Give this Knight Errant a miss….!

knight errant - wilkins

If you support Richard III and believe history has “done him wrong”, for heaven’s sake do not read The Last Knight Errant: Sir Edward Woodville and the Age of Chivalry by Christopher Wilkins.

I made the mistake, and it soon struck me that the author had learned by rote every single myth about Richard, and then served them up as fact. Although, to be fair, he does dispense with the “two years in the womb, long hair and full set of teeth at birth” yarn. We don’t have the withered arm either. I suppose even Wilkins sensed these things would be going too far. After all, he’s aiming at a modern audience, not the Tudors. I will assume that the murder of Edward of Lancaster at Tewkesbury was a crime of Richard’s that Wilkins somehow overlooked.

So, let me see. Here is some of this rubbish about Richard-

  • He murdered Henry VI.
  • He poisoned Anne in order to marry his niece.
  • Joanna of Portugal wouldn’t marry him, because he would be dead within a year anyway.
  • Richard intended from the outset to be rid of his nephews.
  • His marriage was “between brother and sister-in-law” and therefore invalid. There was no dispensation applied for anyway. Thus Edward of Middleham was illegitimate.
  • Elizabeth Woodville wasn’t plotting against Richard, she was merely afraid of him.
  • Elizabeth Woodville had a nervous breakdown, which explains her agreement to let her daughters go into Richard’s care.
  • Richard bullied the old Duchess of Oxford into giving him her estates.
  • There is no evidence that Edward IV ever wanted Richard to be Protector.
  • Stillington only revealed the untrue yarn of the pre-contract because Richard promised him his bastard son could marry Elizabeth of York.
  • History has “demonstrated” Richard’s ruthlessness.

That’s enough! Too much even. A load of old tosh, I fear, and so untrue in these important areas that I doubt the author’s portrayal of that thieving traitor Sir Edward Woodville is much better, except that it will be the other swing of the pendulum, halo and all. Can’t be bothered to finish the book to find out.

By the way, the back cover blurb even refers to Richard as ‘that genius of propaganda’! Richard? Has Wilkins never noticed the suffocating blanket coverage by the Tudors? Bah! I don’t mind honest debate, and accept that not everyone believes Richard was a good man, but I do object to this tommyrot. Trotting out the Tudor fairy tales of Thomas More, Shakespeare and the like is not good scholarship!


  1. Thanks for the warning. I will steer well clear. I have not got any polite words to comments on this – one would think that by the 21st century this extreme libelling of a good king would have stopped.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Hmmm…A whole book about a figure who we have only enough info on to fill a postage stamp. Seems more like a vehicle to enable the author to express traditionalist views about Richard III. And, as so often happens, gets it so wrong. If you’re going to rant at least get your points correct.
    Henry VI- firmly laid at Edward’s door, no matter what involvment/knowledge Richard may/may not have had. Stop white washing Edward IV too; he was not this weak, mild dumbass that some traditionalists seem to make him in their ravening effort to blame Richard for Every Major Death in the 15th c.
    Poisoning Anne…well, funny how the poisoning lasted months, isn’t it? That doesn’t indicate poison at all. Virtually every major figure who died young was labelled with the poisoning tag. Some sources say the same about Edward IV–are we going to blame the Woodvilles for that? (Certainly they behaved in a VERY odd manner around the time of his death.)
    The thing about Richard’s marriage has been disproven; various sets of royal brothers married sisters. One dispensation actually HAS been found (the author really needed to keep up on facts if he is going to make outrageous statements), and as the other had to have been received first, we can logically assume it was indeed issued. Marriages did take place without dispensations anyway; they were still marriages.
    Joanna of Portugal HAD consented, so this is just shoddy research.
    Speculating on Elizabeth Woodville’s mental state is just that–pure speculation. There is nothing whatsoever in records that would back this theory up.
    Edward’s will does not survive so we cannot know for certain if a codicil was added or not, but Richard was accepted as Protector when everything was ‘going as expected.’ Does the author really think all those great lords in attendance would calmly accept him walking in and demanding to be made Protector if there hadn’t been proof that he had been appointed? He had scarcely more than 600 men with him, including Buckingham’s.Remember, the others all had their own retainers and could have opposed him.
    I can’t comment on the thing about Stillington’s bastard son and Elizabeth of York, but it sounds rather ‘fictional’ to me-a piece of added melodrama inserted somewhere over the years to explain why the bishop would ‘help’ Richard. If it was true, one must wonder why the ‘wedding’ didn’t take place within the 2 years Richard ruled. Stillington actually did not appear to have gained ANYTHING from Richard. (Btw, the only time I heard the story of the ‘bastard son’ and EOY it was IN fiction.)

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I recently looked into the claim that Stillington helped Richard because he promised to marry Elizabeth of York to his illegitimate son. It comes from de Commynes but can’t be verified. Stillington is thought to have had 2 illegitimate sons based on the fact that they don’t appear in his family’s pedigree. However, both were clerics so not exactly marriage material. Even Hicks states in Stillington’s ODNB that there’s no evidence.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Is it not also the case that the illegitimate, as Stillington’s putative offspring would have been as a result of his clerical status, were ineligible for ordination?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. They were definitely clerics but then they may not have been his sons. This is only an assumption (not mine!) because they don’t appear in his family’s pedigree.


    1. So , it would be OK if they were NOT cultivated, lol? Sounds a bit like Anthony Woodville worship to me-lol, and yes, there are those who do. (If you write poetry, it seems you must wear a White Hat!) They may have been innocent, they may well have been guilty. Maybe they were innocent but their actions made them SEEM guilty, with dire consequences. I don’t swallow Woodville’s claim that Northampton was ‘full’ and he had to move on with Ed v. They held parliaments in Northampton in prior years. No proof that they had no trials, I suspect some cursory trial took place (and we don’t have to pretend medieval trials were fair, whoever they were held by); why bother to bring them to Pontefract just for execution as it could just have easily been done in the castles where they were held. One thing I always ask about Anthony Woodville, Richard Grey and Thomas Vaughan–other than Anthony, the others were essentially nobodies in the scheme of things. THEY were not ‘in the way’ of Richard’s ‘path to the throne.’ Richard let off lightly far more dangerous men (and one woman)than them. I suspect, right or wrong, he believed they were acting against him.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I just meant that a cultivated man would have followers who would come to his defence in print. I am not actually happy with any of Richard III’s, Henry VII’s or any other king’s murderous wrongdoings, nor do I idolise Woodville though he seems a bit more modern in outlook than the rest. I’m not a fan of Richard III but I can see he wasn’t any worse than the general run of late mediaeval warlords would have been in his unenviable situation.


  3. Well if you will go round executing cultivated, civilised and almost certainly innocent men without a trial as part of an armed coup, you can’t expect history to be very kind to you. Just saying. By “propaganda” I suspect the writer means the present-day Richard III industry.


    1. Linda: You mean like how Henry of Richmond usurped the throne and then executed everyone he could (and shoved Lizzy Woodville into a nunnery after stripping her of everything she owned besides her life)?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Indeed. I don’t think Henry Vii has had a particularly good press either. Personally, I don’t have much time for any of ’em.


      2. It is also what happens when someone reads selective sources and ignores the trial Northumberland held or the authority of the Lord High Constable. Now who was appointed to this post for life in 1471, I wonder? Carson’s latest book answers that question in great detail 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. The story of Stillington’s son has much to support it, Commynes gives a lot of detail about his trial in the French Parliament, imprisonment and death. He was in a position to know as a member of the French council.

    I believe Richard was an expert in propaganda.

    The problem is that Ricardians accept a caricature of Edward Woodville that is as far from the truth as Shakespeare is regarding Richard. He did not seize the fleet or run off with the treasury…


  5. Commines. French. Hostile. Not there. Second hand news, and as it seems Stillington’s bastards were clerics, even more unlikely.
    Who was it that actually said Edward Woodville took the treasury? Mancini? If it was him, at least he was in England that summer! If Woodville didn’t take it, one wonders why the treasury was so damn empty. Possibly Woodville episodes like their behaviour towards Thomas Cook made people suspicious of them wherever money was concerned, rightly or wrongly. They were not a loved family, no matter how you swing it (save for the Croyland Chronicler-no surprises there-Buckingham & wife were patrons of the abbey and she was a Woodville.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Actually Commynes was Flemish, poached from Burgundy because of his ability. He was Louis XI’s private secretary but also a soldier. He is hostile to both Richard and Stillington, whom he calls ‘this bad bishop’. But he is generally thought of as a primary source. I can only recommend that people read his words for themselves. The work of Horrox has shown the treasury to have been near empty as a result of the Scottish war.


      1. According to Horrox, there was close to Ł3,000 in Edward’s treasury at his death, but all of that was withdrawn by Edward Woodville’s mandate to gather a fleet. He seized a Genoese carrack at Southampton, including a large amount of gold coins which did not belong to him. He took the gold with him to Brittany. I think it’s reasonable to say that that is an act of theft from the English treasury.

        Liked by 3 people

  6. If it’s true that Edward Woodville fled to Henry Tudor with some of the late king’s treasures it was before Edward V was deposed he would have betrayed his own nephew who was recognised as King at the time which included his other uncle Richard Duke of Gloucester later Rivhard III. Sir Edward also stole from his nephew at the time when he escaped capture on the English Channel with the late King’s treasures which now belonged to his nephew the new King Edward V. Richard was accused of betrayal but there is evidence he was preparing his nephew to be crowned until he received news of the King’s parental status and the late king’s bigamy yet why has not an accusation of betrayal not been brought up against Edward Woodville? The treasury he stole probably funded Henry Tudor’s invasion of England along with the French King’s help. There is a big question mark of his loyalty to his nephew but he does not go down in history as a traitor unlike Richard. Did Edward learn about Edward IV’s bigamy earlier than Richard did or perhaps he did not flee to Brittany after all but went somewhere else, perhaps to the Spanish crusades and the treasures he took with him helped find King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella ‘s campaign against Moorish rule. But if it was to Henry Tudor there is a big question mark about his loyalty to the son of his late brother in law, Edward IV.

    Liked by 1 person

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