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The black widow that bit herself

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.

The seven "best"couples in history? Richard and Anne make it at seven….!

This image from the Salisbury Roll doesn’t appear in the article below

And how they make it is a mystery, as is the rest of this list, which puts together a truly weird collection. I mean, what was so very remarkable about John and Jackie Kennedy? They were good-looking, influential and rich….but does that make them the sixth “best” couple of all time? I think not. Same for Churchill and Clementine. Great couples, yes, but not in a list of seven in all history!

As for poor Richard and Anne, I’m not really sure how or why they made this peculiar list. The so-called experts who’ve been herded in to give their opinions aren’t exacty pro-Richard, and some of their opinions are downright weird.

According to Philippa Gregory (Expert? She’s a historical novelist with books to sell!): “….’I think it most likely that Anne judged rightly that nobody could protect her from the greed and jealousy of the House of York but a brother of the House of York, and wisely and bravely ran away from her sister’s house to marry Richard’….” Right. I haven’t read her book about Anne Neville, but I think I have the gist of it. And as this author has taken it upon herself to rename the Wars of the Roses the “Cousins War” I don’t think I’ll be bothering. Historical fiction is just that, fiction, and should not be peddled as fact. I’m afraid that, for me, Philippa Gregory crosses the line.

As for Professor Michael Hicks. He writes “….’While we might argue that Richard wanted to be buried at Westminster with his queen, there is some evidence that he tried to replace her before she died.’….” This is worded to make Richard appear an uncaring husband who couldn’t wait to be rid of his queen. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Richard did love Anne. It was his advisors who urged him to think of marrying again, and then only because Anne was on her deathbed. He died at Bosworth, a king grieving for both his wife and only legitimate child.

Shame on these “experts” for twisting things around to suit their own arbitrary opinions, which smack of schadenfreude! Never trust anyone whose sole purpose is to sell their books!

As a multi-published author myself, I have often written about actual historical figures. Fictionally, yes, but I have always included an Author Note in which I have owned up to my inventions. I have never peddled them as historical fact!

There’s a dentist in … Hertfordshire

{with apologies to the Barron Knights}

Back in August of last year I drove over to a dental practice in St Albans for my annual check-up. Yes, it is a long way from where I live in Yoxford but the dentist and I go back a long way. I have actually been his patient since 1982 so my visits if not the favourite days on my calendar at least have a social side with an opportunity to catch up on things. In a break in proceedings in which some conversation took place his nurse/assistant, Nicky, happened to mention she lived in Hinxworth. I was familiar with the village as a close friend of mine used to live there many years ago but I was sure it had cropped up in a totally different context in more recent times. The best I could come up with was that it was something to do with the church but I was not sure what.
Thinking about it on the drive back I decided that it must have a Ricardian connection as I could not imagine how it could have been mentioned in anything else I had read. Bearing that in mind I came to the conclusion it must be referred to in one of John Ashdown Hill’s books but which one? On arriving home it did not take long to find the reference in The Private Life of Edward IV. Hinxworth Church has the tomb of none other than “Jane Shore” or Elizabeth Lambert to use her correct name. As you are no doubt aware she was an alleged mistress of King Edward but as John points out in his book there is no real evidence of an affair. She is also alleged to have had relationships with Lord Hastings and the Marquess of Dorset before eventually going on to marry Richard’s solicitor, Thomas Lynom. She was obviously a very popular lady in the 15th century!
I have to confess to being intrigued by the events surrounding her marriage to William Shore. She initially petitioned the Bishop of London with regards to the annulment of her marriage on the grounds of non-consummation. He in turn referred the matter to the Pope no less. The Pope not surprisingly referred the matter back to local bishops who then appointed a team of “experienced local women” to visit William Shore and perform a “physical examination” on him. We can only guess at what this entailed but it appears the unfortunate Mr Shore failed the examination as the marriage was annulled.
Unfortunately I have not as yet been able to discover how Elizabeth Lambert came to be buried at Hinxworth, there does not appear to be anything connecting her to that part of Hertfordshire. Also not having visited the church I am curious as to how she is referred to on her tomb. I assume it would not be as Jane Shore as that was an invention a long time after her death.

Did Richard of Gloucester’s marriage take place in 1477…?

The following article concerns information found in the thesis The Medieval Tournament: Chivalry, Heraldry and Reality An Edition and Analysis of Three Fifteenth-Century Tournament Manuscripts, 2 Volumes, by Ralph Dominic Moffat, August 2010. See https://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/1430/1/Ralph_Moffat_PhD_2010.pdf

The four extracts (A-D) below are attributed to Oxford, Bodleian Library Ashmolean MS 856, fols 94r -104r : English narrative of the ‘justs royall’ held to celebrate the marriage of the Duke of Gloucester, 1477.

This long thesis is of interest because these ‘justs royall’ were recorded as being in celebration of the Duke of Gloucester’s marriage. As far as I am aware there was only one Duke of Gloucester in 1477—Richard, brother of King Edward IV. But he is generally believed to have married Anne Neville closer to 1472, when the dispensation was issued, and when his son died in 1483, the boy was 10 years old and had been born in December 1473. So what were these royal jousts in 1477? Delayed marriage celebrations? If so, they were very delayed. Or perhaps a narrative written later about celebrations that took place several years earlier?

(A) “….There is mention in the codex of the challenges to various chivalric combats being proclaimed (fols 23v and 78r ). A vivid illustration of this process is provided in an account of the ‘justs royall’ held to celebrate the marriage of the Duke of Gloucester in 1477: the King […] did call such Officers as were then pr[e]sent and Commanded them to publish and shew the said petit[i]ons and Artycles in all places convenyent Theis Articles were received by the said Officers of Armes and according to his high Commandment were first published in the white hall by […] Clarenceux King of Armes and Norroy King of Armes who read the Proclamation Guyen King of Armes Winsor Herauld Chester Herauld being pr[e]sent in the said Hall […] From hence the said Officers of Armes went to the Citty of London where the same day the said Articles were p[ro]claymed & published in fower severall [sic] places of the said Citty at the Standard in Cheape at Leadenhall at Grace Church and at London bridge and by Clarencieux Norry and Guyen Kings of Armes all on horsebacke also the Marshall of the Kings Trumpetts was w[i]th them & did sound at every of the places in þe Citty.[7]

[7] Oxford, Bodleian Library, Ashmolean MS 856, fol. 94r

(B) “….The mention of the death of the Bastard of Burgundy’s horse whilst being guarded by the heralds (fol. 62v ) is more evidence of their importance as arbitrators. In a narrative of the tourney for the marriage celebrations of the Duke of Gloucester in 1477 it is stated that one of the participants was able to ‘disvoid a ribb of the polron [shoulder defence]’ of his opponent but ‘never sought him where hee was disarmed For the which the Princesse of the feast and all the Herauldes noted for the which prudent behaveing there was awarded him for the best Tourney[er] without’.[12] Thus it is evident that in all types of chivalric combat the heralds’ role as chivalric arbitrator was paramount….”

[12] Oxford, Bodleian Library, Ashmolean MS 856, fol. 101r

(C) “….As part of the celebrations of the marriage of the Duke of Gloucester in 1477 one of the King’s squires ‘came horsed and Armed for the Tourney and two Knights bore two Swords before him accordinge to the Articles before rehearsed’.[16]

[16] Oxford, Bodleian Library, Ashmolean MS 856, fol. 99r

(D) “….In an account of the ‘justs royall’ held to celebrate the marriage of the Duke of Gloucester in 1477 it is noted that ‘Earle Rivers rewarded the said Kings of Armes and Heraulds with Twenty Markes.[197]

[197] Oxford, Bodleian Library, Ashmolean MS 856, fol. 94r

Reading mss is not my strong point, but I imagine the above information is absolutely correct. So, can anyone explain about this marriage tournament in 1477?

Heralds Sound The Advance. A painting by Hugh St Pierre Bunbury published by the Boys Own Paper in January 1914.

 

A Cairo dweller Troll on Quora

Picture of Troll spray

I sometimes go on Quora to give answers to various questions, usually about Richard, and occasionally I get drawn into arguments with those who are entrenched in the belief that Richard was a usurping, chid-murdering hunchback. I can easily argue against these and, as an osteopath, I can state with authority that he wasn’t a hunchback. This is par for the course, but sometimes they get the strangest ideas about him.

Recently, one such misguided individual insisted that Richard was cruel to his mother in law and to George, Duke of Bedford. It seemed a weird thing to pick on and then I found out that he had just read the new ‘biography’ of Richard by Prof Hicks. No wonder he has such strange ideas. Hicks always seems to grasp onto snippets which either don’t make sense and which are just his own opinion or else takes a tack that nobody else has thought of (e.g. that the remains found in Leicester are not Richard, that he committed incest by marrying Anne), usually because it is clearly wrong or unlikely.

I am still arguing with this particular troll and many will say it is pointless. In a way it is as he will never change his view, it is so firmly entrenched. But the reason I do it is that there are innocents viewing the answers given on Quora and I want them to have the true facts. Usually it is obvious who is the most logical and fair-minded in these discussions, so I hope to convert a few neutrals to being Ricardians by showing up these narrow-minded people as illogical and unfair.

A friend remarked that she had heard Quora pay ‘plants’ to argue with people and stir up trouble deliberatley in order to increase the traffic to their site. The same conclusion applies: neutral readers will still see that our Ricardian arguments are much better than the Cairo-dwellers‘ ones!

Does anyone else rise to the bait at times for this reason?

They don’t like it up ’em?

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.

Edward of Middleham: the prince of Richard III

 

Edward in the stained glass at St Mary and St Akelda in Middleham

Edward of York, better known as Edward of Middleham, was the only legitimate son of King Richard III and his Queen, Anne Neville.

Edward was thought to have been born in Middleham Castle in December 1473, but this date is not certain. The historian Charles Ross wrote that this date “lacks authority” and was of the opinion that Edward was probably born in 1476. A document in which the Duke of Clarence thought that the marriage between his brother and Anne was invalid confirms that the child was not born at least until 1474. The Tewkesbury Chronicle estimates that he was born in 1476 so when he died he was probably 7 and not 10, as many think. No doubt he was already born on 10th April 1477 as priests of York Minster were asked to pray for King Edward’s family including his brother Richard and his family (wife and son).

For almost everyone he is Edward of Middleham, as he was probably born in the Nursery Tower of Middleham, today known as the Prince’s Tower in the west wing of the castle and it is thought he died there too. He grew up in Middleham with a wet nurse called Isabel Burgh and a governess, Anne Idley, married to one of Richard’s favourite courtiers.

During his short life, Edward was given several titles. On 15th February 1478 Earl of Salisbury, on 26th June 1483 Duke of Cornwall, on 19th July Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and above all on 24th August 1483 he was named Earl of Chester and Prince of Wales. He received this last title in York with his father himself performing the ritual. The solemn ceremony was held in the Archbishop’s Palace and was followed by four hours of banqueting. Edward walked along the streets of York to the delight of people.

It has always been said that Edward was not a healthy child. It seems that he was so sick that he went to York in a litter and not riding a horse as he was meant to do and he couldn’t even be present at his parents’ Coronation. Because of this, probably Richard decided to organise this solemn ceremony in York where the child was named Prince of Wales.

Edward was the only legitimate child of Richard but he had at least one half-brother and a half-sister. As it is likely that these two children grew up in Yorkshire, it is possible that Edward didn’t feel lonely as a child.

Unfortunately, we have no official portrait of Edward apart from a few drawings and stained glasses. The most famous is in St Mary and St Alkelda Church in Middleham, where he appears dressed as the Prince of Wales along with his father and mother. His physical appearance is not clear as he is different in the images we have of him. It is likely he was a fair haired child with blue eyes and a lean body shape.

As Prince of Wales, Edward was expected to be king after the death of his father but fate had decided otherwise for both of them. In April 1484, Richard and Anne were at the castle of Nottingham to enjoy a respite from their royal progress, when the news of Edward’s death arrived. The reactions of the poor parents is described in the Croyland Chronicles as they were almost bordering upon madness. This means that the death was sudden and unexpected and this explains the fact that they had left him in Middleham, as they didn’t suspect an imminent death.

 

The cause of death is not sure, it seems he suffered with tuberculosis but a sudden death is not typical of this illness. So possibly the cause was something completely different and it is very unlikely we will ever know.

A mystery surrounds the burial of Edward. Many think he was buried in Sheriff Hutton in a tomb of alabaster representing a child. Some investigations have proved the tomb is empty so there is a theory that the child was possibly buried somewhere in the church, along with the mortal remains of the Neville family’s members. Due to its age, it is not possible to see any inscriptions and it is very likely the tomb dates from much earlier than 1484. The theories around the actual location of Edward’s tomb are many and varied. Some people think it could be in Coverham, others in Jervaulx Abbey where, as a child, Edward rode horses with his father, others even it is in York. Some are of the opinion that any place he might be was a provisional resting place. At that time re-burials were very common so it was not impossible that Richard had in mind a different location but, as protecting his son’s body from being desecrated or displayed was apparently Richard’s desire, we can just hope nobody will ever disturb Edward’s eternal peace.

Schrodinger’s royal marriages?

Anne Boleyn and then Katherine Howard thought they had married Henry VIII. Then he annulled them both, as he did with his first and fourth weddings, such that they were deemed to have been invalid from the start. However, he had these second and fifth Queens executed for treason in that they committed adultery whilst married to him, even whilst maintaining that they were not. Similarly, Henry absolutely insisted that the dispensation he obtained in made his first ceremony with Catalina de Aragon (above right) completely valid.

Perhaps Henry picked up this habit from his father who insisted that the rebel he sent to Tyburn in 1499 was guilty of treason, which could only apply if he was an English subject, whilst calling him “Perkin Warbeck” from the Low Countries?

Erwin Schrodinger (below left) would, of course understand perfectly. “My cat is alive and dead”. “Anne Boleyn and I were validly married and were not.” “”Perkin” was an English subject and a foreigner.

Edward IV and Elizabeth Wydeville

(This letter, of which a version was published in the September 2018 Bulletin, was in response to Bryan Dunleavy’s article about Edward IV and Elizabeth Wydville.)

The article in the latest Ricardian Bulletin by Bryan Dunleavy is interesting, and also provocative, given that the bulk of readers of the publication are, by definition, Ricardians.

However Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth was conceived and performed, there is no doubt it was irregular, and so subject to a presumption of bad faith. If Edward wanted the establish the legitimacy of his children securely, the readiest way would have been to follow the example of his own grandparents, Richard of Conisbrough and Anne Mortimer, who secured a Papal Dispensation in 1408 to regularise their secret marriage. (Richard and Anne were about as poor as two noble persons could be, but they still went to the trouble and expense.)

Of course it may be that Edward was well aware that the Pope had no power to dispense bigamy. If you reject that possibility, then one has to say that he behaved irresponsibly as a man of property, let alone a sovereign.

I suspect that like many wealthy and powerful people, even in our own times, Edward simply believed he was untouchable.

Incidentally, how did Edward and Elizabeth manage to avoid procreation between their “marriage” and her coronation, nearly thirteen months later on Ascension Day? If, as Mr. Dunleavy said, “one can only conclude that this was deliberate”, perhaps Edward frequented his nearest apothecary or a dispenser (Despencer?) in a tavern?

Was Roland de Velville the son of Henry VII….?

henry-vii-london-bridge

The following article is necessarily filled with supposition, inference and sneaking suspicion. The result of smoke and mirrors, you ask? Well, I think it is all much more substantial than that, as I hope to explain in the coming paragraphs.

Today (25th June) in 1545, died a man by the name of Roland de Velville (or Vielleville, Veleville, Vieilleville, and other variations). He crops up at regular intervals in connection with the first Tudor king, Henry VII. Why? Because of a persistent whisper that Roland was Henry’s illegitimate son. Well, his son, but no one can really categorically state he was illegitimate. All that can be claimed is that he was born sometime during Henry’s exile in Brittany between 1471 and 1485, and that when he arrived in England he was soon rumoured to be Henry’s unacknowledged child, born any time from about 1472 on, when Henry himself was only fourteen or fifteen.

It needs to be mentioned here that medieval kings usually acknowledged any offspring fathered before their official royal marriages, so there would not appear to be any reason why Henry would not admit to Roland. (I can think of at least one very good reason, but will save that until the end of this article.)

Roland was a member of the Breton nobility, an écuyer or esquire who may have accompanied Henry on the invasion of 1485. It is not known whether or not the boy fought at Bosworth, but my guess would be that he was probably too young. However, in 1489 he was certainly old enough to be in Sir John Cheyne’s retinue for the Breton expedition commanded by Sir Robert Willoughby.

1489-brittany

 The comment has been made that Roland was an ‘almost obsessive’ jouster, and was closely involved with the king’s falcons. It seems probable that he accompanied Henry VII when he went hunting and hawking. He appears to have been tolerated by English aristocrats, who must have been aware that he was favoured by the king. If that were not the case, I doubt Roland would have come even close to tournaments and the like. Roland’s life style would have been expensive, but Henry supported him, granting occasional gifts and allowing him an income from the royal revenues. Roland held no official position, he was simply there, enjoying himself, participating in royal pastimes and generally floating along. As we would all like to, given the chance.

Conjecture about him must have been rife, but that was all it amounted to. Conjecture. Because no one was party to the facts, not even Roland himself. Or so I guess, because his character was such that I doubt he’d have held his tongue and been discreet. He appears to have been of an unruly temperament, headstrong, irksome, arrogant and inclined to indulge in slander. Not at all like his subtle father. Well, rumoured father.

battle-of-roncevaux-pass-large

Might Roland have been named after the great 11th-century hero, Roland of Roncevaux? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland) If Henry Tudor really was his father, it strikes me as very much in keeping with Henry’s grand ideas concerning his legendary ancestry. After all, did he not give the name Arthur to his first son by Elizabeth of York?

It was not until the reign of his “half-brother”, Henry VIII, that Roland received any real advancement. From Henry VII he had been given this and that in the way of minor money, and had been kept at royal expense, but there was nothing worthwhile. Except, of course, for being knighted at the Battle of Blackheath in June 1497. But he was still Breton, not English. It was to be 1512 before he received that acknowledgement.

 battle-of-blackheath-1497

Battle of Blackheath

 On the death of Henry VII on 21st April 1509, the new 17-year-old king Henry VIII did not exactly shower Roland with brotherly goodies. Within weeks (3rd July 1509) Roland was appointed Constable of Beaumaris Castle on the Isle of Anglesey, and was given, during pleasure, an annuity of £20. After twenty-five years or so of luxury at court, Roland was on his way to Wales pdq, as the jargon goes. Young Henry clearly did not want his awkward kinsman around. Tudor angst required being rid of anyone of dangerous royal blood, and Roland, if he was indeed a half-sibling, would almost certainly make Henry VIII twitchy. Send him away to the sticks, and if he became a problem, an accident might befall him. At least, that is how I interpret it. Especially, perhaps, as Roland was said to greatly resemble Henry.

 

Hmm, the above portrait of Henry VIII at eighteen (right) doesn’t look like the ogre we now know and, er, love. Indeed, he looks almost identical to his father at that age (above left). But while we know how Henry VII changed as he grew older, remaining lean and almost gaunt, it has to be said that Henry VIII changed a whole lot more, becoming the odious, gross King Hal who was so obsessed with producing male heirs that he was prepared to get through six wives in the process. Did Roland change in the same way? Not the six wives part, of course, but might the Constable of Beaumaris Castle become as awful and bloated as his half-brother the king?

This latter point raises an interesting question. Let us imagine that Roland and Henry were indeed half-brothers. It is generally accepted that for looks Henry VIII took after his maternal grandfather, the Yorkist king Edward IV (who was also tall and handsome, but became gross in his later years). If this were so, how could Roland also look like Edward IV? There was no blood connection. If the resemblance between the two half-siblings were that pronounced as to cause comment, then it has to be wondered if, perhaps, similar tall, handsome, “reddish-golden” looks were also to be found on Henry VII’s side? To my eyes, the first Tudor king and his mother have “Beaufort” stamped upon them. Some of Henry VII’s portraits are interchangeable with his mother. Both have high foreheads and cheekbones, small chins, hooded eyes and a general resemblance to the weasel. Put him in a wimple, and there she is!

What we do not know, of course, is what the earlier Tudors looked like. There are no portraits of Henry’s father, Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, only a reproduction tomb engraving(below left). Nor are there portraits of his father, Owen Tudor. If, indeed, Owen had anything to do with fathering Edmund, there being yet another scandalous royal whisper that Owen’s “wife” (there is no solid evidence that she and Owen ever married) Queen Catherine of Valois, widow of Henry V, had actually been enjoying some hanky-panky with another Beaufort, who for whatever reason declined to marry her. Owen stepped in to make things less embarrassing for her. Tangled webs in every shadow. But let’s suppose that the earlier Tudors were indeed Henry VII’s forebears. They might have been tall and reddish-blond. Well, they could have been, so do not wag your fingers at my screen! The Vikings did NOT steer clear of Wales.

Whatever the reason for Roland and Henry VIII sharing physical similarities—and maybe it was simply coincidence—it could have been with some relief that Roland scurried off to Beaumaris with his neck still attached to the rest of him. Better to be alive, than meet some dark Tudor death because of being regarded as an awkward presence at court. On the other hand, he may well have resented Beaumaris for taking him away from luxury. It was said in 1534 (the year before Roland’s death) that the never-completed castle had deteriorated so that “there was scarcely a single chamber in Beaumaris Castle where a man could lie dry”.

beaumaris-castle

Given Roland’s character, it will come as no surprise that he was a troublesome constable, making all the capital he could from his privileges. Twenty-five or so years at court had undoubtedly given him expensive tastes. But whether he liked it or not, the rest of his life was to be spent at Beaumaris where he began to live (scandalously, of course) with widowed Agnes Griffith, whom he would eventually make his wife. She was a member of the most powerful family in Gwynedd, and had children with Roland. Their descendants were numerous, and included his famous granddaughter, Catherine of Berain, known as the ‘Mother of Wales’. Roland de Velville certainly left his mark in his wife’s homeland.

catherine-of-berain-rolands-granddaughter

Roland died at Beaumaris Castle on 25th June 1535, and was buried at the Church of St Mary’s and St Nicholas, Beaumaris. If he was indeed buried there, I cannot find anything about his actual resting place. I have not been to the church, so it does not signify that he is no longer there, just that he’s escaped me. How intriguing it would be (the discovery of Richard III’s DNA being so fresh in the mind) to see if Roland’s DNA could be obtained. That would indeed help to ascertain if he was Henry VII’s offspring.

st-mary-and-st-nicholas-beaumaris

There is a lot of conflicting information about Roland. Was he of royal blood? Or wasn’t he? Who said what, and when? To whom? Can a Welsh elegy to him, by Daffyd Alaw (1535), be given any credence whatsoever? Well, it claims that Roland was ‘A man of kingly line and of earl’s blood’, which would certainly fit Henry VII, who had been born Henry, Earl of Richmond (he was born posthumously). So yes, Roland could well have been Henry’s son. Why else was he brought to the English court and supported in the way he was? And those who say that such bardic traditions should be ignored as highly improbable should perhaps remember that bardic tradition was how Welsh history was recorded. It was committed to memory and and passed down through the generations. The Welsh are clever enough to train their grey cells!

Historians have been rude about each other where this mysterious Breton écuyer is concerned. That is, if he was even Breton. Yes, I fear the conflicting ‘evidence’ even calls this basic fact into question. Maybe his mother’s family hailed from a corner of France. You see, we do not know her identity either.

rolands-mystery-mother

It seems that Roland was granted arms that were quartered, indicating the families from whom he was descended. They do not, of course, include Henry. But although these families can be hazarded, they cannot be identified for certain, So, who was his mother? Did she marry someone called de Velville (or other variations of the name in both French and Breton)? Maybe this man believed the boy was his. He wouldn’t be the first to have another man’s child foisted upon him. But, yet again, it’s guesswork. All is vague and uncertain.

To read an intricate account of it all, with far more small detail, go to http://www.happywarrior.org/genealogy/roland.htm

And now I will tell you why I think Henry VII did not acknowledge Roland. No, it’s not that Roland simply wasn’t his son, what a boring conclusion to come to. Far more interesting to make the two father and son. What if (ah, those words beloved of fiction writers) a teenaged Henry had fallen passionately, lustfully in love with, and impetuously married, a young, equally passionate and lustful Breton noblewoman? What if it was a secret wedding that never came to light and was soon regretted on both sides? What if Henry was moved elsewhere in Brittany (he was a prisoner under house arrest) and his bride (frightened by her important male relatives, who knew nothing of the secret marriage, was forced to bigamously marry someone “suitable”. Pregnant with Henry’s child, she allowed her new husband to believe the child was his.

Are you still with me? Right, move on to 1485. Henry is going to invade England to challenge Richard III for the throne. To be sure of much-needed Yorkist support, he vows to marry Elizabeth of York, Richard’s niece and the senior unmarried Yorkist princess. He wins at Bosworth and has to honour his vow. Sooo…knowing he is already married, he weds Elizabeth. Another bigamous match, but one that could have catastrophic consequences. Not least bloody rebellion and the chopping of Henry’s slender neck.

Then Roland enters his life much more immediately. The boy’s mother is on her deathbed and fears for his life at the hands of her second husband. She implores Henry to take Roland under his protection. And so he comes to court but cannot possibly be acknowledged by his royal father, who, understandably, doesn’t want any enemies poking around in what happened when he was a young prisoner in Brittany. Nor does Roland even know Henry is his father.

Thus history repeats itself, with Henry VII following in the footsteps of his father-in-law, Edward IV. Another secret wife, a second deceived bride, and heirs who are all illegitimate. Roland de Velville is his legitimate son. The rightful King of England? But can even Henry contemplate disposing of this inconvenient boy…? His own child?

There, is that not a half-decent plot for a historical novel? I thought so too, so I made it the main theme of the fourth book in my Cicely series. The book is called Cicely’s Sovereign Secret.

cicelys-sovereign-secret

 

 

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