Earl Rivers, What was he up to in January 1483?
I came across this page in a book The English Parliaments of Henry VII 1485 – 1504, written by P R Cavill. As I haven’t read all the book I am not sure why he is citing something that happened in 1483 in a book about Henry VII’s Parliaments. Maybe it is meant to be an example for something that happened in one of the usurper’s Parliaments. The author cites Ives “Andrew Dymock” and Rosemary Horrox “Richard III”. The book itself was only published in 2009 and from what I can see from reviews on line P R Cavill was not exactly enamoured with Henry VII either.
The English Parliaments of Henry VII 1485 to 1504, page 128
“In January 1483 Anthony, Earl Rivers was seeking the returns of his attorney Andrew Dymock, the Suffolk lawyer Robert Drury and three or four East Anglian men where he was a significant landowner and head of the Royal affinity. He made enquiries about seats at Yarmouth, but none was available. Instead he looked to the seats controlled by Edward IV’s sons The Duchy of Cornwall Boroughs, the Mowbray inheritance and possibly the boroughs around the Prince of Wales Council at Ludlow.
“Rivers subsequently heard from a Duchy servant in the West Country that there were “three Rowmes voide of Burgeses” which he therefore planned to fill with Norfolk gentry. It appears that Rivers was looking for vacancies rather than intending to overturn existing elections. He did not explain why he was seeking to influence the Commons membership. Certainly, he could not have anticipated Edward IV’s illness in late March, his unexpected death and Gloucester’s coup against his family and the Duke’s subsequent usurpation. What may have mattered was the likelihood that would hear complaints about extra parliamentary and an expensive Royal household. The Earl may have been seeking wider powers as Governor of the Prince of Wales, but it seems improbable that Members of Parliament could have played a part in pressing such a suit.”
Of course, the real attempted coup that spring was by Rivers and his supporters, not Gloucester. What may have mattered was the likelihood of a difficult session which would hear complaints about extra Parliamentary levies and an expensive Royal household.
So, what was Earl Rivers up to in January 1483? We know that in March 1483 that he was seeking confirmation of his right to recruit troops in Wales because a letter he wrote to his agent, Andrew Dymmock, exists. The same Andrew Dymmock that he was seeking a seat in Parliament for. Also, it appears, from what P R Cavill has written, the other men were from East Anglia and probably part of his affinity. So why would he want men who were answerable to him in Parliament?
The Parliamentary Privileges of the Commons: The Role of the King and his Officials. History of Parliament reports that:
“The king had to do more than simply decide when and where Parliament should meet and how long it should last. It was always important that Parliamentary affairs should be conducted in his best interests, at least as he saw them and thus for procedure to be controlled by him with the help of his ministers and other councillors”
Also, on the Richard III Forum, Doug Stamate says:
“Parliament was only summoned at the King’s pleasure, so it wasn’t in a position to act as a counterweight. The upper nobility had men, but rarely were they united enough to force a king to do something he didn’t want to do”.
Doug also wrote:
“So we end up with a situation where having some sort of personal relationship with the king is of literally, inestimable value. Edward V was a minor and whoever had possession of his person could almost run the country as they wished. As long as Edward retained all his royal power and authority and, more importantly remained under the control of the Woodvilles”.
It just seemed odd to me that Rivers was doing this in January 1483. P R Cavill says that “he did not explain why he was seeking to influence the Commons membership. Certainly, he could not have anticipated Edward IV’s illness in late March, his unexpected death and Gloucester’s coup against his family”. Several questions arise. Is it possible that this was part of the Woodvilles’ plan to take charge of the young Prince of Wales in the event of Edward’s death? How would having five or six members of the Commons benefit the Woodville cause?
Maybe Lieutenant Colombo was right after all.