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Francis, Viscount Lovell …

…, who became Lord Chamberlain today in 1483 and carried the third sword of state at Richard’s coronation three weeks later has been featured in his own blogCoat_of_Arms_of_Sir_Francis_Lovell,_1st_Viscount_Lovell,_KG since February 2017, thanks to Michelle (and apologies for the missing accent). She also makes a great effort to determine his fate.

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King Arthur, King Richard and the Wars of the Roses….

 

Arthur and Richard

The following is just a little diversion; the result of that strange half–world we go into when we’re dropping off to sleep. There I was, not counting sheep, but matching Arthurian characters with figures from the Wars of the Roses. Now, I am not an expert on Arthur, or indeed on Richard, just an amateur who likes both.

The list isn’t complete, of course, and I have picked out facts to suit my pairings, but it proved an interesting exercise. No doubt many will disagree with my choices (and my interpretation) but that’s fine, I’d love to see other suggestions – polite ones, that is! And if anyone notices glaring omissions, please, please fill in the gaps. The greatest omission, of course, is Merlin. I just couldn’t think of anyone to fit that particular bill.

One thing – it was difficult to always distinguish between Gorlois and Uther, so I apologise for the odd hop between the two.

Here goes:– 

Arthur – a great king betrayed and killed in battle – son of Ygraine and Uther Pendragon:

Richard III – a great king betrayed and killed in battle son of Cecily, Duchess of York and Richard, Duke of York.

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Agravain – joined Mordred:

Thomas, Lord Stanley – joined Henry “Tudor”

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Bedivere – survives Camlann and throws Excalibur back to Lady of the Lake, dedicated to Arthur:

Francis Lovell – survives Bosworth and fights on for House of York, dedicated to Richard.

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Bors the Elder –Arthur’s ally:

John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, Arthur’s ally.

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Camelot:

Middleham and England under Richard.

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Claudas – Frankish king hostile to Arthur:

Charles VIII, King of France, Richard’s foe.

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Constantine II of Britain – Arthur’s grandfather:

Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge, Richard III’s grandfather.

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Dagonet, Arthur’s court jester:

Martin or John, Richard’s court jesters.

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Elaine of Benoic, mother of Lancelot, sees him again after many years apart:

Margaret Beaufort – mother of Henry Tudor, sees him again after many years apart.

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Galahad, Lancelot’s illegitimate son:

Roland de Vielleville – Henry Tudor’s rumoured illegitimate son – although, from all accounts, definitely lacking Galahad’s gallantry and purity.

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Garlon a wicked, invisible knight who kills other knights:

John Morton, who works ‘invisibly’ behind the scenes to bring about Richard’s death. Nasty as they come!

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Gawain, Arthur’s brave nephew:

John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, Richard’s brave nephew

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Gawain’s brothers killed by Lancelot:

Lincoln’s brothers – persecuted and executed by Henry Tudor.

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Gorlois of Cornwall, cuckolded by Uther Pendragon:

Richard, Duke of York, who was allegedly cuckolded by the archer Blaybourne, resulting in birth of Edward IV.

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Guinevere – accused of destroying Camelot because of her affair with Lancelot:

Elizabeth of York – ended the hopes of the House of York by marrying Henry Tudor.

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Hector – raised Arthur in his household:

Warwick the Kingmaker – in whose household Richard was trained as a boy.

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Hector de Maris, younger half–brother of Lancelot:

John Welles, Viscount Welles, younger half–brother of Margaret Beaufort and half-nephew of Henry Tudor.

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Holy Grail:

Crown of England

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Iseult of Ireland, wife of Mark of Cornwall and adulterous lover of Sir Tristan:

Margaret of Anjou, queen of Henry VI, but probable lover of Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset, who might have been the father of Edward of Lancaster.

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Kay – Arthur’s foster brother:

Robert Percy – close childhood friend of Richard III.

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Lady of the Lake/Nimue – provided weapon – Excalibur/Caliburn – for Arthur:

Margaret of Burgundy – provided weapons and finance for the House of York

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Lynette – sister of Lyonesse:            

Isabel Neville, wife of George of Clarence

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Lyonesse – Entrapped sister of Lynette; rescued by Gareth, whom she eventually marries:

Anne Neville, held by brother–in–law, George of Clarence but then rescued and married by Richard III.

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Lancelot – unfaithful to Arthur with Guinevere and as a consequence brought down Camelot:

Henry “Tudor” – thinks Richard is his rival for Elizabeth of York, and is responsible for destroying Richard and the House of York at Bosworth – through treachery on the field.

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Llamrei, a mare owned by Arthur:

White Surrey, said to be the name of Richard’s horse.

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Loholt – Arthur’s illegitimate son:

John of Gloucester, Richard’s illegitimate son.

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Madoc, Uther’s son–

Edward IV – Richard, Duke of York’s son or Blaybourne’s son, but still acknowledged as York’s. (I can’t find another son of Uther Pendragon, and so conflate George of Clarence with Edward IV. Sorry.)

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Merlin – (Can’t think of anyone of WOTR suited to this important role!)

(Sara Nur has now suggested Stillington for Merlin, which I think is a good idea.)

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Mordred – who changed sides and killed Arthur at Camlann:

Sir William Stanley, who changed sides and was responsible for Richard’s death at Bosworth.

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Morgan le Fay – Arthur’s implacable foe but is finally reconciled with him and is one of the queens who take him to Avalon:

Elizabeth Woodville – at first she is Richard’s implacable foe, but is then reconciled.

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Nantres – a king married to Arthur’s sister and hostile to him:

Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham – Richard’s cousin and enemy.

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Pinel – a knight who tries to poison Gawain to avenge Lamerok’s murder:

William, Lord Hastings – who almost certainly plotted to overthrow Richard to avenge (as he saw it) the children of Edward IV. Was beheaded for his treachery.

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Red and white dragons – Merlin predicts that the white dragon will win:

Houses of York and Lancaster – York wins when Edward IV topples Henry VI.

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The Green Knight, enchanted by Morgan le Fay:

Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, influenced by his sister, Elizabeth Woodville.

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Tristan, lover of Iseult of Ireland:

Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset, probable lover of Margaret of Anjou.

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Uther Pendragon – in the legends, Uther is transformed into the image of Gorlois in order to bed Ygraine:

Blaybourne – an archer – supposedly cuckolded the Duke of York and sired Edward IV – only a rumour.

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Vortigern – king who eventually lost his throne to the ‘white dragon’:

Henry VI – his incompetence and inability led to the return to England of Edward IV.

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Vortigern’s son, killed by Saxon invaders:

Edward of Lancaster, killed by the House of York at Tewkesbury.

