The Trial That Should Have Happened in 1483
Putting aside the mystery of what ultimately happened to Edward IV’s two sons, one enduring difficulty for a student of history is whether Richard III used the proper legal procedure in having them declared illegitimate because of their father’s precontracted marriage to Eleanor Talbot. The most (and only) significant defect appears to be the failure to refer the issue to a church court for determination. But it seems no one has fleshed out how an ecclesiastical tribunal would have litigated such an extraordinary and unprecedented matter, let alone identified which church court would have had authority to hear it.
As a retired litigator of 20 years, I undertook the challenge of researching medieval English church court procedures and precedent cases to answer four questions: Which church court would have decided the precontract issue? How would it have conducted the litigation? What evidence would it have heard? How conclusive would…
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