Anthony Woodville provided an escort of 2,000 men for Edward V’s journey from Ludlow to London. This was no mean escort, indeed it was roughly the same size as the company that had escorted the young Henry VI to Paris for his crowning as King of France. The difference was that Henry VI was convoyed through hostile territory with a real risk of attack from the French. Edward V was merely travelling through England.
Now, the odd thing is that if the Woodvilles had got their way the escort would have been even larger. It was limited to 2,000 because Lord Hastings threatened to withdraw to Calais if it was any larger. This begs a couple of very interesting questions.
First, let us consider the Woodville family. According to many they were an amiable bunch, no more threatening than the Women’s Institute or the National Trust. They had no prior quarrel with Richard of Gloucester and he had none with them. So why did they think an escort larger than 2,000 was necessary? Contrary to those who delude themselves that Henry Tudor ended the wars and inaugurated an era of peace, England was already at peace. There was no marauding Lancastrian army ready to attack at a moment’s notice. Even 2,000 men seems a very ample escort in such circumstances. After all, the 2,000 came from the Marches, an area not noted for its tranquillity. It seems almost certain that many of them would have experienced combat, however ‘unofficial’ that combat might have been. It seems very odd that the Woodvilles (who we must remember had peaceful intentions and no ambition at all) should want to surround the young King with what amounted to a small army.
Then there is Hastings – for Hastings was an Honourable Man. What grounds had he for suspecting the intentions of the amiable, well-meaning Woodvilles? What did it matter to him if the escort was 2,000 or 10,000? Surely he didn’t think that the Woodvilles were a threat? Those Woodvilles? The peaceful, scholarly, deeply religious ones? The ones who wouldn’t harm even a particularly irritating fly? Why should he worry about them? After all, he was not paranoid like Richard of Gloucester. Will Hastings, paranoid? Never! He was after all the epitome of selfless service, with nary an ill thought in his handsome head.
No, Hastings must have had a letter from Richard of Gloucester; a deeply cunning letter that persuaded him that those lovely Woodville people were actually ambitious rogues who intended to take over the government. Because the saintly Hastings could never have come to such a conclusion independently, not about those harmless, kindly Woodville folk.
It’s the only explanation – it was all in Richard of Gloucester’s evil head. And knowing that the escort was limited to only 2,000, he was able to set off from Yorkshire with a mere 300. After all, what’s odds of 6 to 1 when you’re Richard of Gloucester! It was all part of his cunning plan, worked out years earlier after he had seen in his crystal ball that his brother would die in 1483.