murreyandblue

A great WordPress.com site

Archive for the tag “Earl of Northumberland”

NOT AGAIN! THE LATEST FROM A CAIRO DWELLER …

IMG_5444.jpg

Richard Duke of Gloucester being offered the crown by the Three Estates at Baynards Castle, June 1483.  Painting by Sigismund Goetze at the Royal Exchange…(or according to some.. Richard in the actual act of ‘usurping’ the throne)…

I came across this article on a forum devoted to late medieval Britain.

Unfortunately I read it..5 minutes from my life I will never get back again… but as I was laid up with a bad head cold I had nothing  much better to do.  I should have been warned by the photo of a little girl in what looked like an attempt at Tudor costume and the words ‘I have no idea who this little girl is but she is adorable.  Little kids in this era were adorable and vulnerable too ..just like modern children..lets keep that in mind’.  This should have alerted me to the fact the writer was a writer of rubbish.  Nevertheless I cracked on.  As it transpired the article has more holes in it than a hairnet…and worse was to come.

John Howard, having been cheated out of his inheritance, which ‘seems to have stuck in his craw’ then went on to become ‘one of the first men to help the new king’s uncle usurp his throne and become King Richard III’.  When I challenged the word ‘usurp’ I received the reply of a emoji rolling on the floor laughing.  It  then became clear to me the quality of the author’s debating powers were going to be found somewhat lacking.  But casting that aside for the moment lets look at the word ‘usurp‘ as used by the author to describe the actions of Richard.  The late historian John Ashdown-Hill addressed this point very well.  “Definitions of the verb ‘usurp’ include include terms as to seize power by force and without legal authority…Richard III did not gain the throne by fighting a battle nor did he seize the crown.  He was offered the crown by the Three Estates of the Realm.  Later the decision of the Three Estates of the Realm was formally enacted by the Parliament of 1484′ (1) . Thus to describe Richard as a usurper is incorrect and a nonsense.”

Not content with calling Richard a usurper,  John Howard, later Duke of Norfolk is next in line to be  maligned by the statement regarding Anne Mowbray, (the 4 year old heiress of John Mowbray who died just before her ninth birthday)  ‘All that John Howard could do was wait and hope something happened to Anne…’!  This is quite an offensive thing to say as well as ludicrous as no source has come down to us informing us of Howard’s personal thoughts on this matter and which I very much doubt would have been ‘hoping’ for the death of a small child. Incidentally, he was raised to the Duchy of Norfolk whilst the “Princes”, including the previous in suo jure Duke, were known to be alive – see p.78 and pp.117-124 of The Mythology of the “Princes in the Tower”, also by Ashdown-Hill.
Howard later went on to fight and lay down his life for his king aged 60 years old.  This colossus of a man could easily have wormed his way out of fighting, as others did, with his age as an excuse.  He did no such thing and its a great pity that we have modern day pip-squeaks having the brass neck to  disparage such a man.  The author needs to hang their head with shame but I doubt if that will happen any time soon.

As we go on we see Lady Eleanor Butler nee Talbot – a lady of the nobility and daughter to the great John Talbot lst Earl of Shrewsbury a, sister to the Duchess of Norfolk and a lady known for her piety – described as one of King Edward’s ‘side pieces’…(I know,  I know..my guess is this is a stab at  ‘bit on the side’ but your guess is as good as mine).  She was in actual fact no such thing,  being the legal wife of Edward who married her in order to get her into bed.   Surely Eleanor deserves more respect than this….as I said pip-squeaks and all.

The writer then follows up with a message touching on the execution of Lord Hastings to prove her point that Richard was a Bad Man.   I say ‘touching’ in a very loose way as she makes no attempt to explore,  let alone mention,   what reasons were behind the execution only pointing out, unnecessarily,   that Hastings  was executed ‘even though he was one of the most richest and powerful men in the country’..what has this got to do with it?   Furthermore…’Richard had him dragged out and beheaded on a log’. Presumably Dickens, who was unborn, or More, aged five at the time, cannot be taken seriously as eye-witnesses?  Is it not about time this myth was debunked?  Three accounts survive of the dramatic events at the meeting at the Tower that day – those from  Historical Notes of a London Citizen 1483/84, Mancini and Croyland (2) – none of which mention the infamous log.

 

aid835443-v4-728px-Build-a-Log-Lamp-Step-1-Version-2.jpg

A log, something that Lord Hastings was NOT beheaded on…

Hastings was probably, as Carson points out, executed under the Law of Arms (3), having tried to eliminate the Dukes of Gloucester and Buckingham and been judged by the Constable’s Court, Gloucester being Lord High Constable at the time. In much the same way, Rivers, Vaughan and Grey were judged by the Earl of Northumberland, the designated Vice-Constable.

 

  1. The Mythology of Richard III chapter 6 p74 John Ashdown-Hill.
  2. Historical Notes of a London Citizen 1483/8, English Historical Review, Vol. 96. p588 Richard Firth Green,   Mancini p.89, Croyland  p.479-80.  I am indebted to Peter Hammond and Anne Sutton for their very useful book, Richard III The Road to Bosworth Field, a complete and handy reference to all the primary sources covering Richard’s reign.
  3. The Maligned King p.98, but Carson’s other book illustrates the powers of the Constable and Protector and the documents assigning the role to Gloucester.

A 19th-century description of Bosworth Field that is definitely pro-Richard….!

The old Blue Boar, Leicester

The following rather flowery but decidedly pro-Richard account of Bosworth is taken from an 1838 publication called ‘Legends of Leicester, in the olden time’, by Thomas Featherstone. London: Whittaker & Co., Ave Maria Lane. C. Tilt, Fleet Street. J.G. Brown, Leicester. You will find it here

I have copied the text as faithfully as I can, omitting passages that do not belong in the main description of the battle, and do not anyway concern Richard. The spelling is dodgy at times, and I have left most of it alone. There is also the question of some optical recognition software bloopers. I have corrected those which I feel certain are wrong (and for which I could easily guess what was meant) but there are a few that defied me. If I have blundered, I apologise, and can only say that my sins will be corrected by a visit to the website. The illustrations are my decorations.

Anyway, here is the section of the book that deals with Richard’s final battle. It commences at the Blue Boar inn, Leicester.

Bosworth Fight 

. . .On the following morning, as early as day-break, the streets rung with the preparations for an hasty march. The braying of trumpets, the hoarse shouting of the military leaders, the jingle of equipments, and the fierce trampling of caparisoned steeds, startled sleep from the pillows of those, whom the dissolute soldiery, overcome with intoxication, had eventually left to the enjoyment of a brief repose.

Richard leaving the Blue Boar

His highness appeared in unusual health and spirits, and mounted on his gallant charger, rode swiftly up and down the lines, inspiriting his army and animating his chieftains with uncontrollable enthusiasm. A bright sun and a smart, lively, breeze contributed in no small degree to the hilarity of every one present, and among that vast and glittering assemblage who were shortly to embark in stern and deadly strife, it would have been perhaps impossible to have detected one lugubrious or even thoughtful aspect. The ancient street of the High Cross, so far as the eye could stretch, bristled with staves, bows, and the various implements of ancient warfare, which with the morions and breast-plates of their bearers, glittered fiercely in the sun, while every window, roof and balustrade of the huge picturesque buildings, swarmed with spectators, and oft, as the cavalcade moved slowly along, a fair white hand, bearing a floral wreath, a silken scarf or some gentle love-token, was protruded from a crowd of gazers and reverently received on the lifted lance of the devoted Cavalier.

Richard leaves Leicester

A company of Knights, gorgeously apparelled, rode forward down the narrow Lane, now called Simons’ street, and past Saint Nicholas Church towards the West Bridge. Among them was his Highness, distinguished no less by his kingly bearing, than his costly attire, which so blazed with gems, that it dazzled the eye of the spectator almost as much as looking on the sun. Their hot impetuous steeds champed eagerly on the bit, and curvetted along in the utmost impatience of activity and vigour. The monarch relaxed from his usual austerity, and his aspect, which was at all times noble, and was capable of assuming an expression even of the most endearing tenderness, wreathed itself in smiles, and fired the hearts of those around him with the most enthusiastic devotion, and adherence to his cause.

On approaching Bow bridge which spans with five arches another arm of the river Soar. . . a. . .decrepid old woman stood conspicuous among the dense crowd which everywhere lined the path, and was shaking. . .violently with palsy. Her eye, which seemed to fix itself upon the king, gleamed with. . .apparent malignity. . .The Monarch appeared to regard all alike with smiles, but in crossing the bridge, partly perhaps from an exuberance of feeling no less than from the impatience natural to an impetuous spirit in being compelled to brook a temporary obstruction, created by the compact multitude and the narrowness of the path, struck his spur against the coping thereof. His horse swerving aside, pressed so closely upon the spectators, among whom crouched the old prophetess, that a volley of shrieks arose, and the afrighted crowd rushed tumultuously into the middle of the path, threatening every moment to be trampled under the hoofs of the horses.

The old Sibyl, however, stood daringly forth and stretching her withered arm in the face of the Monarch, screamed out in a startling treble which seemed incredible for her years, the following terrible prediction.

Bow Bridge in the 1790s

“Brave as ye now seem; tricked out daintily as ye are; the hour is at hand when ye shall be fain to change that joyous face for mourning and repentance! That gay attire for sack-cloth! Ye have spurned that stone with your heel—against it, ere three days be past, shall your head be beaten. Vain king, beware!” The toothless hag, overcome with her unwonted exertion, fell back among the crowd; and the monarch struck spurs into his horse, and rode on.

Bosworth Field is situate on the western border of Leicestershire, and derives its name from the market town, from which it is one mile distant. Its proper name is Redmoor plain, from the colour of the soil; as the meadows on the west, are called Whitemoors, for the same reason. It belongs to Sutton Cheney, an adjacent village on the east, is of an oval form, about two miles long and one broad, and runs nearly in a line between Bosworth and Atherstone. The south end, where the Earl (Tudor is called Earl of Richmond throughout) approached, is three miles from Bosworth, and is now covered with a wood of some extent, and bounded by a narrow rivulet called the Tweed.

King Richard’s Well

About thirty yards above this wood, is a spring which bears the name of ‘King Richard’s well,’ at the present day. A small stream of water flows from it in the direction of the Tweed; but, having no regular channel cut for its passage, it penetrates into the soil and forms a morass, which Henry is said to have left on his right. Amyon Hill, the scene of action, is nearly in the centre of the field, and has a steep descent on every side; but is steepest towards the north, or Bosworth side; and terminates with a rill, a bog, and a flat, called Amyon-leys. The country, however, at the period of the battle, presented an appearance widely different to that which it wears at the present time. The adjacent Lordships were then uninclosed, and Bosworth Field was one extent of rough uncultivated land.

Towards evening the King’s forces advanced upon Bosworth, where the Earl of Richmond’s army was also beheld approaching in gallant style: onward they came, flashing the red light of the descending sun from their steel equipments, and frowning mutual defiance at each other. Phalanx after phalanx of compact lances hove in sight, diversified with the vari-coloured plumes and pennons of the knights, until the country around presented no other aspect.

Richard galloped into the plain, and looking frowningly around, his penetration immediately led him to suspect that treachery was meditated. Lord Stanley, whose sincerity he had long had occasion to doubt, remained stationed, with an army of five thousand men, on an eminence termed Gamble’s close, about six furlongs behind the royal camp, from which it was separated by the little rivulet above mentioned. Sir William Stanley, approached the field on the west, opposite to the King and Lord Stanley, and pitched his camp at the foot of Amyon hill. It was the policy of the two brothers, to preserve every appearance of faith towards Richard, while they were both at heart devoted to the cause of his antagonist; and, as the wily monarch detained Lord Strange, as hostage for his father’s fidelity, the appearance on the part of Lord Stanley, was more strictly preserved.

King despatched Sir Robert Brackenbury, with a brief, but terrible message, to Lord Stanley, commanding him to join him forthwith, if he desired to preserve his son’s life; to which he returned a prevaricating reply: and the King was only withheld by the firmness of Lord Ferrers, of Chartley, from putting his threat into immediate execution; that nobleman having represented to him the evil, which might ensue to his own cause, by so doing.

The Earl of Richmond, meanwhile was not slow to gain over to his party all such, as were accessible either to adulation or bribery; and, observing the indecision of Lord Stanley, whose services he earnestly wished to secure from a dread of disappointment, immediately turned it to his advantage. A message was despatched to that nobleman forthwith, requesting his assistance, in the most flattering terms ; to which, however, he returned a doubtful reply; but intimated, that he should, probably, be found when needed. With this answer, the Earl, though much displeased was, notwithstanding, compelled to be satisfied, and left it to chance, to operate in his favour.

Meanwhile, as the shadows of twilight were rapidly closing around, the armies prepared to encamp; Richard, taking up his position at Stapleton, on some elevated grounds, called the Bradshaws, situate about a mile and a half east of Bosworth Field, and two from the top of Amyon hill—while Richmond stationed himself on the Whitemoors, one mile from the top of Amyon hill, and close beside the rivulet, whose semi-circular course skirted the camps of the rival chiefs, and passed near to those of the Stanleys, which fronted each other. . .

