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BBC Radio Leicester interviews John Ashdown-Hill …

bbcradioleicester… about his book “The Private Life of Edward IV”.

Here, at 45:12, he discusses Edward’s legal marriage, his bigamous marriage and his (other) mistresses.

Here, at about 49:00 , he disscusses Edward’s (hitherto little known) relationship with Henry, Duke of Somerset and his visits to Leicester.

Was Edward IV gay and/or bisexual? Dr John Ashdown-Hill thinks maybe so….

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What follows was written entirely by Caroline Tilley, Senior Reporter of the Daily Gazette/Essex County Standard

Secret marriages, scandalous affairs and one of the best-kept secrets in English history….

WHEN you have helped to unearth arguably the greatest historical find of the 21st century, some people might decide to put their feet up.

Not Dr John Ashdown-Hill.

Not satisfied with finding the bones of Richard III, arguably England’s most notorious king underneath a Leicester car park, Dr Ashdown-Hill has now been riffling through the secrets of his elder brother Edward IV.

King of England for two periods in the 15th century, Edward Plantagenet’s life seems about as far removed from his brother, Richard’s, as conceivably possible.

A notorious womaniser with illegitimate children scattered across the country, scandal plagued his reign with secret marriages.

Yet all is not as it seems, as Dr Ashdown-Hill has explored in his new book.

The historian, who studied at the University of Essex and now lives in Manningtree, has unearthed evidence which appears to show Edward IV had a relationship with one of his military rivals.

He said: “In the summer of 1462 he met Henry, Duke of Somerset. Contemporary accounts tell us Edward loved him.”

If true, the claim would be one of the most explosive facts to come to light about a king renowned for his womanising.

There is certainly evidence, with a chronicle written at the time reporting how the two shared a bed.

Dr Ashdown-Hill said: “I don’t know why it’s been ignored.

“No-one has really picked it up. I think history is very surprising.”

Dr Ashdown-Hill made the headlines when, thanks partly to his painstaking work, the lost bones of Richard III were uncovered under a Leicester car park.

The notorious king has intrigued historians for centuries after allegedly killing off his nephews, the so-called princes in the tower and Edward IV’s sons, to take the throne.

His death at the hands of Henry VII, father to Henry VIII, marked the end of the famous Wars of the Roses.

It had been believed Richard’s bones had been thrown in a river by an angry mob a myth perpetuated by local legend, 50 years after his death at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

The lesson not to take evidence at face value is something Dr Ashdown-Hill is now applying to his work on Edward IV.

He said: “I had always been interested in Edward IV because of what he had to show about Richard III and his claim to the throne.

“A woman called Jane Shore was said to be his mistress for a long time. In fact, I have shown there is no evidence of this.

“It’s extraordinary. Even historian Rosemary Horrox said there was no contemporary evidence of it, yet she didn’t come to the obvious conclusion.”

Dr Ashdown-Hill added: “It was said Edward IV was a great womaniser and he had numerous bastards.

“In fact, Edward IV only recognised one illegitimate child, which he called the Lord Bastard.

“Henry VII then recognises another of his so-called children called Arthur Plantagenet. So it seems he might have had two or three illegitimate children.

“But so did Richard III and yet no one calls what he did outrageous. So why did they say this of his brother?”

Dr Ashdown-Hill believes the secret is tied up in an Act of Parliament which made Richard III king in 1483, after the death of his brother.

While the throne was meant to pass to the eldest prince in the tower, Richard claimed they were illegitimate and instead took the throne for himself.

But the two princes weren’t the only of Edward IV’s so-called legitimate children to be cut off. In fact, there were seven altogether.

Dr Ashdown-Hill believes it was this which has caused the confusion and led to historians believing Edward IV had so many illegitimate offspring.

Edward IV is not the only project Dr Ashdown-Hill is working on.

His work on Richard III led to the discovery of today’s Plantagenet female line through DNA.

He also uncovered somewhere along the line adultery had appeared, with at least one so-called father being displaced.

Dr Ashdown-Hill does not know whether this adultery happened in more modern or medieval times.

He is now trying to get his hands on the bones of Thomas of Lancaster, a relative of Richard III, whose bones were sold at auction in Colchester 1942.

It is not known where the bones are now but if he uncovers them, Dr Ashdown-Hill hopes to be able to pinpoint more accurately if the adultery happened before or after the birth of Richard III.

So after recovering the bones of Richard III and untangling the web of Edward IV, what’s next for Dr Ashdown-Hill?

As well as chasing possible living descendants who could give him DNA to pinpoint the elusive princes in the tower, he is next turning his attention to Richard III and Edward IV’s mother.

He said: “Cecily Neville seems to have spent a lot of her time being pregnant.

“I’m hoping a book might come from looking at her.”

See the article at http://tinyurl.com/z3m2clp

The Private life of Edward IV, by John Ashdown-Hill….

There are some very gooNed Fourd biographies of Edward IV, by the likes of Pollard, Ross, Kleinke and Santiuste but surely none have tracked his movements, sometimes month by month, like this book does. This is not a full biography and it does not claim to be, but focuses on Edward’s romantic life – his known partners including his legal wife, Lady Eleanor Talbot, Henry Duke of Somerset (!), Elizabeth Lambert and Elizabeth Woodville, as well as the more … elusive … ones.

Edward had other children, apart from those born to Elizabeth Woodville, and Ashdown-Hill tries to identify their mothers. Two of these children were Lady Lumley and Arthur Wayte.

Having devoted much of his nine previous books to explaining the context of the Three Estates offering the throne to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, the writer now goes further into the mystery of “Princes” through an excellent appendix by Glenn Moran, which takes their female line forward to a lady who died earlier this year. It also encompasses the complication of someone who definitely ended his life in the Tower about sixty years later and whose mtDNA would almost certainly be identical.

Together with this discovery, we know somewhere else that Edward V and his remaining brother cannot be found. It seems that we only have to wait for the urn to be accessible to determine its contents, one way or the other.

Jane Shore before and after Richard….

“These girls who were boarded out were not acquiring an academic, or even a domestic education, but learning to attend upon a mistress, to embroider, play the lute or virginals, sing and dance. A few might receive their education at a nunnery: Jane Shore, for instance, was a product, if not an advertisement, for the de la Pré nunnery near Leicester.”

The above quote comes from a photocopied ‘talk with slides’ that I have kept in my 1970s research. I do not know, now, who gave the talk, except that I have a recollection of it being a woman. It concerned women in the 15th centuries.

Now, I have heard many things of Jane Shore, and know she is believed to have received a good education, but not that she was the product of de la Pré nunnery, which is actually in Northamptonshire, not Leicestershire. The Battle of Northampton, 1460, was fought in the nunnery’s grounds, so it is tempting (to me) to wonder if it was around this time that Edward IV (then Earl of March) first saw Jane? Probably not (that’s the fiction writer in me!) but it seems likely they were both in the same corner of England at the same time.

The mention of de la Pré astonished me, because I thought Jane worked in her father’s shop and thus caught the eye of noble suitors, including William, Lord Hastings. So, did her father send her to the nunnery, to learn how to serve a mistress? Was that what is meant by her having a good education?

She has been known to us by various names, but I have stuck to Jane Shore, and the picture below is of her tomb in Hinxworth Church, Hertfordshire. It is taken from the excellent https://www.flickr.com/photos/52219527@N00/4924193708 by jmc4 – Church Explorer, and if you visit the site, you will find more information about her, and more great photographs.

Jane was eighty-two when she died, so the famous penance Richard III imposed upon her didn’t dent her for long! Nor do I think she died in poverty – her tomb certainly does not indicate such a thing. Her second and last husband, Thomas Lynom, had been the King’s (Richard’s) Solicitor General, and after Bosworth hung on under Henry VII “as a mid-level bureaucrat in the new reign, becoming a gentleman who sat on the commissions in the Welsh Marches and clerk controller to Arthur, Prince of Wales at Ludlow”. So he was not a poor man!

Jane Shore, Hinxworth Church

The consequences of the Human Shredder

We already know that William, Lord Hastings, was one of several people arrested on the morning of 13 June for a conspiracy against the Duke of Gloucester, who was both Constable and Lord Protector. We know that Bishop Morton was among the others but that Hastings alone was executed, that the Constable had the right to order a summary trial and that Hastings was not attainted. We also know that Morton’s nephew, Robert, as Master of the Rolls, is a leading candidate to have been the “Human Shredder” who destroyed several documents, probably including Hastings’ trial records. These records would also have exposed John Morton’s complicity.

Consequently, lazy historians and others have relied upon More’s “History”, which assumes that the destruction of the trial records suggests that there wasn’t a trial. Now More either adapted an earlier work by Cardinal Morton, as the Bishop had become, or he didn’t. If he did then his source was a defendant at the trial, seeking to expunge his guilt. If he didn’t then his “History” was composed of his own memories as a five year-old who was surely not at the meeting. Either way, it is unworthy of serious consideration in this context.

The way records were kept is also of interest. Richard’s Titulus Regius, which we absolutely know to have been destroyed in 1486, was kept on a “membrane”. Similarly, the Hastings-Stanley-Morton-Rotherham-Lambert-King trial records would have shared a membrane with other judicial matters. We no longer have a record of the 1486 treason trials of five men in York, of Sir Thomas Metcalfe and Roger Layton in 1487 or of the thousands of Bodmin rebels in 1497, although they were taken in overt treason. Does this prove that the York quintet, Metcalfe and Layton were not tried or does it suggest that Robert Morton/ Vergil destroyed the membrane with their trial records on?

Do we now wait for the Cairo dwellers to accuse Henry VII of at least seven executions without trial or attainder within a year and a half? Consistency has never been their strong point so it might be a long wait.

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