The accounts for the Duchy of Cornwall, ordered by Richard III in June 1483….
“The accounts for the Duchy of Cornwall for 1483 – a momentous year in English history – are to be sold at Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts Sale in London on 21 March. They are estimated at £4,000-6,000.
“The records were taken to Bonhams offices in Exeter for valuation, having been bought as part of a job lot at a local auction in Devon. They were drawn up on the orders of Richard III who came to the English throne in June 1483. His brother Edward IV had died earlier that year, and Richard had been appointed Protector to his 12 year old nephew, who succeeded his father as Edward V. When Edward V was denounced as the product of an unlawful marriage, he was stripped of the crown and Richard declared the legitimate king in his place. Edward and his brother Richard were imprisoned in the Tower of London, where they were later famously murdered, traditionally on the orders of Richard III.”*
“The Duchy of Cornwall was created by Edward III in 1337, specifically to produce an income for the heir to the throne. It covered, and still covers, areas outside Cornwall -mainly in Devon, including Plympton, Tavistock and Exeter. The accounts for sale are for the period Michaelmas, 22nd year of Edward IV’s reign to Michaelmas, the first year of Richard III’s year i.e. 29 September 1482-29 September 1483. During this time, the position of Duke of Cornwall was held by the future Edward V, and then by Richard III’s son Edward (who died the following year at the age of 10).”
“The records are highly detailed, showing totals for rents, sales and court receipts for each manor within the Duchy, with the names of the bailiffs or reeves. The receipts for tin mines were particularly valuable. By this period, the profits from the Duchy were worth around £500 a year. By contrast, the annual average wage of a labourer was then about £2.00.
“Bonhams valuer in Exeter, Sam Tuke, said, ‘It is always exciting to come across something so special. The accounts are particularly interesting because they include details of properties in Devon as well as in Cornwall itself. They are of course, written in mediaeval Latin, but our specialists were able to decipher the text, and reveal their true value.’”
* Traditionally usually means “according to Tudor propaganda” and should not be believed in this case. It is not known what happened to the boys in the Tower, but to lay the blame solely at Richard III’s feet is naïve. If he was in the business of murdering his brothers’ children, there were many others he would have disposed of as well. On the other hand, there were people who would have benefited from the boys’ deaths, including Henry VII, Margaret Beaufort and the Duke of Buckingham. Henry certainly didn’t want them around when he had to make Elizabeth of York legitimate in order to marry her. So forget Richard in this matter, and look to his enemies.
Postscript: Here is a link to a further article about these accounts. It contains much more information about the discovery. Just look away when you reach that word “hunchback”!