“The battle of Tewkesbury was fought during the Wars of the Roses in 1471.
“The proposal was unanimously voted through at a council meeting on Thursday.
“But members of the society believe an archaeological dig should take place before the car park is expanded.
“Several objections were sent to Tewkesbury Town Council, with one calling the archaeologist’s report ‘fundamentally flawed’.”
“‘Worth the delay’
“The objection said: ‘there are very few undisturbed areas of the battlefield remaining, so this represents a rare opportunity to investigate a part that has lain untouched… possibly since the battle itself.'”
“‘The application must include an archaeological investigation before the site is either buried under tarmac, or, worse, destroyed.'”
“Another said: ‘not that we think any kings are under there, but one only has to look at recent developments in Leicester to show what kudos could be brought to the town if any finds were made. Surely the time and effort is worth the short delay?'”
“The official archaeologist’s report said the site was the subject of an archaeological dig in 2011 and ‘no significant remains were observed”, recommending that no investigation needs to take place.'”
So, here’s hoping the whole idea is dropped. If not, it darned well ought to be!
There is a pub in Bridgnorth, near where I live. Well, let’s be honest, there’s about a hundred. If you have ever been to Bridgnorth, aside from the Severn Valley Railway, the funicular railway from Low Town to High Town and the remains of the slighted castle, which lean at a greater angle than the Tower of Pisa, the sheer number of pubs will strike you. The one I was referring to is The Bell and Talbot on Salop Street in High Town. The hanging sign shows a dog lying beneath a bell while the one on the wall looks a bit more like a coat of arms, with two hounds rearing up either side of a bell.
The Bell and Talbot, Bridgnorth
The symbol of the Talbot Hound is easy to miss but is significant in Shropshire. Talbot dogs were small white hunting hounds, extinct now, but understood to be an ancestor of the beagle and the bloodhound. The origin of the breed, its emergence in England and the reason for the name are all lost in the mists of time, but they have an enduring connection to the most prominent Shropshire family of the last five centuries.
Henry VI is believed to have referred to John Talbot in 1449 as ‘Talbott, oure good dogge’: I’m sure he meant it as a compliment, but I wouldn’t appreciate such a label! Did the name of the hound emerge from this quip? Or was it a reference to the already-established Talbot breed, coincidentally sharing a name with Henry’s premier general in France? John Talbot became Earl of Shrewsbury and his family inextricably linked with the title and surrounding county for generations. The 1445 Shrewsbury Book, commissioned by Talbot, has an image of the earl presenting his book to Margaret of Anjou, Henry’s queen, with a little white Talbot hound standing behind him.
The Shrewsbury Book, presented by John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury
In 1569, George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury was one of the few English noblemen wealthy and trusted enough to house Mary, Queen of Scots during her period under house arrest at Elizabeth I’s instruction. Shrewsbury was a prominent Protestant and Elizabeth made him a Privy Counsellor as part of the arrangement because of ‘his approved loyalty and faithfulness, and the ancient state of blood from which he is descended’. Mary was initially held at Tutbury Castle and although Elizabeth would not meet the costs of her prisoner’s keeping, Mary’s French incomes covered her hosts expenses for a while. She was moved two months later to Wingfield Manor, a more suitable, well-kept lodging than the dilapidated Tutbury with its inadequate drains. Although he would discharge his duty diligently, Shrewsbury was censured any time he left Mary’s company for his own business and despite his wealth, he and his wife, Bess of Hardwick found themselves financially embarrassed by the cost and Elizabeth’s refusal to help meet them. Mary was eventually removed from Shrewsbury’s care before her eventual entrapment and execution at Fotheringhay Castle.
Alton Towers lies just north of Shropshire, across the border into Staffordshire, and even as a theme park, it retains a link to the Talbot family who made it their ancestral home. The buildings that lie ruined today were built by Charles Talbot, 15th Earl of Shrewsbury in the early nineteenth century. The ride Hex is contained within the ruins and tells the story of that earl’s battle with the supernatural to lift a curse placed in him and his family.
For anyone interested in the fifteenth century, John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, remembered as Old Talbot, is a towering figure sadly eclipsed by later events. He was one of the few Englishmen Joan of Arc is reputed to have known by name. His fearless, often reckless leadership made him the most successful English general in France over many years. He was probably in his mid-sixties when he was eventually killed at the Battle of Castillon in 1453. His loss was such a blow that Castillon is considered the last battle of the Hundred Years War and there is a memorial in France to him, set up where he fell in recognition of a foe worthy of respect.
The Talbot Monument at the site of the Battle of Castillon
For those with an interest more precisely focussed on Richard III and the events of 1483, the Talbot family have a vitally important role to play. Unfortunately, there is little solid fact on which to hang any opinion of the controversy of Edward IV’s marital status. Where hard, written evidence is lacking – and we should expect it to be lacking, given the systematic destruction of Titulus Regius after Bosworth – I tend to fall back on the actions of people affected by events. In their reaction, or even inaction, we can often glean an idea of what must have been going on and what people thought of it.
The Talbot family come into sharp focus because the basis of Richard’s charge that Edward IV’s children were illegitimate is a claim that Edward was a bigamist. It was alleged that prior to his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, he had already contracted a marriage to Eleanor Talbot, daughter of the 1st Earl of Shrewsbury. We have no solid evidence that this is the case, but as I said, we probably shouldn’t expect to. Look at what people in London in June 1483 did, though. They accepted the evidence we are told they were shown. We cannot examine it and for the most part, historians dismiss it as fantasy. Yet those who could read it accepted it so completely that they deposed a king and offered the crown to his uncle. Why would they do that? Fear of Richard? Hardly. He had no army in London or anywhere nearby. He was mustering a few hundred men at Pontefract, but they had not left by then and London was well versed in resisting thousands, never mind a few hundred. Fear of a minority? Maybe, but Richard had shown himself willing to act as regent for his nephew, and he was the senior royal male of the House of York, an experienced governor and successful general (within his limited opportunities). Could it be that, just maybe, the allegations looked true?
Edward IV’s reputation, deserved or otherwise, surely made it seem plausible. None would doubt that he was capable of contracting a secret marriage to a relatively unsuitable older lady. That was, after all, how he ended up married to Elizabeth Woodville. By 1483, George Talbot was 4th Earl of Shrewsbury, the first earl’s great-grandson. He was probably too young to fight at Bosworth, but definitely supported Henry VII during the Lambert Simnel Affair. The Talbot family were Lancastrian in their sympathies; after all, their patriarch had built his reputation and title on defending that House. They are often considered hostile to Richard III, probably because of his accusation against one of their number, but I’m not sure that was the case. By the time of the Lambert Simnel Affair, supporting Henry VII was the natural position for the 4th Earl. Besides, if, as I strongly suspect, the Affair was an uprising in favour of Edward V rather than Edward, Earl of Warwick, then the Talbot family perhaps opposed it because they were perfectly well aware of Edward V’s illegitimacy.
Back in 1483, the Talbot family made no move against Richard or his accusation about Eleanor Talbot and Edward IV. When Simon Stallworth wrote his newsletter to Sir William Stonor as late as 21 June 1483, the day before Dr Shaa’s sermon at St Paul’s Cross, he knew nothing of the impending bombshell. He did, however, note that Lord Lisle ‘is come to my Lorde Protectour and awates apone hym’. This is more significant that it is often deemed to be.
Lord Lisle was Edward Grey. He was not only the younger brother of Sir John Grey of Groby, the first husband of Elizabeth Woodville and therefore uncle to her two oldest sons, but he was also married to Elizabeth Talbot, a niece of Eleanor Talbot. If Richard was looking for evidence to substantiate or refute the charge he had been made aware of, Lord Lisle was a sensible person to consult. He might know whether there was any family tradition that Eleanor had married Edward and whether any evidence remained in Talbot hands.
Lord Lisle was from a Lancastrian family and Richard was about to offend the family of his wife, yet Lord Lisle remained with Richard and offered no opposition. Indeed, Lord Lisle attended Richard’s coronation, as did the Duchess of Norfolk, Elizabeth. Elizabeth had married John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk and was the mother of Anne Mowbray, the ill-fated bride of Edward IV’s younger son. She had been born Elizabeth Talbot, though, the youngest daughter of John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury and a sister of Eleanor Talbot. She was not so outraged by Richard’s accusations that she boycotted his coronation. Was this because Richard was, in actual fact, righting a wrong that the Talbot family perceived had been inflicted on one of their number by a deceitful young king?
There are many other elements to the precontract story. The timing is always cited as too convenient, but I would counter that George, Duke of Clarence seems to have been on the verge of revealing it in 1477 and it cost him his life. Who else would have been brave enough to trumpet the allegation during Edward IV’s lifetime? It would have been tantamount to signing your own death warrant. This piece of the puzzle is interesting though. We cannot be certain of the truth of the allegation of bigamy. We can, however, be entirely certain that the charge was made, that evidence was gathered (or fabricated), that what evidence existed was unanimously accepted by those able to examine it, that this evidence has subsequently been lost or destroyed and that there was no backlash from the Talbot family in 1483 (accepting that in 1485 Sir Gilbert Talbot, younger son of the 2nd Earl, joined Henry Tudor’s army).
It amazes me that such certainty in the fraud of the bigamy allegation is espoused today. There is no hard evidence for it, but there is also none against it. Expanding our consideration to more circumstantial elements, it is probable that the story nearly emerged in 1477, costing George his life, and it is certain that those who were exposed to the evidence in support of it entirely accepted it. It may have been a well-constructed lie, but it is at least as likely, if not more so, that it was true.
Here we commented on a literary attempted bigamist, whose first name just happened to be Edward.
Anyone who has visited the Dads’ Army Museum in Thetford may have noticed some parallels. Captain George Mainwaring, although ten inches shorter than Edward IV, has a drunken brother and feelings for a widow named Gray/ Grey (Fiona, played by Carmen Silvera) whilst married to Elizabeth.
The following, which is taken from http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-kent/vol2/pp2-22, seems at first not to concern Dartford Manor, but its pattern of ownership is the same, I am assured, and the next link after this, to Dartford itself, does not relate this earlier ownership in full. It is of interest to Ricardians and all Yorkists, although the former had best grit their teeth for some of what it says. Poor old Richard is maligned again. Anyway, here goes with the ownership of Dartford, albeit from the BHO Chesilhurst pages.
“…[On the death of John, Earl of Somerset, then Duke of Somerset in the reign of Henry VI] his brother Edmund, marquis of Dorset, was found to be his next heir male, and as such possessed this estate [Chesilhurst – and also Dartford]. He was afterwards advanced to the title of Duke of Somerset, and taking part with Henry VI. was slain in the first battle of St. Alban’s … the manor of Dartford, with Chesilhurst, was … granted to Richard Nevill, earl of Warwick, commonly called the King Maker, who, after many changes from one side to the other, was slain, endeavouring to replace king Henry on the throne, at the battle of Barnet, in the year 1471. By his wife, Anne, daughter of Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, who survived him, he left only two daughters, who both married into the royal family; Isabel to George duke of Clarence. brother to king Edward IV. and Anne, first to Edward prince of Wales, son of king Henry VI. and, secondly, to Richard duke of Gloucester, afterwards king Richard III.
“After the earl’s death, though his estates were seized by the authority of parliament, yet great part of them were afterwards given to his two daughters, and among others the manor of Dartford, with the rents of assize in Chesilhurst, was given to Isabel, whose husband, George duke of Clarence, in her right, became possessed of them. After which the duke falling under the suspicion of the king, his brother, was in parliament, anno 1477, attainted, being then a prisoner in the tower, and was soon afterwards, with the king’s consent, drowned in a butt of malmsey, the duke of Gloucester assisting with his own hands By Isabel his wife, who died of poison sometime before him, he had issue Edward earl of Warwick, then an infant, who never enjoyed any part of his patrimony.
“Soon after the duke’s death, this manor being in the king’s hands, by reason of his son’s nonage, was granted to Thomas lord Stanley for life, and although king Henry VII. in his third year, being desirous of securing to himself the possessions which the great earl of Warwick died possessed of, recalled the old countess of Warwick from her retirement in the north, where she lived in a distressed and mean condition, both her daughters being dead, and by a new act, annulling the former, restored to her all her late husband’s possessions, with power for her to alien any part of them, not with the intent that she should enjoy them, but merely that she might transfer them to the king, which she did that year, by a special seossment and a fine, by which she granted the whole, consisting of one hundred and fourteen manors, among which was that of Dartford, with the rents of assize in Chesilhurst, to the king and his heirs male, with remainder to herself and her heirs for ever. Yet this estate continued in possession of the lord Stanley. . .”
“….manor [of Dartford] went in the same succession of ownership as that of Chesilhurst, which was a member of it, as has been already fully described before, and to which the reader is referred (excepting that king Richard III. in his first year, granted the reversion of it, being then in the possession of the lord Stanley, to John Brooke, lord Cobham, to hold by knights service; (Harleian MSS. No. 433–764. Dugd. Bar. vol. ii. p. 282.) but he [Cobham] never came to the possession of it, for king Henry VII. on his obtaining the crown, secured this reversion of it to himself….”
Aha! Henry strikes again, keeping this reversion for himself instead of returning it to his father-in-law, Stanley. Wouldn’t you think he’d undo Richard’s work by rendering unto Stanley the things that were Stanley’s? And Stanley’s heirs?. But oh, no, we know Henry too well, do we not? If he could claw something close unto to his bony Tudor chest, he would! And, in this case, did. Look after the pennies, and the pounds look after themselves, right, Henry? Not that I care if Stanley was deprived of anything, you understand.
The Travels of Leo of Rozmital in the 15th century are fascinating, and if you register (free) for a virtual library card here you can read about them for 14 days. You can access up to five books all told.
Between 1465 and 1467 Leo (a Bohemian nobleman and celebrated jouster who died this day in 1486) undertook diplomatic missions for his brother-in-law, the King of Bohemia. He and his companions kept meticulous records of their travels. You can find out more about him here
Anyway, my reason for dipping into his travelling records was to glean all the information I could about travelling in Europe in the medieval period. My year of interest at present is 1394, but nothing much changed between then and the reign of Edward IV. This is how I happened upon the following passage:-
“. . .Edward IV was known for his lavish hospitality, and when the travellers had been luxuriously lodged in an inn, and had been kissed by the hostess and maids, they were formally welcomed by a herald and certain Privy Councillors. They were then given audience of the King and invited to a mighty banquet with sixty dishes, after which the King bestowed collars or badges (symbola) on his guests and knighted certain of them. He would have knighted others, but the honour was declined, perhaps on account of the fees. Later, at court, they saw Elizabeth Woodville churched in great state after the birth of the Princess Elizabeth. Another banquet was prepared, at which Warwick, the King-maker, acted as host, and after this they were conducted to an alcove, which which they watched the Queen at dinner. So strict was court etiquette that even the Queen’s mother and the King’s sisters had to kneel before the Queen while she was at table, and not a word was spoken during the whole meal, which lasted for three hours. Afterwards there was a state ball, at which Margaret of York (soon to be married to Charles the Bold of Burgundy) and other ladies danced. Then music was provided by the King’s choristers, and Tetzel tells us that here, and later at mass he had never heard such fine singing. . .”
I’m sure I can hear some medieval teeth-grinding! Warwick must have had a very fixed smile when it came to Elizabeth Woodville, and while I can imagine her mother, Jacquetta of Luxemburg, kneeling willingly enough to her, I think the King’s sisters would not have been so eager. More fixed smiles and grinding of teeth. Did they have to kneel there at her feet for three long hours? For their knees’ sake, I hope not.
There is a much more detailed description of this occasion between pages 44-49, including a mention of the queen being escorted by “two dukes”. Might these have been Richard and George? It seems the kneeling ladies were spared, being allowed to take their own seats as soon as the first course had been served to the queen. Thank goodness for that. But I’ll bet those of Edward IV’s blood were still not amused.
There is a lot more in this fascinating book—including many anecdotes, naughty and polite—and I recommend registering for a virtual library card. It is also available at Amazon.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about Richard III’s brother, George of Clarence. You know the one–typical ‘middle child’, ‘false fleeting Clarence’, the one drowned in Malmsey who was also a drunk and quite possibly insane, hanging, as he did, old ladies on the vaguest of suspicions.
And I began considering–is George, like Richard, maligned, doomed forever to be hidden in an obscuring web of myth and invention?
Certainly he was disloyal, joining Warwick against his own brother, Edward IV. He created a fuss when Richard wanted to marry Anne Neville, his protests lasting several years. He did indeed accuse Ankaret Twynho, and others, of poisoning his wife and baby son–and hanged the old lady after a brief and decidedly unfair trial.
But mad? A drunk? And in regards to his wife and child…what if he were right?
Like Richard’s supposed hump, limp, withered arm and other defects, George’s ‘insanity’ and ‘drunkenness’ appear to have been exaggerated if not completely invented, mainly in fiction. (And yes, I admit I am guilty of adding to this stereotype myself.) There is no mention in primary sources of George drinking or being dissolute; that idea seems to have come solely from his supposed death in a vat of malmsey, and the questions it raised (ie. Did Edward have him drowned in booze because he liked a tipple and maybe even requested such an end as a macabre final joke?) Fickleness aplenty went on, certainly, and his last acts with the Twynyho affair were erratic, but he wasn’t spouting gibberish, having hallucinations, or lying catatonic like poor old Henry VI. He defended himself in regards to the charges laid against him by the King, and apparently one of Elizabeth Woodville’s main fears was that people would follow him and her children would never inherit the throne. The people of England were hardly likely to follow another mad king. This implies to me that George was not generally seen as a loony, treacherous lush, but someone who might have had some decent enough qualities, or at very least some kind of strong charisma.
So that brings us back to the whole mystery surrounding the death of George’s wife, Isabel Neville, and his infant son Richard of York. Many have claimed Isabel died of childbirth-related illness…but she actually succumbed two and a half months after the birth. Childbed fever, the biggest killer of women in her day, normally took its victims far sooner. TB has also been suggested, and it is certainly not impossible, for in some victims TB symptoms can appear with frightening suddenness and ‘gallop’ on to their bitter end, but there is no written evidence of her having such symptoms. In the interim between childbed and her death, she travelled from Tewkesbury to Warwick, which implies she was not grievously ill at that point. The baby too was alive and outlived its mother by about 10 days. So both mother and child lived more than two months after the birth and made a moderately long journey without incident before their deaths.
Ankaret Twynyho (nee Hawkeston) herself is also the subject of some myth-making. In fiction she is often portrayed as a simple ordinary local woman, perhaps the midwife who delivered Isabel’s baby. However, she was not a peasant woman, nor is their any evidence she was Isabel’s midwife. It is merely known the she ‘served’ in the Clarence household. She did leave George’s service rather quickly after Isabel’s demise however, going to her home in Keyford, Somerset in the days before George accused her of murder.
Of John Thursby, who was hanged alongside her, little is known, save that he was from Warwick and said to be her accomplice. The third person who was accused, managed (somehow and rather oddly) to escape any consequences, and is, interestingly, the one who George claimed to be the ‘mastermind’ behind the supposed poisoning. Strangely he is seldom mentioned in regards to the incident–and my feeling is his possible involvement needs to be re-assessed.
This suspect was Sir Roger Tocotes of Bromham, long time associate of George of Clarence. (Michael Hicks went so far as to suggest George might even have called him ‘friend.’) He had supported the House of York and fought at Towton, Barnet and Tewkesbury (where he may have been knighted). He even accompanied George on Edward IV’s ill-fated ‘invasion’ of France.
Why would George think this seemingly loyal supporter masterminded his wife and child’s death? What would be Tocote’s reason? What evidence existed at the time that made George believe him involved? Some writers say Tocotes ‘escaped’ George’s vengeance, others that he received an aquittal (from the king?) despite being the prime accused in Isabel’s ‘murder.’
Later, long after George’s death, Roger Tocotes would go on to be one of the Duke of Buckingham’s supporters in the October rebellion of 1483. (Richard pardoned him.) He then fought for Henry Tudor at Bosworth and did rather well for himself under the Tudor regime, becoming Sheriff of Wiltshire for a second time and also a Knight of the Body. He is buried in a very lavish chantry chapel in the parish church in Bromham, Wiltshire.
Could Roger Tocotes have indeed been a turncoat who went from friend to traitor and tried to bring Clarence and his family down? If so, who was behind it, what was the reason? After Isabel’s death, George was apparently afraid of being poisoned himself and blamed the King, his brother. He claimed Edward meant to ‘consume him in likewise as a candle is consumed by burning’. George’s seemingly wild claims have led over the years to a probably false view of him as being paranoid and mentally unstable. There is always a chance that he may have been genuinely afraid, not crazy–and that he may have truly had something to fear.
Maybe Roger Tocotes, lying in his graffiti-covered tomb in Bromham church, took a dark and unhappy secret to the grave.
Well, we all know the story (and that’s just what it was, a story) about the demise of the boys’ uncle, George, Duke of Clarence, in a butt of Malmsey, but this is the first I’ve heard of the boys themselves suffering a similar fate.
“The manner of their death triggered debate among contemporaries, many of whom believed they were strangled in bed, drowned in Malmsey wine, or poisoned.”
This is taken from Martyrs in the Making: Political Martyrdom in Late Medieval England, by Danna Piroyansky, and she gives many sources:-
The Great Chronicle of London, A.H. Thomas and I.D. Thornley (eds) (London, 1938), pp 236-7. For an overview of the various speculations see, for example, P.W. Hammond and W.J. White, ‘The Sons of Edward IV: A Re-examination of the Evidence on Their Deaths and on the Bones in Westminster Abbey’, in Loyalty, Lordship and Law, P.W. Hammond (ed) (London, 1986), pp. 104-47; A. Weir, The Princes in the Tower (NY, 1992), chapter 13; A.J. Pollard, Richard III and the Princes in the Tower (NY, 1991), chapter 5. Many articles on the subject of the princes’ fate have been published in The Ricardian (the publication of the Richard III Society) along the years.
The sons of Edward IV
Whether any of these actually say the boys perished in Malmsey I don’t know, I only know I hadn’t heard the theory before. However, I do know that the book from which I have taken this information adopts an unashamedly Lancastrian viewpoint, and Richard is damned outright. For example:-
“Many suspected the usurper Richard III of instigating the princes’ murder. True or false, Richard III had no interest in promoting a cult around them, one which could only have drawn attention to their rightful claims to the throne. Henry VII may have been interested in them, but was too preoccupied with other challenges to his reign to rake over past events.”
Um. . . Where shall I start? The usurper Richard III? No, he was the true king. The boys’ rightful claims to the throne? Rubbish. Henry VII too preoccupied to rake over past events? Good grief. No mention of Edward IV’s bigamy. And of course Henry kept quiet – the last thing he wanted was for the boys to still be alive! He’d reversed Titulus Regius in order to marry the boys’ big sister! If they’d turned up alive, they’d have a much, much better claim to the throne than he did.
If anyone murdered the boys (and we don’t know what happened to them, let alone whether they died naturally, were murdered or even lived into old age), it was Henry Tudor and his Beaufort mother. Or the Duke of Buckingham. As for Henry not having time to rake over the past, for Pete’s sake, he did it all the time! He was both hounded and haunted by it. As well he might have been, given his usurpation and guilty conscience. Oh, yes, there was a usurper at Bosworth, and it wasn’t Richard!
I will not go on. The book has nothing good to say about the House of York, and I wish I’d never bought it. My reason wasn’t even anything to do with York, but because there is a section that deals with the 1397 trial and execution of Richard Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel, in whom I am very interested. Another man who generally gets a bad press, of course. Trust me to find a great deal to like and admire about him! (For more information about Arundel’s death and the “miracles” that gave rise to a cult, try here)
On Richard III’s birthday (October 2), Dr Gareth Williams, curator of the British Museum, is going to deliver a monologue on Richard at Lichfield Cathedral. Dr Williams also is a director of research at Tutbury Castle, which has connections to both George of Clarence and Richard.
Obviously I don’t know what kind of Richard will be presented here, good, bad or indifferent…but if you don’t like the content of the monologue, the cathedral is well-worth a visit in itself. It is one of England’s oldest religious foundations but it is also the cathedral that suffered the most during the Civil War, which required much rebuilding.
The history of Lichfield Cathedral, with its three spires–the three Ladies of the Vale: