behalf of the city of York, he supported its petition to the King to protect its economic interests. He understood that even small matters, like the fish-garths in the River Ouse, deserved his attention because they had real impact on local populations.   As stated by Professor Horrox, a good lord brought to the role his own abilities and charisma. While there were material advantages in being Richard’s retainer, there is no doubt that his personal attractions and charisma drove people to seek his service.

By the mid-1470s, Richard was undoubtedly the most significant lord in the north. Richard’s domination there “is unique in the Middle Ages” and the novelty of his position is reflected in the creation, in the Parliament of 1482-3, a northern county palatinate for him – the first one to have been created since Lancashire was made one in 1351. This new area would be comprised of as much land as Richard could win in the Scottish dales and along the West March. He was made hereditary warden of the West March for his life and heirs, and was given all royal lands and rights in Cumberland, along with 10,000 marks. One historian even questioned the King’s mental state in making such a huge grant. Professor Horrox believes, however, that the grant only served to strengthen royal authority in the region rather than to diminish it, and that the award was merely just restating what was already Richard’s fait accompli.

The King’s implicit trust in Richard is also reflected in how his role as Constable and Admiral of England was broadened. Richard was active in both capacities. While the Constable’s traditional competence lay in military and chivalric matters, by 1478 the Constable was the established authority in cases of treason and those involving a raised war against the king. The King was also observed to have been interested in broadening Richard’s jurisdiction as Constable, to cover other forms of treason and disaffection.



Because the King used Richard as a political counterweight in the North, it would be inevitable that lines of friction would develop with regional magnates. Yet, on balance, the dominance of Richard’s affinity helped to reduce rivalries that had previously existed there.

One of the frequent charges laid against Richard is that he antagonized Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland by “poaching” his retainers.   According to Professor Horrox, that is not true. Percy had been attainted following Towton, but that attainder was later reversed with Percy restored to his Earldom in 1470.   During that intervening ten-year period, Percy’s own affinity fragmented and therefore he faced a daunting challenge in reassembling it, especially given that John Neville (during his tenure as Earl) had undoubtedly introduced elements of the Neville affinity there. Not surprisingly, Richard – being the King’s brother whose star was “on the rise” – had an easier time gaining the upper hand in expanding his affinity in the early part of the decade.

In 1474, an indenture was drawn up in which Richard undertook to be Percy’s good and faithful lord, and promised not to claim any office or fee granted to the earl by the King, or to take into his service any men retained by Percy. In effect, Richard was to be Percy’s lord, and therefore Percy’s retainers were in a sense Richard’s men. According to Professor Horrox, this pact successfully diffused any tension and there is no suggestion after 1474 that Richard was “poaching” Percy’s retainers. However, some men with Percy affiliations would naturally come into Richard’s service through his presence as Warwick’s heir (e.g., in Knaresborough, where Richard had influence through his Lancashire duchy connections and where Percy held some nearby land).

Despite the wording of the 1474 pact, it still left open the possibility of other forms of shared allegiance between Richard and Percy. Different members of the same family, for example, could have links with both lords. This was not unusual in the medieval period. Hugh Hastings of Fenwick, a Percy man, came into Richard’s orbit in 1471 when the duke made him deputy steward of Snaith because he had property in south Yorkshire.   On the other hand, there were occasions when Richard’s men would go into Percy’s service. Edmund Hastings of Pickering, despite being Richard’s councilor, placed his son in Percy’s household. Richard used his affinity to produce advantageous marriages for Percy’s retainers. This blurring of allegiance was nothing negative. Indeed, it provided both Richard and Percy with an opportunity to show “good lordship” to their respective retainers.

The most contentious friction line between Richard’s affinity and a regional magnate’s, was that with Thomas Lord Stanley. As already discussed above, the King granted to Richard in 1469 extensive duchy lands and offices in the heart of Stanley’s sphere of influence; this grant was retracted in 1471 and Richard was left with significantly fewer holdings there. Despite the King’s retraction, Stanley was not satisfied.

In July, 1471, the King ordered Stanley and his servants to cease meddling in the offices granted to Richard. In fact, Richard was likely exercising just a portion of his offices. For example, he only exercised 2 of the 6 foresterships he had been granted by the King in 1471, the rest being deferred to Stanley’s men. In another remarkable display of intransigence, Lord Stanley simply ignored the King’s 1471 grant of the stewardship of Halton to Richard, and continued to pay the fee to himself based on a grant from 1461. Richard was even willing to give William Stanley his lordship of Chirk in northeast Wales, in exchange for the former Clifford estate in Skipton where Stanley had little influence. Rather than confront an intransigent magnate and pursue his rights to their full extent, Richard simply focused on his duchy holdings in a narrow portion of eastern Lancashire, and “elsewhere he yielded to the Stanleys”.

Whether this friction produced a long-held grudge in Lord Stanley is a matter of some speculation. Even the Hornby affair, where Richard supported the Yorkist Harrington family in opposition to Stanley, was definitively resolved by 1475 without any evidence of an ongoing dispute. There is a “local tradition” that Stanley came to blows with Richard during the early 1470’s, and that he later hung Richard’s banner to glorify in his conquest in 1485. But, again, it would be speculation to think that Richard’s affinity was a motivation for Stanley’s treason at Bosworth.   Stanley was richly rewarded with titles and lands under Richard as King, and never opposed him even in battle. The history of the Stanley family, to be sure, is one of practiced ambivalence, and it is hard to interpret Stanley’s motivations solely through the lens of a feudal loyalty when affinities were constantly changing and evolving.

Richard’s dominance in the north actually reveals that his presence served to reduce tensions, not exacerbate them. Perhaps two of the most intriguing retainers recruited by Richard are Ralph Lord Neville, nephew and heir to the Earl of Westmoreland, and George Lumley, son and heir to Lord Lumley, a retainer of the Earl of Salisbury. As Professor Horrox states, this allowed Richard to extinguish an internecine feud within the Neville house that had stubbornly persisted for decades, much to the grief of local citizens. Richard also was generous to former attainted families; for example, in 1471, he granted a fee to one of the surviving Clifford brothers. By promising to be Percy’s good and gracious lord, by making marriage connections between their retinues, and by being a capable successor to Warwick’s affinity, Richard had not only ended the division within the Neville family but through his relationship with Percy, he had also “called a halt to the long-standing hostility of Neville and Percy”.

Either in his own right or through links with other lords, Richard dominated the entire northeast and northwest counties of Westmoreland and Cumberland. In these areas, Richard’s appointment in 1480 as the King’s “lieutenant in the north” did not do much more than recognize existing loyalties. This grant was made in context of the King’s projected campaign in Scotland and was designed to avoid damaging disputes over military authority by setting Richard firmly above other peers. When seen in the proper light, it becomes clear that Richard was the King’s most powerful agent for the application of royal authority in a region fraught with hazards. Professor Horrox states that Richard “was at the heart of Edward IV’s royal authority, not outside of it”. As such, his affinity and his use of it cannot be construed as a gambit for the crown or an attempt to disempower his brother’s influence.


By examining his affinity, we shed a very powerful light on an important aspect of Richard’s personality. While some may describe the intensity of his work ethic as “control freakery”, it was probably seen then as a highly desirable characteristic to someone in his service. There were obligations that a lord owed to his retinue; if these obligations were hollow, then so was the service. If anything, Richard showed himself loyal to the King and to the concepts of reciprocity that were a foundation of affinities during the 15th century and a cornerstone of social structure.


(1) Rosemary Horrox, “Richard III: A Study of Service” (1989) chapters 1 & 2 (pp. 1-88) (Cambridge University Press)

(2) Livia Visser-Fuchs, “As A Great Magnate”, Richard III Society webpage,

(3) A.J. Pollard, “Governor of The North”, Richard III Society webpage,

(4) Bennett, M., “The Battle of Bosworth” (1985), p. 76 (Gloucester)

(5) K. B McFarlane, “England in the Fifteenth Century: Collected Essays” (1981) (The Hambledon Press)

Did you know ………..

Did you know ...........

……….. that the third Duke of Norfolk was a keen chess player and invented the “queen sacrifice”?

To be Richard III or not to be Richard III?

So Professor Michael Hicks is of the view that the male Greyfriars skeleton is possibly not the remains of Richard III. Well, apart from the precise location in which he was recorded as being buried, the exact mitochondrial DNA match (and we don’t even know his great-great-grandmother), the scoliosis, the age at death and era in which he lived together with the dietary evidence, there is nothing to contradict him.

Still, this is the same Hicks who dropped hints of paedophilia against Richard over his marriage to Anne – they were about twenty and sixteen when the ages of consent were fourteen and twelve, whilst she was already a widow – and the “passion” for the illegitimate Elizabeth of York that no impartial writer would credit, coinciding with Richard’s proven negotiations to marry a Portuguese princess. The same Hicks who wrote that Richard and Anne had insufficient dispensations for a valid marriage, before Barnfield holed him below the waterline on that one.  The same Hicks who takes every posthumous gossip or spin against Richard as gospel whilst other historians seek original sources. It is approaching a monomania because his views on any Richard-free topic are quite reliable.

His alternative lacks any credibility because there was only one “Roses” battle so close to Leicester. How ever many of Joan Beaufort’s descendants fought from 1455-87, if they were descended partially in the male line they will have different mtDNA and if they died at Wakefield or St. Alban’s, they would not be buried in the Leicester Greyfriars. Most of Richard’s maternal first cousins were much older.

Book Review: The Battle Of Bosworth 1485 And The Burial Of King Richard Iii

by Wednesday McKenna (writing as Merlyn MacLeod)

I just finished reading Stephen Lark’s The Battle of Bosworth & the Burial of King Richard III and found it a good read for anyone looking for a solid summary. Lark first summarizes the whole of Richard’s life, and then outlines the specific events leading up to his taking the throne in place of his nephew, Edward of York.

