The exposure of Edward IV’s bigamy
We know from the resulting petition from the Three Estates that this followed the testimony of Robert Stillington, Bishop of Bath and Wells. So, if there was anything untoward about the process, how was this prelate rewarded by the new King?
A list of Edward IV’s council members is attached to this post but it is the clerical members that are of interest here:
Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury was elderly and unwell by summer 1483 and died in March 1486. Both Laud and Carey, who were later Bishops of Bath and Wells, were eventually translated to Canterbury and Bourchier could have been persuaded to retire in favour of Stillington – but he wasn’t.
Thomas Kempe, the long-serving Bishop of London famous to fans of 1970s children’s literature, was to die in 1489 and may also have been ill. Had Stillington been appointed in his stead, this would have been a promotion, but it didn’t happen.
Thomas Rotheram, Archbishop of York, was often out of favour and Richard may have found an excuse to deprive him. Wolsey was Bishop of Bath and Wells in the following century before becoming primate of the northern province but Stillington wasn’t to take the same journey.
John Morton, Bishop of Ely, was arrested after the Hastings plot and could easily have been deprived for treason – if Richard had wanted to behave like a Lancastrian or “Tudor”. This didn’t happen either.
In fact, Stillington was not rewarded at all by Richard III because he had only revealed a fact that he should have done – a fact that had led to the executions of two of the Duchess of Norfolk’s servants and, arguably, of the Duke of Clarence. The Bishop himself had been imprisoned for his knowledge and was to be again, only his ecclesiastical status possibly saving his life.
All that he had done was to tell the simple truth as it stood.