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The powers of the Constable of England

We know that Edward IV made the Duke of Gloucester Constable of England for life in 1471, when he was restored but deprived of the services of John Tiptoft (Earl of Worcester) and Richard, Earl Rivers, both of whom had been executed during the Warwick-Lancastrian revolt. So he was definitely Constable in the aftermath of Edward’s death. He was definitely Lord Protector of the Realm as well – we know this because none of his adversaries sought to prevent him from taking the post, even though the Human Shredder managed to destroy Edward’s codicil that appointed him.

Now here is the 1351 law on treason:
http://www.languageandlaw.org/TEXTS/STATS/TREASON.HTM.
Note that it includes the Lord Protector as from 1459, when the Duke of York was appointed to that position. Henry VI’s council set an important precedent by defining offences against the Protector as treason in the same way that those offences against the King would be.

Now here are the powers Edward granted to Rivers in 1469:
https://books.google.com/books?id=9uoaAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA282&dq=%22statutis,+ordinationibus,+actibus%22+1467+Rivers+%22Edward+IV%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Yn4EVYzmDM33oATFmoLgCQ&ved=0CB0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22statutis%2C%20ordinationibus%2C%20actibus%22%201467%20Rivers%20%22Edward%20IV%22&f=false

Will someone tell me if I am going too quickly for those slow on the uptake in Alexandria?

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4 thoughts on “The powers of the Constable of England

  1. You might want to spell it out plainly, so there’s no mistake. Something like this?

    As Constable of England and as Lord Protector of the REALM, Richard had the right to act as judge, jury and executioner to anyone accused of treasonous acts against him OR the king.

    To break it down further: Richard was within his rights as Constable of England and as Lord Protector of the REALM to execute without trial anyone who plotted against him.

    To plot against or threaten the Lord Protector was the same as plotting against or threatening the king.

    “Anyone” includes William, Lord Hastings. Even if Lord Hastings was seeking to “protect” Edward V from being declared a bastard, Hastings would still be committing treason if he plotted against the Lord Protector.

    If Lord Hastings so much as drew steel against the Protector in the meeting at the Tower, Richard was within his rights to execute him without trial.

    Why? Because to draw steel against the Constable and Lord Protector is an act of treason.

    If Hastings admitted during the meeting at the Tower that he was determined to work against the Protector — in any capacity — this was also an act of treason.

    If an act of treason was witnessed by Richard and others during the meeting , there was no need for a trial. By law, summary execution could follow.

    If Rivers, Vaughn and that other fellow plotted against Richard (already Constable of England, and named by Edward IV as Lord Protector of the Realm), they had committed a treasonous act.

    As an aside, the council did not permit Richard to execute Rivers, et. al. upon his arrival in London. (Not enough evidence?) The council DID permit Richard to try and execute Rivers, et. al. a few weeks later, which suggests evidence enough to convict them had come to light.

    It was Richard’s job in the north for over ten years to act as what might be called a circuit judge: to know the law, to uphold the law, and to use the law correctly. When it came to medieval law, Richard knew exactly what he was doing, as duke, constable, protector and king.

    If he had stepped for one minute outside of the law, the council would have called him on it. They certainly did so when Richard wanted to execute Rivers, et. al. upon Richard’s arrival in London.

    The council did not object to Hastings’ execution without trial. They also did not object to Rivers, et. al.’s being executed after trial. If they had, the Croyland Chronicle or the London Chronicler would have recorded it. And London would have reacted to it.

    If the council or London had reacted badly to Richard, I doubt *those* records would have been shredded.

    More dogs that did not bark.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Sadly that is one of their biggest arguments being Richards powers as constable, they also deny he was named protector .
    The whole argument is he ignored the laws to the realm to execute those standing in his way .
    So why can they not figure out “what exactly was a constable of England “?. Because they have spent years arguing and defaming anyone that does not see the Cairo viewpoint.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So they don’t believe that the council appointed Richard Protector. They ignore history. That’s beyond in denial. That’s ostrich-head-in-the-ground-up-to-its-shoulders.

    There is no cure for that kind of crazy.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. There are a couple of points I should like to add, although it is understandable that readers have been led astray by the inaccuracies of some historians. First, the Act of Parliament of 1460 which stated that the Duke of York was henceforth protected by the laws of treason: this Act did not appoint him Protector of the Realm, it conferred on him the entail of the crown, effectively making him heir apparent. The heir to the king had been included in the 1352 statute of treasons, so in fact this statement in the Parliament of 1460 was redundant (although it was relevant and useful to iterate it). More importantly for my recently published study of Protector and Constable, it did not per se provide a precedent that I could cite for the treason laws to be extended to cover a Protector of the Realm: this was a point that needed to be inferred, and for which I still seek further clarification if anyone can provide it.
    My second point relates to trial for treason. In general (except in open warfare) it was necessary for legal process to take place, which is why the king found it useful to extend the authority of the Constable of England, to give his court summary powers, and to extend the types of crime that could be deemed treasonable by such a court. Since legitimism was at the root of the Yorkist polity, it was necessary for the house of York to pay particular attention to legality. For this reason I always doubted that the executions of Hastings or Rivers took place without prior trial, hence I began studying the legal jurisdiction of the High Constable in 2005 while writing Richard III: The Maligned King, and have eventually published those researches ten years later.
    Lastly, we have again been misled by historians who have not thought to check Mancini’s false story that Richard, as Constable of England, needed to ask the King’s Council to convict people of treason! Mancini, an agent of the French council (which COULD do so), was quite wrong in assuming the English council had such powers.

    Liked by 2 people

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