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Talbot Country

There is a pub in Bridgnorth, near where I live. Well, let’s be honest, there’s about a hundred. If you have ever been to Bridgnorth, aside from the Severn Valley Railway, the funicular railway from Low Town to High Town and the remains of the slighted castle, which lean at a greater angle than the Tower of Pisa, the sheer number of pubs will strike you. The one I was referring to is The Bell and Talbot on Salop Street in High Town. The hanging sign shows a dog lying beneath a bell while the one on the wall looks a bit more like a coat of arms, with two hounds rearing up either side of a bell.

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The Bell and Talbot, Bridgnorth

The symbol of the Talbot Hound is easy to miss but is significant in Shropshire. Talbot dogs were small white hunting hounds, extinct now, but understood to be an ancestor of the beagle and the bloodhound. The origin of the breed, its emergence in England and the reason for the name are all lost in the mists of time, but they have an enduring connection to the most prominent Shropshire family of the last five centuries.

Henry VI is believed to have referred to John Talbot in 1449 as ‘Talbott, oure good dogge’: I’m sure he meant it as a compliment, but I wouldn’t appreciate such a label! Did the name of the hound emerge from this quip? Or was it a reference to the already-established Talbot breed, coincidentally sharing a name with Henry’s premier general in France? John Talbot became Earl of Shrewsbury and his family inextricably linked with the title and surrounding county for generations. The 1445 Shrewsbury Book, commissioned by Talbot, has an image of the earl presenting his book to Margaret of Anjou, Henry’s queen, with a little white Talbot hound standing behind him.

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The Shrewsbury Book, presented by John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury

In 1569, George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury was one of the few English noblemen wealthy and trusted enough to house Mary, Queen of Scots during her period under house arrest at Elizabeth I’s instruction. Shrewsbury was a prominent Protestant and Elizabeth made him a Privy Counsellor as part of the arrangement because of ‘his approved loyalty and faithfulness, and the ancient state of blood from which he is descended’. Mary was initially held at Tutbury Castle and although Elizabeth would not meet the costs of her prisoner’s keeping, Mary’s French incomes covered her hosts expenses for a while. She was moved two months later to Wingfield Manor, a more suitable, well-kept lodging than the dilapidated Tutbury with its inadequate drains. Although he would discharge his duty diligently, Shrewsbury was censured any time he left Mary’s company for his own business and despite his wealth, he and his wife, Bess of Hardwick found themselves financially embarrassed by the cost and Elizabeth’s refusal to help meet them. Mary was eventually removed from Shrewsbury’s care before her eventual entrapment and execution at Fotheringhay Castle.

Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots

Alton Towers lies just north of Shropshire, across the border into Staffordshire, and even as a theme park, it retains a link to the Talbot family who made it their ancestral home. The buildings that lie ruined today were built by Charles Talbot, 15th Earl of Shrewsbury in the early nineteenth century. The ride Hex is contained within the ruins and tells the story of that earl’s battle with the supernatural to lift a curse placed in him and his family.

For anyone interested in the fifteenth century, John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, remembered as Old Talbot, is a towering figure sadly eclipsed by later events. He was one of the few Englishmen Joan of Arc is reputed to have known by name. His fearless, often reckless leadership made him the most successful English general in France over many years. He was probably in his mid-sixties when he was eventually killed at the Battle of Castillon in 1453. His loss was such a blow that Castillon is considered the last battle of the Hundred Years War and there is a memorial in France to him, set up where he fell in recognition of a foe worthy of respect.

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The Talbot Monument at the site of the Battle of Castillon

For those with an interest more precisely focussed on Richard III and the events of 1483, the Talbot family have a vitally important role to play. Unfortunately, there is little solid fact on which to hang any opinion of the controversy of Edward IV’s marital status. Where hard, written evidence is lacking – and we should expect it to be lacking, given the systematic destruction of Titulus Regius after Bosworth – I tend to fall back on the actions of people affected by events. In their reaction, or even inaction, we can often glean an idea of what must have been going on and what people thought of it.

The Talbot family come into sharp focus because the basis of Richard’s charge that Edward IV’s children were illegitimate is a claim that Edward was a bigamist. It was alleged that prior to his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, he had already contracted a marriage to Eleanor Talbot, daughter of the 1st Earl of Shrewsbury. We have no solid evidence that this is the case, but as I said, we probably shouldn’t expect to. Look at what people in London in June 1483 did, though. They accepted the evidence we are told they were shown. We cannot examine it and for the most part, historians dismiss it as fantasy. Yet those who could read it accepted it so completely that they deposed a king and offered the crown to his uncle. Why would they do that? Fear of Richard? Hardly. He had no army in London or anywhere nearby. He was mustering a few hundred men at Pontefract, but they had not left by then and London was well versed in resisting thousands, never mind a few hundred. Fear of a minority? Maybe, but Richard had shown himself willing to act as regent for his nephew, and he was the senior royal male of the House of York, an experienced governor and successful general (within his limited opportunities). Could it be that, just maybe, the allegations looked true?

Edward IV’s reputation, deserved or otherwise, surely made it seem plausible. None would doubt that he was capable of contracting a secret marriage to a relatively unsuitable older lady. That was, after all, how he ended up married to Elizabeth Woodville. By 1483, George Talbot was 4th Earl of Shrewsbury, the first earl’s great-grandson. He was probably too young to fight at Bosworth, but definitely supported Henry VII during the Lambert Simnel Affair. The Talbot family were Lancastrian in their sympathies; after all, their patriarch had built his reputation and title on defending that House. They are often considered hostile to Richard III, probably because of his accusation against one of their number, but I’m not sure that was the case. By the time of the Lambert Simnel Affair, supporting Henry VII was the natural position for the 4th Earl. Besides, if, as I strongly suspect, the Affair was an uprising in favour of Edward V rather than Edward, Earl of Warwick, then the Talbot family perhaps opposed it because they were perfectly well aware of Edward V’s illegitimacy.

Back in 1483, the Talbot family made no move against Richard or his accusation about Eleanor Talbot and Edward IV. When Simon Stallworth wrote his newsletter to Sir William Stonor as late as 21 June 1483, the day before Dr Shaa’s sermon at St Paul’s Cross, he knew nothing of the impending bombshell. He did, however, note that Lord Lisle ‘is come to my Lorde Protectour and awates apone hym’. This is more significant that it is often deemed to be.

Lord Lisle was Edward Grey. He was not only the younger brother of Sir John Grey of Groby, the first husband of Elizabeth Woodville and therefore uncle to her two oldest sons, but he was also married to Elizabeth Talbot, a niece of Eleanor Talbot. If Richard was looking for evidence to substantiate or refute the charge he had been made aware of, Lord Lisle was a sensible person to consult. He might know whether there was any family tradition that Eleanor had married Edward and whether any evidence remained in Talbot hands.

Lord Lisle was from a Lancastrian family and Richard was about to offend the family of his wife, yet Lord Lisle remained with Richard and offered no opposition. Indeed, Lord Lisle attended Richard’s coronation, as did the Duchess of Norfolk, Elizabeth. Elizabeth had married John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk and was the mother of Anne Mowbray, the ill-fated bride of Edward IV’s younger son. She had been born Elizabeth Talbot, though, the youngest daughter of John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury and a sister of Eleanor Talbot. She was not so outraged by Richard’s accusations that she boycotted his coronation. Was this because Richard was, in actual fact, righting a wrong that the Talbot family perceived had been inflicted on one of their number by a deceitful young king?

There are many other elements to the precontract story. The timing is always cited as too convenient, but I would counter that George, Duke of Clarence seems to have been on the verge of revealing it in 1477 and it cost him his life. Who else would have been brave enough to trumpet the allegation during Edward IV’s lifetime? It would have been tantamount to signing your own death warrant. This piece of the puzzle is interesting though. We cannot be certain of the truth of the allegation of bigamy. We can, however, be entirely certain that the charge was made, that evidence was gathered (or fabricated), that what evidence existed was unanimously accepted by those able to examine it, that this evidence has subsequently been lost or destroyed and that there was no backlash from the Talbot family in 1483 (accepting that in 1485 Sir Gilbert Talbot, younger son of the 2nd Earl, joined Henry Tudor’s army).

It amazes me that such certainty in the fraud of the bigamy allegation is espoused today. There is no hard evidence for it, but there is also none against it. Expanding our consideration to more circumstantial elements, it is probable that the story nearly emerged in 1477, costing George his life, and it is certain that those who were exposed to the evidence in support of it entirely accepted it. It may have been a well-constructed lie, but it is at least as likely, if not more so, that it was true.

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SIR THOMAS MORE , A MAN FOR ALL REASONS: SAINT OR SINNER?

‘Not exactly the horse’s mouth’

In Josephine Tey’s spellbinding novel ‘The Daughter of Time’, Detective Inspector Alan Grant has a reputation for being able to spot a villain on sight. Whilst in hospital with a broken leg, Grant is idly flipping through some old postcard portraits to while away the time. He turns over a portrait of a richly dressed medieval man in his thirties: a judge? A soldier? A prince? Certainly someone with authority and responsibility Grant supposes. Imagine his surprise, therefore, when he realises it is a portrait of Richard III. “The monster of nursery stories. The destroyer of innocents. A synonym for villainy.” Shocked that he could be so mistaken as to place Richard on the Bench instead of in the Dock, Grant delves deeper into the mysteries of his life and reign. A friend lends him a library copy of Thomas More’s ‘The History of King Richard III’, which he reads with a detective’s eye for detail and evidence. Pretty soon he realises the fatal flaw in More’s account and raises the problem on his friend’s return.

” ‘I wanted some information about history written in Richard III’s day. Contemporary accounts.’

‘ Isn’t the sainted Sir Thomas any good then?’

‘ The sainted Sir Thomas is nothing but an old gossip’ Grant said with venom. He had taken a wild dislike to the much-admired More.

