Willow: How is it you always know this stuff? You always know what’s going on. I never know what’s going on.
Giles: Well, you weren’t here from midnight until six researching it.
“Angel” – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Bishop of Bath and Wells, Robert Stillington, is the man who informed Richard, Duke of Gloucester, of his brother Edward IV’s pre-marriage to Eleanor Butler in the spring of 1483. That revelation created a succession crisis which resulted in Edward IV’s children being declared illegitimate and the Three Estates offering Richard of Gloucester the throne of England.
It’s been stated elsewhere that there is no evidence Richard ever rewarded Stillington for his revelation. Recently, however, a handful of denialists have claimed that a charitable foundation connected to Stillington was supported by Richard after he became King, with the conclusion that this foundation was Richard’s reward to Stillington.
Hilary Jones, a member of the Richard III Society Forum[i], in a forum discussion said: “The Stillingtons founded and endowed a school at Acaster near York where our Robert hailed from. It’s usually used to defend [Richard III], not vilify him. Is this what they’re talking about?”
She quotes from the Close Rolls of Richard III 1483/4:
“Robert Stillyngton, bishop of Bath and Wells, to the provost and fellows of the collegiate chapel of St. Andrew, Netheracastre, co. York etc. Release and quitclaim of all the lands undermentioned, to wit forty acres lying separately in Netheracastre, formerly of John Stillyngton father of the grantor, and Thomas Broket esquire, which Robert erected the collegiate church aforesaid; and also of all those lands etc. formerly of Thomas Broket therein, now of the abbot of St. Germanus, Selby, the manors of Burneby and Fangfosse co. York, and all other lands and tenements, rents, reversions and services, meadows, lesues and pastures in Burneby, Fangfosse, Northcave, Southcliff and Northcliff co. York, which the said Robert granted and demised at farm to the provost and fellows, as in a deed dated 6 October, 22 Edward IV, 1482, is more clearly shown. Dated 20 August, 1 Richard III, 1483.”
Shall we unpack this?
- Stillington’s “school” was a collegiate chapel.[ii]
- Stillington granted lands previously belonging to his father, and some he had received through his mother, to the provost and fellows of St. Andrews Nethercastre.
- The demise of the land[iii] dates from 6 October 1482, six months before Edward IV died.
- Robert Stillington’s father, John, had been a wealthy merchant. Robert had also come into more land in 1468 through an inheritance entitlement of his mother.
- The Close Rolls entry indicates that Richard III was re-affirming Stillington’s land grant.
The denialists are claiming that Richard [permitted? allowed? bribed?] Robert Stillington to reward himself with his parents’ land and give a portion of it to St. Andrews Nethercastre eight months before Stillington revealed the fact of Edward IV’s pre-contracted marriage.
This claim is nothing more than an attempt to twist historical fact into an untruth that can then be used to vilify Richard. It is dependent upon no one bothering to research the accusation.
Once again, it would behoove the denialists to do some primary-source research before they attempt to frame an argument in support of any of their predetermined, prejudicial judgments regarding Richard III.
[i] Group is here: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/richardiiisocietyforum
[ii] A collegiate chapel is a church where the Divine Office is said daily by a college of canons, or a non-monastic or secular community of clergy that’s organized as a self-governing corporate body. This body is presided over by a dean or provost. It’s similar to a cathedral, but it’s not the seat of a bishop and it has no responsibilities over a diocese. They were supported by lands held by the church or tithe income. They also provided space for congregational worship and offices for their clerics.
[iii] The definition of “demise” is a conveyance of property, usually of an interest in land. It originally meant a posthumous grant. It evolved until the present day when is applied commonly to a conveyance that is made for a definitive term, such as an estate for a term of years. A lease is a common example of a demise; today the word is used synonymously with “lease” or “let.”