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Ygraine, Arthur’s mother through Uther Pendragon:

Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, mother of Richard by the Duke of York.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KING’S GAMES: A MEMOIR OF RICHARD III

A Verse Play in Two Acts with Commentaries

By Nance Crawford

The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king”

(Hamlet)

To be honest, I am not much taken with modern Ricardian fiction. I think that in the last five centuries too much fiction and too little fact has  been written about king Richard III. It was, therefore, with some trepidation that I volunteered to review Nance Crawford’s book ‘King’s Games; a memoir of Richard III’. It is (to misquote a modern footballing cliché) a game of two parts. The first part is a play about king Richard written in verse; the second, comprises the authors commentaries on late medieval England and her account of how the play was conceived, written and ultimately produced for the stage.

 

I have always thought that plays are better performed than read and since I have not seen Kings Games performed I am at a disadvantage in forming a valid opinion of its merit. The absence of actors and a director to ‘suite the words to the action and the action to the words’ (Hamlet again!) is not just inconvenient; it is a substantial hindrance to a full appreciation of the author’s art as I have only my own imperfect imagination and understanding to rely on. Nonetheless, whilst I cannot vouchsafe an opinion about how well this play transfers from the page to the stage, I can say with some conviction that I enjoyed reading it.

 

King’s Games is a mixture of fact and fiction. The author has tried to ensure the historical accuracy; however, inevitably, she has had to fill the gaps in our knowledge with her imagination. Though only eight of the twenty-one scenes are based on verified historical facts all the scenes conform to the general Ricardian narrative of Richard’s life and times, partly taken from Paul Kendall’s 1955 biography. Naturally the dialogue is imaginary. Considering how influential Shakespeare’s melodrama has been in embedding the black legend of Richard in the public psyche it is not surprising that a modern Ricardian playwright would wish to portray him in a different light; though mercifully, not the pure white legend that some would have us believe but in shades of grey. This Richard is a decent man, but fallible.

 

Apart from the use of verse, this play bears no relationship to Shakespeare’s work; the characters are less melodramatic the action is more restrained. Neither does the author try to compete with Shakespearean verse. Her own distinctive mixture of colloquial Anglo-American English and Standard English is refreshingly modern and contributed greatly to my own appreciation of her efforts. The character of Cecily Neville provides two example of this; in the first, Cecily is comforting her dying son Edward:

 

“ Well tears are for Heaven, not this place,

No, not for partings short as this, I think,

And Heaven’s waiting for you, that we know —

Your Pa and Edmund, even Georgie,

With Isobel and both their unborn babes —

The Lord be willing to forgive our debts”

 

In the second example, Cecily is angry with Richard:

 

Cecily. But it’s not cruel to scar my name?

To slander at the Cross the womb that bore

And nurtured you, to live to this sad pass? (Turning to Richard)

Yes, slandered sir! Held up to ridicule!

With such a loathsome story as would make

A harlot blush!

Anne. He’d never do you harm!

Cecily. The serpents tooth has struck the very breast

That sheltered him, the womb that gave him life,

And God alone knows what price he’ll pay”

Anne. Please, no, you can’t blame Dickon.

Cecily.                                                      Can I not?”          

 

The first act opens in June 1487. Francis 1st viscount Lovell is a fugitive from the battle of Stoke where Henry Tudor crushed England’s the last hope for a Plantagenet king. Hot from the battle he takes refuge in his family seat at Minster Lovell. There, exhausted and encrusted with the mud and blood of battle he sits alone in a secret room to ponder his desperate future and the destruction of the House of York. It is through Lovell’s lonely and sometimes anguished reminiscences that — in the form of flashbacks — we witness Richard’s pathetic descent from the most powerful subject in the kingdom, to a lonely guilt-ridden king.

 

The brutal truth is that this Richard is not cut out to be a successful medieval king. He is brave, loyal and efficient but he lacks the judgment, arrogance, guile and ruthlessness necessary to survive for long in the vicious realpolitik of late medieval England. He is naïve even gullible in the trust he places in untrustworthy men. He is not selfish enough to do what he wants to do rather than what his advisors say he should do. Ultimately, he is too given to introspection.  On hearing  of Buckingham’s rebellion he confides to his friend Francis Lovell:

 

“ I contemplate my brother Edward’s flaws

And see myself a darker image there

In my soul’s mirror, for, except for you,

My friend, I’m proved a rotten jurist when

It comes to judging men. I have now learned.”

 

It is doubtful that he ever wanted to be a king.

 

“ Crowns, to me, were bitter, paper things

Cut out to top my brother Edmund’s brow,

To match that of my father’s sad display,

When both their heads had crowned the gates at York.

Ned could not know my cares, he was now king,

More tall and gold than any plated spire.

I asked him why he wanted to be king .

He said ‘it is the pleasure of a king

To find his pleasure at his own plaisir’

His instincts made him royal — but never mine”

 

Richard is also inhibited from freedom of action by his personal and unforgiving creed of loyalty. He could not  seize a  crown merely to take his pleasure at his pleasure. For him kingship is a solemn duty, a burden to be borne. He is unable to reconcile the conflict between his loyalty to those he loved and his broader regal responsibility to rule justly in the common interest. Inevitably,since he is a man of conscience, he is consumed with guilt about his inability to protect his wife, his son, his mother and his brothers’ children.

 

On the night before Bosworth, Anne visits him in a dream. Although she cannot offer him redemption for all his sins, her ghostly presence enables him.  to unburden his guilt and his grief for their lost son who died “all alone while his parents played at Crowns” and his lost love Anne, whom he abandoned in her hour of greatest need as she lay dying.  Anne’s love for Richard is unconditional and her forgiveness fortifies him; he is able to face his fate, whatever that may be.

 

In the morning his courage and resolve are unimpaired. He knows he cannot trust Stanley or Northumberland but he is confident of dispatching Henry Tudor if he can just get to within a sword’s length of him. He is also aware that whatever happens England has changed forever and if he survives he must change also. As he puts on his helm encircled with the English Crown he whispers silently to Anne’s spirit “Well Anna they will all know the king.” Indeed they will. Everybody knows how the last Plantagenet king met his end.

 

The second part of King’s Games is altogether different in kind and in form. Richard is no longer centre stage; the author and the play now occupy that space. The summary of the Wars of the Roses is neither scholarly nor measured. It is tolerably accurate without providing any new historical material or insight into those times: yet I found it gripping. What made it so, is the author’s colourful, informal writing style and her feisty opinions. Her history is frank and informative, her style is anything but pompous and she avoids the use of pseudo intellectual ‘babble’ (“Playwrights have no use for numbered footnotes”). Together, these qualities create a warm relationship between the author and the reader that is almost personal; it’s as though we are discussing history together, over coffee. It is the very antithesis of so many dry, intellectual and academic histories that I have read.

 

I also thought the author’s story of her play from its conception to the first night’s performance was enthralling. The gestation was a long one since originally she had intended to write a stage version of Josephine Tey’s ‘The Daughter of Time’. That proved to be impossible as the rights were not readily available and anyhow, she concluded, a play built around a policeman confined to his hospital bed lacked dramatic impact. It was the fortuitous discovery of a mystery surrounding the eventual fate of Francis Lovell that provided the mechanism to bring King’s games to the stage; he could become ‘Alan Grant’ for the purpose of guiding us through the action.

