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Richard III and Robert Cecil (Part II)

In a previous post, we explored the theory that Shakespeare’s Richard III was actually based on the Elizabethan politician, Robert Cecil.

Picture of Robert Cecil

Here is another discussion of the subject, Richard III and Robert Cecil, with references to the hypothesis that Shakespeare was actually the 17th Earl of Oxford, a descendant of the previous Earls of Oxford who were such thorns in the side of the Yorkist kings and one of whom was a major factor in Richard’s defeat at Bosworth. If this is true, it is no wonder that ‘Shakespeare’ was happy to blacken Richard’s name.

There are a few misconceptions in the linked article, notably the assertion that Richard executed the 12th Earl and his oldest son; since Richard was only nine years of age on the date Oxford was executed (26th February 1462) this is obviously erroneous and it was, in fact, John Tiptoft who would have presided over Oxford’s execution, being Constable of England at that time (a position he occupied until 1469).

Such distortions of age and timing also occur in Shakespeare, of course, placing Richard at the first battle of St Alban’s, when he would only have been two and a half years old! In fact, he took part in neither of the St Alban’ s battles.

Also, the article states that the most recent attempt to refute the Shakespearean portrayal of Richard’s character was Josephine Tey’s ‘Daughter of Time’. Although this is probably the most famous such work there have, in fact, been countless more recent ones attempting the same thing, such as ‘The Sunne in Splendour’ by Sharon K Penman, ‘We Speak No Treason’ by Rosemary Hawley Jarman, ‘I, Richard Plantagenet’ by J P Reedman and my own ‘Richard Liveth Yet’.

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What if Henry VII had been good-looking and charming….?

Hideous HenryIt occurred to me today that when it comes to being so very supportive of Richard III, we are helped (in a manner of speaking) by Henry Tudor being such a visual horror. Yes, truly. He was ugly inside and out. Loathsome. And his legacy of the House of Tudor was only brightened by Elizabeth I. The rest you can keep. Every last one of them. What a bunch. It’s difficult to picture, I know, but if Henry had been a handsome, delightful chap, what then?

So, might later reaction to Henry Tudor have been different if he too were good-looking, a brave warrior, and a just man with charm aplenty? Let’s face it, not one of those adjectives could be applied to Henry, who even cowered at the back when it came to battles. He was a miserly liar, coward and cheat, a dull clerk and an accountant with a full set of claws, whom fate conspired to put on the throne. Because of him, we lost Richard III, who would have gone on to be one of our great kings.

Oh, I make no bones about my totally biased and carved-in-stone judgement of both men. Henry even managed to die in his bed. How grossly unfair and unjust was that? He had overseen the hacking to death of the King of England, and had only been able to do that because Richard had been betrayed. Hm, Sir William Stanley sure as hell paid the price for that! No sympathy from me for him either.

And I do know that the book from which the above illustration is taken is far from complimentary about Richard – who is portrayed as Shakespeare’s fictional monster. Henry, I believe, is portrayed as his true self!

It’s hard, I know, but if you can just picture Henry as being more like Richard, would we still condemn him so savagely? Yes, we would. Perhaps not quite so savagely, but we’d still condemn him. He had no right to the throne, but stole it through treachery, without having any blood claim. It’s difficult to forgive that, but I still wonder if we’d be quite so vitriolic if the two men were a more balanced match?

 

The abduction of Jane Sacherverell in November 1485….

markyate-cell-gen-mag-1846large

Markyate Priory

Stealing women (and also male wards) was a shamefully common event, especially in the 14th century, as I wrote yesterday. But it was still going on in the 15th century. Richard legislated on behalf of women, but so did Henry VII, with a 1487 “Acte against taking awaye of Women against theire Willes”.

The following account, particularly of Jane Sacherverell’s case, has been paraphrased from the book Stolen Women in Medieval England by Caroline, of which the above link is an appreciative review.

According to one historian and writer, A. Cameron in Complaint and Reform in Henry VII’s Reign: The Origins of the Statute of 3 Henry VII, Henry was prompted by the case of the widow Jane Sacherverell. With Henry and his council acknowledged the inadequacies of the existing law in its failure to prevent Jane Sacherverell’s abduction. But E.W. Ives, in Agaynst Taking Away of Women, argued that Henry’s motivation was furious because he learned that some of his own servants were involved in another abduction, that of Margery Ruyton in 1487. So Henry’s legislation was actually directed at those who were accessories to the crime.

Earlier legislation was not robust enough, and failed to prevent Margery’s abduction, but Henry’s new legislation was no better, for in 1502 it signally failed to prevent of resolve abduction of Margaret Kebell.

Whatever the reason for the 1487 legislation, and the persistence of kidnapping as an issue before Parliament, the suggestion is that there was an underlying disquiet about the problem. Hmm. Easy to tell it was men doing the dithering. Men in power. I’ll bet the abduction and forcible marriage of a young male ward created far more squawking and flurrying of male feathers!

I have not been able to find any details about the case of Margery Ruyton, but for those who wonder about the unfortunate Jane Sacherverell, I will explain a little. The pope alluded to the wealth of forced marriage victims, their abductors being “more desirous of patrimony than matrimony”. Thus most captured women were wealthy in both property and goods. The widowed Jane Sacherverell had married into a family of Derbyshire gentry that had been prominent since the late 13th century. They became knights and had served as Justices of the Peace since at least the 1430s. Jane was obviously a likely target for some man on the make, because widows possessed the property and goods of their late husbands. The man in question this time was William Willoughby of Wollaton. Anyone who married Jane would have immediate control of everything, at least until the majority of her son by her late husband. And we all know how often young heirs failed to reach their majority. William’s eye was on the main chance—that death might present him with the lot. Nice one, if it worked.

The following passage is from https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/manuscriptsandspecialcollections/learning/medievalwomen/theme6/documents.aspx

“Mi 5/168/23/1: Extract from bill of complaint relating to the abduction and forced marriage of Jane Sacheverell (1485, English) – this above document can be viewed at the site.

“Jane Sacheverell was an heiress, the only daughter of Henry Stathum of Hopwell and Morley in Derbyshire. Her husband Sir John Sacheverell died either in 1483 or at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. In order to protect her young son Henry’s inheritance, the Sacheverell family arranged a marriage contract for Jane with their friend and neighbour, William Zouche. Their plans were scuppered when another family, the Willoughbys, abducted Jane and forced her to marry Richard Willoughby of Wollaton. This extract from a bill of complaint brought in Jane’s name describes the abduction on 11 November 1485. At the time of the abduction, the offence was a mere trespass under the law, but two years later King Henry VII made it a felony, in the Act ‘agaynst taking awaye of Women agaynst theire Wills’ (3 Henry VII, c.2).

“A settlement was made between the families in May 1486. Jane obtained a divorce from Richard Willoughby on the grounds of her precontract with William Zouche, whom she went on to marry. A ‘precontract’ was a formal trothplight (agreement to marry, in front of witnesses), which had the legal force of a marriage solemnized in church.

“After William’s death nearly 50 years later, Jane became a nun at Markyate Priory in Bedfordshire. She was Prioress there from 1508 until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536, when she received a Crown pension. . .”

One wonders if even then, at that late stage, she was taking no chances of being snatched again! No, that was a flippant remark, but someone in her situation must surely have always glanced over her shoulder, or woken with a start in the night on hearing some odd noise or other.

Information about Markyate Priory: http://www.hertfordshire-genealogy.co.uk/data/places/places-m/markyate/markyate-cell.htm

 

Children’s book treatment for Richard III, thanks to Cross Roads-based woman….

Carol Fellingham Webb

Carol Fellingham Webb

Carol’s support for King Richard has led her to write this book about his childhood. In the spring there will be another book, following his life until the fateful Battle of Bosworth on 22nd August, 1485.

I hope both titles do really well for her, and that she will find another aspect of Richard, or the 15th century, to start writing a third! Good luck, Carol.

 

What if Anne Neville had survived Richard…?

Richard-III-and-Anne-Neville-taken-from-the-Salisbury-Roll

Here is an interesting thought. What might have happened to Anne Neville had she outlived Richard? I quote:

“A question that arises is what would have happened to Anne had she lived? It is unlikely that her survival would have affected the result of Richard’s loss at Bosworth in any way and it is highly doubtful that she would have produced anymore children. Perhaps she would have become Elizabeth of York’s lady-in-waiting, or sought sanctuary until she was financially able to support herself or re-marry. Anne has remained an enigma, with her thoughts and opinions never heard.”

Yes, she is, was and probably ever will be, an enigma. And heaven knows how Henry “Tudor” would have treated her – by shoving her in Bermondsey with Elizabeth Woodville? Probably.

The quote is taken from here and regardless of its source being The “Tudor” Society, it is not biased against Richard. If it raises those vile rumours of his intention to marry his niece and poisoning Anne, it also argues against them. The real quibble I have is the statement that Richard would never have married Elizabeth because of “opposition in the North”. No mention is made of the Bible and Church forbidding uncles and nieces to marry, or of the fact that Elizabeth’s illegitimacy was rather a large obstacle too. Interesting for all that.

And here’s another thought. Mine, this time. On the assumption that Anne not only survived Richard, but was also in good health. Would she have been drawn into any Yorkist plotting against Henry? After the apocalypse of Bosworth, would she have been tempted to support the Earl of Lincoln and the Earl of Warwick? Maybe even, at a push, Perkin Warbeck? Would she even have been in contact with Elizabeth Woodville, who was, after all, part of the House of York? It’s all an intriguing scenario.

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

An anniversary with SHW

Today in 1484, Elizabeth Wydeville emerged from sanctuary in Westminster Abbey …

Two Richards, one fate….

Two Richards

This post harks back to a previous one of 5th November 2014. Both concern the similarities between the lives and deaths of Richard II and Richard III, but I have now come upon a passage in a book that is actually about Richard II, but much of which could be applied to Richard III. The book is The Medieval Python, by and about Monty Python’s Terry Jones, Chapter 4, Terry Jones’s Richard II by Nigel Saul.

“For Terry Jones, Richard II is a much maligned ruler. Obstructed by a gaggle of obscurantist barons, deposed by a slippery usurper, and with his reputation besmirched by Lancastrian propaganda, Richard, in Terry’s view, is deserving of better in the eyes of posterity. Far from the self-centred, vengeful monarch portrayed in textbooks, Richard, for Terry, was actually a wise and beneficent ruler who sought the good of his people. In his final years, when he ruled without baronial constraint, he conducted what Terry calls ‘a bold experiment in ideal kingship’. Its aim was to shield the king’s humbler subjects from the policy of aggressive war with France that suited only the warmongering baronage. After 1399, however, when Henry IV seized the crown from his cousin, history was rewritten to blacken the former king’s name. Our assessment of Richard’s kingship, Terry argues, should be based not on the hostile Lancastrian accounts, but on sources that date from the king’s own lifetime. In particular, we should try to judge Richard’s achievement in the light of contemporary expectations of kingship for the common good. Viewed in this light, Richard can be seen for what he was—an exponent of the ideas in the ‘mirrors of princes’ literature, a monarch who triumphed over faction, ruling in the common interest. . .”

Saul goes on to argue against Jones’ judgement, but that is beside the point. I think you will have to agree that these two Richards (forget the so-called Lionheart) were subjected to very similar, very cruel fates.

As I said in my previous post (indicated above) the similarities are astonishing, even to both being married to Annes who died before them and left them childless, and both being removed from life by Henrys who proceeded to ruin their reputations with endless lies. Oh, and they both have the misfortune to attract Shakespeare, who is always on the wrong side! Well, I think he is.

 

William “Waste-all” Berkeley, the lord who out-Stanleyed the Stanleys at Bosworth….!

Berkley_Castle_by_Jan_Kip_1712Here is the story of yet another lord who betrayed Richard III at Bosworth. Oh, but wait a moment, this one betrayed Henry Tudor as well, now there’s a feat!

The man in question was William, eventually Marquess of Berkeley, but nicknamed “Waste-all”. He was 43 when he won the Battle of Nibley Green, which was fought on 20 March 1469 or 1470, depending upon which calendar one uses. The battle is famous now because it was the last to be fought in England by private feudal armies. William “was of an unusually haughty and headstrong disposition, and made himself so much feared by all around him that for several years before his father’s death none of the tenants would accept any lease without William’s joining in it”. Not an endearing character.

north_nibley

The village of North Nibley, Gloucestershire

He had an even more famous feud with Margaret Beauchamp, Countess of Shrewsbury (1404–14 June 1468) was the eldest daughter of the 13th Earl of Warwick, and by her marriage to the 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, as his second wife, she was the mother of Lady Eleanor Talbot, Sir Humphrey Talbot, and Lady Elizabeth Talbot, Duchess of Norfolk, all names Ricardians will know well. But by her first marriage, she was the grandmother of Thomas Talbot, 2nd Baron Lisle , 2nd Viscount Lisle (c.1449-20 March 1470), who was aged 20 or 21 at the time of Nibley Green.Margaret Beauchamp, Countess of Shrewsbury (1404-1467) by James Basire the younger (London 1769 ¿ London 1822)

Margaret was a truly formidable woman who always fought tooth and claw what she considered to be hers and her children’s. She pursued years of feud with the equally formidable William Waste-all. They were “”two merciless natures not unevenly encountering”, as Smyth, the Berkeley family biographer and steward, recorded. The dispute was over manors and lands, including Berkeley Castle itself, which the Countess regarded as hers. Waste-all, needless to say, did not agree. One of the disputed manors was Wotton, not far from Berkeley, which Waste-all said the countess was occupying illegally. The dispute was not confined to legal means, including petitioning King Edward IV, but also by predatory attacks on each other’s territories, and fights between their servants and tenants. It was quite some quarrel, even by the standards of the day.

Berkeley (left) and Lisle (right)

Then, on 14 June 1468, the Countess Margaret died, and her estate—and the great dispute—passed to her grandson, the young Lord Lisle, who was eager to take up the cudgels. He plotted against Waste-all, using a treacherous Berkeley servant who then turned coat again and told Waste-all everything. The latter was monumentally furious. Lisle was livid. Letters were sent, threats made, and a challenge issued on 19 March 1469. The confrontation was set to take place the following day at Nibley Green, halfway between Wotton and Berkeley.

Re-enactment of Battle of Nibley Green

Re-enactment of the Battle of Nibley Green

Waste-all maintained a garrison at Berkeley Castle, which gave him an advantage over Lord Lisle. They faced each other at Nibley Green, 1000 men to 300 or so. It was an unequal conflict from the outset, and because his visor had not been lowered, hot-headed Lisle was shot with an arrow on the left side of his face. One of Waste-all’s supporters, named Black Will of the Forest of Dean, finished off the wounded man with a dagger. Lisle’s force fled, pursued by Waste-all’s. There was chaos as the latter and his great numbers descended on Wotton. Such was the ordeal for Lisle’s young wife, that sixteen days later she was brought to bed early of a stillborn son, thus ending her husband’s line.

All this took place as Warwick the “Kingmaker” was turning upon Edward IV. A few months later, Edward himself was a fugitive and Warwick had returned the displaced Lancastrian, Henry VI, to the throne. Then, the following year, Edward IV returned to overthrow Warwick and Henry VI at the Battle of Barnet. On 6 October 1473, the case was settled in favour of Waste-all, who must have thought it was all done and dusted.

However, he became mixed-up with Sir Edward Grey, brother-in-law (through her first husband) of Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV’s manipulative queen. Grey married the sister of the late Lord Lisle of Nibley Green, and decided to take up the Lisle claim through his wife. William Waste-all was on shakier ground now, with Elizabeth Woodville obviously set on upholding her brother-in-law’s side of it. Edward IV was always one for a quiet time in his marriage – if marriage it was, considering he was first married to the old Countess’s daughter, Lady Eleanor Talbot, who selfishly stayed alive for four years after he’d uttered his vows to Elizabeth! Oh, tangled webs… In due course Sir Edward Grey would indeed be created Lord Lisle by Richard III.

In the meantime, anxious to stay in favour with Edward IV, Waste-all had conveyed many manors and lands to the king’s younger son, the little Duke of York (soon to be one of the boys in the Tower). When Richard III came to the throne, and the Duke of York (and his elder brother, known as Edward V) were declared illegitimate because of the Eleanor Talbot marriage, everything returned to Waste-all. Did he dance a jig? Probably.

But it was now that he really earned his nickname, Waste-all. After subsequently gaining 68 Mowbray manors and other property across the realm, he set about giving or granting everything away in order to gain honours and distinctions. He conveyed 35 manors to Richard III, in return for the title Earl of Nottingham, and when Richard faced Henry Tudor at Bosworth, it was said that William Waste-all out-Stanleyed the Stanleys, by supporting one side with men, the other with money. Henry Tudor won, and returned the 35 manors to William Waste-all. Was fate hell-bent on helping the fellow?

Next Waste-all conveyed two castles and 28 manors to Sir William Stanley, and then parted with many more to Sir William and others. In his will he entailed Berkeley Castle and all remaining family possession on the Tudor king, reserving only a life interest in them. In return he was created Marquess of Berkeley. He ended up as Great Mareschal of England, but by the time he died, on 14th February, 1492, he had disinherited his entire family. What a Valentine. Small wonder he gained the soubriquet Waste-all!

berkeleycastle

But there is a postscript. Waste-all had no legitimate children, and so his heir was his younger brother, Maurice, whom Waste-all considered to have married beneath his rank and thus brought shame on the family. What nerve, considering his own antics.

Was Waste-all giving everything away in order to punish Maurice, who eventually inherited the title, with nothing to go with it? If this is true, it was a terrible act of spite from nasty old Waste-all, who wasn’t exactly a dazzling adornment to the title of Berkeley.

You will find much more about him and the Battle of Nibley Green at

https://www.rotwang.co.uk/hob_chapter_05.html

 

 

The Last Plantagenet by Bob Ferdinand

Poet Bob Ferdinand wrote this sonnet about Richard and entered it into the Nebraska Shakespeare Sonnet Contest last summer, winning second prize (should have been first!)

Graham Turner painting of Richard III at Bosworth killing William Brandon

The Battle of Bosworth by artist Graham Turner, copyright Graham Turner. N.B. Prints and cards of this and many other Ricardian scenes are available – click on the picture above 

The Last Plantagenet

In August, at late Summer’s teeming height,
The last Plantagenet rode forth one day
Defying Fortune, rising to the fight
And risking all in battle’s bloodied fray.

He stood resolved which course he must pursue
To stem the sham of Richmond’s royal claim
A final thrust could see the battle through
To ride straight for The Tudor was his aim.

Surrounded by the pride of England’s might
With heart set high he charged the foe pell-mell
Within the deepest folds of battle’s fright
King Richard strove- he sought, he fought, he fell.

A King he lived and died, without regret-
On Bosworth Field the Sun in Splendor set.

© Bob Ferdinand

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