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A highlight from the quincentenary …

… of Richard’s accession was Channel Four’s 1984 “The Trial Of King Richard The Third”, presided over by Lord Elwyn-Jones. A YouTube poster has sliced it into 22 segments so enjoy the show, particularly part ten, in which a young Starkey implodes. Pollard and Lady Wedgwood (Pamela Tudor-Craig) also feature, as do Anne Sutton and Jeremy Potter.

The prosecution seemed to have a few obsessions:
1) Those bones just had to be the “Princes”. Never mind that Tanner and Wright couldn’t gender them and that science had moved on since 1933. Dr. Jean Ross conceded that point, whilst suggesting that Anne Mowbray was a close relative of her young widower, despite their nearest common royal ancestor being Edward I. She added that the teeth of the three corpses pointed towards the “Princes”‘ identity, although Anne Mowbray’s teeth are very similar to those of her grandfather “Old Talbot”, as John Ashdown-Hill went on to show.
2) The pre-contract, which is surely a matter of simple fact, just had to be contrived, despite Edward IV’s record with the Wydeville secret “marriage” to another older widow of a Lancastrian soldier. Starkey asserted that Edward V’s proclamation would trump any chance of illegitimacy or other weaker claim – that worked so well for Jane, his mother’s other descendant, didn’t it?
3) Even though Mancini described the Wydevilles and their allies “foregathering in each other’s houses”, there just couldn’t have been a plot, could there?

The jury unanimously returned, even on the balance of probabilities, a “not guilty verdict”. Given the work of Ashdown-Hill, Carson, Barrie Williams et al since 1984, we are able to assert that the bones can be analysed more scientifically (against Elizabeth Roberts’ mtDNA) and that the pre-contract, which explains so much, is even more likely, with a second likely witness identified.

Given all these advances in another 36 years, we wouldn’t have heard from Pamela Tudor-Craig, Jeremy Potter and Anne Sutton. Leading counsel for the defence would have stood up after the prosecution conclusion and submitted that there was no case to answer. Lord Elwyn-Jones could only have agreed.

A 19th century British reference to the Portuguese marriage

The facts of the proposed marriages of Richard III to Joana of Portugal and of Manoel of Beja to Elizabeth of York had, of course, been known in Portugal for a long time, before being published by Domingos Mauricio Gomes dos Santos in 1963.

Arthur Kincaid picked up on this and mentioned the marriages in his 1979 publication of his edition of Buck. Barrie Williams then wrote about the matter at length in the Ricardian in the 1980s and Jeremy Potter mentioned the marriages also in his 1983 book Good King Richard? And it was Williams, of course, who inspired Annette Carson to look into the matter more deeply, and write at length about it in The Maligned King.

Yet, there has been no evidence that earlier Ricardians (ie before 1963) knew anything about the matter. Paul Murray Kendall did not know about the marriages, and bemoaned the “fact” that Richard had made no effort to marry off his nieces to get them out of Henry Tudor’s reach (he did not know about Cecily and Ralph Scrope, either). It does not feature in The Daughter of Time; nor in Philip Lindsay’s glowing biography in 1933, nor in Sir Clements Markham’s 1906 book, nor any of the earlier authors, such as Halsted and Buck. Yet, at least one near-contemporary of Markham did know, and mentioned it in one of his books. Unfortunately, he was not a Ricardian…..

Henry (H) Morse Stephens was born in 1857 in Edinburgh and attended Balliol College, Oxford where he obtained a BA in 1880 and an MA in 1892. He was a staff lecturer there until 1894. He also lectured at Cambridge University on Indian history, while writing articles for a number of magazines and papers.

Stephens also wrote a number of books including works about Sir Robert Peel, the French revolution, Indian history … and a history of Portugal, which appears to have been written in the early 1890s. In discussing the reign of Joana’s brother, King (Dom) João II (still popular in Portugal today, by the way, with at least one Algarve hotel named after him!), Stephens talks about João’s relationship with Edward IV and Richard III, in particular relating to the renewals of the Treaty of Windsor by both Kings. He then has this to say:

“In 1485 the King of Portugal proposed in a Cortes held at Alcobaça, that his only sister, Joanna (sic), should be given in marriage to Richard III, but the princess, who … wished to become a nun … refused the alliance”.

