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Another one (denialists’ myth) bites the dust

Another subject that Cairo dwellers frequently pontificate about is Henry “Tudor”‘s marriage to Elizabeth of York. We do know that he promised, on Christmas Day in 1483 at Rennes Cathedral, to wed her and we know that he obtained a dispensation for the purpose. The denialists claim that this shows her and her mother’s knowledge and consent to the eventual union but the evidence for this is wafer-thin.

Ashdown-Hill’s The Pink Queen, ch.18, pp.169-173, as a biography of Elizabeth Wydeville, fully investigates this subject. Firstly, under the 1475 treaty of Picquigny, Edward IV had agreed with Louis XI that his eldest daughter marry the Dauphin Charles (VIII). Louis abrogated this, by negotiating Charles’ alternative marriage to Margaret of Austria, only in 1482-3. Ironically, Charles actually married a third princess.

Photo of a parrotThe source that suggests cooperation between the families of Elizabeth of York and of Henry “Tudor” is Thomas, Lord Stanley and now Earl of Derby, who was Henry’s stepfather and made this claim in 1486, some months after Bosworth. Ashdown-Hill quotes Derby’s testimony, which noted the couple’s close relationship, verbatim on p.169. Polydore Vergil (left) also quotes this and implies consent from the lady in question. These witness claims, to James, Bishop of Imola, were probably about countering accusations that Elizabeth and her family weren’t able to demonstrate their consent because Elizabeth was being kept in MB’s household. Note that Elizabeth was only able to give evidence to the tribunal via proctors, and they may well have been chosen for her. There were no Wydevilles amongst the witnesses called.

Griffith and Thomas’ The Making of the Tudor Dynasty, pp.91-3, make a similar assertion, involving Margaret Beaufort’s physician, Dr. Lewis Caerleon, but the evidence is notable, once again, only by its absence as Vergil is their only source. Only Vergil suggests that Caerleon was also Elizabeth Woodville’s physician and she was known to employ a different one.

Vergil’s statement continues that the plan was to marry Henry to Elizabeth or Cecily if Elizabeth was already married, as Barrie Williams reminds us was that she was to be to Joao II’s cousin. Whatever the truth of the this matter, she wasn’t crowned until today in 1485 or married until 18th January. Both of these events post-date the repeal of Titulus Regius, which arguably legitimised those born to Edward IV’s bigamous “marriage”.

Henry, before and after his coronation, obviously saw Edward’s daughters as pawns, one of whom he would promote to a queen, with or without her consent or that of her mother. This was only possible by relegitimising Elizabeth and her sisters, after which their mother was disposable.

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)

Princess Joanna and her three Kings

Meet your real Lancastrian claimants

Afonso_V 220px-Portrait_of_John_II_of_PortugalAfter Henry VI’s death in 1471, Henry IV’s legitimate line was extinct but his sister’s senior descendant was her grandson, Afonso V, King of Portugal (1432 r.1438-81). He was, therefore, the principal Lancastrian claimant to the English throne, although Edward IV had become Duke of Lancaster by then as a result of Henry IV merging that title with the Crown.

After his death, the senior claimant was Afonso’s son Joao II (1455 r.1481-95). In 1485, following Joao in line, were:

2)  His son Afonso.
3)  His sister Joanna.
4)  His cousin Manoel (later I), Duke of Beja.

5)  Phillip (“the Handsome”, later I) of Castile.
6)  Margaret of Savoy, his sister.

7)  Ralph, 3rd Earl of Westmorland.

8)  Edmund, 1st Earl of Kent.
9)  His son George Grey.
10) His grandson Richard Grey.

11) Isabella, Queen of Castile.
12) Her son Juan.
13) Her daughter Isabella.
14) Her daughter Juana (“La Loca”).

These people all precede any Beaufort, even when the “excepta dignitate regalis” clause of their legitimisation were ignored. So, if you were a diehard legitimist Lancastrian, let us introduce you to your missing “Kings of England”.

More C17 coincidences

8) Richard III was negotiating to marry the King of Portugal’s sister when he died. Henry VII may also have tried to do so. Charles II did marry the King of Portugal’s sister.

9) Edward IV was paid a secret annuity by Louis XI after 1475. Charles II was paid a secret annuity by Louis XIV from 1670.

Can we think of any others?

“There was I, waiting at the church …….”

“There was I, waiting at the church,
Waiting at the church, waiting at the church;
When I found he’d left me in the lurch.
Lor, how it did upset me!
All at once, he sent me round a note
Here’s the very note, this is what he wrote:
“Can’t get away to marry you today,
My wife, won’t let me!”
{Vesta Victoria}

Have a look at this schedule of events. Elizabeth of York wasn’t exactly “left in the lurch”, in fact Obadiah Binks’ note is one that her father should have sent her mother:

25 December 1483:        Henry “Tudor” promises to marry Elizabeth of York or one of her sisters
22 August 1485:              Battle of Bosworth
30 October 1485:            Henry VII’s coronation
7 November 1485:         Richard III’s Titulus Regius is repealed, legitimising Elizabeth
14 January 1486:            Marriage to Elizabeth of York
20 September 1486:      Birth of Arthur “Tudor”, their first child
November 1486:             Elizabeth Woodville is arrested and confined to Bermondsey Abbey
16 June 1487:                   Battle of Stoke
25 November 1487:      Elizabeth’s coronation as Queen Consort

Henry VII, as he had become, certainly wasn’t in a hurry either to marry or to crown his bride, was he? Note the conditional promise – that he would try one of her sisters if she were already married (and we now know from the Portuguese records that Manoel of Beja was her likely husband whilst Buck recorded her joy at this prospect) – which scarcely marks him down as the romantic sort. Sending his mother-in-law to an Abbey (a male one at that) would have delighted a whole generation of comedians.

Now it seems likely that he sought to continue, in the immediate aftermath of Bosworth, the negotiations to substitute himself as a husband for Joao II’s sister Juana.

Joanna Dreams – a short story

joannaJoanna dreams.  In mist, she dreams.  She dreams of a bright object that then recedes into mist.  When she wakes, like many people who dream, she remembers nothing.

She is pressed to marry by her brother, King John of Portugal, a son of the English House of Lancaster.  She is the Infanta Joanna and many rulers seek her hand in order to make strong alliances with that great nation of trade and travel.  She rejects them all; she wishes only to marry Christ.  Brought before her brother and his court, she is insulted and bullied into marrying these rulers.  King John reminds her of her age and her long sad face which draws no man’s attention.  In her darkened room, she weeps and prays that God will rescue her and send her to her beloved Dominican sisters in Aveiro.

As she twists and turns under the hot coverlet, she falls into troubled slumber.  Mist rises and through it she sees an image that shines as bright as the Dog Star.  She reaches out for this precious object but as she does, it again disappears before her eyes.  She wakes, startled, but not unhappy.  The object seems to offer hope not despair.

Her brother presses her again:  he would like her to marry King Charles of France.  But he is a child of fifteen and she turns away in horror.  She is thirty-three years old.

That evening the dream becomes as sharp as it never has before.  It is if she were looking through the new invention called the camera obscura.  The pinpoint bright shining object comes close and appears to be polished silver armor.  It is the kind of armor that might be worn by a knight.  She looks desperately for a face but all she sees is a slender white hand extending a white rose – to her?  She’s unsure but reaches for it all the same.  It falls into the mist.

Still the negotiations go on with King Charles of France.  He is said to be a pleasant boy but Joanna only wants to be reunited with Christ.  This boy-king, she knows, will only bring her despair.  But her tall, dark, powerful brother frightens her so that she almost agrees to such a marriage.

So Joanna dreams.  And in this dream, she sees the entire figure of the knight.  He holds out another white rose to her.  He is more beautiful than any man she has ever seen – as if he has walked out of the sun.  He is tall with soft blue eyes and tumbling blond hair and the sweetest curve to his perfectly-formed lips.  Is he an angel?  She wonders.  What hope does he bring her?  He seems to be encouraging her but she cannot make out his words – she doesn’t hear in her dreams.  He suddenly draws a veil aside and she sees a young prince on a wide unknown plain.  He is quite different from the golden knight.  He is lean and dark-haired and straight-backed as he sits proudly on his tall white stallion.  He, too, wears the silver armor of a great soldier and a quilted tabard jacket.  Around his head is a fiery circlet of gold.  He has a serious, quiet face with intelligent grey eyes.  She would even say a pious face.  He beckons to her.  Joanna runs to meet this intriguing prince, forgetting all thoughts of home and duties of the realm.

When she suddenly awakes, she pounds her pillow and cries tears of genuine pain that she could not speak to the soldier prince.  She no longer thinks of her marriage to Christ.  Instead, she dwells on the young man on the tall white horse.  She sinks to her knees and prays that God forgives her failing vocation.

Great wars are coming to England.  Joanna hears this at a distance.  Her brother wants to build an alliance with England and Portugal.  He believes the two houses of Lancaster and York can be reunited and thus end the War of the Roses. These wars have devastated England and created havoc abroad.

“Dear Joanna,” says her brother, “I have an offer for your hand in marriage.  He has been a widower for a year and he is quite young.  He is your age – thirty-three.  He has been kind enough to send a small portrait of himself.  Would you care to look at it?”