Lark’s analysis of the Battle of Bosworth is clear and precise. The book contains two illustrations to help the reader visualize the scene: the placement of the armies before engagement and at its climax. Since no reliable, detailed record of Bosworth exists, every author analyzing the battle is forced to decide what they believe happened and in what sequence it happened. Today, we’re more certain of where the battle took place than how. No one knows exactly how Richard drew up his three “battles”; we do know one was led by Richard himself; another by John Howard, Duke of Norfolk; and the third by Henry Percy, Duke of Northumberland. The author has consulted current archaeological data to frame his analysis, but that data is incomplete since archaeology on the newly discovered battlefield is able to continue only in fits and starts.

Lark’s book is most valuable for any student of history who wants or needs a quick overview of Richard’s life, the battle in which he died, and the events that followed, right up to the discovery of his grave and re-interment of his bones as matters stood in July 2013. But be warned: rather than offering an in-depth analysis, publisher Bretwalda Books specializes in short books that summarize the historical events under discussion. So engaging is Lark’s style, however, that I found myself wishing the author had gone his own way to write a much more detailed biography of King Richard III.

Since the author has been forced to leave out much of the tangled details behind the events of Richard’s life, what Lark doesn’t cover almost speaks more loudly than what he does cover. Definitive statements made by him led to my asking endless questions, such as:

“Before [Edward V] could be crowned it emerged that the marriage of his parents had been invalid under Church law, so he was illegitimate and unable to inherit the crown.” How could Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville’s marriage have been invalid? And how did that bombshell emerge?

“That left the boy’s uncle, Richard, the only surviving male heir. He became king as King Richard III. However, some of Edward IV’s most loyal supporter suspected that Richard had fabricated the evidence against the marriage and, in due course, though he might have murdered Edward’s two sons. Unrest began to fester against the new king, especially among those nobles who found him to be just a bit too honest and diligent at rooting out corruption for their tastes.” Who suspected Richard had invented the evidence, and why? Did he murder his two nephews? If so, why? If not, why not? The Princes in the Tower disappeared; where did they go? How was Richard a bit too honest and diligent? And how could someone with a reputation for honesty and diligence be suspected of murdering his nephews?

“As yet Tudor had no chance of becoming king. But as unrest against Richard grew, Tudor decided his time had come.” How much unrest, and what sort? Who was involved and how did the unrest manifest itself?

I had many more questions as the book went on. This is not a shortcoming of the book; it’s due to the events being discussed and the page limitations set down by the publisher. And so, Lark was unable to explore anything in depth. But the answers underlying each question are part of the long journey that led to Bosworth, so I suspect that any serious readers of The Battle of Bosworth 1485 and the Burial of King Richard III will be inspired — or driven — to ferret out the answers for themselves, to understand who the players were in the battle and exactly why they were there.

The events of Richard III’s life create an intricate puzzle. When you learn one or two details of an event, you fit them into the puzzle and then find yourself chasing additional details because every detail interlocks with details in the lives of a score of other people. Even something that should have been simple, such as his burial after the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, interlocks with matters in 2014 regarding his collateral descendants, a judicial review regarding where he is to be re-interred, ongoing DNA analysis after he’s been re-interred — and that’s only to name a few of the puzzle pieces up for discussion.

Stephen Lark has touched so briefly on the details of Richard’s life and death that the outcome for even the most casual reader is to realize that there is much more to Richard III’s story than the neat, clean legend of, “He killed the Princes in the Tower, usurped his nephew’s throne, died at Bosworth, and deserved what he got.” So after reading The Battle of Bosworth 1485 and the Burial of King Richard III, readers may find themselves pulled into in-depth research to find out what Lark didn’t have room to discuss.

Please be advised that the book contains no list of contemporary or modern historical sources; readers will need to seek their own sources if they want to know more about the events discussed. The book is available on Amazon in paperback (48 pages) and Kindle (58 pages).

Obligatory disclosure: Stephen Lark provided me with a reviewer’s copy of The Battle of Bosworth 1485 and the Burial of King Richard III. The opinions herein, however, are all mine.


A Little Piece of Alternative History

Elizabeth, Duchess of Norfolk, is a good height for a woman, but not tall – only her headdress make her seem so. As a recent widow, she is clad entirely in black, from head to foot, her furred gown made of the finest wool damask London mercers can supply. She is a handsome woman – some go so far as to call her beautiful – and on her lovely face there is an expression of sheer resolution. Nonetheless, she is calm, almost relaxed, nodding graciously in response to the bows and curtsies the lesser courtiers make as she passes.

Behind her by a single pace is her brother, Sir Humphrey Talbot. He is a knight, and an English gentleman, and so outwardly he also appears calm. In truth, he is close to shitting himself, because he knows what the Duchess is about to do. They have discussed it again and again, but he has failed to change her mind. However, as a knight and an English gentleman, he is still there to back his sister. He can do no other. Honour commands him, and it is as good a day as any other on which to die. The courtiers think she is here to attend the wedding of her little daughter to King Edward’s little son. Humphrey knows better. They are about to find out that Elizabeth is truly old Shrewsbury’s daughter, afraid of nothing on this earth.