. . .The morning broke heavily over the plains of Bosworth, as if it mourned the carnage, that was about to ensue. The distance was veiled in a drizzling mist, through which, the adjacent trees, presented all manner of fantastic forms. The tents looked moist and chill, and the silken banners which surmounted them, rich with the gorgeous blazonry of their respective owners, hung heavily around their staffs, saturated with the prevailing vapour; while the steel equipments of horses and riders, shone dimly through the haze. With the first peep of dawn, however, the adverse camps were alive with preparation for the approaching conflict, and long ere the sun looked out from the watery east, the rival chieftains, had each drawn out his army.

The king’s troops were commanded to rendezvous in Sutton field, about midway to Amyon hill, where they were drawn up in order of battle, to the amount of about twelve thousand, horse and foot; thus nearly doubling the force of the enemy. His right extended to a declivity on the Bosworth side, called Cornhni furze, or Amyon leys; and his left towards the well which bears his name. Richmond took up his position with less advantage, having the hill against him, up which he must march, before he could commence the attack. Sir William Stanley advanced to the north of the hill, and stationed himself near Amyon leys, and Lord Stanley flanked either army on the opposite side.

In order to strike the more terror into his foes, the King marshalled his soldiers in two extended lines, placing the archers in front, and the bill-men in the rear, while his horse were divided upon the right and left wing. The King’s chief commanders were, John, Duke of Norfolk, and his son, Thomas, Earl of Surrey, who were appointed to lead the van, the Lord Northumberland, Sir Richard Ratcliffe, Sir Robert Brackenbury, and others. Hungerford and Boucher, two knights who had been ordered to attend, deserted Brackenbury their leader, a little beyond Stony Stratford, and joined Richmond’s army near Tamworth. Sir John Savage, Sir Bryan Sandford, Sir Simon Digby, also deserted to Richmond on the following day.

from warfarehistorynetwork.com

His forces being thus arrayed, the King, attired in a suit of armour of polished steel, and wearing on his head a helmet, of costly workmanship, surmounted with the crown, according to the ancient practice of knighthood, addressed them in a hasty speech against Richmond, whom he plentifully loaded with opprobrium.

The Earl’s forces, consisting of about seven thousand, horse and foot, were arrayed in similar order; and were led by the Earls of Pembroke and Oxford, Sir Gilbert Talbot, and Sir John Savage, commanding the right and left wing of horse; and not to be behind hand with his antagonist, the Earl galloped up and down the line, encouraging his followers and vituperating the King, whom he denounced as a tyrant and homicide.

The trumpets rang forth tumultuously—and the rival armies rushed at once to the onset. A cloud of arrows for a moment darkened the air; and immediately a grove of spears came splintering upon cuirass and morion, some transfixing, and overturning others, who in a moment were trampled out of existence, beneath the hoofs of the raging steeds. Fiercer every moment grew the affray, and for a length of time, the fortunes of the day hung wavering in the balance. The King rushed through the fight, with the impetuosity of an enraged lion, hewing a purple path through the thickest of the enemy, who fell before him, with scarcely an effort at resistance, so utterly reckless and terrible, was his daring.

by Graham Turner

During the heat of the conflict, the Earl of Oxford, observing his line scattered, ordered every man to close upon the standard, a step which seemed imprudent at the time, but had for its object a deep laid scheme, which had been previously planned. Thus having shortened his ranks by condensing his men, the Earl was approached by the Duke of Norfolk, who extended his left to surround him; in which critical moment. Lord Stanley, from flanking both armies, joined Richmond on the right and faced Richard’s left; thus preventing the meditated destruction, and striking terror into the hearts of the Royalists.

Norfolk, beheld the starry ensign of Oxford, waving above the bristling phalanx, and rushed to attack him, spear in rest: the ties of relationship were in a moment forgotten, and they strove against each other, with the fury and desperation of long engendered hate Their spears were quickly shivered to pieces, when each drew his mighty two-hand sword, and Norfolk, aiming the first blow, smote furiously at the helmet of his adversary, from which the weapon glanced obliquely, and wounded him severely, in the left arm. Oxford clove the beaver from the casque of his antagonist, and honourably declining to follow up his advantage, abandoned the combat. He had not retired many paces, however, when, the Duke was struck in the face, by an arrow, which pierced his brain. . .

. . .”Stand to it Gentlemen!” shouted a noble leader, coming up with a small detachment of cavalry, in time to check their retreat. ” Beat back the rebel scoundrels or perish! Ho, there! Forward men! Surrey to the rescue! Surrey! Surrey!”

“Talbot! Saint George, for England! Down with the friends of the usurper!” echoed among the belligerents, who fought against each other with the desperation of wolves. . .

. . .Sword and dagger were speedily shivered in the melée , when they fastened on each other by the throat, or wherever else they could lay their hands, and tumbling from their saddles, were trampled beneath the hoofs of their own steeds. The Earl, intent on revenging the death of his father the Duke of Norfolk, fought with reckless courage, and approaching the veteran Sir Gilbert Talbot, engaged with him hand to hand. Overpowered, however by numbers, his strength was beginning to fail, when Sir Richard Clarendon, and Sir William Conyers, raised the war cry of the Earl, and spurred in to his rescue—which was again cut off by Sir John Savage, who waving his sword around him, already drenched with blood, encompassed them with a party of his followers, when they were immediately cut to pieces, and the Earl taken prisoner. . .

. . .The battle had now lasted above an hour. The advantage was on the side of Richmond, Richard having lost his two principal officers; when a scout came upon the full run, and informed the King, that Richmond was at hand with a slight attendance. It was the opportunity for which the Monarch had thirsted throughout the day, and bidding those, who accounted themselves true knights, to attend him, he waited not for reply, but striking spurs, into the flanks of his gallant steed, rushed to the spot, and threw himself with irresistible force, upon his detested enemy. Sir William Brandon, the Earl’s standard bearer, was the first whom he approached, and tearing the lordly ensign of Cadwallador from his grasp, he hurled it beneath the hoofs of his steed, and with one stroke of his sword, clove the head of the unfortunate knight in twain.

Sir John Cheney, a powerful warrior, and several others were unhorsed, after a feeble resistance; and the Earl, himself, quailed before the sword of the avenger, while his army stood paralyzed at the extraordinary daring. At this juncture. Sir William Stanley, who had hitherto remained neutral, joined the Earl, with an army of three thousand men, which immediately turned the fortunes of the day.

Richard at Bosworth

The King’s chief commanders had already fallen. Most of his forces composing the rear, amounting to nearly three thousand men, placed under the command of the Earl of Northumberland, grounded their arms, and nearly all his followers, now abandoned his cause, leaving him to terminate his career of matchless valour. His intrepid spirit, notwithstanding the terrifying odds, still sought, through the thickest of his foes, the contender for his crown; and plunging recklessly forward, madly contending against a whole army, was brutally hacked to pieces by the Earl’s followers; who, whilst he was expiring on the ground, plunged their swords and daggers into his body.

Thus perished Richard the third, than whom a braver warrior and more politic king, perhaps, never existed. Prompted by ambition, his ruling passion, his Machiavelian subtlety led him through a terrible career of crime, to achieve and maintain his title to the crown. Thus his character, though it presents nothing absolutely despicable, will ever be contemplated with terror and abhorrence.

In this battle, which lasted little better than two hours, it is estimated that upwards of one thousand persons were slain on the side of Richard; and about one hundred, on that of Richmond. But, the chief part of Richard’s army, it appears, never struck a blow; the foulest treachery was employed by his officers, more especially by the Earl of Northumberland; and the Stanleys having joined his enemy with their important additions, sufficiently accounts for the loss of the battle. At the end of the conflict, the loss of Richard, did not greatly exceed that of his enemy—the frightful havoc took place in the after pursuit, in which the Earl and Lord Stanley joined, while Sir William remained to pillage the field.

Richard III's body is brought back to Leicester. Artwork by Victor Ambrus

Richard III’s body is brought back to Leicester. Artwork by Victor Ambrus

It is not our purpose or desire, nor can we think it would be at all acceptable to the reader, to follow the earthly remains of the vanquished king, through the savage and unexampled degradation to which they were subjected, by a cruel and barbarian rabble—promoted, there is little reason to doubt, by his base and unprincipled successor. We therefore gladly close the scene. . .

Postscript: There is another, much shorter story touching upon Richard in the book, called ‘A Night at the Blue Boar Inn’. The gist of it is that a man wishes to have a room at the Blue Boar, but there is only one chamber left, and the innkeeper will only supply it if the man is aware of the rumours that abound concerning it. “Simpletons believe the room to be haunted, and declare that they have heard certain noises in the night, like the chinking of coins and voices in angry altercation.”

The traveller replies that he’s not afraid. “His Majesty’s couch shall be mine for the night, and doubtless will yield me sound repose.”

Another customer nearby explains more. “King Dick prized his gold, and probably left some behind which he is in the habit of watching. . .”

 

 

 

 

Richard III, Henry VII and the City of York….

 

 

Richard III and Henry VII

York - medieval panorama

This is not my work, but has been lifted entirely from British History Online. My contribution is the illustrations. It is a sensible assessment of the relationship of both Richard and Henry Tudor with the great city of York. :- 

York, Richard of Gloucester, and Henry VII 

There was much that was new in the political situation in the north after 1471. Warwick, whom the citizens had so often courted with gifts, was dead; the Percies had been restored; and Edward IV began deliberately to make his brother Richard ‘the greatest landowner as well as the most important official north of the Trent’. (fn. 1) Richard came to play a part in the life of the city, and to exercise a hold upon its loyalty, which influenced the city’s political actions even after 1485.

There is evidence of Richard’s influence as early as 1475. The city made presents to him and his servants, the mayor wrote letters to him, and the Duchess of Gloucester wrote letters to the mayor. (fn. 2) Next year the city enlisted the duke’s support when its dismissed common clerk appealed to Percy for backing; and he also intervened with the king to recognize the right of the city freely to elect a successor. (fn. 3) He intervened, too, in the war of civic factions which had driven one old alderman, William Holbek, to sanctuary in the Dominican friary. Duke Richard, accompanied by Percy and a large following, appeared at Bootham Bar and solemnly warned the citizens to keep the peace. On the other hand, he persuaded the king not to withdraw the city’s liberties, and received an expression of gratitude in the form of a present of swans and pike when he visited York at Christmas time. (fn. 4)

York Castle - as it was

York Castle

 

The association thus begun became closer. In 1477 Richard and his wife became members of the Corpus Christi Guild; (fn. 5) and Richard vigorously supported the citizens in clearing the Yorkshire rivers of fishgarths. (fn. 6) In 1478, however, it was the king rather than the duke who was being courted: the citizens persuaded him to visit York while he was in the north and spent £35 on his entertainment. (fn. 7)

Medieval Christmas - 5

But the flow of letters between Gloucester and the city went on, (fn. 8) and in 1480 York and The Ainsty produced a contingent of troops to follow Richard on a punitive expedition against the Scots. (fn. 9) In 1481 a force of 120 archers, half to come from The Ainsty, was similarly promised in return for a remission of taxation, and it marched off under the command of Alderman Wrangwissh. The campaign was scarcely over before, in face of a threat of Scottish invasion, both Gloucester and Northumberland asked York for more troops. Again the city complied, and its contingent, under the command of John Brackenbury, the mayor’s esquire of the mace, was sent off to join Gloucester at Durham. (fn. 10)

Richard in Scotland

Invasion of Scotland

At this point Edward IV determined upon an invasion of Scotland under his own leadership in 1482. Energetic action by Gloucester was required to assuage another outbreak of civic faction in York, while at the same time he cemented good relations with the citizens by sending back one of their number who had been sheltered by a member of his household after committing some offence. The city reciprocated by taking prompt action against a saddler who was alleged to have slandered the duke, and by raising 80 men for his service in Scotland in June and a further 100 men in July. Their share in the campaign, however, was the subject of some scurrilous comment. John Lam was alleged to have said they deserved no wages, for they had done nothing but make whips of their bowstrings with which to drive carriages. This he denied, but told how some of the soldiers said that ‘they did nothing else but waited on the ordnance and carriage’, and one had been so weary ‘he was fain to take off the string of his bow to drive his horse with’. All the same it was no unsuccessful campaign which brought Berwick back into English hands. (fn. 11)

Berwick Castle in about 1300

Berwick Castle, circa 1300

The death of Edward IV on 9 April 1483 diverted attention to more domestic matters. Richard of Gloucester appeared in York towards the end of the month, exacted an oath to Edward V from the northern nobles and perhaps the city authorities, (fn. 12) and borrowed money for his journey to London from, among others, Miles Metcalfe, one of his councillors who was also recorder of York. (fn. 13) The city decided to take advantage of the situation and sent John Brackenbury to ask for a reduction of its farm. On 5 June Richard wrote urging patience in this connexion. Five days later, however, he wrote again asking for military aid against the queen mother and her adherents.

Shakespeare's version of Richard's confrontation with Elizabeth Woodville

Shakespeare’s imagined view of a confrontation between Richard and  the scheming Elizabeth Woodville

The letter reached York on Sunday 15 June, but the mayor called the council together at once and it was resolved to send 200 men from the city and 100 from The Ainsty to join the army Northumberland was levying for Richard at Pontefract. (fn. 14) Thus York helped to put Richard of Gloucester on the throne, and it was as king he next visited the city at the end of August 1483.

The crown is offered to Richard of Gloucester

Richard of Gloucester is offered the crown

For a month preparations for his reception had been going on. The wealthier citizens contributed nearly £450 to buy presents for Richard and the queen. On arrival, the sheriffs met the king at Tadcaster, the mayor and chief citizens at ‘Brekles mills’ (apparently not within the city), and the rest of the city at St. James’s Chapel on The Mount. The cavalcade entered by Micklegate Bar and was entertained by pageants as it passed through the streets. An official welcome was extended to the king by the mayor, and he was received by the dignitaries of the minster at its west door. Richard took up residence in the archbishop’s palace, and a week of feasting and entertainment followed. The Creed Play was performed in the king’s presence on 7 September and next day Richard’s son was invested as Prince of Wales.

York Minster - investiture of Edward of Middleham as Prince of Wales

Ten days later Richard gave practical expression of his gratitude to the city. He called the mayor, aldermen and others before him in the chapter house of the minster and promised a substantial reduction of their fee-farm. (fn. 15) Individuals, too, had their rewards. Nicholas Lancaster, city clerk 1477–80, was already a member of the king’s council; and Thomas Wrangwissh, who commanded the city’s forces in June 1483, received an annuity of 20 marks from the issues of Sheriff Hutton. (fn. 16)

York city wall

York continued to serve Richard. In October 1483 the city sent soldiers under Wrangwissh’s command to assist him against Buckingham; and Richard used it as a base while trying to come to an accord with Scotland in the early summer of 1484. (fn. 17) It was during this visit that his northern council took definite shape, and its instructions in July 1484 laid down that it was to sit at least once a quarter in York to hear bills of complaint. (fn. 18) Almost at once its president, the Earl of Lincoln, was called upon to cope with an inclosure riot in York and to deal with a forger of coin—though in the latter case the city suffered his action with some trepidation for its liberties. (fn. 19)

By April 1485, however, the king was writing about those who threatened the peace he had sought to establish; in June he reported rumours of invasion, and the city council ordered all defencible men to be arrayed on 8 July; and on 16 August news of Henry Tudor’s invasion reached York. Despite a plague which was raging, the city council sent to Richard at Nottingham for instructions and began to levy troops. Word came back from Richard on 19 August, and on the same afternoon 80 men went off to join his army. They failed to arrive in time for Bosworth; but the mayor’s serjeant of the mace, who did fight there, rode in on 23 August to report that ‘King Richard, late lawfully reigning over us, was through great treason . . . piteously slain and murdered, to the great heaviness of this city’. (fn. 20) York’s loyalty to Richard of Gloucester remained firm to the end.

Battle of Bosworth

It had, nevertheless, to accommodate itself to the new situation. A letter was sent on 23 August to the Earl of Northumberland asking advice ‘how to dispose them at this woeful season’.

signature percy 4th earl of northumberland

Next day a deputation met the earl outside Walmgate Bar, and the mayor visited a royal emissary at his inn because ‘he durst not for fear of death come through the city’. On the 25th a deputation went to the king asking him to be a good lord to the city, and the proclamation recording his victory was read. Finally, on 4 September, the king’s recognition of the city’s rights and liberties was brought back to York. (fn. 21) But this expedient conduct did not exclude reservations.

Elizabeth-of-York-Henry-VII-Marriage-463978971-56aa23aa5f9b58b7d000fa08

Henry VII married Richard’s eldest niece, Elizabeth of York, in a display of uniting the opposing sides of the recent wars.

Two months after Bosworth, the city authorities still spoke of ‘the most famous prince of blessed memory, King Richard’; (fn. 22) and over the matter of their recorder they were almost truculent. Miles Metcalfe, who held the office, had been close to Richard; and Henry VII ordered his replacement by Richard Green, a servant of Northumberland’s. The city agreed, but only until such time as Metcalfe was received into the king’s grace. When Metcalfe did receive a pardon in October, it was blandly assumed that this settled the matter, Green being offered compensation in the form of membership of the twenty-four. Under pressure from Henry and Northumberland, the city council played a delaying game; and continued to do so when they produced rival candidates for the post on Metcalfe’s death in February 1486. In the end, moreover, they made their own choice of John Vavasour, formerly a servant of Richard III. (fn. 23) Doubtless the citizens were chiefly concerned to maintain their liberty of freely electing the recorder: in like manner they insisted on their right to choose their common clerk in November 1485 and resisted the king’s attempt to nominate to the office of sword-bearer in June 1486. Yet old Yorkist loyalties perhaps gave an edge to this defence of their freedom. As late as 1491, when a drunken schoolmaster abused King Richard, John Payntor denied him and told him that he lied. (fn. 24)

Medieval royal procession

Meanwhile Henry VII had been received in York in 1486, at a cost of £66 to civic funds and with pageants stressing the king’s wisdom and the city’s loyalty. (fn. 25) Within a year this loyalty was put to the test. In March 1487 the city heard of the Earl of Lincoln’s intention to ‘give the king’s grace a breakfast’ and at once informed Northumberland and the king’s secretary. (fn. 26) It also asked for aid to repair its walls, and the king sent artillery from Scarborough Castle and put certain knights under the mayor’s command in case of attack. When Lambert Simnel did appear, he was refused entry to the city, and an attack by Lord Scrope of Bolton on 11 June was beaten off at Bootham Bar. Five days later came the news of the king’s victory, for which the mayor and aldermen gave thanks in the minster. (fn. 27)

medieval banquet

Henry VII again came to York at the end of July and the Corpus Christi plays, postponed because of the rebellion, were performed before him on Lammas Day. Certain traitors were dealt with and William Todd and Richard York, mayor and alderman respectively, were knighted. The city was ‘dronkyn drye’, but new supplies were evidently available by 10 September when a gift of bucks from the Earl of Northumberland enabled the mayor, aldermen, councillors, and 600 citizens to sit down to a banquet in the Guildhall ‘with red wine sufficient without anything paying for the same’. (fn. 28)

 

Tribulations, however, were not quite over: 1489 saw the rising of the commons in the north and the murder of Northumberland. The mayor and council determined to hold the city for the king, but were frustrated by the ‘commonalty’, who would permit neither the Sheriff of Yorkshire nor Lord Clifford to enter the city to assist with its defence. The rebel leader, Sir John Egremont, on the other hand, was able to effect an entry in the course of which Fishergate Bar was burnt; and on 17 May the council advised the mayor to agree to Egremont’s demand for 20 horsemen to accompany him to Richmondshire for fear he should pillage the city. Even after he had gone the city authorities still went in fear that he would return; but they were no less afraid of the king’s anger, seeking to assuage it by deputations and presents to him, to the archbishops of Canterbury and York and to the king’s secretary. (fn. 29

In the event nothing disastrous happened, and after 1489 the city played a smaller part in national history. It provided troops to serve against the Scots in 1496–7; in 1501 it welcomed Scottish ambassadors negotiating a marriage alliance between the two kingdoms; and in July 1503 gave a royal reception to Princess Margaret as she travelled north to join her husband. (fn. 30) Despite a good deal of internal dissension, the men of York were for the most part ‘quiet, submissive and very good subjects during the rest of this king’s reign’. (fn. 31) To some extent this was probably due to Henry VII building up the Council of the North on the foundations laid by Richard III. (fn. 32) Direct royal intervention was never lacking when necessary, but both king and city expected some problems to be settled by the royal agents on the spot. At first the chief of these agents was Northumberland.

He was active in the matter of the recordership in 1485 and in disputes about common lands in 1486. He arbitrated in quarrels with the chapter in 1486–7 and between two aldermen in 1487. It was Northumberland the city informed of the Earl of Lincoln’s treachery and Northumberland who informed the city of Lambert Simnel’s landing. (fn. 33) After 1489 a similar part was played by the Earl of Surrey and the Abbot of St. Mary’s. (fn. 34) The city authorities did not always welcome such intervention, but it became firmer and more frequent as time passed and as the Tudors sought to bring the north parts under effective government.

Ambush

Not the death of Northumberland, but something similar. He was very unpopular for having been perceived to betray Richard III.

Among the circumstances which governed the part played by York in national politics in the later Middle Ages, the Anglo-Scottish conflict ranks first. It was this which, between 1298 and 1337, conferred on the city a prominence in national affairs greater than at any time before or since. After 1337, however, though York still from time to time provided troops and served as a base of operations against the Scots, the urgency had departed from this issue. At the same time, from the beginning of the 15th century, the city began to find itself involved in the political conflict in which the great noble families were the main contestants. It allowed itself to be drawn into the wake of Scrope and Percy in 1405; and though for long it avoided any such commitment again, it tried to purchase the benevolence of the great men without its walls by gifts and flattery. Individuals established even closer ties with the great families of the north. In 1446 the recorder was sent to Lord Clifford at Skipton-in-Craven (W.R.) about a fishmonger who had received livery from Clifford; (fn. 35) and Miles Metcalfe and John Vavasour both held civic office and were retainers of Richard of Gloucester. Such things could happen despite the fact that, in 1446, 1457, 1486, and 1503, citizens were forbidden to use the livery of any lord, knight or gentleman. (fn. 36)

York - Speed's Map of 1610-11

Yet this capitulation of the city to the forces of ‘bastard feudalism’ is inadequate to explain its loyalty to Richard III. He seems to have succeeded as no one else did—except perhaps Archbishop Scrope—in winning the hearts of the citizens; and Henry VII had some difficulty in reducing them to good, quiet, and submissive subjects. He had to forbid them to become the retainers of lords, though he may have established similar bonds with himself when he knighted Todd and York and gave them pensions from the Hull customs. (fn. 37) More important, however, were his peremptory demands for obedience and order, and the establishment of a group of royal agents in the north who backed those demands with detailed oversight and intervention at short range. In combination with economic difficulties and internal dissensions, these aspects of Tudor policy were to make 16th-century York less aggressively independent than it had been when it fought for King Richard and defied Henry VII and the Earl of Northumberland at one and the same time.

 

Footnotes

  1. 1. R. R. Reid, King’s Counc. in North, 42 sqq.
  2. 2. Davies, York Rec. 38–44.
  3. 3. Ibid. 53 sqq.; York Civ. Rec. i. 8–11, 15–16.
  4. 4. York Civ. Rec. i. 2–3, 11; Davies, York Rec. 50–52.
  5. 5. C.C. Guild, 101.
  6. 6. Davies, York Rec. 58 sqq., 80 sqq.
  7. 7. Ibid. 65, 69–70, 78–80; York Mem. Bk. ii. 240–1; York Civ. Rec. i. 27.
  8. 8. e.g. York Civ. Rec. i. 29, 33.
  9. 9. Ibid. 34–36; Davies, York Rec. 106–8; P. M. Kendall, Rich. III, 137–8.
  10. 10. York Civ. Rec. i. 38 sqq.
  11. 11. York Civ. Rec. i. 48 sqq., 54 sqq., 68.
  12. 12. Hist. Croylandensis Cont. 565.
  13. 13. Reid, King’s Counc. in North, 45.
  14. 14. York Civ. Rec. i. 71–76.
  15. 15. Ibid. 77 sqq.; Davies, York Rec. 159–75, 280–8; Minster Fab. R. 210 sqq.; Hist. Croylandensis Cont. 567.
  16. 16. C.C. Guild, 105; Test. Ebor. iv. 205 n.; Cal. Pat. 1476–85, 450.
  17. 17. York Civ. Rec. i. 83 sqq.; Kendall, Rich. III, 300.
  18. 18. Reid, King’s Counc. in North, 42 sqq.; Letters Rich. III and Hen. VII (Rolls Ser.), i. 56–59.
  19. 19. York Civ. Rec. i. 103–4, 106–9.
  20. 20. Ibid. 114–19; Drake, Ebor. 120; Kendall, Rich. III, 347 sqq.
  21. 21. Drake, Ebor. 120–3.
  22. 22. York Civ. Rec. i. 126–7.
  23. 23. Kendall, Rich. III, 385–7.
  24. 24. York Civ. Rec. i. 134–5, 159–60; ii. 71–73.
  25. 25. Ibid. i. 155–9; York Corp. Rec., Chamberlains’ Roll, 1486.
  26. 26. York Civ. Rec. ii. 3–7.
  27. 27. Ibid. 9–10, 12 sqq.
  28. 28. York Civ. Rec. ii. 24–28; Paston Letters, vi. 121.
  29. 29. A. Raine, Med. York, 19; York Civ. Rec. ii. 45–53.
  30. 30. York Civ. Rec. ii. 128–9, 133, 167–9, 184 sqq.; Drake, Ebor. 126–7.
  31. 31. Drake. Ebor. 126; see pp. 82–83.
  32. 32. Reid, King’s Counc. in North, 71 sqq.
  33. 33. York Civ. Rec. i. 177–80; ii. 2–7, 20.
  34. 34. e.g. ibid. ii. 97-100, 107-9, 112-13, 117.
  35. 35. York Corp. Rec., Chamberlains’ Bk. 1446, f. 34; York Freemen, i. 150.
  36. 36. York Mem. Bk. ii. 200–2; York Civ. Rec. i. 176; ii. 181.
  37. 37. Cal. Pat. 1485–94, 256–7, 303; Cal. Close, 1485–1500, 97.

 

 

The King’s bishop? What did John Russell know in 1483?

 

“ ‘Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?’

‘To the curious incident of the dog in the night time’

‘The dog did nothing in the night time’

‘That is the curious incident ‘ remarked Sherlock Holmes.”[1]

 

By applying his reasoning to this simple observation, the world’s foremost consulting detective was able to solve the mysterious disappearance of Silver Blaze and identify John Straker’s killer. Holmes’ recognized that the key to solving the case was to understand why the guard dog did not bark during the theft of Colonel Ross’ prize racehorse. It is a useful reminder for me that the key to a mystery often lies in understanding the patterns of behaviour of those involved: their actions and their inaction. The late Dr Pamela Tudor-Craig adopted a similar approach to the central mystery of King Richard’s life and reign: the disappearance of the Princess in the Tower. In a short essay entitled ‘People About Richard III’, she highlights Richard’s relationship with those bishops who accepted his patronage and invites the question, which is not altogether rhetorical, why did these holy men accept preferment at Richard’s hand if he was the monster of Tudor tradition? [2]

 

These bishops will be familiar names to students of the Wars of the Roses and especially to Ricardians: John Russell Bishop of Lincoln, Robert Stillington Bishop of Bath and Wells, Thomas Langton Bishop of St David’s and later of Salisbury and John Shirwood Bishop of Durham. All these clerics served previously under Lancastrian and Yorkist kings; none could be described as Richard’s friend, and all were men of great learning and piety. Russell was the Lord Chancellor from 1483 until 1485; Stillington was, for a time, Lord Chancellor to Edward IV. It was Stillington who is purported to have reported Edward IV’s earlier marriage to Eleanor Talbot (the ‘pre-contract’). Shirwood owed his bishopric to Richard’s preferment. He was an early English humanist, an avid collector of classic Greek and Roman literature and a protégé of George Neville. During Edward IV’s reign his loyalty was suspect.[3] King Richard, who thought better of him, appointed Shirwood as envoy to the Vatican. Bishop Langton was also appointed at Richard’s behest.[4] He was a borderer and accompanied Richard in his first royal progress, writing approvingly of him to the prior of Christ Church Canterbury.[5] After Bosworth, Stillington was arrested for his part in Richard’s accession and then pardoned. Russell and Shirwood, however, continued in royal service; Russell, as a diplomat and Shirwood as envoy to the Vatican. Langton actually flourished under the first Tudor king, reaching the dizzy height of archbishop elect of Canterbury shortly before his death in 1500. Yet none of these men denounced Richard as a regicide or said anything about the disappearance of Edward IV’s sons, not even when it was a safe to accuse him of practically anything. Given the antipathy in the Tudor narrative towards the last Plantagenet, their silence is curious feature of the most famous of all English historical mysteries.

 

It is, of course, a moot point whether the bishops actually knew anything about what was happening to Edward’s sons in 1483. With the exception of Russell, none of them were at the centre of Richard’s government. Dr Tudor-Craig points to the chance that they might have known what was happening through a possible friendship between Shirwood and Dr John Argentine. It remains, however, no more than a possibility. The only known copy of Shirwood’s ‘Mathematical Game’ (no.106) is of particular relevance to this exhibition since it belonged to John Argentine, Edward V’s physician who gave such a foreboding report of his charge to Mancini.[6] Argentine may well have been an Italian and he was an industrious collector of books. The strong possibility that he knew Shirwood during the summer of 1483 in London reduces the likelihood that these distinguished prelates could have accepted patronage at Richard III’s hand in ignorance of the true state of affairs. Either Argentine’s words as reported by Mancini were not meant to carry a sinister gloss, or the clerics had accommodating consciences.[7]

 

Be that as it may, there was certainly one among them who was well placed to know the truth. It is likely that John Russell the Lord Chancellor was privy to Richard’s intention towards his nephews. Judging from the surviving signet and Chancery letters, their working relationship was close. Richard trusted Russell to deal with secret/confidential matters of great delicacy and moment, even those that occurred during his royal progress. Such trust is all the more remarkable since it appears that Russell was not, as some suppose, a trimmer or tame Ricardian but an outspoken critic of the petition presented to Parliament in 1484 setting out Richard’s royal title and also of Titulus Regius in the form it was enacted, and indeed, of the turbulence leading to Richard’s accession. It is not my intention to go into that issue now, since it is beyond my scope. I will confine myself to exploring Russell’s relationship with his king through three surviving letters from their correspondence. Obviously, the subject and the content of each letter is important because they each touch on events taking place between summer and autumn 1483, which is the critical period for analysing the disappearance of the two princes. All the same, they cannot be considered in a vacuum that ignores Russell’s constitutional position as Lord Chancellor and the evolving realpolitik of the times.

 

The Lord Chancellor

Professor Charles Ross describes the office of Lord Chancellor as ‘the most responsible clerical office in the gift of the crown’.[8] His use of the adjective ‘clerical’ perhaps betrays his ignorance of its several meanings (‘learned pertaining to the clergy, or clerk pertaining to copying and general office work’[9]) but more likely it reveals his unawareness of the constitutional importance of the Lord Chancellor. It was then, and remains, one of the great offices of state. Although Russell was indeed a cleric, his responsibilities were secular and serious; any implication that he was a glorified chief clerk is ludicrous. In the fifteenth century the Lord Chancellor was the nearest equivalent of a modern Prime Minister. He was a key official in the Royal Household the king’s principal advisor, and his formal link with parliament, and the machinery of government at Westminster. It was the Lord Chancellor who delivered the official sermon at the opening of parliament setting out the reason for its summons and the king’s plans. In addition, he had a judicial responsibility as the king’s liaison with the judiciary and presiding judge in the Chancery Court of England. It is true that Russell was a bureaucrat and not a politician; however, as an experienced, and talented administrator and lawyer he was eminently suitable for this office. His appointment had the unqualified approval of Sir Thomas More, probably the most famous Lord Chancellor of all, who described Russell as ‘ a wise man of much experience and one of the most learned men England had at this time’.[10] Dominic Mancini writing at the end of 1483 concurred with More’s opinion; he described Russell as a man of ‘great learning and piety.’[11]

 

‘The Chancellor is desperate and not content’

I need not describe the course of events between Edward IV’s untimely death in April 1483 and the bastardization of his heirs in June, since they are well known and, in any case, do not add to the substance of my argument. What matters from my perspective is Russell’s reaction to those events. For my purposes the narrative begins after lunch on Friday the 13 June 1483. William Lord Hastings had just been summarily executed on a convenient log for (it is alleged) plotting to kill the Lord Protector and Henry Stafford Duke of Buckingham, his henchman. The Archbishop of York (Thomas Rotherham), the Bishop Ely (John Morton) and assorted others have also been arrested. And there is panic on the streets of London. On the Monday following, the Queen was persuaded to allow her youngest son Richard the duke of York, the heir presumptive, to leave the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey to attend his brother’s coronation. That afternoon in council the coronation was postponed. The alarm of Londoners following these events is tangible and it seems from the evidence of two independent sources that the Chancellor John Russell was also deeply troubled by the turn of events.

 

The first source is an undated memorandum written by George Cely, an English wool merchant, which must have been written between the 13th and 25th of June 1483. It contains the key description of Russell’s mood: ‘There is great rumour in the realm. The Scots have done great [harm] in England, the Chamberlain is deceased in trouble, the Chancellor is desperate and not content, [my emphasis] the bishop of Ely is dead, if the king, God save his life were deceased, the duke of Gloucester were in any peril, if my lord prince, whom God defend were troubled, if my lord of Northumberland were dead or greatly troubled, if my Lord Howard were slain.[12]

 

The other account is a letter written by Simon Stallworth (one of Russell’s secretaries) on the 21 June 1483 to Sir William Stonor. It is worth quoting in full. ‘Worshipful sir I commend me to you and for tidings I hold you happy that you are out of the press, for with us is much trouble and every man doubts [the] other. As on Friday last was the Chamberlain [Hastings] beheaded soon upon noon. On Monday last was at Westminster a great plenty of harnessed men, there was the deliverance of the Duke of York to my lord Cardinal, my Lord Chancellor and many other lords temporal and with him met my lord of Buckingham in the midst of the hall at Westminster…It is thought there shall be 20 thousand men of  my Lord Protector and my lord Buckingham’s men in London this week to which intent I know not but to keep the peace. My lord [Russell] has much            business and more than he is content with, if any other way would be taken [my emphasis]. The lord archbishop of York and the bishop of Ely are at the Tower with master Oliver King (I suppose they shall come out nevertheless). There are men in their places for safekeeping [guards?] And suppose that there shall be men of my Lord Protectors sent to his lordship’s place in the country. They are not  like to come out of ward yet. As for Forster he is in hold for his mew for (to plead for?) his life. Mistress Shore is in prison. What shall happen here I know not. I pray you pardon me from writing I am so sick I may not well hold my pen…All the Lord Chamberlain’s men become my lord of Buckingham’s men.’ [13]

 

These strictly contemporary accounts do not support the conclusion that Gloucester’s actions marked the opening moves of usurpation. Even less do they justify Dr Alison Hanham’s (surprisingly defensive) proposition that ‘even the most committed Ricardian must agree that it was a time of alarms and uncertainties when the suspicions of Richard’s intentions previously disseminated by the Woodvilles must he seemed to many to receive confirmation.[14] The implication that Londoners feared Gloucester’s actions were the prelude to a coup d’état and the insinuation that Russell shared their anxiety is simply not true.[15] There is no doubt that there was a great commotion in the capital over the weekend of the 14 and 15 of June and in the week that followed, with armed gangs on the street. However, Londoners in general did not see the threat as coming from Gloucester but from Woodville inspired conspirators. The Cely memorandum is explicit on this point. And there is nothing in Stallworth’s letter to gainsay the view that the public feared the ambition of the Queen and her Woodville kin whom they blamed for the unrest. Professor Michael Hicks — a renowned anti-Ricardian — also believes that the citizens did not at this time fear Gloucester’s motive; indeed, they supported his actions against the conspirators. Hicks rejects Mancini and the other vernacular chronicle accounts as hindsight, preferring to rely on the events that followed as a better guide to public opinion of Richard in May and June.[16] It would seem that despite Professor Ross’ assertion that we only have Gloucester’s word for the Hastings conspiracy, people believed that he and the king were threatened in June 1483.

 

Russell was not a neutral observer of these events, he participated in them; to that extent he was partisan. He neither liked nor trusted the Woodvilles. He believed that if they were allowed to control the king it would result in civil war and disorder. Russell craved unity not division. All of this is clear from the sermon he drafted for Edward V’s abortive first parliament, in which he set out the Council’s plans for minority governance after Edward’s coronation. It was intended to continue the protectorship after the king’s coronation and exceptionally to invest Gloucester with regency powers. This would of course have been in accordance with the earlier view of the ‘more foresighted’ councillors that the King’s maternal uncles and stepbrothers should be ‘absolutely forbidden’ from having control of the monarch before he reached his majority.[17] It would seem from Russell’s extant draft that having examined the Woodvilles suitability for government he found them wanting.[18] He writes, for example, ‘Then if there be any certainty or firmness in this world, such as may be found in Heaven, it is rather in the islands and lands environed with water than in the sea or any great rivers (an allusion to Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers)’. Further on we have this: ‘And therefore the noble persons of the world, which some for the merits of their ancestors, some for their own virtues being endowed with great honours and possessions, and riches may be conveniently resembled unto the firm ground that men see in Islands (an allusion to Gloucester and to England) than the lower people, which for the lack of such endowments, not possible to be shared among so many and therefore living by their casual labours be not without cause [compared] to the unstable and wavering running water: aque multe populus multus (a lot of water, a lot of people)’. Towards the conclusion, he extols the Lord Protector’s virtues; ‘…The necessary charges which in the kings tender age must needs be borne and supported by the right noble and famous prince the duke of Gloucester his uncle, protector of this realm. In whose great puissance, wisdom and fortunes rests at this season the execution of the defence of the realm as well against open enemies as against subtle and faint friends of the same.’ However, this sermon was never delivered due to the dramatic events that occurred between the 22 and 26 June. On Sunday the 22 June, Edward IV’s heirs were denounced as bastards. Three days later, Gloucester was offered the throne. The next day he was king. I now turn to the relevant correspondence.

 

A warrant to arrest persons unknown dated 29 July 1483

King Richard was crowned on the 6 July and left for his first royal progress on the 18 July. He dictated this intriguing letter, whilst sojourning for two or three days with his friend Francis Lovell: ‘ By the King RR. Right reverend father in God right trusty and wellbeloved; we greet you well. Whereas we understand that certain persons had of late taken upon themselves an enterprise — as we doubt not you have heard — and are in custody, we desire and will that you take our letters of commission to such persons as you and our council shall be advised, for to sit [in judgement] upon them and to proceed to the due execution of out laws on  that behalf. Fail not hereof as our perfect trust is in you. Given under our signet at the manor of Minster Lovell the 29 July.’

 

This is not a routine letter. Judging by the last sentence, Richard is responding to what he believes is an emergency at Westminster. He does not name the conspirators or the nature of their offence because he assumes Russell knows what he means. The implication being, of course, that this matter was secret and the detail could not be committed to paper. It is for that reason that historical interest in the letter has largely concentrated on the search for answers to the inevitable ‘who’ ‘what’ and ‘why’ questions that arise. Important though those questions are, I need not answer them here, since others have already done so.[19] It is useful, nonetheless, to outline the options considered.

 

Dr Tudor-Craig submits several possible motives for the letter. First, it might have related to an attempt to remove Edward’s daughters from sanctuary and take them overseas out of Richard’s reach. The Crowland Chronicle reports the rumour of such a plot, which caused the King to strengthen security around Westminster Abbey ‘so that the whole neighbourhood took on the appearance of a castle or fortress’. John Nesfield, who was captain in charge of the operation, ensured that no one could get in or out without his permission.[20] Dr Tudor-Craig rejects that possibility, however, on the ground that ‘The tenor of the letter suggests that the criminals had accomplished their deed, even though they had been caught, and yet the princesses remained in sanctuary’.[21] Alison Hanham challenges that proposition; she argues that they were arrested before the fact and not afterwards. Her point being that the word ‘had’ (as opposed to ‘have’) suggests that the plot had not come to fruition.[22] If one accepts Dr Hanham’s construction of the letter it would seem reasonable to suppose that the plot to send the princesses overseas remains a possibility. However, such a plot hardly warrants a surreptitious letter of this kind since according to Crowland it was almost certainly common knowledge in London anyway. A similar point could be made in relation to Dr Tudor-Craig’s second possibility: that it concerned mistress ‘Jane’ Shore. I think we can safely dismiss this on the ground that there was nothing secret about her activities.

 

Dr Tudor Craig’s third and final possibility is that it relates to the disappearance of the two princes. Unfortunately, she does not look beyond the possibility that they were murdered. Such a plot would certainly require secrecy. The problem with this, however, is that Richard’s instructions to Russell to discuss the matter with the council and proceed according to the law are incompatible with secrecy. Dr Tudor-Craig recognized this problem but is nonetheless unable to disregard Thomas More’s assertion that the murder of the princes was ordered when Richard was at Gloucester, which he must have reached soon after this letter was written. Dr Tudor-Craig also sees significance in the parting of the ways between the King and Buckingham, which also occurred around this time and which she suggests might have been the result of a policy disagreement about what to do with ‘the certain persons who had taken upon themselves the fact of an enterprise’.[23] If her hypothesis is right it certainly adds credence to More’s account and also to the fears expressed for Edward V’s life reported to Mancini before he returned to France.[24]

 

Another possibility is that the letter referred to a plot to remove the boys from the Tower and to restore Edward V to the throne. The Crowland chronicler mentions such a plot, though his timing is problematic.[25] We also have a reference in John Stow’s ‘Annals’ of some such plot involving members of Edward IV’s former household with Woodville support.[26] ‘After this were taken for rebel against the king, Robert Russe sergeant of London, William Davy pardoner of Hounslow, John Smith groom of King Edward’s stirrup, and Stephen Ireland wardrober of the Tower, with many others, that they should have sent writings into the parts of Brittany to the earls of Richmond and of Pembroke and other lords; and how they were purposed to have set fire to divers parts of London, which fire whilst men had been staunching, they would have stolen out of the Tower the Prince Edward and his brother the Duke of York.’ [27]

 

Speculation that Lady Margaret Beaufort was involved in this conspiracy as the Woodville’s price for restoring Henry Tudor to his English dignitaries, is rejected by Professor Hicks on the ground that the link between the Beauforts, ‘the fact of a certain enterprise’ mentioned in the letter and the trial mentioned in Stowe is too tenuous to accept as evidence of the fact.[28] Certainly corresponding with Richmond was not per se treasonable (at this stage) and it seems from Hicks’ researches that there is no record of a commission of oyer & terminer or a trial, or even an indictment against these men. He postulates that although such a plot probably existed at this time, we do not have details of it.

 

Fortunately, I need not choose between these theories, since I am only concerned with Russell’s state of knowledge. Ironically, if the letter does relate to the boys’ murders, its tone and content tend to absolve the King from complicity. His instruction to bring the matter before the council and to judgement according to the law is only explicable on the basis that he was innocent and had nothing to hide or fear from a public airing of the facts. In that eventuality, Richard’s guilty secret would not be secret for very long. Alternatively, if the letter refers to a plot to remove the princes from the Tower, then it can be seen as a standard response to a treasonous threat to the crown. Of course, if such a plot existed, it confounds the contemporary suspicion that Edward V was dead before Mancini left England and demolishes More’s account of events. Either way, this letter raises some important questions about the state of Chancellor Russell knowledge, since he can hardly have been ignorant of the true state of affairs concerning the well-being or the fates of Edward IV’s sons in July. It also raises the questions of why Russell appears not to have been interrogated by the Tudor regime as to his knowledge of the fate of the princes or why there is no contemporary English accusation against King Richard.

 

 

Undated letter concerning the marriage of Thomas Lynom and Mistress Shore

I am referring to this this letter for two reasons; first, it gives us a brief but revealing ‘flash’ of Richard’s character and second, it gives rise to an equally illuminating difference of opinion between two of Richard’s many biographers; a difference of opinion, which, I might add, exhibits all the emotional prejudice that afflicts so much of Ricardian literature.

 

Thomas Lynom was King Richard’s solicitor; he sought permission to marry Mistress Jane Shore, who was languishing in Ludgate Prison for her part in the Hastings’ conspiracy. Richard’s moral rectitude caused him to take a hard line with Mistress Shore. She had, after all, plotted against him and she was a notorious harlot. Although it would have been easy for him to forbid the match in what he believed to be Lynom’s best interests, he wrote this letter instead.[29]…it is showed unto us that our servant and solicitor, Thomas Lynom is marvellously blinded and abused with the late wife of William Shore now being at Ludgate by our commandment, [and] hath made contract of matrimony with her, as it is said; and intends, to our full great marvel, to proceed to effect the same. We, for many causes, would be very sorry he should be so disposed and pray you therefore to send for him, in that you   may goodly may exhort and stir him to the contrary. And if you find him utter set for to marry her and none otherwise would be advertised, then if it may stand with the law of the church, we be content (the time of marriage being deferred to our coming next to London) that upon sufficient surety being found for her good behaviour, you send for her keeper and discharge him of our commandment by warrant of these; committing [her] to the rule of her father or any other by your discretion in the mean season.’

 

In his generally sympathetic biography of Richard III, Professor Paul Kendall uses this letter to illustrate Richard’s empathy with his fellows: ‘The harmony he never achieved within himself he did not cease to desire for others.[30] Richard’s use of vibrant phrases such as ‘marvellously blinded and abused’, and ‘to our full great marvel’ are testament to his astonishment and not his admonishment that his sober and correct solicitor should fall for the charms of the (no doubt) enchanting but wayward Jane Shore.

 

Professor Charles Ross in his less charitable biography of Richard III, uses the same letter to illustrate what he regards as the King’s bad character. Richard was, asserts Ross, the first English king to use character assassination as a deliberate instrument of policy. Richard’s ‘…public persecution of the delectable Mistress Shore has all the hallmarks of an attempt to make political capital by smearing the moral reputation of those who opposed him.’ Furthermore, he suggests that the ‘demure’ (his word) Mistress Shore would have been left to rot in Ludgate were it not for the fact that Richard’s solicitor wanted to marry her; a request which says Ross ‘obviously incurred Richard’s displeasure’. [31]

 

It is difficult to explain two such conflicting interpretations of the same letter. Ross represents the modern school of traditionalist historians who resist revisionist re-interpretations of Richard’s character. It seems obvious to me that he is entranced by the ‘delectable’ Mistress Shore whose virtues he extols at Richard’s expense. Professor Kendall writes more benevolently of Richard’s behaviour; though he has an occasional tendency to make excuses for him. His biography is now considered out of date by the academic establishment; nonetheless, it remains for me the most balanced and well-written account of King Richard’s life and reign yet published. Its strength is Kendall’s systematic use of BL Harleian Manuscript 433 to explain the events of 1483-85.[32]

 

Furthermore, professor Ross’ conclusion is based on a partial quote from the letter, starting at its beginning and ending with Richard’s comment ‘we, for many causes, would be very sorry he should be so disposed.’ This gives the false impression that King Richard was minded to prohibit the marriage because of his displeasure with Lynom and his vindictiveness towards Mistress Shore. Thus, Ross uses the letter as an example of Richard’s vindictive character. However, if one reads the whole letter, the absurdity of his argument becomes apparent. Indeed, there is nothing in the letter — even Ross’ edited version — that justifies his adverse characterization of Richard: quite the opposite in fact.

 

The letter is remarkable for its informality, Richard’s colourful language and his lightness of touch in dealing with the situation. He comes across as a concerned friend rather than an angry monarch. He has every reason to prohibit this marriage but his desire to do the right thing outweighs any animus he feels towards Mistress Shore. For Richard ‘doing the right thing’ means trying to save Thomas Lynom from his folly, which is why he asks Russell to urge him in a ‘goodly’ manner to think again. But if Lynom is ‘utter set to marry her and not otherwise’, then Richard consented. The letter is not indicative of a cruel or vindictive man. Its relaxed tone suggests that the king trusted his Chancellor and that they had a good rapport. After taking these factors into account, I prefer Kendall’s interpretation of the letter.

 

Letter dated the 12 October from King Richard to John Russell

Richard dictated this letter at Lincoln during his royal progress. It is considered to be one of the chief documents of his reign and contains a rare example of his handwriting: ‘By the King. Right reverend Father in God, right trusty and wellbeloved. We greet you          well. And in out heartfelt way thank you for the manifest presents that your servants on your behalf has presented to us here, which we assure you we took and accepted with a good heart and soul we have cause. And whereas we by Gods grace intend briefly [soon] to advance us towards our rebel and traitor the Duke of Buckingham to resist and withstand his malicious purpose as lately by our other letters we certified to you our mind   more at large. For which cause it behoves us to have our Great Seal here. We being informed that for such infirmities and disease you sustain you cannot conveniently come unto us in person with the same. Wherefore we desire and nonetheless charge you that forthwith upon the sight of these you safely do the same our Great Seal sent unto us and [by] such of the officers of our Chancery as by your wisdom shall be thought necessary. Receiving this our letter for your sufficient discharge in that behalf.  Given under our signet at our City of Lincoln the 12 day of October.   We would be most glad that you came yourself if that you may and if you may not we pray you not to fail but to accomplish in all diligence our said commandment to send our seal in contentment upon the sight hereof as we trust you with such as you trust the officers ‘pertenyng’ to attend with it praying you to ascertain us of your news here. Here loved be God is all well and truly determined and for to resist the malice of him that has best cause to be true the Duke of Buckingham the most untrue creature living whom with God’s grace we shall not be long till that we shall be in those parts and subdue his malice. We assure you that there was never false traitor better purveyed as this bearer Gloucester shall show you.”[33]

 

It is obvious that Richard and Russell were in touch and that Russell was aware of the King’s plans. Since Russell cannot bring the Great Seal himself owing to his illness, Richard added a postscript in his own hand (my emphasis above). It is one of the most revealing documents of Buckingham’s rebellion.

