Signs of the Times (3)

Here is the next instalment of my handwriting series! Here I will examine a few more of the main protagonists of the Wars of the Roses and you can leave any comments or suggestions as you will.

First of all, let us consider that ‘most untrue creature living’, Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. Here are a couple of examples of his signature, the second one being the one he signed along with Richard and Edward V and which includes his motto.

Buckingham sig                                Buckingham sig

So first of all, what does his motto say? If you know it, you might be able to make it out but, if you don’t, have a look and see if you can decipher it. No? Me neither. It is actually ‘Souvente me Souvene’, which means ‘Remember me often’; I guess he lived up to that – he is not forgotten is he? But back to his handwriting. His motto is almost impossible to make out and this indicates a deceptive nature. He does not reveal his thoughts and he keeps things hidden from view, disguised. His actual signature is more readable, but some of the letters are still obscure (the ‘i’s, ‘n’s, ‘m’s, etc), so I think the deceptive finding still stands. Compare Richard’s done at the same time (clear and legible):

RIII sig

Do you see the phallic symbol in the ‘s’ of ‘souvene’? Phallic symbols show that the person doesn’t keep to their society’s accepted sexual boundaries. The end of his signature could also be a phallic symbol. So what could that mean? Well there are some who wonder whether he might have been gay and in those days that would certainly be overstepping the normal boundaries, so that is a possibility. Keeping to this theme, look at his lower zone. The ‘g’ should be the only letter that enters this zone, but in fact it does not go very far below the level of the middle zone. However there are other letters whose loops enter the lower zone: ‘k’, ‘h’ and the end loop (I am unclear what letter this is meant to represent). There is also a large loop at the start of the second signature’s underline. Do you notice that they curl both ways? Maybe Buckingham was bisexual.

His signature seems to be over-elaborate with all the little extra squiggles and crosses. These extra little unnecessary marks can sometimes show the subject has obsessive compulsive disorder. We know he seemed to be something of a peacock and obsessed with his appearance.

It is interesting that his first name is smaller and has a lower case initial compared to the elaborate ‘surname’. Well actually it wasn’t so much a surname as a title – it represented the Dukedom that was his and I think this suggests the importance with which he viewed the title he had. It was more important than his personal name; prestige and nobility was everything to him. The first example doesn’t even have a first name there at all – his Dukedom WAS his identity.

I have mentioned the significance of ‘x’s in the signature before, but usually this is unconscious – he has deliberately put ‘x’s in. I don’t know whether ‘x’s were used to mean kisses, the way we do now – perhaps someone knows and can enlighten me. But why would he put kisses in his signature in those circumstances?

Finally, look at the section of signature delineated by the ‘x’s – right in the middle of it is the word ‘king’! Yes, I know that’s his name, but anyway…! And what is that little squiggle over the ‘m’ – could it unconsciously be a crown? I’ll leave you to decide.

Now let us move on to someone else whom we will never forget:


Beaufort sig

What? You can’t make it out? It’s the signature of Margaret Beaufort, after her son had usurped Richard’s throne. How deceptive do you think SHE was?!

Like Elizabeth Woodville’s, her middle zone is emphasised, but I am surprised that her high zone is not more prominent. Maybe she wasn’t as clever as we thought. She was definitely concerned with prestige, show and material possessions though. Also, note that she has added the ‘R’ for Regina after her name – I think she was investing her own ambitions in her son.

Her lower zone is surprisingly large as well, suggesting she was perhaps more sensual than might be expected. Well, she was married multiple times!

Notice how heavy and angular her signature is as well. It shows anger and violent emotions. Those lower zone ‘tails’ are sharp, like knives, and is it my lurid imagination or does the last lower ‘tail’ look like dripping blood!? Whatever, I definitely wouldn’t want to be on her bad side!

Her communication letters are open at the bottom, and distorted. The latter means she cannot be trusted and the former that she is the kind of person who would eat you up and spit you out, communicating in such a distorted and deceptive way, that you cannot believe anything she says.

She has one trait similar to Richard – they both have upright writing which means they like to be in charge and exert rigid self-control over their own emotions.

Finally can you see something in the middle that looks like a pitchfork? My book states that this sign denotes a devil’s fork, meaning a subject who feels plagued with demonic compulsions! Though she might have said they came from God.

For our third subject, let us look at her son, Henry VII. Here are a few samples of his signature:

Henry VII sig

Henry VII sig

Henry VII sig

Will of Henry VII

Well, to start with we are unable to see how he communicated as there are no communication letters in his signature (‘o’s and ‘a’s), however we can see that his signature was large and usually bold. It was considerably larger than his wife’s Elizabeth of York, which means he felt superior to her. (Check your birthday and Christmas cards: if your name is written smaller than the sender’s they feel you are inferior to them and if yours is larger, they are self effacing. Equal is best!).  On the other hand, his signature is so large he could be overcompensating for feelings of inadequacy.

His middle zone is, like his mother’s, emphasised. This shows a preoccupation with material possessions and a focus on the self and his own needs and desires.

The signature is mainly angular but there are more rounded letters than in his mother’s – I think he might have had a softer side which he kept hidden, but he was certainly capable of violent outbursts of temper. My eyes keep getting drawn back to the extra long, loopy ‘y’ tail. It suggests a noose or a fishing line hooking you in, but that’s just my intuitive impression.

I notice that the ‘Rex’ part of the signature is much less clear and smaller, perhaps because he felt inadequate in the role of king.

Notice the lower zone is very prominent and elaborate in the first example – perhaps this was when he was a younger man and his libido was to the fore and his sex drive high. The last signature is from his will, so he would have been older and his libido less. It is a shortened version, but to me looks more confident than the others, perhaps surprisingly as he might have written it while he was ill. But I think by this time he had grown into the role of king.

I also think the little twiddly bit on the end, that looks like a ‘6’ is a sign of OCD, and as it looks like a number (there is also an ‘8’-like shape in the tail of the ‘y’), it shows he was concerned with numbers – his accounts?

Again his signature is upright, showing a need for control. Overall, I get the feeling he could have been much nicer if his life had been more ‘normal’.

What about Henry’s wife, Elizabeth of York?  Here is her signature:

Eliz of York sig

The first thing I notice is that there is a mixture of directions of slant.  This would suggest moodiness, with periods of sociability alternating with times of aloofness.

Like her mother’s, the middle zone is emphasised showing a preoccupation with material things and her own needs.

The one communication letter shows an ability to keep a secret and clear communication, which is reinforced by the fact that it is legible and not so disguised as some of the others.

It seems to be slightly sloping uphill which shows an optimistic and positive attitude – perhaps she was happy to be a queen.

The lower zone is not very elongated or prominent (especially the ‘q’) suggesting a less than average interest in sex.

The downward strokes are darker than the others, suggesting a temper or feelings of anger.

See the ‘ye’ – it resembles a candle flame to me which shows Elizabeth could feel strong fiery passions but they could go out easily too – so she could blow hot and cold.

There are broken lines in some of the letters which suggest she might have been under stress at the time.

The first three letters look more like ‘Fly’ than ‘Ely’ to me – is that what’s she’s thinking unconsciously?

And finally,  the ‘b’ and ‘e’ side by side look like a cat’s eyes – i would guess cats were her favourite animal.



I would be happy to hear what your thoughts are on these interesting signatures. And look out for the next, final installment, where I will consider some more of Richard’s friends and enemies.


  1. Another one of your insightful articles!
    Seeing Buckingham’s signature from the Three Signatures document, it is striking how neat and legible his Christian name appears in contrast to the rest. Maybe he usually did not use it when signing. It actually looks like he added it after writing the rest, probably on a prompt by Richard or Edward, and, as writing goes, is the most sincere part, looking almost schoolboyish when compared to the rest of the text.
    And Margaret’s is truly scary. Did you find any other examples? It appears that the one shown here is missing all of the downward strokes following an upwards one, which makes it look so disjointed. But something like that can also happen if one holds the nib at a wrong angle and writes in a hurry, so it would be interesting to see if she always wrote like that. For a woman who had such a reputation of being well-educated, it is certainly significant that the optical effect of her signature is that of a series of repeated axe chops or dagger thrusts, indicating she might have been furious when she wrote this. Do you know what kind of document this was on?
    As usual, Richard’s handwriting is by far the neatest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Google picture search for Margaret’s signature actually has two completely different signatures. One is from the time she styled herself Countess of Richmond, the other one is the one seen in your post. The Richmond signature looks as if written by a different person, a bit like Buckingham’s handwriting, actually, so, with all the signs of a deceptive character IMHO.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Elizabeth of York having a low sex drive would be pretty surprising and odd if true, considering she was the daughter of Edward IV and the mother of Henry VIII… But I’m not buying it. I keep thinking of that poem she wrote about her marriage to Henry, starting with an interesting turn of phrase: “My heart is set upon a lusty pin” and then goes on to say she is praying to Venus (rather than Virgin Mary – actually, she kind of seems to be merging them and treating Venus as a Virgin Mary figure)… and it really doesn’t make me think of someone with low interest in sex.

    Margaret Beaufort, on the other hand, was definitely not sensual, whatever her signature may say. Maybe she could have been if she hadn’t been traumatized by what Edmund Tudor did to her and her terrible childbirth at 13 that wrecked her body – I can only try to imagine what it all does to the psyche. She likely wouldn’t have recognized it as child abuse, which it was – she even wanted to be buried next to him – but she tried to spare her granddaughter the same fate, advising Henry not to marry off his daughter Margaret at a too young age. Margaret’s marriages were all political, and her first two marriages (counting the first one which was annulled and never consummated) happened when she was a child, so she definitely had no say in it, and the third one when she was 14, so that one probably wasn’t her choice, either. She was married many times because she was a top prize due to her inheritance! If she choose to marry Stanley, that was likely for political reasons on both sides (as so many marriages were in those days). And I don’t know the details, but I’ve read that her writings contain evidence she hated sex (which is really not surprising, considering her history). Didn’t she also get to be officially released from wifely duties? I remember reading that somewhere.

    I do think that Henry had a softer side he only showed to very few people. I think of the descriptions how he broke down after Arthur’s death and was being comforted by his wife, that story sounded like she was trying to be strong for him and only broke down after. I get the impression he had a need to be mothered a lot to make up for his childhood and youth. That’s very obvious in his relationship with his mother, too, obviously. He also seemed to have grieved a lot for Elizabeth. I think he was probably quite insecure and found it hard to trust people, and tried really hard to make people fear him, since he saw that as the way to ensure his power and authority. I see him as obsessed with financial matters out of the need to feel secure and powerful as a reaction to the insecurity of the first 28 years of his life. Not to mention that he spent all his reign worrying about rivals and pretenders and the possibility of losing his throne – like Henry IV in Shakespeare’s play (and in real life, too).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are probably right as it certainly seems odd to me, but it’s probably my inexperience in this – I admit I am no expert! Thinking about it again, Elizabeth’s loops are not undersized really, so she was probably quite happy about sex, etc. Of course, she may have not been feeling well at the time as writing changes when you are ill, or in a different mood.

      I was also confused about Margaret – I now think the lack of a loop says something and the heavy angry lines could actually refer to a hate of sex – I was mistaken here and oversimplifying.


  3. Speaking of things in signatures that ended up looking like little drawn images, what’s the letter/sign at the end of Elizabeth of York’s signature here?
    Her name is the only thing I could read here, if I didn’t know the phrase above was supposed to read “Sans remevyr” (usually translated as Without changing), I’d never figure it out. (It doesn’t help that a part of it has faded out as if someone tried to erase it or spilled something over it.) Medieval “S” supposedly often looked more like “G”. But what’s that after her name? Another S, or a G, or something else? Funny how it almost looks like a mouth forming a face with a part of the above letters, maybe accidentally.

    Also, is the phrase at the very top of the page also in Richard’s signature? It looks quite similar. I’m not sure what it says, “Remember…” something something?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting! Yes, perhaps it’s Richard’s writing, I would have to compare side by side and even then it’s difficult. I cna’t make it ut either …looks like ‘Remember that you forgot…’ but I am not very good at deciphering medieval script – perhaps I should do a course!


      1. Is this book Richard,s gift for Elizabeth? I have only read about it but I have never seen it. I can decipher Latin and polish paleography but not English – I do not know old English language. However the words: “Remember that you forgot…” I can read too:)) These words are fascinating. Is it possible that nobody did not try to decipher them?


      2. @Kalina: Yes, that’s the book that’s often mentioned, the prose version of “Tristan” in French. This is from the British Library online catalogue, they have a lot of information about each of the old manuscripts – such as the list of people who owned it throughout the centuries and signed their names, and photos of some of the pages.
        It also says it’s one of the 13 surviving books signed by Richard.

        Some of the other books owned by Richard:

        No photos of pages with the signature, unfortunately.

        and the book owned by Elizabeth of York where she wrote Richard’s motto “Loyalte me lie”:
        but it seems that this one didn’t belong to him, since it wasn’t signed by him.


    2. Elizabeth,s motto as a young girl was “sans remouvre” or something like that. There are somewhere a few of her signatures so it is possible to compare them. On “our” page a few of words wrote by Richard are visible but they are blured. If I was a worker of this library….eh:))

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I took a long hard look at that image and I am not at all certain whether the word you are reading as “forget” should not instead be read as “sayed” with a long s at the beginning. And I cannot even begin to guess at what the second half of the sentence is.
    And there is the ghost of a deleted inscription below the Ricardian exlibris line, too, in a very similar script I’d say.
    I envy people who can read such manuscripts fluently!

    Liked by 1 person

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