‘Oh, dear. And the nice man in the library seemed so reverent about him. The Gospel of Richard III according to St Thomas More, and all that.’

‘Gospel nothing’ Grant said rudely. ‘He was writing down in a Tudor England what someone had told him about events that happened in a Plantagenet England when he himself was five.’

‘Five years old?’

‘Yes.’

‘Oh, dear. Not exactly the horse’s mouth.’ “

 

I doubt if there are many Ricardians, if any, who would disagree with Inspector Grant’s opinion of ‘the sainted Sir Thomas’ and his history book: and with some justification. It contains many demonstrable errors and falsehoods, which have shaped our perception of Richard III for centuries. Even today, when there is more or less a scholarly consensus about its unreliability, there remains a perception that it is not entirely useless as a historical source.

 

The man who wrote ‘The History of King Richard III’ was not Saint Thomas More the Catholic martyr or Sir Thomas More the king’s Lord Chancellor. He was plain ‘maister’ More of Lincoln’s Inn, a brilliant and successful humanist lawyer and writer. I hope in this article to explore aspects of More’s character and life that may explain why he wrote his history of King Richard, and the historical and literary influences that guided his quill. This is not, however, a critique of this book as literature or history.

 

‘This child will prove a marvelous man’

Thomas More was born in London on the 7th February 1478 (or 1477), the eldest son of Sir John More, a successful lawyer and later justice of the King’s Bench, who rose to prominence during the reign of Edward IV. Politically, Sir John was an Edwardian Yorkist rather than a Ricardian who, despite being unfairly imprisoned by Henry VII, prospered during the Tudor dynasty. He had an enormous influence on Thomas as a child and as an adult; being, largely responsible for his son’s choice of a career at the Bar rather than the Altar. The More’s were a wealthy family of merchants and professionals. Both Thomas’ grandfathers acquired fortunes. Each played a significant part in the governance and commercial life of London during the fifteenth century, and also in various financial and advisory capacities to the king. At the age of seven, Thomas was enrolled in St Anthony’s , a prestigious grammar school in Threadneedle Street not far from his home. It had a reputation for producing England’s finest Latin scholars and Thomas was no exception. His grounding in Latin was to stand him in good stead later in life. But it was his spell as a page in John Morton’s Household that was to mark young Thomas as a teenage prodigy.

 

As Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor, Morton was the most powerful commoner in the realm. He united the affairs of church and state, and his service to Lancastrian and Yorkist kings established his reputation for integrity. Furthermore, his part in Henry VII’s conquest of King Richard and the unification of the red and white roses assured Tudor goodwill. His main responsibilities were implementing the king’s fiscal and foreign policies, for which he was amply rewarded with lucrative offices and beneficiaries. Morton was, however, deeply unpopular with the king’s subjects, who resented the heavy load of taxation and benevolences he collected from them. He is (perhaps mistakenly) believed to have been responsible for the cunning argument commonly known as Morton’s fork, which was used to extract forced loans from reluctant subjects and is best described as “persuading prodigals to part with their money because they did spend it most and the covetous because they could spare it best.”[1]

 

In 1490, Thomas More walked the relatively short distance across the Thames to Lambeth Palace, there to take up his duties in the archbishop’s household. His position as a page was not demeaning. On the contrary, it was considered a privilege for gentlemens’ sons to serve in the household of a great lord. They would learn the etiquette of the privileged and mix with the good and the great. As a page, More led a strict and simple life but not a hard one. He slept on a straw mattress in a dormitory with other sons of the gentry. His principal duties as a servitor were to wait at table and clear away after the meal. Cleanliness was particularly important for pages and their dorm was well equipped with a long communal sink and pitchers of water. However, More’s life was not wholly one of servitude and menial labour. He continued his education as a scholar at a private school within the archbishop’s establishment. Apparently, his superior intellect and quickness of wit so impressed the archbishop, that More was soon attending him in his grace’s private chambers in the West Tower.[2] William Roper (More’s son-in-law and first biographer) provides a colourful insight into More’s prodigious self-confidence at this time “…though he was young of years [Thomas] would be at Christmas-tide suddenly sometimes step in among the players and never studying the matter, make a part his own there presently among them, which made the lookers-on more sport than all the players besides. In whose wit and forwardness the cardinal [Morton was not a cardinal at the time.] would often say to the nobles that divers times dined with him ‘ This child there waiting at the table, whosoever shall live to see it, will prove a marvellous man‘.”[3]

 

More had great respect for archbishop Morton, whom he considered to be a great man and an exemplar of ethical and moral behaviour. I am not myself convinced that Morton was such a paragon of virtue; yet, he was undoubtedly one of the most imposing political figures of Henry VII’s reign. His influence in shaping More’s career is undisputed. For example, in 1494 he was instrumental in arranging a place for him at Oxford University, where More could study canon and civil law under the watchful eye of the Benedictine monks of Canterbury College. Morton hoped that More would obtain his doctorate in law before taking holy orders and embarking on a career in government. However, after completing the curriculum, More left Oxford to join chambers in New Inn, there to continue his legal training. Whether this was his own choice or his father’s decision is unclear, but it is likely that it was always intended that he should practice law. If so, this was the preferred path for budding lawyers, who spent six or seven years learning their profession and ‘the affairs of men’ in the hurly-burly of the Inns of Court rather than in the cloisters of Oxford, which offered no such practical or material benefit. As Thomas More was to show throughout adult life, he was a practical and materialistic man. Quite apart from the influence of his father or archbishop Morton, the attraction of a legal career was obvious to him. Lawyers were held to be magni clarique that is important and distinguished. By the last decade of the fifteenth century, the rewards of prestige and wealth were such that the sons of the landed gentry preferred a legal career to one in the Church or in business. Just as importantly, an education in the law brought the ambitious More into contact with precisely those people who later administered the affairs of the king and state. Above all, he was temperamentally suited to be a lawyer. His advocacy skills were high quality and well honed. In the words of his most recent biographer “His polemical texts reveal the persistence, subtlety and inventiveness of his attacks against opponents; as a forensic orator and judicial examiner he [was] as fierce as he is persuasive, continually changing or extending his line of attack, looking for the smallest inconsistencies, finding weakness and deriding mistakes of terminology or presentation. More as a man is the apotheosis of the clever and practical man.”[4] He maintained a curious detachment throughout his life and was always precise and shrewd. Nevertheless, the impression remains that he was playing some kind of game. In the words of William Roper, he never in his dealings showed “of what mind himself was therein.” These were the qualities of a perfect lawyer: skilful and objective, cautious yet theatrical, persuasive and practical.

 

‘An intensely practical and decisive man’[5]

By the time he was thirty, More’s legal practice was flourishing. He was by training and by experience a generalist; appearing, as counsel in criminal cases at the Kings Bench and advising clients on, the common law, Canon law, Roman law and maritime law. He is reputed to have been ‘with the Archbishop of Canterbury (the dominant landowner) every day. He was also the legal representative for the City guilds and chief negotiator for the City mercers. He represented the City merchants in their dispute with the Duke of Buckingham and the Bishop of Norwich. In litigation he favoured advising a settlement between the parties to a trial, since this compromise suited his personal preference for good order and harmony. In Soper’s words“…sith there was at that time in none of the Prince’s courts of the laws of this realm any matter of importance in controversy wherein he was not with the one part of counsel. Of whom, for his learning, wisdom, knowledge and experience, men had such estimation that, before he came to the service of king Henry VIII at the suite and instance of the English merchants, he was by the king’s consent in certain great causes between them merchants and the merchants of [the Hanseatic League]…”[6]

 

By the time he was forty, More’s legal future was assured. He was appointed Lent Leader of Lincoln’s Inn, where he lectured on ‘Law-French in Statutes’. His subsequent appointment as Double Reader suggested he could anticipate elevation to the bench. In 1510, he received his first judicial appointment as one of two Under-Sheriffs of London, hearing criminal trials in the Sherriff’s Court, Guildhall and acting as official counsel to various City bodies. He earned the respect and affection of the City for his fair and quick decisions and his habit of occasionally remitting the fees that the litigants were expected to pay. There is, however, another side to More’s legal character, which is revealed by his involvement in the ‘Hunne Case’. This controversial and notorious litigation involved a direct attack on the authority of the Catholic Church. It may even be taken as an indication of the Protestant reformation yet to come in England.

 

Richard Hunne was a wealthy Whitehall tailor who refused to make a customary offering to his local rector. His case was taken to Lambeth Palace, where Hunne was adjudged to be at fault. Still he refused to pay. On Hunne’s next attendance at his parish church, the priest (Thomas Dryfield) excommunicated him with the words ‘Hunne thou art accursed and thou standest accursed’. Exiled from his community and with his mortal soul at risk, Hunne hit back. He issued a writ of praemunire accusing Dryfield and his assistant of slander. By invoking the Praemunire Act of 1393, Hunne was asserting the king’s superiority over papal authority and clerical courts, as the final arbiter of his subject’s rights. He argued that the church authorities had no right to claim his property and further that the hearing at Lambeth Palace took place before a ‘foreign and illegal bar.’ The ecclesiastical authorities responded by charging Hunne with heresy and imprisoning him in the Lollard’s Tower. It seems to us like a fabricated charge; except, that Hunne did have Lollard sympathies and connections. His father-in-law was an evangelist in that cause. It may even have been Hunne’s Lollard beliefs that prompted him to challenge the legitimacy of the offering in the first place. The case had a sensational outcome as Hunne was found hanged in his cell before he could be brought to trial. The Church authorities said that he hanged himself; whereas, the Coroner’s inquest determined that Dr Horsey the bishop of London’s Chancellor had murdered Hunne. The public furore that followed was exacerbated by the Bishop of London’s decision to convict Hunne of heresy posthumously. His remains were exhumed and ceremoniously burned at Smithfield along with his books. Hunne’s death and the denial of secular justice against his murderer raised serious questions about the rights of clerics to be tried only in Church courts. The matter was considered so important that it was debated in parliament and in convocations. The king himself initiated a number of debates on the Hunne case and its consequences.

 

More was involved in the case. He attended a conference with the king where Hunne’s death was discussed. He was also present when the ecclesiastical judgement was passed on Hunne’s body. More was later to write ” I know it from top to toe. I suppose there are not many men who know it better.”[7] Afterward, he wrote a colourful and amusing account of the conference with the king, in which he ‘goes to great pains’ to defend the Church from ‘each and every criticism’ and concludes that Hunne committed suicide when he realised his praemunire suite had failed. “There is no reason to believe that More was deliberately misrepresenting the truth he was only putting what was natural to him in putting a lawyers gloss on ambiguous circumstances.”[8] Whilst, they must not mislead the court or conceal relevant information, it is not unusual for lawyers to put a positive spin on a weak case. After all, their professional duty is to their client and not to a search for truth. The jury (or the court in certain circumstances) are the sole arbiters of truth. What is disturbing, however, is Ackroyd’s explanation for More’s conclusion, which he suggests was based on More’s personal beliefs rather than the merits. “Lawyers are not necessarily supposed to be devout or principled except in the minutiae of legislation but for More the law was a central image of natural reason and authority. It furnished the principles which governed his behaviour in the world, established upon order in all its forms.”[9] If Ackroyd’s is right, More’s apparent loss of objectivity goes beyond putting a positive spin on a weak case; it perpetuates an injustice. The fact that More admitted he did not shrink from mendaciolum (a small lie) suggests how difficult and tricky he could be.[10]

 

‘A man for all seasons’

We know from More’s published works (poems, epigrams, polemics, letters and books) that he was well able to express his opinions and emotions on parchment or in print. Although his style was more Chaucer (bawdy, earthy) than Spenser (poetic), he had a flair for drama, and used his literary skills to educate rather than to entertain. It was while he was studying at Oxford and later in the Inns of Court that More came increasingly under the influence of a group of literary clerical scholars, known collectively as English renaissance humanists. He was well acquainted with the Latin grammarian John Holt and he studied Greek under William Grocyn, the first Englishman to teach it. Later he became associated with Thomas Linacre the eminent physician and scholar, and with the erudite John Colet. The term ‘renaissance humanism’ does not denote that these learned clerics and others like them held a common philosophical position, since they did not. Their appellation as humanists is derived simply from the fact that they studied a cluster of scholarly disciplines comprising grammar, rhetoric, history, poetry and ‘moral philosophy’. Classical Latin and Greek were the languages of these men. It is possible, that More’s association with such erudite ecclesiastics caused him to contemplate swapping a temporal career for a spiritual calling. At any rate, at the turn of the century he abandoned his legal practice and entered the Carthusian Monastery at Charterhouse, just outside the city walls, where he remained for four years as a lay member, participating fully in the spiritual life of the monks without taking holy orders. Eventually, the call of his temporal ‘work in the world’ proved too enticing for More the practical man. He left the monastery to stand for parliament.

 

The most famous of all northern European humanists was Desiderius Erasmus (the ‘prince of humanists’), whom More met and became friends with in 1499. Erasmus described More as a ‘man for all seasons’ due to his ‘affability and sweetness of character’. In 1516, he published More’s most celebrated volume ‘Utopia’, which in its structure and content reveals the author’s humanist leanings; as does his most controversial book ‘The History of Richard III’. These two volumes are a clear indication of More’s philosophical interest in the contrast between just and unjust kingship, and that his concern was not restricted to the lessons of Richard III’s reign. In a Latin poem written to celebrate Henry VIII’s accession, More highlights the ‘atmosphere of fear and suspicion’ caused by Henry VII’s rapacity, which, incidentally, was an opinion shared by many of More’s contemporaries. Nonetheless, the promise of a ‘golden age’ that accompanied Henry VIII’s accession was the redeeming finale of More’s poem, in which he expressed the hope that Henry would repeal unjust laws and remit unfair debts, and that he would maintain the peace and stability that allowed piety and scholarship to blossom.[11]

 

“One thing pretended and another meant”

I must now turn to More’s ‘History of Richard III, which I will refer to as the ‘History’ from now on. While we can speculate why More wrote it, we cannot dismiss it merely as Tudor propaganda.[12] That is the opinion of professor Richard Sylvester In his definitive study of the History. Sylvester argues that More was neither pro-Tudor nor anti-Plantagenet. He was as much pro-Edward IV as he was anti Richard III. For instance, even as he welcomed the accession of Henry VIII he took the opportunity, in the celebratory poem to which I have already referred, to criticise the ‘oppressive acts and devious dealings of Henry VII. He makes a similar point, albeit obliquely, in the History: “…all things in later days were so covertly managed, one thing pretended another meant, that there was nothing so plain and openly proved but that for common custom of close and covert dealings men had it ever inwardly suspect…[13] More is not here just referring to the reign of Richard III but also to the reign of Henry VII during the period when Perkin Warbeck was a threat to the Tudor hegemony. In Sylvester’s opinion, More has depicted Richard as a cacodemon because that is what his oral and written authorities told him. He accepted their narrative not because he was biased but because he trusted them. Chief among these authorities was John Morton. He played a big part in the downfall of king Richard and was an eyewitness of some events. He also possessed (in More’s opinion) ‘the very mother and mistress of wisdom and deep insight into the political world.[14] The fact that Morton died in 1500 and that More did not begin composing the History until about 1513 (leaving it unfinished around 1518-20) raises interesting questions about Morton’s contribution. What did he know? And, how did he contribute to the History?

 

I will deal with the second question first because it raises the issue of authorship. Beginning, with the early revisionist histories of king Richard’s life and reign, some scholars have doubted More’s authorship of either the English or the Latin, or both editions of the History. For revisionists’ the dichotomy between More’s reputation for integrity and his polemical History is explained by substituting the wily and inveterate schemer Morton as the author of (at least) the Latin version. Support for this contention was claimed from a piece of ‘literary gossip’ that appeared in an aside is Sir John Harrington’s book ‘The Metamorphosis of Ajax’ (1596) ‘”…the best, and best written part of all our Chronicles, in all mens opinions; is that of Richard III, written as I have heard by Morton, but as most suppose by that worthy and uncorrupt [sic] magistrate Sir Thomas More…” [15] As Dr Kincaid points out, ‘Harrington was an inveterate gossip, not necessarily to be believed’.[16]

There is, however, better reason for believing that Morton gave More a ‘polemical tract’ attacking king Richard, which the latter probably used as an aide-memoire for his own narrative.[17] Be that as it may, the case for More’s authorship of the English and Latin versions of the History is considered by modern scholars to be unanswerable.[18]

 

On the question of what Morton knew, we must bear in mind that as important as he was, Morton was only an eyewitness to some of the events of 1483. There is much in More’s History that could not possibly have come from him or the clique of Lancastrian dissidents who shared Richmond’s exile and (no doubt) dined with the archbishop at Lambeth Palace. Morton was not, for example, present at Stony Stratford when the Duke of Gloucester arrested the king’s uncle and stepbrother. Neither was he present when the Queen was persuaded to allow her youngest son, Richard duke of York, to leave the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey. Furthermore, Morton is not an eyewitness to the alleged murders of Edward V and his brother.[19] Though, he might well be the instigator of the rumour that they had been murdered. More’s other oral sources included but were not limited to: Sir John More, John Roper, Richard Fitzjames, Sir Thomas Lovell (fought for Richmond at Bosworth), Christopher Urswick (priest and Tudor spy in 1483), Bishop Fox of Winchester (in exile with Richmond), Roger Lupton (Mayor of London) and Sir John Heron (an early adherent to Richmond). When he cites one of these ‘authorities’ or others who occupied similar positions, he usually refers to them in the phrase ‘men say’. The opinion of these ‘wise’ men was much valued by More. He relied on them when balancing different interpretations against each other. Generally, More is not too concerned about the accuracy of dates, names and places since these could be checked later (but never were). What is notable, however, is that he never spoke to anyone at Henry’ VII’s court who had served king Richard or who could even be said to have liked the dead king.

 

In addition to his oral authorities, More had a number of written works available for consultation. Some of these pre-date the History, whilst others are contemporary with it. Pietro Carmeliano was a court scholar during the reigns of Richard III and Henry VII who wrote the ‘Life of St Catherine of Egypt’. He extolled Richard’s princely virtues when he was alive and denounced him as a tyrant when he was dead.[20] Bernard André’ was Henry VII’s official biographer. He wrote ‘Vita Henrici’, in which he to portrayed king Henry as angelic and king Richard as demonic. The sycophant John Rous wrote ‘Historia Regum Angliae’, during the reign of Henry VII. He denounced king Richard as the anti-Christ having previously acclaimed him for his nobility and virtues. Whether or not More used the Chronicles of Robert Fabyan, Polydore Vergil’s ‘Anglica Historia’ or Domenico Mancini’s ‘De Occupations Regni Anglie Per Ricardum Tercium Libellus’ is a matter of pure conjecture.[21] Some of More’s factual inaccuracies suggest that either he did not know of the Second Continuation of the Croyland Chronicle or he had not read it. Even so, it is safe to say that he would hardly have credited a less defamatory portrait of king Richard than the one he describes in the History. In the words of professor Sylvester: “The indictment against the king had been drawn-up by men whose judgement he respected; it’s terms were supported not only by most of his oral informants but also by writers whose version of events had been set down before he began to compose his own narrative.”[22] In early Tudor England there was hardly a voice raised in defence of the last Plantagenet. The official records such as Titular Regius and Richard’s signet letters were almost certainly not available to More. It is only by comparing his narrative with credible contemporary sources that we can test the historical accuracy of More’s History.

 

Although More’s portrait of Richard accurately reflects the opinion current in the courts of Henry VII and Henry VIII and some details can be corroborated by independent records (e.g. the allegation that Edward V was bastardised due to his parents’ bigamous marriage), there are some notable errors and omissions in the History for which there is no excuse. These range from getting Edward IV’s age wrong to naming Elizabeth Lucy as the lady alleged to have still been married to Edward IV when he wedded Elizabeth Butler. However, what Inspector Grant and others overlook in their criticism of More’s History, is that he never claimed it was anything other than a reflection of public opinion in the first quarter of the sixteenth century. Neither did he claim to be more authoritative than his sources. “He asks us not to credit that ‘what men say’ happened, did happen, but that they really said it did happen.”[23]

 

Professor Paul Kendall is not sure whether More ever intended the History to be factual. He suggests that what More learned from his sources, he used to fashion a version of events that satisfied his humanist leanings. “A dramatic boldly performed narrative soaring beyond actualities into art and seek psychological verisimilitude rather than factual accuracy.[24] Writing from a purely literary perspective, professor EMW Tillyard also believed that More’s History was intentionally creative rather than historical. “More’s History transcends the sorting of evidence and abides as a classic record of fundamental human nature”. In Tillyard’s opinion it has tragedy and comedy. “The episode where Queen Elizabeth is persuaded to give her youngest son into the care of Richard Gloucester is more tragic than anything the English drama produced till the great age.” On the comic side, Tillyard draws attention to Dr Shaa’s pre-arranged Sermon at St Paul’s Cross, which descends from high drama to farce thanks to Gloucester’s mistimed entrance.[25] Even so, there is no doubting More’s contribution to the shaping of Richard III’s black legend. He was the first to suggest that Richard had ‘long forethought’ to seize the throne, even before his brother was dead. And it is More’s narrative that names Richard as the prompter and guiding spirit behind all the events that followed Edward IV’s death.

 

Even though More’s reasons for writing the History are wholly obscure now, post-Tudor scholars have repeatedly question his motives and what he actually thought he was writing. For example, Kendall writes that he ‘undoubtedly set about his History for the same reason that according to Falstaff the earl of Worcester rebelled ‘it lay in his way and he found it’.[26] Whereas, Horace Walpole writing in 1768 believed that “[More] wrote his History to amuse his leisure and exercise his fancy.”[27] These seemingly flippant reasons might be closer to the mark than we think. For instance, Peter Ackroyd raises the intriguing possibility that both the English and the Latin versions of the History were written as a rhetorical and grammatical exercise for Oxford students.[28] The supporting evidence for this theory is both circumstantial and cryptic; yet, it does exist. First, there is More’s mysterious reference to a ‘schoolmaster of Poles’ (St Paul’s?): second, there is the fact that one of the extant manuscripts of this work is endorsed with the preface that it was written exercitationis gratia (‘for the sake of practice’). Finally, there is the fact that both the Latin and the English versions comply with More’s own methods of composition and revision, which he also impressed on his children.[29] As Ackroyd notes, More’s humanism had a practical purpose, and as a successful lawyer he was more interested in the practice and usage of advocacy than its theory. It is possible, therefore, that the long and complex debates on the merits and abuses of sanctuary and on king Richard’s royal title, which dominate the History ,are lessons in the art of disputation similar to those experienced by More during his own education.[30] The speechmaking is certainly more reminiscent of an exposition of the law than a record of what was actually said by those present in 1483. “One of the models of its form is clearly Sallust and More had been instructed to teach Sallust at Oxford. He had also recommended that author for his children’s’ reading. And what could be a better way of studying classical rhetoric and vocabulary than to apply them to the description of more recent events” [31] It is equally possible that More’s humanist leanings, his interest in history and in ‘kingship’, and his contact with Morton and the men who had fought King Richard, fuelled a ‘boyish interest’ in the dead king. His own interest in the classical Greek and Roman historians may have encouraged him to emulate them. In particular, he had a deep interest in the accounts of Tiberius’ tyranny, which were written by Tacitus and Suetonius.

 

It is more likely, however, that he wrote the History for a substantial reason other than mere interest.[32] He may have intended it to be a metaphor for his own doubts and his fear of Henry VIII’s instinct for despotism, which was already apparent by the time he was writing the History. He could not make his thoughts plain on pain of death, so his message is more oblique and very cleverly constructed. Nothing in More’s History could be mistaken as applying to Henry VIII. Read literally, it coruscates king Richard’s tyranny whilst justifying the Henrician Tudors as the opponents of tyranny. More’s philosophical and psychological interest in tyranny and government is evidenced by his poems and other written works: especially Utopia. The History may have been an attack on the real-politick of his day. He may even have regarded it as a worked example wherein a ‘good’ monarch would benefit from its powerful depiction of monstrous injustice. Of course the corollary of this was that it might give the potential despot ideas about subtleties of policy, which later generations would identify as Machiavellian. It would indeed be unfortunate if it provided Henry VIII with a convincing illustration of what he could do given free rein to his powers.

 

Whatever More’s reason for writing the History may have been, he put down his quill sometime between 1518 and 1520. He never returned to his manuscripts, which remained unfinished and unrevised; clearly, it was not meant for publication. The reasons for this have troubled Scholars almost as much as More’s reason for picking-up his quill in the first place. There are many different theories, two of which, bear testament to More’s concerns about the Henry VIII despotic tendencies. Sylvester postulates that he might have been troubled by the possibility that it would become a kind of ‘manual’ for Henry if he wished to exercise his will unfettered. More could not take that risk and so the History remained unfinished. Professor Kendall notes that More stopped just as Richmond was about to enter the narrative. At which point it became too dangerous for More to write about Henry VII’s oppression even by analogy. And so, the History remained unfinished and unpublished in More’s lifetime.[33] The third theory is more mundane but equally credible. It is possible that he simply lost interest in the project, particularly if it really was nothing more than a student exercise. Anyhow, by the second decade of the sixteenth century, More might still have been making-up his mind about the role he was to play in the king’s service. His life as a royal servant promised to be challenging, since the king was more often guided by his personal will and appetites than by reason. Although such wilful governance was anathema to More, he was confident of his ability to ‘bend with the wind’, so that what he couldn’t turn to good he could make less bad. He always gave his opinion according to his conscience when asked, but he never opposed the king’s will publicly. In view of the difficulty of maintaining a distinction between his private and public beliefs, it is possible the More simply abandoned the History in favour of his little booklet Utopia, which expertly expressed his own private views of governance and kingship even more obliquely than the History.[34]

 

Finally, it is possible that More became too embroiled with advising the king on the Lutheran texts that were appearing in England around this time. He was one of those who advised Henry on his own written defence of the Catholic faith, which earned him the title ‘Fidei defensor (defender of the faith). More himself took up the cudgel in support of his king, trading insult for insult with Martin Luther in a series of booklets. Compared to the existential threat to the established Church posed by Luther’s heretical doctrine, More may have considered the History a self-indulgent trifle.

[1] Peter Ackroyd – The Life of Thomas More (Vintage 1999) p.31 quoting from E Foss – Judges of England (London 1848-64) p.66

[2] Ackroyd p.28

[3] Richard Sylvester and Davis Harding (Eds) – Two Early Tudor Lives: the Life and death of cardinal Wolsey by Geo Cavendish & the Life of Sir Thomas More by William Roper (Yale 1962) pp.197-98

[4] Ackroyd p.52

[5] Ackroyd p.148

[6] Sylvester (Roper) p.200

[7] Ackroyd p.151; citing The Complete Works of Thomas More (Yale) V6, p. 318

[8] Ackroyd p.152

[9] Ibid

[10] Ackroyd p. 163-164; in a letter to Wolsey, More explains that the post of Canonry of Tournai had previously been conferred on his friend Erasmus, and that as compensation for Erasmus withdrawing from it, a better or greater provision should be made for him. None of this was true, of course, but it illustrates More’s willingness to lie.

[11] Ackroyd p.127

[12] Richard Sylvester (Ed) – The History of King Richard III by Sir Thomas More (Yale 1963) p. lxv and passim

[13] Sylvester (Roper) pp. 81-82 and n82/22 p.262; see also Paul Kendall (ed) – The Great Debate (Folio Society 1965) p.103; Kendall contains a useful modern English version of More’s History.

[14] Sylvester (History) p. lxvii

[15] Elizabeth Storey Donno (Ed) – Sir John Harrington: a new discourse of a stale subject, called The Metamorphosis of Ajax (1596) (London 1962) pp. 107-198

[16] AN Kincaid (Ed) – The Encomium of Richard III by Sir William Cornwallis the Younger (Turner and Devereux 1977) p.iii

[17] Sylvester (History) pp.lix-lxxiii; AN Kincaid (Ed) – The History of King Richard the Third by Sir Geo Buck (1619) (Alan Sutton 1979) Chapter VII passim: Buck said he saw the tract, which is no longer extant

[18] Sylvester (History) ibid; citing RW Chambers – The authorship of ‘The History of King Richard III’ in WE Campbell (Ed) – The English Works of Sir Thomas More (London 1931) pp. 24-53; Kincaid

[19] Sylvester (History) ibid; citing AJ Pollard – The Making of Thomas More’s Richard III published in ‘Historical Essays in Honour of James Tait (Manchester 1933) pp.223-284

[20] Pamela Tudor-Craig – Brochure for Richard III’s biographical exhibition at the NPG 1973. Carmeliano’s ‘Life of St Catherine of Egypt’ was exhibited at the NPG in 1973 (No.100). It is a second copy dedicated to Sir Robert Brackenbury and contains a glowing description of king Richard’s virtues in peace and war (‘…what emperor or prince can compare with him in good works and munificence”.). However, in 1486 in a poem dedicated to the new-born Prince Arthur, he charged Richard ‘the tyrant’ with the murder of his nephews.

[21] Sylvester (History) p.lxxi-lxxv; see also CAJ Armstrong – The Usurpation of Richard III by Dominic Mancini (Oxford 1969 edition) pp. xix-xx. Dr Armstrong discusses the relationship between Mancini and More in which he raises concerns about the provenance of More’s information. The importance of this lies in the fact that Mancini substantiates More ‘on many points’. In fact, More and Mancini are closer to each other than to the Croyland Continuation or to Polydor Vergil. The point is, of course, that they were probably using the same informants. Given that these informants were Richard’s political and dynastic opponents it is hardly surprising that they coincide on some points. What is remarkable is that they don’t agree on much more, since there are some significant discrepancies. Furthermore, as Dr Armstrong acknowledges Mancini harboured an unreasoned animus towards king Richard (that he was all along aiming for the throne) (Mancini p.17)

[22] Sylvester (History) p.lxx

[23] Sylvester (History) p.lxxviii

[24] Kendal p.25

[25] EMW Tillyard – Shakespeare’s History Plays (Penguin 1962) p.38

[26] Kendal p.25; this is a reference to a comment by Sir john Falstaff, a character in Shakespeare’s play Henry IV part 1.

[27] Kendal p.170

[28] Ackroyd p.157

[29] Sylvester (History) p.xii; in a ‘charming’ letter to his children, More admonishes them to write everything in English first ‘for then you will have far less trouble turning it into Latin; not having to look for the matter, your mind will be intent only on the language’. He also emphasises the need for revision to detect and correct solecisms. More was given to the careful revision of his own work, which, as Sylvester points out, may have served as a kind of paradigm for the complex sequence of drafts that were developed in the composition of the HISTORY

[30] Sylvester (History) pp.26-38`; see also Kendal pp.50-62. In the fifteenth century the abuses of sanctuary argued by Buckingham were a bone of contention between the laity and the clergy. By the time More was writing the History the privileges of sanctuary were much reduced.

[31] Ackroyd ibid; Goius Sallustius Crispus (‘Sallust’) (86 BC-35BC), was a Roman historian whose works were noted for their brevity, the use of rare words and unusual phrases.

[32] Sylvester (History) pp. xcviii-xcvix passim

[33] Sylvester (History) pp. cii-ciii; Kendall p.28; who notes the irony of More’s position in that his defamation of Richard III came in part from his detestation of Henry VII’s statecraft.

[34] George M Logan (ed) – Thomas More: Utopia (Cambridge UP 2016, 3 rd edition)

Terry Jones’ opinion of Richard III….

RIII - Royal Collection

I am a great fan of Terry Jones’ writing/opinions when it comes to medieval history, and today just happens to be Terry’s birthday.

That he supports King Richard II I already knew, but I did not know he also thinks highly of King Richard III. What I write below is taken from a book, which itself was originally inspired by the television series Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives, produced by Oxford Films and Television for BBC Television and first broadcast on BBC2 in 2004. It was first published in hardback 2004, and in paperback in 2005.

So, it has to be emphasised that Jones’ opinions were expressed before Richard’s remains were discovered in Leicester. Before so much more had been discovered about that much-wronged king. Jones was a Ricardian at least as far back as 2004. And please do not think that anything in the following paragraphs is my opinion, I merely take from Jones’ writing in order to convey his view of Richard III. So the comments about the bones displayed in the Tower, and Richard’s second coronation in York are his views. The illustrations are my additions. Please buy the book, it’s well worth reading.

Book cover

Toward the end of the book, when he reaches the matter of Richard III, he expresses his view by launching straight in that the king we all know (from Shakespeare) is very different from the actual man who sat on the throne between 1483-5. Jones refers to the Bard’s character of Richard III as a ‘cardboard cut-out’, to be ‘booed and hissed’, but points out that this creation was written when the Tudors were on the throne. Tudor propaganda is to blame for the wilful and cruel destruction of the real Richard III. An extraordinary effort was made to create the story that Richard plotted to seize the throne of England and then ruled as a brutal tyrant.

R384RS

Anthony Sher as ~Shakespeare’s Richard III

Medieval kings ruled by consent, which mostly meant the consent of the nobility of southern and central England, with the earls

In the north being gradually edged aside, which eventually led to the Wars of the Roses, which had ended with Edward IV defeating the northern nobility.

Edward chose his brother Richard to govern in the north, and Richard duly arrived in 1476 with 5000 men. This might have been deemed a threat by the city fathers, but according to their records: ‘After greetings were exchanged, the duke addressed the civic officials within Bootham Bar, saying that he was sent by the king to support the rule of law and peace.’

And so he did, devoting himself to the minutiae of government and justice. He heard pleas on quite small matters:

‘Right and mighty prince and our full tender and especial good lord, we your humble servants, havnyg a singler confidence in your high and noble lordship afore any other, besecheth your highnesse. . .concerning the reformation of certain fish traps. . . In 1482 the York gave him gifts, ‘for the great labour, good and benevolent lordship that the right, high and might prince have at all times done for the well of the city.’ Richard was presented with: ‘6 pike, 6 tenches, 6 breme, 6 eels and 1 barrel of sturgeon’, a local speciality of spiced bread, and fourteen gallons of wine to wash it all down.’

Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville

Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville

But the darkest story to damn Richard for posterity was the deaths of his two nephews, the sons of Edward IV. Edward, when dying, named his 12-year-old son, another Edward, as his successor. He also designated Richard as Lord Protector, the guard the kingdom and the boy himself until the latter was of age. Richard was in the north when the king died on 9 April 1483, and did not know what had happened. The little king-to-be was in the hands of his mother’s family, the ambitious Woodvilles, who had no intention of giving up power to Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Keeping him in the dark, they began to rush the boy to London, intending to have him crowned on 4 May, but Richard found out, and intercepted them. Outwitted them too. Taking charge of the boy, he escorted him to London, where the future king was installed in the royal apartments at the Tower. The coronation was rescheduled for 22 June, but on the 13th of the month, an extensive plot against Richard was exposed. This caused Richard to see that his younger nephew, another Richard, was placed in the Tower. The boys were thus together, and then the coronation was deferred until November.

Evil Richard with Edward V

This was because on 22 June, Dr Edward (sic) Shaa, brother of the mayor of London, declared to the citizens of London that Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, which had taken place in secret, had been illegal because the king was precontracted to marry Lady Eleanor Talbot.

Richard of Gloucester had been a dutiful and loyal lieutenant for Edward IV, and had spent many years governing the north in his name. Richard was ‘popular, widely trusted, knew everyone and was a capable administrator’. Now he had learned that the children of the Woodville marriage were illegitimate. This meant that Richard himself was the rightful successor.

Edward IV, Edward V, Richard III

Everyone agreed with this, and he was acclaimed king on 26 June and crowned on 6 July. Then the princes seem to have vanished, and in due course Tudor spin would make it seem that Richard had them killed.

The Coronation Procession of Richard III, 1483

The Coronation of Richard III

King Louis the First and Last (see http://www.catherinehanley.co.uk/historical-background/king-louis-of-england), is generally regarded as not being a king of England because he had no coronation. However, the eldest son of Edward IV is counted as Edward V, even though he was never crowned and certainly did not rule. Jones believes this was entirely due to Henry Tudor, who had no ‘meaningful’ claim to the throne, but had seized it in 1485 when Richard was killed at the Battle of Bosworth. Henry, a usurper, saw how helpful it would be for him if Richard could be designated a regicide. That was why the boy Edward was recognized as a king, even though he never had been. And if anyone had a motive for killing the boys in the Tower, it was Henry Tudor!

‘The bones of two children are still on show in the Tower [sic], proof of Richard’s wicked deed. They were discovered in the seventeenth century, and examined in 1933, when they were said to be vital evidence of the crime. But no-one knows when they date from.’

Everything we know of Richard reveals him not to have been a tyrant. To quote Jones: ‘Almost the first thing he [Richard] did on becoming king was to pay off £200 he owed to York wine merchants. Now there’s a tyrant for you!’

RIII and Anne Neville

Next Richard, with his queen, Anne, rode north with his entire court, to stage a second coronation. The city of York was notified in advance by the king’s secretary:

‘Hang the streets thorough which the king’;s grace shall come with clothes of arrass, tapestry work and other, for there commen many southern lords and men of worship with them.’ 

The city put on a particularly lavish display, and all the city fathers, with the mayor, wore scarlet robes as they rode with the king and queen. York seemed to be made of cloth, and the monarchs stopped to watch ‘elaborate shows and displays’.

Of course, all this did not go down well with southern lords. It plunged still farther when Richard gave his northern friends plum places at court. That was why the unworthy outside, Henry Tudor, gained support. He had no real right to claim the throne, but he managed, through treachery, to kill Richard at Bosworth.

Henry Tudor is crowned at Bosworth

York was devastated. ‘King Richard late mercifully reigning upon us was through great treason of the Duke of Northfolk and many others that turned ayenst him, with many other lords and nobles of these north parts, piteously slain and murdred to the great heaviness of this city.’ 

The only reason we have been brainwashed into believing ill of Richard III is because the Tudors were clever and forceful when it came to spinning their side of events. Henry Tudor’s reign commenced shakily, so he invented a bogeyman.

When Richard was alive, writer John Rous wrote of him as ‘a mighty prince and especial good Lord’. Under the Tudors, Rous ‘portrayed him as akin to the Antichrist’: ‘Richard spent two whole years in his mother’s womb and came out with a full set of teeth’. Shakespeare also wrote under a Tudor monarch, and his sources were Tudor documents.

‘Propaganda, thy name is Henry.’

Richard III - reconstruction

Reconstruction of Richard III

My, my, some families really do not change their spots….!

Arms of Sir John Stanley I

While researching fourteenth-century Northamptonshire, I happened upon Sir John Stanley (1350-1414). “Stanley’s father was Master-Forester of the Forest of Wirral, notorious for his repressive activities. Both Stanley and his older brother, William (who succeeded their father as Master-Forester), were involved in criminal cases which charged them with a forced entry in 1369 and in the murder of Thomas Clotton in 1376.” Nice guys, right?

Stanley was found guilty, and outlawed. But because he was proving himself as a military fighter, he was pardoned—helped in this by Sir Thomas Trivet, who had a habit of getting scoundrels off the hook. He did the same for Sir John Cornwall, Senior, who was definitely a bad lot, but that’s another story.

Well, although Sir John Stanley was a younger son, in 1385 he made a very fortunate marriage. In the teeth of strong opposition from John of Gaunt, he wed Isabel Lathom, who was heir to swathes of land in Lancashire. Stanley was on the up!

He did well under Richard II, becoming the deputy in Ireland of Robert de Vere, Duke of Ireland. Richard II chose Stanley as justiciar of Ireland, and he was very much part of Richard’s successful first expedition to that land. Next, Stanley was prominent in soothing trouble in Cheshire, and took part in Richard’s second, ill-advised expedition to Ireland. This expedition came to an abrupt end when Henry of Bolingbroke, Gaunt’s heir as Duke of Lancaster, who had been exiled by Richard, invaded England to take the throne as Henry IV. Returning to England, “Stanley, who had long proved adept at political manoeuvring, turned his back on Richard and submitted to Henry IV.” Richard was imprisoned and soon died under mysterious circumstances.

So, the Stanleys were at it in 1399/1400 as well. Political jiggery-pokery, deserting their rightful King Richard, and smarming up to the wrongful King Henry. But this one did well, becoming King of Man, a privilege he and his descendants enjoyed until the 18th century.

Spots? Never change?

Stanley is granted the Isle of Man

http://www.cheshirenow.co.uk/stanley_family.html and http://www.isle-of-man.com/manxnotebook/people/lords/stanleys.htm. And see this list of offices held by Sir John Stanley.

 

 

 

 

JOHN HOWARD, DUKE OF NORFOLK – HIS WEDDING GIFTS…

 

IMG_5207.jpgJOHN HOWARD, PAINTING OF A  STAINED GLASS IMAGE FORMERLY AT TENDRING HALL OR SOUTH  CHAPEL, STOKE-BY-NAYLAND CHURCH, NOW LOST.

John Howard, what a colossus of a man – Admiral of England, member of the King’s  Council, Earl Marshal, Knight of the Garter, Treasurer of the Royal Household, High Sheriff , a great shipowner and much  more.  Described by Anne Crawford as ‘an extremely versatile royal servant, as a soldier, administrator and diplomate he had few equals among his contemporaries’.(1)   A valiant soldier and loyal friend to King Richard III, dying with him at Bosworth in 1485.  Much has been recorded about him and there are good biographies to be had by both Anne Crawford ‘Yorkist Lord’,  and John Ashdown-Hill’s ‘Richard III’s Beloved Cousyn’ with the bonus of his household books surviving edited by Crawford.  The well known comment written, regarding an incident in Howard’s life,  by a John Jenney describing Howard as being ‘as wode as a Wilde bullok’ indicates that he was neither  a pushover nor one to get the wrong side of (2).   There is also the remark made by Howard’s first wife, Catherine, aimed at John Paston and helpfully forwarded on to Paston by his brother Clement,  who wrote urgently advising  that he should get to where he had been summoned without delay and with a good excuse  as ‘Howard’s wife made her bost that if any of her husbands men might come to yow ther yulde goe noe penny for your life: and Howard hath with the Kings a great fellowship’ (3).  John Paston did indeed get himself to London and was promptly thrown into the Fleet prison for a short while.  Perhaps this move saved him from Howard’s ire so every cloud as they say.    But its not Howard’s professional life I want to focus on here but his private life for he was it would appear both a  caring father and a loving husband and Crawford has noted that when he was in London at his house in Stepney for any length of time his family and household would move there too.(4)   stoke-by-nayland-k-howard-1.jpg

Brass of Catherine Howard nee Molines at Stoke by Nayland.  Engraved in 1535 with a Tudor headdress.  Catherine’s mantle has her husband’s arms on one side with the Molines on the other.  

Although little is known about his relationship with his first wife, Catherine Moleyns (died November 1465) there are indications that his second marriage to Margaret Chedworth was a love match as the long list of valuable bridal gifts Howard ‘showered’ on her has happily  survived and been included in the Paston Letters. The pair were married in ‘unseemly’ haste six months after the death of Margaret’s second husband, John Norris of Bray,  and before Norris’ will, leaving most of his lands to his young widow provided she did not remarry, was proved.  Crawford writes  ‘Now a wealthy and eligible widower, Howard could well have looked for a second wife among the ranks of aristocratic widows or those who had personal connections, but his choice was at once more personal…’ (5).   Margaret was cousin to Anne Crosby nee Chedworth, wife to Sir John Crosby, builder of Crosby Hall  and  brought with her to Tendring Hall two daughters from her previous marriages.  Here is just a selection of the many gifts Lord Howard gave to his bride…

Ferst ij rynges of gold set with good dyamawntes, the wyche the quene yaff my master

Item, a nowche (brooch) of gold set with a fine safyre,  a grate balyse and v perles

Item, a ring of goolde with a fine rubye.

Item, my master gaff her a longe gowne of fyne cremysen velvet furred with menyver and purled with ermynes.

Item, my master gaff her vij scynnes  of fine ermynes.

Item, my master gaff her vij yerdes and di.of fyne grene velvet

item, my master gaff here a devyse of goolde with xiiii.lynkes and the ton halffe of the lynkes enamelled set with iiij rubyis and vij perles

Item, my master gaff her a lytell gerdyll of silk and goolde called a demysent and the harneys of goolde

Item, my master gaff here a coler of gold with xxxiii.roses and tonnes set on a corse of blank silk with an hanger of goolde garnished with a saphyre.

Item, my master gaff her iii. Agnus Dei of goolde.

Item, my master gaff her a cheyne of gold with a lock of gold garnished with  rubye.

Added in Sir John Howard’s own hand – And the vij.zere of the Kynge  and in the monithe of Janever I delivered my wyffe a pote of silver to pote in grene ginger that the Kynge  gaffe.

These are only a selection of the gifts, too numerous to mention here in full.    Also included were  several more gowns, rings,  gyrdles, holand clothe, Aras, cushions, silver spones, a bed with covers of cremysen damask and more..

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Lady Howard’s jewellery box..no not really!..this is the Cheapside Hoard but no doubt Margaret’s jewellery collection looked very similar.  

The Howards marriage endured until he fell,  loyally fighting for his king, at Bosworth.   Anne Crawford writes that ‘despite his age (he was sixty, an old man for his time) he was there in the middle of his infantry line’ and that ‘there is no doubt that if he had chosen to do so Howard could  have to terms with Henry before the battle as others did.  He could have despatched his force while remaining at home himself on the grounds of age and sickness.    The rhyme supposedly pinned to his tent the night before the battle warned him what to expect.. ‘Jockey of Norfolk be not so bold, for Dickon thy master is bought and sold’.  For Howard these considerations were irrelevant: he owed his dukedom to Richard and if the house of York was threatened, then the house of Howard would be in arms to defend it.  He died as he had lived, serving the Yorkist kings’.(6)    Crawford also wrote ‘Howard had no need to participate in the actual battle.   He was nearly 60 years old and having brought up his forces he could have delegated command to his son and remained in the rear and nobody would have thought the worst of him for it,  given the sheer physical effort and stamina required to fight on foot and in armour.  He fought of course’.(7)   As to how Margaret felt about her husband’s insistence to fight —  did she scold, did she plead, cajole  or did she accept nothing would stop her husband from what he perceived as his duty is not known.  As I wrote, at the beginning of this article, what a colossus of a man.  John Howard, bravo, you did well!.

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Thetford Priory Gate House – Howard’s funeral cortege would have passed through this gateway…

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John Howard’s remains were eventually removed from Thetford Priory to probably Framlingham Church at the Dissolution of the Priories.  See John Ahsdown-Hill’s ‘The Opening of the Tombs of the Dukes of Richmonds and Norfolk, Framlingham 1841’  The Ricardian vol. 18 (2008)

 

  1. John Howard first Duke of Norfolk Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Anne Crawford.
  2. Paston Letters Original Letters….ed. J Fenn p.111
  3. Yorkist Lord John Howard Duke of Norfolk  p.33 Anne Crawford
  4. Howard Household Books p.xiii ed Anne Crawford
  5. Ibid p.xxi
  6. Ibid p.xxix
  7. Yorkist Lord John Howard Duke of Norfolk p132 Anne Crawford

 

 

The Biblioteca Palatina is now online….

Bibliotheca Palatina

Thanks to the Mortimer History Society, I now know that Heidelberg University have digitised 3000 medieval and early modern documents forming the Biblioteca Palatina, and made them accessible online.

See here.

A 19th-century description of Bosworth Field that is definitely pro-Richard….!

The old Blue Boar, Leicester

The following rather flowery but decidedly pro-Richard account of Bosworth is taken from an 1838 publication called ‘Legends of Leicester, in the olden time’, by Thomas Featherstone. London: Whittaker & Co., Ave Maria Lane. C. Tilt, Fleet Street. J.G. Brown, Leicester. You will find it here

I have copied the text as faithfully as I can, omitting passages that do not belong in the main description of the battle, and do not anyway concern Richard. The spelling is dodgy at times, and I have left most of it alone. There is also the question of some optical recognition software bloopers. I have corrected those which I feel certain are wrong (and for which I could easily guess what was meant) but there are a few that defied me. If I have blundered, I apologise, and can only say that my sins will be corrected by a visit to the website. The illustrations are my decorations.

Anyway, here is the section of the book that deals with Richard’s final battle. It commences at the Blue Boar inn, Leicester.

Bosworth Fight 

. . .On the following morning, as early as day-break, the streets rung with the preparations for an hasty march. The braying of trumpets, the hoarse shouting of the military leaders, the jingle of equipments, and the fierce trampling of caparisoned steeds, startled sleep from the pillows of those, whom the dissolute soldiery, overcome with intoxication, had eventually left to the enjoyment of a brief repose.

Richard leaving the Blue Boar

His highness appeared in unusual health and spirits, and mounted on his gallant charger, rode swiftly up and down the lines, inspiriting his army and animating his chieftains with uncontrollable enthusiasm. A bright sun and a smart, lively, breeze contributed in no small degree to the hilarity of every one present, and among that vast and glittering assemblage who were shortly to embark in stern and deadly strife, it would have been perhaps impossible to have detected one lugubrious or even thoughtful aspect. The ancient street of the High Cross, so far as the eye could stretch, bristled with staves, bows, and the various implements of ancient warfare, which with the morions and breast-plates of their bearers, glittered fiercely in the sun, while every window, roof and balustrade of the huge picturesque buildings, swarmed with spectators, and oft, as the cavalcade moved slowly along, a fair white hand, bearing a floral wreath, a silken scarf or some gentle love-token, was protruded from a crowd of gazers and reverently received on the lifted lance of the devoted Cavalier.

Richard leaves Leicester

A company of Knights, gorgeously apparelled, rode forward down the narrow Lane, now called Simons’ street, and past Saint Nicholas Church towards the West Bridge. Among them was his Highness, distinguished no less by his kingly bearing, than his costly attire, which so blazed with gems, that it dazzled the eye of the spectator almost as much as looking on the sun. Their hot impetuous steeds champed eagerly on the bit, and curvetted along in the utmost impatience of activity and vigour. The monarch relaxed from his usual austerity, and his aspect, which was at all times noble, and was capable of assuming an expression even of the most endearing tenderness, wreathed itself in smiles, and fired the hearts of those around him with the most enthusiastic devotion, and adherence to his cause.

On approaching Bow bridge which spans with five arches another arm of the river Soar. . . a. . .decrepid old woman stood conspicuous among the dense crowd which everywhere lined the path, and was shaking. . .violently with palsy. Her eye, which seemed to fix itself upon the king, gleamed with. . .apparent malignity. . .The Monarch appeared to regard all alike with smiles, but in crossing the bridge, partly perhaps from an exuberance of feeling no less than from the impatience natural to an impetuous spirit in being compelled to brook a temporary obstruction, created by the compact multitude and the narrowness of the path, struck his spur against the coping thereof. His horse swerving aside, pressed so closely upon the spectators, among whom crouched the old prophetess, that a volley of shrieks arose, and the afrighted crowd rushed tumultuously into the middle of the path, threatening every moment to be trampled under the hoofs of the horses.

The old Sibyl, however, stood daringly forth and stretching her withered arm in the face of the Monarch, screamed out in a startling treble which seemed incredible for her years, the following terrible prediction.

Bow Bridge in the 1790s

“Brave as ye now seem; tricked out daintily as ye are; the hour is at hand when ye shall be fain to change that joyous face for mourning and repentance! That gay attire for sack-cloth! Ye have spurned that stone with your heel—against it, ere three days be past, shall your head be beaten. Vain king, beware!” The toothless hag, overcome with her unwonted exertion, fell back among the crowd; and the monarch struck spurs into his horse, and rode on.

Bosworth Field is situate on the western border of Leicestershire, and derives its name from the market town, from which it is one mile distant. Its proper name is Redmoor plain, from the colour of the soil; as the meadows on the west, are called Whitemoors, for the same reason. It belongs to Sutton Cheney, an adjacent village on the east, is of an oval form, about two miles long and one broad, and runs nearly in a line between Bosworth and Atherstone. The south end, where the Earl (Tudor is called Earl of Richmond throughout) approached, is three miles from Bosworth, and is now covered with a wood of some extent, and bounded by a narrow rivulet called the Tweed.

King Richard’s Well

About thirty yards above this wood, is a spring which bears the name of ‘King Richard’s well,’ at the present day. A small stream of water flows from it in the direction of the Tweed; but, having no regular channel cut for its passage, it penetrates into the soil and forms a morass, which Henry is said to have left on his right. Amyon Hill, the scene of action, is nearly in the centre of the field, and has a steep descent on every side; but is steepest towards the north, or Bosworth side; and terminates with a rill, a bog, and a flat, called Amyon-leys. The country, however, at the period of the battle, presented an appearance widely different to that which it wears at the present time. The adjacent Lordships were then uninclosed, and Bosworth Field was one extent of rough uncultivated land.

Towards evening the King’s forces advanced upon Bosworth, where the Earl of Richmond’s army was also beheld approaching in gallant style: onward they came, flashing the red light of the descending sun from their steel equipments, and frowning mutual defiance at each other. Phalanx after phalanx of compact lances hove in sight, diversified with the vari-coloured plumes and pennons of the knights, until the country around presented no other aspect.

Richard galloped into the plain, and looking frowningly around, his penetration immediately led him to suspect that treachery was meditated. Lord Stanley, whose sincerity he had long had occasion to doubt, remained stationed, with an army of five thousand men, on an eminence termed Gamble’s close, about six furlongs behind the royal camp, from which it was separated by the little rivulet above mentioned. Sir William Stanley, approached the field on the west, opposite to the King and Lord Stanley, and pitched his camp at the foot of Amyon hill. It was the policy of the two brothers, to preserve every appearance of faith towards Richard, while they were both at heart devoted to the cause of his antagonist; and, as the wily monarch detained Lord Strange, as hostage for his father’s fidelity, the appearance on the part of Lord Stanley, was more strictly preserved.

King despatched Sir Robert Brackenbury, with a brief, but terrible message, to Lord Stanley, commanding him to join him forthwith, if he desired to preserve his son’s life; to which he returned a prevaricating reply: and the King was only withheld by the firmness of Lord Ferrers, of Chartley, from putting his threat into immediate execution; that nobleman having represented to him the evil, which might ensue to his own cause, by so doing.

The Earl of Richmond, meanwhile was not slow to gain over to his party all such, as were accessible either to adulation or bribery; and, observing the indecision of Lord Stanley, whose services he earnestly wished to secure from a dread of disappointment, immediately turned it to his advantage. A message was despatched to that nobleman forthwith, requesting his assistance, in the most flattering terms ; to which, however, he returned a doubtful reply; but intimated, that he should, probably, be found when needed. With this answer, the Earl, though much displeased was, notwithstanding, compelled to be satisfied, and left it to chance, to operate in his favour.

Meanwhile, as the shadows of twilight were rapidly closing around, the armies prepared to encamp; Richard, taking up his position at Stapleton, on some elevated grounds, called the Bradshaws, situate about a mile and a half east of Bosworth Field, and two from the top of Amyon hill—while Richmond stationed himself on the Whitemoors, one mile from the top of Amyon hill, and close beside the rivulet, whose semi-circular course skirted the camps of the rival chiefs, and passed near to those of the Stanleys, which fronted each other. . .

. . .The morning broke heavily over the plains of Bosworth, as if it mourned the carnage, that was about to ensue. The distance was veiled in a drizzling mist, through which, the adjacent trees, presented all manner of fantastic forms. The tents looked moist and chill, and the silken banners which surmounted them, rich with the gorgeous blazonry of their respective owners, hung heavily around their staffs, saturated with the prevailing vapour; while the steel equipments of horses and riders, shone dimly through the haze. With the first peep of dawn, however, the adverse camps were alive with preparation for the approaching conflict, and long ere the sun looked out from the watery east, the rival chieftains, had each drawn out his army.

The king’s troops were commanded to rendezvous in Sutton field, about midway to Amyon hill, where they were drawn up in order of battle, to the amount of about twelve thousand, horse and foot; thus nearly doubling the force of the enemy. His right extended to a declivity on the Bosworth side, called Cornhni furze, or Amyon leys; and his left towards the well which bears his name. Richmond took up his position with less advantage, having the hill against him, up which he must march, before he could commence the attack. Sir William Stanley advanced to the north of the hill, and stationed himself near Amyon leys, and Lord Stanley flanked either army on the opposite side.

In order to strike the more terror into his foes, the King marshalled his soldiers in two extended lines, placing the archers in front, and the bill-men in the rear, while his horse were divided upon the right and left wing. The King’s chief commanders were, John, Duke of Norfolk, and his son, Thomas, Earl of Surrey, who were appointed to lead the van, the Lord Northumberland, Sir Richard Ratcliffe, Sir Robert Brackenbury, and others. Hungerford and Boucher, two knights who had been ordered to attend, deserted Brackenbury their leader, a little beyond Stony Stratford, and joined Richmond’s army near Tamworth. Sir John Savage, Sir Bryan Sandford, Sir Simon Digby, also deserted to Richmond on the following day.

from warfarehistorynetwork.com

His forces being thus arrayed, the King, attired in a suit of armour of polished steel, and wearing on his head a helmet, of costly workmanship, surmounted with the crown, according to the ancient practice of knighthood, addressed them in a hasty speech against Richmond, whom he plentifully loaded with opprobrium.

The Earl’s forces, consisting of about seven thousand, horse and foot, were arrayed in similar order; and were led by the Earls of Pembroke and Oxford, Sir Gilbert Talbot, and Sir John Savage, commanding the right and left wing of horse; and not to be behind hand with his antagonist, the Earl galloped up and down the line, encouraging his followers and vituperating the King, whom he denounced as a tyrant and homicide.

The trumpets rang forth tumultuously—and the rival armies rushed at once to the onset. A cloud of arrows for a moment darkened the air; and immediately a grove of spears came splintering upon cuirass and morion, some transfixing, and overturning others, who in a moment were trampled out of existence, beneath the hoofs of the raging steeds. Fiercer every moment grew the affray, and for a length of time, the fortunes of the day hung wavering in the balance. The King rushed through the fight, with the impetuosity of an enraged lion, hewing a purple path through the thickest of the enemy, who fell before him, with scarcely an effort at resistance, so utterly reckless and terrible, was his daring.

by Graham Turner

During the heat of the conflict, the Earl of Oxford, observing his line scattered, ordered every man to close upon the standard, a step which seemed imprudent at the time, but had for its object a deep laid scheme, which had been previously planned. Thus having shortened his ranks by condensing his men, the Earl was approached by the Duke of Norfolk, who extended his left to surround him; in which critical moment. Lord Stanley, from flanking both armies, joined Richmond on the right and faced Richard’s left; thus preventing the meditated destruction, and striking terror into the hearts of the Royalists.

Norfolk, beheld the starry ensign of Oxford, waving above the bristling phalanx, and rushed to attack him, spear in rest: the ties of relationship were in a moment forgotten, and they strove against each other, with the fury and desperation of long engendered hate Their spears were quickly shivered to pieces, when each drew his mighty two-hand sword, and Norfolk, aiming the first blow, smote furiously at the helmet of his adversary, from which the weapon glanced obliquely, and wounded him severely, in the left arm. Oxford clove the beaver from the casque of his antagonist, and honourably declining to follow up his advantage, abandoned the combat. He had not retired many paces, however, when, the Duke was struck in the face, by an arrow, which pierced his brain. . .

. . .”Stand to it Gentlemen!” shouted a noble leader, coming up with a small detachment of cavalry, in time to check their retreat. ” Beat back the rebel scoundrels or perish! Ho, there! Forward men! Surrey to the rescue! Surrey! Surrey!”

“Talbot! Saint George, for England! Down with the friends of the usurper!” echoed among the belligerents, who fought against each other with the desperation of wolves. . .

. . .Sword and dagger were speedily shivered in the melée , when they fastened on each other by the throat, or wherever else they could lay their hands, and tumbling from their saddles, were trampled beneath the hoofs of their own steeds. The Earl, intent on revenging the death of his father the Duke of Norfolk, fought with reckless courage, and approaching the veteran Sir Gilbert Talbot, engaged with him hand to hand. Overpowered, however by numbers, his strength was beginning to fail, when Sir Richard Clarendon, and Sir William Conyers, raised the war cry of the Earl, and spurred in to his rescue—which was again cut off by Sir John Savage, who waving his sword around him, already drenched with blood, encompassed them with a party of his followers, when they were immediately cut to pieces, and the Earl taken prisoner. . .

. . .The battle had now lasted above an hour. The advantage was on the side of Richmond, Richard having lost his two principal officers; when a scout came upon the full run, and informed the King, that Richmond was at hand with a slight attendance. It was the opportunity for which the Monarch had thirsted throughout the day, and bidding those, who accounted themselves true knights, to attend him, he waited not for reply, but striking spurs, into the flanks of his gallant steed, rushed to the spot, and threw himself with irresistible force, upon his detested enemy. Sir William Brandon, the Earl’s standard bearer, was the first whom he approached, and tearing the lordly ensign of Cadwallador from his grasp, he hurled it beneath the hoofs of his steed, and with one stroke of his sword, clove the head of the unfortunate knight in twain.

Sir John Cheney, a powerful warrior, and several others were unhorsed, after a feeble resistance; and the Earl, himself, quailed before the sword of the avenger, while his army stood paralyzed at the extraordinary daring. At this juncture. Sir William Stanley, who had hitherto remained neutral, joined the Earl, with an army of three thousand men, which immediately turned the fortunes of the day.

Richard at Bosworth

The King’s chief commanders had already fallen. Most of his forces composing the rear, amounting to nearly three thousand men, placed under the command of the Earl of Northumberland, grounded their arms, and nearly all his followers, now abandoned his cause, leaving him to terminate his career of matchless valour. His intrepid spirit, notwithstanding the terrifying odds, still sought, through the thickest of his foes, the contender for his crown; and plunging recklessly forward, madly contending against a whole army, was brutally hacked to pieces by the Earl’s followers; who, whilst he was expiring on the ground, plunged their swords and daggers into his body.

Thus perished Richard the third, than whom a braver warrior and more politic king, perhaps, never existed. Prompted by ambition, his ruling passion, his Machiavelian subtlety led him through a terrible career of crime, to achieve and maintain his title to the crown. Thus his character, though it presents nothing absolutely despicable, will ever be contemplated with terror and abhorrence.

In this battle, which lasted little better than two hours, it is estimated that upwards of one thousand persons were slain on the side of Richard; and about one hundred, on that of Richmond. But, the chief part of Richard’s army, it appears, never struck a blow; the foulest treachery was employed by his officers, more especially by the Earl of Northumberland; and the Stanleys having joined his enemy with their important additions, sufficiently accounts for the loss of the battle. At the end of the conflict, the loss of Richard, did not greatly exceed that of his enemy—the frightful havoc took place in the after pursuit, in which the Earl and Lord Stanley joined, while Sir William remained to pillage the field.

Richard III's body is brought back to Leicester. Artwork by Victor Ambrus

Richard III’s body is brought back to Leicester. Artwork by Victor Ambrus

It is not our purpose or desire, nor can we think it would be at all acceptable to the reader, to follow the earthly remains of the vanquished king, through the savage and unexampled degradation to which they were subjected, by a cruel and barbarian rabble—promoted, there is little reason to doubt, by his base and unprincipled successor. We therefore gladly close the scene. . .

Postscript: There is another, much shorter story touching upon Richard in the book, called ‘A Night at the Blue Boar Inn’. The gist of it is that a man wishes to have a room at the Blue Boar, but there is only one chamber left, and the innkeeper will only supply it if the man is aware of the rumours that abound concerning it. “Simpletons believe the room to be haunted, and declare that they have heard certain noises in the night, like the chinking of coins and voices in angry altercation.”

The traveller replies that he’s not afraid. “His Majesty’s couch shall be mine for the night, and doubtless will yield me sound repose.”

Another customer nearby explains more. “King Dick prized his gold, and probably left some behind which he is in the habit of watching. . .”

 

 

 

 

Did Anne of Bohemia die of leprosy…?

Anne of Bohemia's funeral procession

Anne of Bohemia’s funeral procession

Well, we are accustomed to incorrect reports about historic events, such as Richard III’s remains being tossed into the River Soar, and Henry “Tudor” being both “the Lancastrian heir” and “Earl of Richmond”. And that Richard III “poisoned” his queen, Anne Neville.

Tradition abounds with these things, but today I came upon one I hadn’t heard before: that another Queen Anne—of Bohemia—wife of another Richard—Richard II—died of leprosy. Eh? If anything it was the plague, surely? And very sudden. If Anne had leprosy I’m sure it would have been evident for some time, and certainly wouldn’t have caused sudden death. Would it?

Another suggestion is that Anne died of an ectopic pregnancy. Until recently it was generally thought that this particular royal marriage was chaste, but now a letter from Anne to her brother Wenceslaus reveals that she had just miscarried. How many miscarriages might she have had? See here. So yes, an ectopic pregnancy might indeed have been the cause of her death. Or indeed, so might anything to do with pregnancy.

But leprosy…? Somehow I think not.

Medieval earthquakes in England….

Marmara_earthquake_1509_(1)-medium

The above is the Marmara earthquake of 1509. I couldn’t find a suitable image for an English event.

We do not suffer a great many earthquakes in the United Kingdom, but there have been some, occasionally quite considerable. Our main sphere of interest on this site is the time of Richard III, and while I was investigating another earthquake, from the previous century, I happened up information about an earthquake of 1480:- “. . .’A very great earthquake’, says Reverend Francis Blomefield, in his topographical History of the County of Norfolk, of an upheaval on December 28th, which affected most of England and threw down buildings in Norwich and elsewhere. . .”

What a tantalizing reference, but unfortunately, there is no further information in the book in which I found it – The Great English Earthquake by Peter Haining (which deals mostly with the major earthquake in 1884). As far as I recall, at this time Richard had returned to Sheriff Hutton after the Scottish campaign, so maybe he did not experience this earthquake personally. But he would have heard about it.

A king of the previous century, Richard II, would almost certainly have experienced the earthquake of 21st May, 1382, which has been described as ‘one of the strongest of all British earthquakes’. Holinshed gives the time as about 1 pm. “. . .‘An earthquake in England, that the lyke thereof was never seen in Englande before that daye nor sen.’ (R. Fabyan). . .” Another report says “. . .‘A great earthquake in England. . .fearing the hearts of many, but in Kent it was most vehement, where it suncke some Churches, and threw them down to the earth.’. . .”

Holinshed further reports that there was a second disturbance on 24th May. “. . .Earlie in the morning, chanced another earthquake, or (as some write) a watershake, being so vehement and violent a motion, that it made the ships in the havens to beat one against thye other, by reason whereof they were sore bruised by such knocking together. . .”

“. . .On the day of the first shock, John Wycliffe was being tried at Westminster for his opinions on the Bible, and the sudden shock caused the court to break up in alarm: thereafter the assembly was known as the ‘Council of the Earthquake’!. . .” The Church, of course, pronounced that the earthquake was God’s condemnation of Wycliffe.

The-Trial-of-John-Wycliffe-in-the-Monastery-of-Blackfriars-London-1382

Another source tells that it was a 5.8 earthquake (I’m not sure how this can be stated as a fact) and the bell tower of Canterbury Cathedral was ‘severely damaged’. The six bells ‘shook down’.

Anyway, according to Nigel Saul, Richard II was in Westminster during this period, so I guess he certainly felt the cataclysm!

In my life I have only once experienced an earthquake. It was some time ago, and (I think) was centred off the coast of North Wales. My husband and I were in bed. It was morning, and we had yet to get up. The bed suddenly swayed backward and forward in a most peculiar manner.

My husband looked at me. “Did the earth just move for you?”

“Yes.”

He grinned. “I’m a marvel. I didn’t even have to touch you!”

Dear Cairo Dweller,

Science has proved that Edward IV’s more prominent sons are not in his tomb, which was opened a few times but not when anyone could have have been placed there.

Science will shortly prove that they are not in that Westminster Abbey urn, as you have maintained for so long.

So where are you going to claim they are next? If they were in, for instance, the chapel mentioned by Henry “Tudor”‘s crony, then they couldn’t have been in the urn when you said they were.

On the left is a copy of an email from Windsor Castle. Here is Timeline of references that they compiled.

 

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