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Perkin Warbeck: A Story of Deception – The Fascinating Enigma as presented in Ann Wroe’s biography

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I wanted to write a piece about the man who we know as Perkin Warbeck or Piers Osbeck or Richard Plantagenet or King Richard IV or whoever he may have been if he was none of these other men after reading Ann Wroe’s excellent biography on this most appealing of enigmas.

Firstly I need to pay tribute to Wroe’s wonderful book which I found impossible to put down. Her writing is exceptionally beautiful and multi-layered, particularly in the first few chapters where the poetic and philosophical meet the straight historical narrative.

She begins with a very detailed description of the copy of the portrait which survives of the man who called himself Richard, Duke of York, son of King Edward IV. You could be forgiven for falling in love with him right there, not because of his strikingly gorgeous looks, his elegant poise or suggested sophistication but because of his vulnerability…

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An interview with Phillippa Langley – Part One …

… in which we question the “Kingfinder General”:

1) Did your name, shared with two of Richard III’s great-grandparents, interest you in him?

I remember being intrigued by seeing the name Langley and the Philippas in his Plantagenet ancestry and family tree but it wasn’t what interested me in Richard. I was captivated by his extraordinary historical story, why it had never been placed centre-stage on our screens and why the Shakespearean grotesque was (and is) continually, and endlessly, rolled out in its stead.

2) Do you have any news from Reading on their quest for the abbey church?

No further news as yet but the Hidden Abbey Project is Reading’s exciting new research initiative that aims to uncover as much as it can about one of Western Europe’s most important medieval buildings. Research gets underway in 2016 with the first-ever Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey of the site. The landowners will be working with Historic England (formerly English Heritage) as the site holds National Monument status so it will be a step by step process under their auspices.

3) Are you planning to research the Stanley family’s archives?

Short answer is yes. The Princes Project aims to leave no stone unturned in the hope that we can help shed new light on the enduring mystery surrounding the disappearance of the sons of Edward IV and inform ongoing study into the life and times of King Richard. Is it possible that the mystery can be solved; is there anything to be found? We cannot of course know, but what we do know is that for the very first-time we are looking and this is what is important. The project is also looking at the mystery in an entirely new way and asking questions that to my knowledge have never been asked before. If Richard is to be finally laid to rest, this mystery is for me the final frontier in terms of research into the last Plantagenet and we are fortunate to have a growing team of researchers and experts behind it.

4) Many families and guilds are opening their archives to help with your quest to find out what really happened to the sons of Edward IV. Are there also people, or institutions that have declined to help? If so, what reason did they give?

The Princes Project has been incredibly privileged with everyone we have contacted thus far (and who have contacted us) moving heaven and earth to help. Only one connection was not quite as helpful as we’d hoped but this was probably because their records had been moved from the family home to the National Archives in London.

Ends

The Making of Richard III’s Coat of Arms for his Tomb

I was quite amazed to find out last week, when visiting Leicester Cathedral, that the small coat of arms that can be seen on the front part of the tomb was made by a skilled craftsman called Thomas Greenaway, who is one of only a handful of people who use the 16th Century craft of Pietra Dura (Italian for ‘hard stone’). This is a highly specialised way of making a picture by a method that is a kind of cross between a jigsaw puzzle and a mosaic. It originated in Florence and is still taught there today. The shield is not painted or made out of some plastic material, but is composed from three hundred and fifty small pieces of semi-precious stones – in this case Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan, Duke’s Red limestone from Derbyshire (which is very rare) and Yellow Chalcedony from Italy. Each lion is composed of twenty pieces of stone and the claws are Lapis Lazuli.  All the pieces are precisely cut to shape and fitted using traditional sixteenth century techniques and the Coat of Arms took two months to complete. Click on the picture below to visit Thomas Greenaway’s site to find out more.

 

Richard III Shield - Picture

There is a great five minute video of how the tomb was carved, polished, moved and laid, including the making of the Coat of Arms here.

Thanks to Thomas Greenaway for permission to use this picture of the shield.

