A great site

A question of responsibility

Who takes the ultimate responsibility for events in late Medieval England?

According to the Cairo-dwellers, from 1483 to August 1485, the answer is the King (Richard III), whether he knew what happened or not.

According to the same people, the answer from 1471 to 1483 isn’t the King (Edward IV) but the Duke of Gloucester (the same Richard), his brother who was ten years younger.Not so many of them still blame Richard for committing war crimes at the first Battle of St. Alban’s (1455, between nappy changes) but some do.

They expect us to believe that, when Edward declared the Countess of Warwick legally dead to keep the Duke of Clarence happy, that was Richard’s responsibility. Similarly, when Edward declared the Dowager Countess of Oxford legally dead to stop her funding her traitor son, that was Richard’s responsibility as well. That Richard, as Constable, passed and oversaw the sentences of death after Tewkesbury against Edward’s will – even though we know what Edward could do to a brother who stepped out of line continually and we know that this was Richard’s first serious campaign. That Richard was responsible for Clarence’s end, although he is on the record as protesting against it and going on strike for the day of the execution. That Richard had to be responsible for Henry VI’s end even though it was improbable that he could benefit from it – Edward had a very fertile “wife” at the time and the secret wasn’t known for another twelve years, quite apart from Clarence – and he was away from the Tower on the day. That Richard had to be responsible for Edward of Lancaster’s death, even though Clarence is specifically accused by contemporaries and instantly became the Lancastrian claimant, at least in his own eyes.

So Edward IV was King for over twenty years and so feeble that he wasn’t responsible for anything? On the contrary, we know how ruthlessly he had dealt with rebels during his first reign, appointing the Earl of Worcester (John Tiptoft) as Constable, knowing the zeal with which he would approach the task, only for the Lancastrian readeption to result in Tiptoft’s beheading. We know how he dealt with the Duchess of Norfolk’s servants to silence her after the death of her sister (his valid wife). We know how he dealt with the Earl of Desmond’s sons and we know he eventually dealt with Clarence, arresting Stillington at about the same time.

We can conclude that Edward IV was no fool. He could look after himself, could delegate tasks to people who would take his approach and could take responsibility for their actions in his lifetime. He did not reprimand Richard for his conduct as Constable nor did he deal with him as he had Clarence but designated him as Lord Protector of the Realm in his codicil, as the Council all agreed, also allowing him to remain as  Constable. We can only conclude that he trusted Richard on the basis of twelve years’  loyal support and more before the Clarence-Warwick revolt.

So what is the problem with the denialists here?

Single Post Navigation

3 thoughts on “A question of responsibility

  1. I recall one reprimand, delivered to Little Brother and…Hastings.

    “You two will NOT sent any troops or anything else to our sister Margaret (regardless she has asked us directly for help), to defend her against the nasty French king. You will both stand down and twiddle your thumbs while sticking your fingers in your ears as I am doing, muttering all the while, ‘la la la can’t hear you.’ In your case, Dickon, I expect you’ll let it be known somehow — so the denialists can’t deny it — that you tried, but I stopped you. In your case, Hastings, I trust you will remember that you’re receiving a pension from the nasty French king — as I am. We don’t want to lose our precious coin and wine and other goodies Louis provides, hmm? What’s that, Dickon? I’ve sold our sister as well as my honor down the river? That may well be, but I like things as they are. So Dickon, you are going back to Middleham straightaway, while you, Hastings, may return to procuring mistresses for me and partying with great jocularity. Do I make myself clear?”

    Yeah, Edward IV was definitely controlled by Little Brother. Not.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Jasmine on said:

    That is a very interesting take on the question of what Edward IV was doing during his reign. I guess the ladies, drinking and partying took up a lot of his time, so there was not much left to devote to ruling the country.


  3. Karen on said:

    Here is the passage. “in the mydste of towne, upon a scaffold therefore made,…behedyd everyeche one, and without eny othar dismembringe, or settyngeup, licensyd to be buryed.” Historie of the arrivall of Edward IV, p. 38 as quoted by Josephine Wilkinson in “The Young King to Be” p.200. (the professor in me demands citations!) I was asked by a fellow member of the facebook group Blanc Sanglier to post this in response to the question of executions that were ordered in the aftermath of Towton. It was recorded that Edward IV honored his little brother after his stellar performance leading his vanguard by allowing him to give the order of execution for the defeated Lancastrian leaders. The above passage seems to indicate that Richard was uncommonly merciful given the conventions of the time whereby it was more usual to order traitors to be drawn and quartered or other unpleasant things. It was a convention among the York dynasty, in fact, to pardon the commons and retainers whom they felt were merely following orders, and to execute the leaders–without the gruesome ‘settyngup’ that became so commonplace under the Lancastrians and Tudors. In fact, it would seem that they were disposed to treat their foes honorably, and, as we know, Richard later established a number of chantries to pray for their souls as well and looked after the widows and families of the executed men. It is highly unlikely, as has been alleged, that an 18 year old novice commander would have flaunted the authority of his older brother and king by dragging pardoned men from sanctuary and executing them on his own in direct contravention of an order. It has also been proven that the ‘sanctuary’ they had claimed, while a church, was not, in fact, one of the officially established sanctuaries. Therefore, they did not, in fact, violate sanctuary, horrifying as it may have been to enter a church and forcibly remove those who had taken shelter there.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: