Why did Richard III allow Elizabeth of York such liberty at his court….?


Medieval Court – detail of a 15th-century miniature. (Royal 16 F II, f. 1) British Library

Today, 10th August, is my birthday, and on this date in 1485, the last Yorkist king, Richard III, was in Nottingham preparing for the imminent invasion of his realm by his Lancastrian foe, Henry Tudor, who didn’t have much of a blood claim to the throne but touted himself as the last remaining heir of the House of Lancaster.

Published by John Player & Sons, after Unknown artist.
Colour relief halftone cigarette card, 1935

Richard hadn’t had an easy time since coming to the throne, in fact he’d been through some harrowing experiences. His only legitimate son, 10-year-old Prince of Wales, had died on 9th April 1484, closely followed in March 1485 by Richard’s much-loved queen, Anne Neville. He’d had to repel an earlier invasion by Tudor, which had been aborted at the last minute, and put down the Buckingham rebellion. He’d endured many unpleasant rumours about murdering his nephews, aged twelve and nine, and also of having incestuous/marital intentions toward his own niece.

Richard III, Queen Anne and their son, Edward, Prince of Wales from Rous Roll

All this on top of his eldest brother Edward IV’s sudden death in April 1483, the revelation that his, Edward’s, marriage had been bigamous and that consequently Richard himself was the rightful king. He and Anne were crowned on 6th July that same year. Now he was alone, a grieving widower and father, with another invasion imminent. Small wonder he took some time out at Nottingham to go hunting with friends at Bestwood (Beskwood, as it was called then) just north of the city.

from Livre de La Chasse by Gaston Phoebus

It was while there that he heard of Tudor’s landing in Wales, and therefore the battle was fast approaching. On 22nd August 1485 the two armies met at Bosworth, where treachery brought about Richard’s violent death. He was only thirty-two, and was killed while fighting mightily to get at Tudor himself. Perhaps Richard was glad to go, to be with his wife and son again in a better place.

Henry Tudor’s arrival at Mill Bay 7 August 1485, by Graham Turner

My purpose today is to discuss something that happened over a year earlier a month before his son’s sudden death….the March 1484 appearance at his court of the illegitimate daughters (and possibly their mother) of his late brother, Edward IV. The 19-year-old eldest girl, Elizabeth of York, was the one Richard was soon to be accused of wanting in a way no uncle should.

Elizabeth of York and her sister Cicely/Cecily

When Richard died he left behind some mysteries that consume us to this day. First and foremost, of course, is what happened to Edward IV’s two sons, Edward V, aged twelve, and Richard of York, aged nine. On their father’s death, Richard became Lord Protector and took Edward V into his custody. The younger boy had always been with his sisters and mother, Elizabeth Woodville, in sanctuary at Westminster, where they’d fled when the Woodville plot against Richard failed—she had a large family in high places thanks to Edward IV’s indulgence—and the new boy king fell into the Lord Protector’s hands while en route to London. The Woodvilles had intended to seize Edward V, rush his coronation and keep him under their control. Richard would have been assassinated, so Elizabeth Woodville had good reason to fear him. Fleeing into sanctuary probably seemed her only option. As did taking a lot of crown treasure with her! It’s understood she had a hole broken in the sanctuary wall in order to haul all the loot through.

The boy Richard of York was eventually given into Richard’s keeping, to join his lonely brother in the apartments of state in the Tower in May 1483 (it was a palace as well as a fortress). They both seemed to disappear from history after late summer that same year, but had been seen practicing archery and playing in the Tower grounds. And Richard was still issuing writs in Prince Edward’s name as late as 16th September. Richard has always been blamed for their deaths (the usual accusation is that he had them smothered) even though no bodies/remains have ever been found. No, they are not in that urn in Westminster Abbey! Many of those bones are from animals.

The Princes in the Tower. Cigarette card, from series on Famous Boys, published by Godfrey Phillips, early 20th century

At the time it suited the Tudors, Lancastrians and Woodvilles—and still suits Tudorite historians to this day—to trumpet that Richard was the original murderous Wicked Uncle. If he was, why on earth didn’t he dispose of other awkwardly legitimate nephews and nieces too? The two boys weren’t the only Yorkists with claims to the throne. His other brother, George of Clarence, had a son and daughter too, but they were barred from the throne by their father’s treason and attainder. Attainders could be reversed, so these children were dangerous to Richard, if he wanted to view them that way. He could have binned the whole lot, his sisters’ offspring too, had he wanted, but he didn’t. It was left to the blood-drenched Tudors to rid the world of just about every Yorkist they could think of, women and all. Yet Richard is always accused as if he was a mass killer on a jaw-dropping scale.

Every single Tudor is much more deserving of being called a mass murderer. They even executed George of Clarence’s children, who had survived safe and well under Richard. The hero of Bosworth trumped up a charge against the by then 24-year-old Edward, Earl of Warwick, and chopped his head off. He beheaded Richard’s illegitimate son, John of Gloucester, as well. Among others. Henry VIII condemned to the block George of Clarence’s daughter, Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, who was sixty-eight. But then, the delightful ‘Bluff King Hal’ liked to chop off his wives’ heads for good measure. Including the one for whom he’d caused such upheavals in the Church, leading to the religious bloodbaths of the following reigns.

Tudor propaganda also spouted that, to secure his nephew’s throne for himself, Richard falsely declared Edward IV’s children illegitimate (this was thanks to evidence provided by Bishop Stillington in 1483 that Edward IV had been married to someone else before his bigamous union with Elizabeth Woodville). Well, the children of bigamy couldn’t inherit the throne. Period. Then it was said that once Richard became a widower (having poisoned his now-infertile wife, Anne, of course) he intended to marry his eldest niece, Elizabeth of York.

It would seem that her illegitimacy didn’t bother Uncle Richard as much as it was to bother Henry Tudor, who turned legal cartwheels in order to make her trueborn again. Henry  even tried to suppress/expunge all legal evidence of her illegitimacy by destroying royal and parliamentary documents. Indeed, if a copy of Richard’s right to the throne, known as the Titulus Regius, hadn’t survived, we might never have known what really happened. The Tudors were nothing if not thorough when it came to hiding their bloody tracks. See http://www.richardiii.net/2_7_0_riii_documents.php.

Extract from Titulus Regius

The warning signs were there from the moment Richard breathed his last at Bosworth, because Henry promptly declared his own reign to have commenced the previous day. Thus he branded traitor every man who had supported their anointed king, Richard III. It was a dangerous precedent to set, and ever afterward Henry remained jittery about suffering  the same fate. Serves him right. But he’d set the guidelines for the Tudor prospectus and it should have alerted everyone who’d supported him that they’d made a monumental mistake! But England was to suffer over a century of the gruesome House of Tudor.

Richard III had every true claim to the crown of England. He was Edward IV’s only surviving brother and had a son and heir of his own whose destiny was to follow his father on the throne. The latter wasn’t to happen, of course, but at the time Titulus Regius was drawn up, Richard’s queen and son were still very much alive.

Contrary to an intention to marry Elizabeth, on being widowed Richard embarked on arranging royal Portuguese matches for himself and his niece. He had no option but to marry again because kings needed heirs to secure their thrones. So these Portuguese matches were purely practical matters. He was still a young man and had no reason not to hope for more children through a much more acceptable and conventional marriage, so why risk a dangerously incestuous match, the very idea of which was anyway bound to be abhorrent to him? He was conventionally pious. Conventional in every way. Marrying his niece would be a line across which he would never tread.

There was, of course, a now-lost letter supposedly written by Elizabeth to Richard’s friend, cousin and ally, John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, begging him to intercede with Richard on her behalf. When referring to Richard, this letter was couched in what appeared to be rather inappropriately affectionate terms. Whether the letter ever existed, I don’t know, but it’s certainly lost now. Maybe Elizabeth did have improper feelings for her uncle (Richard was a handsome young man and had been kind to her), but I doubt very much if he returned those sentiments. When he at last felt compelled to deny publicly that he had intentions toward his niece, he was definitely telling the truth. We’ll never know what Elizabeth thought of Richard, except that she didn’t once speak out against him. Nor for him either, of course. She stayed silent. I’m sure Henry Tudor would have loved her to accuse Richard of all sorts crimes, but she held her tongue. In public, at least.

Picture by viscountessw

I know you’ve read all the preceding before and have concluded that if anyone really needed to marry Elizabeth of York, it was Henry Tudor, whose success at Bosworth was solely due to the two-timing Stanley brothers, one of whom pulled a sickie to avoid the battle . The other turned Judas and set his men on Richard at a pivotal moment. With allies like them, who needed enemies? But mere conquest wasn’t enough to make Henry safe. You’ll probably be relieved to learn that I don’t intend to drone on about his Beaufort antecedents. The heir of the House of Lancaster? Give me a break. Richard’s supporters weren’t about to take Bosworth lying down, and Henry’s blood-claim to the throne was gossamer thin.

It was this very tenuousness that meant he had to do something to secure for good the support of the countless disaffected Yorkists swarming around his stolen realm. They’d given him their aid at Bosworth solely because they wanted Edward IV’s blood on the throne again, and he had vowed to marry Elizabeth. Should she have died, then he’d marry the most senior surviving daughter instead. If he didn’t keep his word, his reign was going to be as brief as Richard’s, if not briefer. And the good old unreliable Stanleys were just as likely to switch sides again. They were great at watching their own backs and stabbing everyone else’s.

Sir William Stanley places Richard’s crown on Tudor’s head

The younger of the brothers, Sir William Stanley, who’d struck the decisive blow against Richard, was said to be the man who found Richard’s crown in a bush and placed it on Henry’s head. I don’t think he stayed happy with the consequences, because he eventually turned coat again to join a Yorkist plot against Henry. Sir William believed the claimant Perkin Warbeck really was the younger son of Edward IV, Richard, Duke of York, and wanted Edward IV’s proper line back on the throne. Henry’s exertions with Elizabeth of York in the marriage bed weren’t enough for Sir William. Their offspring weren’t proper Yorkists, whereas Perkin was the Real McCoy! Hey-ho, what goes around comes around.

Perkin Warbeck

To return to the main narrative. Henry had realized before leaving exile in Brittany and France to invade England (France was financing him) on this, his second bid for the crown, that marrying Elizabeth of York was a necessary evil. Without her the clarion calls to the banners of the White Rose would soon echo across the countryside, and the lord regarded as Richard’s chosen heir, his sister’s eldest son, John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, had rather selfishly survived Bosworth.

Henry was to dither about Lincoln, at first trying to win him over (what a trophy he’d have been for Richard’s killer!) But Lincoln couldn’t stand Henry or what he embodied, and so the dithering eventually led to the last true battle between the warring houses of York and Lancaster. The Battle of Stoke in 1487 saw the end of Lincoln, and Henry dared to give a small sigh of relief. But the battle only went Henry’s way because Lincoln’s men believed (rightly or wrongly at that precise moment) that Lincoln had been killed. They fled the battlefield, and at some point Lincoln was indeed mown down, which didn’t please Henry, who wanted him alive to be “worked upon” for information..

Henry’s respite wouldn’t last, of course, the shadows and ghosts would always follow him. Lincoln (who had a number of brothers) was probably the reason why Henry began to systematically eliminate the remnants of the House of York, and why the succeeding Tudors continued the bloodfest.

Anyway, to return to 1485. As Henry prepared to sail with his army of English traitors, Frenchmen and other foreign mercenaries, he took a solemn vow in Rennes Cathedral that he would marry Elizabeth and through their children bring the warring factions in England together at last. Noble sentiments, but he just wanted the crown, make no mistake of that.

Rennes Cathedral

First, however, Elizabeth had to be legitimized again. Henry was in a delicate enough position already, without adding to it by marrying a baseborn queen, even if she was Edward IV’s eldest daughter. He had to be a legitimate king with a legitimate queen. But he made sure to have himself crowned first on 30th October 1485. He wasn’t about to be dubbed Elizabeth’s consort, so he didn’t marry her until 18th January 1486.

Marriage of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty

Elizabeth’s own coronation didn’t come until 25th November 1487, after she’d done the right thing and presented him with a son in the September. Hm, yes, the maths are a little iffy. The baby was a bouncing eight-monther. It was said to be a happy marriage, and that he didn’t stray from the marriage bed even once. I’d like to know how they can be sure of that!  Was he followed 24/7?

What Henry didn’t need was his wife’s tiresome brothers, whose claim to the throne had become legal and vastly superior to his own from the moment he legitimized her. The boys’ whereabouts were unknown, of course. They certainly weren’t in the Tower, because one of the first things Henry did on reaching London after Bosworth was instigate exhaustive searches. No one knew anything at this point…and so Henry crossed his fingers, but if he had found the boys in the Tower you can bet your bottom dollar he’d have them disposed of. Hellfire, their claim to the throne was going to be infinitely better than his own because he was going to legitimize their big sister in order to marry her and produce the vital half-York, half-Tudor offspring!

 So, if any such murdering of boys did go on in the Tower, my money would have been on Henry in the very early days of his reign. But there was no proof they died at all, let alone were murdered. It was all smoke and mirrors. Henry ordered the further spreading of rumours that Richard had done away with his nephews, but the Tudor fingers remained very tightly crossed. Richard murdered them! Richard murdered them! The mantra worked, in a great part because Richard had failed to produce the boys to refute the charges. Down through the centuries the same chant can still be heard by rote. And we all know Shakespeare’s part in the lies. But then, he did want to please a Tudor!

If Elizabeth knew that her brothers were still alive, she couldn’t have told Henry before she travelled south from Sheriff Hutton after Bosworth. They’d never met before then. Perhaps she did tell him—he was going to make her Queen of England, so it was in her interest to hitch her waggon to his. But by then he’d already set the ‘Richard was Evil’ ball rolling. And as he hadn’t found any bodies or any sign of where the boys were, he would ever afterward be angst-ridden that they were going to come after him for their throne. If Richard had set out to torment Henry from beyond the grave, he succeeded brilliantly!

Now, to my main point. (At last, did I hear you cry?) For me, Edward IV’s daughters appearing at Richard’s court presents an important and intriguing indication about their brothers. Two of the three youngest girls were children under Richard but made good marriages as Henry’s sisters-in-law. The youngest girl, Bridget, was little more than a baby in 1483, and became a nun. As for the two eldest girls, Richard not only welcomed them to his court, but treated them well—and he probably welcomed their mother, Elizabeth Woodville, who’d schemed against him and whose family had almost certainly intended to assassinate him before he even reached London immediately after Edward IV’s sudden demise. Whether she returned to court or not isn’t quite certain, but she certainly accepted Richard, gave her younger son into his care in 1483 and permitted her two eldest girls to go to his court.

Elizabeth Woodville

Would a woman like Elizabeth Woodville have all done that if she really believed Richard murdered her sons? I think not. She had reason to fear Richard, having worked against him, but she apparently came to trust him. It was to be her sour Tudor son-in-law who’d steal her property and kick her off to the wilds of Bermondsey Abbey for the rest of her days. Under Richard she—or at least her daughters—enjoyed the luxury, privileges and entertainments of court life.

Nevertheless, her two senior daughters, Elizabeth and Cicely had presented Richard with a problem. Or so it seems to me. Even though they were illegitimate, they were still a magnet to ambitious enemies (Henry, for one—and if Elizabeth had died, he had his eye on Cicely instead), and what’s more, they were not only marriageable, but of beddable age too. In less than a year they could produce annoyingly legitimate sons whose calculating eyes would soon slide pensively toward the throne. Henry should know, for hadn’t his eyes turned to someone else’s throne?

Edward IV

It seems that Richard solved the Cicely problem first, by marrying her to Ralph Scrope, younger brother of one of his northern supporters, Thomas, 6th Baron Scrope.  It wasn’t a particularly grand union for a king’s daughter, even though she was baseborn, nor was it particularly lowly, but it still surprises me. To begin with it was low-key…its very existence was only discovered recently. Perhaps it was a lovematch? Perhaps they married behind Richard’s back? We’ll never know, and anyway, as soon as Henry stepped up to the throne, with Elizabeth of York safely tucked up as his wife, he had the Scrope marriage annulled. Cicely  was the second surviving daughter of Edward IV, and had to be plucked from a dangerously Yorkist marriage and placed in the custody of a safe Lancastrian relative. Take one pace forward his dependable half-uncle, Sir John Welles (Henry’s mother’s half-brother), who was rewarded by elevation to the rank of Viscount Welles.  And so Cicely became the first viscountessw! ☺

Cicely/Cecily of York, second surviving daughter of Edward IV

Thus, if we discount Cicely as being married to Ralph Scrope during Richard’s reign, and the three youngest girls as being too young, there remained the most important one of all, Elizabeth of York. There she was, beautiful, charming and desirable, welcomed by Richard and Anne, and wandering freely around court. Her importance would have been enhanced still more if Richard really had done away with her brothers. So, I have to ask, would he really have permitted her such freedom and access to court if her brothers were indeed dead?

Not everyone believed Edward IV’s children were illegitimate, nor did everyone want Richard on the throne. Yet Richard and Anne treated her and her sisters with overt generosity and kindness. Why? Simply because he was a benign uncle? Well, maybe—even probably —but I think he had an ulterior motive as well.

One of the first questions always asked is, if the boys were still alive why on earth didn’t Richard simply produce them and put a stop to the rumours? Why indeed. My feeling is that he couldn’t show them because they were no longer in the Tower or indeed in his personal care. No, they weren’t dead, rather do I think he’d sent them somewhere to safety very early on in his reign, well away from Lancastrians to whom they were a grave impediment to Henry’s ambitions…and from Yorkists who wanted Edward IV’s line back on the throne, illegitimate or not. But something eventually happened to the boys, I don’t know what, but believe it was after Richard’s death. Were they hidden with Richard’s sister, their aunt Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy? Did they die of some pestilence? Accidents? It could have been anything. Margaret—Yorkist to her elegant fingertips—loathed Henry, and certainly wouldn’t announce their deaths. She’d want him to stew in his own juice. Which he did.

Margaret of York, Duchess of York, sister of Edward IV and Richard III

Without her brothers, Elizabeth would be the Number One of Edward IV’s children, in the eyes of many the true Queen of England, and Richard would have had to keep a very tight grip on her. But what does he do instead? He promises publicly to do all he can for them and provide for their future, and to always treat them well. Thus he entices them from sanctuary into his care. But he wasn’t saying and doing this under false pretenses. No, he meant every word. He would take good care of them. And they were delighted to go to him. They trusted him, and so enjoyed the complete liberty of court, new clothes, fine company, dancing, music…Oh, how they must have been missing all that when they were banged up in sanctuary.

It’s my contention that after his treacherous cousin Buckingham’s unsuccessful rebellion in October 1483, Henry’s aborted invasion of the south coast at the same time (it seems a two-pronged attack was intended, Buckingham from Wales and the west, Henry from the south, Devon and Dorset) as well as the ever-louder whispers about the murders of the boys in the Tower, Richard felt he had to do something to deal with the rumours and let Henry know that even if a second attempt at invasion were successful, the path to the throne wasn’t quite as pretty and primrose as he hoped. The boys stood in his way.

Richard knew his ploy had to be subtle—guileful even—to persuade at least some Lancastrians, Woodvilles and Edwardian Yorkists not to be too hasty about throwing in their lot with the Lancastrian upstart. Bringing the girls out of sanctuary would certainly give pause for thought in the relevant circles. Surely Richard wouldn’t let Edward IV’s daughters wander freely at court if they were their father’s principal heirs. Therefore their brothers had to be alive and well, and still in Richard’s care.

Henry wasn’t deterred from invading again—I think he’d gone too far to back out—but he was convinced the boys still lived and so scoured the Tower for them after Bosworth. He had to get rid of them, and maybe he managed to do just that. But his subsequent behaviour suggests he hadn’t a clue where they were. They’d vanished. Impasse. Where were they? Safe in some Yorkist haven, soon to grow to manhood and return to claim their rights?

If Richard really had been a murdering monster, he’d have killed and buried the boys and then imprisoned the girls before burying them as well. But he wouldn’t be able to stop there. He had other nieces and nephews, and they were legitimate. They were to die once Henry got hold of them, but they all lived happily while Richard was king, including John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, who subsequently became useful as a temporary heir when Richard’s son and then his queen died. Richard obviously expected to have new heirs of his own when he remarried and didn’t for a moment think Lincoln would really become King John II, but if the worst happened, Lincoln was a man grown, experienced and a truly loyal Yorkist. He’d make a fine king.

John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln – well, not really, there are no portraits of him. This picture has been adapted from Portrait of a Man with a Red Hat, Titian (15th century) by viscountessw in the 21st century!

There was no dark side to Richard III. He wasn’t a bloodthirsty monster or child-killer, but an honest man who in 1483 found himself in an impossible position. He would have become a great monarch if he’d lived long enough to prove it, but Henry got his way, stole the throne and married Elizabeth of York…having first made sure his coronation was safely over. He wasn’t about to be labelled her consort! He was kingy, and she had to wait to be his queeny. But he remained haunted by the missing boys throughout his reign. He dreaded their return. Maybe Perkin Warbeck was indeed the younger of the boys, Richard of York…in case he was, Henry sliced his head off. But there was still the older brother, the more important Edward V, who would have succeeded his father had his illegitimacy not come to light.

Is it a flight of Ricardian fantasy for me to perceive in Henry’s death mask the dying horror of seeing vengeful Yorkists coming for him at last? Yes, probably too much fantasy.

So there you have it. In my opinion, the arrival of Elizabeth of York at her uncle’s court suggests to me that Richard was letting his opponents know her brothers were still alive and under his protection. It was a risk, not least because Henry’s scheming mother, Margaret Beaufort, was also at court, and doing everything she could to support her son. Margaret was very definitely the enemy within, and there were others too, but Richard thought it worth the risk. And, as far as I’m concerned, it worked to some extent. But thanks to Tudor indoctrination, his not having actually produced the boys had the unwelcome side-effect of marring his reputation through the centuries.

Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, Henry VIII and Jane Seymour from a mural that was destroyed by fire at Whitehall Palace

Now I don’t doubt that many will disagree with this theory, and will probably say so. There may be holes in my reasoning, but I see these events as a strong indication that the boys in the Tower were still alive and remained so right to the end of Richard’s reign.

And for Henry, Richard’s ghost—and those of his nephews—always waited in the shadows, taunting the first Tudor king. Taunting the entire House of Tudor throughout its ascendancy.

The Battle of Bosworth fought again in the sky by ghostly armies
illustration by viscountessw



  1. Happy Birthday vicountessw 🙂

    Interesting post, I never considered that angle of the argument before (concerning Elizabeth of York). If Richard was eliminating threats to his throne, why didn’t he immediately marry Elizabeth off to some minor nobleman? It just doesn’t make sense, especially if the boys were dead since that would make her a much larger threat.

    Furthermore, how stupid would it be to send Elizabeth off to a foreign country to make a royal match if her brothers were dead? What would stop her husband from coming back with an army and attempting to take the throne in the name of his wife?

    Definitely food for thought!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Elizabeth was a woman she is no real threat to Richard at this time no one will consider a woman to rule Richard was the last yorkist Male so he was the obvious choice.
      And Richard planned Elizabeth to marry second son of Portugal king who will never expected to him to be king at first place.
      And no she can’t persuade her husband to fight Richard Portugal has a good relationship with england for long time he can’t destroy it for his wife’s sake.
      But Richard conceal her sister’s marriage with Scottish king Scotland was old enemy to england he obviously didn’t trust her at all to marry with old enemy


  2. That first image! (from a real late 15th century manuscript) 😊 The faces are drawn in such an unusual style for this time period! Also Japanese manga-like! So adorable and child-like they look!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hmmmmmm….Since Richard hotly and publicly denied any intention of marrying Elizabeth, why did he not say so> “Far from wanting to marry my niece, I am arranging a marriage for her with Manuel of Portugal.” Probably because it was not a done deal Before the Portugese Royals would settle for the illegitimate daughter of an English king for their heir, they would want a sweetner – a legitimate mate, a bigger dowry, etc. Richard could not admit that he himself was part of the deal, as Anne was not even dead yet. Maybe the Portugese just wanted to unload a spinster princess? Or either Elizabeth or Richard was unwilling and stalling for time.

    A similar argument applies to the fate of the Princes. If Richard has sent them to a place of safety, why not simply say that he had done so? He did not have to say where, or send them both to the same place. H could move them around at frequent intervals, or leave them in one place. (Edward of Warwick was in the Tower for 14 years.) Nothing in Richard’s character suggests he was that quixotic, or noble, or just plain dopey.
    The only thing we know for sure is that they disappeared, and that was all anyone at the time knew – except perhaps Buckingham, who may have had ambitions of being a Kingmaker rather than a King
    Alternatively, there is the Baldwin theory: one of the boys died – either of illness, a suicide, or by an accidental death during an attempted rescue. The other (“Richard”) survived to be tucked away safely in a religious house & turn up as “Richard of Eastwell” many years later.
    On Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays, I prefer the first explanation, on Tuesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays, the latter.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Halfwit36’s post makes me wonder……this is pure supposition but, what if the appeal of agreeing to the marriage of Elizabeth of York and Manuel Duke of Beja was that Portugal could technically end up with a descendant on the throne whether Richard succeeded or failed?

      Here’s what I’m thinking: they marry off Princess Joanna to Richard and if the two manage to keep the throne and have an heir, then a half Portuguese prince is king of England…but….if Richard fails to hold onto the throne or fails to produce an heir, then Manuel of Beja could ride in and claim the throne in Elizabeth of York’s name.

      Since Manuel had Lancastrian ancestry (from both parents I think), he would have had a better claim than Henry Tudor all by himself….but add Elizabeth in to sweeten the pot…hmmmm. It could’ve potentially been a win-win scenario for the Portuguese.

      Just a random thought based on no evidence whatsoever so feel free to tell me to stuff it.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Well, Elizabeth, that’s what John of Gaunt did when he married Costanza of Castile. He went after the throne in her name. And Gaunt’s daughter Katherine became Queen of Castile. Her heirs were indeed in Lancastrian line for the English throne – at least they should have been. Don’t get me started on that upstart Tudor!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Castilian succession may have allowed for children of foreign princes to take the throne (I am not well-read on the subject, but the entirely undramatic succession of Habsburgs and Bourbons suggests so), but the English succession did not. It was prohibited by an act of parliament during the reign of Edward III, which was the root of much of the succession drama surrounding Elizabeth I.

      James VI and I shouldn’t have been allowed the throne as he was a foreign prince. By law, it should have gone to Arabella Stuart as Elizabeth’s closest kin not in the line of succession to a foreign kingdom.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. As an early riser east coast American, I’m going to beg forgiveness and blame grogginess for including the Bourbons in this comment. As if the War of Spanish Succession was drama-free! LOL

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Well, to be fair, the Beauforts were barred from the throne too but that didn’t seem to stop Henry VII; even if the legality of their exclusion was debatable it did still exist.

        Yes, Henry claimed the throne by right of conquest rather than by right of blood, but if he hadn’t been a Beaufort would anyone still have supported his attempt to take the crown? If he had no royal blood at all, would he still have been able to invade and become king?

        If we conclude that yes, people would still have supported him IF he married Elizabeth of York, then we circle back to the same argument (although, crucially, we are speaking of an English husband claiming the throne in Elizabeth’s name this time rather than a foreign one).

        Xenophobia was rampant in Europe during the Middle Ages, so I have no doubt that a foreign prince attempting to claim the throne in the name of his English bride would probably not have been well received at the time, legal exclusion or no.

        The fact remains though that many foreign princes DID try to claim the thrones of other countries throughout the time period (like John of Gaunt and Castile, Edward III and France, and the various wars between France and Spain over Navarre and Naples).

        Because of this, I think its entirely possible that the Portuguese could have viewed the match with Elizabeth of York (illegitimate or no) as being advantageous because of the possibility of advancing a claim to the English throne through her blood if the circumstances changed.

        Whether they could have been successful or not (and I agree with Michael, they most likely wouldn’t be), is another issue entirely.


      3. Good post on HVII’s and similar claims.
        A point or two: I have read that Henry IV’s limitation of the legitimationof the Beaufort line was challengeable not because of a king’s powers, but because of the substance. In effect, partial legitimacy or partial legitimacy wasn’t acknowledged. “Legitimate in one thing was legitimate in all”.
        Also-a claim of right by conquest was not so much a claim to right to rule (after all, the winner does take it) but to the extent of rule. A conqueror was not bound by the pre-existing laws or customs. [Of course, a sane conqueror wouldn’t press this too much. Notably, there were, I have read, objections to the claim by right of conquest, but Henry prevailed].

        Liked by 1 person

      4. It is certainly possible that the Portuguese could try to claim the throne (with or without a marriage to Elizabeth of York) and, of course, the Habsburgs would make just such a claim to the English throne in the 16th century based on their descent in the Lancastrian line from the Castilians. I was simply saying that, strictly legally, they would all be barred from the succession just as James VI of Scotland should have been.

        Of course, if you want to think through what the might-have-beens if we just ignored the succession law (as James VI’s partisans did in the real world) then I am sorry to say that the Portuguese stood little chance anyway. Militarily, the Portuguese were deeply invested in the conquest of north Africa at this time. Diplomatically, it would have been suicidal. Reestablishing the English alliance was extremely important to the Portuguese given their relationship with Castile. The two kingdoms had countless small armed conflicts and border skirmishes for nearly a century after the Portuguese interregnum, and had only recently (as of the time we are discussing) concluded a major war against one another. Simply put, Portugal badly needed allies and was in no position to be making new enemies — especially one as powerful as England.

        With regard to the Beaufort place in the line of succession, I do love it for being so complicated and impossible to answer on so many layers.

        On the first layer, we have “excepta dignitate regali.” Somehow, despite being the most famous complication of the Beaufort inheritance, it is the only one that has anything approaching a real answer. Richard II’s letters patent were made an Act of Parliament. The 1407 reissue, amended to include “excepta dignitate regali,” was not. An Act of Parliament surely takes precedence in this instance. This seems fairly straightforward — at least legally, but whether anyone would pay attention to that is another matter.

        On the second layer, we have Richard II’s letters patent in the original text. It awards unconditionally “any kind of honours, dignities, preeminences” to the Beauforts. Inclusion in the succession is not mentioned. It is possible that that this line was written so broadly as to ensure their inclusion. (Richard II was very fond of the Beauforts, after all.) It is also possible the succession is not mentioned directly because there was broad understanding at the time that legitimization simply did not extend to the crown. There is no evidence either way. A truly unanswerable question.

        On the third layer, we have the order of precedence regarding legitimized male heirs and legitimate female heirs. Does a legitimized male gain equal status to a legitimate male and therefore outrank legitimate females? Or do all legitimate children outrank legitimized males? There isn’t a clear answer here. The only event in English history that may shed some light on this is the short-lived scheme to wed Henry VIII’s bastard son Henry FitzRoy to his daughter, Mary. Surely, if legitimization alone would have elevated FitzRoy above Mary then Henry VIII would have had no need for such a scheme. That he considered it suggests that legitimate females outrank legitimized males, and so John of Gaunt’s daughters by Blanche and Constanza would outrank his sons by Katherine. But this is very thin evidence to go by — if you can call it “evidence” at all. Likely a second unanswerable question.

        On the fourth layer, we have Edward III’s “de natis ultra mare,” which would dictate which of Gaunt’s legitimate daughters (if any, depending on your answer to the above) outranked the Beauforts. The act was ignored in 1603 to allow for a Scottish king to take the English crown. If it was ignored in the 15th century, then the Portuguese royal family, as descended by Philippa of Lancaster, would be the senior Lancastrian line. If observed, then the Holland family, as descended by Elizabeth of Lancaster, would be the senior Lancastrian line.

        There was no clear law or precedent to determine whether the Beauforts had a right to inherit or where they’d fall within the Lancastrian line if they did have such a right.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. ” His only legitimate son, 10-year-old Prince of Wales, had died on 9th April 1483,”

    The 9th of April was a cursed day for the House of York. Edward IV died on this day in 1483. Edward of Middleham, Prince of Wales, died on the same day one year later, 1484.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gary, I don’t think we actually KNOW which day young Edward of Middleham died, only that it was in April 1484, and I would question even how old he was. There is reason to think his parents were not married until 1474, at the latest, (Richard’s activities kept him out of Middleham most of 1473 I believe), he didn’t begin structuring what we think of as his northern base until after 1475; I think it is very likely R and A married perhaps around 1473 and Edward born by 1475, and his early death not at all unusual for the time or even for noble families.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Dear Viscountessw, you DO know how to celebrate a birthday! I am late to the congrats due to two of my own family’s such birthdays (daughter, mother) and they must not be forgotten!

    Was it Edgar Allan Poe who posited that the best way to hide something was in plain sight? Or Sherlock? Whomever it was I tend to think that there is something to that little diversion – and very possibly what you are alluding to with EoY’s highly visible presence at the court in 1484 – once dowager Elizabeth Grey permitted her daughters to leave sanctuary and join QAN and R – the Crowland – Mr Anonymous – of course would be reduced to a snitty puddle over seeing the happy daughters, music, dancing, as if all would be fine. IT does imply the dowager was fine with her brother-in-law, the nieces were fine, everyone was fine… and yes, wherever the two boys were, they too were fine.

    It is easy to forget that bastard children were the norm in their lives, I myself had forgotten that Duke Charles of Burgundy had two bastard sons (still shocks me, when did he have the time, he must have conceived them literally between changing horses, he was an inveterate campaigner), and while the daughters were presumably not what we think of as important to R they would have been, for too long their marriages had floundered, NONE were married, or successfully betrothed or even en route to some prospective court where they would have lived as the intended consort to X, Y or Z (much as young Margaret of Austria was currently living at the French court, at three years old I believe).

    For R getting the daughters married – and to his adherents (both gentle birth and nobility, if not foreign princes) was a priority, alliances that would only help not hurt him – and since the two boys were both bastard and too young to be accountable in such marriages, their sisters would come first. R is just looking at the Burgundian model.

    He may have even considered one or the other would enter the Church, as so many of Duke Philip (le Bon)’s bastards had done. The other option for either or both of the two boys, probably in time, would be service to R, military service, more than an elite esquire, think of Antony le Grand Batard, who was initially esquire to Charles, saved his life at one point, became the closest member of the vast, extended family Philip had with his many mistresses. He wasn’t a servant but he was, wasn’t legitimated (until the French king Charles VIII did so many years later!) and yet was massively rewarded with lands, estates, titles, etc

    So Viscountessw, I agree, lady Elizabeth and her sisters were on view to prove that Uncle Richard was no monster, not hiding anything, and, yet, we know how spin works, especially then, as it still does.

    Happy (belated) Birthday!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Actually, I would ask what “liberty” we are saying Richard III allowed his niece? I’ll bet her goings and comings were limited, that she couldn’t write to or speak to anyone not approved by the king; and was otherwise limited in her actions.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, he’d be daft not to, Richard. After all, she may have been half Edward IV, but the other half was Woodville. But even so, I think in general she was allowed the liberty permitted for most royal women. None of them exactly popped down to the shops to buy some new ribbon or other.


    1. well Viscountessw, since you bring up this Leo business 🙂 ahh yes, my daughter’s birthday is the 8th and mom’s is the 9th (never forgiven for NOT waiting till the 9th to deliver her granddaughter on same day as her own birthday, I know you would understand this grave injustice) but my mom WAS a longtime fan of all things (I gasp as I say this) … Tudor. (Pass me the smelling salts). She was an English teacher and of course came to ugh the Tudors by way of Billy S, (don’t they all?) and of course knew nothing accurate about Richard.

      I have been with Richard since 1982 when my daughter was born and for a diversion (wow it has been a diversion!) I picked up a mystery called The Daughter of Time … and from there KABOOM.

      I loaned the book to my mom and within no more than a blink of an eye my formerly all things Tudor mom became, yes, all things Richard. She is more strident than I am! “Ad ce mur!” To the walls! Reinforcements have arrived! While I have delved deep into the weeds on Richard mom has been good, I run all my best arguments past her, and with that Leo temperament, squint before pouncing, I know when to go back and delve some more!

      wish I could say I enjoy “August” as a rule, it’s so painful, as you know what is coming up 😦 and yet, my birthday on 30 Sept is right next to Richard’s and that does cheer me up! Just hate the tail end of August, il me fait pleurer….

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I came to Richard through the same book! Josephine Tey is still responsible for recruiting huge numbers to his army of supporters. I’m relieved your mom “saw the light”. I suffered the shame of my daughter marrying a Stanley—yes, the same lot. They’re divorced now, and she’s a much happier lady.

        But yes, August is a painful month for Ricardians…if a good one for Leos.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Viscountessw, how amazing! I do think Richard has alot to do with all this (you’ll think I am nuts now), why? well, first, in 1982 I did not then, nor now, read ‘fiction’ – I blame grad school and the heaps of nonfic research material one plows through – but I wasn’t in grad school in ’82! I just had a baby with weird sleeping hours and needed something to read, WHY that book I don’t know, I had never read mysteries, not even Sherlock. No Amazon back then to scroll through and get ideas, no shopping with a new baby, it came from a catalog (my mom gets ALL of them) and it sounded different, all I knew about R was what Shakespeare wrote.

    It may have been the title, but I think it was the cover, the portrait of this evil dude, who looked anything but evil. THIS is the dread monster of Shakespearean lore? What is that quote, somebody “doth protest too much”? well, a whole lot fuss beyond what was required, today we say someone has ‘jumped the shark’ – just gone beyond the pale of any shred of credibility. TO me that is how Tey laid it out, and I was hooked.

    I don’t think Tey wasn’t trying to rewrite Shakespeare, just asking questions. What I didn’t know then was that NO one ever asks questions lol concerning R, just recycle the same VERY tired very stale pat pronouncements. Seriously, what is the point of getting out of bed if that is what you do with your access to primary sources, to literally any manuscript, any location, any institution with any document you could ask for???? I would KILL for that kind of access, and they just yawn and publish the same twaddle they’ve been issuing, words reassembled, somewhat, for decades???? Richard, we see through this!

    Somewhere I read that Philippa Langley said “Richard wanted to be found” (and presumably the looking for the Princes project is in the same vein) and I totally subscribe to that, in fact, Viscountessw, I think he very much moves among us – this sounds rather morbid but while his mortal remains were solemnly reburied, and he likely appreciated the care and grandeur, what of his soul? Whatever the soul is ‘made’ of surely that has not utterly vanished, evaporated, lost. And that soul can not be pleased to know the same claptrap and slander that was spewed in 1485 is still being peddled today! It rather belies the idea that we have a modernity to claim at all!

    as an aside, you often mention your books, are they still available? I am usually knee-deep in the weeds with Richard (currently determined to learn Middle French and Middle English, both are charming but def NOT standardized and my OCD is killing me here) and often I just need to walk away and lose myself in something else, usually that means lol more history! I started Jonathan Sumption’s massive Hundred Years’ War series (a tad dry) but I do love JR Larner’s (Joanne) adorable Dickon’s Diaries (I am not so Hicksian that I can’t enjoy a good natured laugh with Richard!) so I read quite a few things to shake myself away from my research – I would love to add your books 🙂 thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “It may have been the title, but I think it was the cover, the portrait of this evil dude, who looked anything but evil. ”

      It IS an elegant title, isn’t it? “The Daughter of Time” is truth indeed.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Re: your comments about August, mine’s the ultimate. Our son was born on August 22nd, but he wasn’t named Richard, as that accolade had already gone to his older brother!
    I really enjoyed your article Vicountessw, and all the comments following. Just to add, at 10 years old I spent a very long spell in hospital, flat on my back, and got very bored. Someone, I can’t remember who, gave me a book to read (have you guessed yet?) it was called The Daughter of Time. I’ve been hooked from that day to this, and I turned 70 in January.


  9. This is off-topic and trivial, but why the out-of-period facial hair on Henry VII’s ‘reconstruction’?


    1. It IS weird, Halfwit36. It also looks like they gave him fuller lips.

      The link attached under the pic said that the artist worked off of his death mask but when they lined up the death mask with the reconstruction you could pretty clearly see some of the liberties they took. All in all though, it looks like the artist copied the death mask well. Maybe the artist didn’t realize the beard wasn’t appropriate to the time period (?).

      What’s even stranger in my opinion though is that the death mask face is more attractive than Henry’s face in his portrait…. assuming that the death mask is probably the more accurate of the two, I wonder why the face in his portrait has much sharper (and less appealing) features.

      Weren’t artists supposed to paint flattering portraits of royals?


  10. I have a theory about that (I have a theory about everything). The standard portrait of Henry VII was painted when he went back on the marriage market, at the age of 46. Those had been 46 hard years, and in order to make Henry appear younger & more vigorous, the artist opted to paint him in a harsh front light. This helped to erase lines and other signs of age, but also all expression, except for a rather mean gleam in the eyes. Which was picked up and exaggerated by that same harsh front light.

    It is interesting to compare the NPG portraits of both kings.. Richard seems to ignore and look past the viewer, whereas ‘Henry’ seems to look sideways at the audience and challenge them. “Who are you, and what the hell do you want?” That may have been the message Henry was trying to send to, not his prospective wives, but their male relatives. “Don’t try to put anything over on me.” So he was probably perfectly happy with the portrait.


    1. Interesting observation about the lighting and the expression of Henry’s portrait! I can see what you mean now regarding both. Your point about the direction of his gaze is compelling too….most of the other subjects of the portraits from this article appear to direct their gaze away from the viewer, while Henry’s is more direct (almost challenging). Very interesting.


  11. If I look at the portraits of the Kings Henry V, Henry VI, Edward IV, Richard III and Henry VII, it is hard for me to believe, that these pictures were thought to show them in a favourable light. The reason for this is ,that we have mostly poor 16. centuries copies. And copies of copies. If we want to see contemporary portraits of quality we must look to the low Countries. The portraits of the Dikes of Burgundy are rather unpretenious and not selfglorifying like the later Tudor portraits. And it shows that portrait painting was flourishing in Flanders and that would have surely left its mark on English art as well. I wonder, where the contemporary English pictures have vanished.
    My first encounter with Richard was not “the Daughter of Time”, but Shakespeare.
    Joephine Tey came later. It is a good book, but there is one problem for me ,that it is about the wrong picture of Richard, the NPG portrait and not the earliest and probably most likely resemblance of him, the Society of Antiqaries round top portrait.


  12. I wonder if the contemporary English portraits went the same way as the medieval English crown jewels: sold after the Civil War to raise money for the treasury. It’s an interesting thought that one or two might be hidden on the continent, or possibly painted over to make a new painting.


  13. Have to point out that Richard’s son Edward did not die in April 1483 – that date was when Rchard’s brother, King Edward IV died. Just a typo?
    Young Edward of Middleham as he is known (to distinguish him from the many other “Edwards” in the story) was presented to the people of York after his Investiture as Prince of Wales in September 1483 during Richard’s Royal Progress.

    If he died exactly one year to the day since Richard’s brother Edward IV, it would be a marked coincidence which may have added an element of God’s Displeasure to the already embattled Richard – as you say, he’d been though some harrowing experiences. We know there were more to come….

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I 100% agree with you 🙂

    Even IF Richard did those things i’ve never understood why they paint him or even Mary (Kathrine of Aragon’s daughter) as bad when there was other rulers who were WAY WAY WAY worse, so much worse they make serial killers and dictators look like puppies kittens and rainbows.

    Henry VIII brutally murdered two of his wives, took Elizabeth’s and Mary’s mothers away from them, took his OWN DAUGHTER’S mothers away from them (which is even worse when you consider that Henry was supposedly really close with and loved his own mother Elizabeth of York), Henry banned Mary and Kathrine from seeing each other and he wouldn’t even let Mary visit her mother when she was on her death bed, Mary was an adult when her mother passed so thankfully she was able to spend time with her but Elizabeth was barely even three when Anne passed so she didn’t even get the chance to get to know her mother to form memories with her any of that, his actions caused Mary and Elizabeth especially Elizabeth to endure not only growing up without a mother but also hearing all the cruel things that were being said about their mothers at court, as soon as Mary’s and Elizabeth’s mothers were out of the way he threw them away like they were trash who never even existed and didn’t have anything to do with him until it was convenient for him, murdered Anne Boleyn just because she wouldn’t give him what he wanted and he wanted to get her out of the way, the same day he murdered Anne he was already marrying someone else, her completely humiliated Katherine ruining her body and soul, he took advantage of an innocent child Cathrine Howard married her and then had her murdered too FOR SOMETHING HE HIMSELF WAS DOING not caring about her young age the possible sexual assault and abuse she endured growing up, “loved” Jane Seymour and venerated her but i’d bet my life savings he only did it because she gave him a son and had she not done so eventually he would’ve gotten rid of her too, happily murdered long time loyal friends and family who even looked at him funny, there’s a good chance that he was the cause for why Elizabeth decided to never get married and have children (after all who in their right mind would want to get married when they knew how their father treated their mother, knew their father brutally murdered their mother and saw first hand how he treated everyone who came after her.. Elizabeth probably knew that if she got married her husband would have all the power and how easily her husband could do the same thing her father did), happily brutally murdered priests and other church officials stripping ancient Catholic churches of their valuables tuning them forever and to this day leaving them in ruins if that, etc I could go on and on about all the vile evil things he did but you get my point.

    I don’t know if you’ve watched the series The Tudors before but I loved how it ended. Basically the very last episode was Henry in old age nearing death and all of his victims came back to haunt him with some even going off on him. As far as I know that was fiction but like you said about Henry VII I really do hope it happened to Henry VIII too and happens to all bad people that they’re haunted by their victims and by the pain and suffering they inflicted and the lives they ruined.


  15. My first encounter with R was Sharon Penman’s book The Sun In Splendour. She also did not think Richard murdered the princes. After reading more books about him I totally agree history has defamed him. I believe that Buckingham had them killed when Richard was in the north. He had motive, he wanted more power and fancied himself in the role of King maker. He had opportunity, and he had the backing of Margaret Beaufort. They both had much to gain. Richard did not. He already had the crown the princes were not a threat to him. He was the brother that fought beside Edward never wavering in his love or loyalty., the same can’t be said of George.
    To our modern eyes the Tudors were murder ers, Henry VIII is certainly a blood drenched King. However they were distant times and women were as cattle and the church also taught that they were inferior to men and therefore Henry had the right to do as he wished, any husband could brutally beat his wife or set her aside and in many cases kill them. Henry was abusing the sanctity of the rites of holy matrimony, which displeased the pope and of course he then made himself Head of his own church. This ruthless tyrant changed the face of England, robbed the religious houses, forbade Catholics the right to worship or hold places of power. His actions would ripple down through history as protestant and Catholic’s fought for power.
    I don’t condone or like what he did, but he had the power to do it. If only Richard had survived Bosworth, how many lives could have been saved, and religious wars averted.


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