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Is it time to exhume Cardinal Wolsey?

Thomas Wolsey was born in Ipswich, apparently in March 1473, to Joan Daundy and Robert Wolsey, who seems to have been a butcher and may possibly have been killed at Bosworth. Opposite his birthplace, in St. Nicholas’ Street, is this seated statue (below). His local achievements include Wolsey’s Gate and, after about 475 years, the University it was designed to be part of.

After a long career as Bishop of Bath and Wells, Lincoln, Winchester, Durham and finally Cardinal Archbishop of York, Wolsey was summoned to answer charges of treason, having failed to secure an annulment for Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. He died of a heart attack at Leicester Abbey on the penultimate day of November 1530, telling Abbot Richard Pescall: “Father abbott, I ame come hether to leave my bones among you”.

Just like Greyfriars a mile or so away, Leicester Abbey was dissolved about a decade later. Abbey Park stands on the site now and the generally designated site lies to the north, near the confluence of the Soar and the Grand Union Canal. There has been some Leicester University archaeology on the site and the Abbey plan has been marked out, including this grave marker (right).

So is it time to identify the remains of this Cardinal, just twenty years younger than Richard, to rebury them in a similar way in the same city? The church of St. Margaret is nearby.

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Dear Henry: Buckingham’s letter to Henry Tudor. . .

Richard learns of Buckingham's treachery - Edmund Blair Leighton Call to Arms

A tweaking of Edmund Blair Leighton’s painting

Here is a passage from https://englishhistory.net/tudor/monarchs/the-road-to-bosworth-battle-of-bosworth-field/

I quote:

“…Buckingham [wrote] a letter to Henry on 24 September 1483 which stated he would support the rebellion against Richard, even though he and Henry’s interests may not be perfectly compatible.  What is certain is that Buckingham suspected his own life was forfeit with Richard III; he and Henry Tudor could sort out things once Richard was defeated. . .”

Two things here. That Buckingham wrote a letter to Henry on 24th September 1483, pledging support, and that he also suspected his life was in danger from Richard.

I was reminded that Kendall mentioned such a communication in his 1955 biography of Richard III, so I took a look. On page 263 of my 1968 copy, it says:-

“. . .To him [Henry Tudor] a message was sent, by the Duke of Buckingham, by the advice of the lord Bishop of Ely, who was then his prisoner at Brecknock, requesting him [Henry] to hasten over to England as soon as possible, for the purpose of marrying Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of the late King, and at the same time, together with her, taking possession of the throne. . .” Source: Croyland Chronicle

Hmm, I’ll bet that last bit went down a treat with Henry! Together with her? It would drum up support, but Henry wanted to be king on his own—not through a Yorkist wife!

By the way, if this wording was indeed contained in a letter on 24 September 1483, it signifies that the boys in the Tower were definitely dead by then. Otherwise, if Elizabeth of York could be married and reach the throne, her two brothers would necessarily have precedence over her. Did Buckingham know they were dead? Had he been the one to extinguish them—well, order their demise, not do it himself. It therefore seems to me that their deaths served the Tudor-Buckingham-Lancastrian faction far more than Richard, who was already king. And who, my instinct tells me, would not have murdered his boy nephews. He wasn’t that sort of man. And if he wanted rid of his nephews, why omit his brother Clarence’s definitely legitimate son, Warwick? Attainders can be reversed, so Warwick was a claimant too. No, no, any murdering in the Tower was at hands other than Richard’s.

The high and mighty Buckingham had a blood claim to the throne that was infinitely better than Henry’s illegitimate line, so would he really connive to put the latter on the throne? Pigs will fly, methinks. Their goals were definitely not compatible! To begin with, Buckingham was far better off with his cousin Richard, who advanced him and favoured him with lands and riches. Henry could not better that. So why did Buckingham bother with this paltry fellow in Brittany? Why indeed. I think the slippery duke intended to pretend to support Henry, and use him until the opportune moment came to take the throne for himself.

Now to come to my second point. Was Buckingham really in fear of his life from Richard? Well, only if Richard discovered his treachery! So Buckingham’s plotting must have come first, because until it was revealed, Richard seems to have continued to trust and reward his ambitious ingrate of a cousin. According to Kendall, page 268, “Not until Richard reached Lincoln on October 11 did he learn that Buckingham had betrayed him.” To my mind, from that moment on Richard was more than justified in wanting Buckingham’s treacherous head on a plate.

When he learned of the rebellion, Richard cried out bitterly that Buckingham was the most untrue creature living. Hardly the reaction of a man who’d already been intent on ending Buckingham’s life. And when the rebellion failed and Buckingham was captured, Richard wouldn’t see him. The treacherous duke was beheaded, pleading with Richard for a meeting. But Buckingham richly deserved execution. Yes, ultimately, his life was threatened by Richard. But only after he’d shown his hand, not before. And when that letter to Henry Tudor was written, Richard knew nothing, being content that his Stafford cousin was his loyal friend and supporter.

This suggests to me that the meaning of the letter, if it said that Buckingham feared for his life, was the duke’s fore-knowledge that when Richard found him out, he would indeed be in fear of that life! Cause and effect.

It wasn’t the other way around, that Richard threatened him, leading Buckingham to defend his own neck by rebelling. Buckingham was a gaudy snake. It’s a shame that the Tudor snake didn’t get its just deserts too!

A cursed title?

This very informative BBC documentary, presented by Dr. Bendor Grosvenor, showed how a portrait, presently on display in Glasgow, was proved to be an original Rubens.  George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, was a courtier and soldier, serving under both James VI/I and Charles I as well as being a possible partner of the former. He was assassinated in 1628 and the portrait (left) dates from about three years before this.

Villiers’ line fared no better than their predecessors in their tenure of the Buckingham title. Just as two of the three Stafford Dukes were executed and one killed at Northampton over their 67 years, Villiers’ son went into exile in France after serving in Charles II’s “CABAL” – he left no male heir and both his brothers had already died without issue. The title was recreated, with Normanby, for John Sheffield in 1703 but his male line expired in 1735 whilst Richard Grenville’s family held it, with Chandos, from 1822-89.

She isn’t “going through the card” after all

As you probably know, the list of women who have been beheaded in England is very short. Helena Bonham Carter has played two of them so far – Lady Jane (1554) in 1986 and Anne Boleyn (1536) (opposite Ray Winstone’s Henry VIII on ITV) in 2003 and I heard that she was about to play a royal character named Margaret.

Further reading informs me that this is to be Princess Margaret, late sister of Her Majesty and Countess of Snowdon, NOT of Salisbury (1541). The other beheaded women in England were Katherine Howard and Jane, Viscountess Rochford (both 1542), Mary of Scotland (1587) and Alice, Baroness Lisle (1685).

 

A C20 peacetime high treason case?

Today in 1936, George V died and it is not at question that he was terminally ill from a combination of lung conditions, most notably bronchitis. The timing of his death is another matter. Articles dating from 1986, when the matter was revealed, suggest that this was brought forward, via quantities of morphine and cocaine, in order to be reported in the morning newspapers and not the evening journals.

Even if the King’s demise was accelerated by minutes, does this amount to high treason on the part of Lord Dawson of Penn and the other doctors? Rather than a choice between a gallows and an axe, Dawson was promoted to a viscountcy later that year.

You can read another report here.

Richard’s “accusations” sentenced George of Clarence….?

medieval combat society

The excerpt below is from http://www.themcs.org/garter.htm, a list by the Medieval Combat Society of all the Knights of the Garter. George of Clarence comes in at number 185:-

185 (app c.1461) George (Plantagenet), Duke of Clarence. Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. Rebelled against his brother Edward IV, with his father-in-law, Richard, Earl of Warwick, the “King-maker.” Returned to his allegiance. Convicted of treason on the accusation of his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, afterwards Richard III, he is said to have been drowned in a butt of Malmsey.”

On the accusation of Richard????? What a blooper! It was George and Richard’s eldest brother, Edward IV, who did all the dirty work. Richard had nothing to do with it, but yet again he gets the blame.

The Medieval Combat Society site is interesting, as is the list of KGs, but if they are going to be specific about the why, who and what of a Knight’s fate, they should get their facts right. If they can make this error, how many others might they have made?

More’s cryptic reference explained?

In his unpublished semi-satirical volume, More has the Lord Protector and Defender of the Realm, Richard Duke of Gloucester who was also Lord High Constable of England for life, call for some strawberries before the Constable’s Court could pronounce sentence on William Lord Hastings.
Many historians have struggled to understand the significance of the strawberries yet it is a detail surely too trivial to totally invent. Perhaps the fact that a Duke, Marquis or Earl would have strawberry leaves on their coronet explains the point in that Gloucester required assistance from a fellow peer? Although Gloucester was one of only two adult Dukes that June, the absent More wrote thirty or forty years later when Sir John Howard and his son had both been Dukes of Norfolk. Similarly, those present might have included Thomas Lord Stanley, later Earl of Derby. There were no Marquises in 1483.

Was Lord Stanley present when Hastings was arrested….?

Thomas Stanley signature

Tomorrow is the 534th anniversary of the council meeting in the Tower that culminated in the arrest of Hastings. There have always been inconsistencies in accounts of that day, but the one I am concerned with is whether or not that treacherous snake, Thomas Stanley, was present. You see, according to whose version one reads, at the climactic moment of Hastings being accused of treason, Stanley could have:-

  • Dived under a table/been mildly hit with a pole-axe (!)/or had hands grab him.
  • Been imprisoned in the Tower/held in custody in his own London lodgings/taken to a separate room.
  • Wasn’t there at all.

You pays your money, and you takes your choice.

So, in an (ultimately unsuccessful) pursuit of the truth, I have tried to pinpoint mentions of him. To do this, the early chronicles etc. have to be consulted. I am not a historian or scholar, so I turned first to the truly excellent William, Lord Hastings, and the Crisis of 1483: An Assessment by Wendy Moorhen (Richard III Society). She examines these early accounts, and the following extracts are taken from her work.

“…[According to the Great ChronicleUpon the same [day] dyned the said lord hastynges with him [Richard] and afftyr dyner Rode behynd hym or behynd the duke of Bukkyngham unto the Towyr. When all were assembled a cry of treason was uttered and the usher burst upon ‘such as beffore were appoyntid’ and arrested Stanley and Hastings, the latter being executed without ‘processe of any lawe or lawfully examynacion’…

“…Mancini portrays the events as beginning with Hastings, Rotherham and Ely making a customary call upon Richard in the Tower at ten o’clock. The Protector at once accused them of arranging an ambush upon him ‘as they had come with hidden arms’ and again, by pre-arrangement, soldiers entered the room, this time accompanied by Buckingham, and despatched Hastings forthwith. ‘Thus fell Hastings, killed not by those enemies he had always feared, but by a friend whom he had never doubted…’

“…Crowland merely reported: ‘On 13 June, the sixth day of the week, when he came to the Council in the Tower, on the authority of the Protector, Lord Hastings was beheaded‘.

“…In More’s account…the most colourful and detailed version…During the scuffle Stanley received a blow that knocked him under a table, with blood about his ears, then with Rotherham and Morton, he was arrested. and they were taken to separate rooms while Hastings briefly made his confession, the Protector having declared he would not eat ’til I se thy hed of’…”

“…It is noticeable after reviewing these different accounts that Thomas Stanley only appears in the Tudor versions. Perhaps his fame was not so great in 1483 when Hastings, Morton and Rotherham took centre stage, but it is worth noting that although he is included with the plotters retrospectively, yet less than three weeks later he carried the constable’s mace at Richard’s coronation. Did Stanley, as the step-father of King Henry VII, need to be seen, in retrospect, as acting against Richard?…” 

I move on to other accounts, mostly modern. Next is a passage taken from Richard III and the Murder in the Tower by Peter Hancock. “……the Earl of Derby was hurt in the face and kept awhile under hold…” Hancock also says “…The consensus is that Lord Stanley (the Earl of Derby) suffered some injury to the face and that a number of blows were aimed at him. One account has it that he dived under the table to avoid attack…” 

Richard III by James Gairdner, who admits that his source is More, whose source in turn was Morton (“a statesman of high integrity” who must have told the truth! Eh?) “…The cautious Stanley had a blow aimed at his head with a pole-axe, but escaped with a slight wound in the face and was taken into custody…”) Hastings, of course, was beheaded immediately. Stanley was released on 4th July. A pole-axe??? And still the varmint survived!

Life of Richard III – Sir Clements Markham does not actually mention Stanley when Hastings was arrested. This writer does, however, say that Hastings was condemned and executed a week later, on 20th June. (Stallworthe to Sir William Stonor).

Henry VII by S.B. Chrimes apparently speculates that Hastings was killed during the confusion, not afterwards by execution. He also says “…for whatever precise reason, Richard ordered his [Morton’s] arrest along with Stanley and Hastings and others, in June 1483…”

Royal Blood – Bertram Fields. “…The other meeting was to take place in the Tower. It was to include Hastings, Morton, Stanley and Rotherham, as well as Richard and Buckingham…Lord Stanley, who was injured in the melee, was confined to his London home….”

Richard III by Paul Murray Kendall has it as follows. “…The second group was requested to attend in the council chamber in the Tower at ten o’clock in the morning. It consisted of Hastings, Stanley, Morton, Rotherham and Buckingham…Richard directly accused Hastings and Stanley and Morton and Rotherham of plotting with the Woodvilles against the protectorship…Perhaps Hastings and Stanley reached for a weapon…Stanley was put on detention in his own lodgings…Stanley’s art of landing on the winning side had not deserted him. In a few days he was not only released but restored to his place on the council….”

Richard III by Charles Ross. “…The two prelates were arrested and confined to the Tower; so too was Lord Stanley, who seems to have been slightly wounded in the affray…”

The Last Knight Errant – Sir Edward Woodville by Christopher Wilkins. “…There was a moment’s silence and then he [Richard] accused Hastings and the two bishops [Archbishop Rotherham and John Morton, Bishop of Ely] of treason. There was shock and fury, shouts of ‘treason’ and armed men rushed into the room. Stanley very sensibly fell to the floor. Hastings was grabbed, held by the guards and told he was to be executed immediately…” Wilkins gives no source for Stanley having flung himself to the floor intentionally. He goes on to say that Stanley was imprisoned in the Tower, as were the two bishops…”

At this point I decided that getting to the bottom of what happened on 13th June 1483 was going to be impossible. I should have known better, because these facts have eluded eminent historians, even though they give firm opinions of what went on and who was there.

So I will give an opinion too. Although Tudor accounts refer to him as the Earl of Derby, which he was not in 1483, other early accounts refer to him as Lord Stanley. I think he was there, that he was part of a conspiracy against Richard, and that it was amazing he not only survived but for some reason managed to be taken back into favour. Teflon Thomas. Richard was too trusting and/or a lousy judge of character. Why that pole-axe didn’t send Stanley into eternity I will never understand! There is no justice. The reptile actually died in his own bed, just like his equally serpentine and undeserving son-in-law, Henry VII!

Stanley's bed before restoration

Thomas Stanley’s bed, before restoration

Supposedly Thomas Stanley - Ormskirk

Believed to be Thomas Stanley and his first wife at Ormskirk church

Or, of course, he was never a conspirator and supported Richard loyally to the end,  which made him an embarrassingly Yorkist father-in-law for Henry Tudor, who was a bit cross about it. Margaret Beaufort adored her husband and feared for his life, so she doctored all the records and made Thomas vow to say he’d always opposed Richard and had even been wounded and arrested on 13th June. Henry believed his mother, made Thomas the Earl of Derby, and they all lived happily ever after. Oh, I don’t know. Over to you…

Stanley the Angel

 

 

 

 

 

 

Was the condemnation of George of Clarence a significant example of the abuse of attainder?….

The following is an extract from ‘His Grace the Steward and the Trial of Peers’, by L.W. Vernon Harcourt. 

“The proceedings in the parliament of 1477 against George, Duke of Clarence, afford us with a significant example of the abuse of attainder. Either attainder in this case was unnecessary and therefore improper, or it was resorted to for the purpose of bolstering up the judgment in an irregular trial. I have not discovered any evidence that Clarence was formally indicted, but he appears to have been arrested at Westminster, in the presence of the mayor and aldermen of the city of London, on a charge of treason made by the king himself in a verbose and not very dignified speech.1

“In the ensuing parliament Clarence was arraigned: the king, according to the continuator of the Croyland Chronicle, prosecuted in person: no one ventured to reply but the prisoner. (This last seems a somewhat unintelligent observation.) Certain persons were brought in by the crown, presumably as witnesses, but from their conduct at the trial many thought they were there to formulate accusations.2 Clarence denied the charges, but the bill of attainder was passed by the lords and commons and received the royal assent.3 

“The Duke of Buckingham was appointed steward of England to pass sentence,4 but execution was for some little time delayed: it was, to be sure, only seemly that the king should exhibit some reluctance about putting his own brother to death.

“The commons finally paid a visit to the upper house and requested by their speaker that the matter might be brought to a conclusion.5 Shortly after, Clarence was done to death. The manner of his dying was never made public; but the story of the wine-butt has at least the merit of being strictly contemporary gossip.6 

1 Chron. Croyland, ed. Bohn, p.479

2 Ibid.

3 Rot. Parl., vol. vi, pp. 193-5

4 Patent Roll, 17 Ed. IV, pt. 2, m. 19

5 Chron. Croyland, ed. Bohn, p.480

6 Mentioned by Fabyan, ed. 1811, p. 666

“Drowned in Malvesay.” Chronicles of London, ed. Kingsford, p. 188.

So, now the questions. Was the attainder of George of Clarence, the brother between Edward IV and Richard III, improper/irregular enough to be questionable in law? Was the court packed with false witnesses? Did Edward have so little real evidence against George that he had to bend the rules? The king had his way back then, of course, but in the present day, could a good lawyer present a convincing case for a mistrial? George might still be attainted and condemned in a second trial, but Edward would have to take more care. And, who knows, he might even have second thoughts about committing fratricide.

And finally, if the original trial was sufficiently improper/irregular, and therefore not lawful, would it mean that Clarence’s son, Edward, Earl of Warwick, was the rightful and legal heir of Edward IV, not Richard, Duke of Gloucester?

I do not believe for a moment that Richard thought any such thing. He saw himself as the rightful king and acted accordingly. In good faith. But L.W. Vernon Harcourt has made me think.

Postscript 26th April 2017: I am adding this because it suggests to me that L.W. Harcourt Vernon is correct to question the legality of George’s trial, because the Commons thought so too. In Judicature in Parlement by Henry Elsyng, Clerk of the Parliaments, I found the following. (Apologies for the Latin, which I can only vaguely follow, but the paragraph that follows it more or less explains.

“[fol. 75] Anno 18.E.4. George Duke of Clarence was arraigned in full Parlement. There is noe mencion therof in the roll but in a manuscript story of that tyme written by a Priour of Crowlande (who was a Pryvye Counsellor to .E.4.) yt is sayd, Tam tristis visa est disceptatio ea habita inter duos tantae humanitatis Germanos. Nam nemo arguit contra Ducem, nisi Rex. Nemo respondit Regi, nisi Dux. Introducti autem errant nonnulli, de quibus a multis valde dubitatur, anAccusatorum, an Testium Officiis sint functi; utra enim Ofrficia in eadem causa eisdem personis non congruent: Diluit enim objecta Dux ille per infitiationem; offerens si exauderi posset manuali defensione tueri causem suam. Quid multis immoror? Parliamentales reputantes auditas informciones sufficere, formarunt in eum Sententiam damnationis, quae ab ore Henrici Ducis Buckinghamiae, pro tempore noviter create Angliae Senescali, prolata est. Dilita est postea diu execution, quoadusque Proculotur Communitatis in Superiorem Camerum cum Sociis suis adveniens, novam eius conficiendae rei requisitionem fecerat, Et consequenter [fol. 75v] infra paucos dies factum est id, qualecunque erat genus supplicit Secrete infra Turrim Londoniarum. Utinam finis mali. Anno Domini 1478 regni vero Regis Ed.18mo./ perAnonymous in bib. Cottonae. [see 1 below]

“Here let us examine, for what illegall proceeding the Commons required this cause to be herde agayne. The author says, none argued against the Duke but the Kinge. This the commons helde to be against Lawe, That the Kinge Himselfe shoulde enforce either Article or Testimonye against a delinquent in a Capitall cause: for yt is inconvenient, that He, whoe is to have the fortfeiture of lyfe, Landes and goods should be accuser, wyttness or Judge. The Commons were present at this Tryall, and considering of the Inconvenience herof, they retourned & made this request, ut supram.

“[1] The ‘book’ was Ingulph’s Chronicle and its continuations (B.L., Ms. Cotton Otho B. XIII). The editor is grateful to Colin Tite for this identification. This manuscript was severely burned in the fire of 1731. We now have available a text based on another manuscript of the Chronicle, formerly owned by Sir John Marsham. This text was included by William Fulman in Volume I of Rerum Anglicarum Scrip;torum Veterum, printed in 1684. The modern edition (Henry T. Riley, ed., Ingulph’s Chronicle and Its Continuations, 1908) is based upon it.”

 

A fictional treason case

In real life, there wercrowncourte no high treason cases in the United Kingdom after 1946 and no peacetime cases after 1913. However, regular viewers of Crown Court, which was shown on ITV from 1972-84, will have seen an episode in which a Congolese man was convicted and sentenced to death during that time. The episode ended before we were appraised of the prisoner’s ultimate fate but, until 1973, had a reprieve not been forthcoming, he could have chosen beheading as his mode of execution.

Here is the evocative closing theme, Peter Reno’s Distant Hills, played by the Simon Park Orchestra. There is also a snatch of “Jeremy Parsons QC” (Richard Wilson, with hair) examining a young Zoe Wannamaker in a rather less serious case. Many of the episodes are on YouTube. Does one of our readers have a link to the Congo treason affair?

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