Reblogged from A Medieval Potpourri


 15th century stained glass from  great east window St Nicholas Chapel, Gipping.  Did Elizabeth Wydeville gaze up at this very window if the family tradition is correct.    Photo thanks to Gerry Morris @ Flikr

While there is much information on Sir James  Tyrell, c.1455-1502  available,  unfortunately some of it is erroneous and distortion at its best,  a fine example of history being written by the victor.  As we know Sir Thomas More in his History of King Richard III painted a slanderous characterisation of Sir James who he said  ‘devised that they ( the princes) should be murdered in their beds..’  which has been and still continues to be used to malign a loyal Yorkist and I have to say  Sir Thomas was a writer of rubbish.   There may be some small kernels of truth in his History, for example the meeting of the Council in the Tower on the 13 June 1483 does have some ring of truth about it but on the whole and as the story of Richard waving a  withered arm about perfectly illustrates the bulk of History is  so far removed from the truth to the point of silliness.  Sir Thomas did add as a kind of afterthought that ‘some remain in doubt whether they were in his (Richard’s) day destroyed or no.. ‘ but by then the damage was well and truly done.  Recently, and thank goodness for it, more enlightened historians have shredded Sir Thomas’ daft  version of events.  I won’t go into it too much here as it’s readily available for those who wish to delve deeper other than to point out one of the most blatant errors/lies,  besides the gammy arm,  is that there was no need for a  page to introduce Richard, while he was sitting on the loo –  really Sir Thomas! –  to Sir James as Richard already knew him very well.   Sir James had fought for York at Tewkesbury in 1471 and  had in fact been knighted by Edward IV after the battle.   ‘By the following winter he was in the service of Richard Duke of Gloucester.  He became a ducal councillor and feoffee and was used by Richard on sensitive business'(1).   For example Sir John Paston wrote ‘The Countess of Warwick is now out of Beaulieu Sanctuary, and Sir James Tyrell conveyeth her northward, men say by the King’s assent‘.   However Sir Thomas was not going to let the truth get in the way of a good story.


The Tyrell Knot found carved above a door in the Gipping Chapel along with the words Pray for Sir Jamys Tirrell. Dame Anne his wyf.  Photo thanks to Simon Knott.

Moving on Sir James was not at Bosworth and was able to transfer his services to Henry Tudor.  However and cutting to the chase,  he become involved with Edmund de la Pole in 1499 which set off a chain of events that led to his arrest as well as that of his son, Thomas,  in 1502 and to their imprisonment in the Tower of London.    After a trial in the London Guildhall he was convicted of treason on Monday 2nd May and executed on the 6th.  After his execution it was given out that Sir James had confessed to the murder of the princes back in 1483.  No copies of the ‘confession’ have survived, quelle surprise!  

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  1. Not just Richard but so many men maligned by Tudor and his cronies. I’ve never believed Sir James to be anything other than honourable.
    Good article Sparkypus, thank you x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tyrell was named as murderer simply because 1. he was dead, so couldn’t contradict the tale;
    2. he’d had some connection with Richard III so could be a plausible name for murderer.


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