 

Dr Louise Gill considers that Richard’s request was unusual ‘since it put full control of the government in his hands‘ and implies that he no longer trusted his Chancellor.[34] Personally, I think Dr Gill’s appraisal of the situation is mistaken for two reasons: in the first place it is not supported by the facts and in the second place it offends against common sense. It was not in fact unusual for the Great Seal to be commandeered in times of crisis. Richard and the Council had done so in April/May 1483 after the then Chancellor, Thomas Rotherham archbishop of York, had improperly handed it to Elizabeth Woodville following the arrests of Earl Rivers and others. Richard was to call for it again in July 1485 when he was threatened by Henry Tudor’s invasion. The Great Seal was an instrument of strategic importance, to the king since it authenticated royal commands, documents and proclamations. Its close control was desirable at all times but absolutely essential when, as here, rebels aimed at deposing the king. If the king was at Westminster there was no problem, but King Richard was 150 miles from Westminster and his enemies were strategically placed to put themselves between him and the capital. He believed that the threat to him was mortal; Russell was well aware of this and of Richard’s plans from previous correspondence. Naturally, Richard wanted control of the Great Seal to authenticate his rule but just as importantly to deny it to his enemies. Similarly, the suggestion of a breakdown of trust between Richard and Russell does not bear close examination. Richard was many things but he was not stupid; it is inconceivable that he would entrust his plans ‘at large’ to someone he didn’t trust. There is also the evidence of Richard’s postscript wherein he expressed his faith that Russell would send the Great Seal to him. Its possession was of such overwhelming importance to Richard, and secrecy was so vital (There are obvious risks to it being carried by a single horseman.) that he is equally unlikely to have entrusted that task to anyone he didn’t trust. A distrustful Richard would probably have sent one of his own men of action to take possession of the seal. Indeed, in May, as duke of Gloucester, he sent his personal Herald to take it from Rotherham. If we judge men by their actions, the fact that Russell complied with the king’s wishes with such alacrity and that the Great Seal was later returned to him (Russell) before witnesses in the Star Chamber is a clear indication that the Lord Chancellor retained the king’s trust and confidence.

 

Conclusion

Although many people suspect Richard III of doing away with his nephews, suspicion is not evidence and there is no evidence that he murdered them or, indeed, that anyone murdered them. I do not know the princes’ fate and neither does anybody else. Nor do I pretend that these letters offer a solution to the mystery, since they leave too many unanswered and unanswerable questions for that. But they do sharpen our silhouette of England’s most enigmatic king and his relationship with his first minister of state during the crucial period of 1483-85. And they add substance to a neat epigram about those events, which I read somewhere. Those who knew most said least; those who knew least said most.

 

Quite what Holmes might have deduced from this correspondence is difficult to say, since he famously eschewed theorising without data. Of course, his prospect of solving the mysterious disappearance of the two princes would undoubtedly be enhanced if only John Russell was available to be interviewed.

[1] A Conan-Doyle – The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (Penguin 1950) p.28

[2] Pamela Tudor-Craig – Brochure: Richard III (biographical exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery 1973) pp.39-41

[3] A. J. Pollard, ‘Shirwood, John (d. 1493)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/25447, accessed 25 Nov 2017]

[4] D. P. Wright, ‘Langton, Thomas (c.1430–1501)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2009 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/16045, accessed 25 Nov 2017]

[5] Charles Ross – Richard III (Yale 1999 edition) p.151 and note 16

[6] CJ Armstrong (Ed) – The Usurpation of Richard III by Dominic Mancini [1483] (Oxford 1969 edition) pp. 93 and 127 note 89. Mancini wrote: ’The physician Dr Argentine, the last of his servants whose services the king enjoyed, reported that the young king, like a victim prepared for sacrifice, sought remission of his sins by daily confession and penance, because he believed that death was facing him’. Armstrong argues that Dr Argentine and Mancini were well acquainted: they were social equals and Argentine spoke fluent Italian (pp.19-20).

[7] Tudor-Craig p.44; Shirwood wrote ‘De Ludo Arithmomachia; De Ludo Philosophorum; Ludus Astronomorum’ (Treatise on a Mathematical Game) in about 1475. Tudor-Craig postulates that Shirwood personally gave Dr Argentine a copy of his treatise in London during the summer of 1483.

[8] Charles Ross- Richard III (Yale 1999 edition) p.132

[9] Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (2005); see also Chambers Dictionary (13th edition, 2014)

[10] Richard Sylvester – The Complete Edited Works of St Thomas More, Volume 2: the History of Richard III (Yale 1963) p.25

[11] Armstrong p.85

[12] Alison Hanham – The Cely Letters (EETS Oxford 1975) pp. 184-85. See also Michael Hicks – Richard III (Tempus 2000 edition) p.45, for a different translation of this note ‘There is great rumour in the realm. The Scots have done great [damage] in England, the Chamberlain is deceased in trouble, the Chancellor [Rotherham] is deprived and not content, the bishop of Ely is dead (my emphases)’. Professor Hicks is wrong, however, to suggest that Thomas Rotherham was the Chancellor, he was the archbishop of York; Russell was the Chancellor. Neither can it be easy to confuse ‘desperate’ with ‘deprived’, though the professor managed it

[13] Christine Carpenter (Ed) – Kingsford’s Stonor Letters and Papers 1290-1483 (Cambridge UP 1996) pp.159-60. See also Alison Hanham – Varieties of Error and Kingsford’s Stonor Letters and Papers (Ricardian, Vol 11, No.142, Sept 1998) p.350

[14] Alison Hanham – Remedying a Mischief: Bishop John Russell and the royal title (Ricardian Vol.12, No.151, December 2000) p.149

[15] Hanham (Ricardian) ibid

[16] Hicks pp. 114-16; to be fair, Professor Hicks argues that Richard always planned to seize the throne, but at this time nobody else realised it. His support soon fell away after he deposed Edward V

[17] Nicholas Pronay and John Cox (Eds) – The Crowland Chronicle Continuations 1459-1486 (The R3 and Yorkist Historical Trust 1986) p.153

[18] S B Chrimes – English Constitutional Ideas in the 15th Century (Cambridge 1936) pp.168-78; Chrimes reproduces all three of Russell’s draft speeches.

[19] Tudor-Craig ibid; Michael Hicks – Unweaving the Web: the plot of July 1483 against Richard III and its wider significance (Ricardian Vol 9, No.114, September 1991) pp.106-109; see also Annette Carson – Richard III; the maligned king (The History Press 2013 edition) pp. 151-68 passim. Both of these authors provide useful discussion about the July 1483 ‘plot’

[20] Pronay and Cox p.163

[21] Tudor-Craig pp.54-55

[22] Hanham (Ricardian) p.236: Hanham describes the word ‘had’ as ‘a subjunctive accusation of past possibility or past unreality…plainly they had been stopped before they could put their alleged plan into effect’. See also Hicks (Unweaving the web,,,), passim.

[23] Tudor-Craig ibid.

[24] Mancini left England shortly after Richard’s coronation (6 July 1483). Interestingly, he records only a suspicion that Edward V was ‘done away with’; he does not record any suspicion about the fate of the duke of York who was heir presumptive. The other interesting point is how this squares with the Cely memorandum, which expressed fears for the lives of king Edward V, his brother the Duke of York and his uncle the Duke of Gloucester.

[25] Pronay and Cox ibid

[26] Rosemary Horrox – Richard III and London (Ricardian Vol.6, 1984) pp325-26 and 329 citing: John Stow – The Annals or General Chronicle of England (1615) p.460. Also, Michael Jones – Richard III and Lady Margaret Beaufort: a re-assessment, in – Richard III: loyalty, lordship and law (PW Hammond [Ed] (Richard III and Yorkist History Trust 1986) pp. 30-31; Carson ibid and Henry Ellis (Ed) – Three Books of Polydore Vergil’s English History: comprising the reigns of Edward IV, Edward V and Richard III (Camden Society 1844) pp. 194-95

[27] Hicks (Unweaving the web…) p.107

[28] Hicks pp.107-109

[29] Paul Murray Kendall – Richard the Third (Geo Allen & Unwin 1955) p.324

[30] Kendall ibid

[31] Ross p.137

[32] R Horrox and PW Hammond [Eds] – British Library Harleian Manuscript 433 in four volumes (Sutton Publishing and the R3S 1979); it contains the strictly contemporary Register of Grants and Signet Letters written during Richard III’s reign and passing through Russell’s hands.

[33] Peter and Patricia Hairsine – The Chancellor’s File: published in J Petre [Ed] Richard III, crown and people (The Richard III Society 1984) p. 418, which reproduces the original letter (PRO reference C/1392/6); see also Tudor-Craig p.79

[34] Louise Gill – Richard III and Buckingham’s Rebellion (Sutton 2000 edition) p.6

Edmund Mortimer 5th Earl of March

Edmund Mortimer, later 5th Earl of March, was born on 6 November 1391. His parents were Roger Mortimer, Earl of March (1374-1398) and his wife, the well-connected Alianore Holland, daughter of Thomas Earl of Kent. In the view of many people, including the Westminster Chronicler, and the Welsh poet Iolo Goch (c1320-1398) Earl Roger was the rightful heir to King Richard II. Under current inheritance doctrine he certainly would be, but it was far less clear at the time. Ian Mortimer believes – on the basis of reasonably compelling evidence – that Richard selected his uncle, Edmund of Langley, Duke of York to succeed him. In the event, of course, Richard was succeeded by his Lancastrian cousin, Henry IV. Whether this would have happened so smoothly had Earl Roger not died the previous year is a moot point.

After Earl Roger’s death, Countess Alianore received a dower valued at £1,242 a year (the rough equivalent of the minimum income for two earldoms!) and the remainder of the Mortimer lands were partitioned in wardship between the dukes of Aumale (Edward of York), Exeter (John Holland) and Surrey (Thomas Holland) and the Earl of Wiltshire. This arrangement did not last long due to fall of Richard II and the consequent deaths of Exeter, Surrey and Wiltshire. Countess Alianore was allowed the custody of her daughters, but her sons, Earl Edmund and his brother, Roger, were kept in King Henry’s hands under the charge of Sir Hugh Waterton, a Yorkshireman of Henry’s extensive following.

It is certain that not everyone in England accepted Henry IV’s dubious title to the throne. Among those who did not was the King’s own cousin, Constance of York, Lady Despenser, who contrived to extract the boys from Windsor Castle in the middle of a February night 1405. Her intention was apparently to take them to Owain Glyndwr in Wales, their uncle, Sir Edmund Mortimer, having already defected to Glyndwr after Henry’s failure to ransom him. The fugitives were recaptured near Cheltenham; had they managed the few extra miles to the other side of the Severn, English and Welsh history might have been different. It was only after the failure of Constance’s plot that Glyndwr, Edmund Mortimer and Northumberland came up with the Tripartite Indenture, a scheme to divide England between them; a proposal which probably cost them at least as many supporters as it gained.

Meanwhile, the young Earl of March and his brother were transferred to Pevensey Castle, where for a few months they were joined by Constance’s brother, Edward, Duke of York (the erstwhile Aumale) who was imprisoned for his part in her scheme. In February 1409 the two boys were transferred to the household of Henry, Prince of Wales, the future Henry V. The fall of Harlech Castle, Glyndwr’s last stronghold, and the death in the siege of their uncle, meant that the Mortimers were now much less of a political threat. The Prince of Wales was also given the custody of a large portion of the Mortimer lands.

Soon after Henry V’s accession, March was given livery of his lands, as he was now of age. He chose to marry Anne Stafford, daughter of that Earl of Stafford who was killed at Shrewsbury (1403) and granddaughter of Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester. Henry V imposed a massive marriage fine of 10,000 marks. Now to be quite clear, Henry was entitled to levy the fine, but the amount was wholly excessive and unreasonable. In another king it would be called tyrannical. To make matters worse, to meet the cost of following Henry to France and service his own large debts, March was obliged, in 1415, to mortgage a large part of his Welsh lands plus no fewer than 45 English manors. He was never able to restore himself to solvency, and the burden was eventually passed on to his successor. It should be borne in mind that the Welsh lands had been devastated during the Glyndwr rising, and much reduced in value, while the whole inheritance had suffered some 17 years of wardship, during which a degree of asset-stripping was almost inevitable.

In the circumstances, it is not wholly surprising that March was drawn into the Southampton Plot led by his former brother-in-law, Richard of York, Earl of Cambridge. The exact nature of that plot is still a mystery to historians. It was certainly aimed at Henry V, but not necessarily at killing the King or overthrowing his government. Whatever the ultimate intentions of the conspirators, their ideas seem only to have been half-formed when March, perhaps in a panic, decided to betray them to the King.

By doing so March saved his own life, but made it unlikely that anyone would trust him ever again, He obtained a royal pardon for all treasons and other offences and went to France with Henry, only to be invalided back from Harfleur. It is likely that he contracted dysentery. Between 1416 and 1422 he was involved in other military actions in France without any obvious advantage either to his fortunes or his reputation. Henry gave him no share in the lands conquered in Normandy.

After Henry’s death March served on the Council but soon attracted the hostility of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, who in 1424 claimed that March was keeping too great a household and offering too much in the way of hospitality. The activities of March’s kinsman, Sir John Mortimer, who escaped from the Tower twice before being executed in 1424, cannot have helped his case.

In May 1424 March was made Lieutenant of Ireland, and effectively banished there. His term of office did not in fact last long, as like his father he died in the Emerald Isle. In Edmund’s case, on 18th January 1425. His marriage was childless, but his widow went on to have children with her second husband.

The effect of this was (since Edmund’s brother had died some years earlier) that the vast Mortimer estates passed to his nephew, Richard, Duke of York. Without this “merger” – so to speak – it is most unlikely that the House of York would ever have had sufficient landed clout to put itself on the throne. It is worth mentioning that this was also the cause of the white rose badge transferring to York. Previously it had been a Mortimer symbol.

Sources:

Henry V and the Southampton Plot, T.B. Pugh.

