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Richard III and the dirty Tudors….?


“…8…Richard III and dirty Tudors
“…Rotting vegetation, dung heaps and overflowing cesspits were just some of the unpleasant daily realities faced by ordinary people in 16th-century England. Here, Pamela Hartshorne discusses the challenges Tudors faced when trying to keep their cities clean and hygienic. Also in this episode, Chris Skidmore tells us how his research presents a different picture of the controversial 15th-century king Richard III.

Well, if the quoted passage above is of interest to any of you and you fancy seeing the other eight in the list, go to this History Extra article


A truncated reign and a truncated monarch

Right at the start of this series, Helen Castor (left) takes a black marker pen and illustrates the cause of the 1553 crisis on a large sheet of paper. Beginning with Henry VII, very few of his legitimate male descendants were alive at the start of that year – eliminating the obvious illegitimate cases, we have Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, aged seven (a Catholic in Scotland) and Edward VI, aged fifteen, whose health took a turn for the worse at that time. There were, however, nine healthy legitimate female descendants: Lady Margaret Douglas, Mary Stewart who was Lady Margaret’s niece of ten and already crowned in Scotland (but living as a Queen consort in France), Henry VIII’s two bastardised, but included by law, daughters Mary and Elizabeth, Lady Frances Grey (nee’ Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk in suo jure) and her three daughters Jane, Catherine and Mary together with Frances’ niece Lady Margaret Clifford. In short, the “Tudor” male line was on the propinquity of its termination, although a medical explanation for this was not given.

In the first programme, Castor showed how Edward’s “devise for my succession” developed during that fateful year. First, he hopes that one of the Protestant Grey sisters will have a male heir to succeed him with Frances as the new King’s grandmother and Regent. Then his illness accelerated and there are crossings out on the devise, such that “the Lady Jane’s heires male” becomes “the Lady Jane AND HER heires male”, in the hope that he will live long enough for Parliament to enact this document and supersede Henry VIII’s own legislation, which named the Catholic Mary as heir after Edward, although the Greys would be preferred to the Stewarts. On the left is the “Streatham Portrait“, previously thought to have been of Jane, but not commissioned until half a century later.

During the first half of 1553, Lady Jane was married to Lord Guildford Dudley, son of the Duke of Northumberland who was Lord Protector at the time. Lady Catherine Grey also married, as did Guildford’s sisters, one to Lord Henry Hastings, later Earl of Huntingdon. In the event, fate overtook Edward’s plans and his devise, as letters patent, had no legal status at his death on 6 July. Darnley’s claim as the last “Tudor” male was to be ignored and England was to have a Queen Regent, as Northumberland took his son and new daughter-in-law from Bradgate in Leicestershire, via Sion House to the Royal Apartments in the Tower for her reign to be proclaimed on 10 July, although Jane took the fateful decision that her husband was to be created Duke of Clarence and not King.

In the second programme, Castor explains how the Privy Council erred by sending Northumberland to East Anglia to arrest Mary, removing the realm’s best military commander from the capital, where the professional soldiers and their weapons were. Mary moved from Kenninghall in Norfolk to Framlingham Castle to strengthen her position and gathered support from those who still adhered to her Catholic faith and who had “known” her from afar for her whole life. There was to be no arrest of Mary, nor was there to be a pitched battle as Henry VIII’s first-born child outmanoeuvred Northumberland, at his Cambridge base, in order to march upon London.

The third episode begins with a naval mutiny ensuring that Mary had some artillery to enforce her claimand the Privy Council officially dethroning Jane. Mary took the Tower, Jane, Guildford and their fathers became prisoners and Mary was proclaimed. For Jane, there could be no return to her earlier life at Bradgate. Except for Northumberland, there was to be no trial until November and even then Jane, Guildford and Suffolk had their sentences of death suspended – until Thomas Wyatt rebelled in the Protestant interest in mid-January, in protest at Mary’s plans to marry Phillip II. Mary then signed the three death warrants, the teenage couple went to the block on February 12th and Jane’s father eleven days later. Cranmer, who had been part of her Privy Council, was attainted and deprived but lived to face Mary’s further wrath at a later date. Darnley married the other Queen Mary and was killed a year or two later in his own realm. For nearly fifty years from that July day when Edward VI’s eyes closed for the last time, England had no male claimant descended from Henry VII and the throne was disputed solely by Queens Regnant.

Castor concludes by pointing out that Jane, proclaimed Queen by the Privy Council who had served Edward VI, should be reckoned as a real monarch of England, even though she had been illegally proclaimed and then dethroned. In some ways, her turbulent final year taught her cousin Elizabeth a valuable lesson – not to take a husband, especially as the most likely such candidate was her fellow survivor: Lord Guildford Dudley’s younger brother, Robert.

On the right is Paul Delaroche’s highly inaccurate painting of Jane’s end, painted as late as 1834. His version of her execution takes place indoors but we know that she died on Tower Green, as did most beheaded women.

For those of us more focused on the fifteenth century, we will be familiar with the concepts of a king Edward whose death was not announced for several days whilst a faction sought to establish control (1483) and of prisoners being executed to clear the way for a Spanish marriage (1499).

A year of anniversaries


2016 has been the 1000th anniversary of Edund Ironside’s accession and death, also of the death of his father Ethelred Unraed and the double accession of Cnut of Denmark. It has also been the 950th anniverary of the battles of Stamford Bridge and Hastings, being the end of the House of Wessex after its interruption.
Four centuries ago, St. George’s Day to be exact, marks the death of Shakespeare and possibly his 1564 birth. Opinion is still divided as to whether, in Richard III’s case among others, he merely embroidered what passed for history during his lifetime or invented many of the significant events he wrote about. At least we can precisely date his death better than we can his birth and we can, ironically, rely on the flow of his plays relating accurately to the culture of his own time, such as Cordelia’s execution, which could not have happened in Richard’s own century.

In March, Helen Castor marked the anniversary on Channel Four by investigating the fate of the Bard’s own remains in this documentary. It transpires that, having been buried in Stratford’s Holy Trinity Church with his family and a forbidding epitaph(1), GPR investigations show that his skull is probably missing, just like Morton’s at Canterbury Cathedral. Richard, of course, was intact except for his feet. It seems that not everyone over the years heeded the curse:

(1) Good frend for Iesvs sake forbeare,
To digg the dvst encloased heare.
Bleste be Middle English the.svg man Middle English that.svg spares thes stones,
And cvrst be he Middle English that.svg moves my bones

Helen Castor’s “Made in the middle”


This is part five, of a short series by the Warwickshire-born historian, which concentrates on modern issues such as Richard’s reburial:
However, the whole series is available and covers the Anglo-Saxon period, when there were several Cathedrals in the Midland kingdom of Mercia.

Jung’s ‘archetypes’ and their function in medieval history.

Giaconda's Blog

jung Jungian archetypes

I’ve been interested in ‘archetypes’ for a long time as I am very drawn to myth and to aspects of Jungian psycho-analysis particularly with regard to how we analyse the personalities and character of historical figures.

Often ‘myth’ is classified as something unreal or untrue yet myths also contain the essence of experience and accumulated wisdom or truth carried down for generations and that is why they retain their power to fascinate us. Myth goes hand in hand with the concept of ancient models which are carried in our sub-conscious and applied to our analysis of characters.

‘The term “archetype” has its origins in ancient Greek. The root words are archein, which means “original or old”; and typos, which means “pattern, model or type”. The combined meaning is an “original pattern” of which all other similar persons, objects, or concepts are derived, copied, modeled, or emulated.’

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What happens when you conduct original research into mediaeval canon law?

If you are PROFESSOR R.H. Helmholz, you conclude that: “
The argument in canon law was made up of two strands of evidence, both equally important. First that there had been a contract of marriage between Edward and Lady Eleanor Butler (born Talbot) before he married Elizabeth Woodville in May 1464. This would be understood to have consisted of vows exchanged in the present tense, ‘I do marry you’ — no witness or priest was necessary — followed by intercourse. The second fact of Richard’s claim — often forgotten by commentators — was that Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth was clandestine, private, before only a few witnesses, with no banns called and no participation of the king’s ministers.
The fact of the pre-contract cannot now be proved, although it could have been known to many persons in 1483; but there is no doubt that Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth was clandestine. Eleanor Talbot-Butler was not available to testify to the precontract as she had died in 1468. She had in fact died before the boy children of Edward IV were born, and thus under modern law, the adulterous nature of Edward’s second union would have ended before they were born. This did not help their legitimacy in the fifteenth century, however: ‘adultery, when coupled with a present contract of marriage’, was an impediment to the subsequent marriage of the two adulterers. Thus even after Eleanor’s death, Edward could not have married Elizabeth under canon law. This harsh judgement could have been mitigated if Elizabeth had not known of Edward’s prior marriage – in this case the two could have remarried after Eleanor’s death.
But all possible mitigation was rendered irrelevant by the clandestine nature of Edward’s and Elizabeth’s marriage. Although a clandestine marriage was accorded validity in many circumstances and the children born of such a marriage might be considered legitimate, the clandestine nature of this particular marriage actually made the children illegitimate. Clandestine marriages were deplored because people, between whom impediments existed, might contract marriage in error or by fraud; the calling of banns was aimed to publicise a proposed marriage and prevent such misfortunes, and to proclaim the good faith of the contracting parties. Edward’s hasty and secret marriage to Elizabeth proclaimed his bad faith: if the banns had been called and his councillors informed, the impediment of the pre-contract might have been revealed and circumvented.” (Loyalty, Lordship and Law, pp.91-103)

If you are PROFESSOR David Cressy, your conclusions are widely referenced here:

If you are DOCTOR John Ashdown-Hill, you conclude that: “It may also be as well to state very clearly at this point that the relationship which was alleged between Edward IV and Eleanor Talbot in the fifteenth century was neither more nor less than marriage. The Act of Parliament of 1484 is quite explicit on this point (see Appendix 1). The widespread use of the term precontract in relation to this union is not particularly helpful, since its meaning is very frequently misunderstood. It is often taken to mean something like “betrothal”, but this is emphatically not what precontract means. It is, in fact, a legal term which can only be applied retrospectively, the contract to which it refers being precisely a contract of marriage. Such a contract could, of course, only become pre- with hindsight, when viewed in relation to a subsequent, second (and necessarily bigamous) contract of marriage with a third party.” (Eleanor, the Secret Queen, p.103). p. 106 also explains how per verba de futuro could validate a secret marriage at the instant of consummation.

If you are DOCTOR Helen Castor, your conclusions will be very similar, quoted on here:

Of course, if you are a denialist who can’t be bothered to do any research but just copy sources you know to be dubious, you can form whatever conclusions you like.

The Sunday Procession (BBC News/ Channel Four)

I write, having watched some of the day live and then the highlights programme. It was moving in many different ways. Sadly, Channel Four decided to utilise Dr. David Starkey again for their coverage and he was even more erratic than usual when he strays from his own area of expertise.

“The Richard III Society has always denied that there was anything wrong with their King’s back”. This is most strange as I have a copy of a widely distributed 2004 booklet (Seeking the real Richard III) in front of me. Part 1d) clearly states that “The story of Richard’s hunch-back seems basically to be a Tudor myth” and “… (but possibly such statements reflect) some slight anomaly in Richard’s physique which could later be magnified into a gross deformity …”. So the booklet, written by one John Ashdown-Hill, accurately predicts the scoliosis in the remains he himself played a large part in locating. According to the Ricardian index ( there was a June 1978 article “The Deformity of Richard III“, which may have clarified this even earlier. So Starkey is incorrect on this point, whether he knows this or not.

Apart from this, Dr. Starkey referred to the other key player in the search, Philippa Langley, as a “loon”, which is a little less than respectful in those circumstances. He didn’t patronise Dr. Helen Castor quite as much. At the same time, he recited More’s works ad infinitum despite More being only five in 1483, contradicting himself in the narrative and possibly never intending to publish it.

Indeed, when anyone takes More’s work seriously, I check the date but April 1 is still a week away. In some ways, I feel sympathy for one whose long-held certainties are exploding beneath his own feet.However, as Maynard Keynes is supposed to have said: “When the facts change, I change my mind.”.

Instead of repeating long-discredited allegations against Richard III, he should go back to Henry VIII and his 72,000 executions, his own area of expertise. His idol, indeed.

Will the cobbler stick to his last?

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