The King is seated on his throne, a welcoming smile on his pudding-like face. He is very tall, and increasingly very fat. People still call him handsome, but those that do are relying on memory. These days he lives on charm, and when that fails, on threats and terror. He has lately thrown his brother, George, Duke of Clarence, into the Tower on very dubious grounds. No one doubts that Clarence is to die, though no one knows exactly what it is that he is supposed to have done. None dare question Edward on the matter. One does not question the King of England, and certainly not this particular King; a man ready to kill his own brother, for reasons that are not entirely clear.

He is a petty tyrant too. When he arranged, or rather ordained, the marriage for Elizabeth’s daughter, he forced Elizabeth to accept a reduced dower, so that his son would be the richer. The Duchess remembers that fact keenly. If you conversed with her you would find her an amiable woman, but she does not like to be cheated.

Around the King stand his leading men: His younger brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Gloucester looks to be in pain, because he is. He has been standing a long time, and his back is giving him agony. But he is a knight, and an English gentleman, and so he does his best to ignore it. Then there is Hastings, the King’s Chamberlain and life-long friend. All smiles, Hastings; everyone likes him, from the King to the lowest scullion of the court all will tell you what a splendid fellow he is. No one will tell you that he buys and sells favours, that his chief loyalty is to himself, and that he introduces whores to the King’s bed as part of his job. Next to him is Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers, the Queen’s eldest brother. A cultured man, Rivers, who writes poems and takes part in formal jousts, pleased because Clarence, whom he hates, is locked away and likely to have his head cut off. He flatters himself that this is because of his advice, and that of his sister. So he is the image of complacency and satisfaction. Even the Duke of Suffolk is here, the King’s brother-in-law, who rarely strays from his own manors. Well, there is a Parliament, and this is also a family occasion, so that is his excuse. He has the look of an over-dressed pig farmer, and Elizabeth recalls he has manners to match. Then there are the clergy; on this occasion Bishop Russell of Rochester and John Morton, Archdeacon of Leicester. They stand slightly in the background, their smooth, assured faces like masks. She is glad the Queen is not present. She does not enjoy cat-fights, and there is no telling how that ill-bred woman will react to her announcement.

Elizabeth advances, making the prescribed three curtsies along the way. If anyone notices they are not as profound as they might be, they put it down to her rank. Rank has its privileges at court. A duchess can get away with things a mere gentlewoman might not. They are only surprised when the duchess speaks without waiting to be spoken to.

‘Edward Plantagenet,’ she says, and her voice is surprisingly loud, given that she is a woman and that this is a very large room, ‘I am a Talbot by birth and a Mowbray by marriage, and my blood is as good as anyone in this presence, yours included. I have decided that I am not willing that my daughter shall be married to your bastard.’


A strange sound seems to echo about the great chamber, the result of collective intakes of breath. No one can quite believe his ears. King Edward’s mouth – surprisingly small and rosebud-like in that great moon of a face – falls open, but no sound emerges except a gentle choking. He gets a taste of the eels and white wine he had for breakfast, but no words form.

Before he can even find his anger, the Duchess goes on. ‘In the first year of your reign, the year of Our Lord 1461, you contracted an irregular marriage with my sister, a widow at that time, Lady Eleanor Butler. You swore her to secrecy, but nonetheless you consummated the marriage. And by that very act, made it binding. You eventually grew tired of her – perhaps, because there was no child, perhaps because you never intended anything more than to seduce her. It matters not. You were still married to her when you made your subsequent, purported marriage with Dame Elizabeth Grey.’

Anthony Woodville, furious with what he perceives to be an insult to his sister and his family, takes a step forward, but Gloucester holds him back before he can make a fool of himself by physically attacking a lady who is not even his wife. For which, under court etiquette, there is no excuse.

‘You have no proof of this, my lady,’ says William Hastings. His smooth tongue is the first to recover, and his voice brims with confidence. ‘What womanish fancy is this that you bring before us? Beware, lest you be accused of treason.’

Elizabeth looks at him as if he is something unpleasant she has stepped on. ‘Oh, I have proof enough my Lord Chamberlain, and now I am a widow, and free from my husband’s commands, I’m free to bring it forth. First, my sister was devout, and Shrewsbury’s daughter – no light woman. She told me all – swore to it. As far as I am concerned, that is proof enough in itself. Yet there is more. Bishop Stillington can vouch for the tale. Not long after the marriage he became Lord Chancellor, no doubt because of his merits. Yet now he has fallen from favour, and is lodged in the Tower, for speaking some words against the King. One wonders what those words were. Perhaps we can fetch him here and ask him. There are other proofs too. A whole box of them, which I shall be happy to place before Parliament.’

All eyes go to the King. Everyone expects him to explode with anger, but in fact Edward has his head in his hands. He is actually weeping.

Hastings persists. ‘Your sister died in 1468 did she not? Even if what you say is true, the King could remarry – indeed he could already have remarried, for all you know.’

Elizabeth smiles. It’s a very special smile, that of someone who has all the cards. ‘Do you think I came here without doing research? Without consulting men learned in the law? I have news for you all. You cannot repeat the sacrament of marriage without a dispensation. Next, you cannot get a dispensation for bigamy. Not even the Pope has that power. Thirdly – and this is the biggie – the relationship between the King and Dame Elizabeth Grey is what canon lawyers call ‘polluted’ by the bigamy. They can never make a valid marriage. Not. Ever. Did you get all that? I know it’s a lot to take in – especially when you’ve only got a little woman’s brain like mine. If anyone is interested, I’ve got it all written up. My clerk Helmholz has even put it into Latin.’

