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Malmsey Wine – A Poem

Pic of a glass of Malmsey Wine


Don’t cry my son, it’s just a graze
I know what can bring you cheer
You’ll love the taste, so sweet, so fine
Better than beer – Malmsey wine
Malmsey wine, fine and sweet
Malmsey wine, you I seek
Malmsey wine, heal the pain
Malmsey wine: oblivion
I know you’re sad, your wife is dead
What can I do to help?
A glimpse of heaven, taste divine
To give you comfort, Malmsey wine
Malmsey wine, fine and sweet
Malmsey wine, you I seek
Malmsey wine, heal the pain
Malmsey wine: oblivion
Your anger is just, life so unfair
You go too far, you must beware
A new use now they will find
A path to death, Malmsey wine
Malmsey wine, fine and sweet
Malmsey wine, you I seek
Malmsey wine, heal the pain
Malmsey wine: oblivion





Image: By inspector_81 (originally posted to Flickr as IMG_1381) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Edward’s Pants

Pie chart of causes of problems in greek Mythology

I saw the above on Facebook today and something rang a bell in my head, so I had a little fun in Paint and came up with this:

Pie chart of casuse of Downfall of House of York

The book Kendall could write today (4) – Two Little Boys

On page 29, Kendall wrote: “ … {George} was everything that Richard was not – strong, big for his age, handsome, charming and spoiled”.
The Third Plantagenet (Ashdown-Hill, p.61) quotes Jehan de Wavrin, in early 1461, guessing their ages as 9 and 8, which is two years too young for George but just right for Richard. At the time, George was under-sized!

Once again, the known evidence has moved on in fifty years.

Why did she not speak out?

I have come across a few conversations on the net in which the question is asked: If Eleanor Talbot was married to Edward IV, why did she not speak out when he ‘married’ Elizabeth Woodville?

It’s a fair enough question, although in my view a tad on the naive side. 15th Century England was not a liberal democracy under a rule of law, with the right of appeal to the Supreme Court and ultimately to the European Court of Human Rights. It was something very close to a dictatorship. Yes, there were certain restraints on the sovereign’s power, but these restraints were pretty limited. Parliament and Peers generally only cut up rough when their collective interests were threatened – for example if the King wanted to impose heavy taxation. They tended not to worry too much about what we would call ‘human rights’.

Even in our enlightened times, a private individual who had something to say about the sovereign which threatened the security of the state would not exactly have an easy ride. If they were not dismissed as a nutcase, they would certainly attract the attention of the security services, and at the minimum be given ‘advice’. They would also run a good chance of having their lives dissected in the Daily Mail and – who knows? – they might just find themselves conveniently committing ‘suicide’.

Let us consider a couple of people who gave Edward IV a little hassle. Bishop Stillington, for speaking words prejudicial to the King, was chucked in the Tower. It should be noted that this was a former Chancellor of England, not a nobody, a man who in addition enjoyed the virtual immunity of prelates from the death sentence, a convention only ever broken by kings called ‘Henry’. He also had the benefit of an ‘old boys’ network, including the University of Oxford that protected him – to an extent – under Henry VII. Stillington took note. Whatever ‘prejudicial’ words he wanted to give out, he kept them to himself for the rest of Edward IV’s reign.

Then there was Clarence, who was actually Edward IV’s full-blood brother. It’s not exactly clear what he did that justified his execution – although we can be sure it was something, as Edward was such a good chap who never did an unjust deed in his whole life. But part of it was certainly protesting to the King’s council about Edward’s actions.

Eleanor Talbot was not a prelate, she was not the king’s brother – she was just a little woman.

Some of you may not like that term, so let me go on to say at one that I am aware of a number of formidable women (mostly ladies actually) who were a force in fifteenth century England. Indeed, I’ve made quite a study of more than one of them. They usually had at least two of the following: very high-placed male relatives; considerable lands of their own; and last, but by no means least, a forceful personality. Most had all three. It’s quite possible that Eleanor Talbot did not have one. She certainly had no significant lands, and her nearest male relative, Sir Humphrey Talbot, was not a man with a great deal of political ‘kick’. Indeed, he was in need of royal patronage, which he eventually received.

Of course, the occasion when Eleanor should have spoken out was the formal, public wedding of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. But as no such public ceremony ever took place, she couldn’t, could she?

After that, I suspect any protest on her part would have been laughed at – if not, she might simply have been thrown into prison. She may also have been restrained by feelings of delicacy – opening the matter would have damaged her reputation and made her look a fool. Perhaps she simply preferred to ‘lie low and say nuffin’ rather than face such humiliation.

So I have no difficulty in understanding why Eleanor did not speak out. I think she was very wise not to do so.

An overheard Conversation

‘Edward,’ said the Duchess of York, in her sad-but-angry voice, ‘it is high time we had words. This ridiculous marriage you say you have made is simply the last straw. What sort of king marries in secret? And to someone, I may add, of no particular distinction of birth! You should be ashamed of yourself, letting us all down like this.’

King Edward IV sighed. He could always tell when his mother was really angry, because she stopped calling him ‘Ned’. And her curtseys became ironic. She was an awkward sort of person at the best of times, and wasn’t called ‘Proud Cis’ for nothing! And she was the only person in the whole kingdom who still dared to talk to him as though he was an errant schoolboy with his hose down for a birching. ‘Elizabeth is a widow,’ he said, attempting a winning smile, ‘and I am a bachelor, and we both have children. So you see, dear Mother, we have excellent hope of heirs. And besides, I love her.’

‘LOVE!’ Cecily almost screamed. ‘What the flipping flip does flipping love have to do with marriage among people like us?’ She didn’t actually use the word ‘flipping’ at all, but a somewhat stronger alternative. Edward was shocked. It wasn’t every day that his mother came out with rude words like that. Indeed it was a distinct novelty. He hadn’t realised that she even knew such language.

‘Mother!’ he said soothingly. ‘I beg you not so loud. The servants will hear.’

‘I don’t give a flipping sugar if every servant from here to Peterborough hears! In fact I hope they do, and that they repeat it to all their friends, with a few additions to make it more interesting. You stupid, stupid, little man! Call yourself King of England? You’re not fit to be the squire of Chipping Sodbury. I have scraped more kingly material off my shoes after a particularly prolonged visit to the kennels. Secret marriages, indeed! I wouldn’t mind, but it isn’t even the first time. Oh, yes, do you think I don’t know about Eleanor Talbot? I had her mother, Lady Shrewsbury, banging on about it to me for five solid hours. I thought it was a lie, and sent her on her way. But it wasn’t a lie, was it?’

The King looked as sheepish as a king possibly can without actually being a sheep. ‘Well,’ he admitted, ‘not exactly.’

Not exactly,’ she repeated impatiently. ‘I should have thought that even a mentally-challenged baboon would have realised that a Christian man cannot be married to two women at the same time. So this Elizabeth isn’t really your wife at all! And what does that make your future children?’

‘No one will ever find out, Mother. Eleanor Talbot is a very reasonable sort of woman, and has kept her mouth shut on the subject.’

No one will ever find out?’ Cecily shook her head, so sharply that the elaborate veiling descending from it shook like a sail split asunder by the wind. ‘The trouble with you, my boy, is you think that everyone in the world, except you, is stupid. This time you have gone too far. I wish I could say you were not my son, but unfortunately I remember the several hours of agonising pain all too well. I am tempted to tell everyone that you were fathered by the Archer Blackburn – or Blaeburn as we called him in the affected French accent we used during our time in Rouen. I liked the Archer Blackburn, and he was tall like you, and if he really was your father it would explain your total lack of nobility.’
Edward let out an awkward laugh. ‘Mother, no one would ever believe that you, of all women, would lie with a common archer.’

‘Would they not indeed?’ Cecily snorted. ‘You’d be surprised! Did you know that your birth came at a funny time? You were either very late or very early, and there was all manner of gossip in Rouen, especially when we only gave you a cheap baptism.

‘But I am York’s son?’


Probably?’ It was King Edward’s turn to become exasperated. ‘What sort of answer is that?’

‘A better one than you deserve. Can you imagine what people will say about you in the future? What they will write in their chronicles. Because I can, and it isn’t a pretty picture; a man who had it all when he came to the throne, and threw it all away because he couldn’t keep it inside his codpiece. Not that that in itself would particularly matter – if you had made a decent marriage first!

‘To somewhat like Bona of Savoy, I suppose? How on earth can a King of England marry someone called “Bona”? What a ridiculous name to put on a tomb! Or perhaps Isabella of Castile?’

‘Either would at least have been a respectable choice. At least compared to a Lancastrian widow, whose name no one seems to know how to spell.’

‘Mother, you have forgotten. I’m already married to Eleanor Talbot. If it does come out, the Woodvilles won’t be able to do much very about it. But a princess of France or Spain! Can you imagine the scandal? It would be casus belli.’

Cecily snorted. ‘I think that’s possibly the worst case of “making the best of a bad job” I’ve heard of in my entire life. I wash my hands of you – you bastard!

Just outside, a little man smiled to himself as he made a careful note with a stylus on a wax tablet. He worked for the Duke of Clarence. So far he had had very little to report, but this was going to mean a bonus. He studied his writing to be sure he had got the wording right. ‘On two separate occasions,’ it said, ‘the Duchess of York declared in my hearing that King Edward was a bastard. She said the gossip in Rouen was that he was the son of an archer called Blayburn.’

A question of responsibility

Who takes the ultimate responsibility for events in late Medieval England?

According to the Cairo-dwellers, from 1483 to August 1485, the answer is the King (Richard III), whether he knew what happened or not.

According to the same people, the answer from 1471 to 1483 isn’t the King (Edward IV) but the Duke of Gloucester (the same Richard), his brother who was ten years younger.Not so many of them still blame Richard for committing war crimes at the first Battle of St. Alban’s (1455, between nappy changes) but some do.

They expect us to believe that, when Edward declared the Countess of Warwick legally dead to keep the Duke of Clarence happy, that was Richard’s responsibility. Similarly, when Edward declared the Dowager Countess of Oxford legally dead to stop her funding her traitor son, that was Richard’s responsibility as well. That Richard, as Constable, passed and oversaw the sentences of death after Tewkesbury against Edward’s will – even though we know what Edward could do to a brother who stepped out of line continually and we know that this was Richard’s first serious campaign. That Richard was responsible for Clarence’s end, although he is on the record as protesting against it and going on strike for the day of the execution. That Richard had to be responsible for Henry VI’s end even though it was improbable that he could benefit from it – Edward had a very fertile “wife” at the time and the secret wasn’t known for another twelve years, quite apart from Clarence – and he was away from the Tower on the day. That Richard had to be responsible for Edward of Lancaster’s death, even though Clarence is specifically accused by contemporaries and instantly became the Lancastrian claimant, at least in his own eyes.

So Edward IV was King for over twenty years and so feeble that he wasn’t responsible for anything? On the contrary, we know how ruthlessly he had dealt with rebels during his first reign, appointing the Earl of Worcester (John Tiptoft) as Constable, knowing the zeal with which he would approach the task, only for the Lancastrian readeption to result in Tiptoft’s beheading. We know how he dealt with the Duchess of Norfolk’s servants to silence her after the death of her sister (his valid wife). We know how he dealt with the Earl of Desmond’s sons and we know he eventually dealt with Clarence, arresting Stillington at about the same time.

We can conclude that Edward IV was no fool. He could look after himself, could delegate tasks to people who would take his approach and could take responsibility for their actions in his lifetime. He did not reprimand Richard for his conduct as Constable nor did he deal with him as he had Clarence but designated him as Lord Protector of the Realm in his codicil, as the Council all agreed, also allowing him to remain as  Constable. We can only conclude that he trusted Richard on the basis of twelve years’  loyal support and more before the Clarence-Warwick revolt.

So what is the problem with the denialists here?

An update


Thankyou to those who read our post “The explorer and the Clarence descendent”. We now know that, just like Richard III himself, there is a facial reconstruction of Bartholomew Gosnold.

The explorer and the Clarence descendant

Most people will be aware that Bartholomew Gosnold (1571-1607) was a Cambridge and Middle Temple law graduate born and raised at Otley Hall, a few miles north-west of Ipswich. They will also be aware that he attempted to found  British colonies in Virginia and Maine, eventually being successful in Virginia, also that his name and that of his family are indellibly linked to the area. Martha, of the eponymous vineyard, was his short-lived daughter.

This genealogy Gosnolds shows not only his parentage and his children but also his cousin’s marriage to Winifred Windsor, granddaughter of Sir Geoffrey Pole and thus great-great-granddaughter of George of Clarence.

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