Interestingly, it was at that Cortes that the Portuguese discovered, to their dismay, that Richard was exploring the possibility of marrying Isabel of Aragon if Joana would not have him. This, of course, pretty much ensured a favourable reply from the Portuguese, and led to Annette Carson’s interesting and very plausible interpretation of Buck’s Elizabeth of York letter: that she was asking Norfolk to speak to Richard to ensue he pursued the Portuguese marriage (which offered marriage with Manoel of Beja), rather than the Spanish one, which offered her nothing.

So…… there were indeed people before the 20th Century in this country, and not just in Portugal, who knew perfectly well that Richard was not trying to marry his niece and yet none of the people who would have benefited from the information – like Markham – knew anything about it. In the case of Stephens’s book, it was a specialised subject that a Ricardian author would have no reason to read, unless he also happened, by chance, to be interested in Portugal. Another problem in this particular case was that Stephens emigrated to America in 1894, becoming Professor of History at Berkeley, in California. Following the San Francisco earthquake in 1906, he spent the rest of his life (he died in 1919) collecting as much information as possible about that tragedy.

The cynic in me, though, does wonder whether others (ie those not well disposed towards Richard) might have known – and chosen to keep the information to themselves.

One final point about Markham, he visited Portugal at least once (and was actually staying in Estoril when he heard of the death of his friend Robert Scott (of the Antarctic)). If only he had known……


Wikipedia – Henry Morse Stephens

Arthur Kincaid – edition of George Buck’s original work

Jeremy Potter – Good King Richard?

Annette Carson – The Maligned King

H Morse Stephens – The Story of Portugal (described in the Kindle version as a Short History of Portugal)

The Human Shredder again

It seems that a denialists’ source has denied that the first “Tudor” had any documents destroyed, except for the 1484 Titulus Regius that documented Edward IV’s bigamy so conclusively, for which they were caught red-handed. With this exception, there “isn’t a ghostly trace” of destruction, so it seems.

On May 27, we clearly showed the audit trail of some destruction. It was recorded by John Caius, Norwich-born and after whom a Cambridge college was named, through Vergil’s 1844 publisher to Potter in 1983. Strangely enough, instead of being rebutted, this very particular allegation was totally ignored, probably on the grounds of inconvenience.

Of course, the shredding of documents from Richard III’s reign, whether by Vergil himself, by Robert Morton or by others, probably didn’t end with Henry VII’s death. Religious houses were dissolved wholesale towards the end of Henry VIII’s reign and they were renowned depositories of historic documents. This may not have been deliberate.

Until the 1930s, French accounts of Richard II’s deposition were regarded as unreliable but now the Dieulacres Chronicle is available and largely confirms them. Still the denialists rely on sources they must know to be unreliable. In this case of John Caius they have, as our learned friends have it, “failed to come up to proof”. Then again, it comes from the sort of people who insist that a yet-to-be-born Bishop witnessed “Perkin”‘s letter or that a long-dead Catherine de Valois addressed Parliament. Whether they are writing satire or intentional fiction, or both, we are not sure.

It really isn’t hard to blow a hole through their “argument” with a specific example. Richard III spent quite a reasonable part of his reign in Nottingham (his “castle of care”) , yet there is almost literally nothing in the city records about him. There must be many more cases of documents systematically destroyed in the half-century or so after his death.

By contrast, Mary I was bastardised by her father’s legislation and eventually succeded to the throne, partly by force, but only repealed the Act and didn’t actually destroy it.

Polydore Vergil’s destruction of evidence.

The claim that Polydore Vergil destroyed a large amount of evidence while compiling his history is often derided. Indeed, in certain circles it is the basis of running jokes – I rather think these people think it is an allegation invented by the Richard III Society, or perhaps by ‘romantic lady novelists.’

In Jeremy Potter’s book, Good King Richard? the source of this story is identified. ‘The most serious charge was made as early as 1574 by John Caius of Cambridge, who vouched for the fact – which he boldly claimed to be a matter of certain truth – that Polydore Vergil had committed to the flames as many ancient manuscripts as would have filled a wagon, in order that the faults in his history might not be discovered.’ (Good King Richard? p.101).

Who was John Caius? Born in Norwich in 1510, he was an eminent physician who served three English monarchs in that capacity. (Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I.) He is considered a founder of Gonville and Caius College Cambridge, as he paid for the college to be extensively restored. He remained a Catholic all his life, but there is no evidence to show that he was either a member of the Richard III Society or a romantic lady novelist.

Although Potter does not footnote his source, from the context it appears that this information came via the Victorian editor of Vergil’s work, published in 1844.

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