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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).

 

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The treacherous Welshman who supposedly killed Richard III….!

 

Rhys ap Thomas

A few days ago I watched a TV documentary about Rhys ap Thomas, The Man Who Killed Richard III. It made my Welsh blood boil! The man was a bullying, thieving snake, not a hero! Anyway, here is the TV company’s blurb:-

“Who killed Richard III?

http://www.historychannel.com.au/shows/man-killed-richard-iii/

“This is a story of conspiracy and betrayal, of a lust for power and a lost allegiance; the story of the man who killed King Richard III.

“In this documentary we set out to prove that the Welshman Sir Rhys ap Thomas, master of Carew Castle in Pembrokeshire, killed King Richard III, changing the course of British history.

“Sir Rhys ap Thomas had sworn allegiance to King Richard III. He had accumulated lands and status in Wales that were dependent, in part, on his loyalty to Richard. But at the Battle of Bosworth he betrayed him, fighting on the side of Henry Tudor. He dealt the fatal blow to Richard III.

“We uncover what drove Rhys ap Thomas to betray not only his master but a King – and we reveal his remarkable story; from a childhood embroiled in the War of the Roses and exile to the continent, to a determined and ambitious man who brought an abrupt end to the Plantagenet line, carving the way for his own rise to power at the heart of the Tudor dynasty.”

Whether the fellow really did kill Richard at Bosworth I don’t know. Nobody really does, but he gets the kudos…or notoriety, according to which side you support. Welsh blood or not, I support Richard. Go on, you hadn’t guessed, had you? My unbiased views masked it completely.

The documentary made much of the fact that Rhys would have supported Richard against Henry Tudor, had not Richard demanded custody of Rhys’ four-year-old son as a hostage, to make certain of Rhys’ loyalty. This, apparently, was too much for the Welshman’s honour, so he refused, and Richard (who was clearly and rightly suspicious anyway) was alerted to his duplicity. Well, honour didn’t figure much in Rhys’ later career, which was decidedly dishonest and acquisitive of property that was not his to take. Hmm, in that regard he is worthy of Henry VII. He was certainly ambitious in many ways, having numerous mistresses with whom he attempted to populate the whole of Wales! Or so it seemed.

They referred to Richard III as Richard of York. Sorry, that was his father. Richard III was Richard of Gloucester. Oh, and there was a Duke of Oxford. Sorry, he was only an Earl. Who are these people who are paid to do the research? And there was no mention of WHY Richard came to the throne, just that he did and was believed to have killed his nephews in the process. Convenient, because it made him sound as horrible as Rhys. The word ruthless cropped up as well. with regard to Richard, of course.

It was selective reporting of which Tydder would have been proud, and it gave me indigestion. And me born in Pontypridd and brought up in Cilfynydd and St Athan!

The programme did dispose of one myth, the one where Rhys vowed loyalty and swore to Richard that Henry Tudor would only passed through Wales over his body! The story goes that this was achieved by Rhys lying under a bridge while Tudor and his invading army passed over. It seems that the truth is that the two armies (Tudor’s and Rhys’) simply took different routes and thus avoided each other until, presumably, the English border was reached.

There was an almost redeeming moment. Right at the very end. The presenters had to admit that Rhys was a turncoat. That’s putting it mildly. I wonder if he would have been so keen to support the Tudors if he’d known that his family was to lose everything and Henry VIII was to execute his grandson as a traitor?

Anyway, it’s believed that right at the end of his life, Rhys had cause to reflect upon his guilt where Richard was concerned. Nice one, Rhys. Wait until the pearly gates appear out of the mist in front of you, and then hastily repent and seek forgiveness. I only hope the Almighty had been making copious notes over the years!

A humorous account of what really happened with Rhys and that bridge can be found here.

Note: Rhys’ grandson, Rhys ap Gryffudd (aka fitzUryan), who was executed for treason in 1531/2, was married to Katherine Howard, granddaughter of the first Duke of Norfolk. They were ancestors of Lucy Walter.
Sir William Parker, who was a standard bearer at Bosworth, was the grandfather of Jane, Viscountess Rochford, who was also beheaded under Henry VIII, with Katherine’s cousin and namesake.

HENRY VIII: THE EVEN HANDED PERSECUTOR

Some folks out there have recently been trying to justify the long list of people executed by Henry VIII  because ‘at least they had a trial’ or ‘because it was over religion, and there were always beheadings, pressings, burnings over religion.’

Well, surprisingly, I must agree with them on one thing. Henry sure could be fair and evenhanded.

He dealt out his brand of ‘justice’/punishment to both Catholics and Protestants, peasant and nobles, strangers and relatives, men  and women, and young and old alike!

From the Protestant side, the list of victims  include twelve clergymen, 3 monks, 2 lawyers, a courtier, several servants, an apprentice, a leatherseller and a tailor, a player and a musician, a painter and a mercer. Poignantly, there is also listed a poor artificer and a poor labourer, a  wife, a man called Valentine Freese alongside his wife, a child under 15 called Richard Mekins, and an ‘aged father.’ All were burnt at the stake save for the ‘aged father’ who had his brains bashed out prior to the fire taking hold. (I presume this was meant to be merciful.)

From the Catholic side, we have a list of well over 200, mostly priests and monks, but also the Nun of Kent, and some laymen and laywomen, including  67-year-old Margaret Pole, who was charged with nothing but faced death because her son was out of vengeful Henry’s reach.

Of the ‘rich and famous/infamous’ there are approximately 25 executed nobles and some ordinary folk  connected with the  supposed nobles’ misdeeds,  such as  Mark Smeaton, who was tortured into confessing a fling with Anne Boleyn.  The executed include Edward Stafford, son of Henry Stafford, the Duke of Buckingham (who raised rebellion against Richard III) , Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell, de la Poles and Poles (including a young boy who was imprisoned in the Tower and was never seen again…he might be there still*!), a Courtenay and a Hungerford (both  of these families had helped Henry’s father to his throne), Jane Boleyn, and of course wives Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard.

As we can see,  Henry was a very even handed chap indeed. No one got favouritism. No one got out alive.

* https://murreyandblue.wordpress.com/2014/02/28/whatever-happened-to-henry-pole-the-younger-2011/

CatherineExecution

Would Richard use vellum? Or paper?….

An argument has arisen for and against using vellum for recording our laws, as stored on the amazingly full shelves of the Act Room. Paper is indeed more perishable. Just imagine having the Magna Carta on paper! How insignificant it would appear. Not insignificant in content, of course, but all the same…

I have seen the magnificent charter that Richard III granted to the City of Gloucester. It is quite exquisite, and so vivid and crisp after all this time that it might have been signed and sealed only a few years ago. If it had been on paper, it would certainly not look the same.

So, vellum or paper? In the long run, given that vellum lasts 5,000 years or more, I guess the vellum has my vote. I know there are all sorts of reasons and sensibilities against it, but I’m still in favour of its continued use. It would have been used for the Lindisfarne Gospels, Domesday Book, Magna Carta, Edward I’s Treason Acts, de Heretico Comburendo, Titulus Regius, Richard’s bail laws and Henry VIII’s attainder against the insane Viscountess Rochford.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/12156813/Vellum-should-be-saved-in-a-bid-to-safeguard-our-great-traditions-says-minister.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

Act Room, Houses of Parliament

John Guy on More …

… or how a Lord Chancellor fell victim to the King he idolised and one historian stayed loyal to his mentor but another didn’t:

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/tudor-terror-john-guy-is-on-a-mission-to-bring-history-to-the-masses-876441.html

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.

 

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.

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