 

Ultimately King’s Games is a lively and entertaining example of Ricardian literature and a breath of fresh air.

A Slightly Different Ricardian Novel

I, RICHARD PLANTAGENET :TANTE LE DESIREE:

Richard III fiction is ‘big business’ these days, after some years of stagnation in the 1990’s and first decade of this century. Many of the new novels, in order to keep their subject matter fresh, have added fantasy elements or alternative history, or have been written from the viewpoints of invented or minor characters.
The newest Ricardian novel to appear is ‘I, Richard Plantagenet’: Tante le Desiree by J.P. Reedman. This novel, part 1 of two ( the second, due out in March deals with Richard’s accession to the throne and all that comes with it) covers Richard’s years as Duke of Gloucester, from the Battle of Barnet in 1471 through to the end of the Scottish Campaigns in 1482. Several things make this offering slightly different from the more standard novels on Richard’s life.
One is that the story is told in first person—from Richard’s point of view. Very few authors have attempted to use this first person voice—Rhoda Edwards wrote a chapter or two from Richard’s POV in her excellent novel The Broken Sword, and one other alternative novel uses it as well. However, I, Richard Plantagenet is the first novel to use Richard himself as first person narrator in a complete, detailed account of his entire adult life.
A second difference is that the book uses humour. Now, it is not in any way, shape or form a comedy book, and the battles don’t pull any punches, but the medieval world was more ribald and bawdy than many believe—just look at Geoffrey Chaucer’s works! (Interestingly, Geoffrey is related to Richard by marriage.) Many of the Ricardian novels out there are so sad and mournful (and yes, of course it is a tragic tale and many of these are wonderful books that truly stir the emotions)…but didn’t the poor guy have any fun at any time in his short life? Richard had several illegitimate children, so he must have experienced young love or lust (presumably pleasurable for him!) and no doubt, he had amusing or even raucous times with the other young men who were his friends, such as Francis Lovell and Robert Percy. And doubtless he spent what were surely enjoyable times with his wife at Middleham and Barnard castles, as well as Christmas at the Lendal in York, and attending the York Corpus Christ celebrations (he and Anne were members of the Guild) where elaborate religious plays took place in huge carts that rolled about the city. These events have been fictionalised in I, Richard Plantagenet to show that there was more to his existence than high drama and war; a lighter view of Richard’s life, you might say. (And who could resist poking a bit of fun at Anthony Woodville’s poetry?)
The dialogue used also is of a more modern style than is usual in Ricardian novels, and even (gasp!) contains occasional usage of a well-known swear word…which may seem very modern to those used to reading ‘medieval speak’ in novels but was actually in use and gaining vogue in the 15th century… This hopefully gives a slightly more natural and less formal feel; although they were nobles, these were also young men who were soldiers. Soldiers swear. They just do.
Most important perhaps, is the fact that events in Richard’s life that are lesser known or often glossed over in fiction have been included and brought to some prominence. Richard and the Bastard of Fauconberg, a little known trip to Norwich in 1471, the reburial of the Duke of York, Richard’s visit with Louis the Universal Spider at Amiens, his attendance at Prince Richard’s wedding to Anne Mowbray (along with Buckingham), and the Scottish wars all are covered, several of these in depth. Memories of the death and then the subsequent exhumation and reburial of the Duke of York are a recurring theme throughout…and foreshadow the future events in the next book (and the momentous finding of Richard within our own century.)RICHARDCOVER1net

 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Richard-Plantagenet-Book-Tante-Desiree-ebook/dp/B0187RJR7E

 

Debunking the Myths – Richard III’s Execution of a Political Lampoonist

Richard III’s Execution of Collingbourne. A new take.

RICARDIAN LOONS

Ripon Cathedral misericord “And in another isle toward the south dwell folk of foul stature and of cursed kind that have no heads. And their eyes be in their shoulders.” – Sir John Mandeville (14th c.)

It’s funny how myths and legends become a part of history. This column – Debunking the Myths – is devoted to exploring the many false rumors, tales, and impressions that have embedded themselves into our modern perception of Richard III and his times.  Join us, as we hunt down the Loch Ness monsters, Sasquatches, and Blemyae that have roamed the Ricardian historical landscape for centuries.  No need to bring a weapon.  Just bring an open mind!

Today’s blog is about the infamous lampoon posted on the doors of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral in July 1484, during the second year of Richard III’s reign.  Even the casual reader of Ricardian history can recite it from memory:

“The Cat…

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Signs of the Times (4)

1.William Hastings

First of all you can see that this is quite a flowing signature with a lot of nice curves, not many ‘angry’ sharp top angles to the letters. This shows he was generally an affable, non-violent person, at least while he was writing this. His middle zone seems the most dominant – as many of these signatures have been – showing his concern with material things, prestige, self-importance and living in the moment.

Hastings sigLooking at the lower zone, he has quite an elaborate curl on the ‘g’, with the curl turning back to the left, in contrast to the ‘y’ which curls to the right. This suggests he might have ‘swung both ways’ when it came to sexual partners, which is possible considering his reputation for debauchery at the time. Note the phallic symbol in the ‘h’, indicating inability to keep within the sexual norms of his society.

In general the signature is legible with a slant to the right, indicating sociability.

His upper zone is pretty small, showing he wasn’t concerned with intellectual matters , nor was he a dreamer.

The end downward stroke, which doesn’t seem to represent any particular letter, suggests a dagger to me, perhaps the cause of his downfall.

  1. Anne Neville

I was quite surprised that Anne’s signature is not particularly legible (although not as illegible as Margaret Beaufort’s for instance), but perhaps it’s not surprising that she might feel the need to hide herself away, after some of the experiences she had (married young, widowed, hidden away by George, etc). She would not have revealed her true feelings easily. It seems to me her first name is easier to read than the surname (which I think is Warwick rather than Neville, though I could be wrong) and I take this to mean that she reveals more to those who know her better and more familiarly, as many people do.

She has a normal lower zone, showing a balanced and healthy sex life.

Anne and Richard sigHowever can you see the similarities between hers and Richard’s signature, that suggest to me they were compatible and on the same wavelength?. They both have balanced zones – pretty equal in size – showing well-balanced personalities.

They also both have upright letters, which show a need for control and particularly self-control. They are of similar size, his slightly larger, which would not be surprising considering that men were dominant in those times. It shows that he considered her to be more or less his equal and reveals his respect for her. Compare the signatures of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York where his dwarfs hers. Who do you think was the dominant personality here?

Henry and Eliz sigs3. Anthony Woodville

Well, this is a mess! As most of it is in upper case letters, it is hard to judge the zones so well, but can you see he has extended the vertical stroke of the ‘l’s so they are higher than the rest. He was meant to be an intellectual and well-read man, but his writing suggests to me that he wanted to be perceived as such more than actually being so, because the ‘l’s should not be taller and are therefore forced. But I could be judging him a bit harshly. His signature is not as clear as Richard’s or Clarence’s or Hastings’, but is decipherable more than Margaret Beaufort’s. There are no lower zone letters, but the upper and middle zones are more or less equal in his signature, so I think he was more intelligent than his sister, Elizabeth.

Rivers sig Rivers sig 2

There are no communication letters here but the ‘v’ and ‘s’ on the end are closed (when they needn’t be) suggesting a secretive nature.

The first example, with motto, looks very controlled to me and as I believe it was written when he was awaiting execution, it is understandable that he would be desperately trying to hold onto his emotions. The upper case letters support this conclusion.

The right hand signature is all over the place as regards slant, showing an unpredictable and mercurial personality.

He underlines the left hand one in a flamboyant way which suggests he wants attention – perhaps he doesn’t like to think of himself being forgotten after his death. The ‘x’s in the underline show his preoccupation with his demise.

  1. Thomas Grey

This is the signature of the son of Elizabeth. The zones are quite well balanced and the letters are upright, showing strong control over his emotions. The communication letter ‘o’ is open at the top, suggesting he was a big talker and couldn’t keep a confidence.

Thoams Grey sig

The letter ‘s’ (or ‘f’ as it appears) spans all three zones, but the upper zone is broken – perhaps he had a headache or an injury, but the signature as a whole is messy, suggesting he was also untidy. The ‘t’s are crossed very firmly and the cross stroke extends far to the right, showing ambition.

5. Edward V

This is the signature of Edward which appears alongside those of Richard and Buckingham. It is spidery and childlike, although legible. There is no curl in his lower zone which is perfectly to be expected as he was only 12 at the time.

The writing looks a bit shaky, suggesting he was nervous (understandable given the circumstances) or possibly unwell. The downward-pointing  cross stroke of the ‘t’ in quintus could show a control freak, but I think it also suggests a depressed or pessimistic nature, but that could be because his father had just died.

Ed V sigIt is interesting that the tops of the letters are more rounded than the lower edges. I don’t know what this means for sure but my intuition suggests he would have appeared softer and more easygoing on the surface than he was underneath – a hidden ruthless side. This is reinforced by the open bottomed ‘a’, which shows he could verbally argue his case – eat you up and spit you out – and wasn’t above using deception to achieve this. And see the dot of the ‘i’ which is more of a dash or a slashing stroke. This shows frustration and irritability.

  1. Henry VI

Henry VI was a weak king, as we know. We can see in his signature that there is a softness to his nature and that the very large upper zone shows he was intelligent but can also mean a dreamer or someone who has his head in the clouds. He had his head in heaven!

Henry VI sigThe upper and lower zones are roughly equal, showing he had a normal attitude to sex, perhaps surprisingly. However, his middle zone is the smallest which indicates he wasn’t concerned with everyday life, material possessions or his appearance.

It is upright, showing that he had strong control over his emotions and he was not at all deceptive.

Unfortunately it is the only sample I could find, and there isn’t really much else to glean from it.

  1. John Howard, Duke of Norfolk

‘Jocky’ of Norfolk, well, it looks first of all as if it is sloping slightly upwards, suggesting optimism and an upbeat nature. The slant varies, showing a changeable character.

The middle zone is most prominent, indicating the need for outward trappings of success, material possessions, as in many of the other hands I have looked at.

Norfolk sigLook at the wide open ‘o’s, especially the first! I wouldn’t trust him with a secret, I would think he could be indiscreet and a big talker.

There are a combination of rounded and sharp strokes showing he could be kind and thoughtful, but also hard and stern when needed.

I wouldn’t think he was particularly intellectual, nor was he very sensual, but that could have been his age – I don’t know how old he was when this was written.

There are a few resentment strokes on the beginning of the ‘n’ and ‘r’, which might refer to his resentment at having to wait for his rightful title of the Dukedom of Norfolk under Edward. Obviously he has it here as that’s the name he signs. His signature is neither very obscure nor very clear, suggesting he could dissemble if required.

I get the impression of a person who was quite modest in himself, shown by the small initial ‘j’ and ‘n’ of Norfolk.

  1. John de Vere, Earl of Oxford

Here is a signature from the Earl of Oxford, the nemesis of the Yorks, out to get revenge for the death of his father.

It is absolutely clear and easy to read, and seems to have been done with control and care. And look at the sweet little flower – but what is that loopy thing below it? Could it be a phallic symbol? This shows the willingness or need to break social taboos. Possibly gay? It would have been a big taboo in those days.

The zones are even, showing a well-balanced personality, which is quite surprising considering his reputation. However it could be seen as too perfect, which can show deception – a person disguising their natural way of writing and wanting to appear perfect.

Oxford sig

It is quite rounded and flowing and quite upright. This means he was sociable and unwarlike for the times – I think he was pushed into the whole war thing and he would have preferred a peaceful life. But the heavy line of the ‘f’ look like a dagger, so he could have been violent when needed. The lines through the ‘O’ , obliterating the clarity of the ‘O’ could show a forked-tongued liar – notice the extra little line in the second ‘o’ too.

9.Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey

Well this is a flamboyant signature! This is Jocky Howard’s son, Surrey.

Surrey sigIt is large and suggests the writer wants to be noticed, likes attention. The middle zone is huge, showing a preoccupation with himself and his immediate needs, outward show and possessions. The signature as a whole is huge, compared to the writing above. In fact when you look at the writing, the upper zone is more emphasised, showing he was quite intelligent, but didn’t show it to everyone, perhaps wanting to fit in with the court life where show and prestige was everything. I think this shows the writer felt inferior and is putting on a show of confidence – the whole thing screams over-compensation.

There are resentment strokes and angularity suggesting frustration and a temper.

Look at the lower zone – either this is another sign that the Earl of Surrey is overcompensating or he is gay – the tail of the ‘y’ goes way over to the left, suggesting the latter, as does the little flower sign.

Not sure what those unnecessary two dots are between the ‘T’ and ‘h’ but it could be another cry for attention.

  1. James Tyrell

I really like this signature. Tyrell was one of Richard’s men who was rewarded by him for unknown services and who was tortured and executed by Henry VII. Here the signature suggests a very optimistic and positive person – very sociable. See how the writing slants to the right and slopes up? Also there is not much space between the two names, suggesting he liked to be in the company of others.

.Tyrell sig

The signature is well balanced and has equal sized zones. It is also fairly clear and easy to read, showing a lack of dissimulation. However, the ‘a’ shows he could keep a secret when needed and the line through the two ‘l’s at the end look like eyes to me. Was he one of Richard’s spies?

Now, I have been thinking about the proliferation of phallic symbols in many of these signatures and the conclusion I have come to is that they were probably not overly perverted or sex mad (with a few notable exceptions!), but that they may have felt guilty about their sexual feelings because of the strict doctrines of the church in regard to these matters. So crossing the boundaries of the sexual norm of the times, might only have been ogling women, visiting prostitutes or an affair or two. I’ll leave that to you to decide.

  1. Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick

Finally, let us look at Richard Neville’s signature. The first thing I notice is that it is hard to read and slopes uphill more than any of the others. I think he was the eternal optimist and supremely confident in himself that things would work out for him.

Warwick sigIt is a firm and confident signature and this mirrors the man himself. He was certainly capable of deception as he pretended to be supporting Edward and was actually plotting against him – we can tell this because his writing is also deceptive with it being difficult to decipher. And his closed ‘a’ shows he can keep his mouth closed.

The varied slant of the letters shows another volatile, changeable character and the hard down strokes reveal he had a bad temper at times.

See the definite resentment stroke on the ‘R’ – he was certainly experiencing resentment here.

There is the ubiquitous phallic symbol, and we know he did have an illegitimate daughter. However do you see the break in the loop of the ‘y’ and also in the loop in the little logo thingy at the end? This shows there was a trauma of some kind, either physical or emotional regarding his sexual organs, sex life or lower body. We do not know if this was the case, but we do know that Warwick had no sons, so he may have felt subconsciously that he was inadequate in some way because of this. Both sexes can have this – for example a woman can show this sign if she has had a hysterectomy or has lost a lover. (In fact Henry VII has breaks in his lower loops as well).

I think, like Edward, he was also a ‘boob’ man – the rounded part of the underline and the shape of the letters above it suggest that.

What about the little end doodle? Well, it might be a device or coat f arms badge, or perhaps it is the crown that wasn’t his but that he bestowed on two kings, as Kingmaker. 😉

  1. Francis Lovell

Richard’s best friend – I found this after I had posted the draft so I had to include him!

Well, the zones are of equal height, which shows he was a well-balanced guy emotionally. He has a legible, clear signature – no deception there, and his communication letters, ‘a’ and ‘o’ are also clear, well-formed and closed normally, meaning he was a good communicator and could be trusted to keep a confidence.

Lovell sigYou can see there is a mixture of angular letters and rounded ones, showing he could have a tough side as well as a softer one. There are some heavy downward strokes on the first letters ‘ff’ which shows he could have a temper at times.

The slant is just slightly to the right, which indicates he was fairly sociable, and likewise the two names are close together, suggesting he enjoyed the company of others.

I’m not sure what the final letter/squiggle is nor the extra thing in the middle joining the ‘s’. These extra unnecessary bits might mean he was a bit obsessive compulsive. I would think that both he and Richard were tidy and neat, so this might have spilled over into OCD.

These analyses are, as I said before, just for fun and of course I am a little biased, I have to confess. Also, most of my subjects here are confined to just one signature, which is limiting and cannot be relied upon to be as accurate as if there were more samples.

However, on the whole, do you notice how much more well-balanced, rounded and ‘normal’ Richard’s and his friends’ signatures were, in comparison to most of the others?

Edward IV, The Woodvilles, and Lord Hastings

Charles Ross in his invaluable book Edward IV explains the utility of the Woodville family to Edward IV. The fact that they were (relatively) low-born and owned (relatively) little land was actually their selling point. Essentially (unlike for example Warwick, or even the Duke of Gloucester) their power and influence could not be exercised independently of Edward. They needed him rather more than he needed them. It is perhaps not inappropriate to think of them as members of staff in a modern company. They could be given tasks to do, but the Chief Executive (Edward) could determine and limit those tasks as he pleased, and he could also, in effect, dismiss them at will. It was much more difficult to ‘dismiss’ the likes of Warwick, who, to continue the analogy, could set up in business on his own account or become a valuable acquisition to a competitor.

Of late there has been an attempt to whitewash the Woodvilles in some quarters, but Ross (who was no raving Ricardian) has this to say: ‘More important in creating their unsavoury reputation was their own behaviour. As a family, the Woodvilles were not conspicuous for their charm and amiability. Like his daughter, Earl Rivers seems to have been greedy and grasping and the duchess of Bedford was not much better. They could also be vengeful and overbearing.’ (Edward IV, p97.)

In fairness, Ross goes on to say that Anthony was a more attractive figure. But then he says: ‘…the main source of the Woodville unpopularity was the contemporary belief that they exercised an excessive and malign influence upon the king.’ (Edward IV, p99.)

Now, just as it is mistaken to believe that Edward IV was entirely dominated by Richard of Gloucester, I believe it is equally mistaken to believe Edward was ruled entirely by the Woodvilles. Edward IV was his own man, and that is why the – dare I say evils? – of his reign must be blamed squarely on him, and not on either Richard or the Woodvilles. However, at the time, I believe it was easy for critics of Edward’s regime to blame the Woodvilles for the policies they disliked. In Warwick’s case, he was simply following the well-trodden path of blaming ‘the King’s advisers’ for the King’s policies. Rebels almost invariably did this, whether we are talking about the Lords Appellant in 1387 or the Parliament in 1641. It was simply the norm, as it implied that the King personally was not to blame but was the prisoner of a clique.

In Richard of Gloucester’s case, I suspect it was mentally more comfortable for him to blame the Woodvilles than to blame his once-adored elder brother. Though I suspect his adoration of Edward had dimmed a little by 1483, for a number of reasons.

On the other hand, the Woodvilles clearly had some influence. They were not around the court for the benefit of their health. It’s simply that they did not have quite the influence either they or their opponents imagined, and this was cruelly exposed by the death of their patron.

It may be that the Woodvilles simply had a different ‘vision’ of a Protectorate, that they envisaged something like the minority of Henry VI, when Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, although named Protector, had limited powers and functioned more or less as primus inter pares at the head of the Council, with no control of the person of the King. That is the most generous interpretation that can be put on their actions. A less generous interpretation is that they meant to destroy Gloucester (and possibly Buckingham and Hastings too) and rule themselves, perhaps with Rivers, or even Queen Elizabeth, at the head of the table. It’s impossible to be sure.

Richard of Gloucester quite clearly envisaged the role of Protector as akin to the power exercised by his own father during Henry VI’s periods of insanity – that is, that he would rule virtually as a king. If we assume that – and there really is little evidence that he was planning to take the crown himself – his reaction to the Woodvilles’ intrigues is fairly understandable.

As for Hastings, it is quite clear that he too felt threatened by the Woodvilles, and so we can safely say that the issue was not entirely in Richard’s head. His threat to debunk to Calais if Edward V’s escort was not limited to 2,000 says it all. (One wonders why an escort even as large as 2,000 was felt necessary unless the Woodvilles’ envisaged some sort of clash of arms.)

Hastings was (though you might be forgiven for thinking otherwise) as much a ‘new man’ as any of the Woodvilles. His father had been a knight, and the family had been in York family service for several generations. He was vaguely related to the Hastings earls of Pembroke (whose line died out in 1389) but so were lots of other people. Like the Woodvilles he had (relatively) little land. What he did have were remarkable political skills, a great deal of popularity, and the personal friendship with Edward IV. A lot of his power, though, depended on the offices he held. Lord Chamberlain, Lieutenant of Calais and Master of the Mint. (He was also employed as ‘steward’ by various lords and ladies, but only because of his influence, one imagines.)

Hastings was no friend of the Woodvilles, and indeed had apparently had something of a feud with them. He was reportedly delighted by their fall. So what went wrong? In my view, he very quickly realised that he was not going to be Richard’s right hand man. Buckingham, Howard and probably Lovel were in the queue ahead of him. Lacking the political influence he had enjoyed under Edward IV, he would be – well, perhaps not ruined but certainly diminished.

He may also have favoured the 1422 model of a Protectorate. Either he did not want Gloucester to have too much power, or he saw that Richard was planning to make himself King. Neither scenario would give Hastings the power he wanted and needed. He was not, in short, prepared to be relegated to the second violins.

This would explain why he started some plotting of his own, perhaps by making overtures to his Woodville rivals. Again, he may not have intended to do more than limit Richard’s power, put him back in his box, or it may have been something more lethal.

Yet another possibility is that Hastings knew of the Edward IV-Eleanor Talbot marriage, and that when the facts came out his position became untenable. However, given that Edward somehow apparently managed to keep Hastings out of the loop about Elizabeth for some time, this can by no means be certain.

The Tragedy of King Richard 111 (not by William Shakespeare)

Part 5 – …” these dukes showed their intention, not in private but openly…”

 “Catesby hath sounded Hastings in our business

And finds the testy gentleman so hot

That he will lose his head ere give consent

His master’s child, as worshipfully he terms it,              

Shall lose the royalty of England’s throne’

(William Shakespeare)

 

“A black day will it be to somebody”

It is 9 o’clock on Friday the 13th June 1483. William Lord Hastings, the Lord Chamberlain enters the council chamber at the Tower for a meeting with the Lord Protector. Already there and seated are the duke of Buckingham, Lord Stanley, the earl of Derby, Thomas Rotherham the Archbishop of York, John Morton the Bishop of Ely and others. Hastings doesn’t notice three men standing ominously in the shadow: the Rat, the Cat and Lovell the dog. Hastings sits down at the head of the table. Nobody speaks to him.

The clock ticks and still Richard has not arrived, it is now past the time appointed for the meeting. The silence is becoming oppressive and the tension palpable. Hastings plays anxiously with his chain of office. He is right to be nervous; last night he had a visit from Lord Stanley’s man. Stanley had dreamt ‘the boar razed off his helm’. Was it a sign they were discovered? Hastings’ palms are sweating and his mouth is dry. Gloucester’s personality dominates the chamber despite his absence. The silence is now thunderous, the tension physical.

Hastings shuffles nervously in his chair, coughs and speaks hesitantly: “Now noble peers, the cause why we are met is to determine of the coronation. In God’s name speak. When is the royal day?” Buckingham suggests that the Lord Chamberlain probably knows the Lord Protector better than anyone present; what does he think Gloucester would say? Hastings demurs: “…I know he loves me well, but for his purpose in the coronation I have not sounded him, nor he delivered his gracious pleasure in any way therein. But others may name the day and in the Duke’s behalf I’ll give my voice, which I presume he will take in good part”. Suddenly the door flies open. Gloucester, dressed in black, hunched and intimidating stands framed in the doorway. He fixes Lord Hastings with a demonic stare and steps purposefully into the chamber, grinning malevolently. He is dangerously cheerful: “ My noble lords and cousins all, good morrow, I have been long a sleeper…” After asking Morton to fetch some strawberries from his garden, Richard takes Buckingham outside for a private conference. Hastings, Stanley and Rotherham remain seated. They look at each other nervously, their fear unspoken. As Ratcliffe and Lovell step out from the shadows to stand threateningly behind Hastings, Stanley and Rotherham shuffle along to the other end of the table. The returning Morton sits with them. Their faces drawn and pale, they are all dreading what is to come and wishing themselves anywhere but in this chamber at this time.

On his return, Richard’s mood has changed. He asks pointedly “Pray you all tell me, what they deserve that do conspire my death with devilish plots?” Hastings gulps and fidgets in his chair. Richard is looking straight at him. He stammers “The tender love I bear your grace makes me most forward to doom the offenders. I say they have deserved death”. Richard moves forward, his hot breath on Hastings’ face: he roars: “ Then let your eyes be the witness of the evil. See how I am bewitched! Mine arm is like a blasted sapling all withered up…” Hastings can barely control his panic now; he stutters, “If they have done this deed — If! Talks thou to me of ifs! Though art a traitor! Off with his head, now by Saint Paul I will not dine till I see it done.” And that according to William Shakespeare (and Laurence Olivier) was how Lord Hastings met his end.

Thanks to Olivier’s definitive performance as Richard in his 1955 film, the sheer drama of this scene has overshadowed any doubts I may have had as to its accuracy. From the perspective of dramatic art, I doubt if it can easily be bettered. But is it historically correct?   Shakespeare got this version of events from Thomas More, who got it from John Morton, who was an eyewitness[1]. Yet, as we all know, John Morton was Richard duke of Gloucester’s mortal enemy: an inveterate dissembler and traducer of his posthumous reputation. Can we trust his account?   The answer to that question is an unequivocal ‘probably’.   Although there are differences between the various accounts, they generally confirm the gist of the Morton/More/Shakespeare version. That said, More’s history contains obvious falsehoods. For example, we now know from the recent medical opinion of Richard III’s scoliosis that there was no withered arm or claw hand. Also, Mancini is wrong to say that Hastings was killed in the scuffle and there is disagreement about whether Stanley was wounded, and whether Gloucester’s accused the queen of witchcraft. But generally, it seems to have gone pretty much as described in the sources. The Protector revealed his knowledge of the plot, the conspirators’ response was heated, the word treason was used, swords were drawn, the room was flooded with the Protector’s men, there was a scuffle and the plotters were swiftly overwhelmed. It was over in a trice. Stanley et al were taken into custody; Hastings was rushed outside to meet his maker.   The conspiracy was crushed[2].

However, the cries of ‘treason’ roused the city. There was consternation amongst the citizens. The tension was racking-up. Shortly, a herald appeared with a proclamation and the citizens listened in stunned silence to the Protector’s communiqué. It seemed to everybody that the Yorkist regime was imploding. So much for the deed: what about the consequences? To answer that question, we have to go back in the chronology to Wednesday 11 June 1483.

 

“ My friends are in the north…”

It was on the 11 June 1483 that Richard duke of Gloucester wrote to Ralph Neville of Raby. “My Lord Neville, I recommend you to me as heartily as I can; and as you love me and your own weal and security and this realm, that you come to me with that ye may make, defensibly arrayed, in all haste that is possible and that you give credence to Sir Richard Ratcliffe, this bearer that I now send to you, instructed with all my mind and intent”. The tone of this letter is so completely different from the duke’s earlier letter to the citizens of York that it suggests something else has happened since the 10 June to persuade him to move quickly. That and the fact that the letter was sent north immediately, suggests that the ‘something ‘ was of supreme importance and urgency.   In his earlier letter, Gloucester requested the Mayor and citizens of York to send troops with due diligence. Whereas, he asked Neville, to come as soon as possible with whatever troops he can muster. Is he panicking? I think not. Everything we know about Richard duke of Gloucester suggests that he is good at handling this type of situation. We will never know what knowledge of Gloucester’s private ‘mind and intent’ Sir Richard Ratcliffe carried north, but I think he is probably relaying verbal messages to the duke’s northern adherents with the real reason for his urgent request. The duke had just discovered that Hastings was involved with the Woodville’s in the plot to kill him. The revelation of the pre-contract had forced them to bring forward their plan to murder the Lord Protector and the duke of Buckingham, and to crown Edward V[3]. It seems that Hastings had known of the pre-contract for some time but had neglected to tell the Lord Protector. It was the most unforgivable example of a breach of trust that Richard duke of Gloucester could imagine

Whilst the knowledge of Hastings treachery had infuriated Gloucester, it also alarmed him. Hastings was a seasoned soldier. He was Captain of Calais; he had fought in Edward’s battles for the throne. He was a man of power and influence with a posse of armed retainers in London. And he was ferociously loyal to the dead king. Unlike the Woodville dilettantes at Stony Stratford, Hastings posed the most serious threat yet to Gloucester’s life.   He knew he must act quickly and decisively if he was to survive. The arrangement of two meetings fixed for the 13 June suited his purpose precisely. It separated the conspirators from the remainder of the Council. Bishop Russell would chair one meeting at Westminster with the non-aligned council members, who could discuss routine arrangements for the coronation. Richard, Buckingham and the conspirators would attend the other meeting in the Tower; ostensibly, they were going to give the formal go-ahead for the coronation. The reasons for holding this meeting at the Tower are self-evident. The Protector would face the conspirators on ground of his own choosing, in a place where the presence of his armed men would not be taken amiss and where he was secure from interference. He knew who the conspirators were, he knew about the pre-contract and —decisively— he knew what they knew. They were at a disadvantage because they only had part of the story: they had no idea what he knew or what he was planning.

If we look at this from Hastings’ point of view he believed that the conspiracy was going well and that time was still on his side. He knew of  the pre-contract before anybody else and he is anxious to keep that under wraps. Hastings’ interest is in the preservation of the status quo ante, which means ensuring that Edward V is crowned on the 22 June 1483. His alliance with the Woodville’s is one of convenience but he is confident he can thrive once he has disposed of Gloucester and Buckingham. However, Stillington’s revelation of the pre-contract was a setback. Gloucester was always going to be an obstacle to his plans. But now that he knew of the pre-contract, his uncompromising nature meant that he was unlikely to turn a blind eye to Edward IV’s bigamy[4].  It didn’t need a genius to see the threat to Edward V’s coronation. To ensure that the coronation did take place, Hastings was prepared to do anything; even to murder the man he had campaigned with and who shared his devotion to Edward IV.  Neither do I think Hastings motives were entirely driven by loyalty. Like other over-mighty subjects he was acquisitive; a grateful Edward V was his best chance of retaining and even enlarging the gifts, privileges, offices and the influence he had enjoyed during Edward IV’s reign.   It was an outcome not to be sniffed at and one he was unlikely to achieve should the morally conservative and pious duke of Gloucester extend his Protectorship after the coronation[5].

For the duke of Gloucester the execution of Hastings and the arrest of Stanley, Rotherham and Morton was a Rubicon. From his perspective the day was a success. He has crushed a dangerous conspiracy with ease. Of course, he doesn’t have the benefit of knowing what the future holds, as we do, and his mistakes are not yet apparent to him. Furthermore, he still has to grapple with the pre-contract problem and especially it’s bearing on the succession. He has yet to consider whether to depose his nephew, exclude Edward’s children from the succession and take the crown himself. He is not sure what to do. His inclination, as always, is ‘to do the right thing’ but what is the right thing? Is it doing right by Edward’s children, or doing right by the realm?

[1] Richard J Sylvester – The complete Works of St Thomas More, Volume 2: the History of King Richard III (Yale 1963) at page Ixvi. Morton was not More’s only source but he was an important one. There is much in the ‘History of King Richard III’ that is not taken from eyewitness testimony and is not from Morton. For instance, he was not present at Stony Stratford or during the disappearance of the Princes. However, More’s version of the events on the 13 June 1483 does have the ingredients of an eyewitness account: its obvious errors and embellishments notwithstanding.

[2] The main primary and Tudor sources support the gist of More’s version despite their differences of detail. See Mancini at pages 89-91 (AJ Armstrong (ed) – Dominic Mancini: the Usurpation of King Richard III [Oxford, 1969]). See also the Great Chronicle at page 231 (AH Thomas et al [Eds] – The Great Chronicle of London [London 1938]) and the London Chronicle at page 190 (C L Kingsford – Chronicles of London [Oxford 1905]). The remaining primary sources need not trouble as they add little or nothing to the above. The only other worthwhile source is Vergil at page 180 (Sir Henry Ellis (ed) – Three books of Polydore Vergil’s English History; comprising the reigns of Henry VI, Edward IV and Richard III [The Camden Society 1844]). Vergil is the only source to suggest that Gloucester attributed his ‘blasted sapling’ to the queen’s witchcraft. It is worth pointing out however, that their credibility as accurate recorders of events is challenged by their collective failure to get the chronology right (Thomas More also got it wrong). They all Place the duke of York’s release from sanctuary before the council meeting on the 13 June 1483, whereas it actually happened on the Monday after Hasting’s execution. Thankfully, we have Simon Stallworths letter of the 21 June 1483 (See Peter A Hancock- Richard III and the murder in the Tower – [The History Press 2011] at Appendix 1, pages 158-59) and an entry in the duke of Norfolk’s household accounts to fix the correct dating sequence.

[3] Two possible reasons have been offered for Hastings’ involvement in this murder: one noble, the other ignoble. The noble reason is that owing to his loyalty to Edward IV, he would not countenance the deposition of Edward V. The ignoble reason was that he saw the coronation of Edward V as his best chance of continuing the licentious lifestyle of Edward IV’s courtiers, and preserve the privileges, grants and power he had enjoyed during the dead king’s reign.   It matters not for my purpose what Hastings reasons were. High treason is an absolute offence: if it is proved, there is only one outcome. For Gloucester’ enemies (then and later) the summary execution of Hastings is definitive proof of his intention to usurp the throne and that would stop at nothing to achieve his aim. The protector’s actions are also problematic for Ricardians. Even the staunch old Ricardian Sir George Buck is unable to exonerate him for that action, though he offers reasons of state (artes imperii) as mitigation.

[4] See Prof Mark Lansdale and Dr Julian Boons psychological profile of Richard III (The Ricardian Bulletin March 2013) at pages 46-56.

[5] Due to the absence of hard evidence, Ricardian history is a fruitful subject for personal speculation. I do not apologize for theorizing. What I offer is an explanation of events on the 13 June 1483 ; though I appreciate it may not be the explanation.

Our Knight’s Oath Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Historical Accuracy

"Do you want royalties with that, Sir Ridley?"

“Do you want royalties with that, Sir Ridley?”

I attended a renaissance faire in the U.S. recently and must relay something that happened.

The faire’s king knighted all ladies and lads (including adults) who wished to be knighted. But first, they had to sit through a vigorous lecture by one of the king’s minions.

First, said minion asked the audience to name some famous knights. Joan of Arc came first, and William Marshal was mentioned. Alas, Lancelot came in last, but that’s as it should be, considering he betrayed a king, seduced a queen, and helped destroy Camelot. We gave a shout out for Richard III and Francis Lovell. Strangely enough, there was no mention of any Tydder, regardless this faire was set in the English renaissance.

Next, the minion asked to be told what knights did. The kiddies all knew their knight-stuff: fighting came after rescuing damsels, serving God, and serving the king.

The minion then explained what the wannabe-knights were to do when the king told them to “Take a knee” during the coming ritual. Sir Minion then shared the actual words the king would use to knight the lads and lasses:

“Be without fear in the face of your enemies.
Be brave and upright that God may love thee.
Speak the truth even if it leads to your death.
Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong.
That is your oath.”

There it is, gentle lords and ladies: the definitive renaissance knight’s oath. It can now be stated with confidence that 16th-century English knights took the same oath as the one administered by Ballymena-born Liam Neeson, and again by Canterbury-born Orlando Bloom, in the Ridley Scott film, “Kingdom of Heaven,” which depicted the 12th-century siege of Jerusalem.

Then again, maybe not.

Ghosts of the Roses….

Ghosts of Bosworth against a Modern Sky

There is an article by Kelly Fitzgerald at http://sunnesandroses.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/the-sunne-in-splendour-part-2.html, concerning the three suns that were seen in the sky before the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross in 1460. It was a natural phenomenon—a parhelion—but was clearly not recognised as such by those who saw it. They believed it was an omen.

So, what about supernatural phenomena connected to the Wars of the Roses, as distinct from natural? Things that would not have been seen and experienced at the time, but which are “seen” now? The thought intrigued me, so I have had a little (very little, so do not imagine me poring over it all for hours on end) poke around with Google, to see what paranormal things I could find. The Ghosts of the Roses, I thought.

My discoveries are not in chronological order, just jotted as I found them, which is why the very last battle of the Roses happens to come first.  Stoke Field was fought in 1487, and ended with the rout of the Yorkist army of John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, and Francis Lovell. Among his soldiers were many Irishmen, who were ferocious fighters but ill clad and ill equipped against a well-trained, fully armed foe. The battle took place by the River Trent in Nottinghamshire, and it seems the fleeing, naked ghosts of these unfortunate men are still seen on the banks of the river near the scene of the conflict.

The ghost of Margaret of Anjou is pretty busy. I have found her at Owlpen Manor and Bloody Meadow in Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, and Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland. No doubt she makes appearances elsewhere too.

Also in Tewkesbury is the spectral funeral procession of the Lancastrian Prince of Wales, Edward of Westminster, who died at or just after the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. His cortege is seen leaving the abbey every year. So it is said. I have written of this in an earlier blog. https://murreyandblue.wordpress.com/?s=just+where+might+Edward

Middleham Castle in Yorkshire is renowned as Richard III’s favourite home, and late in the 20th century three children heard the sounds of battle outside the castle, and saw a knight on horseback, who charged them. And terrified them too. 16th century music has also been heard in the castle, but distantly, and there are persistent rumours of buried treasure there. Richard’s treasure? Who knows?

In Prestbury, near Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, a messenger killed by a Lancastrian arrow is said to be seen, shining as he tries to fulfil his duty. One version of his story is that he was decapitated by a thin wire fixed at that height across his path. A nasty little trick.

St Albans in Hertfordshire was the scene of two battles in the Wars of the Roses, and, once a year, it is said the sounds of battle can still be heard. Towton has its ghosts too, although I am not sure who/what they are, just that they are.

The site of the Battle of Edgecote in 1469 is said to be haunted by the many Welshmen who lost their lives there. It is suggested they will rise again in fury if the government persists with the plan to have the new HS2 railway pass through the battlefield! A rather expensive way to find out if ghosts exist.

There is a suggestion that Philippa Langley’s strange feeling of being above Richard III’s grave in that car park in Leicester, was in fact caused by Richard’s ghost, communicating with her. Please note, I do not for a moment suggest Philippa herself claims this!

You would think that Bosworth itself would have many, many ghostly stories attached to it, but my cursory search has not turned them up. A friend of mine, Susan Kokomo Lamb, once visited the battlefield and saw ghostly men in armour at the edge of the woods on Ambion Hill. Quite a chilling experience, I imagine. She went on to write the experience into a fictional story that was really excellent.

Another story of Bosworth, not Susan’s, is of a headless man in armour who wanders a nearby town in search of his missing head. I am certain there are many more apparitions and sounds at the battle site, but those I’ve come across have mostly been fictional. If anyone out there knows of another “real” Bosworth wraith, please leave a comment below.

So, these are only initial findings, and to be honest, when it comes to ghosts, the Wars of the Roses are dwarfed by the proliferation of spooks from the period of the English Civil War. It’s astonishing how many there are for that period, indeed, it’s almost possible to think that they are in every town and square acre of the English countryside.  But clearly there is a very long list of ghostly Roses waiting to be found, and I know at least one book has been written about them in particular, although I only learned of it today, when searching for snippets to include in this blog.

Now I must return to the mystery of phenomena that can sometimes be seen in the sky, as happened at Mortimer’s Cross. A long time ago (but not 1815, I’m not that old!) I read that a ghostly re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo was seen in the skies above a Belgian town. What, I wondered, would it be like to see Bosworth in the skies over today’s Leicestershire? To watch Richard’s heroic last charge, and the despicable treachery that struck him down and handed his crown to the Tudor usurper? Observing such a thing would be a truly profound experience. And probably not one I could bear to see. I find it hard to read about Bosworth, let alone actually see it happening all over again.

The above illustration is how I imagine such a ghost re-enactment might look. Yes, the contrails have been intentionally left there, because the scene is imagined as happening today. The photograph is taken from one by Sarah-Jane Stanley Images, and the battling figures are from ‘The Battle of Bosworth’ by Philip James de Loutherbourg. Richard’s banner is one of many such photographs to be found all over the internet.

Postscript: Since writing this post I have remembered the Belgian city that was the site of the phantom Battle of Waterloo. It’s Verviers, where the news at the moment is all about anti-terrorism action. http://survincity.com/2010/02/ghostly-battle/

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