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The Da Vinci Pre-Contract….?

No, no – do not be put off by this dry old illustration, for it but masks the workings of an over-active mind. Mine!


Does anything about the following sound familiar?

“…The nickname John of London, given to Richard [II], alludes to a report spread by Henry that Richard was the illegitimate son of the Princess of Wales [Joan of Kent] by a canon of Bordeaux; (see Froissart;) but Mezeray remarks, that that reproach might have been cast upon Henry [IV] with more reason, seeing the queen his mother, on her death-bed, had confessed to a bishop that she had substituted him [Henry] in the place of her own true son, whom she had suffocated by accident, charging him [the bishop] to discover the secret if he [Henry] were likely to inherit the crown. (Mezeray, 983, fo. Paris, 1643)” Taken from Chronique de la Traison et Mort de Richart Deux, Roy Dengleterre.

OK, so the story was related by a Frenchman 250 years or so after the death of Richard II, whom the Black Prince certainly acknowledged as his son. And when it comes to Henry IV…his mother was never Queen. Blanche of Lancaster was Duchess of Lancaster.

Mezeray is therefore a hardly reliable source, but the scenario he paints is thought-provoking to someone like me. He wrote after the 15th century, when proof of some sort had come to light of Edward IV’s bigamy . Was a version of the Mezeray scenario then enacted? Was Stillington, or someone else in the know, charged to only reveal the proof of the Eleanor Talbot marriage if there was a chance of Edward V being crowned? And if so, who charged him? Who was in a position to make such a decision? How many of them were there? I know, I know, it sounds like The da Vinci Code, with some manipulative and arcane secret society pulling strings.

Perhaps whoever it was had hope that fate would step in and remove the need for such a revelation? The natural deaths of the boys, perhaps? Premature death was a common enough fate back then. And so was murder, of course. And the girls might well have been safely married to husbands no one would accept on the throne of England? International royal marriages were all very well when it was an English prince marrying a foreign princess, but not the other way around. Elizabeth of York, for instance, was at one time betrothed to Charles, the Dauphin of France. And Cecily was betrothed to the future James IV of Scotland. Grand contracts, but unsuitable for the English crown. If those marriages had taken place, I cannot believe either gentleman would be rapturously greeted in London. Another James of Scotland would eventually be crowned in Westminster Abbey, but not in the 15th century. So, if not the boys or the girls…who then?

Was the pre-contract being kept hidden as a contingency plan? Something to produce if and when the need arose? I do not know who might be behind such a thing. Certainly not Richard, who was in Yorkshire and did not even know Edward was on his deathbed until it was all over. If he’d been in on a secret masterplan, he’d have been ready and waiting in London. Maybe he wasn’t even the one the masterplanners had in mind. He just got in the way when the masterplan suffered a hiccup, and he was most inconveniently ended up as Richard III, which was NOT in the script. I don’t think Henry VII was the intended monarch either. When push came to shove, he was too lowly and unroyal, and so was another very inconvenient intrusion. The whole masterplan began to go pear-shaped when Edward IV died so suddenly, and from then on things did not go as the conspirators intended. Then, after Bosworth, I think they ripped up the whole idea up in disgust, walked away and let history take its Tudor course. Thank you, chaps.

Right, ladies and gentlemen, I can’t think why anyone conspire to such patient and determined lengths, or what their purpose might have been, but if there was a masterplan, who might they have intended to be the ultimate King of England? And who might have been the masterplanners?

On the understanding that there are holes in my reasoning (or lack of it), and that the above could be a suggestion for a movie, please let me know your suggestions for the actual identities of all these mysterious, shadowy figures. Answers on a postcard, please…

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10 thoughts on “The Da Vinci Pre-Contract….?

  1. Esther Sorkin on said:

    IMO, Henry VII should be a prime candidate for the beneficiary of such a conspiracy. (Sometimes, I think that Stillington’s bombshell was designed to do exactly what it did — get Richard III to take the crown — and create division) After all, the main conspiracy that we know of at the time was the plotting to put Henry Tudor on the throne. Many of his supporters, notably his mother and Morton, proved to be very sophisticated conspirators. Also, he would have the greatest need such a conspiracy to take the crown; not only was his claim to the throne comparatively weak, but also he was largely unknown, at least to England (unlike Duke of Buckingham, who was known to the English).


    • halfwit36 on said:

      Yes, the Duke of Buckingham was known to the English, and known to be a harsh overlord to his retainers/vassals. No wonder they were looking the other way when he called on them.
      Good article, but I wonder about the statement that the Dauphin and the heir to the throne of Scotland were ‘not grand enough’ for the daughters of Edward IV. If they weren’t grand enough, who was? The Pope? To be sure, they would not be greeted ‘rapturously’ in London, as they were England’s enemies. That was the whole idea of such a match: to make or keep peace between the countries.


      • viscountessw on said:

        I wrote “Grand contracts, but unsuitable for the English crown”, meaning that they were indeed grand, and their wives would have been acceptable in France and Scotland, but grand foreign matches for English princesses would not be acceptable for the English crown. A French king? A Scottish king? We weren’t ready for that.


  2. sighthound6 on said:

    As an aside, the belief that John of Gaunt was changeling was still extant in the early 15th Century. It *may* -stress- *may* help explain why Henry IV went to the extreme and bizarre length of claiming the throne through his mother.

    A theory I am toying with is that Louis XI was keen to destabilise England; he was concerned about a possible detente with Brittany which would bring Henry Tydder home (and reconcile him to Edward IV) and marry Edward Prince of Wales to Anne de Bretagne. This was such a threat to French policy that he had to act. He had long been spreading rumours that Edward IV was a bastard; now he had him murdered, while putting fresh rumours out there. His agents might even have discovered the magic bullet – the truth that Edward IV had been married to Eleanor Talbot.

    According to Colin Richmond, Elizabeth, Duchess of Norfolk – Eleanor’s sister – was in a social circle that included both Buckingham and Margaret Beaufort, Lady Richmond. This circle may – knowingly or unknowingly – have become a tool of French intelligence. Buckingham and Maggie B had everything to gain from the destabilisation of the Edwardian regime, although they were not necessarily working to the same end. They might have been quite happy to work with the French to destroy the Yorkist dynasty.

    Maggie B was in the happy state of being on a two way winner. Either Edward prospered and her son came home and married the king’s daughter; or the Yorks came crashing down and her son came home either as king or right hand man to Buckingham. With clever manipulation – and she was clever – she would almost certainly end up with a winning hand. Stanley would be only too happy to join whatever lot came out on top.


    • halfwit36 on said:

      Well, Henry VI was married to a French princess – which was probably what put the English off of such alliances for a while. But since neither Elizabeth of York nor any of her sisters was heiress to the throne at this time, the idea that there could be a French King of England, or a Scottish one, probably never occurred to anyone. Besides, who else was there? The King of the Roman’s (Maximillian) son? He didn’t have one. Some obscure Scandinavian royalty? Possibly someone from Spain or Portugal? Were there any the right age? If so, why was this not even mentioned as a possibility?


    • David on said:

      I have read the suggestion before that Louis XI could have had Edward killed because the future looked bleak for France – he was dying and his heir was young. England, on the other hand had a strong king, an heir and a spare with a future marriage with his neighbour Brittany and the prospect of the stettling of any residual Lancastrian worries. I suggest you consult Commynes. He was a member of tbe french council until 1485 and at times Louis’s close advisor. He is usually open about Louis’s schemes, but records that he heard the news of Edward’s death with great sorrow.


  3. viscountessw on said:

    The French and Scottish possibilities for Edward IV’s daughter did not actually happen, but were once intended. They were only mentioned above as ‘could have beens’. Agreed, the girls were not heirs to the throne, but when Henry VII legitimised them, they were in line. If that were to happen, and these particular foreign matches had been realised, their husbands would not have been to English liking.

    This post was inspired by something I read, and I went with it from there. I do not claim to be absolutely, strictly factual to the last dotted ‘i’ and crossed ‘t’, nor did I pretend to have thought of every possibility. The whole thing is conjecture and fiction. As was The Da Vinci Code.


  4. sighthound6 on said:

    I find, on checking my source, that Richmond does not mention La Beaufort in the context, although there were certainly links between MB and Elizabeth Talbot. Kinship for one thing. On the other hand, he does mention John Morton. The relevant source is The Paston Family in the 15th Century, The first phase, pp192-3. There was a definite ‘Lancastrian’ connection around Duchess Elizabeth. I find it intriguing, although what the full SP was, heaven knows. King Richard clearly saw Elizabeth as OK, given that he granted her Chelsea. (Which MB apparently ‘persuaded’ her to grant to Reggie Bray after Henry VII’s accession. Sniff, sniff. A lot of ‘persuading’ got done under Henry VII – make you an offer you can’t refuse sort of thing.)

    I smell something fishy.


    • Richmond – the denialist with a sense of humour?
      I don’t think Edward IV would have allowed a “Tudor” back into the country for a marriage. A funeral, yes, after a quick visit to SE London.


  5. halfwit36 on said:

    We have to remember that we know how everything turned out – they didn’t. They were just living from day to day, as we do now.


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