Durham’s Lumiere Festival–a Cathedral of Light

http://www.lumiere-festival.com/durham-2015/

Durham’s Lumiere festival  will be taking place on November 12-15. It is Britain’s largest light festival. Most impressive perhaps is the illumination of the great cathedral on its eminent position above the river, in which medieval images are projected upon the ancient stonework and towers.

Durham was well-known to Richard III; he and his wife Anne were admitted to the fraternity of the cathedral priory in 1474 when he was still Duke of Gloucester. He had a special veneration toward the northern St Cuthbert, whose shrine was  (and still is  today) a prominent feature of the cathedral.

In 1484, as King, Richard visited Cuthbert’s shrine while on progress and presented the monks with his parliamentary robe of blue velvet, stitched with lions in pure gold.

If Richard  were to come back today, he would recognise the building and much of its surrounds for the cathedral is little changed since his time…although Cuthbert’s shrine was robbed out in the Reformation. Before that time, it was heaped in jewels worth a king’s ransom and festooned with unusual offerings, including narwhal horns which many thought were unicorn’s horns and hence magical.

I don’t know what Richard would think of modern illuminations  but  the cathedral looks so dramatic and awe-inspiring with scenes from  its long history projected onto its architecture…I like to think he might approve!

DURHAM

Where those younger “Beauforts” really fit in

https://murreyandblue.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/a-genealogical-mystery-deepens-originally-published-in-the-december-2013-bulletin/

You will hopefully remember, from the above, that the first child by Katherine de Roet usually attributed to John of Gaunt may well have been legally (and biologically) her son by Sir Hugh Swynford. The other two Beaufort sons were childless and their sister married Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland, giving all of her descendants a different surname. So, by 1447, only the issue of John, Earl of Somerset were still Beauforts by name and that name is now in doubt for them, together with their Edward III descent. Given that one, or both, of Henry VII’s parents fall into this category, this is an important question.

We may have to wait some time to confirm Somerset’s biological father but Ashdown-Hill’s The Wars of The Roses has clarified the position of the Dukes of Somerset and their line. Pages 44-45 show that the Earl married Margaret Holland, great-granddaughter of Edward I and great-great-great-granddaughter of Henry III by the Lancaster (Crouchback) connection. Edmund, Earl of Kent was her great-grandfather, thus the Somersets have a slight claim to the throne. It is, however, inferior to those from Edward II’s other brothers and half-brothers, including the Mowbrays and Howards of Norfolk, as the table shows:
Henry III

Richard, Duke of Gloucester: the Man Who Wouldn’t be King

Anti-Ricardians often partly justify their dislike of Richard III on account of his unattractive crown-hunger, claiming that he was always desperate to be king, spent his life plotting to this end and ruthlessly eliminating anyone who stood in his way, and cite as proof the prompt “usurpation” of his nephew Edward V in 1483.

I’ve always found this arrant nonsense. At the time of Richard’s birth in 1452, the throne was squarely occupied by the House of Lancaster; and while many people felt that his father Richard, Duke of York would make a better king than Henry VI, the Yorkist claim was not at this point being actively pursued. Moreover, having three healthy older brothers above him in the pecking order for titles, as a child Richard was but a minor princeling – and when Queen Margaret produced a Lancastrian Prince of Wales in 1453, neither he nor his brothers were remotely serious contenders for the crown.

The situation didn’t change until 1460, when Richard of York’s short-lived stint as heir-apparent raised young Dyckon to fifth in line to the throne. Then he edged a step closer when the Duke’s death at Wakefield was avenged at Towton in 1461 and his eldest brother confirmed as King Edward IV; but thereafter, his loyalty was absolute and his own best interests served by maintaining Edward’s position. I say this not as a ‘bride of St Richard’ who can believe no wrong of him, but because it doesn’t seem to square with the evidence. Think about it: their relationship made Richard of Gloucester the second most powerful magnate in the country, effectively king of the North, able to enjoy all the wealth and prestige without the dangers and burdens of wearing the crown. Edward was Richard’s protector and guarantor, his bulwark against Woodville ambitions; had he lived for another ten or twenty years, (by no means unlikely, given the robust health of their parents), his two sons would have been grown men with their own affinities, no doubt raised by their father to view their uncle as an indispensable political ally, and Richard would not have been king.

