Since John Ashdown-Hill’s iconic Eleanor was published eleven years ago, we have seen some desperate attempts to contradict his proven conclusion that Lady Eleanor Talbot contracted a valid marriage to Edward IV before his contract to Elizabeth Widville and many such attempts have rebounded on the denialist in question.
Now a troll naming herself Latrodecta claims that mediaeval canon law was different to that researched by Dr. Ashdown-Hill over several years – the image is the paperback cover from 2016 – and that Maud Neville, Lord Talbot’s other wife, was Lady Eleanor’s stepmother and shared grandparents with Cecily Neville, necessitating a dispensation for his daughter and Cecily’s son to marry. This suggestion clearly wasn’t thought through because: 1) Maud Neville died some time in 1421-3 whilst Lady Eleanor was not born until 1435-6. I have never heard of a deceased previous wife becoming the stepmother of a new child, even when an annulment or (in a later era) divorce has actually taken place. It is a description of a later wife who lives with the child and its father. 2) If this applied then Jacquette‘s first marriage to John Duke of Bedford (d.1435) would make him the stepfather of Elizabeth Widville (b.1437) and EW would be the great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt, whilst Edward IV was his great-grandson. This would also necessitate a dispensation for the 1464 “marriage”, which also didn’t happen.
Once again, Edward’s second marriage ceremony would be invalid independently of the validity of the first. He would remain either a bigamist or a bachelor. Latrodecta, on the other hand, simply doesn’t come up to proof when asked to find a common blood ancestor more recent than Edward I for the 1461 couple. Yet another own goal.
Recently I came across an interesting article on Royal Central listing all the Queens who had anniversaries relevant to June-births, deaths, coronations, marriages and the start of their reigns. However, I did notice a couple of things in it that I would query–an error and an omission.
First the error. The article mentions that Elizabeth Woodville, who died on June 8, 1492, having been packed off to Bermondsey Abbey, was the first ‘non-royal’ Queen of England. In fact, she was not. Most of the Queens were not themselves royal but children of the nobility–the daughters of Counts and Earls. Elizabeth’s father was not titled at the time of her birth, so she was neither a princess nor of the nobility, but she did actually have some royal English ancestry through her mother, Jacquette of Luxembourg, daughter of Peter, Count of St Pol, who was descended on her father’s side from Henry III via his daughter Beatrice of England, and on her maternal side from King John via his daughter Eleanor of England.
The omission is Lady Eleanor Talbot, the probable first wife of marry-secretly-in-haste Edward IV who died died sometime in June 1468. Even if you don’t believe in the pre-contract, despite considerable circumstantial evidence including Edward mysteriously paying for repairs of the church in the village where Lady Eleanor held the manor and handing out loaves of bread to each villager, she should have been mentioned even if only as a ‘disputed’ consort.
If Lord Guildford Dudley, husband of the short-reigning Jane (Grey) can get a mention as ‘disputed’ on the Wiki entry about Consorts, Eleanor, I think, deserves at least that much! (Sudeley Castle, which has connections to Lady Eleanor through her Boteler marriage has now embraced her story and has a display about her–hurrah!)
There are other ‘disputed’ consorts later in history, of course, as listed comprehensively in John Ashdown-Hill’s book Royal Marriage Secrets, and even other bigamous marriages. Most interestingly, perhaps, is the second wedding of Henry VIII, Edward’s think-alike grandson, to Anne Boleyn–he “married” her in a secret ceremony BEFORE his annulment from Katherine of Aragon was finalised… (And people still somehow imagine Edward couldn’t possibly have done much the same?)
It seems that some of the denialists are becoming even more sensitive than before and dislike being called Cairo dwellers. One Michael Hicks acolyte went to the point of giving Matthew Lewis well-researched biography of Richard III a one-star review. Sadly for “Alex Brondarbit”, the introduction to his own latest book (below) by the Professor has also appeared. Although the length and phraseology differs, few will believe that Hicks didn’t “inspire” the secondary effort.
In his review, Hicks cites his own mentor, Charles Ross, describing his work as the definitive biography – and herein lies the problem. Ross wrote nearly forty years ago, reciting all of the old discredited sources, ending by stating that Richard’s body was dumped in the Soar after the Reformation. Hicks has written at least a dozen books about Richard III in that time, still based on Ross’ research, but the history and the science have moved on.
In fact, we at Murrey and Blue have drawn attention to this stasis on several occasions, pointing to: Barrie Williams‘ painstaking research in the Portuguese archives that proved Richard’s remarriage plans soon after Anne Neville’s death, thereby contradicting the hoary old myth about Richard and Elizabeth of York, Marie Barnfield‘s proof that “affinity does not beget affinity” and that Richard and Anne had all the dispensations they required,
The conclusive identification of Richard’s remains, which were still under the former Greyfriars and nowhere near the river Soar, through research initiated by John Ashdown-Hill and others,
Ashdown-Hill’s work on the pre-contract, restoring Lady Eleanor to her rightful place in history as Edward IV’s legal wife.
The evidence adduced by Wroe, Carson, Fields and Lewis, inter alia, suggesting that either or both “Princes” survived beyond 1485 together with Ashdown-Hill’s discovery of their mtDNA.
As one who has read both Kendall and Ross on several occasions, it is surely the case that the former captures Richard III’s essence far better, notwithstanding the fact that it was the earlier book. We have a whole series of posts based on the book Kendall could have written today and we can be confident that he would take account of this new learning were he still alive. Ross both wrote and died more recently but I doubt that he would have changed a word, just as Hicks’ mind is unchanged in that interval, even as the evidence points in a different direction. He evidently has a lesser opinion of amateurs, as many of the above are, but it is they who have made the great discoveries since 1980. It is the amateurs who have conducted original research here and not relied on the flaws inherent in Mancini, Vergil and More.
As the Arabs, including those in Cairo, say: The dog barks, but the caravan moves on.
In case you don’t know, there is a new book out by Thomas Penn – he of the excellent The Winter King, about Henry VII. His new book, The Brothers York, is about about the three sons of Richard, 3rd Duke of York: Edward IV, George of Clarence and Richard of Gloucester/Richard III, has been eagerly awaited. Oh, dear, not worth hanging around for if you believe Richard has always been failed by historians (most of whom insist on believing More and Shakespeare wrote the truth!) I fear Thomas Penn has joined the traditionalist ranks. What a terrible disappointment.
If you go to the Guardian you will find a detailed review of the book. It’s a review that agrees with Penn’s assessment of Richard. Here is a very brief extract: “Penn’s Richard is a serious thinker, a pious Catholic and a profoundly ambitious politician.” Well, while he was indeed a serious thinker and pious Christian, he certainly was not a profoundly ambitious politician!
Events in 1483, which are always cited as proof positive of Richard’s callous ruthfulness and overweening determination to steal the throne for himself, were in reality prompted by two very different matters.
The need to thwart the Wydevilles (who WERE profoundly ambitious politically) from taking over the new king and thus the entire realm.
The need to protect his own life and that of his son. The Wydevilles would have done away with him at the first opportunity, so he wasn’t going to roll over and let them proceed.
If this makes him a “profoundly ambitious politician” then I can’t help wondering what dictionary Penn uses.
If Edward IV had kept sensible control of the contents of his codpiece, instead of marrying bigamously and in secret, Richard would have been content to be Lord Protector and to oversee his nephew’s minority. But do the same for an illegitimate nephew? Why should he when he himself had a legitimate claim to the throne and also a son to come after him?
These historians who take the traditionalist view about Richard would, presumably, ignore their own claim to an inheritance, and the claims of their children? In a pig’s ear would they! So to blame Richard for doing what any just man would do makes them hypocrites of the highest order.
They are: Edward IV, Charles II (buried today in 1685) and William IV, all of whom had a large number of illegitimate children, but none left a legitimate heir.
Edward IV (1442-83) had twelve to fifteen children by various mistresses, including Elizabeth Wydville, but none by Lady Eleanor Talbot, his only legal wife, whose probable remains (CF2 in Norwich) show no signs of pregnancy – thus Richard III was his legitimate heir.
Those ten were purported, until 1483 to be legitimate and not all of the others were recognised during Edward’s lifetime.
Charles II (1630-85) fathered about fourteen children, of whom only James, Duke of Monmouth could possibly have been legitimate. The Duke’s mother, Lucy Walter died before Charles’ marriage to Catherine Braganza, sister of Pedro II, King of Portugal – thus James VII/II was his legitimate heir.
Catherine’s only known pregnancy ended in a miscarriage.
William IV (1765-1837) had ten illegitimate children by the Irish actress Dorothea Bland (“Mrs. Jordan”), whose descendants thrive today, as do Edward IV and Charles II’s lines – thus Victoria was his legal heir.
His marriage to Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen resulted in five children but three were stillborn, one died after a few hours and the other at three months.
Astley Castle and church..photo taken 1976. Courtesy of Will Roe, Nuneaton Memories.
Astley Castle, Warwickshire, was the marital home of Sir John and Elizabeth Grey nee Wydeville. Sir John often comes across as a shadowy figure, outshone in eminence by his wife, and later widow, who went on to catch the eye of a king. This story is of course well known and documented and I won’t go into it here but rather focus on Astley Castle itself. Astley has a long and rich history. Beginning life as a Manor House in 1266, the then owner, Warin de Bassingbourne was given a licence to crenellate and enclose with a moat. The medieval house was much added to during the 17th century but I’m sure John and Elizabeth would still have been able to recognise the old and original features.
Medieval fire place in Astley Castle..
In the 1960s the parts that had survived the centuries were in use as a hotel and perhaps the rooms used by John and Elizabeth deployed as rooms for paying guests. Alas in 1978 a disastrous fire took hold and Astley, reduced to a shell , was abandoned. Various proposals to rebuild proved to be too financially prohibitive and the ruins were declared a Scheduled Ancient Monument. However in 2005 the Landmark Trust came forward with a solution and what was left of Astley was saved by the novel idea of building and incorporating modern accommodation within the ruinous walls. Astley arose, like a Phoenix out of the flames, as they say, and today its possible to stay in what was once the marital home of the Greys.
Astley Castle. An old photo date 1900 showing the stone archway.
The same view during renovation works..
Built of local red sandstone. Although altered in the 16th century some original 12th century elements still remain incorporated in the building.
By a somewhat strange coincidence the church at Astley, St Mary the Virgin, has some interesting burials and monuments, for a Talbot lies buried there. Elizabeth Talbot later Viscountess Lisle, was a niece to Eleanor Butler nee Talbot, Elizabeth Wydeville‘s very own nemesis. This Elizabeth Talbot was to become the heiress to John Talbot, lst Viscount Lisle. John Talbot was the son of that staunch warrior, John Talbot lst Earl of Shrewsbury, Eleanor’s father and known in history as Great Talbot. Both father and son perished at the Battle of Castillion. Elizabeth Talbot, having married our John Grey’s brother, Edward, was also Elizabeth Wydeville’s sister-in-law. Elizabeth Talbot, having lived until 1487, saw the disastrous outcome of her former sister-in law, Elizabeth Wydeville’s bigamous ‘marriage’. What her thoughts on the matter were, frustratingly we will never know.
Elizabeth Talbot Viscountess Lisle. Historian John Ashdown-Hill suggests this portrait was painted in Flanders during the wedding ceremonies of Margaret of York (1). Certainly the likeness is very similar to Elizabeth’s effigy in the church. See below. Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz Gemaldegalerie, Berlin. (no.532)
The effigy of Elizabeth Talbot Viscountess Lisle now lies between those of Cecilia Bonville, Marchioness of Dorset (wife to Thomas Grey, son of John and Elizabeth Grey nee Wydeville) and her husband Edward Grey. These effigies were not originally one monument and have been unfortunately moved together at some time (2). Thanks to Caroline Irwin for photo.
Astley Church was once much larger than it is now but some of the misericords have survived as well as the above effigies.
14th century misericords …
Eleanor the Secret Queen p.8. John Ashdown-Hill
2. Memorials of the Wars of the Roses p.188. W E Hampton.
“….[executed in the Tower of London was] William Hastings, who tried to support the claims of Edward VI [sic] children to the throne in 1483….”
The above is a quote from this link – which contains boo-boos, as you can see from my quote. Well, was that why Hastings was executed? For trying to support the claims of Edward IV’s children, not those of the precocious Edward VI, who died at fifteen? Let’s be honest, no one really knows what Hastings did to warrant swift trial, sentence and execution, so such a broad statement is a little OTT, although the crime must have been pretty serious. Despite the history as claimed by traditionalists, Richard III was not a man to react in such a way lightly. His record of head-lopping was relatively small, unlike many other kings, who notched up quite a total in just as short a time. Nor was Richard the sort of man who would gladly murder his brother’s children, of that I feel certain. So why does he get all the opprobrium?
Forget the heartstring-plucking story of the boys in the Tower. No one knows what happened to them – certainly not that Richard had them exterminated in their beds.
There were may reasons why Hastings might plot against Richard, and one (in my opinion) was the realisation that in Richard’s reign he, Hastings, wouldn’t enjoy anywhere near the same position and influence as he had in Edward IV’s. The Hastings nose was out of joint, perchance?
He might also have known about Edward IV’s pre-contract with Lady Eleanor Talbot…which was what made Edward’s sons and daughter illegitimate and led to Richard ascending the throne. If that was the case, it wouldn’t be Richard who wanted him out of the way. Indeed, Richard would be one of the last people to sweep him into eternity. Step forward any number of Woodvilles, who wanted to be back in power and couldn’t be if someone could prove there’d been a pre-contract.
There’s also the possibility that supporters of Henry Tudor wouldn’t want Hastings around if he knew about the pre-contract. Very inconvenient when Henry pledged to marry Elizabeth of York and unite England’s warring Houses of York and Lancaster. Well, that was his noble claim, of course. In fact he resented having to marry her and just had a fancy to usurp the throne. He had to legitimise her and her siblings, and thus her missing brothers, giving them a much better claim to the throne than his own.
Hmm, Hastings was therefore an exceedingly inconvenient presence if he could somehow prove she was definitely illegitimate – um, not that Henry’s family history erred on the side of legitimacy, come to think of it. They may have been legitimised by Richard II and confirmed as such by Henry IV, but the latter also made a point of barring them from the throne. Henry VII’s blood claim was therefore very washy, and he relied upon conquest to justify his usurpation. Having to marry Elizabeth in order to satisfy the strong Yorkist element among his nobility must have stuck in his craw.
That’s not to say the ensuing marriage did not become a happy one, but I doubt very much if it started out that way. It wouldn’t have started out at all if Hastings had put his oar in and strengthened Richard’s case. With him vouching for the existence of a pre-contract, far more wavering Yorkists would have accepted in 1483 that Richard, Duke of Gloucester, Edward IV’s last remaining brother, was indeed the rightful occupant of England’s throne.
So, we have the Woodvilles and Henry VII as Hastings’ likely enemies. Who knows what “horrible plot” they may have cooked up and seen that Richard heard about it? That he believed Hastings was scheming against him is quite clear. He thought/accepted that his own life was in danger because of whatever it was Hastings was supposedly up to. Only a fool would do nothing about it, and stand idly by until the Grim Reaper struck. But contrary to traditionalist insistence, Hastings was not hauled out immediately and executed over a tree trunk or whatever. There was a trial, conviction and sentence.
No doubt many of you will not agree with my reasoning, but it’s what I genuinely think.
Yes, of course the Tudors dismissed the fact that Eleanor Talbot (Butler) was Edward IV’s first wife. Well, only wife, as it happens, because she was still alive when he “married” Elizabeth Woodville, whom he never did wed legally. In law, she was little more than a glorified mistress, and as a consequence, all the children she bore to Edward were illegitimate. So the usurper Henry VII pretended Eleanor had barely existed, let alone had married Edward IV.
It mattered to him because he wanted to marry Edward’s oldest daughter, Elizabeth of York. Ostensibly to unite the warring Houses of York and Lancaster; in reality to give himself some credibility. It was all very well to claim the throne through conquest, but knew his hold on the throne was very shaky. Elizabeth of York was rather necessary to him, and the sooner she could produce an heir, the better for Henry!
But he couldn’t marry a bastard. So he overturned Richard III’s legitimate right to the throne, declared Elizabeth trueborn, married her and gave us the delightful Henry VIII. Thank you very much. But, of course, by making her trueborn, he also did the same to her two brothers, whose claim to the throne immediately became far superior to his own. Oh, dear. Poor Henry. What a dilemma. The result was that he was hounded throughout his reign by the fear that one or other of these Plantagenet “princes” would come to take the crown from him. My heart breaks for him,. Natch.
If you go to this article you can read an explanation of what happened. It doesn’t do Richard III any favours, of course, but then that’s par for the course! Always the slight nudge into the rough or the bunker. Never the hole in one he so rightly merited. Here’s a sample:
“…. Eleanor never claimed a crown for herself but as the Wars of the Roses raged to their bloody end at Bosworth Field, she became a central figure in the path to the throne. She was actually already dead by the time her name was passed through parliament in the fight for the right to rule but the fact that she had ever lived at all was a vital part of the hold that Richard III had on the title of King of England following the death of his brother, Edward IV, in 1483…..”
Fight for the right to rule? Um, read the Woodvilles trying to seize power and get rid of Richard of Gloucester, Edward IV’s only surviving brother. A vital part of the hold Richard III had….? If Eleanor and Edward IV were married, which clearly they were because the Three Estates believed in it sufficiiently to beg him to become king, Richard was the rightful heir to the throne. It wasn’t a case of his having a “hold” on being King of England, he WAS the King of England. Rightfully. Lawfully. By blood. Even by invitation, because everyone wanted Richard to wear the crown, except the Woodvilles and some of Edward’s old buddies, who feared a loss of influence. If the traditionalists can’t swallow this fact, then they’re even more blinkered than I thought.
Oh, and BTW, the above illustration seems to be solely of Henry VIII and his offspring. There is no sign of Old Miseryguts VII, not even a portrait on the wall. What an oversight. After all, he was the Tudor who made sure Eleanor’s marriage to Edward IV was ignored. Henry VIII and his children owed their thrones to his sleight of hand and devious brain. And the treacherous support of the Stanleys at Bosworth.
I know some people in Cairo are a little slow on the uptake, but there are several independent sources, as shown by the Revealing Richard III blog. In a recent series of articles in the Ricardian Bulletin, the team cite:
Titulus Regius, as composed from the petition to the Three Estates on 26 June 1483;
Richard III’s letter to Lord Mountjoy, Captain of Calais, two days later;
Eustace de Chapuys‘ (below left) 1533-4 letters to Charles V, showing that Henry VIII had a lesser dynastic claim to the English throne than Catherine of Aragon, his patron’s aunt;
A 1486 Year Book, detailing Henry VII’s attempts to persuade Bishop Stillington to confess so that Titulus Regius could be annulled and not just destroyed unread.
The last three all name Stillington or refer to the “Bishop of B”, such that only Bath and Wells fits that description in England during 1483-7. Birmingham, Blackburn, Bradford and Bristol didn’t have Bishops in those days.
Here is the second in my series of Top 10’s. This one is focussing on Dominic Mancini’s account of the events of 1483. It’s a hugely problematical source, both in terms of Mancini himself, who spoke no English, had no grasp of English politics and very limited sources, and in terms of the current translation in use which often chooses weighted words to make Mancini’s account darker.
It’s a negative source, without a doubt, written for a French audience hostile to England and Richard III and gripped by their own minority succession crisis, but it’s also misused and misunderstood. Mancini explains that he has had his arm twisted by Angelo Cato to write the account, which he had not wished to commit to paper. Cato worked at the French court, so had his own agenda is seeking to make Richard and his England seem like a land of murderous monsters.
More than this, Mancini admits, when complaining about being brow beaten into writing his account, that he knows almost nothing for certain. He wrote ‘I indeed decided that I ought not to expatiate so freely in writing as in talking, for, although on your account I did not shrink from pains, yet I had not sufficiently ascertained the names of those to be described, the intervals of time, and the secret designs of men in this whole affair.’ He adds ‘Wherefore you should not expect from me the names of individual men and places, nor that this account should be complete in all details; rather shall it resemble the effigy of a man, which lacks some of the limbs, and yet a beholder delineates for himself a man’s form.’
If Mancini had visited Torquay in the 1970’s, he might have given Manuel a run for his money.