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Richard’s great-grandfather (?) and the origin of the House of York

King's Langley

Yet again the rumour about whether or not Edmund of Langley was the father of Richard of Conisburgh. The following article tells a fascinatingly true story of love, betrayal, treachery, revenge and just about everything else of that nature. How anyone cannot be riveted by 14th-15th century England, I really do not know.

http://www.watfordobserver.co.uk/news/14337725.Nostalgia__The_legacy_of_Edmund/

 

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Constanza of Castile

In this excellent blog post Kathryn Warner refreshes our understanding of Constanza, Duchess of Lancaster, with her usual eye for false myth.

However, one particularly interesting fact arising from the post (in that it relates to the House of York) is that Pedro I, King of Castile, (Constanza’s father) was six feet tall with light blond hair!

This will be a shock to those who mistakenly believe that all Spaniards are dark-haired. (They are not and never have been.) It is also an indication that Catherine of Aragon’s light colouring may not have come purely from her Lancastrian ancestors, but also from her Spanish ones.

Moving lightly on, we should recall, of course, that Constanza’s sister, Isabella, or Isabel, married Edmund of Langley, first Duke of York. So the House of York will have inherited these genes as well. (It seems likely that Langley himself was also blond or auburn-haired and he was almost 6ft tall himself.)

It seems strange then that it is often assumed that Edward IV inherited his (supposed) blond colouring and stature from the Nevilles. Especially as I have yet to see evidence that the Nevilles were particularly tall or particularly tall.

(Reblogged from The Yorkist Age.)

Of party food, comic films and the sinister reality behind them

It doesn’t have to have been in Spain but I expect that most of you will have been to a party at which tapas was served. One of the main components of this is a type of ham known as jamon iberico or serrano. Have you wondered why this is the principal meat in tapas?

Again, many of you will have watched Carry On Columbus, made for the quincentenary of the eponymous explorers 1492 expedition. Jim Dale played one of the Columbus brothers, Leslie Phillips and June Whitfield were Ferdinand and Isabella whilst Bernard Cribbins starred as Mordecai Mendoza, a map maker and converso, or Jewish-born Christian convert. Think of Duarte Brandao (Sir Edward Brampton), the real-life example who came from Portugal to be baptised by Edward IV before serving Richard III on several missions, being knighted by him and then … but I digress.

In one early scene, the Spanish Inquisition, which dates from 1478, suspects that Mendoza is still following Jewish practices, which would make him a heretic with a rather obvious, heavily implied, fate.  Two of the Inquisition’s representatives resort to their most fiendish torture – a plate of ham sandwiches. Mendoza’s arrest would be disastrous for the expedition, almost as much as for himself. He examines the sandwiches and declares that he cannot eat them. “Why not?” ask the Columbuses. “There’s no mustard on them”, declares Mendoza.

Now, thanks to Simon Sebag Montefiore’s excellent “Blood and Gold” history of Spain (BBC4), it is apparent that the real Inquisition, in their efforts to trace fake conversos, in the wake of the 1492 expulsion of the Jewish population, resorted to similar culinary tactics as the Carry On version. Montefiore explains, in the programme(1) and in an article(2) , that an ancestor and two of her siblings fell victim to them in this way, with fatal results. Bernard Cribbins Carry On Columbus (1992) SimonSebagMontefioretapas

(1) http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b06s5x0t/blood-and-gold-the-making-of-spain-with-simon-sebag-montefiore-2-reconquest
(2) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3336389/Simon-Sebag-Montefiore-ancestors-BURNED-stake-Spanish-Inquisition.html

 

Lost in Southampton: Richard of Conisbrough

coni

Richard of Conisbrough was Richard III’s grandfather on the paternal side. He is a shadowy figure, the last son of Edmund of Langley and his wife Isabella of Castile. Even his date of birth is uncertain, varying in different accounts by up to ten years. His father left him no inheritance, and there were rumours that Edmund and his eldest son suspected that Richard was not Langley’s child, but that of John Holland, with whom Isabella of Castile was known to have had an affair. (Some have suggested that this may account for the y-Dna mismatch between Richard and the current Beauforts, and this is a possibility, although it is far more likely it occurred somewhere in the past 16 Beaufort generations.)
At any rate, Richard was known to be the ‘poorest Earl’ due to his lack of income; he was his mother’s heir but monies due to be paid him came only irregularly after Richard II was deposed and Henry IV came to the throne. In 1408, he married Anne Mortimer in secrecy, without parental permission. It appears to have been a love match as Anne came with no particular wealth. With Anne, he had three children, the latter of whom was named Richard— he eventually became Duke of York, and the father of Edward IV and Richard III
When Anne Mortimer died in 1411, Richard of Conisbrough married the heiress Maud Clifford and swiftly had a daughter Alice.
Then in 1415, he fell in with a plot against the reigning Henry V shortly before the King was meant to sail to France for Agincourt. Along with Lord Scrope of Masham and Thomas Grey, he plotted to replace Henry with Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, Anne’s brother, who also had a strong claim to the throne. However, Edmund himself informed Henry, and the conspirators were arrested in Southampton after they had made several meetings. They seemed to have expected mercy, with a heavy fine…but no mercy was forthcoming from the stern Henry.

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St Julien’s, resting place of Richard of Conisbrough

All three men were executed; Grey hanged, drawn and quartered; Scrope decapitated and his head sent to York; and Conisbrough executed by the headsman but allowed to ‘keep his head’ with him after death due to his royal ancestry. He was buried without ceremony in the tiny St Julien’s church, which formed part of the God’s House hospital. Dating from 1185, this chapel still stands in the shadow of a massive towered gateway, although it is in private hands and can only be viewed from the exterior.
So one may think Richard got his just dues for plotting against King Henry. But how serious was this plot? Was there even a plot at all? Professor Anne Curry has doubts as to its veracity as does historian T.B. Pugh. It is just as likely that Henry was simply removing a few disgruntled lords (Conisbrough had some reason to be disgruntled—he had been charged a 10,000 mark marriage fine) and sending a harsh warning to anyone who thought to defy him when he was away on campaign in France. The three plotters were not terribly organised and their supposed plots vague at best, and none of them seemed particularly supportive or loyal to Edmund of Mortimer, which may make it unlikely that they truly wanted him as king—apparently, they called him a hog and a pig!
So whatever the case, Conisbrough lost his life aged somewhere between the ages of 30 or 40, but luckily, because he was not attainted, he was able to pass on his estates to his orphaned son, four year old Richard. Shortly thereafter, Conisbrough’s elder brother died at Agincourt, and in due time young Richard was acclaimed as his heir and inherited his titles and lands.
Conisbrough is rather a forgotten figure, except as dealt with in a Shakespeare play. Despite the possibility he had done very little against Henry V other than grumble a bit with a few other northern lords, no one seems to mourn his execution overmuch…unlike, for instance Anthony Rivers, executed for treason by Richard III in 1483. There is certainly just as much if not more evidence that Rivers was plotting against the Duke of Gloucester on behalf of his Woodville kin; the fact that no one spoke up for him after his arrest speaks volumes. They had weeks to do so. But it seems, alas, Conisbrough did not have Rivers’ charisma…or write poetry.

References-
Anne Curry: Agincourt-A New History
TB Pugh: Henry V and the Southampton Plot of 1415

Perkin Warbeck: A Story of Deception – The Fascinating Enigma as presented in Ann Wroe’s biography

Giaconda's Blog

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I wanted to write a piece about the man who we know as Perkin Warbeck or Piers Osbeck or Richard Plantagenet or King Richard IV or whoever he may have been if he was none of these other men after reading Ann Wroe’s excellent biography on this most appealing of enigmas.

Firstly I need to pay tribute to Wroe’s wonderful book which I found impossible to put down. Her writing is exceptionally beautiful and multi-layered, particularly in the first few chapters where the poetic and philosophical meet the straight historical narrative.

She begins with a very detailed description of the copy of the portrait which survives of the man who called himself Richard, Duke of York, son of King Edward IV. You could be forgiven for falling in love with him right there, not because of his strikingly gorgeous looks, his elegant poise or suggested sophistication but because of his vulnerability…

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What “Perkin” (actually) said

Most of us are familiar with the story of “Perkin Warbeck” and the letters he wrote back to the Low Countries. Depending on his identity, his parents hailed from there if he was an impostor or his aunt was Dowager Duchess of Burgundy if he was Richard of Shrewsbury, the former Duke of York and hitherto illegitimate son of Edward IV. In the decade leading up to his execution in autumn 1499, he had travelled widely, married Lady Katherine Gordon (James IV’s cousin), issued a proclamation of his rights and written various other letters. It seems to be a mantra of the Cairo dwellers, or have they reached Alexandria yet, that this proclamation refers to his kidnap and his brother’s (the erstwhile Edward V) death at the hands of “a certain lord”, an uncle who it later names as Richard III.

The most obvious question mark over this document is that later identification. Even if you assume that it was written whilst he was an untortured free man, you assume that he wasn’t portraying his brother Edward as dead for some complex reason or other (by-passing or protecting him) and you forget that Edward IV’s sons had many uncles, by birth or marriage, including Buckingham and St. Leger , alive in summer 1483, in which language was it written? Latin, which is quite likely, has separate words (patruus and avunculus respectively) for paternal and maternal uncles, which would help here. In Cairo, however, they assure us that the document is not in Latin and that “Perkin”‘s own hand names Richard III, “proving” that it is bad news for Richard whether “Perkin” is Shrewsbury or not.

Well, here is the proclamation, transcribed by Sir Robert Cotton:
https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=3SMsAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA387&lpg=PA387&dq=perkin+warbeck%27s+proclamation&source=bl&ots=-MkrldUg5x&sig=AJMbfXCtJjwivy42KfIlsmZQ3pA&hl=en&sa=X&ei=MV7yVLvMCISY7gaa2YD4Dw&ved=0CDUQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=perkin%20warbeck%27s%20proclamation&f=false
You will note that “Perkin”‘s own words are clearly separate whilst his letter to Isabel of Castile is indeed in Latin. You will also note that John Speed, in his 1610 “Historie of Great Britain” compiled a century after Tyburn 1499, has appended an imaginary speech to James IV and the specific accusation of Richard III appears only in this later addition. You will also note that Bacon has appended even more. You will remember that this is the same John Speed (c.1552-1629) who confused Leicester’s Greyfriars with the Blackfriars, gaining the sobriquet “the Colourblind Cartographer”:
http://www.abebooks.co.uk/book-search/author/speed-john-1552-1629/
Speed and Bacon were, of course, writing for an early Stuart interest.

In other words, nowhere does “Perkin” name the “certain lord” who features in his convenient tale. QED.

THE DOUBLE EXHUMATION OF EDMUND OF LANGLEY, FIRST DUKE OF YORK (from White Lily)

Much angst and verbiage has been vented and spilt lately on the subject of exhumation of bodies, particularly those of royal lineage. I don’t claim to be an archeologist, or an expert in the ethics of exhumation, but I stand in puzzled wonderment at the continued resistance to any proposed opening of the infamous urns at Westminster Abbey. Those urns purport to hold the skeletons of the “Princes in the Tower” – Edward V and his brother, Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York. Well, they do more than just purport – they are actually designated as such in the Minster. I wonder how many tourists actually believe they are laying eyes on those tender golden-haired boys they had seen smothered with a pillow in Laurence Olivier’s movie masterpiece “Richard III”.

By odd coincidence, as I was making my Internet meanderings lately, I came across a blog that brought light to an earlier exhumation of a Yorkist prince: Edmund of Langley, first Duke of York. It turns out that he was exhumed not once, but twice! First, in 1574 and then again, in 1877, at Kings Langley in Hertfordshire.

Kings Langley, of course, was the original resting place of Richard II following his (ahem) “premature death by nutritional deficits” at Pontefract Castle in 1400. Perhaps in a fit of remorse or true piety, Henry V had the remains exhumed and translated to Westminster Abbey. Henry V did not think to accord the same honor to his great-uncle, Edmund of Langley, whose body was laid to rest at Kings Langley in 1402, next to that of his first wife. Of course, one would not expect the scion of the House of Lancaster to elevate the remains of a prince of a rival house, notwithstanding that Edmund was of the blood royal and his ancestor. Westminster Abbey was for anointed kings and queens, and Edmund didn’t make the cut.

What happened next is, however, of some interest. Originally interred in the Church of the Dominican Friary at Kings Langley, the remains of the Duke and his wife were moved around the year 1574. It appears that Elizabeth I had revoked several financial grants that had been given to the friary by Queen Mary I and King Edward VI, and it fell on hard times and ruin as a result; perhaps it was dissolved. So, the Duke’s tomb was opened up and its contents re-interred at All Saint’s.

Langley’s remains, however, were destined for a second exhumation necessitated by some building improvements being done to All Saint’s in the 1870s. Victorian scientists of the day found this to be an opportune time to bring modern medical science to bear. On November 22, 1877, Professor George Rolleston, M.D., opened up the tomb and made the following observations, including the discovery of a third skeleton:

“I examined three skeletons at King’s Langley. Of these one was the skeleton of a powerful man, considerably past the middle period of life; a second was the skeleton of a woman, as far as I could judge, between thirty-five and forty years of age; the third had belonged to a younger woman, whose age, however, could not have been very far from thirty. The bones of the first two had got somewhat intermingled; those of the third had been kept safely apart from intermixture in a leaden coffin.

“The skull belonging to the male skeleton had a sloping forehead. The chin and lower jaw were powerfully developed. The front teeth were small in size and crammed together, and many of the back teeth lost. Still the retention of the front teeth and the good development of the lower jaw and chin, coupled with the length and breadth of the facial region, must have given a commanding expression to the old man who owned this skull.

“The age was somewhere between fifty-eight and sixty-five. The crippled condition of his later years must have formed a touching contrast to the strength and vigor which he certainly possessed. In the lower jaw, three molars had been lost during life, two on one side and one on the other, and one pre-molar was carious. In the upper jaw the molars had been lost during life, and two pre-molars were carious. A piece of coarse textile fabric, with some hair of a greyish-red color adhering to it, was found with the skull. He was from 5′ 5″ to 5′ 7” in height.

“The second skeleton, which was more or less mixed up with the first, belonged to a woman from 4 feet 6 inches to 4 feet 8 inches in stature, and between thirty-five and forty-five years of age. The wisdom teeth were all present; of those in the upper jaw, the one on the right side was apparently only just through the socket; whilst that on the other (left) side had a large cavity. The two lower jaw wisdom teeth were little worn. The right lower jaw canine presented the rare anomaly of a bifid root.

“In a leaden coffin was the skeleton of a woman about thirty years of age, a little over, probably, rather than under that age, with some auburn hair still remaining, though detached from the skull. The wisdom tooth was absent in the lower jaw on the left, and one pre-molar was absent on the right side. She was between 5 foot 3 and 5 foot 5 in height.”

Concerning the identity of these bones, archeologist Sir John Evans said that the powerful male is most certainly the Duke Edmund; the female intermixed with his bones is probably that of his first wife, Isabel of Castile-Leon. And who is the young woman who was buried in the Duke and Duchess’ tomb, alone in the leaden coffin? “In the tomb at Langley it is still uncertain who was the lady whose body was thus protected.”

“It has struck me as possible that these remains may be those of Anne Mortimer, daughter of Roger Mortimer, Earl of March, first wife of Richard of Coningsburgh. This is, however, mere conjecture.” — John Evans (1881). XIV, Edmund of Langley and his Tomb, Archaeologia, 46, pp. 297-328. Contemporary historians and genealogists agree with Evans’ view that the skeleton in the leaden coffin is Anne Mortimer’s. She was the heir general in her issue of the Crown of England, and transmitted the right to the Crown to her grandson, Edward IV.

I keep thinking: what if Dr. Rolleston had not been given permission to examine the bodies in Edmund’s tomb in 1877? Would the body of Anne Mortimer have been found? Indeed, would the third skeleton have ever been noted? How do we resolve the conflicting search for historical truth versus the need to accord respect to human remains? I do not have the answers, but somewhere in my gut, I feel the search for truth must win out.

SOURCES:

http://plantagenetdynasty.blogspot.com/2010/09/body-of-prince-edmund-of-langley-1st.html

http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=37971

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