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Henry VI’s Bed-Chamber Tutor?

There’s a new book on Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou coming out, in which historian Lauren Johnson surmises that the over-pious Henry VI may have had a few problems in the bedroom department and hence had  attendants who would ‘guide’ him in the ways of  love. Henry was a notably prudish man who once erupted in shocked fury when some female dancers arrived at court wearing gowns that ‘exposed their bosom.’ He also suffered some kind of serious mental health issues, even becoming catatonic for an extended period, an illness inherited through his mother, Catherine of Valois, whose father Charles had also suffered severe mental illness (he thought he was made of glass), as did several other members of the extended family.

It was about 8 years before Henry  and Margaret produced a child, Edward of Westminster, and the baby was born during one of the King’s bouts of illness; the monarch did not respond or acknowledge his child, even when the Duke of Buckingham placed the baby in his arms. Later, he did come round but promptly exclaimed that the baby must have ‘been brought by the Holy Ghost’.

As one might expect, rumours went around that the child was not his, but was the son of Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset.

In his play Henry VI, Shakespeare had Margaret have a passionate fling with William de la Pole, the Duke of Suffolk but that does not seem to have been a contemporary rumour–however, it is interesting to note that one of the figures who was supposed to be helping Henry out in the ‘bedroom department’ was none other than the…Duke of Suffolk. Maybe the Duke decided to be a little TOO helpful on occasion… The other ‘attendant’ of note happens to be Ralph Botiller–that would be Eleanor Talbot‘s father-in-law, Lord Sudeley–although no one has ever accused him of having an affair with Margaret of Anjou. Her image, however, is on the exterior of the chapel he built at Sudeley, along with that of Henry.

 

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Article on Henry VI Sex Coach!

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Films about the monarchy in Britain….

Not that I think William Wallace counts as part of the British monarchy. I don’t believe Old Longshanks would have had any of that! Anyway, to read an article about films concerning various kings and queens, go here.

But where’s King Arthur?????

Seeking the Real Duke of Clarence

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.

 

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George III revealed

This documentary, presented by Robert Hardman of the Daily Mail, unveils some of our longest-serving King’sgeorgeiii secrets, such as a draft abdication letter after American independence was achieved. It also discusses his health issues in greater detail. Until recently, it was thought that he suffered from porphyria, a physical disease that Mary Stuart carried to her descendants but now it appears that he was afflicted by some form of insanity and was aware of it in the early stages. Hardman tells us that George, as a prolific writer, is likely to have appreciated the many scientific and georgetechtechnological advances that followed his reign.

We are also told how, at the onset of his reign, he micro-managed his royal duties, possibly wearing out his formidable mind. Just like Henry VI, George III had an early attack, in 1782 when his favourite son died and the letter was drafted, but recovered within months, only to lose that mind irrevocably at a later stage. Fortunately, George had several adultoldgeorgeiii sons, the eldest of which could serve as Regent, whilst he stumbled around unaware, either mentally or visually, of his granddaughter Charlotte’s death in childbirth or of her cousin’s birth. At least he knew about the “discovery” of Australia.

Here  is a link to the recently released “Georgian Papers Online”, now part of the Royal Collection and here is Hardman’s original article.

Only Richard III ever broke the law…(apparently)

This post is provoked by a comment I came across the other day that claimed that the tens of thousands of people killed by the Tudor dynasty somehow don’t count as it was all done within the law. Albeit the rough-and-ready version of the law as it was at that time.

Snags with this argument:

  1. A number of highly unpleasant 20th century dictatorships and war criminals would have offered a similar defence. This does not make them moral or admirable.
  2. Henry VIII, certainly, was not above changing the law after the offence was committed and then applying the change to the offence. Examples, the Bishop of Rochester’s unfortunate cook; Lady Rochford – in the latter case the law was changed to permit the execution of insane people! If this is ‘legality’ it stinks.
  3. What about people disposed of via Acts of Attainder? Examples Katherine Howard, Lady Rochford, Margaret Countess of Salisbury. These people were not even given a drum-head court martial, let alone a trial, and absolutely no opportunity was given to them to mount a defence. Legal? After a fashion.
  4. Tyrants make their own laws as they go along. Anyone can stay within the law if they can amend it as they choose.

 

The Madness of Henry VI …

… but precisely what form did it take? It was clearly different in effect from that of Charles VI, his grandfather. Charles was reportedly violent on occasion and sometimes believed himself to be made of glass but Henry was more withdrawn. Both doubted the paternity of their children, although the sheer number of Charles’ offspring, including two English Queens Consort, make such doubts less reasonable in his case.

The two most influential Henry VI biographies nowadays are by Ralph Griffiths and by Bertram Wolffe, who included a whole chapter on Henry’s mental health. What would a professional in that field make of the available evidence? Henry’s physical remains are of no available as his brain no longer exists. By contrast, Richard III’s long residence in Leicester’s Greyfriars led to his skin, flesh and organs decomposing, leaving his skeleton to attest clearly and precisely to his scoliosis.

Richard III grew up during Henry VI’s first reign and his time as “King in exile”. It should be much easier to diagnose Henry given the increased awareness of mental health issues today.

Insanity through the ages

Insanity was recognised under English law in the Norman era thus:

“eo quod sensu carent et ratione, non magis quam brutum animal iniuriam facere possunt nec feloniam, cum non multum distent a brutis, secundum quod videri poterit in minore, qui si alium interficeret in minori ætate, iudicium non sustineret.”

(“since they are without sense and reason and can no more commit a tort or a felony than a brute animal, since they are not far removed from brutes, as is evident in the case of a minor, for if he should kill another while under age he would not suffer judgment.”)

Essentially the Normans didn’t recognise insanity as a defence, but as a special circumstance that would allow a jury to render a guilty verdict but to then apply to the King for a pardon. This seems not to have been seriously tested until R v Arnold (1724) 16 St. Tr.704. Arnold shot Lord Onslow, wounding him. Sentenced to death, Lord Onslow secured a reprieve for him to life in prison. Lord Tracey recognised the “wild beast” test:

“A man must be totally deprived of his understanding and memory, so as not to know what he is doing, no more than an infant, a brute, or a wild beast, such a one is never the object of punishment.” Of course the “wild beast” in question actually means a farm animal, not some sort of wild animal.

From this case, R v Ferrers (1760) 16 How St. Tr. 886 saw the House of Lords rule that the Earl was not suffering from an irrestible impulse when he killed his servant. Ferrers was executed and one of his descendants was a 1990s Home Office Minister. R v Hadfield (1800) 27 How St. Tr. determined that a brain-damaged ex-soldier, who shot at George III because he wished to be executed, was suffering from a delusion. Daniel M’Naughten, in 1843, shot Robert Peel’s secretary, believing him to be the Prime Minister in person, conspiring against M’Naughten, the Lords’ “rules in M’Naughten’s case” becoming the basis of common law on insanity, only slightly revised.

So what of historical cases within or close to our period?
1) Edward Earl of Warwick, imprisoned by Henry “Tudor” within days of his accession, only seems to have left the Tower three times: for display in 1487, for trial in 1499 and for his execution that November. It was said that he “could not tell a goose from a capon”, presumably as a result of his seclusion, suggesting that he may have fallen under the Norman law.
2) “Perkin Warbeck”, who might have been Richard of Shrewsbury or a conscious fraud. Alternatively, he may have been a non-Royal individual who was under the delusion that he was Richard of Shrewsbury. As we just don’t know who he was, his sanity would depend on that.
3) Jane Parker, Viscountess Rochford, executed in 1542 for participating in Katherine Howard’s treason. She was attainted and widely recognised to have been insane.

Evidently, the “Tudors” were no respectors of English common law.

“Perkin” again ….

In writing this, I have to own up that my copy of the book is signed by Ann Wroe in person. Our discussion confirmed that she retains an open mind on the youth’s identity, uncommon as that may be in writers on the period, but there are three possibilities:

1) He was the middle son of Edward IV, formerly the Duke of York in suo jure and Norfolk in jure uxoris.
2) He was a conscious impostor.
3) He was a fantasist – a random youth who believed himself to be the ex-Prince.

Now we all have to be careful about jumping to conclusions here. All suggestions of a “confession” or letters to “relatives” that can surely only be viewed through the prism of “Tudor” propaganda, especially as such could be composed without contradiction after his execution. Look at Tyrrell’s “confession”, which post-dates not merely his own death but that of Henry VII – thanks to Susan Leas (“As the King gave out”).

So what of the youth’s legal status in each case?
1) Henry’s repeal of Richard’s Titulus Regius would have made the ex-Prince legitimate, notwithstanding his father’s bigamy. His long campaign was surely to be King in his own right, implying that the former Edward V was either dead or uninterested and Richard of Shrewsbury would be the rightful King, to whom Henry should surrender.
2) The youth, whether literally a boatman’s son from Tournai, was almost certainly a foreign citizen and therefore owed Henry no fealty. There was some debate about this at William Joyce’s trial in that he claimed to be a British subject, so it mattered not that he wasn’t. However, the personage that the youth impersonated was not a subject.
3) The youth was a commoner who thought himself to be Richard of Shrewsbury and may well have been insane. “Tudor” “justice” had little interest in this – we see Edward of Warwick executed in the same week, Elizabeth Barton (1534) and Viscountess Rochford (1542), all of whom were deluded to some degree – and insanity was evidently not viewed as a defence.

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