Joanna, still dream-walking towards her soldier prince, is not inclined to look.  Nonetheless, she slips it out of its white silk cloth curiously embroidered with a tusked boar.  The small portrait shows quite a nice face – calm grey eyes, straight lips and high cheekbones.  His hair is long and dark.  The only hint that he is a man of substance is the heavy gold collar of office he wears upon his shoulders.  His expression is so serious, so pious–

Her heart begins to beat.

“Who is this, Brother?”

“It is Richard, King of England.  He wishes to marry you.”

“Is he a soldier?””

“One of England’s greatest.  It has been the sum total of his career until he assumed the throne of England two years ago.”

“What is he like, Brother?”

The King sighs.  He is used to his sister’s many questions about her various suitors.

“He is a good king and a widower without issue.  Do you like the portrait?”

“He is not unfamiliar.”

Seeing, for once, that she is not obstinate, he leans down and kisses her tenderly on her high white forehead.  She returns to her room admiring the portrait.

No angel visits her that night.  Se wakes disappointed but not unhappy.  The next morning, she runs to her brother the King and tells him she agrees to marry Richard.  He is overjoyed and swings her up into his arms and dances with her about the gallery.  The entire court is overjoyed.

King Richard, it is reported, is headed to a place called Redmore plain to fight a battle against a man called Henry.  Joanna prays for her soul and safety.  She says many rosaries in the cold dark stone chapel of the palace.

Tonight Joanna dreams.

He appears before her.  He opens his tabard and many white roses tumble towards her.  She laughs and grabs at them and he smiles and laughs in return.  He mounts his beautiful horse, turns once to take her into his mind’s eye and rides away.  She stumbles towards him but he is lost in mist.  When she wakes, she knows she will never be as happy as she is this day.

Still a pious woman, she continues to pray to he Virgin Mary and seek Holy Communion.  Eventually the diplomat, Sir Edward Brampton arrives from London in late August and begins negotiations for the marriage.  After a day of signing contracts, King John kindly reminds his sister to pray and mediate on this marriage.  She humbly agrees, suppressing her happiness lest he be too surprised at her unaccustomed gaiety.

Joanna dreams.  The mist arises again and unexpectedly she hears the sound of distant drums.  Her angel returns and swiftly draws back the veil to reveal her soldier prince, King Richard.  But he is no longer upon his great steed.  He is on his knees before her.  Again, he opens his tabard to present her with white roses and she rushes towards him.  But the flowers are not white.  What tumbles out are red roses but as they continue to fall in multitudes, she realizes to her horror that they have turned to blood – river and rivers of blood.  She tries to staunch his wounds with her hands.  She wipes away the bloodied hair from his face.  The angel draws the veil and mouths words that she can barely hear:

“Your Richard is gone from the living.”

Joanna wakes screaming.  To the horror of her ladies-in-waiting, they see that she is covered in blood.  Her hands are red with it as is her face and nightdress.  A doctor is summoned but they cannot find any wounds upon her body.  All they can find are white roses scattered on the bed; but the thorns would not draws so much blood.  The court is in an uproar; even an astrologer is brought in to attempt to solve the mystery.  Joanna fight them off, refusing to change out of her bloodied gown.

King John finally prevails.  She is helped into fresh clothes and put to bed with magical draughts that will make her sleep.

But like many people who dream, she remembers nothing.

The mysterious Human Shredder

So was it Robert Morton, Richard III’s Master of the Rolls and nephew of the future Cardinal, or Polydore Vergil, Henry VII’s pet “historian”? Either way, quite a few documents from Richard’s reign have gone missing. We will adopt a cautious approach to this list:

There remain no letters between Richard and Anne although they were married for about a decade. The record of the 13 June council meeting, including Lord Hastings’ trial, is lost although we know that the Constable and Lord Protector would have the implicit authority to preside over one and we know who occupied those roles. Similarly, the quasi-Parliamentary petition to Richard to become King is missing, as is Stillington’s testimony to the fact of the pre-contract and Edward IV’s codicil confirming Richard’s authority in these positions. Even the Pastons seem to have uncharacteristically silent. All of these missing documents would be favourable to Richard, which completely explains why they are missing.

The human shredder was not wholly successful, however. Richard’s “Titulus Regius” was ordered to be destroyed unread, unprecedentedly, but a copy was preserved in the Crowland Chronicle for Buck to publish. “Tudor” power did not extend to Portugal where the true remnants of the House of Lancaster lived, thus Richard’s negotiations to marry the Lusophone King’s sister whilst his own illegitimate niece married Joao II’s cousin survived. His (late June) letter to Lord Mountjoy in Calais may have had a copy of the great petition attached.

Of course, the denialists would have us believe that Richard had nothing to do in his twenty-five and a half months as King but destroy documents that would portray him in a favourable light, whilst the “Tudor” monarchs that followed were all far too busy throughout their 118 years for anything like that.

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