Henry VIII–‘Irritating’. A Historian Speaks Out!


Historians and historical fiction writers sometimes don’t see eye to eye over their respective chosen fields. David Starkey in particular excoriated fiction writers–mainly, it seemed by his rather inflammatory comments, because they tend to be a) female and b) hold different opinions to himself on certain figures  such as Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII.

Historian Diarmaid  MacCulloch, author of a vast biography of Thomas Cromwell (Thomas Cromwell: A life) quite refreshingly takes an opposite view. He is quite the admirer of the excellent works of Hilary Mantel and seems to understand that a good historical fiction can ignite an interest in  ‘real’ history in a reader by breathing life into long-dead protagonists and imbuing the prose with the feel of the age–something that often doesn’t happen with non-fiction because of its very nature. He also said he found Mantel’s portrayal of Cromwell to tally with his own studies in many respects–a high accolade.

Although a ‘Tudor historian’, while writing the Cromwell biography, he apparently  found himself very ‘irritated’ by Henry VIII, adding, ‘The more you know Henry, the more you dislike him: the intense egotism of the man and the way he distorts the lives of everyone around him.’

I don’t think many Tudor historians would have admitted such a thing in the past,  and find it very healthy and interesting that in the last few years  some  historians are modern and open-minded enough to challenge pre-conceptions about historical figures such as Thomas Cromwell…or Henry VIII…or, of course, Richard  III.










  1. David Starkey lost any and all credibility with me long ago and I can’t even watch or read anything by him without thinking he’s an inflexible idiot with outlandish and dated viewpoints. That and watching him talk makes my neck hurt because he moves his head and neck like a chicken when it is walking. 🐔🐔🐔🐔

    To me Henry VIII is a magnified version of Edward IV. Edward did not murder his wives on trumped up charges but he was certainly a bigamist while Henry practiced serial monogamy. I have no doubt given Edward’s attitudes towards women as throw-aways that the precontract (perhaps many precontracts) existed. I also think that Edward did have a narcissistic streak and was cruel, he could just smile and make his victims feel good as he played everyone.

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    1. Colleen, Edward IV must have had considerable personal allure to mask what was a very easy to catalog history of vicious behaviour, and if not Tiptoft level then darn close. I’d raise your ‘magnified’ to cruel streak on steroids, and I suppose historians/writers are forgiving (to E4) because it was targeting his military enemies?

      I recently found (finally) online Ian Arthurson’s 1991 article on Espionage and Intelligence from the WoTR to the Reformation (originally published in Nottingham Medieval Studies) and it was quite the surprise to me that E4 was so adept at using spies, torture and personally conducting the interrogation of his prisoners (as was Mr Charm himself, H7; btw, no such citations for R3 in respect to the torture or personally conducting interrogation).

      It made me think of a few tangential references, such as Matthew Lewis’ uncomfortable assertion that alone of E4’s companions who else could he have asked to deliver the killing blow to H6 but his own brother, RdG? Certainly not a lesser subject who might get ideas that it is okay to then – down the road – take Edward out when he thinks it appropriate, and certainly Edward wasn’t about to do it. If E4 did impose on his then still 18 year old brother to kill an anointed king it wasn’t the first time Edward – in my opinion – had his brother play the heavy for him.

      Horspool (2015, p.60) in his bio of R3 (Reputation) refers to Richard’s first public act as an adult, he is all of 16 years and 3 months at the time, when Edward decides his brother is ready to handle the trial and execution of Sir Thomas Hungerford and Henry Courtenay, both of whom will suffer the grisly punishment of being hung, drawn quartering in the marketplace of Salisbury (January 1469) with Edward on hand I guess to make sure little brother doesn’t waffle?

      Another incident that has bothered me is the entire ‘bad boy’ duke of Gloucester bullying sweet old lady Countess of Oxford. Every version of this arrangement between them is enough to make me ill. I don’t think there is a better example of how E4 manipulated inheritance laws to suit his political aims than the case of the de Vere estates held by the widow, which technically E4 had no control over but through little brother was able to divest them from her (and NOT in the hands of his nemesis, John de Vere, her son) without getting his hands soiled. Any rough handling would appear to be all from Gloucester (the deeds to her estates were being released to his lawyers in early 1473, he is all of 20). What makes me cringe is the ‘major’ historians are basically lazy – all one has to do is a little follow through and one finds out that E4 actually ordered this same countess, aged and frail oh my, to attend to him daily, at Easter 1473, on pain of her own recognizance of 3000 pounds and sureties of 8000 pounds – why? she was being brought in to ‘answer certain matters pending against her’ – well – NOW who is the bully?!! (found that in Wilkinson, p.242, Young Richard).

      SO, I totally agree with you! Glad someone just says it, E4 was a narcissistic bully with a definite vicious mean streak, and I do wonder what sort of political tutor he was to his youngest brother! AND yet, Edward, for all his faults, was no homicidal criminal on par with H8. Where H7 was a cold blooded murderer (Edward of Warwick and Warbeck) one has to ‘wait’ for the next Henry Tudor for such historical milestones as political prisoners – women – being tortured, burned at the stake, royal wives executed, and wholesale decimation of one’s one family!

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      1. Hello Amma,
        Thank you and WOW. I am pretty new to R-III but was going off instinct about Edward and felt that something just was not right about him and all the supposed crimes attributed to Richard by Starkey and friends. All while practically gushing over Edward’s “brilliance” and charm. I do not understand the charm bit as I see a snake wrapping around those he could manipulate. I think he was glad to have Richard in the North because Richard was figuring out that Edward wasn’t the charming big brother he believed him to be as a youth. I wonder if this is why Richard started to focus more on creating a just rule in the North? I do think Richard would have had qualms about murdering H-VI as an annointed king even under Edward’s order. I see it as very sloppy and something carried out more by retainers than Richard and even George. If Richard were to carry it out I think he would have done it with more care than bludgeoning.

        I would add the the Mowbry family to Edward’s aquisitive cruelty. Richard did try to right that after Edward’s death.

        Thanks for pointing me to some other articles, etc. I was drawing conclusions on my own about Edward and found them closely aligned with those of H-VIII the most. It is nice to know my gut feelings are right on.


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      2. Hi again Colleen,

        You have great instincts! I’ve been with Richard since 1982 (I probably qualify for a pension by now!) and it is only recently (as in the last couple months) that I have reassessed the family dynamics (as you noted, the Edward of Richard’s youth was not the same man he knew after the French campaign – not that Edward changed but Richard, and you picked up on this too, fully appreciated that that Rose of Rouen came with some rather nasty thorns).

        One could say Richard caught on, probably before the Hungerford/ Countess Oxford and Henry VI incidents that Edward was a master opportunist and could manipulate virtually anyone around him at will – much like their cousin, Warwick (Richard Neville, ie. ‘Kingmaker’) – occasionally Edward got caught, he treated John Neville, younger brother of Warwick, with such abysmal disregard (a man whom he had made the earl of Northumberland, and betrothed his daughter Elizabeth to the heir, George!) and a soldier who actually DID have the military chops (unlike gasbag Warwick) that his mindless blunder handling Montagu (John Neville) literally cost him his throne 1470! Edward also callously bungled the inheritance laws that he should have observed for John Lord Howard, the most perfect and obvious anti-Stanley of the WoTR! And Edward blithely screwed him over! The mind reels.

        Since you mentioned that you are new to Richard (and welcome!) you are so lucky to be ‘here’ at this time! When I started with Richard it was a wall of abuse all the time. It’s funny, now, when I come across articles it is “let’s see, is this ‘before-finding Richard’ or ‘after finding Richard’? Makes a big difference!

        I still ‘live’ in several standards, such as Annette Carson (now there is someone determined to ask questions!) and Rosemary Horrox (no fan of Richard, but she came up in the entrenched generation of ‘before-finding Richard” of which in he’s the bad murdering uncle in their mind – (do they ever stop and read their OWN work? Seriously, of course Richard went through the trouble of having the Three Estates vet him, vet the pre-contract, vet Stillington, and presumably the surviving Talbots – like Lord Lisle who’s wife was niece to the unfortunate Lady Eleanor – and without his northern adherents -there was no northern army at the gates of London ready to cause riot and mayhem for his ’cause’ – and while Parliament declares them illegitimate Richard sneaks off and kills them, and stuffs them under a staircase, a staircase? Really? Oh definitely a place no one uses or ever passes by! Do they think that we are idiots?)

        Anyway, I’d be fascinated to know who you have been reading, currently Matthew Lewis has been doing a fine job, he’s very good (I prefer him to Chris Skidmore and Dan Jones, and we won’t discuss David Starkey, a fraud!). My own background is Art History, my specific area, lol, is JAD Ingres, but I spent a rather long three years with (everyone’s nemesis) Napoleon! Can’t avoid him sad to say, took a detour from Richard for my grad work but ultimately it did help me in the end, after Napoleon I quite understood the relentless machinations of the “Tuddors” hahaa. Ole Miseryguts as Vicountessw called him in an earlier post created the first true police state in the modern age. Do you know that sad, pathetic little man had to sleep at night with armed guards? He had some 200 of them, in his bedchamber! From the moment the dust settled at Bosworth he kept a personal retinue of such a posse, the ones posted at the Tower eventually became the touristy ones known as the Beefeaters, but they were, in 1485, created to keep the poor lamb safe from … well, you can imagine his nightmares!

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      3. Hi again Amma,

        Oh I’m pretty infantile by comparison to you, as in just this year. I had recently lost my dog and was searching for new series to watch because I started associating what I watched with “before KB passed and after”. I ran across documentaries about the search for Richard and I became interested in the forensic processes used by the archaeologists and the historians etc as they were searching.

        My BA is in Social Sciences with a focus on Human Development, which encompasses anthropology, sociology, psychology and a bit of history in terms of how individuals process their current surroundings and those of larger society. I recently finished my Master of Library and Information Sciences which I centered on archives and historical documents and Geo Information Systems and 3D mapping. Thus I was interested in the historical documentation the maps which led to information about Richard’s hasty burial in 1485.

        Also for one of my large projects I looked at how “amateur” historians and professional historians use archives and other resources for their interests. Which again fits in with my interest in the search for Richard and how the R-III society as well as archaeologists were able to cooperate and find exactly what they were looking for. Without members of the R-III society this would not have been possible or even garnered interest, but the “professionals” provided the scientific platform and voila there he is.

        I absolutely love Matt Lewis’ work and enjoy his podcasts. I think he offers a very balanced view of Richard and the atmosphere of the era. I like that he researches like a lawyer and presents information that has been glossed over or completely buried in old archives where no-one really looks. I always thought that Shakespeare, et al. was fictionalized and even believe as Matt suggests that perhaps Richard was not the intended villain but Cecil. What better way to hide a warning to E-I but through a vilification of the last Plantagenet king who happened to have a physical condition that could be twisted?

        I have read Skidmore and Jones. Skidmore’s Richard III did not bother me I do not agree with all of his work but I do think he tried to be fair. Although some Tudor bias still comes through. Jones’s books seem to follow Shakespeare almost to the letter which shows his biases. I think he glosses over a lot where the Plantagenets are concerned altogether. In his Wars of the Roses he does start by saying he did not think Richard always sought the throne, but then goes on to talk about how brilliant Edward V was and how Richard was possibly jealous. Was he? I doubt it on both aspects, but we will never really know. However given Mark Lansdale’s assessment of Richard, I highly doubt jealousy played any part in his dealings with the prince. If anything Richard seems assured of himself in terms of intellect.

        Everything I have come across about Edward IV actually makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Then again I am highly introverted and wary of people who present themselves as it is described Edward did. I am not enamored of his persona, war tactics, or anything else like I see so many historians seem to be. In fact I think that Edward would have lost Towton, Barnett, and Tewksbury if it had not have been for many of those fighting for him. The only real brilliance I see directly associated with Edward was his use of the parhelion to get his soldiers back on track. This is not to say he did not fight his battles, or that he is dumb, but that I think he had a lot of help by people who have not been credited to the full extent.

        I do think that many historians, especially those who get sucked into an echo chamber think people will not or cannot look into what they are reading to find that there is almost always more than one way to view a topic. This is the beauty of having an MLIS for me, I (like Richard) am very analytical and look for what is cited, who has funded research, and what motives might a historian have. I have started blogging about books and lectures I have watched recently and it has been interesting to find just how many “professional” historians denigrate the R-III society or present themselves in a way that dumbs down topics. I suppose in an age of easily acquired instantaneous information, whether good or not, it is what the masses want.

        There was a book I read by a while back where the author spent the whole last chapter discussing why the society is fully of crackpot loons. He also wrote that Shakespeare is right and Richard was as twisted as his back. I haven’t written my review of this book yet on my blog. I did review a lecture where the lecturer spent most of her lecture that was supposed to be about the whole of the Wars of the Roses and Game of Thrones, but spent much of it on Richard and even went on a tangent about the society. I thought that was pretty unprofessional 😯

        I have no idea what Henry would have dreamed of but I am sure he did not sleep easily knowing that he was really only supported through Elizabeth’s supporters. It certainly seems to have been a dark time in history and mythology abounded. I think that Henry took on many of the ideas that Edward had pertaining to having spies, etc. Edward was just better at hiding and smiling about it. I think Henry VIII idolized Edward because he knew he resembled him and the mythology of Edward’s nature appealed to him. Like Edward he could hide it well for a time until those closest to him were set aside or murdered.

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  2. Well, Colleen!

    I am wildly impressed, any degree in Library and Information Science is stunning, I am so envious! My BFA is in painting (ages ago) came back for a MA in Art History because the field is dominated by scholars and writers who are not from the studio (I used to say I was surrounded by professors who wouldn’t know oil paint if you dumped a can of it over their head; I was routinely chastised for being a ‘formalist’ who privileged the artist’s Viewpoint over that of the Viewers … wish I was making this up) and I wanted to at least be part of the corrective there! (I’m actually not alone, quite a few ‘studio’ based artists do pursue corrective measures in Art History, I could go on but I will spare you the details 🙂

    But my best friend from high school went on to get her Master’s in Library Science and I know what she went through, amazing effort, her curriculum made my head spin. Alot of what I read about the science portions – from the the archaeological surveys to the forensic analysis, left my head numb – and yet, the scoliosis had me riveted, even if I barely understood how Richard could mount a horse every day and fight (medieval fighting!) I was not surprised that scholars like Michael Hicks refused to believe that the remains were indeed those of Richard (I wonder if he has since amended that opinion?)

    Coming from such different backgrounds we do – I think – intersect in one of my absolute favorite areas: research! and in particular, FOOTNOTES! I love them! I used to tell my professors that all the best stuff is in the footnotes, all the snark, anecdotal details, material for articles the author wishes that they could have written, observations that they couldn’t put in the body of the text (Matt Lewis uses this device alot, and I love him for it), and in my field, the footnote is where one scholar skewers another’s thesis, unloads on the work of a lifetime of a perceived adversary, throws in possible solutions that they just can’t put in the body of the article or text without being destroyed, professionally speaking, oh I love love love footnotes! All my best information comes from them. It’s like a giant puzzle, patching bits of info from one author, hiding some detail in their footnotes, linking it to another author, finding the full citation in yet another.

    Well, enough about footnotes. I have not read any Mark Lansdale, the name is unfamiliar to me. Is he a Tudor apologist? I have tried to read as much of the Tudor material as I can as well (not easy). Nathan Amin’s House of Beaufort is every bit as adoring as you can imagine but again, I am obsessed with research wherever I find it – also Thomas Penn’s Winter King (the first real effort I think to rehabilitate Henry VII, an effort to convince, someone, anyone, that there really was a decent guy, really, he means it!) and from what I hear Penn has a new biography of all three of the York brothers – I dread the thought of what he will do with that one. He’s a elegant apologist but a Tudor apologist all the same.

    One bio that I can recommend is the now standard King’s Mother by Michael Jones and Malcolm Underwood (1993) – it is tedious reading for the most part but if you are a careful reader you realize that it reveals just how avaricious, petty, vengeful, predatory ole Mother Beaufort was – Henry’s greed was nothing compared with his mother! She is a suffocating presence in her own biography, which is meant to be highly complimentary, but it drones on and on about how she essentially scammed this widow or that relation or this unfortunate out of their inheritance, not to mention Elizabeth of York was – to put it nicely – a shadow on the wall. Imagine if she had had the spine, the guts of her Aunt Margaret of York!

    Oh, that is another biography worth reading, by Christine Weightman, terrible title as it reflects the Tudor bias against her, “Margaret of York: the Diabolical Duchess” (fairly recent 2012) – beautifully written, M was quite the cultural and intellectual heavyweight.

    Many people (ricardians) do not seem to like Ann Wroe’s Perfect Prince (2003, over 600 pages, lol and most likely footnotes yea!) but I found it fascinating, if not entirely coherent. Then again, there is an abundance of detail (more research) on people, events, situations that filled in alot of holes that I had. Brampton, in particular, and he is one curious character! Personally I can accept Warbeck as the missing, lost, ‘sent to Aunt Margaret of York’ nephew Richard of Shrewsbury, and if not the way Warbeck related it to Margaret and Maximilian then that is likely the ‘story’ manufactured for him by Brampton (and who knows how many others).

    Before I leave off here, my comment about Henry and his nightmares, it was a reference to Skidmore perhaps, at Bosworth, where Richard apparently got within FEET of Henry, literally feet, having unhorsed the jousting champion Sir John Cheney and then killing the standard bearer Sir William Brandon and just before he could finish off Henry that is when William Stanley’s men, some 3000, had set upon the rear of Richard’s core around him.

    There are so many versions of how this went down but for Stanley to have arrived just before Richard delivered that final blow (Henry would have had no ability to fend him off) Stanley must have started his charge after Richard as soon as he saw Richard breaking off for Henry’s position behind his men. Imagine how it looked to Henry, Cheney was a giant of a man, he sees him knocked away, he sees Brandon killed, he sees a war hammer coming, and then a mass of bodies bring down Richard in what must have been a horrendous death. A slaughter of all who were with him at that point. To have come that close to death, when you literally did nothing to get yourself there, not the plotting, not the financing, not the strategizing, not the fighting, nothing, you just did what mom and uncle Jasper and the French regent (Madame Anne de Beaujeu) tell you to do … and yet, you survive that? Because William Stanley’s troops killed men from behind?

    Well, it worked, but Henry was the first king to feel the need to keep an armed guard with him at all times, at night in his bedchamber, every where he went. A king or other noble may have had a servant in their room at night, but not armed guards, plucked from the very battlefield he just came from, without even being ‘on the books’ as it were, unofficially as they were pressed into service before such details could be hashed out… only Henry’s obsession with spies and informers comes close to telling me that his insecurity ran deep and that that was one image he couldn’t escape. I actually pity Henry.

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  3. Hi Amma,
    Yes an MLIS is a fascinating degree as there are so many directions that it can be taken in but so many think that librarians only work in traditional public, academic, and private libraries. I know of people with an MLIS who work as private detectives and so much more in various types of medical and informational research. 3D mapping I think will eventually bring Richard’s life in focus more as we go form linear history to layering it vertically. What a way for us to visualize what his world was like.

    Mark Lansdale is a psychology professor that Philippa Langley hired for the R-III society during the Looking for Richard project. He gave a wonderful lecture on what he and the other psychologist he worked with came up with for Richard’s personality. They put his childhood and the era as well as how he probably handled having scoliosis into perspective. I’m sure many hard core Tudor historians would be surprised to know that he was likely not the evil and twisted usurper they like to portray him as.

    Here’s a link to his talk for the R-III society https://youtu.be/ncDtPz9Pxjw

    I really related to a lot of what Richard may have gone through as my childhood, while not in a war zone, was turbulent. I am also a proportionate little person and have a congenital spinal condition. Plus I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes as a little kid. I was also very shy and wary thus I was marked as different. Listening to Dr. Lansdale discuss Richard just made me feel more connected to the person I was envisioning.

    I am sure that coming within feet of being cut down by Richard was traumatizing to Henry. I am not sure I feel sorry for him, but I do agree that he likely built up spies and a body guard for this reason. The Stanley’s are an enigma to me. Everyone knew that they could not be trusted yet every king during the wars catered to them for support or as in Richard’s case held a hostage. These guys pulled this over decades with no real accountability. I suppose having as much wealth as they did made the difference.

    I am looking forward to reading more about the actual battle and the French connections behind the scenes. Mike Ingram’s book looks interesting to me.

    I have not read anything from Michael Hicks but I do know he wrote a forward for Desmond Seward who wrote almost a whole chapter vilifying the R-III society. So chances are I would not like his books. It’s hard to believe that with the science and historical evidence that he would discount that the remains are Richard.

    A documentary that is great about how Richard would likely have worn armor and fought is Richard III the New Evidence. It is fascinating to see someone with the same degree of scoliosis perform quite well in armor and in a Medieval saddle.

    I think Thomas Penn’s Winter King was a mix of awe and also abhorrence. There was definitely a tone of admiration in it and demonizing of Richard, so I hear you. I think the Brother’s York will be along the same line, perhaps with him placing Edward on a pedestal like other historians seem to do. Personally I think if Edward had kept it in his pants and treated those who supported him better that his heir never would have been illegitimate or at risk. Richard was quite happy in the North and only after learning about the possibility of the illegitimacy did he seek the throne. I think Elizabeth W knew that the precontract existed and the uprising after Edward died was because of that and that she did not want Richard to find out. However I have not yet read far enough into it all to say for certain.

    I have not read Nathan’s books yet, although I follow him on Twitter. I can accept the idea that Richard may have done away with the boys if he thought his own son and family was in danger. That said, I think that Matt Lewis has a pretty good argument for the boys’ survival. I did get the feeling that Dan Jones was enamored of M. Beaufort, but seriously she was lucky enough to be wealthy and be able to marry men with some degree of power. Certainly (almost) any mother, especially a single mother, if given the chance would utilize the resources she has to survive. Margaret was just lucky.

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  4. Dear Colleen,

    Honestly, we could be twins in spirit and circumstance! I am fascinated by what you are describing in 3D mapping (it sounds too good to be true, to reach past a dry, linear, mostly missing documentary level, to one that more fully realizes someone, like Richard, within the context of medical and biological reality… gives me chills!

    I’m so full of things to say I forget half of them and hit post and then think, oh, I forgot to add… so I’ll start first with thank you for the link, I will check that out first, I should have known Philippa Langley had something to do with it, between her vision and John Ashdown-Hill’s tenaciousness I suspect the ‘traditional’ or mainstream historian like Michael Hicks (and the late Charles Ross) must be feeling like some prehistoric relic.

    Desmond Seward is a travesty, LONG before I ever even thought twice about Richard I was a huge Hundred Years War buff (albeit from the French perspective! I was fascinated by Jeanne d’Arc, la Pucelle, and that is her era, if not the whole of it she has tended to dominate it through the sheer peculiarity of her life and my own curiosity). Well, Desmond Seward, in his ‘history’ of the period, manages to drive a stake through its heart and render it utterly boring… HOW I can’t imagine anyone could mishandle that period is beyond my interest to analyze but it left a permanent impression on me! The man is incompetent! And once anyone with any effort to read up on the WoTR (which I would date to Richard II’s reign) would consider Seward’s “Black Legend” typical and plodding tripe.

    I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t have time for rehashed ‘mainstream’ authors/historians rewriting the Tudor script, they should be ashamed of themselves, they are just the latest generation of ‘scholars’ working the well worn path expected of them, and I suspect Thomas Penn’s York bio will be like this – I have instead been chasing down as many of the actual ‘documents’ as I can find, I am surprised how many of Richard’s letters DID survive (across a number of locations, again, thank you footnotes!) – I prefer to find – when I can – examples of his handwriting too. Being an art major his handwriting is simply gorgeous, when you compare it to anyone else of his period, including the nobility, well, he must have been intended for the Church or Cambridge (he had a distinct preference for Cambridge).

    I don’t know why I didn’t think to start a collection of original sources before, but that file is growing, along with an odd one – every time I find a reference to known documents, evidence of something that DID exist but is now or hasn’t been extant since at least H7 I add it to my file of ‘what happened to this…?’ It includes quite a number of startling examples, rather a nice case could be made for everything that would exonerate him for the pre-contract, Hastings, even the Countess Oxford nonsense, all oddly ‘missing.’ Indeed.

    That’s why your comments about a vertical not linear approach to revealing Richard and his world at large is such a opportunity – I am witnessing an amazing time!

    I also feel for your loss of your pet, your dog. 2019 was a bad year for many of my friends and their pets, I lost, suddenly, my rescue cat (Mango) and two of my friends likewise lost their pets, one was only a cat maybe 7 or 8 months old but my friend is going through chemo for leukemia and Ginger was a lovely companion, just an unexpected loss. Many people do not understand that pets are not ‘just pets’ – I wish people had the sweet personalities of animals, my golden, and my beagle, were better than most if not all humans I have ever known!

    So many things running through my mind, your comments about Edward in particular, I think I too have given him a pass! I am aware of his vicious streak but like so many others I now think I have been sloughing it off as ‘well, he did so many other things right, it was in the context of war, he had to be that way, etc etc’

    YOU have made me reassess all that! I have been giving him a pass… Now I find myself wondering, did he know about Richard’s back, did he send some of those doctor’s I read about (E4 had a stable of them, many of whom did attend R on the Scottish campaign) – and did R have to go through some awful medieval version of braces, bindings, good grief, my mind reels at the thought. He would have been better just staying in harness (armour)! And if E did know about R’s back he obviously wasn’t concerned, he had the ‘kid’ leading his van at Barnet and Tewkesbury at 18, a complete battle newbie who lost up to 5 or 6 of his squires around him in the fighting (Barnet was a mess, R’s group was stuck fighting up a ravine, in thick fog, way off from their opposite force – Exeter – and yet he and his group managed to fight their way up and back into the fray, it was Hastings’ side that crumbled).

    And since E either didn’t know or care about R’s physical condition I now think he decided on what we call over here in the States a “good cop bad cop'” routine with his little brother, which worked out great for E and his regal opinion of himself, but the real muck was handed off to R – like the grisly execution of Hungerford and Courtenay, the murder of H6, the strong-arming of dowagers Countess Oxford and Countess Warwick (his own mother-in-law!), having his henchmen take them into hi s custody, in ‘safe houses’ (as we would call them) where E had a reprieve while he plotted his next moves concerning their inheritance and estates (E needed to keep Oxford’s finances OUT of her son’s hands, but again, it was R would be officially the one playing the heavy, on the books pressuring both women for their estates (which at any given time E could and often did remove from R’s ‘ownership.’)

    Such is my estimate of Matt Lewis that I am even willing to consider the idea that maybe R was the only one E was going to have smack the old H6 in the back of the head – the poor old man likely fell forward, onto blankets so as not to damage the face, he was exposed to view later and as such could not appear to have been murdered – but again, WHY R? why not his most trusted Hastings? Definitely not George, E4 already had enough reasons to suspect middle brother of someday relishing doing away with him! (George, like the Stanleys, are unsolved curiosities to me too; although I think the Stanley’s, especially Thomas, was a fairly transparent opportunist, ‘trimmers’ as they were called).

    Much has been made of R’s ‘hypocritical’ and moralizing tone he took after E4’s death, when he was king, again we only have the POST Tudor version of everything, the tone set in the Titulus Regius is officious, probably written by Stillington, but IF R was a bit moralistic about E4’s court and methods after 1471 I think I can understand why, maybe he resented being that ‘bad cop’ – maybe he didn’t like being the heavy, when I read in the Chancery notes that he endeavored to pay all of the countess Oxford’s debts, pay for her children’s education at Oxford (I think its Oxford), settle an annuity on her, etc, what does he ‘get’ from the historians, those modern paragons of neutrality like Michael Hicks? ‘Well, he never actually paid anything did he, do we have proof he paid anything, did he really mean it?’ As Lewis has noted, there are alot of things we might accuse R of but lying under oath in Chancery? Probably not.

    And dragging his new mother-in-law off from her sanctuary in Beaulieu (ok, that was Tyrell, but you understand) to Middleham when he is still only 20, that was to suit E, who had had it with Anne Beauchamp, dowager countess Warwick and her incessant court demands for her inheritance. He was bush in Shrewsbury setting up the Prince of Wales court, he had the very pregnant Queen along for the thrill of it, George had refused to attend this conference/ council, and E just snapped. Get the darned woman out of sanctuary, send her to Middleham; one of the Paston letters mentions George was so annoyed he was gathering armed troops to go ‘deal with Richard’ – so E made it worse.

    Anyway. That’s what you’ve done! I’m now juggling through my notes, reassessing what exactly R’s mindset must have been, lackey to older once beautiful brother; not sure he was impressed, certainly after the fiasco that was the French 1475 Agincourt-bust that bloom had gone off! I hadn’t considered him killing his nephews to protect his own son. Having them rendered illegitimate made them ‘harmless’ – removing them from the Tower and placing them elsewhere would have been the smart thing, I would have sent one to Margaret in the Low Countries if not her actual court (too politically dangerous for her) and the other one to Ireland. However, I suspect E5 never made it past Minster Lovell Hall, which would have been the first stop en route to Ireland.

    I have lots of ideas on the move-them-out theory, and it all deals with the awesome, rightly famous post-script of 12 October, in his own hand, from 1483. He was writing to Chancellor Russell, about Buckingham’s treachery. As I said, I have been collecting examples of R’s handwriting, the post-script, as a sample of handwriting is startling. Pure, raw, blistering with blind outrage, his script is fascinating, the wording quite revealing. I’ve written pages in my notes trying to assess just what line Buckingham crossed with R, it is way more than anger at an ungrateful retainer, cousin, when he refers to Buckingham as a ‘creature’ that line that was crossed is now one that has offended even God. As I have said, I look at my copies (I have enlargements, I struggle with R’s middle English, sigh, there is simply NO uniformity of spelling in middle English, is there!) and I can follow distinct streams of his thinking, pause, new thought added, pause again, and he runs out of parchment. And he tells Russell that his courier, his natural son, John, will tell him more! Amazing.

    Oh we live in wonderful times Colleen!

    ps. as a very short person myself (I claim 5′ but no one has believed that ever, I blame my height on a heart defect – it was in the AV node, well, three heart surgeries later I’m still kinda 5′ lol … so, I prefer to gauge my ‘height’ with a quote by Robert Browning –

    “Measure your mind’s height by the shade it casts!”

    I rather think you fit that quote very well!


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