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Why was Elizabeth of York’s coronation really delayed….?

 

 

 

Image taken from https://www.thoughtco.com/family-tree-elizabeth-woodville-3528162

The following passage is taken from RITES OF PASSAGE: Cultures of Transition in the Fourteenth Century, edited by Nicola F. McDonald and W. M. Ormrod

“….to become ‘mature’ (in every sense of the word) demanded the achievement of progeny. And this, of course, is what Edward III and Queen Philippa had done – ultimately, indeed, spectacularly so. Their case emphasizes most particularly the point I am making about the birth of children in the coming to power of youthful kings, for it was precisely the public disclosure of Philippa’s first pregnancy in 1330 that created an effective fracture in Queen Isabella’s assumed powers of regency. It was held imperative that Philippa be crowned before she gave birth (an interesting perspective worthy of discussion in its own right); and her elevation to the full rank of crowned and anointed royal consort inevitably raised issues about the basis on which Isabella herself continued to exercise royal power….”

While reading the above paper, it occurred to me that maybe there was a little more to the delay in Elizabeth of York’s coronation than I at first thought. Granted, the quoted passage concerns an earlier century, and a more youthful king and queen, but I couldn’t help thinking of Elizabeth’s case.

We all know that ultimately Henry VII’s marriage was a successful one, and probably happy, but it wasn’t necessarily like that in the beginning. Setting aside all the whispers that the birth of their son Arthur only eight months after the wedding meant the pair had anticipated their vows, and that Henry was simply loath to give Elizabeth the position she warranted at his side in case it diminished his own claim to the throne, might there have been another reason for the delay? They were married on 18 January 1486, their first son was born on 20 September 1486, and Elizabeth’s coronation took place on 25 November 1487, almost two years after the marriage.

What if the names in the quoted passage were changed, and it referred to Henry, Elizabeth and Margaret Beaufort, a lady who most certainly didn’t want to give any ground whatsoever to her daughter-in-law. What if it wasn’t Henry who was loath to fully acknowledge his Yorkist wife, but his strong, influential, bitterly determined mother, who at that time was undoubtedly the most important woman in the realm?

It seemed to take Henry a very long time to finally stand up to Margaret and take his wife’s side. Was he a hen-pecked son, too timid to overrule his formidable mother? Margaret would obviously be pleased that a son would cement her son’s hoped-for dynasty, but might she also be jittery because the baby enhanced Elizabeth’s standing? Maybe the last thing Margaret would want was Elizabeth’s coronation, in case the new queen turned out to be stronger than expected. Margaret thoroughly enjoyed being queen in all but crown.

I’m not an expert on these things, but after reading this exceedingly interesting paper, I have to wonder if Margaret’s spoon was at work in this particular royal soup. After all, she knew all about usurpation.

Margaret Beaufort’s machinations….

The above illustration is from the Spectator. Margaret Beaufort‘s machinations were indeed vital in the overthrow of the rightful king of England, Richard III. By treachery, of course, because she and her odious son never did anything honestly and up-front.

Maybe she couldn’t help her face, but the sourpuss above was probably spot-on. And she passed her Beaufort features on to her equally disagreeable son (below) Neither of them was good for England that’s for sure.

Henry VII

 

Queen Joan? Oh, no she wasn’t….!

 

The illustration above is from Dan Jones’s book Summer of Blood: the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. Part of the caption is “Queen Joan, Richard II’s mother, pleading with the rebels as the Savoy burned”. Elsewhere in the same book, Joan is referred to as the queen mother.

According to Merriam Webster, the first known use of ‘queen mother’ is 1560, and it is defined as “a queen dowager who is mother of the reigning sovereign”. Joan, of course, was never a queen. She was married to Edward, Prince of Wales (the Black Prince) who died before he ascended the throne. So Joan was only Princess of Wales. This applied even when her son became Richard II. Being the mother of the king didn’t make her a queen (ask Margaret Beaufort!) so Dan Jones’s caption is incorrect, and should read “Joan, Princess of Wales, Richard II’s mother, pleading with the rebels as the Savoy burned”.

Things learned about most of our 15th-century kings….

The new year of 2020 commenced with this article dropping into my inbox. It’s an interesting list, each entry backed by an explanation, but I’ve limited my comments to the monarchs of the 15th century.

The thought of Henry VI requiring a sex coach is rather boggling, I have to say, but then he was a little, um, shy, shall we say? I have to feel sorry for him, although he was one of the worst kings England ever had to endure. He was the personification of incompetence, which is putting it mildly. And as for him accepting fatherhood of Margaret of Anjou’s child…. Words definitely fail me.

Did Elizabeth Woodville die of the plague? Well, we will never know, but it’s possible. As is the possibility that she was helped on her way by her son-in-law, who’d just had enough of her. Like the murderous Tudor line he sired, Henry VII was inclined to get rid of those he didn’t like. Unlike the king whose throne he usurped. Richard III should have done away with far more, including Henry’s pesky mother! But he didn’t, and paid the price of his honourable conduct.

Richard is actually dealt with quite well in this article. He isn’t routinely blackened, as has been the tiresome tradition, which failed to ever look properly at his record.

Henry VII’s bed bought for a couple of thousand pounds? Oh, well…whoever asked that low price must be kicking themselves. I wonder what Elizabeth of York felt as she lay there gazing up at the canopy, being bonked by her uncle’s killer? Did she participate in the proceedings? Or simply think of England?

Apart from the above examples, the rest of the article leaves the 15th century and deals with later kings and queens, so I will let you read them all and form your own opinions. As for my above comments…well, I just couldn’t resist…!

 

 

 

MODERN RICHARD!

I came upon an interesting Instagram post  by Royalty-now where someone had taken the Society of Antiquaries portrait of Richard III, removed his hat and long hair and blended his face with that of a 21st century man. Although I miss the hair personally, I think he scrubbed up rather well! A few folk commenting noticed a resemblance to certain actors–Richard Armitage came up (Richard who was named for OUR Richard and  was born on August 22) and also Dr Who actor Arthur Darvill.

Modern Richard

For comparison, here is someone doing something similar with a couple  of the Tudors–Elizabeth I (also looking spookily as I’d imagine Margaret Beaufort did), looks like a very intimidating cutthroat business woman or politician…while her dad, Henry VIII, looks more like a night-club bouncer!

MODERN “TUDORS”

RICHARD IN THE 21ST CENTURY…

MODERNR

Some folk also claim to see a resemblance to some of Richard’s modern day descendants too–here is an article on Michael Ibsen and his family that is not often seen as it is from a Canadian source. I personally don’t see much  similarity to Michael, although some others do…but perhaps a little in his brother Jeff?

Canadian Relatives of Richard III

Margaret Beaufort married John of Gaunt….!

 

wood carving of Sir Christopher Urswick in Urswick School’s musuem

I always thought Starkey was a waspish prig (his public opinion of those who support Richard III is just as derogatory!) but having read this article, I think he’s slap-dash as well. Certainly he can’t be checking what goes out to herald the latest of his lectures – this one will no doubt manage to be another anti-Richard diatribe. It’s based around Christopher Urswick, and here’s a quote from the above link:-

“Born in Furness, Cumbria, in 1448 Christopher Urswick had a remarkable life….He was a priest but and [sic] became a confessor of Margaret Beaufort. She had married King Edward III’s son, John of Gaunt, when she was just 13. Not long after she gave birth to his child, Henry, she was widowed.”

I had no idea that Margaret and her son were that old…or that such an extra skeleton lurked in their capacious cupboard. Henry VII would have been cock-a-hoop to claim Gaunt as his father! But I wonder if Gaunt was aware of this extra wife and son?

LONDON’S LOST AND FORGOTTEN RIVERS

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Jacob’s Island formed by a loop in the River Neckinger c1860.  Formerly known as Folly Ditch. Watercolour  J L Stewart 1829-1911

Here is a link to a very interesting article on London’s lost and forgotten rivers with details of  some interesting finds including, my favourites , a 12th century triple toilet seat,  a Roman bracket cast in the shape of a thumb, Bronze Age and medieval swords and  a dogs collar  finally engraved with ‘Gray Hound’

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12th century triple toilet seat..

As The London Museum curator Kate Sumnall succinctly puts it “They are still there, and they’re flowing.  Some off them you can still see, others are beneath our feet, but the little clues around London survive.  Once you start paying attention to them the rivers jump out at you and you realise that you know far more about them than you think’.

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The River Fleet shown on the ‘Copperplate’ map of London c 1553.  

The Fleet  rose on Hampstead Heath,  flowed  beneath Fleet Bridge , now the site of Ludgate Circus,  and Holborn Bridge past Bridewell Palace, built by Henry VIII and into the Thames.

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Bridewell Palace and Blackfriars Monastery at the entrance to the River Fleet.  From a model by John B Thorp 

Archaeologists still argue about the exact route of the River Tyburn but it is agreed that it flowed from the Hampstead Hills,  across Regents Park to form an eyot which was called Thorney Island whereupon stood Westminster Abbey and the old Palace of Westminster.Westeminster_Abbey.jpg

Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster once stood on the eyot  formed from the  River Tyburn known as Thorney Island..

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The eyot known as Thorney Island 

The River Walbrook, short,  but as it was the only watercourse to flow through the City it was both an important source of water as well as a conduit to remove sewerage.  It may have come by its names because it flowed through London Wall.  The source of the Walbrook is still argued over but one plausible suggestion is that it begun its life near St Leonards Church, Shoreditch,  meandering down and under what is now The Bank of England and entering the Thames close to where  Cannon Street Station now stands.   As time passed it was vaulted over, paved and made level to the streets and lanes and thus built over …alas.IMG_5735.jpg

Map of London c.1300 with the River Walbrook shown 

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The River Walbrook, as it now flows beneath the Bank of England.  Photograph taken by Steve Duncan 2007

The River Wandle, one of the longest of London’s rivers,  passed through the boroughs of Croydon, Sutton, Merton,  Wandsworth and Lambeth to join the Thames on the tideway. It flowed through the grounds of Croydon Old Palace, sometime  residence of Margaret Beaufort and where the  young widowed Katherine of Aragon lived for a time, when that place was but a quiet village and at one time renowned for its fish, particularly trout.  However eventually becoming an open sewer leading to outbreaks of cholera and typhoid ,  it too was culverted over in the 19th century.

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Croydon Church with the River Wandle flowing past …

The Neckinger is believed to have risen close to where the Imperial War Museum now stands, crossed the New Kent Road and flowed either  past or through Bermondsey Abbey, where disgraced Queens were sent to languish and die.   A loop in the Neckinger became known as Jacob’s Island.  The Neckinger met the Thames via St Saviours Dock which was created by the Cluniac monks of the Abbey in the 13th century who named it after their patron saint and built a watermill there.

Are there any South Londoners out there?  You have your very own river..the Effra.  Now culverted it once flowed, roughly,  from the hills of Norwood, once part of the Great North Wood, Upper Norwood,  Dulwich,  Brixton and Kennington until it met the River Thames at Vauxhall.

I have only touched upon the copious amount of information that is readily  available on London’s lost rivers.  Its amazing to think that these historic rivers survive beneath the feet of thousands of Londoners as, totally unaware,  they go about their business…

For anyone interested to find out more about London’s rivers, there is an exhibition ‘Secret Rivers’  at The London Museum from 24 May to 27 October 2019 covering the histories of the Rivers Effra, Fleet, Neckinger, Lea, Wandle, Tyburn and Walbrook.

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW

Stuart Bradley – JOHN MORTON: adversary of Richard III, power behind the Tudors (Amberley 2019)

 

John Morton served the English crown for a almost forty years during one of the most turbulent periods in English history. He wielded considerable influence at the courts of three kings. First, in the Lancastrian household of Henry VI: as an eminent lawyer, he was one of the draftsmen of the bill of attainder against the Yorkists in 1459, which triggered Richard, duke of York’s claim to the throne. In 1471, after the final defeat of the Lancastrians, Morton entered the service of the Yorkist king Edward IV, by whom he was pardoned. He soon became a valued member of Edward’s inner circle of advisors and was appointed Master of the Rolls in1472. Following the death of Edward IV in 1483, he rebelled against Richard III and became a pivotal player in the subsequent Tudor conquest of England. From 1485 until his death in 1500, Morton served as Henry VII’s Lord Chancellor, and as Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury. At various time during his career, therefore, Morton had been head of the judiciary, head of the church in England and head of the king’s government. For the last fourteen years of his life he was, excepting the king, the most powerful man in England. He was the archetypal Tudor enforcer: a model for the likes of Wolsey, Cromwell, Cranmer and the Cecils. And yet despite his fame, a serious study of Morton’s life has been much neglected. Although historians have explored aspects of his career, Dr Stuart Bradley’s recent book is only the second biography of Morton to be published in the five centuries since his death and the first to be published since Victorian times. It seems strange that such an important historical figure is chiefly remembered — if he is remembered at all — for his association with a shabby piece of Tudor logic known as Morton’s Fork. A reassessment of his whole life is, therefore, well overdue.

 

A major difficulty facing any biographer of John Morton is that we know so little about the private man. What we know of his character and interests we get only from his public works and from what others tell us about him. We know of his personal interest in religious architecture from the church building works he commissioned or patronized. We know of his preoccupation with civil and canon law, and oratory from his few surviving books, and we can gauge his piety and his spirituality from his will. But we have little from him that provides insight into his political reasoning or actions. Even examples of his signature are rare. His cenotaph at Canterbury Cathedral was broken centuries ago and his bones scattered. All that remains of the earthly John Morton is his skull. We do not even have a painted portrait of him.

 

It is against that background that Dr Bradley has approached his task. He believes that John Morton was a “…man whose story needs to be told in full and who deserves to be brought from the obscurity where for too long he has remained hidden.” To that end he has published a volume containing 288 pages, of which less than half (125) are devoted to a narrative of Morton’s life. In addition, there are 75 pages of appendices, 44 pages of footnotes and an extensive bibliography. The narrative comprises a conventional rendering of people, dates and places in more or less chronological order, and is focused mainly on Morton’s contribution to the Tudor state. Consequently, the major part of Morton’s life and particularly his career during the reigns of Henry VI and Edward IV, and his controversial rebellion against Richard III receive substantially less consideration. That is a regrettable lacuna in this biography, which is made worse, for me, by the author’s rather glib analysis of Morton’s political motives after 1471.

 

I mention these things now because they are relevant to a question that has puzzled me from the start: is Dr Bradley’s book aimed at the general reader or the scholar? The book’s subtitle, the presentation of the sleeve and the scarcity of detailed analysis in the narrative suggested to me that it is intended for a general readership; however, the quality and the quantity of the footnotes are more indicative of a book aimed at the specialist scholar. If Dr Bradley was writing for the casual reader, his tendency to quote from medieval manuscripts written in 15th century English or Latin, without a modern English translation, is baffling. It is a problem with the main narrative but more particularly with some footnotes, which are written in Latin. Moreover, some of the footnotes might in my personal opinion have been better incorporated into the main narrative, to aid the reading flow and prevent the crosschecking of footnotes becoming a distracting chore.

 

It would also have helped, I think, if Dr Bradley had included in his introduction information about the process of writing and publishing this book. There is no indication, for instance, whether other scholars saw the manuscript before publication, or commented on it with advice or correction.  Finally on this aspect, the schedule of Morton’s clerical and secular appointments was an invaluable source in helping me to quickly chart Morton’s career and his rewards. Similarly, the schedule overview of Henry VII’s and Morton’s itineraries, though long-winded, provided a visual representation of the author’s assertion that Henry VII relied completely on Morton to protect the crown’s interests during his own absence from London.

 

Even so, and despite my reservation, it is impossible not to admire the depth of Dr Bradley’s research of original manuscript and calendar sources, and of secondary works. This is nothing if not a thoroughly researched account of Morton’s life, which brings to life his learning and the softer, artistic side of his nature to counter the harshness of his reputation as a wily and inveterate schemer.

 

Dr Bradley makes a good case for Morton’s value and effectiveness as a royal servant. The longevity of his service, the speed with which he became one of Edward IV’s intimates, the trust placed in him by Henry VII and the rich rewards he received for his services are testament to his efficiency and capacity for hard work in a royal cause. His political acumen and his networking skills were particularly important to Henry VII in establishing his reign against the Yorkist remnants after Bosworth. Morton had learned the lessons of the past. He understood the damage done to the authority of the crown by ‘over-mighty subjects’ during the Wars of the Roses. Throughout the closing decades of the fifteenth century, therefore, he worked tirelessly to enforce law and order, and the primacy of royal authority. It was principally with his advice that Henry established his authority, rebuilt royal finances and founded the Tudor dynasty. Morton was also a restraining influence on Henry; a feature that is more obvious after Morton’s death, when Henry’s avaricious nature becomes more pronounced.

 

The claim that Perkin Warbeck was the youngest son of Edward IV had, if true, obvious, serious consequences for Henry and for Morton. When asked by the Milanese Ambassador if Warbeck was really one of the Princes in the Tower, as claimed by the King of Scots and the Duchess of Burgundy, Morton replied: ‘indeed he is nor reputed the son of King Edward in this kingdom.’ It is a curiously oblique answer and certainly not a plain denial of Warbeck’s claim. “Was this duplicity?’ asks Dr Bradley “Was Morton so implicated in the Tudor regime that recognizing the true claimant was impossible and that by standing with Henry he was seeking to save his own skin? “ Those are good questions and they are important ones. The fate of Edward IV’s sons is the defining mystery of the reigns of Richard III and Henry VII, and it is immensely disappointing that having asked these questions, Dr Bradley dismisses the various possibilities out of hand (“It seems highly unlikely”), on the basis that Morton believed the two Princes were already dead and that Warbeck was obviously an imposter – a ‘mawmet‘.

 

Dr Bradley’s treatment of Morton’s life and service during the reigns of Henry VI, Edward IV and Richard III is perhaps one of the least satisfactory aspects of this book. Central to his vindication of Morton’s behaviour is the notion that he was a honourable man whose loyalty to the crown was both absolute and principled. For example, he justifies Morton’s ten year rebellion against Edward IV after Towton thus: “This behaviour pre-figures his actions between 1483 and 1485 when he actively worked against Richard III during his second period in exile. When reviewing Morton’s career it seems he held firmly to principles of hereditary and legal legitimacy, and while Henry may [sic] have been defeated comprehensively in the field he was still the anointed king to whom Morton had sworn allegiance.” To be frank, this statement smacks of special pleading since it ignores the facts. Richard Duke of York claimed the throne in 1460 by right of inheritance; subsequently, the combined lords in parliament confirmed the superiority of his hereditary title over that of the Lancastrian incumbent. As York’s heir, Edward IV confirmed the lords’ judgement in trial by combat at Towton. The corollary of Yorkist legitimacy is, of course, Lancastrian illegitimacy. It was the central tenet of York’s claim that Henry VI, his father and his grandfather were — and always had been — usurpers. In that context, Morton’s adherence to the claim of a usurping Lancastrian and his efforts to gain the support of a foreign power against the legitimate Yorkist king of England can be seen for what they were: treason. To suggest that he remained loyal to Henry from his belief in ‘principles of heredity legitimacy’ is implausible. As an attainted traitor, he had no choice but to flee the realm and join Henry’s retinue if he was to avoid the consequences of his actions. The death of Henry’s heir in battle at Tewkesbury, followed soon afterwards by the death of Henry himself, marked the end of the Lancastrian cause but not the end of Morton’s political career. He accepted an offer to serve at the court of Edward IV.

 

Dr Bradley’s reason for this volte-face is simply that, “Henry [VI] was now dead and the dispensation of God had to be accepted. It was not what Morton had foreseen, or even wanted, but this was how events had transpired and now he must accept divine justice and accept the new status quo…He was there to serve and serve he did. The principles of hereditary and legal legitimacy came to the fore again.” It is, I have to say an unconvincing explanation, which ignores the possibility that Morton was motivated by political expediency and personal ambition to accept service with Edward IV, a motivation that might better fit what we know of his character. Mancini, writing about the events of the summer 1483 described Morton as being ‘trained in party intrigues under Henry VI’. Francis Bacon, Henry VII’s seventeenth century biographer wrote rather more on Morton’s character. “He was”, we are told “a wise man, and an eloquent, but in his nature harsh and haughty; much accepted by the king, but envied by the nobility and hated by the people.” He won the king by his ‘diligence and secrecy’, and his ‘subterfuge’. By contrast, Thomas More who knew him personally, thought Morton was be a great man and an exemplar of ethical and moral behaviour; I am, nonetheless, mindful of professor Sylvester’s sardonic caveat to More’s opinion: “A less shrewd man than More might well have seen a good deal of political conniving in Morton’s career

 

Similarly, Dr Bradley justifies Morton’s implacable disloyalty to Richard III on the rather limited ground of his unswerving loyalty to Edward V, who was the legitimate king (“Morton was clearly not swayed by the tales of bastardy…”). He is depicted as a leading member of the ‘resistance’, and his behaviour is rationalised only “…in terms of what he [Morton] regarded as Richard’s unacceptability as king…..He had no obligation of loyalty to the usurper; indeed, Richard’s actions gave him a moral responsibility to act against him, and the events of 1483 to 1485 show him doing just that.” A few weeks after being arrested and imprisoned by Richard, Morton transferred his allegiance to Henry Tudor. “The single logical explanation for this” suggests Dr Bradley ” is that he along with others …was convinced of the death of the two princes by this time.” It is a view that runs contrary to the opinion of Francis Bacon, who wrote that Morton won Henry Tudor’s favour because he had’…an inveterate malice against the House of York, under whom he had been in trouble.”

 

I am not going to enter the heated debate between Richard’s critics and his apologists, concerning the events of 1483. However, Dr Bradley’s analysis into Morton’s involvement in those events is, in my personal opinion, so punctuated with misconceptions and anomalies that it is positively misleading. No review could be complete if I didn’t at least mention some of these matters. For example, he dismisses without reason the possibility that Edward IV’s progeny were illegitimate. The Lords petition to Richard asking him to assume the throne and the parliamentary confirmation of his title in Titulus Regius are not even mentioned. Not only that, but Dr Bradley ignores the complex political dynamics of 1483. Edward IV’s legacy to his heirs was a kingdom divided. The force of his personality and his political acumen had held things together for many years. However, following his sudden and unexpected death, the fear of Woodville power resurfaced among the old nobility. William Lord Hastings and the other Yorkist lords were desperate for the duke of Gloucester to come south as Lord Protector to counter Woodville aspirations. The Chronicles and some private correspondence confirm that initially at least Richard was seen as a force for good, since the fear of another civil war was very real. Of course, support for Richard ebbed away once a rumour was spread that the ‘sons of Edward IV had been done away with’. Dr Bradley does not analyse or discuss these issues or the fact that the accusation of regicide against Richard III is based entirely on that rumour, which in all likelihood was started deliberately (possibly by Morton) to subvert a plot to seize custody of Edward V, into a rebellion aimed at putting a Lancastrian pretender on the throne.

 

But most problematic of all is the absence of any critical analysis of Morton’s motive for transferring his allegiance from Edward IV’s sons to Henry Tudor and also of what he knew about the fate of the two princes. Dr Bradley recognizes the significance of these issues but does not address their complexities. He is satisfied simply to argue that Morton thought the boys were dead. In accepting this explanation so readily, he seems to have overlooked Vergil’s account of a conspiracy that took place during August 1483 between Morton, Henry Stafford the ambitious duke of Buckingham and Margaret Beaufort the equally ambitious mother of Henry Tudor. If it is true, the implication of Vergil’s account is that by early August at the latest Morton had decided to support a Tudor invasion to depose Richard III. Did he know then that the boys were dead?   If so, when, why and how did he know? What role did the Tudor conspirators play in the fate of the princes? Furthermore, the rumour of the boys’ death began only after Buckingham had joined the conspiracy. So, when Buckingham wrote to Henry Tudor on the 24 September, inviting him in effect to claim the English throne, he must have known the boys were dead, or he was keeping a guilty secret. It is disappointing that Dr Bradley chose not to explore these questions or to deal with the inferences arising therefrom.

 

Dr Bradley’s stated aim was to tell John Morton’s story in full. And, it would be churlish not to acknowledge the value of this contribution to that story. This is a reasonable, modern reassessment of John Morton’s life and career, which raises Morton’s historical profile beyond mere responsibility for Morton’s Fork.It demonstrates that despite his softer side, he was in fact the archetypal early Tudor enforcer: a model for the likes of Wolsey, Cromwell and Cranmer. Though by no means a panegyrical work, this biography lacks, in my opinion, a balanced critical analysis of the contentious aspects Morton’s actions and his behaviour prior to 1485: particularly his political motivation. I think, therefore, that the full story of Morton’s life and career is still not written.

Was there another reason why Margaret Beaufort had only one child….?

No, this post is NOT about Game of Thrones, but has been provoked by an article that, in general, is indeed about the goings-on of the above TV drama. This article attracted my attention because of the third of the quoted paragraphs below. But it is advisable to read all the quotes, for the background information.

“….Before the Middle Ages, abortions were allowed because they weren’t really considered abortions. From a medieval perspective, without a soul there was no human life, and souls weren’t understood to develop until sometime between four and 17 weeks.

“Because of this, women held quite a lot of control over their early pregnancies. We might note how this attitude accommodated the high rate of miscarriage in the first trimester, especially before modern nutrition and medicine. A lot can go wrong all on its own in those early weeks, and medieval midwifery and medical science left it to a woman and her advisers to decide how she wanted to handle that risky time. An abortion after the period in which souls were considered to develop was considered sinful, and might or might not be criminal, depending on where one lived, though prosecutions in the Middle Ages were rare.

“We may see the result of such family planning in the life of a famous medieval queen mother, Margaret Beaufort. Married and cohabiting at an unusually young age for an Englishwoman, Beaufort bore the future King Henry VII when she was just 13 and the delivery nearly killed her. Often widowed, Beaufort married twice more but never had another child. It is entirely possible that she sustained such significant injuries and scarring during her first delivery that she was unable to conceive or carry to term again. But it is equally possible that she or her medical advisers were convinced that it was harmful for her to try to carry another child to term, and so took precautions to ensure that she did not…”

Now you see why I have posted this. I have always accepted that Margaret Beaufort simply couldn’t conceive again. But what if she knew it would probably be fatal if she did? What if she took contraceptive action, such as it was in the 15th century?

THE PALACE OF COLLYWESTON–NEW EXCAVATIONS

Collyweston is a small village in Northamptonshire, approximately three miles from the town of Stamford. It was not always so unassuming, however. In the 15th century there was a large fortified manor house that dominated Collyweston, of which today no trace remains above ground. The manor, sometimes known as ‘The Palace’ was first purchased by Ralph, Lord Cromwell, who fought with Henry V in France and later became a Yorkist supporter (he was probably at the first Battle of St Alban’s); his will was proved at Collyweston  after his death at South Wingfield, Derbyshire in 1456.

Later, in 1486, the property went to the Crown and was given to Margaret Beaufort for life. She enlarged it further and added to the park and gardens. It was leased off later on, and dismantling of the house began in the 1630’s. She also added to the church in the late 15th century, and ‘My Lady’s Chapel’ might have been named after her. There are also a pair of ‘mutilated beast gargoyles’ from Lady Margaret’s time–I dare say they are NOT meant to be her and Henry, unlike the pair of heads on the church in Langport.

New excavations hope to find the ground plan of the house, and the area it covered is  apparently so large it stretches into the back gardens of various properties throughout the village.

 

COLLYWESTON EXCAVATIONS

Below: Collyweston Church. The Palace gardens were just behind it.

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