Complete Peerage (March)

The Fears of Henry IV, Ian Mortimer.

1415, Ian Mortimer.

Frustrated Falcons, Brian Wainwright.

 

 

 

 

 

BREAKING NEWS! TROLL CATS DEMONSTRATE TO THEIR HUMAN COUNTERPARTS HOW ITS DONE.

 

IMG_4360.JPG

Cat trolls are credited for being  wiser than human trolls, who are well known for being  wotless, boring and prone to making gaffes…

A group of cats, known as a moggle, have been discovered by their incredulous owners, to have been routinely trolling.  Not only that but the surprised owners discovered that the felines were actually a lot better at it than their human counterparts even though some of them did not have thumbs – well none of them had thumbs actually.  Asked where they liked to troll best they said anything featuring Henry Tudor was fair game.  When they were questioned why, and who their favourite king  was, they all concurred Richard III because it was well known he liked and admired cats as although they were small in stature they had hearts like lions – unlike Henry Tudor  who was a complete waste of a good suit of armour, spending the whole of the Battle of Bosworth behind a pike wall!   Pausing only to regurgitate a fur ball, one of the group, Percy,  explained that Tudor liked nothing better than setting his favorite greyhound, Morton, onto any innocent passing cat just because he could.  However, one of the group, Bowfoot, did demur that he thought Henry, although a coward, was not bad looking as he thought the cross-eyed look very handsome.

IMG_4362.JPG

Percy.  Although lacking teeth Percy remains a happy chap unlike Henry who also lacked teeth as well as a sense of humour..

IMG_4370.JPG

Jockey,  originally from Norfolk, does share some similarities to human trolls in that he likes to spend his days divided equally between sleeping, eating and trolling in no particular order.

IMG_4361.JPG

Tongue protruding in concentration Catesby the Cat demonstrates how easy it is to troll and if one sticks one’s tongue it is easier to hit the correct keys

IMG_4358.JPG

Lovell…unique in that he can uses both paws simultaneously..unlike human trolls

IMG_4357.JPG

Two of the cats are siblings, and being  identical,  both go under the name Stanley.  When they are not trolling,  Stanley and Stanley like nothing better than  sitting on fences

IMG_4366.JPG

Cissie, the matriarch of the group, demonstrates she can type without looking at the keyboard.    Cissie is well known for not being able to tolerate fools easily – human trolls should give this particular cat a very wide berth..

IMG_4367.JPG

Bowfoot opined that he thought Henry quite handsome as the cross-eyed look was very fetching indeed.

IMG_4368.JPG

Ratcliffe..if only all trolls were as handsome,,.

 

IMG_3998.JPG

 

Morton VIII.  This chap is a direct descendant of Henry Tudor’s favorite greyhound Morton…but that dear reader, is another story..

 

Richard III, Henry VII, north, south…and a soupçon of Robin Hood….

Picture this, as Blondie once sang:-

“…[In 1486] many of the southern nobility and prominent gentry of the kingdom accompanied Henry VII on what an attendant herald described as the first progress of his reign. This took them to Nottingham and then after Easter onwards toward York.

royal progress

A royal progress (not in England, clearly)

“And by the wayside in barnesdale, a littil beyond Robin Hoddez stone, therle of Northumreland with a right a great and noble company, mete and yave his attendaunce upon the kiing – that is to say with xxxiii knightes of his feed men, beside esquires and yeomen. (BL, Cotton Julius B.XII, fo 10. An edition of this text is being prepared by Emma Cavell for the Richard III and Yorkist History Trust.)

“The herald knew that this was a tense political moment, for there had been risings in Yorkshire, whence, as the nervous author of the second continuation of the Croyland Chronicle was shortly to remark, all evil rose. The earl of Northumberland, who had only three months earlier been released from prison, was still on probation. He and his feed men had stood, although they had not been engaged, on Richard III’s side at Bosworth Field the previous August. Was there something pre-planned and stage-managed about the earl and his meyney [sic] coming to ‘submit’ and welcome his king at Robin Hood’s Stone, just as Robin Hood in the story had been pardoned and welcomed into the king’s service in Barnsdale? Or was the detail added by the herald himself, who was struck by the manner in which life on this royal progress seemed to have imitated art?

“Southerners, heralds, East Anglian gentry, or college bursars, were neither ignorant of what the north was really like, nor unaware that the Robin Hood stories were set in an imaginary north. The portrayal of the north as wild and unruly, and its inhabitants as savages, was, by the fifteenth century, a well-established literary convention. It was a convention, moreover, which could be called upon quit shamelessly for political propaganda when it suited governments so to do.”

thus

“…with Henry VII responding in 1489 to a localised tax revolt in the North Riding of Yorkshire (which had also led to the death of the Earl of Northumberland) with the claim that the rebels were intending to ‘rob, despoil and destroy all the south parts of his realm’. Men and women, one is supposed to believe, were lying awake at night in fear of these wild savages from the north. (See A.J. Pollard North, South and Richard III)

Northumberland's signature

Durham Cathedral, Northumberland’s place of burial. Plus his Garter stall plate and signature.

“There can be no doubting that a distinction was made conventionally between the north and south countries. By the fifteenth century the dividing line had broadly settled on the river Trent, especially as far as administrative boundaries were concerned…” (End of quote from Imagining Robin Hood: The Late Medieval Stories in Historical Context by A.J. Pollard. The illustrations are my inclusion.)

We have heard much about Richard III being mistrusted in the south, and of resentment of his appointments of his faithful northerners to plum positions. Was this true? Pollard says that the ‘portrayal of the north as wild and unruly, and its inhabitants as savages, was, by the fifteenth century, a well-established literary convention’. Literary, not literal. Did the south really fear its northern neighbours? Was that the reason for some of the defections from ‘northerner’ Richard at Bosworth?

If so, how clever of Henry VII to call upon the widespread love of the entire English people for their mythical hero, Robin Hood. There, on the Great North Road, by Robin’s stone, the forgiven Earl of Northumberland is received back into the favour of his king.

Robin Hood and Lionheart

Mind you, I do not see Henry Percy as Robin Hood. Nor was Henry Tudor a Lionheart. Cravenheart, more like, for he cowered away at the two battles in which he was in any way physically involved. But he was a brilliant manipulator. It’s written all over his portraits!

Henry VII - manipulator

Henry VII, Master Manipulator

PS. Regarding Robin Hood’s Stone: “A landmark named ‘the Stone of Robert Hode’…was located in the Barnsdale area, and once stood on the eastern side of the Great North Road, a mile south of Barnsdale Bar.”  From http://www.yorkshireguides.com/wentbridge.html

 

 

A further selection of Scropes….

The name “Scrope” was usually pronounced, and sometimes spelled, as “Scroop”.am

To follow yesterday’s post

William, Earl of Wiltshire c1351-1399

William was the second son of Richard Scrope, first Baron Scrope of Bolton. In his younger days he was sometimes associated with John of Gaunt, who made him Seneschal of Aquitaine in 1383.

Subsequently, he secured the favour of Richard II, who made him Vice-Chamberlain of the Household in 1393, and granted him the castle and lordship of Marlborough. In that same year his father purchased the Kingdom of Mann for him, an example of provision being made for a younger son without dividing the main inheritance. He was given the Garter in 1394, and after the fall of Arundel, Gloucester and Warwick in 1397 was made Earl of Wiltshire and given a share of the confiscated lands. In 1398 he was promoted to the important post of Lord Treasurer.

Although Scrope gets little mention in the accounts of Richard II’s reign it is clear that by this time he had become a very influential man. He was given the custody of a number of royal castles, including Wallingford and Beaumaris. He was left in England when Richard II went to Ireland in 1399, and was, in effect, the “active ingredient” in a government under the chairmanship of Edmund of Langley, Duke of York.

When Henry Bolingbroke invaded, Scrope was one of several men who abandoned the Duke of York and took refuge in Bristol. When that city fell to Bolingbroke’s forces, Scrope was captured and summarily beheaded. (He may have had a “trial” of sorts before the earls of Northumberland and Westmorland, but this is by no means certain.)

When one considers the gallons of ink that have been used in bemoaning the execution of the saintly Anthony Rivers in 1483, it is rather surprising to discover that Henry IV has received no similar criticism for the execution of Scrope, which amounted to plain murder, Henry holding no office at the time and thus acting as a lawless, private individual. Historians do not seem to think Scrope worth arguing about, although it is hard to discern what he had done to Henry that merited such savage treatment.

Subsequently, Henry’s first parliament threw a cloak of legality over the murder and confirmed the forfeiture of Scrope’s lands and possessions.

William Scrope had married Isabel Russell, daughter of Sir Maurice Russell of Dorset and Gloucestershire. Although Sir Maurice was far from being a minor member of the gentry, and was particularly active in Gloucestershire, his daughter was not an aristocrat, still less a Plantagenet, and this may help explain why Henry allowed her almost nothing to live on.

Richard, Archbishop of York, 1350-1405

Richard was the third son of Henry, first Lord Scrope of Masham. He received his first rectorship as early as 1368, although he was not actually ordained priest until 1377. The very next year he was no less than Chancellor of the University of Cambridge! He had, of course, achieved considerable academic success, but it seems likely that patronage also played its part. He was a papal chaplain in Rome from 1382-1386, and became Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield in 1386. His diplomatic career included a visit to Rome to further Richard II’s attempt to have his grandfather, Edward II, canonised. He was translated to the see of York in 1398.

Richard was possibly under the influence of the Percy family, with whom his family had connections, and made no attempt to prevent the deposition of Richard II. Indeed, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, he formally led Henry to the throne. On the other hand, when the Percy family rose in rebellion against Henry in 1403, there is no significant evidence that he was involved.

Henry IV remained deeply unpopular, not least in the North and there were a number of conspiracies against him in the years that followed. Unfortunately for them, his enemies never quite managed to coordinate their plans and bring their strength against him at the same time. 1405 was the year of the so-called Tripartite Indenture, the plan to divide England and Wales between Owain Glyndwr, the Earl of Northumberland. and Sir Edmund Mortimer. Owain had at last received armed French assistance, and was poised to invade England. It was in these circumstances that Richard Scrope, no doubt working in collaboration with Northumberland, raised an army of about 8,000 men which assembled on Shipton Moor. With the Archbishop were his nephew, Sir William Plumpton, and the young Thomas Mowbray, Earl Marshal and earl of Nottingham and Norfolk.

They were met by a force headed by Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland, which Northumberland had failed to intercept. Instead of engaging, the Archbishop agreed to parley and was tricked by false promises into disbanding his army. After that he, Plumpton and Mowbray were promptly arrested. After a travesty of a trial – a trial in which Chief Justice refused to participate – all three were beheaded.

Scrope was buried in York Minster and his tomb became an unofficial shrine. Lancastrian kings naturally sought to discourage to the cult, while the Yorkist kings, equally naturally, looked upon it with favour. However, Scrope was never officially canonised. It need hardly be said that Scrope was the first Archbishop to be executed in England – Becket, after all, was simply murdered – and with the sovereign’s full authority.  He was also the last prelate to be so dealt with until the Tudor era.

The Pope excommunicated all those involved in Scrope’s death, although the sentence was never published in England. Henry IV eventually secured a pardon by offering to found two religious houses; these were not, in fact, founded in his lifetime, but came to being under Henry V, and were the last such to be created in the medieval period.

It was soon after Scrope’s death that Henry was struck by the mysterious illness which made the rest of his life a misery. Naturally, his enemies ascribed his affliction to the vengeance of Richard Scrope.

Henry Scrope, Lord Scrope of Masham, c1370-1415

Henry Scrope was knighted by Richard II in 1392, and was retained by that king for life in 1396. Nevertheless he rapidly transferred his allegiance to Henry IV in 1399 and served him loyally in various capacities throughout his reign. His first wife, Philippa de Bryan, was a Welsh heiress (or perhaps more correctly a heiress of lands in Wales) and part of his effort was directed towards guarding her lands against the Glyndwr rising. He inherited the Masham barony from his father in 1406, but seems to have been “running the family business” so to speak for some years. He was briefly Lord Treasurer in 1410, possibly because of his connections to Prince Henry (who was running the government at the time because of Henry IV’s illness) and Sir Thomas Beaufort. In this role he was successful, and actually left a surplus in the Treasury at the end of his service.

In his private life, Scrope made a second marriage in 1410, to Joanne (or Joan) Holland, Duchess of York, the widow of Edmund of Langley. Joanne was a wealthy woman – T. B. Pugh estimated that her survival for thirty-two years after Langley’s death cost the York family in excess of £30,000. Quite apart from this, Joanne had a portion of the earldom of Kent (following the death of her brother, Edmund, in 1408) and also a share in the lands of her second husband, Lord Willoughby. The joint income of Scrope and his wife was around £1,800 a year, a vast amount for a mere baron.