‘It’s true!’ Edward’s voice is practically a squeal. ‘It’s all true. She’s got me bang to rights, and it’s a fair cop. I done it all. And what’s more I took advice too – I’m not stupid – and all that stuff about getting married again is exactly what I was told. I just hoped it would go away. But I can’t live with it on my conscience any more. I’ve let you all down so badly.’ He turns to Anthony. ‘I’m sorry, Tony. I didn’t plan it like this. I never, ever thought it would come out. Now I just want to put it all right.’

‘You can make a start,’ says Elizabeth, ‘by releasing your brother Clarence and Stillington from the Tower.’

‘I agree,’ says Richard of Gloucester. ‘It makes eminent sense. In fact, Ned, I suggest that George acts as Regent until this unpleasant mess is sorted out. It seems to me that a lot of questions need to be asked.’ He gives Hastings a suspicious glance. ‘For example, which other people were involved in keeping this secret.’

The King, still weeping softly, pulls off a ring and passes it to his brother. ‘No time for a proper warrant, Dickon, but this will do. Go and get them. I just hope George hasn’t already drowned himself.’

Gloucester rushes off. After he has gone, everyone just stands in silence, waiting.

‘I suppose the wedding’s off then,’ Suffolk says into the silence. He has a booming voice. ‘Pity, I bought them a present and everything. Hey, Duchess, what about marrying your girl to one of my sons?’

No one answers him. Rivers squats on his haunches. He tries to formulate a poem, perhaps one about disaster, but nothing he can think of quite cuts it. He is ruined. His whole family is ruined. His sister is going to go mad! The only good thing is that no one wants to execute him.

Fortunately, they’ve all been trained in the art of keeping quiet and standing still. The hours go by, or at least it seems that way. Until at long last there is the sound of footsteps ringing on the tiles. Richard is back, with his brother, George Clarence and the rather shabby-looking Bishop of Bath and Wells.

‘George,’ says the King, his voice very low and his head even lower, ‘I’ve been a fool. I’m going to step down for a while – it’s only right. You can be Protector and Defensor, and all that stuff. Dickon will help you – in fact he suggested you for the job. I’m just so glad you didn’t drown yourself.’

Clarence was a broken man when he was imprisoned, but being rowed up the Thames from the Tower has cleared his head nicely. ‘Thank you, Ned,’ he says, in his usual informal way. ‘I had no intention of suicide, although I suppose that big butt of Malmsey in my room was your idea of a subtle hint.’ He turns to Elizabeth. ‘And thank you too, my lady. You have saved me, and saved England. And you have proved that our long tradition of free speech, liberty and the rule of law is not just an idle boast. My first act as Protector will be to introduce the law of Habeas Corpus even though I am not entirely sure what it means. There will be no more tyranny, no more cases of people being hanged, drawn and quartered just for saying the wrong thing. What’s more, we shall restore your dower lands in full. Won’t we Ned?’

‘Indeed,’ says the King, who by this time is recovering himself a little. ‘It is the least we owe to you, Duchess. Without your courage and example, I might have died with this hideous sin still on my conscience. Now I shall leave you all, and go to my closet to pray. Before I do, dear, brave lady, is there anything else you want?’

‘Just one thing,’ says Elizabeth. She beckons to the Archdeacon, whom she knows slightly through her family connection with Margaret Beaufort. She points accusingly at the King. ‘Book him, Morton. Bigamy One.’

It is, after all, an offence under church law. As the King is led away, Clarence stares at the Duchess in admiration.

‘Madam,’ he says, ‘you are the most amazing lady I have ever met, or even read about. I thought my mother was tough, but compared to you, she is a lamb. As you know, I am a widower, and you are a widow. Will you marry me?’

Everyone applauds, except Rivers, who is too upset, and Hastings who has gone off to look for a consoling cup of wine.

Elizabeth looks at George. He is really quite handsome, just a bit, well – eccentric. No one in the English aristocracy objects to that. ‘I will tell you my answer next Tuesday, Your Grace. For now, I just want to go outside into the air, and give my dear brother Humphrey a high five. I think I can say – without fear of contradiction – that we Talbots rock.’


Questions for Readers Groups


  1. This is a piece of Alternative History. Things did not really happen this way. However, when discussing the story, please assume that Eleanor Talbot really did marry Edward IV. (After all, even the 19th Century historian James Gairdner thought she did and the marriage was confirmed by Act of Parliament.) Can you think of any reasons why the secret did not emerge in reality until 1483, after Edward’s death?
  2. What do you think would have happened to the real Elizabeth if she had behaved this way?
  3. Do you think Humphrey Talbot, or Bishop Stillington, being men, would have fared better or worse?
  4. If you had lived in those times, as an ordinary person, would you have revealed the secret, and what do you think would have happened to you?
  5. How many people do you think would have known the secret, directly or indirectly.
  6. Do you know of any evidence that Edward IV had a conscience? Give examples.
  7. Taking into account your answers to the above, do you still find it strange the secret did not come out while Edward was alive?


Playing tonight


Richard III, Act I, Scene I

(Middleham Castle. RICHARD is discovered sitting on a throne, biting the heads off a basket of kittens as he comes up with his latest wicked scheme.)


LOVEL. My lord, terrible news. A letter has come from Lord Hastings in London. Your royal brother, King Edward IV, is dead.

RICHARD (fisting the air.) Cool! The time has come to put Acton Plan 5 into action! Lovel, summon my men!

LOVEL. All of them, my lord? The whole North?

RICHARD. No, fool! Who do you think I am – Bolingbroke? Just 300 from my household are all I need to usurp the throne.

LOVEL. But Hastings says in his letter that Rivers is to bring 2000 men from Ludlow alone, as escort for the Prince.

RICHARD (sighing patiently.) Francis, you do not know Anthony as I do. He is a man of peace, who wears a hair shirt under his clothes. Those pathetic 2000 will have been chosen from the Ludlow Male Flower Arrangers Guild, noted for their inability to fight. You know what peaceful folk those Marchers are; whereas my men are rock. Now first we go to York, to gather all the local gentry to swear an oath of allegiance to my nephew; an oath I shall take myself.

LOVEL. My lord, I have to say that does not sound like a cunning plan.

RICHARD. Exactly! Nothing like a good oath to lull people into a sense of false security. After all, being not at all religious, I don’t think anything of oaths, even public ones in York Minster. Now, Francis, run along to the Collators’ Office. I’ve decided my nephews are illegitimate, so I want a complete list of noblewomen, under 30 in 1461, available for marriage and who never married again. Preferably with living relatives I can intimidate. It’s more fun that way. I need to pretend that my brother was married to someone before the Woodville woman.

LOVEL. Yes, my lord. I’m sure that information can be assembled in no time.

RICHARD. Good. And while you’re at it, I’ll just go and feed Anne her daily dose of arsenic. I need to kill her slowly and then marry Elizabeth of York. It makes such obvious sense to marry my illegitimate niece. Think how strong my claim will be!



The House of Stewart takes sides (2010)


Three weeks after Northampton, a Scottish army gathered in the grounds of Roxburgh Castle, determined to add to Lancastrian woes. The castle had been in English hands almost continuously since Edward I’s time, although it was not in good condition. James I had attempted to take it on several occasions but his assassination in 1437 halted the strategy due to the minority of his son.

James II came of age at the end of the following decade and determined to recapture Roxburgh and other Border castles. Henry VI’s difficulties aided James in this as his armies took Abercorn and Threave in 1455, formerly held by the Earls of Douglas. James’ character was passionate – hinted at by a prominent facial birthmark – and an interest in guns. 1457 saw him order “Mons Meg”, a particularly large cannon.

James’ army lay siege to Roxburgh as July 1460 gave way to August. “Mons Meg” had already misfired once, killing its skilled French gunner but it was repaired as the English army remained inside the castle. On August 3, James took the decision to test-fire his cannon again – Neil Oliver suggests that this was a grand romantic gesture for his queen, Marie of Guelders – with fatal effects. The cannon shattered, a shard severed James’ leg, he died almost instantaneously – and the garrison surrendered.

Roxburgh Castle was soon demolished and a wooden structure added to the site in the 1540s, but not for long. A “James II Holly” marks the spot where a Scottish King died, at his moment of long-planned triumph, in the grounds of the C18 Floors Castle, still the home of the Dukes of Roxburghe. Kelso lies to the east – James III was crowned a week later at its Abbey, his mother serving as Regent until her death in 1463. Either side of the site are the Teviot and Tweed. “Mons Meg”, reconstructed again, sits in Edinburgh Castle.

2010 marks the 550th anniversary of the end of the siege – and August 2 will be a Bank Holiday in Scotland.

The Squinting Usurper


“The wooden bust is all that’s left of the effigy that graced his
coffin on procession. So I suppose you’re right — the effigy is based
on the death mask. But if you Google for desk mask Henry VII, the bit
of effigy is what comes up. Sorry for not being more exact.

To me, the effigy has Henry’s left eye looking outward slightly — not
inward. So not cross-eyed. Perhaps there are other sources that can
clarify if this is correct. I’ve seen his vision described as “cast
eye” and “a squint”.

Henry seems to have had an eye condition called strabismus which
prevents the eyes from aiming at the same point in space. It’s also
known as heterotropia and includes three variants: cross-eye, lazy-eye
and walleye. This condition includes horizontal tropias exotropia and
esotropia which are outward and inward horizontal deviations and
hypertropia and hypotropia which are when one eye is set higher or
lower than the other eye. Exotropia and esotropia are also known as
divergent or convergent squint respectively.

But hey, he can be crosseyed if you like. Or perfect-visioned and
slanty-charactered. St Henry, patron saint to the greedy.”


Richard III’s finger

For anyone wondering whether Richard could have still formed his
letters if he’d lost digits or tips of fingers, let us begin with what
is required to write with a quill.

This video:

features a Japanese calligrapher who, from about 1:00 minute to 3:00
minutes, is writing in Gothic Litera Bastarda with a quill. (You won’t
see feathers; she’s shaved them off because they only get in the way
— except in Hollywood, where the feathers are used to say, “This Is A
Period Movie Because We Have Goose Feathers On Our Quills Okay Thx
YMMV.” You may be able to hear the squeak of the quill against the

Gothic Litera Bastarda is a category of the Gothic script hand (a
“hand” is the basic shape of the letters) which was used in multiple
regions of Europe and Britain for 200 years. There are as many
regional variations as there are scribes who used it. Richard’s own
hand is one of these variations of bastarda.

The very first thing you learn in calligraphy class is the proper way
to hold a quill or a nibholder. (This technique may be applied to hold
any pen.) You are taught to hold it *only* between your thumb and
first two fingers. (See the video referenced above for the proper

Only the tip of your thumb and the tip of your first finger touch the
shaft of the quill. The tip of your second (middle) finger does not
ever touch the shaft. This rule is written in stone. No exceptions.
You never, ever touch the shaft of holder or quill with the tip of any
digits but your thumb and your first finger. (If you do not follow
this rule, you will be required to spend six months making parchment.
This punishment is meaningless until you see how parchment is made.)

So all of us modern children who were allowed to squeeeeeze our pens
between our thumb and multiple fingers? Who turn said fingers red from
pressure when we write? We’d have to relearn how to hold a pen. (I
did.) The monks knew what they were doing because: 1) Your control of
the nib is much more exact if you hold the shaft as they dictated
waaay back there in the mists of time; and, 2) You can write for hours
without finger/arm fatigue if you hold your pen the way they did.

Over time, you will develop a callus on the thumb-side of the first
knuckle of your third finger.

Regarding the left hand, this was the sinister hand in medieval times.
If you were left-handed, you were considered touched by the Devil,
associated with evil. This definition is said to have developed in the
*early* 15th century. So if Richard had been left-handed in battle or
elsewhere, the Tudors chroniclers absolutely would have pounced on it.

I’m thinking that any cleric or scholar teaching Childe Richard his
lettering would have tied his left hand down and forced him to write
with his right hand (as some teachers did up to the 20th century).
Middleham’s trainers…would they have forced him to fight
right-handed? Were some knights trained to use a sword right- or
left-handed in case they needed to switch off, or was that only for
Blake Edwards movies featuring Tony Curtis and a foil?

If Richard had whacked off his thumb at any point after learning how
to write, his writing would have suffered so badly that, from that
point on, I think he’d have had scribes write everything for him.
(Just try writing without your thumb.) If he’d whacked off whole or
half first and second fingers on his right hand…same thing.

If he’d whacked off only his little finger – or the end of his little
finger, he could compensate in his writing. But I’m not seeing fingers
whacked off in the portrait.

My personal opinion is that I think it likely that he lost the end of
his little finger on his right hand. Maybe while training at
Middleham. As childen (and adults) will sometimes lose fingertips when
their fingers are accidentally slammed in a car door, Richard may have
lost a fingertip when someone whacked him during his training. Or
during the Battle of Barnet.

Or maybe he was perfect, not so much as a callus on his hands from
swordplay, was 5’10”, the ravenest of hair and the bluest of eyes, a
deep enthralling voice, flirted endlessly much to Anne’s amusement
rather than annoyance, never feel off a horse, never belched, always
smelled of white roses, his back never hurt him, and he listened to
every word every woman ever said and *remembered* what she’d
said…and if that’s the case, then how absolutely boring he must have

I’m thinking was likely wounded and battered and walked slightly
bowlegged like any man who spends hours/years on horseback. He likely
had scars. Lots of them. And he was proud of them. Because every one
was a story, and every one was evidence he could do his job, take care
of those he loved, and report back to his brother the king, “Rest
easy, it’s done, and it was *fun*. Look at the cool scars and bruises
I got. What’s next?

We know he was wounded at Barnet. We don’t know how he was wounded.
But I don’t think his penmanship suffered. Because the way he wrote
before Barnet and the way he wrote after…not so much with the

He had to have collected scars and bruises and scrapes and ouchies
along the way. And about those battle scars…even if he’d lost an
ear, it wouldn’t have been a problem for him. Nope, not at all. It
would have been an adventure, a story to tell Francis and the other
knights and his son and Anne. It would be evidence of his prowess as a
knight – and a damn fine one. The young warlord went into battle. Even
better, he got wounded and survived. *More than once.*

Of course the Tudors wouldn’t have mentioned this. Because it’d gain
Richard admiration from men, women, and every little boy who ever
placed with a stick and called it a sword. When you’re looking to heap
scorn, mistrust, and damnation on a king’s head, you don’t point out
he fought well in multiple battles and was a worthy knight before he
was a duke or a king.

Boys will be boys…even today, if your kid gets injured and there’s
no blood and won’t be a scar, it’s a disappointment. Nothing to show
off or brag on. Grown men aren’t any different. “You show me your
scars and I’ll show you mine.” Every century, in every culture, every
veteran wants to brag on his glory days as a soldier.

Wounded in battle with the marks to show it? “Woohoo,” says the
knight, “Give me some of that,” or else why go to battle in the first

“Ooooh, you poor thing,” says the knight’s woman. “Let me take care of
that and cosset you.”

“Get away from me, woman,” says the knight. “I may be dying, but I’ve
still got a story to tell.

And he means it. The wise woman will look at Anthony Woodville and
say, “What’s that? You were wounded in… a joust? At tournament?
Um…how nice. Let me get by you, because there’s a proven warlord
sitting against the tree, right over there, who’s survived three
battles and knows what prowess really means”

What was it Geoffroi de Charny wrote? “The knight who does more is
worth more.” There’s the good knight (Anthony) and then there’s the
great knight (Richard). Who do you think had more scars and stories to

As to fingertips, Richard can’t have lost a bunch of his fingertips.
At the very least, Von Poppelau would have mentioned it ’cause he went
on record saying that Richard *touched* him, put his arm around him,
during his visit at Middleham. (This, when no one ever touched a king.
“We’re having none of that,” Richard must have said, at least in this
instance.) Richard also ate numerous times in public, so shouldn’t
someone have made a note of it if the duke or king had a short hold on
his chunk of bread or his knife?

Someone mentioned the possibility that Richard’s rings (and fingers)
were cut off post mortem by looters. They’d have to be awfully flat,
simple rings because they had to have fit inside gauntlets. And if
knights were like today’s mechanics, working with heavy machinery,
they didn’t want anything on their fingers to interfere with their

The surviving finger bones should also indicate by their ends
(worn/healed/or hacked through like his ankle bones?) whether they
were injured during life and healed/worn smooth, or injured during
death and not healed, or…just missing after 535 years. (We’re lucky
to have any of him, really. And we really need the forthcoming Lancet
papers or a book or three that digs deep into skeletal analysis,
rather than zip-fast-get-to-the-next-detail hour documentary for this

I’m ready to suggest that we can safely assume Richard did not lose
several fingertips in life. (ouch ouch ouch) Else someone would have
noticed and yes, his handwriting would have changed.

The missing nail phalanges are very small and were probably lost in
the grave. BUT if he lost the top bone of the little finger on his
right hand (which is the missing bone that was *originally* in
question when this discussion began, which bone following it is smooth
as if it had healed rather than being lost in the grave)…or even if
he lost half of his little finger, damage to the little finger would
not have affected his penmanship.

This is because the little finger and the ring finger aren’t used
except to brace the other fingers. Lose the little finger, and the
duke and the king can still draw his letters. He’d move only his thumb
and first two fingers (and sometimes his entire arm while his fingers
are rigid if he wants to flourish his letters).

No, we don’t know for certain whether Richard lost part of the little
finger on his right hand. But perhaps it can be allowed that it’s an
interesting coincidence that the *only* finger that’s lost a major
bone is also the *only* finger that is short in portrait, especially
since we know he was significantly wounded at Barnet? “Eh, a fingertip
is minor,” one might say. Not so much in an age where infection and
blood poisoning and death from a mere splinter were commonplace.

Even wearing armor, and given the fact that swords snuck between
plates, there aren’t many places Richard could have been wounded that
wouldn’t have carried a long recovery time or, alternately, a high
risk of lasting muscle or tendon weakness, or a collapsed lung, or
fatal peritonitis, or….

We don’t have record of him lying around healing and unable to travel.
To the contrary, off he went to the Battle of Tewkesbury only a few
days later. He certainly didn’t hang back in that battle. So that
basically leaves injuries at Barnet to his fingers, toes, ears or
genitalia (and I question his ability to sit a horse if the latter had
been wounded), cuts to his face or getting stabbed in the…nether
region. No one ever said he had any facial scarring – serious or
otherwise — so Richard’s losing part of a finger as a fighting duke
(when his squires died beside him, or even during his riding to
protect the borders during his stint as Lord of the North if we want
to ignore Barnet and Tewkesbury, because it sounds like he rode to
stop the reivers, and that was no gentle activity)… and not wanting
to appear imperfect in any way in the marriage-proposal portraits
traveling to Spain and Portugal (so we fiddle with the ring and
disguise it)…well, I think such damage is a possibility.

The Tudors would never mention such a thing, because it would lead to
conversations like this:

“So King Richard the Third lost a finger?”

“Part of a finger. In his very first battle. ‘Cause he was evil and
cruel and God wanted to punish him.”

“How’d he lose part of his finger?”

“That’s not important.”

“How’d he lose it?”

“If you must know, the fighting at Barnet was so bad, his squires were
cut down beside him, and -“

“But Richard survived?”

“Yes. But he lost the tip off of his little finger. Because he was EVIL!”

“So he’s only eighteen, and he lays on and gets all bloody, and some
nasty got past his guard and his gauntlet, but he whacked them first
and survived with only a piffling injury?”

“You’re not listening! The man was EVIL!”

“I don’t think so. I think he was a wicked-cool medieval warlord, and
I wanna know more about him.”

That would be a Tudor’s nightmare.

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A policy of Lancastrian and “Tudor” monarchs ………..

……… but why?

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