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Edward IV and Elizabeth Wydeville

(This letter, of which a version was published in the September 2018 Bulletin, was in response to Bryan Dunleavy’s article about Edward IV and Elizabeth Wydville.)

The article in the latest Ricardian Bulletin by Bryan Dunleavy is interesting, and also provocative, given that the bulk of readers of the publication are, by definition, Ricardians.

However Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth was conceived and performed, there is no doubt it was irregular, and so subject to a presumption of bad faith. If Edward wanted the establish the legitimacy of his children securely, the readiest way would have been to follow the example of his own grandparents, Richard of Conisbrough and Anne Mortimer, who secured a Papal Dispensation in 1408 to regularise their secret marriage. (Richard and Anne were about as poor as two noble persons could be, but they still went to the trouble and expense.)

Of course it may be that Edward was well aware that the Pope had no power to dispense bigamy. If you reject that possibility, then one has to say that he behaved irresponsibly as a man of property, let alone a sovereign.

I suspect that like many wealthy and powerful people, even in our own times, Edward simply believed he was untouchable.

Incidentally, how did Edward and Elizabeth manage to avoid procreation between their “marriage” and her coronation, nearly thirteen months later on Ascension Day? If, as Mr. Dunleavy said, “one can only conclude that this was deliberate”, perhaps Edward frequented his nearest apothecary or a dispenser (Despencer?) in a tavern?

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“On the Trail of the Mortimers”

This song was written in conjunction with the Mortimer History Society for Philip Hume’s book about the noble family.

ANNE MORTIMER AND RICHARD OF CONISBURGH , A LOVE MATCH?

IMG_4798.jpgTHE TOMB THAT  IT IS BELIEVED ANNE MORTIMER SHARES WITH HER IN-LAWS, EDMUND OF LANGLEY AND ISABELLA OF CASTILE…CHURCH OF ALL SAINTS, KINGS LANGLEY

Some time during the month of May 1408 , were married Richard III’s paternal grandparents, Anne Mortimer and Richard of Conisburgh. She was just 16 and he was in his 20s, it being thought that he could have been born circa 1375 but there is some uncertainty about this and it could have been later.  It must have been a love match for it was without parental consent but validated by papal dispensation two years later on the 23 May.   There was certainly no material gains from the marriage for either of them as Anne and her sister, Eleanor, were both living in straitened circumstances and being described as ‘destitute’ on the death of their mother..  Conisburgh was destined to suffer on going cash flow problems being described at the time as ‘the poorest of all the earls’ and struggling to maintain the lifestyle appropriate for his rank (1) when he was promoted to Earl of Cambridge in 1414.

Sadly the marriage was short-lived, Anne dying shortly after giving birth to Richard III’s father, Richard of York on the 22 September 1411 at Conisburgh Castle.  The future was to bring about the execution of Conisburgh as a result of the Southampton plot in 1415 leaving their small son an orphan.

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CONISBURGH CASTLE

But I digress , and returning to Anne, it is believed that she was finally reburied once again with her paternal inlaws, Edmund of Langley and Isabella of Castile in All Saints Church, Kings Langley after their original burial place, Convent Chapel, Kings Langley fell into disrepair after the Dissolution of the Monasteries.    In 1877, this tomb and its contents were examined by  Dr George Rolleston.     In a third lead coffin was found the remains of a woman of ‘about’ 30 years old with some of her auburn hair still remaining.  These are believed to have been the remains of Anne Mortimer.

Kings_Langley_Palace_ruins.jpg

Some of the remains of Kings Langley Palace, home to Edmund Langley, are thought to have been incorporated in this old farm building.

Here is a link to an interesting article on  “Anne Mortimer, the forgotten Plantagenet”

1) Richard Duke of York, King by Right p35 Matthew Lewis.

The truth about the Beauforts and the throne of England. . . .

 

From the Global Family Reunion website

John of Gaunt, third son of Edward III, was the Duke of Lancaster, and his illegitimate children, the Beauforts, were barred from the throne by his legitimate, firstborn son, Henry IV. Clearly the latter wasn’t having any baseborn relative wearing the crown. Nevertheless, we eventually ended up with a Beaufort king, who claimed to be the last Lancastrian heir. He wasn’t. 

Marriage of John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster

Marriage of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster

Explanation is needed to sort out the intricacies of it all. The Beauforts were not true Lancastrians at all, because though they descended from John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, Edward III’s third son, it was a fact that Gaunt only had the title because of his first marriage, to Blanche of Lancaster. So Blanche’s descendants, Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI, were proper Lancastrians. The baseborn Beauforts descended from Gaunt’s mistress and eventual third wife, Katherine de Roët. Their eventual legitimisation by the ill-fated true king, Richard II, son of the Black Prince, Edward III’s eldest heir, did not change this. The Beauforts were never true Lancastrians. Without Blanche’s blood, they couldn’t be. (1)

After Henry VI, if the proper Lancastrian line, i.e. from Blanche Lancaster, were to have been continued, it would have been through the Portuguese offspring of Philippa of Lancaster, Gaunt’s elder daughter by Blanche.

The Marriage of Philippa of Lancaster and the King of Portugal.

Except, of course, that the Lancastrian line had never been the true one in the first place. The House of Lancaster usurped Richard II’s throne and then murdered him. The rightful line after Richard II was that of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, who had been Edward III’s second son.

Gaunt was a hypocrite. He tried his damnedest to persuade Edward III to prevent the throne from ever descending through a woman. This was in order to exclude the descendants of Lionel of Clarence. Lionel left a single daughter, Philippa of Clarence, who married Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March. Their only child, Anne, married Richard of Cambridge, a son of Edmund of Langley, thus uniting the second and fourth line of descent from Edward III. Thus the true House of York, as we know it, was created.

Of course, as far as Gaunt was concerned, staking a claim to the throne of Castile through his own second wife, Constance of Castile, was another matter entirely. It was just and noble, and through her he considered himself to be the King of Castile. He even demanded to be known as that. Yet he wanted such claims through the female line to be eliminated in England. Yes, a hypocrite of the highest order.

Arms of Richard of Cambridge

I can understand Gaunt’s wish to legitimise his children by Katherine, whom he clearly loved. But I cannot forgive his two-faced, underhanded scheming to steal a throne that was not his to steal! His son did steal it—through usurpation and murder, and that’s how we ended up with the three kings of the House of Lancaster, Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI. But the House of York did ascend the throne eventually, in the form of Edward IV and then Richard III.

left to right – Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI

Back to Gaunt. In the name of Lancaster, he had raised an army and sailed off to take a (foreign) throne that was occupied by someone else. And he did this through the claims of a woman, no less. Fast forward to the aftermath of the sudden death of the Yorkist king, Edward IV, and we have scheming Margaret Beaufort and her son, Henry Tudor, neither of whom truly represented the Lancastrian line. But they posed as such. Throughout the tragically short reign of Edward’s last brother, Richard III, they plotted against him. Their treachery, in the name of Lancaster, led to Henry’s foreign invasion and Bosworth, where Richard was betrayed and killed.

Henry VII

Henry Tudor promptly stepped up to the throne. Um, perhaps not in the name of Lancaster, more for himself. He was careful to claim victory through conquest, not blood line. Which tells me that he was well aware that his mother’s Beaufort descent was a very doubtful blessing. The Beauforts had been barred from the throne by an only too Lancastrian monarch, Henry IV.

Henry Tudor knew he had defeated and ended the life of the last true King of England. He, like Henry IV before him, was a regicide. (Yes, yes, I am aware that the same charge can be laid at Edward IV’s door, regarding Henry VI, but that is another story entirely.)

So, to sum up. No Lancastrian, of any degree, should ever have been king. From Richard II, the line should have descended through Lionel of Clarence, the Mortimers and York. Richard III did thus descend. The crown of England was his by right of birth. That could never be said of Henry Tudor, whose sole right was based upon foul treachery.

Richard III

(1) See also: The Lancastrian claim to the throne, Ashdown-Hill, pp.27-38, Ricardian 2003

The Tantalising Childhood of Richard, Duke of York

In 1416, Richard, Duke of York was just four and a half years old when, in March, he was placed into the care of Robert Waterton. Richard’s mother, Anne Mortimer, had died shortly after he was born and his father, Richard of Conisburgh, had been executed a year earlier for his part in the Southampton Plot. Richard became something of a problem for Henry V’s government when his uncle, Edward, Duke of York was killed at Agincourt. As he had no children, Richard was Edward’s heir. The son of a traitor had suddenly become one of the most important figures in England.

Robert Waterton was a stalwart of the Lancastrian government having been keeper of the king’s horses and dogs but it was in his role as keeper of problem people that he is most interesting. After the Battle of Agincourt, Henry V returned to England with a long line of prominent French prisoners in tow. Waterton acted as gaoler for many of these prisoners, though in reality their confinement was a comfortable affair with a degree of freedom.

A mandate for payment of Waterton’s expenses in 1423 noted that he was responsible for Richard, Duke of York but also listed the French prisoners still under his care. The list included Charles, Count of Eu, Arthur de Richmont, son of the Duke of Brittany, Perrin de Luppe, Guichard de Sesse and, most notably of all, Jean le Maingre, better known as Marshal Boucicaut.

Boucicaut had passed away in Yorkshire in 1421, but he was one of the most famous knights in Europe and was a tower of chivalry. He was Marshal of France at the time of Agincourt and travelled to England as a prisoner following the battle. Robert Waterton was responsible for some of the most important figures captured in France alongside his young English ward.

Whilst no evidence of any fraternising remains, it is tantalising to consider whether a young Richard, Duke of York might have met and spent time with some of France’s finest knights, representing the pinnacle of French chivalry. What would the boy have made of these famous and accomplished knights who had ended up as English prisoners? If they did spend any time in each other’s company it may well have been an experience that helped to shape the man that this young boy would become.

Charles d’Orleans was possibly the most notable of Waterton’s charges. He was a grandson of Charles V of France and lived until 1465 after his years as a prisoner. He was a senior figure in French politics and although only in his early twenties when he entered Waterton’s care, he had seen first-hand the devastation caused to a proud kingdom by the rule of a weak and incapable king. He was a prisoner in a foreign land, snatched from his dukedom and all but ruined in the prime of life because his king was not a strong leader capable of governing. His experience was almost prophetic of Richard’s later life. It is tempting to wonder what lessons Richard, even as a young boy, saw in the fate of these men and what words of wisdom they may have offered him.

Richard, Duke of York: King By Right is released on Friday 15th April 2016 by Amberley Publishing. It is a fresh examination of a figure who towers over fifteenth century history but who frequently appears in his later years at the outbreak of the Wars of the Roses. By looking at his formative years and the world around him as he grew up a very different man emerges who was not the ambitious, war-mongering man history remembers him as. Richard as a very real man will emerge from this book to demand a fresh look at his actions throughout the 1450s.

You can buy Richard, Duke of York: King By Right from Amazon now.

Lost in Southampton: Richard of Conisbrough

coni

Richard of Conisbrough was Richard III’s grandfather on the paternal side. He is a shadowy figure, the last son of Edmund of Langley and his wife Isabella of Castile. Even his date of birth is uncertain, varying in different accounts by up to ten years. His father left him no inheritance, and there were rumours that Edmund and his eldest son suspected that Richard was not Langley’s child, but that of John Holland, with whom Isabella of Castile was known to have had an affair. (Some have suggested that this may account for the y-Dna mismatch between Richard and the current Beauforts, and this is a possibility, although it is far more likely it occurred somewhere in the past 16 Beaufort generations.)
At any rate, Richard was known to be the ‘poorest Earl’ due to his lack of income; he was his mother’s heir but monies due to be paid him came only irregularly after Richard II was deposed and Henry IV came to the throne. In 1408, he married Anne Mortimer in secrecy, without parental permission. It appears to have been a love match as Anne came with no particular wealth. With Anne, he had three children, the latter of whom was named Richard— he eventually became Duke of York, and the father of Edward IV and Richard III
When Anne Mortimer died in 1411, Richard of Conisbrough married the heiress Maud Clifford and swiftly had a daughter Alice.
Then in 1415, he fell in with a plot against the reigning Henry V shortly before the King was meant to sail to France for Agincourt. Along with Lord Scrope of Masham and Thomas Grey, he plotted to replace Henry with Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, Anne’s brother, who also had a strong claim to the throne. However, Edmund himself informed Henry, and the conspirators were arrested in Southampton after they had made several meetings. They seemed to have expected mercy, with a heavy fine…but no mercy was forthcoming from the stern Henry.

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St Julien’s, resting place of Richard of Conisbrough

All three men were executed; Grey hanged, drawn and quartered; Scrope decapitated and his head sent to York; and Conisbrough executed by the headsman but allowed to ‘keep his head’ with him after death due to his royal ancestry. He was buried without ceremony in the tiny St Julien’s church, which formed part of the God’s House hospital. Dating from 1185, this chapel still stands in the shadow of a massive towered gateway, although it is in private hands and can only be viewed from the exterior.
So one may think Richard got his just dues for plotting against King Henry. But how serious was this plot? Was there even a plot at all? Professor Anne Curry has doubts as to its veracity as does historian T.B. Pugh. It is just as likely that Henry was simply removing a few disgruntled lords (Conisbrough had some reason to be disgruntled—he had been charged a 10,000 mark marriage fine) and sending a harsh warning to anyone who thought to defy him when he was away on campaign in France. The three plotters were not terribly organised and their supposed plots vague at best, and none of them seemed particularly supportive or loyal to Edmund of Mortimer, which may make it unlikely that they truly wanted him as king—apparently, they called him a hog and a pig!
So whatever the case, Conisbrough lost his life aged somewhere between the ages of 30 or 40, but luckily, because he was not attainted, he was able to pass on his estates to his orphaned son, four year old Richard. Shortly thereafter, Conisbrough’s elder brother died at Agincourt, and in due time young Richard was acclaimed as his heir and inherited his titles and lands.
Conisbrough is rather a forgotten figure, except as dealt with in a Shakespeare play. Despite the possibility he had done very little against Henry V other than grumble a bit with a few other northern lords, no one seems to mourn his execution overmuch…unlike, for instance Anthony Rivers, executed for treason by Richard III in 1483. There is certainly just as much if not more evidence that Rivers was plotting against the Duke of Gloucester on behalf of his Woodville kin; the fact that no one spoke up for him after his arrest speaks volumes. They had weeks to do so. But it seems, alas, Conisbrough did not have Rivers’ charisma…or write poetry.

References-
Anne Curry: Agincourt-A New History
TB Pugh: Henry V and the Southampton Plot of 1415

We like to answer our readers’ queries …

On Thursday, someone enquired: “Who had a better claim to the throne than Henry VII”?

The short answer (excluding the right by conquest): almost anyone.
Conventionally, his mother was descended from Edward III through the Beaufort line, but they were only legitimised “excepta dignitate regali”. However, the balance of evidence suggests that his parents were undispensed first cousins, making Henry personally illegitimate. Then again, his great-grandfather, the first Beaufort, may have been a legitimate Swynford, giving him no royal descent at all. According to the latest DNA evidence, this latter conclusion is at least 5% probable.

The long answer: In summer 1485, apart from the reigning King Richard III, his Suffolk nephews all had claims and there were a few of those. Even if we discount women from reigning in their own right, many of his nieces later had sons. His father’s sister, Isobel, was married to an Earl of Essex and had Bourchier issue. His grandmother Anne Mortimer was the last of her line but Richard of Cambridge had a sister, Constance, through whom Anne Neville and the Barons Bergavenny descend. After Anne Mortimer but before Cambridge’s cousins would come the legitimate, unattainted Lancastrians in Portugal. Then there was an Earl of Kent and, as soon as attainders could be reversed, there was an Earl of Warwick and a Stafford heir.

Have we forgotten anyone?

THE DOUBLE EXHUMATION OF EDMUND OF LANGLEY, FIRST DUKE OF YORK (from White Lily)

Much angst and verbiage has been vented and spilt lately on the subject of exhumation of bodies, particularly those of royal lineage. I don’t claim to be an archeologist, or an expert in the ethics of exhumation, but I stand in puzzled wonderment at the continued resistance to any proposed opening of the infamous urns at Westminster Abbey. Those urns purport to hold the skeletons of the “Princes in the Tower” – Edward V and his brother, Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York. Well, they do more than just purport – they are actually designated as such in the Minster. I wonder how many tourists actually believe they are laying eyes on those tender golden-haired boys they had seen smothered with a pillow in Laurence Olivier’s movie masterpiece “Richard III”.

By odd coincidence, as I was making my Internet meanderings lately, I came across a blog that brought light to an earlier exhumation of a Yorkist prince: Edmund of Langley, first Duke of York. It turns out that he was exhumed not once, but twice! First, in 1574 and then again, in 1877, at Kings Langley in Hertfordshire.

Kings Langley, of course, was the original resting place of Richard II following his (ahem) “premature death by nutritional deficits” at Pontefract Castle in 1400. Perhaps in a fit of remorse or true piety, Henry V had the remains exhumed and translated to Westminster Abbey. Henry V did not think to accord the same honor to his great-uncle, Edmund of Langley, whose body was laid to rest at Kings Langley in 1402, next to that of his first wife. Of course, one would not expect the scion of the House of Lancaster to elevate the remains of a prince of a rival house, notwithstanding that Edmund was of the blood royal and his ancestor. Westminster Abbey was for anointed kings and queens, and Edmund didn’t make the cut.

What happened next is, however, of some interest. Originally interred in the Church of the Dominican Friary at Kings Langley, the remains of the Duke and his wife were moved around the year 1574. It appears that Elizabeth I had revoked several financial grants that had been given to the friary by Queen Mary I and King Edward VI, and it fell on hard times and ruin as a result; perhaps it was dissolved. So, the Duke’s tomb was opened up and its contents re-interred at All Saint’s.

Langley’s remains, however, were destined for a second exhumation necessitated by some building improvements being done to All Saint’s in the 1870s. Victorian scientists of the day found this to be an opportune time to bring modern medical science to bear. On November 22, 1877, Professor George Rolleston, M.D., opened up the tomb and made the following observations, including the discovery of a third skeleton:

“I examined three skeletons at King’s Langley. Of these one was the skeleton of a powerful man, considerably past the middle period of life; a second was the skeleton of a woman, as far as I could judge, between thirty-five and forty years of age; the third had belonged to a younger woman, whose age, however, could not have been very far from thirty. The bones of the first two had got somewhat intermingled; those of the third had been kept safely apart from intermixture in a leaden coffin.

“The skull belonging to the male skeleton had a sloping forehead. The chin and lower jaw were powerfully developed. The front teeth were small in size and crammed together, and many of the back teeth lost. Still the retention of the front teeth and the good development of the lower jaw and chin, coupled with the length and breadth of the facial region, must have given a commanding expression to the old man who owned this skull.

“The age was somewhere between fifty-eight and sixty-five. The crippled condition of his later years must have formed a touching contrast to the strength and vigor which he certainly possessed. In the lower jaw, three molars had been lost during life, two on one side and one on the other, and one pre-molar was carious. In the upper jaw the molars had been lost during life, and two pre-molars were carious. A piece of coarse textile fabric, with some hair of a greyish-red color adhering to it, was found with the skull. He was from 5′ 5″ to 5′ 7” in height.

“The second skeleton, which was more or less mixed up with the first, belonged to a woman from 4 feet 6 inches to 4 feet 8 inches in stature, and between thirty-five and forty-five years of age. The wisdom teeth were all present; of those in the upper jaw, the one on the right side was apparently only just through the socket; whilst that on the other (left) side had a large cavity. The two lower jaw wisdom teeth were little worn. The right lower jaw canine presented the rare anomaly of a bifid root.

“In a leaden coffin was the skeleton of a woman about thirty years of age, a little over, probably, rather than under that age, with some auburn hair still remaining, though detached from the skull. The wisdom tooth was absent in the lower jaw on the left, and one pre-molar was absent on the right side. She was between 5 foot 3 and 5 foot 5 in height.”

Concerning the identity of these bones, archeologist Sir John Evans said that the powerful male is most certainly the Duke Edmund; the female intermixed with his bones is probably that of his first wife, Isabel of Castile-Leon. And who is the young woman who was buried in the Duke and Duchess’ tomb, alone in the leaden coffin? “In the tomb at Langley it is still uncertain who was the lady whose body was thus protected.”

“It has struck me as possible that these remains may be those of Anne Mortimer, daughter of Roger Mortimer, Earl of March, first wife of Richard of Coningsburgh. This is, however, mere conjecture.” — John Evans (1881). XIV, Edmund of Langley and his Tomb, Archaeologia, 46, pp. 297-328. Contemporary historians and genealogists agree with Evans’ view that the skeleton in the leaden coffin is Anne Mortimer’s. She was the heir general in her issue of the Crown of England, and transmitted the right to the Crown to her grandson, Edward IV.

I keep thinking: what if Dr. Rolleston had not been given permission to examine the bodies in Edmund’s tomb in 1877? Would the body of Anne Mortimer have been found? Indeed, would the third skeleton have ever been noted? How do we resolve the conflicting search for historical truth versus the need to accord respect to human remains? I do not have the answers, but somewhere in my gut, I feel the search for truth must win out.

SOURCES:

http://plantagenetdynasty.blogspot.com/2010/09/body-of-prince-edmund-of-langley-1st.html

http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=37971

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