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Did ANYONE do the dirty deed in the Tower….?

If you go to this link this article you’ll find an interesting if challengeable article about “Perkin Warbeck” and whether he could or could not have been Richard of Shrewsbury. Well, there were enough people who thought he was, and to make Henry Tudor’s existence thoroughly miserable. Pleasant thought. The article also discussed who might really have disposed of the boys in the Tower, if indeed they were disposed of.

At the beginning, as an example of how important naming names can be to a lot of people, there is a comment about the novelist Patricia Cornwell paying a lot to try to prove the identity of Jack the Ripper, inspired by a now (apparently) debunked theory. Well, I’m as interested in Jack the Ripper as the next person, but to be honest, in his case I don’t know that I want to know who he actually was. The mystery is the thing, especially as the royal family itself is implicated in one of the other theories.

The Princes in the Tower
Arthur C Michael, English (1881-1965)

But when it comes to the boys in the Tower, I’m definitely interested in knowing who did what, simply because it matters when Richard III’s name is hauled around in the mire. I’m convinced he didn’t do anything to his nephews, but either got them away somewhere safe, or was caught up in the consequences of someone else’s conspiracy, during which they died.

So it’s always intriguing to read someone else’s thoughts on these thorny matters, and some hoary old myths always make an appearance of course. Including in the above link. The first is that Hastings was bundled straight from the privy council meeting to a convenient log and had his head lopped. No trial, no nothing, just instant retribution. Well, that’s silly. Of course Hastings had a trial. It’s Tudor propaganda that he didn’t. Anything to blacken Richard’s character. One thing’s certain, if Hastings hadn’t been plotting against Richard, he’d have survived. But he was, so he didn’t.

And if Richard were really evil, would he really have just sentenced Jane Shore, or whatever her name really was, to walk barefoot through the streets? I think not. She’d been up to her pretty neck in scheming against Richard…if he’d been a Tudor, she too would have been hauled off to that bloody log! So don’t blame Richard, look to the Tudors as the instigators of nasty things happening to women. They made a speciality of the art.

The Penitance of Jane Shore, 1824, by Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863)

Mancini is believable because he “had no axe to grind”. Well, not that we know of, anyway. But does he tell the truth? And he was an Italian without great command of English, so how much did he mishear/misinterpret? If there’d been a plot involving Hastings, to do away with Richard and put Edward V on the throne, Richard would have been pretty stupid not to secure Edward somewhere solid and safe. The Tower — in the royal apartments, not the deepest, darkest, dampest, direst old dungeon below the low water level of the Thames! And whatever else Mancini may say, he doesn’t actually accuse Richard of murdering the boys. How could he? No one knows even now what happened to them, if anything. They might well have been taken abroad…or they may have died of natural causes. There was always some disease or other circulating in medieval times.

Mancini’s thoughts on Richard III

Then we come to the “it’s Buckingham wot done it” bit. Well, I’m prepared he believe he did. He wanted to be rewarded more by Richard than he already had been, and when the riches weren’t forthcoming quickly enough, he raised a rebellion. Which was tied up with Henry Tudor, courtesy of John Morton, Margaret Beaufort, Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all…. The usual traitors in fact. Well, what I don’t think is that Buckingham rebelled in order to put Tudor on the throne. What? Why the heck would he? He was genuine through and through blue-blooded royal, Richard’s first cousin, why on God’s own earth would be conspire to put a Beaufort nonentity like Henry Tudor on the throne. I think it more likely that Buckingham found out the hard way that they weren’t supporting him, but he was supporting them. Not flaming likely, thought he, but then the British weather put paid to the entire enterprise, and he was captured, tried and beheaded. And good riddance to the ingrate! He was no loss to Richard, or to England.

18th-century portrait of Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, from Wikipedia

Sir James Tyrell is considered next, because he apparently confessed to the boys’ murder later on in Henry VII’s ill-gotten reign. If Tyrell did confess, it was wrung out of him by means of the vast and novel array of implements in the Tudors’ extensive torture repertoire. Besides, there is a Tyrell family story, firmly believed, that the boys stayed briefly on their East Anglian estates and were then helped to escape to safety at Richard’s behest. If Sir James had murdered them, I think the Tyrells would have kept their heads down, not preserved a heroic story of their involvement in the boys’ escape.

Sir James Tyrell views the dead princes, from John Cassell’s Ilustrated History of England, Vol. II
London: W. Kent & Co, 1858.30.

To move on, did a Lancastrian faction try to rescue the boys in a botched attempt that ended with the boys’ death? Hmm, I’m afraid I have a problem with the thought of Lancastrians “rescuing” the sons of a Yorkist king. The Woodvilles would want to put Edward V on the throne, and possibly some disgruntled Yorkists, but not any Lancastrians, surely? Anything the latter did would be a cover for extinguishing the boys, not saving them. My opinion only, of course.

Next, if the boys died of natural causes, why didn’t Richard put their bodies on display? Well, perhaps he would if he could, but he didn’t have them. I think he spirited them away to safety, maybe through the Tyrells, but then something befell them. Maybe even a shipwreck on their way to Richard’s sister, their aunt Margaret in Burgundy. You can’t produce what’s lying at the bottom of the North Sea. And who would believe their uncle had acted for their safety anyway? Don’t forget we were soon to have the Tudor Propaganda Machine chugging along with supreme success. I’m sure it could have taught Saatchi & Saatchi a lesson or three in advertising!

Elizabeth Woodville, portrait in public domain, artists unkown

Did Elizabeth Woodville ever actually claim her children were legitimate? Not as far as I’m aware, and I’m sure that if she did, then her dear son-in-law, Henry VII, would have spread it with a thousand fanfares. He needed those children to be legitimate (and the boys dead!) because he was marrying the eldest daughter. Perhaps their mother’s silence was enough? Somehow I don’t think so. Henry would have wanted her to stand up on her hind legs and bray that she and Edward IV were legally married. She didn’t. Nor did Henry’s queen, Elizabeth of York, ever condemn her wicked Uncle Richard. Nor did the next sister, Cicely, who was married off p.d.q. to Henry’s half-uncle, John Welles, Viscount Welles. (Yes, she was this viscountessw’s inspiration.) For an interesting speculation tha Elizabeth Woodville eventually died of the plague, look here 

Bishop Stillington supposedly witnessed, or at the very least knew about, what passed for a clandestine marriage ceremony between Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV. I don’t recall hearing of him repeating the precious lines Henry endeavoured to drum into him, no doubt aided by a ruler over the devout knuckles. Nor did the family of Lady Eleanor Talbot, who seems to have been Edward’s first and very legal wife. How selfish of her not to have turned up her toes before her spouse moved on to Elizabeth. Thus Eleanor’s survivl for four years after the Woodville match, made the second ceremony bigamous. I don’t recall hearing the Talbots utter a single word, either to deny or confirm the first marriage. Like everyone else, they stayed silent as mice.

Lady Eleanor Talbot as she’s believed to have looked.

I can’t imagine that John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, set about murdering the boys so he could claw back the Norfolk inheritance (of the Mowbray dukes) from the younger one. Why would he when Richard had already returned the Mowbray inheritance to him two days after acceding to the throne?

John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk

As for John de la Pole murdering them, well, he’d have to murder Richard’s son, Edward of Middleham, as well. It begins to look like mass murder. And if Edward of Middleham was eventually murdered, as many think he was, I don’t believe it was John de la Pole’s doing. But yes—oh yes!—I believe it of Tudor, Margaret Beaufort, John Morton et al. It suited them very nicely indeed to rob Richard of his only legitimate child. I’ll bet they toasted themselves with the very best plonk for a job well done.

John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln – portrait tweaked by me from Man with a Red Cap by Titian. There do not appear to be any actual portraits of the earl

And when it came to Bosworth, another of their slimy creatures, Sir William Stanley (and sort-of/maybe/perhaps aided by his crafty fence-sitting brother, who incidentally, was also Henry’s stepfather) all but stabbed Richard in the back by turning on him at the vital moment. The Stanleys had pledged themselves to be Richard’s men, for Pete’s sake. With such friends, who needs enemies? I think it was a salutary lesson to Henry Tudor…who never trusted anyone, except his Mum. One of the best things he ever did was later in his reign to chop off Sir William’s Janus head! Pity he didn’t do the same to both Stanleys.

I couldn’t find a suitable likeness of Sir William, but here’s his brother, Thomas Stanley, Baron Shifty…er, sorry, Stanley.

Right, I’m well aware of how biased I am in favour of Richard III, but then this blog bears the name of the Yorkist colours and his portrait, both of which are a bit of a clue. The blog is quite clearly aimed at people like me, so posting something anti-Richard is unthinkable.

So, Lancastrians should tread with care! 🙄

No, the Tudors DIDN’T bring the Renaissance to England, it was here already….!

The Wilton Diptych

Tudorites are always very keen to claim the introduction of the Renaissance to England as their territory. Anyone who went before the blessed Henry VII had nothing whatsoever to do with it. Right? No, very wrong.

Lady and gentlemen, I give you the Wilton Diptych (see here and also this video), which was created for and loved by Richard II. He was a whole century before Richard III and therefore before Henry VII and his crowd too. Um, and Richard II was also before the murderous usurpation of the House of Lancaster, the heir of which crowd Henry Tudor pretended to be.

If more proof were needed as to the origin of the diptych, it even has a portrait of Richard II as the boy kneeling before the Madonna and Child.

I’ll warrant Richard III was as appreciative of it then as we are now. He was an educated, literate, thoughtful man of piety, so of course he was drawn to exquisite art and all its advances and improvements. More than Henry Tudor, I’d be willing to bet.

The diptych has been described as one of the most familiar and admirable works of the late Gothic Period or Early Northern Renaissance. Which indeed it is, so shame on those who spout the Tudors’ praises for single-handedly bringing such fine art to England. All the Tudors ever did was hang on to their stolen throne any way they possibly could, with great cruelty.

Are they really saying that all of a sudden, on 22nd August 1485, thanks solely to Henry Tudor, England woke up with the dazzling Renaissance placed generously in its lap? Well, it woke up with something, that’s for sure. An ensuing century of misery, secrecy, torture and blood-spilling. Forget the Wars of the Roses, the Tudors got rid of all their foes with one hand behind their backs.

You’ve guessed it—I’m NOT a fan of theirs, even though I’m half-Welsh.

Great news, no solar farm for Bosworth after all….!

“….A 64-hectare solar farm near the Battle of Bosworth site has been rejected by local councillors after a long and public discussion on the matter.

“….Councillor Jonathan Collet posted the news on his Twitter account, writing, ‘Absolutely delighted that my motion to protect the Bosworth Battlefield site and reject an application for a large Solar Farm in Sutton Cheney was passed at Hinckley & Bosworth Council Planning Committee this evening by 15 votes to 0 opposed.’….”

“….The proposal was struck down on the grounds that tourism to the area would be affected by a solar farm near the historical site. Both Historic England and The Battlefield Trust opposed the solar park….”

This is excellent news for everyone, especially Ricardians, who strive to protect everything connected with Richard. And other important historic sites too, of course, but he’s our prime objective.

Well done Hinckley & Bosworth Council Planning Committee! Who wants an eyesore like the illustration sitting next to them? Especially near a site as important as Bosworth.

To read more, go to this article.

THE RISE AND FALL OF WILLIAM LORD HASTINGS AND HIS CASTLE OF KIRBY MUXLOE

Reblogged from

A Medieval Potpourri sparkypus.com

 

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The atmospheric ruins of Kirby Muxloe Castle, showing the moat, the gatehouse and the only tower to near completion ..

Kirby Muxloe Castle, lies in Leicestershire countryside,  in ruins, the unfinished project of William, Lord Hastings.  Hastings was the epitome of a successful and powerful  15th century lord.  But as with other nobles of those turbulent times, success run cheek by jowl with downfall, dishonour, betrayal  and death.  Hastings’ life is well documented elsewhere and I want to concentrate more upon Kirby Muxloe Castle but to tell the story of the castle its necessary for a brief summary of Hastings life to be told too.

Hastings,  c1430-1483,  had been raised to be  a loyal Yorkist from youth,  his father, Sir Leonard Hastings having been a retainer of Richard Duke of York.  He first begun his rise and rise to power and fortune after the Battle of Towton 29 March 1461 where he was knighted.  Soon after as a mark of the closeness between him and Edward IV he was made Chamberlain of the royal household and in 1462 he was further rewarded with the granting of ‘full power to receive persons into the king’s grace at his discretion’.  Grants and lands,  removed from defeated and disenfranchised Lancastrians, enabling him to support  his new status were swiftly bestowed upon him.

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THE STALL PLATE OF WILLIAM HASTINGS, ST GEORGE CHAPEL, WINDSOR c.Geoffrey Wheeler

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Manticore badge of William Hastings c.1470

He seems to have been blessed with the trait of being able to run with the hounds and play with the foxes as he managed to stay on friendly terms with his brother in law, the great Richard Neville,  Earl of Warwick,  known later as the Kingmaker, after Warwick become disenchanted with Edward IV.  Rosemary Horrox suggests that Warwick  may have seen Hastings as ‘the acceptable face of Edward’s court circle, but it is certainly not evidence that Hastings had supported the earl’ (1).  Indeed when Edward went into exile in the Low Countries Hastings accompanied him, thus strengthening even more the bond between them.

Hastings extraordinary power and privilege stemmed from this closeness to the king and was known and commented upon  at the time,   a servant of the Pastons observing  ‘what my seyd lord Chamberleyn may do wyth the Kyng and wyth all the lordys of Inglond I trowe it be not unknowyn to yow, most of eny on man alyve’ (2). No doubt this would have led to clashes with the Queen, Elizabeth Wydeville, and her delightful  family, including her sons, despite one of them, Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset being married to Hastings step daughter, Cicely Bonville.    Later, Edward knowing death was approaching, pleaded with his bosom pal Hastings and his stepson, Grey,  to put their differences behind them and work together for the benefit of Edward’s young son.  Edward died at a comparative young age, 42, a death which came out of the blue for some.  Hastings, no doubt alarmed at the appalling thought of his enemies, the upstart and voracious Wydevilles getting it all, sent a letter to Edward’s brother, Richard Duke of Gloucester, warning him of  the Wydeville plots.  Hastings seems to have got on well with Richard, as he had with Warwick.  Gloucester,  having been warned,  took control of the situation and with a minimum of bloodshed took  up his role of Lord Protector as set out in the late king’s will.   Croyland Chronicler reports Hastings ‘as bursting with joy over this new world’ (3)   The rest is history, and  the mystery of why Richard,  known for his fairness, had Hastings removed from a council meeting at the Tower of London and beheaded on the 13th June 1483 can only be speculated upon.  After his death Richard dealt kindly with his widow, Katherine Hastings nee Neville,  granting  permission for Hastings to be buried close to his  late friend and king, in St Georges Chapel, Windsor , as requested in Edward’s will and allowing her to keep her husband’s lands and  which leads me to Kirby Muxloe….

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The Western Tower with the Gate House to the left..with thanks to Bobrad for photo.

On the 17th April 1474 Edward IV had granted Hastings, by then a very wealthy man.  licence  to fortify with walls and battlements  four of his properties plus enclose large areas of land to create hunting parks around them, one of these properties  being Kirby Muxloe (4) There was already an earlier medieval manor house there  but I have been unable to ascertain what condition it was in when building  of the castle commenced.  Its most likely that whatever condition it was in the intention would have been to demolish it at some stage as completion of the castle neared its end.  Indeed its known that some repair work was carried out on the old house while building of the new castle was taking place.   The foundations of this old house can still be seen today.  Its an indication of Hastings fabulous wealth that he had not completed Ashby de la Zouch Castle, intended to be his main seat, before work commenced on Kirby Muxloe in 1480.  The plans were for a rectangle courtyard surrounded by a moat  with a tower at each of the four  corners.   The gatehouse and one tower were nearing completion when news reached the builders of Hastings execution.    This must have thrown the workmen and craftsmen into disarray and its not beyond probability some of their number would have downed tools at that stage although  Katherine Hastings continued the work on a much smaller scale until finally giving up altogether the following summer.

Hastings had employed master mason John Cowper who trained as an apprentice  in the building of Eton College.  It is from Eton that Cowper would have come across the  method of bricklaying known as ‘diaper work’ – patterns made from dark bricks built into lighter brickwork – and used   it in the design of the walls at Kirby Muxloe.  The initials WH (although not the initials of his wife..really Sir William!), the maunce or  sleeve from his coat of arms, a ship and a jug are among designs  incorporated  into the diaper work.   Cowper was  also familiar with Tattershall Castle and may have based the gate house at Kirby on Tattershall’s great tower.  All that remains of what would have been a massive gatehouse is the base.  The remains of a  wooden bridge that led to the gatehouse and drawbridge were discovered in 1911  and are preserved in the  moat.   On entering through the gate  two rooms are to be found, both with fireplaces, one of them likely intended as a porters lodge.     Two spiral staircases, both made of brick lead to the first floor with rooms containing  fireplaces, latrines and  windows.  The floors above were never completed.

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Example of the diaper work at Kirkby Muxloe.  

Six towers were intended, four at each corner and two midway in the perimeter walls.  The surviving foundations of these towers can still be seen.  The West Tower is the only complete tower to survive, square in shape and comprising of three floors, a spiral staircase and latrines.

Luckily the building accounts for the castle have  survived.  They were written in a mixture of Latin, French and English by Hastings’ steward Roger Bowlett.  So we know that a Flemish man called Antony Yzebrond in charge of the manufacturing of the huge amounts of bricks required  was paid 10d a week, a man called John Powell was redirecting a brook to feed the moat, another man, Hugh Geffrey,  was building a cart track for the carriage of stone while John Peyntour was sent to gather crab apple trees to be used as grafting stock.  Were these gentlemen present when the shocking news arrived of the demise of their master we will disappointingly never know.    After Hasting’s widow, Katherine,  gave up her  valiant attempt to complete the work the  following year  Kirby Muxloe was abandoned, used as farm buildings for a  while before being finally  given up  to the elements.

 

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Gatehouse with replacement wooden bridge…

It is interesting to compare the rise and fall of Hastings to that of the building and fall of Kirkby Muxloe.  Whatever led to the execution of Hastings – did he betray Richard? Who in turn betrayed him?   – Catesby perhaps?  Was he perhaps bitter that he was not given the awards he had hoped for by Richard, Richard being a different kettle of fish to his brother Edward,  as he watched the rise and rise of Buckingham..Or  was it that Richard blamed him for keeping the pre contract between Edward and Eleanor Butler nee Talbot a secret from him..a secret that was the catalyst for the fall of the House of York.  Its sad to reflect that if Hastings had survived those initial very dangerous days his presence at Bosworth alongside Richard may well have led to a completely different outcome.

 

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William Hastings, first Baron Hastings’ signature..

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Doorway in the gatehouse leading to possibly a porters lodge.

 

I give a massive thank you to John Goodall and his most informative Guidebook on Ashby de laZouch and Kirby Muxloe.  Also to Rosemary Horrox for her article Hastings, William, first Baron Hastings to be found on the Oxford DNB.

  1. Hastings, William, first Baron Hastings Rosemary Horrox Oxford DNB
  2. Paston Letters 1.581
  3. Croyland Chronicle Continuations,159
  4. License to crenellate: Although never mandated by the monarchy nor a common practice until after 1200, applying for a license to erect a castle or to fortify a standing residence indicated not only that the applicant had the self-confidence to approach the king, but also demonstrated that he possessed the financial and personal status that came with the ability to build a castle. For many lords, receiving the license to crenellate was accomplishment enough, so they felt no urgency to complete the process with an outlandish expenditure of money that could result in bankruptcy. Just having the royal license proved they were qualified to move in the circles of the rich and famous and that the monarch recognized their social status.  Lise Hull Kirby Muxloe Castle – Quadrangular Glory in Brick and Water

     

Elizabeth Hopton, Countess of Worcester, died 1498.

Elizabeth Hopton happens to be the present author’s 14th Great Grandmother, which prompted an interest in her. I think it is fair to say she is little-known. Of course, she did not (to our knowledge) involve herself in national politics, become the King’s mistress, murder the Princes in the Tower or get in trouble for witchcraft so perhaps this is not entirely surprising, No one has ever bothered to write a romantic novel about her, either.

Elizabeth’s parents were Sir Thomas Hopton and Eleanor Lucy of Shropshire. She is believed to have been born about 1427. Her ancestors, if you went back far enough, included the inevitable Rannulf, Earl of Chester and the even more inevitable King Henry I. She was also descended from Henry III via the Mowbrays, to say nothing of the French and Spanish royal houses. Her more recent ancestors included several leading Shropshire families.

Her first husband (married before 1448) was Sir Roger Corbet of Moreton Corbet near Wem. He was about 10 or 12 years her elder. Between them they had two sons and four daughters altogether. However, Sir Roger died in June 1467.

Her next marriage was more distinguished in rank – not that Sir Roger Corbet was insignificant in Shropshire society. It was to the rather notorious Sir John Tiptoft KG, Earl of Worcester and Constable of England. Tiptoft was of a similar age to Elizabeth, but had had two previous wives. Elizabeth seems to have married him soon after Corbet’s death, but of course the marriage did not last long as Warwick had Tiptoft executed in October 1470. During that brief time Elizabeth bore Tiptoft a son, Edward, who became 2nd Earl of Worcester but sadly died in 1485, unmarried.

Elizabeth did not long remain a widow. Before December 1471 she married Sir William Stanley, at this point a loyal Yorkist and one of the victors of Tewkesbury. She had a daughter, Jane, with Stanley, and also a son, William Stanley Esquire, who died about 1498. Both had children in their turn.

However, as is well-known, after a period of great prosperity, gained (in part) by first supporting Richard III and then betraying him at Bosworth, Stanley fell from grace and Henry VII had him beheaded in 1495.

To have one husband beheaded might be a misfortune. but to lose two in this way looks like carelessness.

Some sources claim that Elizabeth married again, to one William Brews. If she did, it was right at the end of her life, as she died on 22 June 1498, no doubt reflecting on an “interesting” time on earth and, one can hope, surrounded by at least a proportion of the children she had brought into the world.

 

 

 

 

Richard III and Harold II

We all know that Richard is directly descended from William the Conqueror, who is his eleven times great grandfather. Here is Richard’s pedigree to William in three parts – follow the yellow dots left to right. (N.B. the first few generations have the yellow combined with red and blue which lead to other ancestors).

But did you know that he is also directly descended from William’s enemy, Harold Godwinson, also Harold II, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England and Richard’s twelve times great grandfather? This time follow the blue dots.

So, who did he have more in common with?  Looking into this, I found that there are many similarities between Richard and Harold.

Battles and Death

Obviously, both died in battle, valiantly defending their country. In fact, Richard was the last English king to die in battle and the first (and only other) was Harold himself. Richard was the last Plantagenet king and Harold the last Anglo Saxon one.

Both could be impatient and impetuous. Richard charged Henry Tudor to try to end the battle and refused to take a horse and leave the battle. Harold joined battle with William quite hastily. He might have succeeded if he had waited a little while. Also, both men did not attempt to wait for contingents of their armies who were late arriving; Richard’s York men did not reach the battlefield until the battle was over and Harold’s brothers-in-law, the Earls of Mercia and Northumbria had not yet arrived when the battle of Hastings began.

Battle of Bosworth, 1485

Both were hacked to death fighting their enemies, Henry “Tudor” and William of Normandy respectively. Both of these enemies were of bastard stock and both invaded from France. Neither of them had any legal right to the throne of England. And both Henry Tudor and William of Normandy had attempted a previous invasion, only to have been thwarted at that time. The battles of 1066 and 1485 were both pivotal in English history and, arguably, in both cases, England would have been much better off had the defending king prevailed.

Battle of Hastings, 1066

Family

Richard was the youngest son of the Duke of York, with no expectation of becoming king. Many of us believe he took the throne out of duty, not ambition. One of the reasons may have been the fact that Edward V was just a boy of thirteen and no-one wanted a king who was a minor.

Harold, too, was a younger, if not the youngest, son of his family. He never expected to be king either – when he was young, Edward (the Confessor) was on the throne and was expected to have heirs.

Edward the Confessor

As it happens he did not, but there was another claimant, Edgar Ætheling (sometimes known as Edward Ætheling), Edward’s nephew, who was, at the time of the Confessor’s death, aged about thirteen. Sound familiar? The Witenagemot (English assembly of nobleman and clergy, etc) decided that Harold was the better prospect as king to defend the country, since it was known that William of Normandy was also planning to claim the crown. So, both Richard and Harold were elected king, after an Edward had died and by putting aside thirteen-year-old claimants, possibly both also called Edward.

Brothers

Both Richard and Harold had troublesome brothers. Richard had his older brother, George, with whom he had to debate to claim a share of the Neville sisters’ inheritance and whom Edward IV ended up executing for treason.

Harold had Tostig, a younger brother, who rebelled against both Edward the Confessor and Harold himself and ended up siding with Harald Hardråda, a Norwegian claimant to the throne, thus also committing treason. Harold had to take his army up to York to oppose them and won, taking the Norwegians and Tostig by surprise. Tostig was killed in the battle of Stamford Bridge, but this battle was probably one reason for Harold losing at Hastings a few day later. It seems both George and Tostig were ‘problem’ middle children.

Exile

Richard had to twice go into exile with members of his family; with George when he was eight and with Edward when he was eighteen.

Harold accompanied his father, Earl Godwin, into exile in 1051, and helped him to regain his position a year later.

Power

In 1483, Richard, as Duke of Gloucester, was the most powerful noble in the country and the senior adult male heir. He also held many titles such as Constable of England, Admiral of England, Ireland and Aquitaine, Chief Justice of North Wales, Great Chamberlain of England, Steward of the Duchy of Lancaster and Lord Protector.

Richard III

Likewise Harold was, by 1066, the most powerful man in the country after the king. As well as being Earl of East Anglia from a young age, he became Earl of Wessex after the death of his father in 1053 and later Earl of Hereford. In addition, his sister (another Edith!) was Edward the Confessor’s queen.

Harold Godwinson

Health

Richard is known to have suffered with scoliosis, which would have been the source of great challenges for him. Perhaps partly because of this, he was very pious and is known to have founded and built many religious houses and chapels.

Harold was also known to have had an illness of some kind which must have been quite serious, resulting in a form of paralysis. He was apparently cured and founded an Abbey at Waltham, in thanks for his life.

Wives

Richard married Anne Neville and thus helped to secure the North for his brother, Edward IV, since the Nevilles were well-respected there.

Harold had been married more Danico ‘in the Danish fashion’ (i.e. not in a way recognised by Christianity) to Edith Swannesha for many years and had at least six children by her. This may have partly been to gain influence in his new Earldom, when he became Earl of East Anglia, as she had land in the area. He later married another Edith, sister of Edwin, Earl of Mercia and Morcar, Earl of Northumbria, probably in order to ensure their loyalty to him and secure the North, so all these marriages were probably at least partly politically motivated.

In addition, when Richard married Anne she was the widow of Edward of Lancaster, who opposed Richard and the Yorkists at Tewkesbury.

Edith, Harold’s second wife had also been previously married to his opponent, the Welsh king, Gruffydd ap Llywelyn.

Reputations

Both Richard and Harold had previous good reputations. Harold was described by chronicler, Orderic Vitalis, as being:

‘distinguished by his great size and strength of body, his polished manners, his firmness of mind and command of words, by a ready wit and a variety of excellent qualities’.

Richard was of course of no great size but Archibald Whitelaw described him thus:

‘Never has so much spirit or greater virtue reigned in such a small body.’

Warriors

They were also both proven warriors. Richard had been involved in the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury with his brother, Edward, and had also been successful in repelling the Scots and retaking Berwick.

Harold had quelled the Welsh in a series of effective campaigns against Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, and was later victorious at Stamford Bridge.

Battle of Stamford Bridge

Coronation

Richard was crowned on 6th July 1483. Harold was also crowned on 6th, but of January, in 1066, both in Westminster Abbey. It is thought that Harold was the first to be crowned there. Both of them were criticised for being crowned with unseemly haste, although both had good reason, since in both cases the nobles, clerics and others who needed to be present were already there. In Richard’s case, they had assembled for the coronation of Edward V and in, Harold’s, for the funeral of Edward the Confessor.

Harold’s Coronation

Burials

Both men had mysteries surrounding their burials. Richard’s we know about – it had been thought by some that his bones had been dug up and thrown into the River Soar, but they were located successfully in 2012.

After the Battle of Hastings, Harold’s mutilated body was identified by his first wife, Edith Swannesha, through marks known only to her, but his final resting place is unknown.

Edith Swannesha identifies Harold’s body

The traditionally accepted location is Waltham Abbey, but this is disputed. Another candidate is Bosham, because of Harold’s strong association with it as his birthplace, and the discovery in 1954 of an Anglo-Saxon coffin in the church there. Also, it is near the sea and William was said to have wanted him buried near the Channel for his impudence in opposing him.

Left: Harold’s supposed burial at Waltham and right: Church at Bosham

A third, more recent, suggestion is St Michael’s Church, in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire. This theory stems from the fact that the ‘remains’ believed to be Harold’s that were found at Waltham Abbey could not have been human bones as they had turned into dust. It is possible that he could have had a ‘heart burial’ there – common for high status individuals – where their heart was buried at a separate location to the rest of their body.

Harold’s first wife is known to have lived in Bishop’s Stortford and the team behind this theory found four surviving, intact Norman stone coffins in a vault under the church, which have not been examined in modern times. The coffins seem too unusual to be for commoners.

Challenges

After their deaths, both kings had family members who tried to wrest the crown back from the two usurpers, Henry and William. In Richard’s case, these were ‘Lambert Simnel’ and Perkin Warbeck’, probably actually his nephews, Edward and Richard.

Two of Harold’s sons, Godwine and Edmund, invaded England in 1068 and 1069 with the aid of Diarmait mac Máel na mBó (High King of Ireland). We know that Ireland also supported the Lambert Simnel attempt. However, all of these bids for power sadly failed.

Finally…

I recently read the following as a description of a Facebook page in support of king Harold:

Redressing the balance of Norman propaganda against King Harold Godwinson and the Anglo-Saxons, and the blinkered hagiographies for Duke William…

You could substitute Tudor for Norman, Richard III for Harold Godwinson, Yorkists for Anglo-Saxons and The Tudors for Duke William and there we have our own aims. It’s so true that history is written by the victors.

‘WE SPEAK NO TREASON’ – Rosemary Hawley Jarman

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Richard brought to Greyfriars for Burial.  Artwork  Emma Vieceli

Reblogged from Sparkypus.com We Speak No Treason

And so once more the awful date has come and gone.  Many fictional Ricardian novels  have been written based on Richard and his life but surely the scenes of the aftermath of Bosworth in We speak no Treason written by the late Rosemary Hawley Jarman must rank amongst the most moving.    Many Ricardians will already be familiar with this book but for those who have not yet read it,  part of the story is told through the eyes of the Maiden who had ever loved Richard from when she was  a young girl and,  after losing him from her life,  events  had led to her becoming a nun.   She had not seen Richard for many years but in the aftermath of the battle Richard’s body has been brought to her convent to be laid to rest by loving hands.    

Men came to kneel by me,  first one cloaked like the stranger, then another still clad in harness and with a neck wound from which the red oozed wearily,  then four or five together. One of these wore a hermit’s robe carelessly donned with the strength of his mail winking beneath it.   They say that the church filled up from the porch to rood screen with men who entered like ghosts and wept like babes.   There were running feet and a voice that burst through the whispering silence with  ‘My Lord! My Lord Lovell!’ –  crying that they were hanging the prisoners and fugitives in Leicester market and Lovell must fly at once,  and for answer came only the deep,  dreadful sound of men’s grief,  the hasty feet clattered nearer and stopped short, the voice said “Ah Dickon!’ as a child might wail in the night, then swore like a man in the face of murder. And the church was filled with love and hate and vengeance, and a heaviness that one could touch with the hand….

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Thomas More and the Removal Men

Thomas More’s detailed and heart-wrenching account of the murders of Edward IV’s sons is well known, and is usually either accepted or dismissed in toto so it would probably be useful to pause at this point to remind ourselves exactly what it was that Thomas More claimed had happened to the boys and why opinions as to the veracity of his story are so divided.
Richard, said More, set off on his progress leaving the boys in the Tower with four keepers (one being an habitual murderer named Miles Forest) and just one of their old servants (William Slaughter). The King’s intention was to kill the boys at some point in order to secure his position, and when he reached Gloucester (say, 31 July or 1 August) he finally made up his mind to get on with the business. He sent one John Grene ‘whom he specially trusted’ to carry a letter and a verbal credence to Sir Robert Brackenbury, the Constable of the Tower, instructing him to put the boys to death; but, contrary to the royal plan, Brackenbury replied that he would rather die. Grene returned with the bad news, finding the King at Warwick (this would have been the second week of August). That night, Richard complained to a ‘secret page’ of his that no one could be trusted, to which the page replied that there was an overlooked attendant lying in the antechamber who, he was sure, would do anything in return for recognition. At this Richard got up, roused Tyrell from his pallet and instructed him to organise the boys’ deaths. The next day, Richard sent Tyrell off with a letter commanding Brackenbury to hand him the keys of the Tower for one night.
Having decided he would need two murderers, Tyrell enlisted his own horsekeeper John Dighton as the first, trusting that the homicidal Miles Forest would have no objection to being the second. At the Tower, Brackenbury obligingly handed Tyrell his keys, and that night Tyrell dismissed all the boys’ attendants except for Forest. At about midnight Dighton and Forest crept into the Princes’ chamber, smothered them with their own bedding then laid out the bodies for Sir James’ inspection.

Tyrell inspects Forest and Dighton’s handiwork

Satisfied that they were dead, Tyrell commanded Dighton and Forest to bury them at the foot of the stairs (presumably those leading down from their bedchamber in the White Tower, though this is not specified), ‘meetly deep in the ground under a great heap of stones’.
When all this had been done, Sir James galloped back to Richard with the good tidings. Richard thanked him profusely but was unhappy with the ‘vile’ burial arrangements. Thus (it was said) Sir Robert Brackenbury had a priest of his disinter the bodies and rebury them somewhere more fitting; but, since Richard, Brackenbury and the priest were all dead by the time More wrote, there was no longer any way of discovering where this was. More supports his story, picked up (so he claims) from ‘them that much knew and little cause had to lie’, with the assertion that Tyrell and Dighton had confessed to the crime when they were questioned in the Tower prior to Tyrell’s trial and execution in 1502 (but note that More did not claim this confession to have been written down, still less to have seen a transcript of it).

The flaws in this account are many. First, though we are told that Richard ‘before had intended’ to kill his nephews, he had clearly not thought to sound out Brackenbury about it before leaving London. And, when Brackenbury rejects his orders, does Richard have him removed from post, or quietly despatched on account of his dangerous knowledge? No, he simply asks him to hand over the keys to Tyrell for the night (actually, it is not clear from More’s tale why Tyrell needed the Tower keys). This time Brackenbury meekly does as he is told although he evidently knows what is afoot as he later has one of his priests move the remains. More puzzling still, the real-life Sir Robert continued in post as Constable of the Tower throughout Richard’s reign and died fighting for him at Bosworth.
As for Sir James himself, More’s picture of a frustrated servant overlooked for promotion simply does not fit the facts although there have been recent attempts to rehabilitate it. Tyrell was one of Richard’s most prominent knights and the rewards he enjoyed after this period were by no means out of keeping with his previous career. Miles Forest existed, but the real-life job of this alleged serial-killing hard man had been looking after Richard’s wardrobe up at Barnard Castle, and he does not appear to have ever been in any trouble with the law. More’s depiction of him seems no more than a device to explain how Tyrell had felt able to count on his co-operation without having had an opportunity to sound him out about the murders in advance.
The burial of the bodies, even ‘meetly deep’ as described by More, would have been a challenging task for two men during the course of a short August night. If the murderers had crept into the Princes’ room at about midnight, then work on the gravedigging is unlikely to have been started before 12.30 am, giving them a window of little more than four hours to complete their task before the keys would be needed for the reopening of the Tower at sunrise. And if we try, as is generally done, to reconcile More’s description of the Princes’ burial with the discovery of the 1674 remains, the problems merely multiply. The 1674 remains were not found ‘meetly’ deep at the foot of an internal staircase, but 10 ft down under the foundations of an external staircase that was being removed. The two descriptions do not match, and the 1674 burial could never have been effected and made good in the space of four hours. Another possibility is that the remains were found in 1674 where Brackenbury’s priest had removed them, but such an interment place would have been no less ‘vile’ than the original burial place, and a solitary priest would scarcely have been able to dig the bodies up and rebury them in such a location with total discretion.

More’s staircase (supposedly). Note: Not the one removed in 1674.

Against these objections, however, must be set the fact that Polydore Vergil, writing at a roughly similar time, also pinned the blame for the boys’ deaths on the late Sir James Tyrell and, like More, has Richard write from Gloucester to the Constable of the Tower ordering him to find a suitable means of despatching the princes. But according to Vergil the Constable merely prevaricated and Richard went on waiting for him to act, finally losing patience during his stay in York (31 August to 20 September) and despatching a woeful Sir James to do the deed. Vergil’s chronology is not precise but he seems to be placing Tyrell’s departure from York after Prince Edward’s investiture (8 September), which is just as well because Sir James had a special role in the investiture procession as Master of the Henchman. Nor does Vergil mention any confession; indeed, he flatly states the manner of the boys’ death to be unknown and attributes the rumour of the murders to Richard himself. The nature of the story, however, is such that – if there is any truth in it at all – it is most likely to have emanated from individuals working at the Tower.

The only details in the accounts of More and Vergil that might have been witnessed by third parties are Richard’s despatch of a messenger (possibly John Grene) to Brackenbury from the city of Gloucester, the later despatch of Sir James Tyrell to the Tower, and the absence of any sightings of the Princes by Tower staff after the night of Tyrell’s visit; these are also the only details upon which More and Vergil are agreed. After Bosworth there was only one acceptable explanation for the disappearance of Edward IV’s sons, which was that they had died during Richard III’s reign, preferably on his orders, and so any theories built around the boys’ disappearance had to fit into that framework.
It is interesting, and probably relevant, that two separate sources describe a failed attempt by supporters of Edward V to rescue the boys from the Tower after Richard left the capital; the ringleaders were identified and arrested, and are probably those who had ‘taken upon themselves the fact of an enterprise’ about whom Richard wrote to his Lord Chancellor from Minster Lovell on 29 July. This foiled attack on the Tower might have suggested to Richard that the boys would have to be killed, had he been so inclined, but it is equally – if not more – likely, given his rivals’ youth and innocence, that Richard’s response would have been to have them discreetly removed to secret locations far from the city, where they would no longer be the focus of discontent.
For this plan to work well, it would have been reasonable for Brackenbury to have been given some advance warning so that bags could be packed for the boys’ journey, and so that one or two of their attendants could be enlisted to accompany them; the delivery of such a warning could have been the real purpose of Grene’s mission to Brackenbury. On this reading of events, Tyrell’s mission would not have been dependent upon Brackenbury having rejected the orders from Grene, and Miles Forest may have come under suspicion simply because he too disappeared from the Tower that night, having been brought along to attend upon the boys during the journey. The hours of darkness would have been the best time to smuggle the boys out of the Tower, and if there was any concern that they might not wish to co-operate then they could have been sufficiently sedated to enable Tyrell and his men to carry them both out without waking them. The Tower keys would have been needed in order to get the little party out of the fortress under cover of darkness, and Sir Robert Brackenbury would have had no reason to interfere with such a mission.

This scenario is merely offered as a suggestion as to the sort of reality that might possibly underlie More’s implausible murder tale. I would be the first to admit that there is no evidence that this is what occurred, but it would see off the inconsistencies in More’s story remarkably well. I make no suggestion as to where the boys might have been taken next, how they might have travelled, or what might have become of them in the longer term: those are separate questions.


SOURCES

Sir Thomas More: ‘The History of King Richard III’ and Selections from the English and Latin Poems, ed. Richard S. Sylvester, Yale, 1976

The History of King Richard the Third, ed. Richard Bear, website of the American Branch of the Richard III Society

Polydore Vergil, ‘Anglica Historia’ (1555 Version), ed. Dana F. Sutton, Philological Museum website of the University of Birmingham

https://www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london/history-and-stories/the-ceremony-of-the-keys/#gs.7frn87

Histoire des Règnes de Charles VII et Louis XI par Thomas Basin, Evéque de Lisieux, ed. J. Quicherat, vol 3, Paris, 1857, p. 137

Signet Warrants for the Great Seal and Signet Letters to the Chancellor, transcribed R. C. & P. B. Hairsine for the Richard III Society, 1979

‘Observations of the Wardrobe Account for the Year 1483’, Rev. Dr. J. Milles, Dean of Exeter, Archaeologia, Vol. 1, 1770, p.375

Helen Maurer, ‘Bones in the Tower: A Discussion of Time, Place and Circumstance, Part 2’, The Ricardian, No. 112, March 1991

John Stow, Annales of England, 1600 edition, p. 767

Richard’s first resting place – recreated

Five years ago, we wrote about the lost Newarke Church in the Hospital of the Annunciation, where Richard lay for two days between his death and burial in the Greyfriars. As we said, the site is now occupied by the Hawthorn Building of de Montfort University, although these two original arches have been integrated.

Here is an article from de Montfort themselves about a 3D model of the Church, including notes of two Duchesses of Lancaster and Lady Mary Hervey, governess to Henry IV’s children, who was later moved to Trinity Church.

Nottingham’s medieval magic has disappeared from its castle….

I’m sorry, but even before the above fire in 1831, Nottingham Castle didn’t look anything like a proper castle. Gone are the medieval towers and battlements, and all that’s left is a mansion on a hill. Nothing smacks of the lost age of Plantagenet kings, knights and armour. Great events happened here in earlier centuries, but it’s hard to believe it now. No ghost of Roger Mortimer, or echoes of Richard III and his queen breaking down in grief to learn of their only son’s death.

Anyway, you can read something about the unfortunate events here.

 

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