Unfortunately Joanne and her husband did not live in wedded bliss, and it appears that around 1413 she left him, at least for a time, taking with her about £5,000 worth of his property and decamped to her Yorkist dower castle, Sandal. In his will of June 1415 he offered her a choice of his belongings to the value of £2000 in return for her abandoning any claim to one third or one half of his goods. This suggests his belongings must have amounted to more than £6,000! Since Joanne was already engaged in a quarrel with her Willoughby stepson over personal property, it seems she was not a lady who considered material possessions to be unimportant.

It should not be overlooked that Henry Scrope was a nephew of the late Archbishop of York, and it may be that his loyalty to the Lancastrian regime was not a fervent as it appeared on the surface. In any event he allowed himself to be drawn into the conspiracy known as the Southampton Plot led by Joanne’s stepson, Richard of York, Earl of Cambridge, which sought to replace Henry V with the Earl of March.

It is equally possible that Scrope went into the conspiracy with every intention of betraying it. It appears certain that he did his best to persuade the Earl of March not to get more deeply involved – hardly the action of a convinced plotter – and that he remonstrated with Walter Lucy, March’s close adviser over the matter. Scrope was not even invited to a crucial supper party at Cranbury, held by March and attended by Cambridge, Lucy and Lord Clifford.

However, it was March, not Scrope, who disclosed the conspiracy to Henry V, and the result was that Scrope was executed and all his lands and possessions forfeited. Duchess Joanne acted very promptly to secure a share of the proceeds, including a solid gold statue of the Virgin and various items of plate stamped with the Scrope arms that she claimed as her personal property. It appears nothing was done to retrieve the various expensive items she filched. Scrope’s brother and heir, and his mother, were not so fortunate. Although Henry V intended to permanently alienate most or all of the family’s lands, he had an attack of conscience on his death-bed, and the youngest Scrope brother, and eventual heir, John, was able to rebuild much of the inheritance.

It is, in fact, unlikely that Henry Scrope was guilty of intending the deaths of Henry V and his brothers. It is much more reasonable to say that his offence amounted to Misprision of Treason at worst.

Sources:

Complete Peerage, G.E. Cokayne

Henry IV of England, J.L. Kirby

1415, Ian Mortimer.

The Fears of Henry IV, Ian Mortimer

Henry V and the Southampton Plot, T.B. Pugh

The History of England Under Henry the Fourth, J.H. Wylie

Notes:
This explains how closely the three rebels and Sir Ralph Scrope were related. Note that Sir William of Bracewell’s sons married two de Ros sisters and that the Bolton branch lived on into the seventeenth century although the Masham male line died out early in Henry VIII’s reign. Furthermore, Richard, Bishop of Carlisle, was Richard III’s cousin.

Uncle Richard?

richard-iii-huffington

A long time ago, I posted a short article about one of my ancestors, Thomas Snellgrove, who was a portrait artist and painted an actor portraying Richard III. Here is the link.

Portrait of actor playing Richard by Snellgrove

George Frederick Cooke playing Richard III by T.W. Snellgrove

I have been researching my family history for over thirty years and it used to be a very slow and painstaking process. The internet has obviously made things easier and quicker in many ways and I now have some other interesting Ricardian links to report.

I found a probable direct ancestor called Sir Henry Vane, the Younger – I had not heard of him, but discovered that he was a Parliamentarian in the Civil War and was beheaded on Tower Hill after Charles II returned to the throne. Interesting, so I started tracing his family back further and came upon a Vane who had married a lady called Joan Haute. As you probably know, there was a Katherine Haute to whom Richard gave an annuity of £5 and this was considered suggestive of her having been his mistress and mother of one or both of his illegitimate children. I did find a Katherine, married to a James Haute, brother of my ancestor.

I carried on further and found that Joan Haute’s grandfather, Richard, was married to an Elizabeth Tyrrell, sister of James Tyrrell, one of Richard’s henchmen, accused of murdering the ‘Princes in the Tower’ on his orders. It was odd to think I had recently visited the Tyrrell chapel at Gipping and seen the memorials for the Tyrrell family in the church at Stowmarket – how strange that these could be my relatives!  James was executed at the Tower too, by Henry VII.

And Richard Haute’s mother was a Woodville, sister to Richard Woodville, Elizabeth Woodville’s father. Elizabeth, as we know, was Richard’s sister-in-law (or at least was thought to be until it was found the marriage was invalid).

Sir Henry Vane’s wife was Frances Wray, and I next followed her line back. Her father married Albinia Cecil, great granddaughter to William Cecil, advisor to Queen Elizabeth I. One of his sons (half-brother to my presumed ancestor, Thomas Cecil) was Robert Cecil, who was thought to be the ‘model’ for Shakespeare’s Richard III; he was an unpopular politician of the time and also a hunchback.

Pic of Robert Cecil

Robert Cecil

Thomas Cecil meanwhile was married to a Neville! This was Lady Dorothy Neville, descended from George Neville, brother to Cecily Neville, Richard’s mother! This would make Richard my 1st cousin 17 times removed.

It’s not all good though; there are four connections to the Stafford family, two of which are direct lines to Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, who betrayed Richard and was called by him ‘the most untrue creature living’ – another executed ancestor.  And, of course, via the Nevilles, I would also be related to Margaret Beaufort and Henry Tudor through the John of Gaunt line. ☹

Another not-so-good link is to the Percy family and thence to Henry Percy, who was lynched by a mob when he tried to raise taxes in Yorkshire, for not supporting Richard at Bosworth.

Yet another is to the Brandon family via the sister of William Brandon, Henry Tudor’s Standard Bearer, whom Richard personally killed at Bosworth. He would be my 16 x great uncle.

Other significant names that I haven’t fully explored yet are: Howard, Harrington, De Vere, Zouche, Somerset, Bourchier and  Clifford.  I haven’t found any Stanleys yet!

One of the Stafford links also leads to Margaret, daughter of George of Clarence and there is another to Margaret Courtenay, whose mother could be Katherine of York, the daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville (her father married twice and it isn’t known which wife Margaret was born to – the second one was descended from John Neville, brother of Warwick the Kingmaker). These connections would make Richard also my 16 x great uncle. This would mean that one 16 x great uncle (Richard III) killed the other (William Brandon)!

Graham Turner painting of Richard III at Bosworth killing William Brandon

The Battle of Bosworth (Richard III killing William Brandon) by artist Graham Turner, copyright Graham Turner. N.B. Prints and cards of this and many other Ricardian scenes are available – click on the picture above to see.

How convoluted and complicated were the relationships in those days. But it just reveals how, if you can just find one key link into the nobility, you are basically related to them all!! It is also said that nearly all English people are descended from Edward III, so going by my experience (and Danny Dyer’s!) it could be true. I encourage anyone to have a go at researching their family – it is fascinating.

One caveat if you use the internet to do your research though – you have to be careful not to replicate others’ mistakes – I have found Cecily Neville given as the mother of Elizabeth Woodville and someone getting married before they were born – I know they married young in those days, but really!

 

 

Cecil image credit: John de Critz the Elder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Miles Metcalf, or how the city of York defied Henry VII…

Medieval York

In a book called The Fifteenth Century – 3: Authority and Subversion, edited by Linda Clark, there is an interesting essay by James Lee entitled Urban Recorders and the Crown in Late Medieval England. I have taken from the article to illustrate the situation of the city of York with regard to the vital position of recorder. Specifically, an incumbent by the name of Miles Metcalf (of whom, regretfully, I have been unable to find a portrait).

York Minster

The rise of the recorder (a large number of whom were professional lawyers) came about because of provincial towns’ need to ensure their lines of communication with the central authorities were both adequate and secure. This was in order to push for their own demands and to respond to those of central government. Such matters were especially important at times of a change in dynasty, when recorders were, essentially, go-betweens or intermediaries between urban and central government. They were also sources of news. For instance, after the Battle of Stoke in 1487, the York council received notification of Henry VII’s victory from ‘the mouthe of a servaunt of master recorder coming strught from the said field’.

medieval messenger

Some recorders found themselves with unenviable tasks, such as the one in York in 1471 who had to meet Edward IV at the gates of the city to tell him he was not welcome. After the Battle of Tewkesbury a few months later, Edward was, of course, very welcome.

EIV landing Ravenspur - 1471

The recorders’ offices provided consistent and detailed corporation records, especially from the towns of Coventry, York and Norwich, and to a lesser extent from Exeter and Bristol. Recorders had considerable social status, not only in urban politics, but often on the national scene as well, and the rise of their individual careers took many of them to high places. Perhaps the most famous example is Thomas Cromwell, who was recorder at Bristol from 1553-40. Some became attorney-generals and privy councillors, so for a privileged few, becoming a recorder was most certainly a useful rung on a lofty ladder.

Richard III - my composite

York enjoyed special relations with Richard III, who for many years, as Duke of Gloucester, lived in Yorkshire, where he was held in very high regard. The city of York was embroiled in an attempt to reduce its fee-farm (details of the dispute are to be found in L.C. Attreed, York’s Fee Farm and the Central Government). Richard III promised a reduction, but the civic authorities struggled through two more reigns before the matter was settled. Throughout this time, York’s recorders and representatives were involved in the very heart of government.

Good king Richard

The York recorder from 1477-86 was Miles Metcalf, who loaned Richard III £20 on one of the latter’s visits to the city, an act that is thought indicative of his particularly close relations with the king. The man’s later resistance to Tudor rule revealed him to be remained staunch for Richard. Metcalf’s career as recorder is of particular interest. His predecessor, Guy Fairfax, had let it be known that he intended to quit in 1477, and Richard III (Duke of Gloucester at the time) wanted Metcalf to take his place. There was no objection, and on 1st September 1477, Metcalf was ‘unanimously chosen in his [Fairfax’s] place’. Richard, Duke of Gloucester was popular and known to be a fair lord, so presumably this was why his wishes were accepted. And presumably Metcalf was the best man for the job.

Barley Hall, York

Then came 1485, Bosworth, and the usurper Henry VII’s attempts to be rid of Metcalf by nominating a man of his own, Richard Green, who was a counsellor of the Earl of Northumberland. Henry wished Green to be in office “‘unto such tyme as it shall pleas the kings highnesse to call Miles Metcalfe, late occupying the said office unto his grace and favour’.

In the Days of Our Forefathers: Britain Becomes a Maritime Power

Metcalf family loyalty could not be reconciled with the Tudor regime and Henry was particularly scathing in his condemnation, proclaiming that he ‘hath done moch ayenst us which dishableth hyme to exercise things of auctoritie concernyng an hool commonaltie, which by his sedicious means might…and falle to diverse inconvenients’. A proclamation of 24th September 1485 excluded Metcalf and his brother Thomas from a general pardon, although both did receive pardons on 29th November following. Thomas was saved from execution by producing his pardon from the king.”

pardoned

[Henry’s man, Green] “was duly appointed by the city authorities but only on a temporary basis, until Metcalf was restored to favour. However, Green, Northumberland and Henry seem to have assumed that his office was now secured permanently. The city’s authorities procrastinated in clarifying the issue, buying time for the return of senior members of their council and also for the chance to discuss the matter with the Archbishop of York.

“When they reached their decision, it was a rebuff for Henry. The corporation promised to consider the king’s will in the matter and, as a gesture of reconciliation, elected Green as a counsellor. This, they claimed, would give them an opportunity to assess Green’s ‘demeanaunce and lernyng’ until Metcalf died and the vacancy arose.

“After the death of Metcalf on 19th February 1486, both Northumberland and Henry again made their nominations for the vacant position clear. In early March the earl again proposed Green, and the York council again delayed their decision. Even Northumberland’s wife became embroiled in the negotiations, calling before her members of the York hierarchy and urging them to leave the matter of the recorder in abeyance until she came unto York or wrote to the contrary. [She died 27th July 1485, so did not go anywhere. In fact, I do not see how she could have become involved after Metcalf’s death. If at all, it had to be before. Unless her date of death is incorrect.]

4th Northumberland

“By the end of the month the king had put forward the name of Thomas Middleton for the recordership. Perhaps this left the York authorities in an even more delicate position than before, as it would surely have been wholly inappropriate for them to favour one patron’s choice over another’s. This might explain the decision of the York council eventually to appoint John Vavasour, a relatively small political figure. Taken as a whole, such consistent royal interest in the position of recorder reminds us of the importance of the role in communications between the crown and the towns.

“[That this episode] occurred early in Henry VII’s reign may also be instructive with regard to Henry’s rather precarious position as a usurper with little in the way of local support. Henry was clearly very keen to impose his authority in a number of major towns, and regarded the appointment of recorders as an opportune means of achieving this.”

henry-Pietro-Torrigiano-bust

The struggles between York authorities and the crown continued, with the city making plain its determination to act independently, but I will end with Metcalf’s demise.

As Bacon’s oft-quoted assessment of Henry VII goes: ‘…as he governed his subjects by his laws, so he governed his laws by his lawyers’. Tudor oppression increased relentlessly. The entire realm must have regretted the loss of Richard III. York citizens certainly did, because in 1489, in protest against Henry VII’s punitive taxes, they murdered the Earl of Northumberland, who had failed Richard III at Bosworth and become a Tudor toady.

 

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: