murreyandblue

A great WordPress.com site

Archive for the tag “John Rous”

SIR THOMAS MORE , A MAN FOR ALL REASONS: SAINT OR SINNER?

‘Not exactly the horse’s mouth’

In Josephine Tey’s spellbinding novel ‘The Daughter of Time’, Detective Inspector Alan Grant has a reputation for being able to spot a villain on sight. Whilst in hospital with a broken leg, Grant is idly flipping through some old postcard portraits to while away the time. He turns over a portrait of a richly dressed medieval man in his thirties: a judge? A soldier? A prince? Certainly someone with authority and responsibility Grant supposes. Imagine his surprise, therefore, when he realises it is a portrait of Richard III. “The monster of nursery stories. The destroyer of innocents. A synonym for villainy.” Shocked that he could be so mistaken as to place Richard on the Bench instead of in the Dock, Grant delves deeper into the mysteries of his life and reign. A friend lends him a library copy of Thomas More’s ‘The History of King Richard III’, which he reads with a detective’s eye for detail and evidence. Pretty soon he realises the fatal flaw in More’s account and raises the problem on his friend’s return.

” ‘I wanted some information about history written in Richard III’s day. Contemporary accounts.’

‘ Isn’t the sainted Sir Thomas any good then?’

‘ The sainted Sir Thomas is nothing but an old gossip’ Grant said with venom. He had taken a wild dislike to the much-admired More.

‘Oh, dear. And the nice man in the library seemed so reverent about him. The Gospel of Richard III according to St Thomas More, and all that.’

‘Gospel nothing’ Grant said rudely. ‘He was writing down in a Tudor England what someone had told him about events that happened in a Plantagenet England when he himself was five.’

‘Five years old?’

‘Yes.’

‘Oh, dear. Not exactly the horse’s mouth.’ “

 

I doubt if there are many Ricardians, if any, who would disagree with Inspector Grant’s opinion of ‘the sainted Sir Thomas’ and his history book: and with some justification. It contains many demonstrable errors and falsehoods, which have shaped our perception of Richard III for centuries. Even today, when there is more or less a scholarly consensus about its unreliability, there remains a perception that it is not entirely useless as a historical source.

 

The man who wrote ‘The History of King Richard III’ was not Saint Thomas More the Catholic martyr or Sir Thomas More the king’s Lord Chancellor. He was plain ‘maister’ More of Lincoln’s Inn, a brilliant and successful humanist lawyer and writer. I hope in this article to explore aspects of More’s character and life that may explain why he wrote his history of King Richard, and the historical and literary influences that guided his quill. This is not, however, a critique of this book as literature or history.

 

‘This child will prove a marvelous man’

Thomas More was born in London on the 7th February 1478 (or 1477), the eldest son of Sir John More, a successful lawyer and later justice of the King’s Bench, who rose to prominence during the reign of Edward IV. Politically, Sir John was an Edwardian Yorkist rather than a Ricardian who, despite being unfairly imprisoned by Henry VII, prospered during the Tudor dynasty. He had an enormous influence on Thomas as a child and as an adult; being, largely responsible for his son’s choice of a career at the Bar rather than the Altar. The More’s were a wealthy family of merchants and professionals. Both Thomas’ grandfathers acquired fortunes. Each played a significant part in the governance and commercial life of London during the fifteenth century, and also in various financial and advisory capacities to the king. At the age of seven, Thomas was enrolled in St Anthony’s , a prestigious grammar school in Threadneedle Street not far from his home. It had a reputation for producing England’s finest Latin scholars and Thomas was no exception. His grounding in Latin was to stand him in good stead later in life. But it was his spell as a page in John Morton’s Household that was to mark young Thomas as a teenage prodigy.

 

As Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor, Morton was the most powerful commoner in the realm. He united the affairs of church and state, and his service to Lancastrian and Yorkist kings established his reputation for integrity. Furthermore, his part in Henry VII’s conquest of King Richard and the unification of the red and white roses assured Tudor goodwill. His main responsibilities were implementing the king’s fiscal and foreign policies, for which he was amply rewarded with lucrative offices and beneficiaries. Morton was, however, deeply unpopular with the king’s subjects, who resented the heavy load of taxation and benevolences he collected from them. He is (perhaps mistakenly) believed to have been responsible for the cunning argument commonly known as Morton’s fork, which was used to extract forced loans from reluctant subjects and is best described as “persuading prodigals to part with their money because they did spend it most and the covetous because they could spare it best.”[1]

 

In 1490, Thomas More walked the relatively short distance across the Thames to Lambeth Palace, there to take up his duties in the archbishop’s household. His position as a page was not demeaning. On the contrary, it was considered a privilege for gentlemens’ sons to serve in the household of a great lord. They would learn the etiquette of the privileged and mix with the good and the great. As a page, More led a strict and simple life but not a hard one. He slept on a straw mattress in a dormitory with other sons of the gentry. His principal duties as a servitor were to wait at table and clear away after the meal. Cleanliness was particularly important for pages and their dorm was well equipped with a long communal sink and pitchers of water. However, More’s life was not wholly one of servitude and menial labour. He continued his education as a scholar at a private school within the archbishop’s establishment. Apparently, his superior intellect and quickness of wit so impressed the archbishop, that More was soon attending him in his grace’s private chambers in the West Tower.[2] William Roper (More’s son-in-law and first biographer) provides a colourful insight into More’s prodigious self-confidence at this time “…though he was young of years [Thomas] would be at Christmas-tide suddenly sometimes step in among the players and never studying the matter, make a part his own there presently among them, which made the lookers-on more sport than all the players besides. In whose wit and forwardness the cardinal [Morton was not a cardinal at the time.] would often say to the nobles that divers times dined with him ‘ This child there waiting at the table, whosoever shall live to see it, will prove a marvellous man‘.”[3]

 

More had great respect for archbishop Morton, whom he considered to be a great man and an exemplar of ethical and moral behaviour. I am not myself convinced that Morton was such a paragon of virtue; yet, he was undoubtedly one of the most imposing political figures of Henry VII’s reign. His influence in shaping More’s career is undisputed. For example, in 1494 he was instrumental in arranging a place for him at Oxford University, where More could study canon and civil law under the watchful eye of the Benedictine monks of Canterbury College. Morton hoped that More would obtain his doctorate in law before taking holy orders and embarking on a career in government. However, after completing the curriculum, More left Oxford to join chambers in New Inn, there to continue his legal training. Whether this was his own choice or his father’s decision is unclear, but it is likely that it was always intended that he should practice law. If so, this was the preferred path for budding lawyers, who spent six or seven years learning their profession and ‘the affairs of men’ in the hurly-burly of the Inns of Court rather than in the cloisters of Oxford, which offered no such practical or material benefit. As Thomas More was to show throughout adult life, he was a practical and materialistic man. Quite apart from the influence of his father or archbishop Morton, the attraction of a legal career was obvious to him. Lawyers were held to be magni clarique that is important and distinguished. By the last decade of the fifteenth century, the rewards of prestige and wealth were such that the sons of the landed gentry preferred a legal career to one in the Church or in business. Just as importantly, an education in the law brought the ambitious More into contact with precisely those people who later administered the affairs of the king and state. Above all, he was temperamentally suited to be a lawyer. His advocacy skills were high quality and well honed. In the words of his most recent biographer “His polemical texts reveal the persistence, subtlety and inventiveness of his attacks against opponents; as a forensic orator and judicial examiner he [was] as fierce as he is persuasive, continually changing or extending his line of attack, looking for the smallest inconsistencies, finding weakness and deriding mistakes of terminology or presentation. More as a man is the apotheosis of the clever and practical man.”[4] He maintained a curious detachment throughout his life and was always precise and shrewd. Nevertheless, the impression remains that he was playing some kind of game. In the words of William Roper, he never in his dealings showed “of what mind himself was therein.” These were the qualities of a perfect lawyer: skilful and objective, cautious yet theatrical, persuasive and practical.

 

‘An intensely practical and decisive man’[5]

By the time he was thirty, More’s legal practice was flourishing. He was by training and by experience a generalist; appearing, as counsel in criminal cases at the Kings Bench and advising clients on, the common law, Canon law, Roman law and maritime law. He is reputed to have been ‘with the Archbishop of Canterbury (the dominant landowner) every day. He was also the legal representative for the City guilds and chief negotiator for the City mercers. He represented the City merchants in their dispute with the Duke of Buckingham and the Bishop of Norwich. In litigation he favoured advising a settlement between the parties to a trial, since this compromise suited his personal preference for good order and harmony. In Soper’s words“…sith there was at that time in none of the Prince’s courts of the laws of this realm any matter of importance in controversy wherein he was not with the one part of counsel. Of whom, for his learning, wisdom, knowledge and experience, men had such estimation that, before he came to the service of king Henry VIII at the suite and instance of the English merchants, he was by the king’s consent in certain great causes between them merchants and the merchants of [the Hanseatic League]…”[6]

 

By the time he was forty, More’s legal future was assured. He was appointed Lent Leader of Lincoln’s Inn, where he lectured on ‘Law-French in Statutes’. His subsequent appointment as Double Reader suggested he could anticipate elevation to the bench. In 1510, he received his first judicial appointment as one of two Under-Sheriffs of London, hearing criminal trials in the Sherriff’s Court, Guildhall and acting as official counsel to various City bodies. He earned the respect and affection of the City for his fair and quick decisions and his habit of occasionally remitting the fees that the litigants were expected to pay. There is, however, another side to More’s legal character, which is revealed by his involvement in the ‘Hunne Case’. This controversial and notorious litigation involved a direct attack on the authority of the Catholic Church. It may even be taken as an indication of the Protestant reformation yet to come in England.

 

Richard Hunne was a wealthy Whitehall tailor who refused to make a customary offering to his local rector. His case was taken to Lambeth Palace, where Hunne was adjudged to be at fault. Still he refused to pay. On Hunne’s next attendance at his parish church, the priest (Thomas Dryfield) excommunicated him with the words ‘Hunne thou art accursed and thou standest accursed’. Exiled from his community and with his mortal soul at risk, Hunne hit back. He issued a writ of praemunire accusing Dryfield and his assistant of slander. By invoking the Praemunire Act of 1393, Hunne was asserting the king’s superiority over papal authority and clerical courts, as the final arbiter of his subject’s rights. He argued that the church authorities had no right to claim his property and further that the hearing at Lambeth Palace took place before a ‘foreign and illegal bar.’ The ecclesiastical authorities responded by charging Hunne with heresy and imprisoning him in the Lollard’s Tower. It seems to us like a fabricated charge; except, that Hunne did have Lollard sympathies and connections. His father-in-law was an evangelist in that cause. It may even have been Hunne’s Lollard beliefs that prompted him to challenge the legitimacy of the offering in the first place. The case had a sensational outcome as Hunne was found hanged in his cell before he could be brought to trial. The Church authorities said that he hanged himself; whereas, the Coroner’s inquest determined that Dr Horsey the bishop of London’s Chancellor had murdered Hunne. The public furore that followed was exacerbated by the Bishop of London’s decision to convict Hunne of heresy posthumously. His remains were exhumed and ceremoniously burned at Smithfield along with his books. Hunne’s death and the denial of secular justice against his murderer raised serious questions about the rights of clerics to be tried only in Church courts. The matter was considered so important that it was debated in parliament and in convocations. The king himself initiated a number of debates on the Hunne case and its consequences.

 

More was involved in the case. He attended a conference with the king where Hunne’s death was discussed. He was also present when the ecclesiastical judgement was passed on Hunne’s body. More was later to write ” I know it from top to toe. I suppose there are not many men who know it better.”[7] Afterward, he wrote a colourful and amusing account of the conference with the king, in which he ‘goes to great pains’ to defend the Church from ‘each and every criticism’ and concludes that Hunne committed suicide when he realised his praemunire suite had failed. “There is no reason to believe that More was deliberately misrepresenting the truth he was only putting what was natural to him in putting a lawyers gloss on ambiguous circumstances.”[8] Whilst, they must not mislead the court or conceal relevant information, it is not unusual for lawyers to put a positive spin on a weak case. After all, their professional duty is to their client and not to a search for truth. The jury (or the court in certain circumstances) are the sole arbiters of truth. What is disturbing, however, is Ackroyd’s explanation for More’s conclusion, which he suggests was based on More’s personal beliefs rather than the merits. “Lawyers are not necessarily supposed to be devout or principled except in the minutiae of legislation but for More the law was a central image of natural reason and authority. It furnished the principles which governed his behaviour in the world, established upon order in all its forms.”[9] If Ackroyd’s is right, More’s apparent loss of objectivity goes beyond putting a positive spin on a weak case; it perpetuates an injustice. The fact that More admitted he did not shrink from mendaciolum (a small lie) suggests how difficult and tricky he could be.[10]

 

‘A man for all seasons’

We know from More’s published works (poems, epigrams, polemics, letters and books) that he was well able to express his opinions and emotions on parchment or in print. Although his style was more Chaucer (bawdy, earthy) than Spenser (poetic), he had a flair for drama, and used his literary skills to educate rather than to entertain. It was while he was studying at Oxford and later in the Inns of Court that More came increasingly under the influence of a group of literary clerical scholars, known collectively as English renaissance humanists. He was well acquainted with the Latin grammarian John Holt and he studied Greek under William Grocyn, the first Englishman to teach it. Later he became associated with Thomas Linacre the eminent physician and scholar, and with the erudite John Colet. The term ‘renaissance humanism’ does not denote that these learned clerics and others like them held a common philosophical position, since they did not. Their appellation as humanists is derived simply from the fact that they studied a cluster of scholarly disciplines comprising grammar, rhetoric, history, poetry and ‘moral philosophy’. Classical Latin and Greek were the languages of these men. It is possible, that More’s association with such erudite ecclesiastics caused him to contemplate swapping a temporal career for a spiritual calling. At any rate, at the turn of the century he abandoned his legal practice and entered the Carthusian Monastery at Charterhouse, just outside the city walls, where he remained for four years as a lay member, participating fully in the spiritual life of the monks without taking holy orders. Eventually, the call of his temporal ‘work in the world’ proved too enticing for More the practical man. He left the monastery to stand for parliament.

 

The most famous of all northern European humanists was Desiderius Erasmus (the ‘prince of humanists’), whom More met and became friends with in 1499. Erasmus described More as a ‘man for all seasons’ due to his ‘affability and sweetness of character’. In 1516, he published More’s most celebrated volume ‘Utopia’, which in its structure and content reveals the author’s humanist leanings; as does his most controversial book ‘The History of Richard III’. These two volumes are a clear indication of More’s philosophical interest in the contrast between just and unjust kingship, and that his concern was not restricted to the lessons of Richard III’s reign. In a Latin poem written to celebrate Henry VIII’s accession, More highlights the ‘atmosphere of fear and suspicion’ caused by Henry VII’s rapacity, which, incidentally, was an opinion shared by many of More’s contemporaries. Nonetheless, the promise of a ‘golden age’ that accompanied Henry VIII’s accession was the redeeming finale of More’s poem, in which he expressed the hope that Henry would repeal unjust laws and remit unfair debts, and that he would maintain the peace and stability that allowed piety and scholarship to blossom.[11]

 

“One thing pretended and another meant”

I must now turn to More’s ‘History of Richard III, which I will refer to as the ‘History’ from now on. While we can speculate why More wrote it, we cannot dismiss it merely as Tudor propaganda.[12] That is the opinion of professor Richard Sylvester In his definitive study of the History. Sylvester argues that More was neither pro-Tudor nor anti-Plantagenet. He was as much pro-Edward IV as he was anti Richard III. For instance, even as he welcomed the accession of Henry VIII he took the opportunity, in the celebratory poem to which I have already referred, to criticise the ‘oppressive acts and devious dealings of Henry VII. He makes a similar point, albeit obliquely, in the History: “…all things in later days were so covertly managed, one thing pretended another meant, that there was nothing so plain and openly proved but that for common custom of close and covert dealings men had it ever inwardly suspect…[13] More is not here just referring to the reign of Richard III but also to the reign of Henry VII during the period when Perkin Warbeck was a threat to the Tudor hegemony. In Sylvester’s opinion, More has depicted Richard as a cacodemon because that is what his oral and written authorities told him. He accepted their narrative not because he was biased but because he trusted them. Chief among these authorities was John Morton. He played a big part in the downfall of king Richard and was an eyewitness of some events. He also possessed (in More’s opinion) ‘the very mother and mistress of wisdom and deep insight into the political world.[14] The fact that Morton died in 1500 and that More did not begin composing the History until about 1513 (leaving it unfinished around 1518-20) raises interesting questions about Morton’s contribution. What did he know? And, how did he contribute to the History?

 

I will deal with the second question first because it raises the issue of authorship. Beginning, with the early revisionist histories of king Richard’s life and reign, some scholars have doubted More’s authorship of either the English or the Latin, or both editions of the History. For revisionists’ the dichotomy between More’s reputation for integrity and his polemical History is explained by substituting the wily and inveterate schemer Morton as the author of (at least) the Latin version. Support for this contention was claimed from a piece of ‘literary gossip’ that appeared in an aside is Sir John Harrington’s book ‘The Metamorphosis of Ajax’ (1596) ‘”…the best, and best written part of all our Chronicles, in all mens opinions; is that of Richard III, written as I have heard by Morton, but as most suppose by that worthy and uncorrupt [sic] magistrate Sir Thomas More…” [15] As Dr Kincaid points out, ‘Harrington was an inveterate gossip, not necessarily to be believed’.[16]

There is, however, better reason for believing that Morton gave More a ‘polemical tract’ attacking king Richard, which the latter probably used as an aide-memoire for his own narrative.[17] Be that as it may, the case for More’s authorship of the English and Latin versions of the History is considered by modern scholars to be unanswerable.[18]

 

On the question of what Morton knew, we must bear in mind that as important as he was, Morton was only an eyewitness to some of the events of 1483. There is much in More’s History that could not possibly have come from him or the clique of Lancastrian dissidents who shared Richmond’s exile and (no doubt) dined with the archbishop at Lambeth Palace. Morton was not, for example, present at Stony Stratford when the Duke of Gloucester arrested the king’s uncle and stepbrother. Neither was he present when the Queen was persuaded to allow her youngest son, Richard duke of York, to leave the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey. Furthermore, Morton is not an eyewitness to the alleged murders of Edward V and his brother.[19] Though, he might well be the instigator of the rumour that they had been murdered. More’s other oral sources included but were not limited to: Sir John More, John Roper, Richard Fitzjames, Sir Thomas Lovell (fought for Richmond at Bosworth), Christopher Urswick (priest and Tudor spy in 1483), Bishop Fox of Winchester (in exile with Richmond), Roger Lupton (Mayor of London) and Sir John Heron (an early adherent to Richmond). When he cites one of these ‘authorities’ or others who occupied similar positions, he usually refers to them in the phrase ‘men say’. The opinion of these ‘wise’ men was much valued by More. He relied on them when balancing different interpretations against each other. Generally, More is not too concerned about the accuracy of dates, names and places since these could be checked later (but never were). What is notable, however, is that he never spoke to anyone at Henry’ VII’s court who had served king Richard or who could even be said to have liked the dead king.

 

In addition to his oral authorities, More had a number of written works available for consultation. Some of these pre-date the History, whilst others are contemporary with it. Pietro Carmeliano was a court scholar during the reigns of Richard III and Henry VII who wrote the ‘Life of St Catherine of Egypt’. He extolled Richard’s princely virtues when he was alive and denounced him as a tyrant when he was dead.[20] Bernard André’ was Henry VII’s official biographer. He wrote ‘Vita Henrici’, in which he to portrayed king Henry as angelic and king Richard as demonic. The sycophant John Rous wrote ‘Historia Regum Angliae’, during the reign of Henry VII. He denounced king Richard as the anti-Christ having previously acclaimed him for his nobility and virtues. Whether or not More used the Chronicles of Robert Fabyan, Polydore Vergil’s ‘Anglica Historia’ or Domenico Mancini’s ‘De Occupations Regni Anglie Per Ricardum Tercium Libellus’ is a matter of pure conjecture.[21] Some of More’s factual inaccuracies suggest that either he did not know of the Second Continuation of the Croyland Chronicle or he had not read it. Even so, it is safe to say that he would hardly have credited a less defamatory portrait of king Richard than the one he describes in the History. In the words of professor Sylvester: “The indictment against the king had been drawn-up by men whose judgement he respected; it’s terms were supported not only by most of his oral informants but also by writers whose version of events had been set down before he began to compose his own narrative.”[22] In early Tudor England there was hardly a voice raised in defence of the last Plantagenet. The official records such as Titular Regius and Richard’s signet letters were almost certainly not available to More. It is only by comparing his narrative with credible contemporary sources that we can test the historical accuracy of More’s History.

 

Although More’s portrait of Richard accurately reflects the opinion current in the courts of Henry VII and Henry VIII and some details can be corroborated by independent records (e.g. the allegation that Edward V was bastardised due to his parents’ bigamous marriage), there are some notable errors and omissions in the History for which there is no excuse. These range from getting Edward IV’s age wrong to naming Elizabeth Lucy as the lady alleged to have still been married to Edward IV when he wedded Elizabeth Butler. However, what Inspector Grant and others overlook in their criticism of More’s History, is that he never claimed it was anything other than a reflection of public opinion in the first quarter of the sixteenth century. Neither did he claim to be more authoritative than his sources. “He asks us not to credit that ‘what men say’ happened, did happen, but that they really said it did happen.”[23]

 

Professor Paul Kendall is not sure whether More ever intended the History to be factual. He suggests that what More learned from his sources, he used to fashion a version of events that satisfied his humanist leanings. “A dramatic boldly performed narrative soaring beyond actualities into art and seek psychological verisimilitude rather than factual accuracy.[24] Writing from a purely literary perspective, professor EMW Tillyard also believed that More’s History was intentionally creative rather than historical. “More’s History transcends the sorting of evidence and abides as a classic record of fundamental human nature”. In Tillyard’s opinion it has tragedy and comedy. “The episode where Queen Elizabeth is persuaded to give her youngest son into the care of Richard Gloucester is more tragic than anything the English drama produced till the great age.” On the comic side, Tillyard draws attention to Dr Shaa’s pre-arranged Sermon at St Paul’s Cross, which descends from high drama to farce thanks to Gloucester’s mistimed entrance.[25] Even so, there is no doubting More’s contribution to the shaping of Richard III’s black legend. He was the first to suggest that Richard had ‘long forethought’ to seize the throne, even before his brother was dead. And it is More’s narrative that names Richard as the prompter and guiding spirit behind all the events that followed Edward IV’s death.

 

Even though More’s reasons for writing the History are wholly obscure now, post-Tudor scholars have repeatedly question his motives and what he actually thought he was writing. For example, Kendall writes that he ‘undoubtedly set about his History for the same reason that according to Falstaff the earl of Worcester rebelled ‘it lay in his way and he found it’.[26] Whereas, Horace Walpole writing in 1768 believed that “[More] wrote his History to amuse his leisure and exercise his fancy.”[27] These seemingly flippant reasons might be closer to the mark than we think. For instance, Peter Ackroyd raises the intriguing possibility that both the English and the Latin versions of the History were written as a rhetorical and grammatical exercise for Oxford students.[28] The supporting evidence for this theory is both circumstantial and cryptic; yet, it does exist. First, there is More’s mysterious reference to a ‘schoolmaster of Poles’ (St Paul’s?): second, there is the fact that one of the extant manuscripts of this work is endorsed with the preface that it was written exercitationis gratia (‘for the sake of practice’). Finally, there is the fact that both the Latin and the English versions comply with More’s own methods of composition and revision, which he also impressed on his children.[29] As Ackroyd notes, More’s humanism had a practical purpose, and as a successful lawyer he was more interested in the practice and usage of advocacy than its theory. It is possible, therefore, that the long and complex debates on the merits and abuses of sanctuary and on king Richard’s royal title, which dominate the History ,are lessons in the art of disputation similar to those experienced by More during his own education.[30] The speechmaking is certainly more reminiscent of an exposition of the law than a record of what was actually said by those present in 1483. “One of the models of its form is clearly Sallust and More had been instructed to teach Sallust at Oxford. He had also recommended that author for his children’s’ reading. And what could be a better way of studying classical rhetoric and vocabulary than to apply them to the description of more recent events” [31] It is equally possible that More’s humanist leanings, his interest in history and in ‘kingship’, and his contact with Morton and the men who had fought King Richard, fuelled a ‘boyish interest’ in the dead king. His own interest in the classical Greek and Roman historians may have encouraged him to emulate them. In particular, he had a deep interest in the accounts of Tiberius’ tyranny, which were written by Tacitus and Suetonius.

 

It is more likely, however, that he wrote the History for a substantial reason other than mere interest.[32] He may have intended it to be a metaphor for his own doubts and his fear of Henry VIII’s instinct for despotism, which was already apparent by the time he was writing the History. He could not make his thoughts plain on pain of death, so his message is more oblique and very cleverly constructed. Nothing in More’s History could be mistaken as applying to Henry VIII. Read literally, it coruscates king Richard’s tyranny whilst justifying the Henrician Tudors as the opponents of tyranny. More’s philosophical and psychological interest in tyranny and government is evidenced by his poems and other written works: especially Utopia. The History may have been an attack on the real-politick of his day. He may even have regarded it as a worked example wherein a ‘good’ monarch would benefit from its powerful depiction of monstrous injustice. Of course the corollary of this was that it might give the potential despot ideas about subtleties of policy, which later generations would identify as Machiavellian. It would indeed be unfortunate if it provided Henry VIII with a convincing illustration of what he could do given free rein to his powers.

 

Whatever More’s reason for writing the History may have been, he put down his quill sometime between 1518 and 1520. He never returned to his manuscripts, which remained unfinished and unrevised; clearly, it was not meant for publication. The reasons for this have troubled Scholars almost as much as More’s reason for picking-up his quill in the first place. There are many different theories, two of which, bear testament to More’s concerns about the Henry VIII despotic tendencies. Sylvester postulates that he might have been troubled by the possibility that it would become a kind of ‘manual’ for Henry if he wished to exercise his will unfettered. More could not take that risk and so the History remained unfinished. Professor Kendall notes that More stopped just as Richmond was about to enter the narrative. At which point it became too dangerous for More to write about Henry VII’s oppression even by analogy. And so, the History remained unfinished and unpublished in More’s lifetime.[33] The third theory is more mundane but equally credible. It is possible that he simply lost interest in the project, particularly if it really was nothing more than a student exercise. Anyhow, by the second decade of the sixteenth century, More might still have been making-up his mind about the role he was to play in the king’s service. His life as a royal servant promised to be challenging, since the king was more often guided by his personal will and appetites than by reason. Although such wilful governance was anathema to More, he was confident of his ability to ‘bend with the wind’, so that what he couldn’t turn to good he could make less bad. He always gave his opinion according to his conscience when asked, but he never opposed the king’s will publicly. In view of the difficulty of maintaining a distinction between his private and public beliefs, it is possible the More simply abandoned the History in favour of his little booklet Utopia, which expertly expressed his own private views of governance and kingship even more obliquely than the History.[34]

 

Finally, it is possible that More became too embroiled with advising the king on the Lutheran texts that were appearing in England around this time. He was one of those who advised Henry on his own written defence of the Catholic faith, which earned him the title ‘Fidei defensor (defender of the faith). More himself took up the cudgel in support of his king, trading insult for insult with Martin Luther in a series of booklets. Compared to the existential threat to the established Church posed by Luther’s heretical doctrine, More may have considered the History a self-indulgent trifle.

[1] Peter Ackroyd – The Life of Thomas More (Vintage 1999) p.31 quoting from E Foss – Judges of England (London 1848-64) p.66

[2] Ackroyd p.28

[3] Richard Sylvester and Davis Harding (Eds) – Two Early Tudor Lives: the Life and death of cardinal Wolsey by Geo Cavendish & the Life of Sir Thomas More by William Roper (Yale 1962) pp.197-98

[4] Ackroyd p.52

[5] Ackroyd p.148

[6] Sylvester (Roper) p.200

[7] Ackroyd p.151; citing The Complete Works of Thomas More (Yale) V6, p. 318

[8] Ackroyd p.152

[9] Ibid

[10] Ackroyd p. 163-164; in a letter to Wolsey, More explains that the post of Canonry of Tournai had previously been conferred on his friend Erasmus, and that as compensation for Erasmus withdrawing from it, a better or greater provision should be made for him. None of this was true, of course, but it illustrates More’s willingness to lie.

[11] Ackroyd p.127

[12] Richard Sylvester (Ed) – The History of King Richard III by Sir Thomas More (Yale 1963) p. lxv and passim

[13] Sylvester (Roper) pp. 81-82 and n82/22 p.262; see also Paul Kendall (ed) – The Great Debate (Folio Society 1965) p.103; Kendall contains a useful modern English version of More’s History.

[14] Sylvester (History) p. lxvii

[15] Elizabeth Storey Donno (Ed) – Sir John Harrington: a new discourse of a stale subject, called The Metamorphosis of Ajax (1596) (London 1962) pp. 107-198

[16] AN Kincaid (Ed) – The Encomium of Richard III by Sir William Cornwallis the Younger (Turner and Devereux 1977) p.iii

[17] Sylvester (History) pp.lix-lxxiii; AN Kincaid (Ed) – The History of King Richard the Third by Sir Geo Buck (1619) (Alan Sutton 1979) Chapter VII passim: Buck said he saw the tract, which is no longer extant

[18] Sylvester (History) ibid; citing RW Chambers – The authorship of ‘The History of King Richard III’ in WE Campbell (Ed) – The English Works of Sir Thomas More (London 1931) pp. 24-53; Kincaid

[19] Sylvester (History) ibid; citing AJ Pollard – The Making of Thomas More’s Richard III published in ‘Historical Essays in Honour of James Tait (Manchester 1933) pp.223-284

[20] Pamela Tudor-Craig – Brochure for Richard III’s biographical exhibition at the NPG 1973. Carmeliano’s ‘Life of St Catherine of Egypt’ was exhibited at the NPG in 1973 (No.100). It is a second copy dedicated to Sir Robert Brackenbury and contains a glowing description of king Richard’s virtues in peace and war (‘…what emperor or prince can compare with him in good works and munificence”.). However, in 1486 in a poem dedicated to the new-born Prince Arthur, he charged Richard ‘the tyrant’ with the murder of his nephews.

[21] Sylvester (History) p.lxxi-lxxv; see also CAJ Armstrong – The Usurpation of Richard III by Dominic Mancini (Oxford 1969 edition) pp. xix-xx. Dr Armstrong discusses the relationship between Mancini and More in which he raises concerns about the provenance of More’s information. The importance of this lies in the fact that Mancini substantiates More ‘on many points’. In fact, More and Mancini are closer to each other than to the Croyland Continuation or to Polydor Vergil. The point is, of course, that they were probably using the same informants. Given that these informants were Richard’s political and dynastic opponents it is hardly surprising that they coincide on some points. What is remarkable is that they don’t agree on much more, since there are some significant discrepancies. Furthermore, as Dr Armstrong acknowledges Mancini harboured an unreasoned animus towards king Richard (that he was all along aiming for the throne) (Mancini p.17)

[22] Sylvester (History) p.lxx

[23] Sylvester (History) p.lxxviii

[24] Kendal p.25

[25] EMW Tillyard – Shakespeare’s History Plays (Penguin 1962) p.38

[26] Kendal p.25; this is a reference to a comment by Sir john Falstaff, a character in Shakespeare’s play Henry IV part 1.

[27] Kendal p.170

[28] Ackroyd p.157

[29] Sylvester (History) p.xii; in a ‘charming’ letter to his children, More admonishes them to write everything in English first ‘for then you will have far less trouble turning it into Latin; not having to look for the matter, your mind will be intent only on the language’. He also emphasises the need for revision to detect and correct solecisms. More was given to the careful revision of his own work, which, as Sylvester points out, may have served as a kind of paradigm for the complex sequence of drafts that were developed in the composition of the HISTORY

[30] Sylvester (History) pp.26-38`; see also Kendal pp.50-62. In the fifteenth century the abuses of sanctuary argued by Buckingham were a bone of contention between the laity and the clergy. By the time More was writing the History the privileges of sanctuary were much reduced.

[31] Ackroyd ibid; Goius Sallustius Crispus (‘Sallust’) (86 BC-35BC), was a Roman historian whose works were noted for their brevity, the use of rare words and unusual phrases.

[32] Sylvester (History) pp. xcviii-xcvix passim

[33] Sylvester (History) pp. cii-ciii; Kendall p.28; who notes the irony of More’s position in that his defamation of Richard III came in part from his detestation of Henry VII’s statecraft.

[34] George M Logan (ed) – Thomas More: Utopia (Cambridge UP 2016, 3 rd edition)

Advertisements

Terry Jones’ opinion of Richard III….

RIII - Royal Collection

I am a great fan of Terry Jones’ writing/opinions when it comes to medieval history, and today just happens to be Terry’s birthday.

That he supports King Richard II I already knew, but I did not know he also thinks highly of King Richard III. What I write below is taken from a book, which itself was originally inspired by the television series Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives, produced by Oxford Films and Television for BBC Television and first broadcast on BBC2 in 2004. It was first published in hardback 2004, and in paperback in 2005.

So, it has to be emphasised that Jones’ opinions were expressed before Richard’s remains were discovered in Leicester. Before so much more had been discovered about that much-wronged king. Jones was a Ricardian at least as far back as 2004. And please do not think that anything in the following paragraphs is my opinion, I merely take from Jones’ writing in order to convey his view of Richard III. So the comments about the bones displayed in the Tower, and Richard’s second coronation in York are his views. The illustrations are my additions. Please buy the book, it’s well worth reading.

Book cover

Toward the end of the book, when he reaches the matter of Richard III, he expresses his view by launching straight in that the king we all know (from Shakespeare) is very different from the actual man who sat on the throne between 1483-5. Jones refers to the Bard’s character of Richard III as a ‘cardboard cut-out’, to be ‘booed and hissed’, but points out that this creation was written when the Tudors were on the throne. Tudor propaganda is to blame for the wilful and cruel destruction of the real Richard III. An extraordinary effort was made to create the story that Richard plotted to seize the throne of England and then ruled as a brutal tyrant.

R384RS

Anthony Sher as ~Shakespeare’s Richard III

Medieval kings ruled by consent, which mostly meant the consent of the nobility of southern and central England, with the earls

In the north being gradually edged aside, which eventually led to the Wars of the Roses, which had ended with Edward IV defeating the northern nobility.

Edward chose his brother Richard to govern in the north, and Richard duly arrived in 1476 with 5000 men. This might have been deemed a threat by the city fathers, but according to their records: ‘After greetings were exchanged, the duke addressed the civic officials within Bootham Bar, saying that he was sent by the king to support the rule of law and peace.’

And so he did, devoting himself to the minutiae of government and justice. He heard pleas on quite small matters:

‘Right and mighty prince and our full tender and especial good lord, we your humble servants, havnyg a singler confidence in your high and noble lordship afore any other, besecheth your highnesse. . .concerning the reformation of certain fish traps. . . In 1482 the York gave him gifts, ‘for the great labour, good and benevolent lordship that the right, high and might prince have at all times done for the well of the city.’ Richard was presented with: ‘6 pike, 6 tenches, 6 breme, 6 eels and 1 barrel of sturgeon’, a local speciality of spiced bread, and fourteen gallons of wine to wash it all down.’

Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville

Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville

But the darkest story to damn Richard for posterity was the deaths of his two nephews, the sons of Edward IV. Edward, when dying, named his 12-year-old son, another Edward, as his successor. He also designated Richard as Lord Protector, the guard the kingdom and the boy himself until the latter was of age. Richard was in the north when the king died on 9 April 1483, and did not know what had happened. The little king-to-be was in the hands of his mother’s family, the ambitious Woodvilles, who had no intention of giving up power to Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Keeping him in the dark, they began to rush the boy to London, intending to have him crowned on 4 May, but Richard found out, and intercepted them. Outwitted them too. Taking charge of the boy, he escorted him to London, where the future king was installed in the royal apartments at the Tower. The coronation was rescheduled for 22 June, but on the 13th of the month, an extensive plot against Richard was exposed. This caused Richard to see that his younger nephew, another Richard, was placed in the Tower. The boys were thus together, and then the coronation was deferred until November.

Evil Richard with Edward V

This was because on 22 June, Dr Edward (sic) Shaa, brother of the mayor of London, declared to the citizens of London that Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, which had taken place in secret, had been illegal because the king was precontracted to marry Lady Eleanor Talbot.

Richard of Gloucester had been a dutiful and loyal lieutenant for Edward IV, and had spent many years governing the north in his name. Richard was ‘popular, widely trusted, knew everyone and was a capable administrator’. Now he had learned that the children of the Woodville marriage were illegitimate. This meant that Richard himself was the rightful successor.

Edward IV, Edward V, Richard III

Everyone agreed with this, and he was acclaimed king on 26 June and crowned on 6 July. Then the princes seem to have vanished, and in due course Tudor spin would make it seem that Richard had them killed.

The Coronation Procession of Richard III, 1483

The Coronation of Richard III

King Louis the First and Last (see http://www.catherinehanley.co.uk/historical-background/king-louis-of-england), is generally regarded as not being a king of England because he had no coronation. However, the eldest son of Edward IV is counted as Edward V, even though he was never crowned and certainly did not rule. Jones believes this was entirely due to Henry Tudor, who had no ‘meaningful’ claim to the throne, but had seized it in 1485 when Richard was killed at the Battle of Bosworth. Henry, a usurper, saw how helpful it would be for him if Richard could be designated a regicide. That was why the boy Edward was recognized as a king, even though he never had been. And if anyone had a motive for killing the boys in the Tower, it was Henry Tudor!

‘The bones of two children are still on show in the Tower [sic], proof of Richard’s wicked deed. They were discovered in the seventeenth century, and examined in 1933, when they were said to be vital evidence of the crime. But no-one knows when they date from.’

Everything we know of Richard reveals him not to have been a tyrant. To quote Jones: ‘Almost the first thing he [Richard] did on becoming king was to pay off £200 he owed to York wine merchants. Now there’s a tyrant for you!’

RIII and Anne Neville

Next Richard, with his queen, Anne, rode north with his entire court, to stage a second coronation. The city of York was notified in advance by the king’s secretary:

‘Hang the streets thorough which the king’;s grace shall come with clothes of arrass, tapestry work and other, for there commen many southern lords and men of worship with them.’ 

The city put on a particularly lavish display, and all the city fathers, with the mayor, wore scarlet robes as they rode with the king and queen. York seemed to be made of cloth, and the monarchs stopped to watch ‘elaborate shows and displays’.

Of course, all this did not go down well with southern lords. It plunged still farther when Richard gave his northern friends plum places at court. That was why the unworthy outside, Henry Tudor, gained support. He had no real right to claim the throne, but he managed, through treachery, to kill Richard at Bosworth.

Henry Tudor is crowned at Bosworth

York was devastated. ‘King Richard late mercifully reigning upon us was through great treason of the Duke of Northfolk and many others that turned ayenst him, with many other lords and nobles of these north parts, piteously slain and murdred to the great heaviness of this city.’ 

The only reason we have been brainwashed into believing ill of Richard III is because the Tudors were clever and forceful when it came to spinning their side of events. Henry Tudor’s reign commenced shakily, so he invented a bogeyman.

When Richard was alive, writer John Rous wrote of him as ‘a mighty prince and especial good Lord’. Under the Tudors, Rous ‘portrayed him as akin to the Antichrist’: ‘Richard spent two whole years in his mother’s womb and came out with a full set of teeth’. Shakespeare also wrote under a Tudor monarch, and his sources were Tudor documents.

‘Propaganda, thy name is Henry.’

Richard III - reconstruction

Reconstruction of Richard III

Richard III’s lost queen….

Ann and Richard - Rous Roll

What follows is a word-for-word opinion of Anne Neville, and Richard’s attitude/feelings for her. I make no comment, the article by Elizabeth Jane Timms speaks for itself.

“Amidst the chronicle of lost tombs at Westminster Abbey is that of Queen Anne Neville, wife of King Richard III. Queen Anne’s invisibility in these terms underlines the purported neglect on behalf of Richard III; this lack of a memorial was rectified however when a bronze plaque was placed to Queen Anne’s memory at Westminster Abbey, in an attempt to redress this act of historical forgetting. The fact though that no memorial existed to Queen Anne Neville up until the 20th century meant that whatever hope there had been in establishing the exact location of where she was buried, was slim, given the fact that her tomb is generally described as ‘lost’. This also added to the sense of mystery which already surrounded Queen Anne’s death.

“Instead of Richard III, it is Henry VII – who won victory over the former at the great Battle of Bosworth in 1485 and is remembered at Westminster Abbey. His legacy to it is most apparent in the magnificent Henry VII Chapel. All of Henry VIII’s (legitimate) children are also buried in the Abbey, thus as branches of the Tudor rose, which the marriage of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York helped to create through the union of the two hitherto warring dynasties. Henry VII’s spouse, Queen Elizabeth of York – who Richard III seems to have regarded as a possible wife after Queen Anne’s death, no doubt in an effort to neutralise the threat his niece represented to him as the undoubted Yorkist heir – lies in glory, in the tomb created for her and Henry VII by the great sculptor Pietro Torrigiano. Queen Anne Neville by contrast, lay technically ‘forgotten’ at Westminster Abbey until 1960.

“Queen Anne Neville also does not share a tomb with King Richard III, whose skeleton was, of course, discovered under a car park in Leicester, once the site of the Grey Friars church where his body, ‘pierced with numerous and deadly wounds’, was buried after Bosworth and – subsequently reburied at Leicester Cathedral in 2015. This was done, however, due to Leicester’s proximity to Market Bosworth, as opposed to any statement on the royal marriage; Richard III was simply buried alone because of the battle. By the time of Bosworth, he had not remarried after the death of Queen Anne. The tomb that was erected for King Richard in the church’s choir was paid for by Henry VII; posthumous respect for a King who had fought ‘like a most brave and valiant prince’, as even those who were not sympathetic to Richard acknowledged. The body of Richard III was of huge importance to Henry VII because it underlined his victory at Bosworth, proclaimed his new dynasty and proved that the last Plantagenet King was indeed, dead.

“Henry’s own claim to the throne was understandably one about which he was extremely sensitive, as we can see from his attitude towards both the young Earl of Warwick and pretenders such as Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck; he was, however, keen to stress that his own right to the Crown rested on a divine right won at Bosworth, as opposed to simply through the Yorkist heiress, Princess Elizabeth. Elizabeth, of course, had a far stronger claim to the English throne than his own, for which reason she had to be rendered submissive to his authority; she could have been his greatest threat – instead, she became his wife – but that fact was obviously never forgotten by King Henry.

“Some short time before Queen Anne Neville’s death, she and King Richard lost their only son. Indeed, this was a strange turn of events, given the fact that Richard III was widely supposed to have had Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, the historical ‘Princes in the Tower’, murdered, and now had lost his own ‘heir male’, for which reason it was easy to understand why a superstitious age might have ascribed this to God’s will, to avenge Queen Elizabeth Woodville, their mother. Queen Anne’s son, Edward of Middleham, died on 9 April 1484; cutting off Richard III’s direct line like this, meant that Elizabeth of York remained the true heiress in many minds, despite Richard’s Act of 1484, the Titulus Regius, which had declared her illegitimate. We may believe though, the descriptions of the Croyland Chronicle when it described Queen Anne and Richard III ‘almost bordering on madness by reason of their sudden grief’; it was alluded to in Richard’s reburial service in 2015. In parallel, we might be reminded of the scene when the news that the two Princes were thought to have been killed by order of the King, was broken to their mother, Queen Elizabeth Woodville, who ‘shriek[ed]… struck her breast, tore and pulled out her hair’ (Alison Weir, Elizabeth of York, Pg  105, 2013).

“Perhaps it was the death of her son, which weakened Queen Anne Neville; we simply do not know. It is possible that grief may have debilitated her nervous system, making her more susceptible to a medieval infection. The grief could have brought a closeness between the King and Queen – instead, we read in the Croyland Chronicle, that the King ‘shunned her bed’ (Ibid, Pg 127). The ‘Chronicler’ further reported that Queen Anne fell ‘extremely sick’ several days after Christmas; common opinion had it that the cause was tuberculosis. Croyland emphasises the ‘wound in the Queen’s breast for the loss of her son’ when referring to Christmas, 1484 (Ibid, Pg 121).

“We know little about Queen Anne Neville, even her appearance is elusive – but then, Richard III’s reign was of course, short. She features in the famous Rous Roll, illustrated on several occasions. Richard III’s marriage to Anne – the widow of Prince Edward of Lancaster – was likely to have been one borne out of political strategy because of the mighty Warwick lands which she brought with her as a daughter of the great Richard Neville, Warwick the Kingmaker. However, Anne was also Richard’s cousin, so perhaps he chose a girl he knew, as well as understanding what she would bring with her. A papal dispensation had been granted for Anne Neville’s marriage to her Yorkist cousin, Richard. Their wedding took place – fittingly, in the light of Anne’s missing tomb – at Westminster. Anne was crowned with Richard on 6 July 1483; the King and Queen walked on red cloth from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey. Lady Margaret Beaufort – mother of the future Henry VII – carried the Queen’s train (Ibid, Pg 102).

“Queen Anne died on 16 March 1485 – five months before the massively decisive Battle of Bosworth; she died ‘upon the day of a great eclipse of the sun’ (Ibid, Pg 128). On 22 March, less than ten days later, Richard III had sent an envoy to begin negotiations for a Portuguese marriage; this again was not a comment on his own personal feelings for Queen Anne Neville. Richard III would have been desperately aware of the fact that he had to maintain a tight grip on his throne and replace the son that had so recently died because his direct branch of the Plantagenet dynasty could die after him. After the Queen’s death, vicious rumour bussed about that the King had had her poisoned, but historically, there is no evidence for this. More importantly, these rumours show that the King was thought capable of such a thing, as he had been believed to have murdered the two Princes, so the attestation is valuable for how Richard may have been regarded by recent posterity. Although admittedly, this was a posterity in which Tudor propaganda was a powerful tool, as subsequent portraits of Richard which have been later tampered with, have shown. Any physical ‘deformity’ of Richard III would have been viewed significantly in an age when this was thought to be reflective of character; Richard III – as his skeleton shows – suffered from scoliosis, but apparently no – Shakespearean – withered arm.

“It was indeed a far cry from another Queen Anne by another King Richard; Queen Anne of Bohemia was greatly loved by Richard II, who was utterly distraught by her death from plague in 1394. They share a tomb at Westminster Abbey with clasping hands. There is nothing like this for Queen Anne Neville and Richard III.

“Queen Anne was believed to have been buried on the south side of the altar, according to the Victorian cataloguer of the Abbey’s monuments, A. P Stanley, Dean of Westminster, in his book Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey. The grave is unmarked, and the plaque instead commemorates the Queen herself. Westminster Abbey states that she was buried in this location, in front of the ‘Sedilia’, or chairs for the priests. It may have been exposed when Sir George Gilbert Scott was making preparations for his new High Altar in the late 19th century.

“A stained glass window exists in Cardiff Castle, depicting Anne Neville next to one of Richard III.

Anne and Richard - Cardiff Castle

“The bronze plaque in the south ambulatory to Queen Anne Neville was erected at the behest of the Richard III Society, bearing a quotation from the Rous Roll (‘full gracious’) and her heraldic shield is topped by a crown. It is the primary memorial that exists to an – almost – forgotten queen.”

©Elizabeth Jane Timms, 2018

 

Did Richard III choose his nephew Lincoln as his heir presumptive….?

James Laurenson as Lincoln, from The Shadow of the Tower

James Laurenson as Lincoln, from The Shadow of the Tower

The identity of Richard’s chosen heir has always been a sort-of mystery. Not to me. I have always believed he chose his sister’s eldest son, John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln. But then I’m stubborn, and once I have made up my mind, it takes a lot to shift me.

Lincoln seemed the obvious candidate. He was a full-grown man, brave, a soldier, of close Yorkist blood and devoted to his uncle. And he was undeniably legitimate. But Richard did not formally declare him as his heir. Granted, the fact that Lincoln was appointed Lieutenant of Ireland was a considerable signal, because so often whoever held that title was the heir to the throne. But not always. You’d think there would be some evidence to confirm him as Richard’s choice. But, up to now, it seems there isn’t.

Of course, the question became hypothetical in the aftermath of Bosworth – not because Richard was killed that day but because his army was defeated. After all, several other commanders have died during a victory in battle over the years. Wolfe at the Plains of Abraham was a case in point, as was Nelson at Trafalgar.

Wolfe

Perhaps Richard was convinced that Lincoln would only be a temporary measure, until he himself married again and produced a true heir. Why not? Richard was a young, healthy man who had children, so he wasn’t firing blanks, as the saying goes. Lincoln didn’t leave any legitimate children, and I do not know if he left any baseborn offspring, but he certainly came from a prolific family. There were numerous de la Pole brothers to provide a succession of heirs should anything befall Lincoln himself. Which it did in the end, of course, and in due course two of his brothers, Edmund and Richard, were to take up the cudgels. Richard would surely have been on to a good thing if he passed the succession to this family of boys. So I remain on Lincoln’s side as Richard’s chosen heir.

East Stoke

So why didn’t he confront Henry VII on his own account at Stoke Field in 1487? The only reason I can think of is that while there were males from senior branches of York, they were illegitimate or attainted, and he judged that his own descent through the female line was against him. He had not been formally declared Richard’s heir, and maybe the fact that he was the child of Richard’s sister was not in his favour. But he was legitimate and his father had not been attainted (see my thoughts on Warwick, below). Hmm, not a good reason, I admit, and maybe it would never have occurred to Lincoln, but I can’t do better. His reason for supporting “Lambert Simnel” will always fascinate. And maybe he did believe in the boy.

Lambert Simnel

There is a considerable school of thought in favour of Clarence’s son, the Earl of Warwick, being Richard’s heir and Rous was prominent in this. Warwick was, after all, legitimate. But he was also attainted because of his father, George of Clarence, having been executed by Edward IV as a traitor. This was why Richard III did not consider him in 1483 when the sons of Edward IV were found to be illegitimate.

Yes, but attainders could be reversed, do I hear you say? Indeed, but why should Richard do that when his own claim was true? And thus, in due course, his son’s claim would be true as well. If Warwick was thought of as the next rightful heir to the throne, Richard would have put him there. But Richard took the throne himself, thus making it clear that he thought Warwick was not the true heir. I do not believe that when Richard’s son died so unexpectedly, Richard would suddenly have changed his mind about Warwick. By doing that, he would make a mockery of his own claim.

So no, Warwick was not Richard’s choice. Nor were the sons of Edward IV, if they still breathed, because they were illegitimate. No doubt of that in Richard’s mind. So his choice was Lincoln, and a worthy choice it was too. If we could prove it, of course. Lack of evidence inevitably means coming to one’s own decision. I support Lincoln. Richard chose him too, albeit in the hope of producing more children of his own with his next queen.

My imagined version of Lincoln - courtesy of Titian, twiddled by Sandra Heath Wilson

My imagined version of Lincoln, courtesy of Titian, twiddled by Sandra Heath Wilson

Thomas Langton: Richard III’s Character Witness

RICARDIAN LOONS

Amongst the glories of Winchester Cathedral, there is a chantry chapel of outstanding beauty and magnificence. The man who is buried there, and for whom the roof bosses provide a rebus clue, is Thomas Langton, who died of plague in 1501 only days after being elected by Henry VII as Archbishop of Canterbury. Earlier, he had served as the Bishop of Winchester (1493-1501), Salisbury (1484-93) and St. David’s (1483-84), and acted as a servant to three — or four, depending on how you count — English kings. As the information plaque at Winchester Cathedral succinctly announces, Langton had been a chaplain to Edward IV and Richard III, and Ambassador to France and Rome.

Although his death came as a surprise in his 70th year, he did have the opportunity to make an extensive will, showing he died a very wealthy man. It runs to over 100 items, and contains…

View original post 9,040 more words

“Looking for a Straight Spine”

http://www.annettecarson.co.uk/357052370

“There was a man …

… his name was Rouse. He had the key to every house.
He was suspected and then arrested …”
(https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjU_ZWEjZvKAhUJ1h4KHfbYBp0QFgggMAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fopus.lingfil.uu.se%2FOpenSubtitles2012%2Fxml%2Fen%2F2005%2F20551%2F3099498_1of1.xml.gz&usg=AFQjCNF57cSMby7R2qZUHshq9kvRA28kXA&sig2=RZ7d8jSa-bulSdyeXFoUYg)

Alfred Arthur Rouse (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Rouse) was an ostensibly happily married commercial traveller, to Lily May Watkins, when in London. In other regions, he was a bachelor or occasionally “married” to a different woman. To end his first “life” and , he killed a hitch-hiker but was caught and executed.

John Rous was a veteran Warwickshire prelate and writer of the Rous Roll, praising the House of York and Richard III in particular. After the accession of Henry VII, he wrote Historia Regum Angliae, reversing his earlier verdict ad absurdam, either at the behest of the first “Tudor” or in a vain attempt to save the life of Edward, Earl of Warwick.

The Maligned Ricardians

Part 2 – Sir George Buck

“The historiographer must be veritable and free from all prosopolepsies and partial respects; he must not add or omit anything, either of partiality or of hatred.”

(Sir George Buck – The History of King Richard III)

 

Introduction

Sir George Buck (1560-1622) faithfully served two English Monarchs in a distinguished career spanning forty years. He was variously a sailor, soldier, diplomat, courtier, Member of Parliament, member of the Privy Chamber and last the King’s Master of Revels from 1610 until shortly before his death in 1622. He was also a noted antiquarian and highly regarded by other leading scholars of his day. The duke of Buckingham thought he was one of the few scholars qualified to compose an English Academy.[1] In addition, he was an author who wrote seriously about serious subjects. He published a number of historical treatises and other works, some of which are no longer extant. Those that we have show him to be a conscientious and thorough researcher and a learned scholar. His work in the Revels office is testament to his literary and gentlemanly qualities; during his tenure he made regulations and strictures about profanity, blasphemy, religious controversy, the presentation of royalty on stage and politically sensitive issues. And yet his notoriety is derived chiefly from the publication in 1646 of his magnum opus, the History of King Richard III, which for convenience I shall call ’Buck’s History’.

 

My idle curiosity about Buck was first aroused by something Paul Kendall wrote in his biography of king Richard III. His poor opinion of Buck’s History seems so incongruous compared to his good opinion of the author and his historical achievement that the circumstances are worth quoting in full: “The first substantial assault [on the Tudor tradition] was delivered about the same time by Sir George Buc (sic), Master of the Revels to king James I and a man of considerable learning and industry, one of whose ancestors had fought for Richard at Bosworth Field. His “History of King Richard III in five books, first published in 1646 and then included in White Kennett’s ‘ Complete History of England’ 1710, is so desultory in organisation as to make for grim reading; it is blundering and uncritical, and as prejudiced in its direction as the tradition it attacks. Yet it is Buc (sic) who first makes use of the manuscript of the Croyland Chronicle to point out some of the inaccuracies in Vergil and More, who seeks sources more nearly contemporary with Richard than the Tudor writers, and who was the first to reveal that the tradition was not inviolable.”[2], Kendall referred to Buck again In his introduction to the ‘Great Debate, describing him as a Yorkist partisan and his History as ‘cumbersome and capricious’.[3]

 

I was at a loss to understand how a man of such learning, industry and achievement could write something so dreadful that Kendal thought it desultory, blundering, uncritical, prejudiced and capricious. Sadly, idleness and not curiosity got the better of me. I did not bother to read Buck’s History until after the discovery of king Richard’s grave in 2012. The recovery of his earthly remains re-awakened my long dormant interest in his life and times. I soon realized that almost every historian who bothered to write about Buck’s History in the three centuries since its first publication shared Kendall’s disdain for it. The list of its faults and deficiencies is far too long for me to catalogue here. At the very least Buck is accused of partiality, of singularity and of being a professional panegyrist. His professional competence and integrity have been attacked by implications that he fabricated evidence and misread his sources. The consensus of historical opinion is that Buck’s History’ is worthless. The sharp contradiction between the good opinions of Buck’s learning and industry and the denigration of his History raises a literary conundrum, which I hope to explain in this piece and thereby showing why Buck’s reputation as a careless and irresponsible historian is undeserved.

 

The History of King Richard III 1646

Dr Arthur Kincaid has no doubt that “ The picture which critics over the intervening centuries have handed down to us of Buck as a careless and irresponsible scholar has attached to him accidentally from two major causes. The first is the carelessness of those who wrote about him and did not seek far enough for his sources.” I pause there simply to point out, as Kincaid does, that there may be many genuine reasons why documents referred to by Buck are no longer extant or cannot be found: fire, vermin and other calamities may have destroyed or damaged some documents, and miscataloguing might result in others being lost, It is worth also briefly referring to one example of the “extraordinary carelessness” of a t least one twentieth century historian when criticizing Buck. It concerns AR Myers’ introduction to the 1973 reprint of the 1646 Edition. Myers gives three examples of what he says is Buck’s unreliability. The first, is an assertion that Buck omitted ‘the crucial’ Latin word (violenti) when quoting from Croyland. Kincaid contends that quite apart from the question of whether ‘violenti’ was a crucial word in the context of Buck’s point, Myers fails to explain that there is no way anybody can ascertain whether Buck actually did exclude the word, since the section of the original manuscript where it would have appeared has been burned away. Myers second point is, in Kincaid’s opinion, “ so blatant an example of either carelessness or perversity on Myers part that it vitiates anything else he may have to say. It is a claim that Buck ‘quotes a statement from Camden that no one has seen since’.” Kincaid comments that, leaving aside the impossibility of proving that ‘nobody has seen a document’, the statement from Camden’s ‘Britannia’ to which Buck referred “ can be most easily be located in that work by looking-up ‘Richard III’ in the index and turning to the page number there listed.” It seems that Myers had not even bothered to check Camden’s ‘Britannia’ for himself. Myer’s third point cannot be investigated, since he cites an incorrect page number.[4] Another notable feature of Buck’s History, which his critics fail to mention is that of the many hundreds of sources he has cited only a handful remain unaccounted for.[5]

 

However, in Kincaid’s opinion: “by far the worst damage to Sir George’s scholarly reputation derives from the amazing alterations made to his work by the mysterious George Buck, Esq., who in the year 1646, twenty-four years after the author’s death published a truncated and heavily revised version of the ‘History’ under his own name.” [6] One gets a feel for just how truncated the 1646 edition is from the fact that it is less than half the length of Buck’s original. As usual, the devil is in the detail and Kincaid goes to considerable lengths to examine that detail.[7]. I can only summarise the changes. Some are stylistic and the work benefits from these since the original tends to verbosity and lacks “grammatical subordination”.[8] Unfortunately, the substantive revisions went too far; brevity was achieved only by drastically summarising important material. The result is a loss of nuance and a briefness that undermines the effectiveness of Buck’s arguments. Any criticism of John Morton is softened. Much of the marginal documentation (equivalent of today’s footnotes) is either omitted altogether or copied incorrectly. Information that Buck obtained by word of mouth (e.g. from the antiquarian John Stow) is reduced to the status of hearsay. Printing and copying errors abound and the younger Buck’s florid style masks the sense of the Buck original. The list of defects goes on.[9]

 

A good example of the damage done to Buck’s original can be seen in the treatment of the famous letter from Elizabeth of York to the duke of Norfolk in which, inter alia, she expressed her concern that Queen Anne would never die.[10] In his original manuscript, Buck is responding to the accusation that Richard murdered his wife and afterwards proposed marriage to his niece, Elizabeth. He offers this letter as a supplement to his main point that Richard had no reason to murder Anne if he wished to re-marry; he could have divorced her. The letter is merely indicative of Elizabeth’s youthful naivety in not realizing that a man did not need to kill his wife in order to re-marry. In the original, this letter is not offered as proof positive of anything.[11] In the 1646 edition, the context of Buck’s original discussion is changed. Now, the emphasis is on the accusation that Richard proposed marrying Elizabeth after murdering Anne and that Elizabeth detested the prospect, as if these were the main points to be disproved. The younger Buck then cites the letter as evidence disproving them. Regrettably, he fails to mention that the Sir George Buck had actually seen and read this letter, which was shown to him by his patron Thomas Howard, earl of Arundel, a descendant of the Duke of Norfolk.   It was a crass misrepresentation Buck’s original argument and an omission that would cause later historians to question his integrity.[12]

 

The History of King Richard III 1979

The truth is that Scholars have known of the existence of Buck’s original manuscripts for centuries. However, they seemed to have casually assumed that the original and the printed edition were so similar as not to matter. It wasn’t until the first quarter of the twentieth century that Frank Marcham, whilst writing of Sir George Buck, suggested that “ because ‘the edition of 1646 is nearly worthless,’ and the original ‘contains a good deal of interesting information on literary matters’, the History’ should be carefully edited’”.[13] In the last quarter of the twentieth century Dr Arthur Kincaid produced such a work. His modern edition of Buck’s original manuscripts is both scholarly and comprehensive. From it we get a much more accurate appreciation of Buck’s contribution to the Ricardian narrative and his historiological achievement.

Although Buck was naturally sympathetic to Richard, he approached his ‘History’ like a defence lawyer: on the basis of evidence where it exists, and where it does not exist he attacks the prosecution’s lack of evidence. If he cannot exonerate Richard, he mitigates on the basis of precedent or raison d’état. His prolixity, which some complain of, is deliberate. It is a lawyerly characteristic, which though annoying to those who like a more analytical style, has the virtue of ensuring comprehensiveness by providing facts with explanation, thereby reducing the risk of misunderstanding caused by a casual précis. For example, Buck believes he has already produced sufficient evidence to prove that Perkin Warbeck is actually Richard duke of York.[14] However, more evidence is available if required, which from an abundance of caution Buck includes (abundans cautela non nocet). This was the method by which he constructed Richard’s defence and it was his thoroughness that enabled him, for instance, to be the first historian to recognize the irony underlying Sir Thomas More’s own History of king Richard III. Nonetheless, it is true that sometimes he allowed his enthusiasm too much scope; his long genealogical digressions add nothing to the Richard’s defence. The criticism that his style is pedantic is probably justified.

 

Buck’s research is truly extensive[15]. He uses classical and religious sources as well continental ones, which he deploys as evidence or precedents. For example, when he is arguing that the historic judgment of Richard is unduly harsh compared to the judgments passed on other kings who committed the same or worse acts, he uses Henry IV as an example of a king with a good reputation who actually deposed an anointed king and usurped the crown. Of the Tudor sources, he relies primarily on Thomas More and Polydore Vergil, supplemented by cross-references to the likes of Rouse, Fabyan, Grafton, Hall and Holinshed. He also trusted his friend, the antiquarian and historian, John Stow who was a discerning and relatively objective source with whom Buck could discuss his work.

 

Buck’s best contribution to the Ricardian debate is his use of the second continuation of the Croyland Chronicle to undermine the veracity of the Tudor tradition. The importance of Croyland lay in its independence from Sir Thomas More and the official Tudor sources. Buck was also the first to use Titulus Regius to prove both More and Vergil wrong about the basis of Richard’s title to the crown[16]. His documentation was methodical. He indicated in the margins of his manuscript all his primary sources and their whereabouts. He made a point of seeing sources for himself; where that was impossible, he quoted trusted colleagues who had seen the relevant source (e.g. Sir Edward Hoby who had seen Morton’s polemic).

 

Buck’s ethical approach to historiography is described in his dedication: The historiographer must be veritable and free from all prosopolepsies and partial respects; he must not add or omit anything, either of partiality or of hatred.” As Dr Kincaid observes that is an ethical standard any historian would be proud of.[17] Buck had no interest in concealing the truth. His motives are charitable, since he believed that all historians should show charity. He wrote the History of King Richard the Third because he believed the common chronicles were wrong. The accusation that he was uncritical, is not only unfair it is also untrue. He fully appreciated the difficulty of judging the reliability of sources. He had this general advice for those following Tudor sources: “And I advertise this by way of caution, because they that read their books should be well advised to consider and examine what they read, and make trial of such doubtful things as are written before giving credit unto them” and later “ For it is a hard thing to find that prince’s story truly and faithfully written, who was so hateful to the writers then; for when they wrote they might write no better. And therefore, these reasons being considered, their writings must be regarded and the author’s censured.[18]

 

His handling of Thomas More is an indication of his critical alertness and advocacy skills. He was the first historian to realise that More writes ironically and that if one ignores the irony and takes the statements seriously, a more sympathetic picture of Richard emerges; one that is much more in accord with the objective records we have of his life and reign. For example, in the scene where Buckingham, with the citizens, begs Richard to assume the crown for the common good, More writes: “These words much moved the protector, which else as every man may wit, he would never in likelihood have inclined to the suite.”[19] In writing this, he means the opposite. He is writing with what Kincaid calls a ‘knowing sneer’ at Richard’s dissimulation. Buck habitually disregards the sneers, and quotes More as if he wrote in all seriousness. By this means, he uncovers the basic matrix of fact upon which More’s History is based. As Kincaid writes: “The facts remain stable; only the interpretation varies, as Buck demonstrates. More chooses to attribute to these facts vicious motives, Buck to apply charity. Any good deed, Buck says, may be depraved by a foul interpretation.”[20] Nonetheless, and despite his undoubted accomplishments, it would be wrong to think that Buck was perfect, because he wasn’t. He made mistakes; some were inconsequential, others were crass but none were dishonest or malicious.

 

He got into a muddle about Bishop Stillington’s part in the pre-contract scandal. Having quoted Commynes that it was Stillington who told Richard that his brother’s marriage to the widow Elizabeth Grey was bigamous because Edward was already married to another English lady (Lady Eleanor Butler, nee Talbot),[21] he got the chronology wrong. In Buck’s History, The Talbot family complained to Stillington about the wrong done by Edward to Lady Eleanor and her family, and sought redress. Stillington agreed to intercede with the king on their behalf; however, he was afraid to speak to Edward direct and raised the matter with Richard, then duke of Gloucester. Buck describes what happened next: “…the duke of Gloucester dealt with the king about this business, but he could do no good for all the affect thereof was naught, and that was that. The king grew exceedingly wrath with the bishop of Bath for revealing his marriage.” The outcome was a bad one for Stillington as he was disgraced and imprisoned; although, “not long after king Edward died.”[22] Dr Kincaid cannot say where Buck got this story. He suggests that it may have been something Stow (or somebody like him) had said or he may have constructed a plausible chronology from the few known facts, or he may simply have been “indulging his taste for elaborating dramatic scenes from meager suggestions.” Be that as it may, Buck’ s account is hardly credible since his own source, Commynes, makes it clear that Stillington told Gloucester about the pre-contract after the death of king Edward IV.[23]

 

It would be equally wrong to ignore the allegation that Buck is biased. Kendall thought he was. In his Ricardian biography he said Buck was prejudiced; later, he called him a Yorkist partisan.[24] The fact is, Buck is not a disinterested observer: how could he be? He came from a Yorkist family. His great grandfather was wounded at Barnet and killed at Bosworth fighting for Yorkist kings. His grandfather and his father had been taken under the wing of the Norfolk Howards who were also Yorkists by affiliation and temperament. Buck’s dislike of John Morton has an edge of loathing that only a confirmed Ricardian could replicate. He makes his views known in the opening paragraph of Book three: “…some politic and malicious clerks hating king Richard and seeking to be gracious to his enemies employed their wits and their pens to make king Richard odious and abhorred, and his memory infamous forever…for this purpose they devised and divulged many scandalous reports, and made false accusations of him. And they made libels and railing pamphlets of him…And so vehement and constant they were in their malicious prosecution thereof, as that they did not only defame and belie him in his lifetime, but as farforth as lay in them, they persecuted even his shadow and his ghost and they scandalised extremely the memory of his fame and name.” [25] However, despite his personal aversion to Morton, Buck remains true to his own creed and uses only evidence, particularly Titular Regius and the virtually contemporary second continuation of Croyland, to prove the factual errors of the Tudor tradition.

 

The question of the authorship of More’s History

It is not essential for my limited purposes to consider the question, of who wrote More’s History. However, it is a loose end, which in an earlier post I promised to deal with. We need not doubt that Buck believed that Morton wrote a polemical ‘book’ in Latin about king Richard. We have Buck’s word for it in a passage wherein he describes Morton as “…a good clerk who made his pen the weapon and instrument of his malice and of his rancour and of his hatred. And for this purpose he made a book in Latin of king Richard and reported his acts and charged him with many foul crimes and aggravated them. And on the other side he extenuated or suppressed all his virtues and good parts. And this book of Dr Morton came afterwards to the hands of Mr More.”[26] Neither, should we doubt that Buck thought that More had edited and adapted Morton’s book and added a bit to it before publishing it; we have Buck’s word for that also, in a subsequent passage: “…and this More having been a servant of Morton…accordingly, he translated and interpreted and glosed (sic) and altered his master’s book at his pleasure, and then he published it.”[27] And we cannot doubt that Morton’s book existed, since Buck’s closest friend Sir Edward Hoby (1560-1617) told him so. In a marginal note to his original manuscript Buck wrote: “This book was lately in the hands of Mr Roper of Eltham, as Sir Edward Hoby, who saw it, told me.[28] These comments and other circumstantial details have raised doubts about the authorship of More’s History (I shall continue to call it that) in the minds of some historians.

 

Professor Richard Sylvester in his definitive modern edition of More’s History has examined this issue carefully. [29] He is at pains to distinguish questions about the accuracy of More’s History from those about its authorship. This is important because the controversy surrounding the life and reign of king Richard and More’s account of that time is so inflammatory that any analyst commenting on these issues needs to keep a cool, objective head. First, we have what Sylvester calls ‘literary gossip’ in Sir John Harrington’s ‘Metamorphosis of Ajax” (1596): “ the best and best written part of all our Chronicles in all mens opinions; is that of Richard the third, written as I have heard by Moorton, but as most suppose by that worthy, and uncorrupt Magistrate Sir Thomas More.” [30]Next we have another marginal note written by Buck. This one is next to the entry for bishop John Morton in Buck’s copy of Francis Godwin’s “Catalogue of the Bishops of England’. It reads thus: “This Morton wrote in Latin the life of K.R.3, which goeth in Sir Thomas More’s name — as S. Ed. Hoby saith & that Sir William Roper has the original.[31] Last, we have an assumption that there are passages in More’s History, which he cannot possibly have written as he was a child at the time when the events described occurred . For example, there is a scene in the Grafton texts that appears to prove the author was present at Edward IV’s deathbed. [32]

 

I will deal with the last point first since it is a non sequitur. The fact that More could not have been present at some of the events he describes does not prove he was not the author. It serves only to confirm that he was not writing as an eyewitness. Harrington’s comment and Buck’s note in Godwin can be dealt with equally briskly since neither comment is proof of Morton’s authorship. In fact, they both emanate from the same source. Sir Edward Hoby was a fried of Harrington and buck’s closest friend: he is almost certainly the source for both these comments.[33]

 

The evidence against Morton’s authorship when taken together is almost overwhelming. First there is the objection that he could not have written any of the extant versions of the texts, since they contain details of events that took place after his death in 1500 (e.g. Tyrell’s confession in 1502). There are also stylistic similarities between More’s History and his other literary works, which suggest he is the author. Sylvester suggests “ …the man who could describe Pico’s complexion as ‘entermengled with comely ruddes’, was probably the same man who described Jane Shore walking through the streets of London’ while the wondering of the people caste a comely rud in her cheeks.” Of course, this argument by analogy might be inconclusive were it not supplemented be the testimonies of Halle (1458) and Bab (1557), A Scham (1552) and Harpsfield (1556) along with Rastell and Stapleton (1588) who all acknowledge More as the author.

 

Fortunately, Sylvester has an explanation that is much more sensible. He argues that Morton was an important source for More but he was not the only one. More may well have used part, or all, of Morton’s uncompromising tract as a source of information but he did not incorporate it wholesale and claim credit where it was not due. Such an opinion is not inconsistent with what Buck says himself. It is noteworthy also that More’s History was never finished, which may explain why he never mentioned it. He never mentioned any of his other literary works so why would he bother to mention an unfinished manuscript? It is impossible to escape the conclusion that More probably only used Morton’s polemic tract about Richard as a source of information in his own work.[34]

 

Conclusion

The solution to this literary riddle is now obvious to me. The criticism aimed at Buck and his History is based on what is a fake copy of his original, which was cobbled together well after Buck’s death. On that basis, the criticisms are justified since it is not even a good fake. However, now that original manuscript of Buck’s History is easily accessible in the form Buck intended, we get a much better idea of its merit and its flaws. As a defence of king Richard it is undoubtedly showing its age. Not only are Buck’s language and his writing style three hundred years out of date, he got a few things wrong. His History has been overtaken by the march of time and the discoveries made about Richard’s life and reign, about which Buck could never know.

 

Nevertheless, Buck’s achievement is impressive. He was the first Ricardian to use the second continuation of Croyland and Titular Regius to prove the falsehood contained in More’s and Vergil’s histories. Not only that, but the core of his defence of king Richard still forms the basis of Ricardian literature today. That is not to ignore Buck’s weaknesses: he was partial, he made mistakes and he loathed Richard’s accusers. He was the unashamed defence lawyer who believed passionately that his client’s had suffered a historical injustice and that his reputation was worth defending. However, he built that defence on evidence rather than innuendo, gossip and rumour.

 

[1] AE Kincaid – Dictionary of National Biography online version.

[2] Paul Murray Kendall – Richard the Third (Geo Allen & Unwin 1955) at pp.427-428

[3] Paul Murray Kendall (Ed)- The Great Debate (BCA edition 1965) pp. 7-9

[4] AE Kincaid (Ed) – The History of King Richard the Third by Sir George Buck (Alan Sutton 1979) pp. xcvii-xcviii

[5] Kincaid pp.cxii-cxiii; of the many hundreds of Buck’s sources, Dr Kincaid identifies eight (“not counting commonplace books and collections of proverbs”), which cannot be found. Of these eight, less than half are of material importance. They are: (i) the letter from Elizabeth of York to the duke of Norfolk concerning her marriage, which Arundel showed to Buck, (ii) a polemic tract about king Richard written by Morton and reputedly the source of Sir Thomas More’s ‘History of Richard III, which was seen by Sir Edward Hoby and (iii), ‘an old manuscript book’ referencing a plot by Morton and Margaret Beaufort to poison the Princes.

[6] J Petre (Ed) – Crown and People (Richard III Society 1984) p247. (Crown and People). George Buck Esq was Sir George Buck’s nephew. he was a man of straw and bad character who  came into possession of Buck’s original manuscript following a dispute over Buck’s will. Nephew George published Buck’s History as his own, along with some of Buck’s other writings.

[7] Kincaid at chapters 5 and 6, pp. Ixiv-ci; Dr Kincaid examines most, if not all the relevant changes to Buck’s text and sources of criticism in a detail I cannot emulate.

[8] Crown and People; ibid

[9] Kincaid; ibid

[10] Kincaid, p191

[11] Crown and People, p249; it is possible that Buck’s main reason for mentioning the letter was to compliment Arundel on his wonderful collection of documents; perhaps he shouldn’t have bothered. Correspondence between Dr Alison Hanham and Dr Arthur Kincaid in the pages of the Ricardian during 1987 and 1988 has raised the possibility that Buck had himself misunderstood the letter.   Dr Kincaid has suggested that Elizabeth was indeed referring to her ‘hoped-for marriage’, but not necessarily with king Richard. Buck may have confused ‘mediating with the king’ for ‘marriage to the king’. The judicious placement of a comma makes all clear. See Annette Carson – Richard III: the maligned king (The History Press 2013) at pp. 297-303 for a comprehensive discussion and analysis of this point and also Dr John Ashdown-Hill – The last Days of Richard III (The History Press 2010) at pp.32-33 for a discussion of Richard’s negotiations for a Portuguese marriage after Anne’s death.

[12] See Kincaid pp. xc-xciv and Crown and people ibid

[13] Kincaid at p xcix, citing Frank Marcham – The King’s Office of the Revels 1610-1622 (London 1925) at p3.

[14] Kincaid at p 160

[15] Kincaid at pp. cviii-cxviii provides a detailed analysis of Bucks sources and his documentation

[16] Buck referred to Titulus Regius in his 1619 manuscript, which was not made public in its truncated form until 1646 and in its correct form until 1979. It was the historian John Speed who first drew public attention to Titulus Regius in his ‘History of Great Britaine (1623)’

[17] Crown and People at p248

[18] Kincaid pp. 125-126

[19] Richard S Sylvester (Ed) – The History of King Richard III by St Thomas More (Yale 1963) at p.79

[20] Kincaid pp. cxx-cxxi and 127

[21] Phillip Commynes: memoirs (Penguin 1972) at pp.353-354.

[22] Kincaid pp.183 and 184

[23] Kincaid p304, notes 183/44-184/9; there is nothing to substantiate the story that Stillington revealed the pre-contract to anybody before Edward’s death, or that his imprisonment in 1478 was due to his knowledge of the pre contract, or for revealing it to Clarence. The bishop’s imprisonment may have been due to an association with Clarence, as suggested by Kincaid. But it is more likely to have been for his criticism of the lack of due process at Clarence’s trial. See also MA Hicks – False, Fleeting Perju’d Clarence (Alan Sutton 1980) at pp.183-184. For a different theory see John Ashdown-Hill – The Third Plantagenet (The History Press 2014) at pp.141-146.

[24] The Great Debate; ibid

[25] Kincaid p120; Kincaid suggests that Buck’s dislike of Morton may have been exaggerated to deflect blame from Henry VII, from whom James I was directly descended. He overcame his difficulty by flattering James about his ancestry. By this means Buck achieves two things. First, he establishes that the breach in the English succession caused by Edward IV’s marriage, was repaired by Richard III and second he restores Richard to his proper place in history by not depicting him in his traditional role as the disruptor of the succession but as the restorer of it.

[26] Kincaid p121

[27] Kincaid; ibid

[28] Kincaid; ibid at 129v

[29] Sylvester at pp. Iix-Ixiii and Ixv-Ixvii

[30] Kincaid p.ciii; citing Elizabeth Story Dono (Ed)-Sir John Harrington; the Metamorphosis of Ajax (London 1962) at p 107f;

[31] Kincaid p. ciii, citing Francis Godwin – Catalogue of the Bishops of England (1601) p.5

[32] Sylvester pp. Ix-Ixi

[33] Hoby was probably Buck closest fried and comrade from their service together on the Cadiz expedition

[34] See also A E Kincaid and J A Ramsden – The Encomium of Richard III by Sir William Cornwallis the Younger (Turner and Devereux 1977) at p.vii

 

It’s All in the Stars

When I was younger, I used to dabble in creating horoscopes for my friends and they often remarked how accurate they were as regards personality traits. So I wondered whether Richard III’s horoscope would shed some light on his character and thence his reputation. Obviously, not everyone is convinced about the accuracy of astrology, but I thought I’d have a go, and you are welcome to take it or leave it. I have given character traits and, in brackets, suggested how they might have been expressed in Richard’s actions. Perhaps you can think of more.

So firstly I had to cast his horoscope. We are pretty sure of his date and place of birth (although there are some other suggestions as regards the place). Since he, himself, wrote his birth details in his Book of Hours, I assume we can take this as read. So he was born at Fotheringhay in Northamptonshire on 2nd October 1452. This is problematic because we have changed our calendar system since his times. I therefore researched it on the internet and found several charts of his birth already calculated, so I based mine on those. However, many of them have assumed that his ascendant, or rising sign (the sign that was on the horizon at the time of his birth) was Scorpio. This, I believe, is because of a document by John Rous (of the Rous Roll), written in Henry VII’s reign, which says: ‘At his nativity, Scorpio was in the ascendant – and like a Scorpion he combined a smooth front with a stinging tail.’ If this was correct, Richard’s time of birth would have been between about 7.41 and 10.41. The time of birth is also important for the placement of the Moon. As many of the charts on the internet assume Rous was correct (it is the only hint we have of when he might have been born), I have used a time of about 9,00 am for the placement of the Moon, but I have omitted the Ascendant and Houses (which are dependent on knowing the time of birth accurately). This makes for a slightly more general horoscope but, as Rous was trying to ingratiate himself with Henry and can’t therefore be relied upon, it should be more accurate.

Chart of RichardIII's Horoscope

Richard’s Horoscope, excluding Ascendant and Houses and showing aspects of planets.

Firstly, let us assess his Sun sign – this is the sign that makes us a ‘Leo’, ‘Cancer’, etc and is one of the most important influences. Richard is a Sun sign Libra, represented by the scales of justice. How appropriate this is for Richard, who brought in so many just laws and was known in the North for his fairness. Librans also need give and take in relationships and if this is lacking they will often complain that ‘It isn’t fair that they should treat me like this, after all I’ve done for them!’ Librans are charming, attractive and have a winning smile, which can seduce unconsciously – people tend to think that the Libran smiles at only them in that way. They are indecisive when it comes to small matters (e.g. which doublet to wear), and may prefer to wait and see rather than act, but they can be decisive in matters of importance. In Richard’s chart, Mars in opposition will counteract the indecision and make him much more decisive. They can see both sides of an argument and therefore make good arbiters. This is also because they dislike conflict and, with this in view, they may try to be all things to all men. They have natural tact and diplomacy. They love luxury and fine things and are excellent hosts (as Von Poppelau will attest). They can be extravagant. Their homes are welcoming and comfortable as well as tastefully decorated. They are also good at design, possibly in architecture, or at least can tell what matches with what (Richard commissioned many building works including windows which let in more light).  They prefer to work in a partnership rather than alone (I’m thinking of Buckingham here), but can sometimes be too easily influenced by others (Buckingham again!). They can also be naive and gullible at times (his merciful treatment of Thomas Stanley and Margaret Beaufort)?  In love also, they need a partner and do not do well if alone (he would have felt very much alone after the death of Anne,especially having already lost Edward and little Edward). In their intellectual life they also crave a partner and the intellectual affinity they feel to one person is often balanced by an equal and opposite antipathy to another (Edward and Elizabeth Woodville?). Aspects of the Sun to Jupiter show contentment with one’s lot, a calm and benevolent disposition, and links to professions such as publishing, the law and the church. (Richard was greatly interested in all these three). The conjunction of the Sun and Saturn means considerable success in the world, but it will be hard won. Sacrifices will have to be made which may bring a lack of fun.

The next in importance is the Ascendant, which we can’t know for sure because it depends on the time of birth. Following this, other important planets and signs are those that are in their own or ‘ruling’ sign and the sign in which the planet that rules the Sun sign is located. Richard’s Sun sign, Libra, is ruled by Venus, so this planet’s position is important. Also, Mars is in its own sign, Aries, so is also significant. Then the Moon, being so close to us, is another important planet.

Venus is in the sign of Scorpio. As you might expect, Venus rules matters of the heart and in Scorpio it is at its sexiest and most passionate. It suggests a satisfying and emotional sex life, but this may lead to jealousy and possessiveness. Deep feelings will be present. A love of good food and drink, sensuousness. Venus’ aspects with Uranus and Neptune are positive and show artistic talent, probably in music. Enjoyment of membership of societies (The Guild of Corpus Christi). A very romantic and sensitive streak and friendships will be strong (Francis Lovell and Richard Ratcliffe). Refined tastes.

Mars was the god of war and its position in Aries brings out the martial side of Richard and counterbalances his gentle Libran influences. In fact it is almost exactly opposite his Sun. This indicates physical courage (his charge) and shows him to be a good leader. Its aspects can also make someone over-rash and reckless, with a joy in risk-taking (his charge again). It might also presage his defeat in battle. In addition, Aries rules the head, and people with a strong Aries influence often have head injuries and headaches (his fatal wounds). It also brings a strong tendency to over work, skill in debating (with George over Anne’s inheritance), argumentativeness and being drawn to a military career (Richard was known to be a talented warrior and fearless in battle). There is an urge to take the initiative and great intellect along with frankness. Needs independence.

Richard’s Moon is in Taurus (if we follow Rous’ assertion). Taurus is a fixed sign and the Moon is well positioned here as Taurus stabilises it. Impulsiveness will be balanced to some extent by persistence and determination. Ambitious and reliable, favourable in financial matters. Sociable, sensual and fun-loving, but may be possessive. An appreciation of and creative ability in the arts, especially music. (Richard was known for his love of music and had a renowned choir). Negative aspects of the Moon with Mercury can bring cunning and an astute intelligence, occasionally sneaky. May be restless but will also be extremely loyal and defend those weaker than themselves (his loyalty to Edward and championing of the common man and the poor). The Moon’s relationship with Venus means Richard would have found it difficult to express emotions, even though he felt things deeply. However, the Moon and Uranus are well-aspected and bring firmness, determination and a strong sense of duty, as well as ambition (two reasons for him to accept the crown). There are often sudden mood swings, but good intuition.

Mercury is located in Scorpio, which brings shrewdness and excellent concentration, and an ability to solve problems in a decisive and practical way (Stoney Stratford). Clearly seeing a solution, taking action and sticking to it is suggested. May be sarcastic and suspicious. Its aspect with Jupiter brings an active mind, satisfaction with their lot in life – not overly ambitious (happy to stay at Middleham and away from Court until duty called). Good financial sense and an excellent sense of humour (his letter regarding the marriage of Jane Shore and Thomas Lyneham).

Jupiter is placed in Aquarius which brings a sense of justice and attraction to causes. Imaginative and original, humanitarian, impartial and socially gifted. High mental ability may be expressed through science or music. Tolerance, empathy and independence of spirit. Extensive social life.

These are the major planets and their influence.   Looking at the chart as a whole, there is a predominance of planets in Fixed signs, and several in Cardinal signs. This means stubbornness and inflexibility, decisiveness and leadership. There are no planets in Mutable signs which increases the inflexibility – once he has made up his mind, he will not change it (refusal to see Buckingham before his execution). He would be a steadfast friend but an implacable enemy. The overall impression is one of intensity, power, decisiveness, mitigated by three planets in Libra, which softens this and makes him more amenable. All in all, a complex and fascinating person.

Henry “Tudor” is With Us Still

by Merlyn MacLeod

“Commons refers to the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately. The resources held in common can include everything from natural resources and common land to software. The commons contains public property and private property, over which people have certain traditional rights. When commonly held property is transformed into private property this process alternatively is termed ‘enclosure’ or more commonly, ‘privatization.’”

~First paragraph of the Wikipedia entry on “Commons

“The first recorded written complaint against enclosure was made by a Warwickshire priest, John Rous, in his History of the Kings of England, published around 1459-86. The first complaint by a celebrity (and 500 years later it remains the most celebrated denunciation of enclosure) was by Thomas More in Utopia.”

~Simon Farlie in “A Short History of Enclosure in Britain”

Harry, What Are You Doing In My Movie?

The avaricious “Tudors” intruded on the medieval world, and continue intruding on the current world, in unexpected places.

I was recently watching a film called “The Corporation” and was startled to hear Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation of Economic Trends, make this stark statement:

“We can really begin to take a look at the emergence of the modern age with the enclosure movements of the great European commons in the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth century. Medieval life, was a collectively lived life. It was a brutish, nasty affair. But there was a collective responsibility.

“People belonged to the land; the land did not belong to people. And in this European world, people, farmed the land in a collective way, because they saw it as a commons. It belonged to God. And then it was administered by the Church, the aristocracy, and then the local manors, as stewards of God’s creation.

“Beginning with Tudor England, we began to see a phenomenon emerge, and that is the enclosure of the great commons by parliamentary acts in England, and then in Europe. And so, first we began to take the great land masses of the world which were commons and shared, and we reduced those to private property. Then we went after the oceans, the great oceanic commons, and we created laws and regulations that would allow countries to claim a certain amount of water outside their coastal limits for exploitation.

“In this century we went after the air, and we divided it into air corridors that could be bought and sold for commercial traffic for airplanes. And then of course the rest is history” [1]

If Rifkin was right, and the “Tudors” began the enclosures through Parliamentary acts, I found myself wondering what Richard III’s attitude was toward overmighty subjects who attempted to use the commons for their own, exclusive purposes. Had he ever defended the rights of the commons?

John Rous said Richard had – at least while the King was alive. In his first, English version of the History of the Earls of Warwick (aka The Rous Roll circa 1483) Rous praised Richard. In his second, Latin version (aka The Rewritten Rous Roll circa 1485), Rous was writing as an old man desperately needing to suck up to Henry “Tudor” to preserve royal favor in hopes of also preserving his easy clerical life. So in the Latin version, Rous vilified Richard. These are the lines Rous deliberately deleted in the Latin version:

Rous_quote_Web

TRANSLATION: “The most mighty prince Richard (by the grace of god King of England and of France and Lord of Ireland, by very [i.e., real] matrimony without discontinuance or any defiling in the law, by [a] male heir lineally descending from King Henry II) all avarice set aside [and] ruled his subjects in his Realm full commendably, punishing offenders of his laws – especially extortionists and oppressors of his commons – and cherishing those that were virtuous, by the which discreet guiding he got great thanks of God and love of all his subjects rich and poor, and great love of the people of all other lands about him.”[2] (My bold)

In his Richard III, Professor Charles Ross argues that Rous only “praised Richard along precisely the same lines as Richard himself tried to project a public image” as king, but there is contemporary historical evidence that Richard’s consideration of the rights of the commons began long before Edward V’s Royal Council petitioned Richard to take the throne.[3]

Fishes and Dukes, Dominoes and Kings

In the fall of 1477, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, was in London. Five years before, Edward IV had granted the Earl of Warwick’s estates at Middleham to his little brother. Since June of 1477, Edward IV kept his other brother, George, Duke of Clarence, locked in the Tower, awaiting trial on charges of treason; George had only three more months to live.

At the same time, the corporation of York was trying to remove a fishgarth called Goldale Garth from the river Aire. The problem was that the fishgarth belonged to the Crown lands of the Duchy of Lancaster.

So what was a fishgarth, and why was it a problem?

Here’s where the dominoes come in because individual lives in the medieval world were often intimately connected with other lives. Like a line of closely placed dominoes, one piece often couldn’t be moved without its affecting – or even knocking down – other pieces. Meaning, the actions of a single medieval lord could affect a lot of people beneath him, and not always for the better.

Fishgarths were dams formed by a system of nets and wicker “chambers” that were placed in a river to trap fish and eels. They were particularly effective in catching salmon as they attempted to migrate from the ocean and into the rivers, traveling upstream to spawn. Also known as weirs, fishgarths interfered with river navigation and severely reduced the number of fish that commoners could catch by hook and line. They were an ongoing problem before the Magna Carta was written in 1215, and that document includes a clause from the barons demanding, “All fish-weirs shall be removed from the Thames, the Medway, and throughout the whole of England, except on the sea coast.”[4]

In Richard’s time, fishgarths were constructed by underlings who served the lords, abbots and bishops who were powerful enough to ignore the longstanding laws limiting the size and number of fishgarths. They were still a problem in 1861, when Parliament banned them entirely except wherever someone could prove that a particular fishgarth had been in use prior to the Magna Carta.

Rich or poor, medieval Christians didn’t eat meat (defined by the early church as the flesh of warmblooded animals) on Wednesdays, Fridays, during Advent and Lent, or on other holy days. Fish are coldblooded, so they didn’t count as meat. Hence, King Edward IV and his nobles liked to see messes of tasty fish and eel on their tables on meatless days. So did everyone else, from mighty lords of castle and manors, to the bishops and abbots living in palaces, monasteries and friaries, on down to the lowly commoner out on the bank of his local river, fishing with great hopes attached to his measly line and rough-bent, rusted hook.

So in the fall of 1477, the dominoes are placed thus: we have the city of York failing in their efforts to get the uppity men in the employ of the Duchy of Lancaster to remove an entirely illegal fishgarth on the river Aire. Said Duchy, uppity men, and fishgarth all fall under Edward IV’s proprietorship. We also have a statute passed during the reign of King Edward III to remove fishgarths from English rivers, which statute had been reaffirmed by Edward IV in 1472.[5] And we have Richard in London with his brother the King. Both men are extremely busy with Great Matters of State and Consequence, not the least of which is worrying over brother George’s fate.

Another domino is Richard’s prior involvement with the pesky fishgarths of Yorkshire. According to the municipal records of the city of York, in March 1476 the corporation of York had previously sought and obtained the duke’s “gracious aid and assistance” regarding the removal of weirs on the rivers “Ouse, Wharle, Eyre, Donne, Niddle, Yore, Swales, Derwent, and Humbre.”[6]

At the time, Richard himself was the knowing or unknowing proprietor of fishgarths at Hook, on the river Ouse. Upon receiving York’s letter, Richard had sent “his full honourable letters unto his bailees and tenants,” ordering them to remove whatever garths were on the rivers in the Duke’s lands.

With Richard’s help assured, the corporation of York then fearlessly wrote to William Dudley, Bishop of Durham regarding the fishgarths he owned at Howdenshire on the river Derwent. Their letter freely invoked the Duke of Gloucester’s request that the said weirs be “removed, taken up and withdrawn.”

Eighteen months later, in the fall of 1477, York was still chasing fishgarths, and they wrote to inform the council of the Duchy of Lancaster that Goldale Garth needed to go. The council’s response isn’t recorded, but it must have been less than satisfactory because York’s next move was to write to King Edward IV himself. Via the same messenger, they sent a letter to Richard at London, basically asking him to help them remove the blasted fishgarths, “as yet standing in certain waters” – weirs including the King’s own Goldale Garth.

Another man might have ignored York’s request. What, after all, are a few wicker baskets in the water when you’re the brother of the king? What, after all, are a few flopping salmon when you are the king? They’re nothing to any medieval man in power, unless that man has compassion enough to understand what fish meant to the commons: an equal opportunity with the wealthy to fill your belly and your family’s bellies after spending a few pleasant hours on the riverbank, and comply with God’s holy law.

So what exactly did the high and mighty Richard, Duke of Gloucester do with York’s plea, even as he was buried in meetings and worried about the fate of his brother?

Don’t Tell Me Who Richard Was: Tell Me What He Did, and That Will Tell Me Who He Was

  • He mentioned the Matter of Goldale Garth to his brother the king – who was ultimately responsible for that particular fishgarth, as Richard had been responsible for the ones on the rivers in his jurisdiction.
  • He was willing to do “any other thing” to help York as well, and he put his personal signet to the letter saying so.
  • He accepted the King’s orders to personally make sure all illegal weirs were pulled down. This was to be accomplished, not at Richard’s leisure, but at his next homecoming.
  • Immediately after returning to Middleham after Clarence’s execution in Febrary of 1478, Richard received a delegation from York to confer about the weirs.
  •  He suggested the delegation also meet with the Earl of Northumberland, and the delegation did so.
  • He appointed three representatives: Sir William Redeman, Lord Hastings’ brother Ralph, and the escheator of the chamber of York and organized a complex and thorough investigation of the fishgarths.
  • He had Northumberland appoint two representatives to the investigation.
  • He had the Mayor and Aldermen of York, and twenty-four attendants, take four days and nights to survey, on horseback and by boat, the fishgarths in the rivers Ouse, Aire, and Warfe, at a cost to York of £19 4s. 3d.

Relief didn’t come immediately after the investigation, but by 1479 the commons’ discontentment had eased because the city of York and the Duke of Gloucester had continued working together for months to continue removing fishgarths.

Does Your Grace the Bishop Intend to Confess Your Greed Before Easter is Upon Us?  

Of course the greedy lords rebuilt their weirs on the sly because their desire didn’t cease for salmon and eels far beyond their fair share, so the problem kept recurring. Even as King, in 1484, Richard had to authorize yet another commission to pull out all freshwater fishgarths located within the county of York. It would take another 377 years and an act of Parliament to permanently remove the weirs, but the historical record reveals that Richard tried repeatedly over many months to gain equal access for commoners to local fishstocks.

All of Your Trees Belong to You. Except the Ones I Want for Elizabeth & Me

“Edward IV himself used Woodstock as an occasional residence, and was often at Langley in Wychwood Forest, for the purpose of hunting…

“It is said that in the glades of Wychwood Forest Edward first saw Elizabeth Woodville. The King was hunting, and the beautiful woman flung herself at his feet with entreaties that he would restore her children’s heritage. So runs the story, and one can well imagine such a scene taking place in some of those wild woodland glades of ancient timber, which still remain in isolated beauty at Fairspear and other points in the old forest domain.”

~From A History of Oxfordshire, by J. Meade Falkner, Elliot Stock, London, 1899

In his Life and Reign of Richard III, James Gairdner wrote that on his progression after being made king, Richard III went from Oxford to Woodstock where, in answer to a petition from citizens living in the adjoining district, he returned to the commons a considerable tract of land that Edward IV had “arbitrarily, and for his own pleasure, annexed to Whichwood Forest. The act was remembered to his credit after he was gone, even by one who did not love his memory.”[7]

The writer Gairdner was referring to was John Rous, who wrote in his Historia Regnum Angliae:

“…The king [Richard] then removed to Oxford, and to Woodstock, where by popular request he disafforested a great area of the country which King Edward IV his brother had annexed and incorporated in the forest of Wychwood under forest law, against conscience and to the public damage….”[8]

So what big brother took away, little brother restored, not only because he could, but perhaps also because it was the right thing to do.

When, Exactly, Did Those Nasty Enclosures Begin, and Who Started Them?

Susan Troxell pointed out something during a discussion of garths among friends here at Murrey and Blue:

“The most successful garths would have been built in rivers surrounded by a wealthy person’s lands. The steward of the manor lord would ensure the garths weren’t destroyed – not something that a commoner could protect.

“I believe the fish garths were constructed by the gentry class in order to maximize their riparian rights, with complete disregard for the loss downstream. The matter must have been important enough because Richard was called in as Duke to intervene in this situation. If it had been mere riffraff building them, the sheriff could have handled the issue on his own.”

So we see that England’s enclosures began long before Henry “Tudor” and his French mercenaries invaded England, and Richard’s efforts were ongoing to push back against at least two methods of enclosure, which might be summarized as, “All of the fish do not belong to the greedy landlords among us,” and “All of the trees adjoining Wychwood Forest no longer belong to the Crown.”

These pushbacks in favor of the commons, which we know occurred over a six-year expanse, were likely accompanied by many more pushbacks on behalf of individual commoners who sought Richard’s help, when he went about dispensing justice in the North for over a decade. We also have it from his own mouth that he was determined to see justice done after he became king, for in his address to Westminster on 26 June, 1483 (Richard began his reign this day; he was crowned on 6 July 1483), Richard stated clearly that his officers and representatives should “…justly and duly administer the laws without delay or favor, [dispensing justice] indifferently to every person, as well as to poor as to rich”.

In 1607, Sir William Cornwallis wrote an essay in defense of Richard III and said, “His statutes are extent; what can be found in them not becoming a king? What, not befitting the service of God? The worship of religion? The good of his country? (Yea,I have heard of some, accounted both good lawyers and good statists, that in those three years of his government, there were more good statutes for the public weal enacted, than in thirty years before). He was no taxer of the people, no oppressor of the commons (though he came to manage an estate whose treasure was exceedingly exhausted); no suppressor of his subjects, to satisfy either licentious humors, or to enrich light-headed flatterers…”[9]

As an aside, something of interest in relation to the 1810 printing of Cornwallis’ essay in Sir Walter Scott’s A Collection of Scarce and Valuable Tracts (cited in the references below) is a comment inserted by either Sir Walter Scott or his co-editor, Lord John Somers, at the end of their brief introduction of Cornwallis. One of them wrote, “The prejudice which we imbibe against Richard, in our poetical studies, is too deep to be erased, even by proof of its injustice.”

England’s enclosures began with a series of…little things…over decades, so that the commons could scarcely protest what was being lost. Little things were taken away, as a handful of wealthier members of late-medieval society wanted the bulk of resources for themselves that were meant to be used by everyone.

So Jeremy Rifkin is right that the enclosures through Parliamentary acts  began with Henry “Tudor.” But the enclosures began before the “Tudor” came on the scene. What he did was to make an illegal thing legal…through Parliament. And so the enclosures expanded exponentially under Henry “Tudor” and his get so that this not-of-royal blood, illegitimate, unworthy, greedy family and the nobles who supported them could snatch a large portion of England’s resources for their own, exclusive use…and the protests, such as the ones the corporation of York voiced…were silenced on pain of death, or worse.

It might be prudent for us to note that the enclosure of the commons continues today. As we and our children watch Henry “Tudor’s” historical legacy of avarice expand even more over the next few decades in the form of blatant exploitation of the Arctic and Antarctica, the Moon and Mars – and beyond, into infinity – we might do well to consider where and with whom the enclosures began. We might also do well to remember the last Plantagenet who fought for years against such greed.

AFTERWORD

There are many other instances of Richard helping those below him on the medieval social scale, likely to the bewilderment of the bishops, many of the gentry, and definitely the nobility. The scope of this article is too narrow to discuss those instances, but many historical citations can be found in brief here.

As I was finishing this article, my subconscious came up with a bit of remembered pop-culture dialogue that could be directed not only at Henry “Tudor”, but also at all the greedy elite who have continued over the centuries to enclose the commons of this world.

Years before George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” became popular, there was a strange and wonderful television series called “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Its creator, writer and director, Joss Whedon, spent much of his childhood growing up in England.

I’d like to share with you the words Joss wrote for a character called Anya — a former justice demon who had traveled the world for centuries, exacting vengeance on behalf of victims as varied as wronged and scorned women, dying humans, and neglected/abused children. In the world Joss built, Anya would have exacted vengeance on the “Tudor”, not on King Richard III. And this is what she would have thought of “Tudor” and the greedy ones who came after him.

ANYA: You really do think you’re better than we are. But we don’t know if you’re actually better. I mean, you came into the world with certain advantages, sure. I mean, that’s the legacy. But you didn’t earn it. You didn’t work for it. You’ve never had anybody come up to you and say that you deserve these things more than anyone else. They were just handed to you. So that doesn’t make you better than us. It makes you luckier than us.

~Joss Whedon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer — “Empty Places”

I think this may also be what Richard understood. A realization like this, made while he was in exile in Flanders and no longer “special” in the eyes of anyone, may have been at the root of his obvious compassion and why – in the short time he held the power to make a difference as duke and as king – he tried so hard to take care of the commons, and the commoners.

It may also be part of why, in the end, members of the avaricious elite betrayed him at Bosworth.

REFERENCES

[1] The official website for “The Corporation” is here. For general information on the film, go here. The producers have made the movie freely available for viewing or download here. You can see Jeremy Rifkin interviewed in the film or read his words in Part One of the film’s transcript (page 19, under “Boundary Issues”). The transcript is available for download in two parts on the official website; look under the Resources Tab/“Transcripts and Extras” here. If you’d like more information on Mr. Rifkin and his professional credentials, go here.

[2] The English version of John Rous’s illustrated History of the Earls of Warwick is British Library Additional MS 48976. It was published in 1859 by H.G. Bohn as The Rows Roll with an introduction by W. Courthope. This 1859 edition is available online for download in a variety of versions (some with the original illustrations) at Open Libary here. Many thanks to the collectives writers of Murrey and Blue for their “modern translation by committee” of Rous’s words.

[3] Charles Ross, Richard III, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1981, p.xxii.

[4] For more information on fishgarths in general, see this article on fishing weirs. For more information specifically on the fishgarths of York, see Paul Murray Kendall’s Richard III, W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 1996, pgs. 157-58.

[5] Editor A. Lulders et. al., Statutes of the Realm, Volume 2, London, 1810-28, pp. 439-42.

[6] Robert Davies, Extracts from the Municipal Records of the City of York during the reigns of Edward IV, Edward V and Richard III with Notes illustrative and explanatory, J. B. Nichols & Son, 1843, pp. 84-91. (Available for free download at Google Books here.)

[7] James Gairdner, The Life & Reign of Richard III, Longmans, Green & Co., London, 1879, p. 143.

[8] John Rous, Historia Regum Angliae, J. Fletcher & J. Pote, Oxford, 1745, p. 216.

[9] Sir William Cornwallis, “The Praise of King Richard III,” essay written in 1617 and published in A Collection of Scarce & Valuable Tracts, on the Most Interesting and Entertaining Subjects: Reign of James I, edited by Sir Walter Scott and Lord John Somers, published London, 1810, pgs 316-328. The quote used above is on page 321 of this edition, which is available free from Google Books here. Cornwallis’ essay has also been edited by A.N. Kincaid and published under The Encomium of Richard III, Turner & Devereaux, London, 1977. The quote used above appears on page 14 of that edition.

 

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: