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We like to answer our readers’ queries …

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

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

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

Have we forgotten anyone?

Pavia, a battle that changed Europe

The Battle of Pavia, 1525 (Bretwalda Battles)

Kindle ebook


Author: Stephen Lark

Published by Bretwalda Books, April 2014


For me, this little book’s initial attraction was that it features the rise—and eventual fall—of the noble de la Pole family of England, centring specifically on the sons of John de la Pole, 2nd Duke of Suffolk and Elizabeth Plantagenet, sister of both Edward IV and Richard III. It is the youngest son, Richard de la Pole, known to history by the sobriquet White Rose, who is of consequence here. Well, he is if the reader is, like me, deeply immersed in the Ricardian aspects of these events. But from the White Rose I have been lured into the broader, more intricate political wheeler-dealering in Europe that culminated in the famous battle at Pavia in Italy. A long way from home for poor Richard de la Pole, the last Yorkist claimant to the throne of England.

The de la Poles owed their political importance to a believed decision made by Richard III in 1485. Widowed and without a legitimate child, the king is said to have chosen his eldest nephew, Lincoln, as his heir. This changed everything for the de la Pole brothers. From the moment of King Richard’s bloody demise at Bosworth Field, the Earl of Lincoln became the rightful king, with a claim far greater in blood and legitimacy than that of the usurper, Henry VII, who set about ridding himself of the de la Poles, one by one.

On seeing the fates of his elder brothers, Richard de la Pole wisely skipped to France and stayed there. He fell in with the French King, Francis I, and became widely regarded as the true King of England. Francis saw in him a very useful weapon with which to prod and threaten the Tudors, who always feared a Yorkist challenge. Francis intended to aid the White Rose in an invasion of England, but first had other things to attend to.

France had designs upon parts of Italy which she believed were her property. Richard de la Pole joined Francis in this, and the scene was set for what was to come, including the swift and inexorable advance of the Renaissance. Everything, from religion and printing, to art and science, and much more, seemed to coalesce in a short period. Add this to the Italian wars, and the powder keg is primed.

The Spanish Habsburgs were powerful across Europe, and their army, joined by the garrison of Pavia, confronted the French outside the city on a February morning in 1525. The French were decimated, and Richard de la Pole, the White Rose, was left dead on the field. With him died the de la Pole claim to the English throne. There is no doubt that had he lived, he would have endeavoured to return to England in the hope of applying a Yorkist crowbar between the throne and the tenacious Tudors. But it was not to be. Pavia put paid to everything.

All this is related precisely in this book, and yet in full detail. I was impressed by the depth of the author’s knowledge. Not only does he write compellingly, but commands a wealth of invaluable research about the lead up to, and outcome of, the Battle of Pavia, which conflict is the undoubted star of the show.

And being Stephen Lark, he starts his book with a tantalising ‘hook’ concerning the marriage of a mysterious lady, Marguerite de la Pole-Suffolk. Then he leaves us wondering . . . until, at the very end, he explains a little more about her, offering the fascinating and exciting information that not only was she— Ah, but I think to tell more would be a spoiler. All I will say is that I venture to hope the author might delve a little more into Marguerite’s story

I am not a historian, but enjoy history, especially when it concerns events that touch in some way upon King Richard III. This book comes with my recommendation. I hope other readers enjoy it as I did . . . and that afterwards they realize how very much more they know than before they started. As I do.



Edmund, Earl of Suffolk

……….. was beheaded on the last day of April 1513, having left England in 1501 but returned by misadventure the following year. Evidently his departure, in the aftermath of his cousins’ executions was motivated by his desire to remain alive, whilst his demise did not end “Tudor” paranoia over those with a better lineal claim to the throne than themselves.

24-25 February

What an interesting week this is.

On 25 February 1475 Edward, son of the Duke of Clarence and Isabel Neville, was born.  He already had an elder sister, Margaret, although two other siblings died in infancy. By his third birthday, Edward had lost both his parents and his father’s attainder barred him from succeeding to the Dukedom or the crown, however he did receive his maternal titles as Earl of Warwick and Salisbury. He became a ward of the Marquess of Dorset, then Constable of the Tower, leading to rumours that he was held there at some time.  When the Three Estates petitioned Richard III to take the throne in 1483, Edward joined his household at Sheriff Hutton and is rumoured to have become Richard’s heir the following year.
On the accession of Henry “Tudor”, he was moved to the Tower and left it only three times: once for display in 1487, once in November 1499 to be tried at Westminster for plotting with his possible cousin “Perkin Warbeck” to escape and the following week to be beheaded at Tower Hill. By 1492, he was the only known remaining legitimate Plantagenet as Margaret had married.

On 24 February 1525 Richard de la Pole, the “White Rose” soi-disant Earl of Suffolk, was killed at the siege of Pavia fighting for France. He had been born in about 1480 to John de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, and Elizabeth of York. He left for France and then Hungary in 1504, first with his brother Edmund but then alone when Edmund was captured by subterfuge and subsequently executed. Richard then took a command in the French army and planned an invasion of England, but this was deferred after a treaty. He then moved to Lorraine, thwarting an attempted assassination by a “Tudor” agent (Alamire) and then took part in the 1523-5 phase of the Italian (Valois-Habsburg) Wars  under Francois I.
His years in Lorraine are intriguing in that someone claiming to be his daughter (Marguerite) was born there. Although Richard came from a large family, only Edmund of his siblings is known to have had issue- and his daughter became a nun.

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