Ah, you say, but that didn’t happen – the black-hearted villain pinched his nephew’s crown practically before his brother’s body was cold! So he must have started planning his coup the moment he heard of Edward’s death – mustn’t he? Actually, no. Proceedings at the recent Richard III Foundation Inc. conference make it seem highly unlikely that Richard’s actions in the spring of 1483 were simply designed to lull the Woodvilles into a false sense of security while he laid his plans for usurpation. Susan Troxell, in her discussion of Richard’s heraldic emblem, showed the image of a gold angel naming Edward V as king and bearing a boar’s head mint-mark, dating it to the short period of the Protectorate. Surely issuing coinage is a step too far in terms of subterfuge; surely the implication is rather that Richard did indeed acknowledge his nephew as king, while simultaneously asserting his own intention to be firmly involved with the reign. Subsequently, he might have been satisfied with the role of Protector if he could have felt confident that the young king’s family would accept his pre-eminence. However, considering the dread fates of recent Protectors (Henry VI’s uncle Humphrey, the previous Duke of Gloucester, and his own father Richard), he had good reason to lack this confidence – especially as Professor Peter Hancock has now demonstrated, by an ingenious piece of historical detective work, that William Lord Hastings was not in London on 25th April 1483, but at his castle of Ashby where it seems likely that Richard met him as he travelled down from the north. There he would have received the unwelcome news that the Woodvilles thought they could rule very nicely without him – hence his precipitate actions in arresting Earl Rivers, Richard Grey and Thomas Vaughn and securing the person of Edward V at Stoney Stratford on 30th April.

Taking these two pieces of evidence together, I think it’s safe to say that in the immediate aftermath of Edward IV’s death, Richard of Gloucester had no thought of taking the throne for himself; this idea did not develop until the emergence of the pre-contract story and the dawning realisation that, just like his father, he had no choice but to press his own claim to the throne if he wanted to safeguard himself and his family’s future.

A Welsh family for St. Crispin’s Day

We start with Dafydd Gam (c.1380-1415), who fought against the Glyn Dwr rebellion at the beginning of the fifteenth century, apparently trying to assassinate the leading rebel and being imprisoned by him. He may have saved Henry V’s life at Azincourt but was definitely killed there.

His daughter, Gwladys ferch Dafydd Gam, married twice and her second husband was William ap Thomas of Raglan (d.1445), who survived the battle and was knighted as a result, joining the Duke of York’s council an becoming a local magnate. Their children included William Herbert (c.1423-69), who was made Earl of Pembroke after fighting in the 1461 battles, and Richard, both of whom were executed by the Earl of Warwick’s men after Edgecote Moor.

William’s son was William, Earl of Pembroke/ Huntingdon (1451-91). He married Katherine, the daughter of Richard III, in 1484 but attended Elizabeth of York’s 1487 coronation as a widower. In summer 1485, his service as Chief Justiciar of South Wales forced Henry “Tudor” to take an indirect route away from Gwent, although he was probably not well enough to attend Bosworth.

Oh dear

http://royalcentral.co.uk/blogs/history/the-princes-in-the-tower-54459

Where do I start?

“Richard was appointed to look after the children …” – which part of “Lord Protector and Defender OF THE REALM” does the writer not understand? Their maternal family, as was customary, was appointed to “look after” them. Carson’s latest book quotes the National Archives verbatim to demonstrate this point.

“Richard took the throne …” – no, it was OFFERED to him by the “Three Estates”, the nearest thing there could be to a Parliament until a King was crowned, on evidence from a witness to Edward IV’s bigamy that was quoted fifty years later by the Imperial Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, despite the cover-up that followed immediately after Bosworth.

“Most historians have agreed that the motivations for Richard killing the boys are more likely than any other theory” – not those who have objectively analysed the evidence by the standards of modern science.

As for the remains, we addressed this just a few days ago in https://murreyandblue.wordpress.com/2015/10/18/the-seven-princes-in-the-tower/. Perhaps Edward IV was even more prolific than we thought in the sons he had by his mistress Elizabeth Woodville?

With Richard’s Y-chromosome now being confirmed, because the mtDNA of the same body helped to prove his identity, anyone who obtains permission to examine the contents of the urn could prove whether it contains the ex-Princes or not.

This “Royal Central” piece requires further improvement.

Richard III and King’s College Chapel, Cambridge….

Cambridge - RIII

Laura Robinson investigates the events being held to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the completion of King’s College Chapel by Laura Robinson

http://www.varsity.co.uk/theatre/9006

STILL LOOKING FOR RICHARD 

Introduction

According to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, the noun Ricardianism means ‘support for or advocacy of Richard III’. Even though I have been a supporter of king Richard III for almost six decades, I am reluctant to describe myself as a Ricardian since it implies a narrow interest in one man. I prefer to call myself a Revisionist, which implies a wider interest. This is a personal eccentricity, which I have to bear. I mean no criticism or offence to Ricardians and I sincerely hope none is taken by my frankness. However, the distinction is important to me because it has informed my personal search for the real king Richard.  I have been looking for him since I was a pre-pubescent schoolboy in East London in the fifties. During that time I have met many different ‘Richards’; the purpose of this piece is to share a few of them with you.

 

Olivier’s Richard: the bravura baddie

Although William Shakespeare bears some responsibility for my interest in the last Plantagenet king, it was Laurence Olivier who fired my imagination with his electrifying performance of the king. The first thing to strike me about Olivier’s performance was his voice. It is, as he himself described, it “ …the thin reed of a sanctimonious scholar…it set the vision going thin and rapier like but all-powerful…the perfect hypocrite…. A mixture of honey and razor blades ”[1] Olivier’s Richard is a baddie, but he was an irresistibly captivating baddie. He is witty, he is heroic, and he is sexually potent. The passage wherein he woos Anne, the mourning widow of the man he has just murdered is one of the most lascivious scenes in cinematic history. Olivier’s brilliant and irresistible theatricality is only the posturing of power. He knows how wicked his deeds are but he does them anyway. His opening soliloquy sets the scene:

“Now is the winter of our discontent

Made glorious summer by this son of York…

And

“Since I cannot prove a lover

To entertain these fair well spoken days

I am determined to prove a villain

And hate the idle pleasures of the day

Plots have I laid…”

And he doesn’t disappoint: from the moment he walks on the set, he frames each event for us. He announces it in advance, providing a running commentary and evaluating its success. He seduces a grieving widow as she accompanies her dead husband’s coffin. He murders anyone who gets in his way: his brother, his wife, his nephews, his friend and comrade in arms. He lies, tricks, boasts, leers, jeers and laughs his way to the throne, delighting in his own malignity and making the camera a mirror for his vanity. And then he falls: spectacularly. Richmond invades from France and takes the initiative. His ‘supporters’ desert him and the hunchback metaphor rises to the surface; he is racked with the ghosts of those he has murdered. Typically, his courage is unimpaired. At Bosworth on his last day on earth he tells us “Richard is himself again”. Fighting with supernatural courage and ferocity to retain his life and crown; finally his enemies overwhelm him. In the end only his voice sours: “ a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse... Ultimately, Richard’s death is as much a performance as his life. Great stuff! I still watch that film today and I still have an almost irresistible urge to punch Stanley Baker’s lights out.

 

Inspector Grant’s Richard: on the bench and not in the dock

To be honest I have only read three Ricardian novels and I only enjoyed two of them. Pride of place must go to Josephine Tey. Her novel ‘The Daughter of Time’ set a very high standard for novelists to aspire too during the sixty plus years since Inspector Alan Grant made his first appearance in Ricardian literature. As an experienced Scotland Yard detective Grant has a reputation for being able to spot a criminal on sight. However, when, on being shown the NPG portrait of Richard III, he places him on the bench rather than in the dock, Grant begins to fret. From his hospitable bed and with the help of a young American researcher called Brett Carradine he begins an investigation into the allegations against king Richard, which Grant thinks changes history. Grant sees Richard as a man much traduced and he blames the historians for this. His Richard is a virtuous man, honest and loyal to a fault, brave and an able administrator. He is just, with a genuine care for the common weal. As a former soldier himself, Grant is hugely impressed with Richard’s military career (‘he was a brigadier at eighteen’). It took me a few years to find out that Inspector Grant’s version of Richard was based on the work of Sir Clement Markham. Published at the turn of the twentieth century. Markham’s account is an elegant but flawed defence of Richard, which modern scholars tend to regard like the ‘curates egg’: it is good in parts.

 

The Tudor Richard: the facts do not always speak for themselves

It is the Tudor based history of Richard started by Sir Thomas More and completed by William Shakespeare, which still dominates the public’s perception of him as a regicide, homicide, usurper and tyrant. This is the Tudor view of Richard that took hold immediately after Bosworth. Mindful of his weak claim to the throne, Henry VII ‘encouraged’ his subjects to believe that his victory and accession was the preordained ending of Richard’s tyrannical reign and, further, that his marriage to Elizabeth of York was the heaven-sent ending of thirty years of internecine civil wars. It is this doctrine that Professor EMW Tillyard calls the ‘Tudor Myth’[2] It is intended to promote the Tudor worldview not just by blackening Richard’s name but by directing what people should think about the Tudors, their claim to the throne and English history. It was a political necessity to blacken Richard’s name to enable the purity of the Tudor dynasty to shine ever brighter.

Professor Paul Murray Kendall describes the growth of this process: “In the court of king Henry VII…there existed among the men who conspired against king Richard III and bought his overthrow a body of opinion, continually enlarged by tales and conjectures concerning the past, which they had conquered. It was out of this amorphous mass of fact, reminiscence, hearsay growing ever more colourful and detailed with the passing years, that the authors of Henry VIII’s day fashioned the (Tudor) tradition.” The problem with the Tudor tradition is not simply that it represents the history of the victors, but also that it is confused and conflicting, and it is based on nothing more than rumour and gossip. It is also clear that Henry VII tampered with the historical record. He ordered Titulus Regius, Richard’s Act of Settlement, to be destroyed without being read, on pain of punishment. He also allowed his official Tudor historian to publish a false account of Richards’s title and his accession[3]. This whole episode highlights the pivotal role played by historians in shaping our perception of history.

 

Self evidently, historical facts are the building blocks of history and historians must not get them wrong. It was the historian EH Clark who wrote: “I am reminded of Houseman’s remark that ‘accuracy is a duty not a virtue’. To praise a historian for his accuracy is like praising an architect for using properly seasoned wood and properly mixed concrete in his buildings.”[4] Nonetheless, facts do not necessarily speak for themselves. Peoples’ opinions are influenced by the selection and arrangement of appropriate facts. And it is the historians who decide what facts are important, and their context. Necessarily, this is a subjective exercise; it is a mistake to think that facts exist independently of a historian’s interpretation. What constitutes an important ‘historical fact’ as opposed to an ordinary unhistorical fact depends on the historian’s viewpoint. For instance, our picture of England during Richard’s reign is incomplete. This is not just due to gaps in the sources or records but also to the fact that those we do have are largely written by a small number of people in southeastern England. We know quite a bit about the discontent of the Yorkist gentry in London and the south, but we know little or nothing about how his reign was viewed outside that area.   Our view of Richard’s reign has been pre-determined for us by people who, for whatever reason, took a particular a view and preserved those ‘facts’ that supported their view. Not only are the facts we do have subjective; we almost certainly do not have all the facts.

 

The modern Richard: a study in polemics

These problems raise important ethical and professional questions about impartiality and objectivity. Can historians remain objective? Should they be objective? Professor John Gillingham explores these questions in an essay about Richard’s character.[5] He identifies the dichotomy between Richard’s behavior before 1483 and the nature of his alleged crimes thereafter as the central problem in explaining his character, which he argue raises ‘unhelpful issues of guilt and innocence’. It creates a hostile, adversarial environment in which every scrap of information is heavily scrutinized in case it sheds light on the mysteries of Richard’s protectorship and reign. He argues that the whole process has developed the features of a courtroom trial (indeed it has). This is awkward because (in the words of historian David Knowles) “…an historian is not a judge, much less a hanging judge” Professor Gillingham adds that it is this reluctance to judge historical characters, allied (in this case) to a realization that “… the evidence base is non-existent” that has led to an accommodation between the traditionalist historians and Ricardians.

He may well be right, but I see little or no evidence of any such ‘accommodation’. Indeed, traditionalist and Ricardian literature and their respective websites are replete with strident and in some cases intolerant views on Richard’s guilt or innocence. Unfortunately for the disinterested observer, too much of this writing is polemical: some for him but most against him.   Professor Charles Ross put his finger on the key issue for modern historians: “ The extraordinary problems of the evidence are highlighted by the difficulty historians have always found in providing an answer to the vital question: when and why did Richard seek the throne for himself?” [6] Clearly, anybody wishing to write a balanced piece about Richard has to struggle with the paradox of his behaviour before April 1483 and the crimes he is accused of thereafter. Professor Ross assures us that the modern approach is to ignore the Tudor tradition in favour of inferring Richard’s “…character and motives from a close scrutiny of the events themselves without preconceptions.” Ross further argues that modern historians have a much better understanding of the Tudor tradition and a wider knowledge of fifteenth century English politics, adding for good measure that this has resulted in “…a more critical appreciation of the value of the Tudor tradition and a certain unwillingness to throw the whole bodily out of the window, especially when it can be confirmed by contemporary evidence…”[7] Even for a neutral observer, these comments raise two obvious issues. First, one wonders how closely the events of these times can be scrutinized given the ‘extraordinary problems’ of the evidence alluded to. Second, the suggestion that the Tudor tradition is confirmed by contemporary sources simply begs the question, since the probity of the contemporary material is precisely the issue disputed by Ricardians. The Tudor writers may simply be repeating the mistakes of fifteenth century sources.

 

The return of the king

The rescue of Richard’s bones from a municipal car park and their reinternment in St. Martin’s Cathedral, Leicester is a historic moment, which I welcome. It enables people to focus on his humanity, which is a much-needed balance to the Tudor inspired caricature we are familiar with. We know what he looked like, what he ate, what he drank, that he had scoliosis, and exactly how he died — in graphic detail. Nevertheless, his reinternment with honour has done nothing to close the rift between Ricardians and traditionalists. More worryingly from my perspective, is the impression I get that the drama surrounding his discovery and reinternment, and the keen debate it has provoked, may be transforming the last Plantagenet king into a cult figure.   Moreover, the discovery of his bones, invaluable though this is, does not actually advance our knowledge and understanding of the defining events of his life: the bastardization and deposition of his nephew Edward V, and the disappearance of the two Princes in the Tower. A dearth of reliable contemporary sources, the growth of an enduring legend, epitomized by Shakespeare, and the passage of time have conspired to prevent us from being able to establish what truly happened during the critical period of Richard’s life. I accept that on the material we have now we cannot know the truth. We can interpret the material according to our personal agenda, we can analyse peoples’ movements and actions and we can infer their intentions and motives. But, as things, stand we can never know what the actual truth is.

For me, therefore, the search continues….

[1] Laurence Olivier – On Acting (Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1986). I suspect Olivier was really a Ricardian. This is what the thought of Shakespeare’s history “I didn’t read any of the books that were around, protecting Richard from the false rumour written by this tinkerer with melodrama, whose name is William Shakespeare, who got it from someone else, who got it from someone else, who got it from someone else, who got it from someone else. I just stayed with the man.” (p79)

[2]. EMW Tillyard Shakespeare’s History Plays (Penguin 1944); pp. 29-32

[3]. It was (and is) unheard of for a Parliamentary bill to be repealed without being read. It is indicative of Henry VII‘s desire to suppress the truth.

[4]. EH Clark- What is History? (Palgrave Macmillan 2001 edition) at page 5

[5]. John Gillingham (editor) – Richard111: a medieval kingship (Collins & Brown 1993) pp 11

[6]. Charles Ross – Richard III (Yale 1999) at page 64.

[7]. Ross at page LXVI

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