murreyandblue

A great WordPress.com site

Archive for the tag “loyalty”

SIR WILLIAM STANLEY – TURNCOAT OR LOYALIST

3e7bec6ec74358833e324e5360bd92dc-1

It is well documented how, through the treasonable and treacherous actions of Sir William Stanley at Bosworth, Richard lost his crown and his life. He was hacked to death after Stanley, who brought 3000 men with him, intervened at the crucial point when Richard, with his household cavalry in a heroic charge, came within a hair’s breadth of reaching Tudor and despatching him.  There is a story that after Richard’s crown was found under a hawthorn bush, it was Stanley who crowned him.

Sir William seems to have been one of those people who can run with the hounds and play with the foxes, doing well under Edward IV, who made him Chamberlain of Chester and, interestingly, Steward of the Prince of Wales’ Household(1).  Later Richard made Stanley Chief Justice of North Wales and finally Tudor made him Lord Chamberlain and Knight of the Garter.  It is said that Stanley – step-uncle to Tudor and brother-in-law to Margaret Beaufort – was one of the richest men in England.  Bacon estimated his income at 3000 pounds a year.  Stanley was also step-father to Francis Lovell, having married Lovell’s mother, Joan Beaufort, widow of John Lovell, 8th Baron Lovell, but I digress!

Fast forward 10 years and it all ended ignominiously at Tower Hill, where Stanley was beheaded on 16 February 1495 for the treasonable act of communicating with Perkin Warbeck.  Stanley was accused of telling Robert Clifford, who informed on him, that if he was sure Perkin was indeed Edward’s son ‘he would never take up arms against him’.

The question I am raising here is not so much about Stanley’s interminable fence-sitting, which is common knowledge  – and a penchant he shared with his brother Thomas – but rather, did Sir William, an apparent dyed-in-the-wool turncoat, capable of the greatest untrustworthiness, actually possess a latent streak of honour, perhaps dating from the time when he was Steward to the Princes of Wales’ Household?  Did his time there give birth to a fierce loyalty to Edward’s sons, that later emerged with such a passion that he risked all, absolutely all,  when he joined the Perkin Warbeck plot?  Did he grow fond of young Edward, later focusing this affection on Edward’s brother, Richard of Shrewsbury, whom Warbeck purported to be?  OR, was he, as the historian Gairdner (2) suggested, merely attempting to secure his position in the event of an invasion?

(1)  Ramsay, Lancaster and York, ii 482

(2) W A J Archbold ‘Sir William Stanley and Perkin Warbeck’ English Historical Review 14( 1899) pp 529-534. ‘On 14 March (year unknown) Gairdner suggested in a note to Archbold that Stanley may ‘simply have wanted to secure his position with both sides in case of an invasion’.  I am grateful for this information which I have gleaned from Helen Maurer’s ‘Whodunit – The Suspects in the Case’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Not a book to be taken seriously….

King Edward IV

Would you like a few sniggers and outright guffaws? Yes? Then I have just the book for you—Lives of England’s Monarchs by H. E. Lehman. I was searching for something specific, and for some reason Google took me first to page 182…

“…Edward [IV] was a large man possessed of great leadership ability and personal charm. But in many ways he lacked foresight, and was impulsive to his own hurt. He alienated many of his strongest supporters by seducing their wives. In Edward’s behalf, it should be added that, in those cases, it was the husbands, not the wives, who complained most strenuously…”

He alienated many of his strongest supporters by seducing their wives???? Where have I been? This is the first I’ve heard of these mass seductions and furious husbands. Does anyone know any more?

And from page 181 of the same book…

“…Edward’s youngest brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III) was always loyal. King Edward trusted and made Richard vice-regent for all the northern provinces of England. In reward for his loyalty, Edward gave Anne Neville, Countess of Northumberland, to Richard as his bride. (If that name sounds familiar, it is because she is the same Anne Neville, who briefly, was married to Queen Margaret’s Edward, Prince of Wales, near the end of Henry VI’s tragic reign.) Richard defended England against Scottish invasion, and secured the northland throughout Edward’s reign…”

Countess of Northumberland? Wouldn’t Harry Percy have noticed when his wife turned up as Richard’s queen? Was that the reason for Percy’s ill attendance at Bosworth? Oh, and the author also declares that Warwick Castle was in Northumbria.

saucy-lady

More from page 181…

“…Fourteen year old Henry Tudor (later Henry VII) was a trouble-maker in Northumberland, but bastardy in both his parent’s lines of descent (i.e. bastard Tudor and bastard Beaufort) made his royal connections seem too remote ever to be a real threat to the Yorkist line…Even so, just to be on the safe side, Edward exiled him from England. Henry Tudor went to live with his paternal uncle, Jasper Tudor, in Brittany, France…”

King Henry VII

Edward exiled him? Then spent years and year trying to lure him back? I think not! Edward would have grabbed the little varmint there and then, no messing about. (Oh, if ONLY!)And Brittany wasn’t in France at that point. You couldn’t make it up. Well, H.E. Lehman has, clearly.

For more entertainment, you should look at the book itself. http://tinyurl.com/hchylqp. If the link doesn’t work, Lives of England’s Monarchs by H. E. Lehman is available in Google books.

 

LORD OF THE NORTH

Richard duke of Gloucester: courage, loyalty, lordship and law[1]

 

“ Men and kings must be judged in the testing moments of their lives Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because, as has been said, it is the quality that guarantees all others.”

(Winston Churchill 1931)

 

Introduction

I do not suppose there are many men who in their heart-of-hearts would not rather be thought of as brave than by any other virtue ascribed to them. For medieval kings courage was not simply a virtue, it was the virtue: the physical courage to defend their throne was a prerequisite for a successful king, though not necessarily for a good one. As Field Marshall Lord Slim was apt to point out to young officer cadets at RMA Sandhurst, “It is possible to be both brave and bad, however, you can’t be good without being brave”. Slim was making the point that it needed more than battlefield courage to be a good man. Physical courage is important, especially to kings and soldiers, but it doesn’t guarantee a ‘good man’; to be a good man, one also needs moral courage. It was the possession of physical and moral courage, which Churchill believed guaranteed all the other human virtues.

 

King Richard III was a courageous soldier; even his enemies acknowledge that. However, the question is: was he also good man? Broadly speaking, the judgement of history is that he was at best deeply disturbed and at worst malevolent. It is a judgement based largely on the heinous crimes he is supposed to have committed during a six months period in 1483: the usurpation of the throne and the murders of king Edward’s male heirs. Although Richard is said to have committed or been complicit in many other serious crimes, I think it is fair to say that most historians accept that those allegations are not proven, and in one particular case (the death of Henry VI) it may have been more a question of raison d’état.

 

The trouble with this historical judgement is that it contradicts what Richard’s contemporaries said about him in 1483. Dominic Mancini an Italian priest visiting London during 1482/83 recorded what he was told about Richard duke of Gloucester. He is referring to the period after the duke of Clarence’s execution: “…he (Richard) came very rarely to court. He kept himself within his own lands and set out to acquire the loyalty of his people through favours and justice. The good reputation of his private life and public activities powerfully attracted the esteem of strangers. Such was his renown in warfare that whenever a difficult and dangerous policy had to be undertaken, it would be entrusted to his discretion and generalship. By these arts Richard acquired the favour of the people and avoided the jealousy of the queen from whom he lived far apart.[2]

 

Mancini’s testimonial also highlights the incongruity of Richard’s supposed crimes. The contrast between his blameless contemporary reputation and his purported crimes (particularly those after April 1483) perplexes historians; it is a dichotomy they struggle to explain.[3] Most of his critics rationalize it with a good dose of twentieth century cynicism: his good works are disingenuous and his mistakes are evidence of bad character. It is a constant theme of his harshest biographers that his ‘loyalty’ to Edward was feigned; that he was in reality a wicked and ruthless opportunist who was motivated by avarice and ambition. When the chance came, he used his great power — which he had either tricked or bullied from Edward — to usurp the throne and destroy the Yorkist line. It was the Yorkist doom that Edward whether purposely or inadvertently made his brother the most dangerous and the ‘mightiest of over-mighty subjects’.[4] This is, I believe a false and misleading argument, since it rests entirely on their interpretation of chronicles and later Tudor histories that are themselves controversial and of little probative value, being neither contemporary nor impartial. Furthermore, Anne Sutton makes a compelling case for the morality, if not the purity, of Gloucester’s motives, which stands against this modern cynicism.[5] Richard was an extra ordinarily complex human being. We know now that he faced some challenging physical problems and possibly some equally challenging psychological issues.[6] Furthermore, he lived in uncertain times. The circumstances under which he served the king were complex as were the difficulties he had to overcome. Problems of historical interpretation most frequently arise from misguided attempts to simplify his story by overemphasising some facets at the expense of others.[7] It is a defect in Ricardian historiography that cannot be corrected in this article; however, I hope to at least draw attention to the problem as I see it.

 

Inevitably, Richard duke of Gloucester’ was not universally popular: how could he be? His ‘dramatic intrusion into northern society’,[8] coupled with a monopoly of the public offices and the lion’s share of the Neville estates, was bound to ruffle the feathers of those northern magnates and prelates who resented the fact that the king’s largess had not fallen to them, and whose authority and independence were undermined by the presence of an assertive royal duke in northern society. Henry Percy earl of Northumberland, Thomas Lord Stanley and Laurence Booth bishop of Durham disliked him, to name but three: doubtless there were others. Neither do I ignore the possibility that Gloucester possessed human failings typical of active young men throughout the ages; he might have been a little headstrong and impetuous; he was probably also ambitious and possibly even acquisitive. However, these characteristics were no more nor less present in the duke than in any other fifteenth century magnate: certainly not any more than in Henry Percy or the Stanley brothers or any of the Woodvilles, or Margaret Beaufort, John Morton and Henry Tudor; nor indeed was he any more ambitious than any professional historian who aims to do well in his or her chosen discipline. Impetuosity and ambition are not crimes, nor is acquisitiveness. But if he was truly wicked and ruthless and cruel, then nobody who knew him said so at the time. There is a clear distinction to be made between the provenances and the probity of these opposite views of Richard’s character, which affect the weight we should give to each when making a judgement. The favourable opinions were almost all written during his lifetime by northerners who knew him. The unfavourable ones were almost all written after his death by southerners who did not know him personally. Horace Walpole identified the basic problem nearly three hundred years after Richard’s death: “Though he may well have been execrable, as we are told he was, we have little or no reason to suppose he was.[9]

 

It is a matter of historical record that, apart from the last two years, when he was king, Richard duke of Gloucester spent his entire adult life in the king’s service as ‘Lord of the North’. Quite what this meant for him and why it happened are less well appreciated. The term ‘Lord of the North’ embraced not only the duke’s inherited lands in the north and his associated responsibilities as a royal duke and a great magnate, but also a number of official offices held by him concurrently from 1469 until his own coronation in 1483. He was the Lord High Constable of England (1469), Warden of the West March ‘towards Scotland’ (1470), Chief Steward of the Duchy of Lancaster (1471) Keeper of the Forests Beyond Trent and Steward of Ripon (1472) Sheriff of Cumberland (1475) and finally the King’s Lieutenant General of the North (1480 and 1482).[10] The consolidation of Gloucester’s inherited and appointed power was not gratuitous royal patronage. His promotions were acts of calculated policy by Edward. Having twice experienced the threat posed to the crown by the Scots and by his own ‘over mighty subjects’ in the north, Edward determined neutralize those threats by maintaining a truce with James III, and by securing the loyalty of his northern subjects. He wanted Gloucester to lead that vital task for the crown. It was no sinecure but a dirty, difficult and dangerous job, and his responsibility was great, since he was to be Edward’s mainstay in northern England.[11] Gloucester was the ideal man to implement that policy: he was brave, able and devotedly loyalty to Edward. Neither should it be forgotten that if Gloucester succeeded in stabilising the north, it would enable Edward to pursue his regal ambition in France. It is also worth noting, even at this stage, that Gloucester performed his duties so well that he set the standard of excellence for the governance of the north well into the sixteenth century.[12]

 

For all that, we should not exaggerate the scope of his powers or the impact of his achievements. First and foremost, he was only the instrument of his brother’s will. He could not make policy: Edward did that. Furthermore, his powers were constrained by feudal laws, liberties and customs. As a March Warden his military authority was limited to the West March. He did, however, have judicial powers in the West March and in his lands elsewhere by virtue of the king’s special commission as Justice of the Peace ‘es parties des north’. As Dr Rachel Reid points out, although the wardship of the West March was a necessary adjunct to the government of the north, ‘the sign and seal’ of Gloucester’s authority so to speak, and although his commission as a JP empowered him to act in civil and criminal matters, his greatest strength was the authority, power and influence he derived from being the greatest magnate in the region.[13] Gloucester’s estates and official offices gave him unparalleled influence and authority in the north, with the exception of those feudalities wherein the earl of Northumberland was lord; that is to say, in Northumberland and the East Riding of Yorkshire[14]

 

The northern ‘problem’ in retrospect

In the fifteenth century, the northern most counties of Westmorland, Northumberland, Cumberland, and Yorkshire were important because of their proximity to the Scottish frontier. Anglo-Scottish relations were characterised by invasions and raiding, which had affected both populations for centuries. Cross border reiving and lawlessness was deeply ingrained into the English and Scottish border culture. The society was insular and feudalistic in nature and the hatred between English and Scot was mutual. Important though the Scottish problem was, the troubles in the north went deeper. Fifty-one years after Richard III’s death, Robert Aske summed them up to leading Yorkshire denizens at Pontefract “ The profits of the abbeys suppressed, tenths and first fruits, went out of those (northern) parts. By occasion whereof, within short space of years, there should be no money or treasure in those parts, neither the tenant to have pay his rent to the lord, nor the lord to have money to do the king service withal, for so much of those parts was neither the presence of his grace, execution of his laws, not yet but little recourse of merchandise, so that of necessity the said county should either make terms with the Scots, or of very poverty make commotions or rebellions.”

 

The chief problems identified by Aske of remoteness, poverty and lawlessness were present in the fifteenth century and not just in the North. Wales, the West Country and East Anglia were also remote and lawless, and possibly some were poor. However, none of them formed the frontier to a hostile and aggressive foreign kingdom. It was this that made the northernmost counties uniquely important to the security of the realm. That said, not everybody had to sleep with their weapon to hand for fear of Scottish reiving. For instance, Yorkshire was set back from the border counties, ‘If the Scots crossed the Tees it was not a raid but an invasion’ wrote FW Brooks more than half a century ago. [15] Yorkshire’s importance was that it was the largest and most populace county north of the Trent and it was a base for operations against marauding Scots. This was especially true of York, which during the reigns of the first three Edwards served as the royal capital for a time. The fourteenth century division of the border region into West, Middle and Eastern Marches under the control of the two most powerful Northern families (the Nevilles and the Percies) was seen as the solution to the governance problem. The alternative was for the king to keep a standing army on the border, which for financial and military reasons was impracticable.

 

The joint powers given to the Neville and Percy families proved ultimately not to be the complete solution. By the fifteenth century the north was practically ungovernable from London. This was due in part to the deficiencies highlighted by Aske and especially to the ‘absence of the king’s presence (he means royal authority) and his justice in the north’. But that was not the only problem; the feudal nature of border society contributed to the  troubles of  a region that was sparsely populated and economically poor.[16] The trouble with the fourteenth century solution was not so much in the idea as in its execution. The belief that the two most powerful northern magnates could cooperate to ensure the peace and security of the north was naïve to say the least. Good governance foundered on their feuding during peace and their fighting during the Wars of the Roses. Northern gentry of the second and third rank regarded the wars between York and Lancaster as an extension of the Neville-Percy feud. They supported one side or the other based on ancient feudal loyalties, or an assessment of their own self-interest. Their prime loyalty was not to a distant king but to their feudal overlord, or to some other overlord, who best served their interest.[17]

 

Percy power was destroyed at Towton on Palm Sunday 1461. Despite the heavy losses inflicted on the Lancastrians it was not a complete Yorkist victory. The former king, Henry VI, his wife Margaret of Anjou, their young son Edward and a few of their adherents escaped to Scotland where James III gave them refuge and from whence they continued to oppose Edward IV[18]. Meanwhile, Richard Neville earl of Warwick and his brother John Lord Montagu continued to campaign against Lancastrian dissidents so as to secure Edward’s grip on the throne but mostly to cement their own grip on the north. In 1464, a force of ‘loyal northerners’ led by Montagu destroyed the Lancastrian cause at the battles Hedgeley Moor and Hexham. However, as Keith Dockray astutely points out, the ‘loyal northern retinues’ used by John Neville to defeat the Lancastrians were, in point of fact, loyal to the Neville family and not necessarily to the king. They demonstrated this in 1470 when they followed Warwick en block to the Lancastrian side during the Neville inspired rebellion of 1469-70, which started in the north.

 

‘He set out to acquire the loyalty of his people by favours and justice’

It is against that background that I now turn to consider Gloucester performance in the north in the context of the three virtues touched on by Mancini: loyalty, good lordship and justice.  I have added courage to these virtues on the basis that without courage, Gloucester was unlikely to have shown those other virtues .

 

Loyaulté me lie

Mancini’s reference to loyalty is interesting since it is a quality of particular importance to Gloucester. His personal motto was ‘loyaulté me lie’ (loyalty binds me) and it was the creed by which he lived. Mancini is, of course, referring to loyalty in its normal sense of ‘keeping faith’; however, Anne Sutton speculates that it was a word that might possibly have had other, additional, shades of meaning for Gloucester: legality, uprightness, obedience to the law and, maybe, justice. Dr Sutton’s speculation is based on the premise that Gloucester might have been familiar with ‘Piers Ploughman’, a work by William Langland in which loyalty carries those several meanings.[20] It is possible that Gloucester’s motto was subtler than we think, since the nuances of meaning found in ‘Piers Ploughman’ are all consistent with what we know of his character.

 

Whatever Gloucester may have meant by his mottos, it is clear from the contemporaneous records that he laboured hard to safeguard the interests and liberties of ‘his people’. [21] One historian writing in the twentieth century summarised his accomplishments as follows: “ Richard of Gloucester not only restored peace and stability to the north after the upheavals of the 1450s and 1460s but also provided sound government and administration. Frequently working in tandem with Henry Percy earl of Northumberland, he vigorously promoted the cause of impartial justice, whether by enforcing legislation more effectively than hitherto or arbitrating in private disputes[22]; his household council can evidently be regarded as a precursor of the Council of the North; the city of York certainly recognized the value of the duke’s good lordship and support;[23] and Dominic Mancini’s informants clearly left him to believe that Richard had deliberately ’set out to acquire the loyalty of his people through favours and justice.” [24]

 

‘A right high and mighty prince and full tender and special good lord’[25]

The York Municipal and City Records add substance to the view that the duke of Gloucester was a good friend to York and to other towns in the north. There are many examples of his integrity on the record. They demonstrate his personal interest in local affairs and his integrity in using his influence in a private capacity for the common weal. He settled many disputes between the city council and their fellow citizens, between the city council and neighbouring landowners, between citizens, and between towns, all of which were referred to him for advice, assistance or resolution.[26] I have chosen three representative examples:

  • In 1478 he arbitrated a dispute between Roland Place and Richard Clervaux over hunting rights. Neither Place nor Clervaux was a retainer of the duke, but they lived on his estates in the North Riding. Professor Pollard has helpfully reproduced the arbitration agreement written in English under Gloucester’s name and titles. Pollard notes as an afterthought that the ancestors of Place and Clervaux continued to observe a clause concerning the seating arrangements in the parish church, well into the twentieth century.[27] Gloucester obviously took great care over a dispute that some  might  consider trivial. The rights and privileges of each party are defined in minute detail in the agreement, which was probably drafted by  one of Gloucester’s lawyers, since the language is repetitious and typical of legal documents.
  • At the request of the York City Council, Gloucester took steps to have fishgarths throughout Yorkshire inspected to guard against poaching and to protect the regional economy. It was not a petty matter, since the high prices paid for Pike and other fresh water fish provided a significant income for the fishermen and the city.[28] The erection of fishgarths in Yorkshire was regulated by legislation intended to prevent illegal fishing. The City Council spent much time and money trying to eradicate the problem and they were very grateful to their ‘good lord’, the duke of Gloucester for his interest and efforts to stop the criminality. Nonetheless, it was a perennial problem, which was still being recorded in the council minutes in 1484.
  • He mediated in ‘a serious dispute over the result of the York mayoral election of 1482’.[29] There were two candidates for election: Richard Yorke and Thomas Wrangwyshe. York was elected but Wrangwyshe’s supporters would not accept the vote. The argument assumed ‘alarming proportions’ when the city magistrates sent the certification of Yorke’s election to the king.  When  the king heard of the dispute, he stopped the certification process and ordered the pervious  mayor to continue in office pro tem, whilst the election was investigated. The city magistrates turned to the duke of Gloucester for help; he acted so swiftly that within two weeks he had secured the kings approval to confirm York as the mayor. The interesting point is that Wrangwyshe was considered to be the best soldier in York and stood high in the duke’s estimation, being one of his comrades in arms. Nonetheless, Gloucester upheld the honour and dignity of the city magistrates by supporting what he considered to be their just case against his friend[30].

 

 

‘Good and indifferent justice for all’

For all his good works at a local level, it was in his capacity as the leading magnate in the north that he did his greatest and most enduring service for the north. Although the King’s Council in the North was not officially born until late July 1484, it was conceived from Gloucester personal household council during his tenure as Lord of the North. To understand how and why this came about it is necessary to explain, as briefly as possible, the dysfunctional nature of English justice at the time.

 

The problems for those living north of the Trent were as stated by Aske: ‘the absence of royal authority and of royal justice’. The Assize Judges sat not more than once a year; and anyhow, could only act on a formal indictment, which juries habitually refused to present. The breakdown of the judicial system made enforcement difficult and the work of the sheriff and bailiffs became very hard. Although there were some good judges, many were corrupt and in the pay of great lords. These judges gave judgement as directed by their patrons.  Also, juries were  easily corrupted by fear and favour. “ It was…” writes Dr Reid “…the hardest thing in the world to get a judgement against a great lord or any man well kinned (sic) and allied.[31] JP’s could try cases and punish crime at the Quarter Sessions without the need for an indictment, but the reality was that no ordinary court could cure this widespread and systemic breakdown  of  royal  justice.  Previously, the King’s Council had filled gaps by exercising  its  extraordinary civil and criminal jurisdictions through writs of oyer and terminer, to ‘hear and determine’ all trespasses and breaches of the peace, and all causes between party and party’. However, this usually meant the parties going to London, which was expensive and time-consuming. This defect could easily have been remedied by establishing district courts with the same jurisdiction as the King’s Council. However, for some reason, it was a reform that three Lancastrian kings never even considered.

 

But it was in the realm of civil party and party litigation that the want of justice was felt most acutely. Dr Reid argues that the common law “…had hardened in the hands of professional lawyers into a premature fixity and precision and had become incapable of devising rules to govern the transactions of a changing society”; whereby, ‘the poor were placed at the mercy of the rich’. [32] Furthermore, the common law courts were neither sufficient nor competent to protect peoples’ civil rights, which were recognised by law even in the fifteenth century. The development of the Chancery Court and the courts of equity eased the situation for those who could afford to litigate but did not help the bulk of the population and certainly not those residing north of the Trent. The common law lent itself to abuse by the litigious and the malicious. Consequently, there was hardly a transaction of life that could not be litigated. The delays, the cost and the insularism of the courts denied justice to many people. In the absence of the king’s justice, therefore, the household councils of the great lords became progressively the de facto courts for resolving local disputes.

 

These feudal courts had survived longer in the north due partly to its remoteness but also because they filled the vacuum left by the absence of royal justice. They were able to try a range of cases covering personal actions, contractual disputes, trespass, libel, slander, assault, breach of warranty of title and some defamation cases. Moreover, there was no restriction on them determining cases for which the king’s law had no remedy and even if there was a remedy, these seigneurial court could do justice between the parties by consent. For example, by ordering the specific performance of a contract entered into or by protecting a tenant from unlawful eviction. By the fifteenth century, seigneurial courts were, as a matter of course, also hearing complaints against court officials, appeals against judgement, applications for pardon or respite, bills against fellow tenants, and quarrels between tenants and retainers. Useful though they were in providing rough and ready justice, feudal courts had their drawbacks. First, their jurisdiction was limited to the lord’s domain. A lord might arbitrate between his tenants and retainers but it was quite impossible to interfere between a landlord and his tenant no matter how tyrannical the landlord was, unless he was in some way ‘tied’ to the lord. Second, they could not escape the censure  of the king’s  justices, who said that they ‘sacrificed law and justice for interest and favour.’[33] There is probably some truth in this accusation since the importance of patronage in local society was such that it encouraged the preference of personal interest over the law. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that an appeal to the king’s courts was usually beyond the means of most litigants.

 

Of all the baronial councils offering seigneurial justice, Gloucester’s was the most important.  The records show that the governors of York and Beverley and other towns in Yorkshire were encouraged to turn to it whenever they were in difficulty. This was not simply because he was the greatest magnate but also because his council was the most efficient and impartial. It was constituted from the men of his household council who usually met at Middleham Castle in Wensleydale (which, by the way, he insisted on calling his ‘home’). Their primary function was to help the duke administer his vast estates. However, as we have seen the council quickly assumed a very important judicial role as a seigneurial court of requests. Among Gloucester’s permanent councillors were Lord Scrope of Bolton, Baron Greystoke (Scrope and Greystoke were related to the duke by marriage), Sir Francis Lovell his closest friend and comrade in arms, Sir James Harrington, Sir William Parre, Sir Richard Nele, Richard Pygott and Miles Metcalfe. Nele was a King’s Justice of Assize and Metcalfe was the Recorder of York; Parre and Pygott were both practising lawyers ‘learned in the law’. Ad hoc Councillors called occasionally by Gloucester  included Sir James Tyrell (a man of action, used for ‘bold affairs’), Sir Ralph Assheton and (probably) Richard Ratcliffe. The secretary to the Council was John Kendall, son of a loyal servant to the house of York. It was on any view a powerful bench of judges and ‘shrewd men of affairs’. Having said all of that, we must be careful not to overestimate the extent of Gloucester’s achievements. He could neither reform the law to make it more just, nor improve its administration to make justice more accessible. He was unable to alleviate poverty. He was not a liberal reformer and he lived a privileged life that few northerners could even imagine, much less share. And yet he did a wonderful thing; without the need for bloody revolution he made justice more accessible by offering, on a case-by-case basis, “…good and indifferent (that is impartial) justice to all who sought it.“[34]

 

Gloucester demonstrated through his council that he was prepared to remedy an injustice even if he did not have the authority accorded by a strict interpretation of the law; moreover, he was prepared to use his power to enforce a just settlement. The best example of this is his council’s support for custom tenants against bad landlords. In the time of the Lancastrian kings, the judges held that tenants faced with extortionate fines and illegal eviction had no other remedy but to sue the landlord by petition. [35] The common law courts were too rigid and their officials too easily intimidated to be of help. Nevertheless, in 1482, Chief Justice Sir Thomas Brian declared “that his opinion hath always been and shall ever be, that if such a tenant by custom paying his services be ejected by the lord he shall have action of trespass against him’. Brian CJ may, of course, have been expressing his personal view of the correct law as he saw it, which was in contrast to the accepted legal doctrine and practice of the courts. However, there are grounds for thinking that he might equally have been articulating the practice of Gloucester’s household council, which was to treat an illegal eviction by a landlord as a simple trespass. Although we don’t have a written record of such cases, Littleton in his treatise ‘Tenures’ assures us that they did try them.[36] Frankly, it is inconceivable that the council did not hear many petitions and requests from destitute tenants for relief against tyrannical landlords. If they dealt with them in the same way as the ‘King’s Council in the North’ was subsequently to deal with them after 1484, they must have generally upheld the rights of the tenant who had paid his services against the unjust landlord. If so, “ It is easy to understand how Gloucester won the love of the common people beyond the Trent, which was to stand him in such good stead’[37]

 

Lord High Commissioner

In 1482, on the verge of the invasion of Scotland, Edward made a significant change to the governance of the North. He issued a commission of oyer and terminer to Gloucester and Northumberland as ‘Lord High Commissioners’, which effectively combined their household councils. The composition of the Commission is interesting since it included not only Gloucester and Northumberland but also some significant members of their respective councils augmented by two important judicial appointments. However, there is no gainsaying that the bulk of its membership came from men associated with Gloucester’s council. Sir John Scrope of Bolton, Baron Greystoke, Sir Francis Lovell, Sir Richard Nele, Sir William Parre, Sir James Harrington, Richard Pygott and Miles Metcalf were all either legal or lay members of Gloucester’s council; of the remainder, Sir Guy Fairfax (an Assize Judge on the Northern Circuit) and (possibly) John Catesby were associated with Northumberland. The relationship of Chief Justice Sir Thomas Brian and Sir Richard Clarke to either of the Lord High Commissioners is unclear. The significance of this change is that it turned the essentially private function of seigneurial courts into the king’s justice  in criminal and party and party litigation.

 

Officially, the commissioners were the king’s servants and in the absence of the duke and the earl who were off fighting the Scots, the remaining members  took steps to enforce  the kings justice.   Their success in repressing rioting that might otherwise lead to insurrection was such that it served to highlight the continuing and endemic lawlessness, which was partly due to a lack of royal authority and partly to the deficiencies in the law to which I have already referred. They also examined and arbitrated effectively in party and party disputes. This commission was valuable experience for the duke of Gloucester since it served as a model for his futuristic ‘King’s Council of the North’ and the basis upon which he reorganised the governance of the north once he became king. It is a fact that no permanent commission designed to keep the peace and provide party and party justice for northern England was set up during the reign of Edward IV and that “the credit for this most necessary reform belongs wholly to Richard III ”[38]

 

The King’s Council in the North

When Gloucester came to the throne in 1483 he had considerable practical experience of governing in the north and the provision of  justice for all; however, he did not begin immediately to formalise the work of his council. The reasons for this may seem obvious; he was busy dealing with the aftermath of Buckingham’s rebellion and ratifying his title in parliament. It is also possible that he intended to follow the precedent set by Edward IV in 1472 and set up his young son Edward Prince of Wales as the King’s Lieutenant in the North with a council to govern in his name.[39] If that was Richard’s hope, it was to be dashed. Edward Prince of Wales died in April 1484 “not far off Edward’s anniversary.” [40] It was a loss that shook king Richard as nothing else could and for a time he and Anne were almost out of their minds with grief.[41] However, Richard was king and duty-bound to turn his mind to affairs of state.

 

He decided to make some fundamental change to governance in the north. First, he separated Yorkshire administratively from the border Marches.  The earl of Northumberland was appointed as Warden in Chief of the Marches and granted several estates in Cumberland, which made him the  dominant border lord.  It was his reward for acquiescence in Richard’s accession. Next, Richard appointed John De La Pole, earl of Lincoln as the King’s Lieutenant (he had already been nominated as heir to the throne). [42]The king createdThe King’s  Council of the North from his former ducal  council and Lincoln was its first President.  Northumberland was appointed a member of the Council but was clearly subordinate to Lincoln (It was a downgrading that the proud Northumberland took hard, which may explain his treachery at Bosworth a year later.). To make these changes lawful, king Richard issued two permanent commissions: one authorising the Council to sit as Justices of the Peace, the other of oyer and terminer. With these in place, the council had full civil and criminal jurisdictions and was fit to dispense the king’s justice. Richard allocated an annual budget of 2000 marks for the maintenance of the Council, which was to be paid from the income of his northern estates.[43] The council chamber was moved from Middleham to Sandal and regulations drawn up for the council’s conduct, especially, its judicial function. In particular the regulations directed that the Council must sit at least four times a year. The preamble to these regulations captures Richard’s attitude to justice perfectly “…the Regulations as they are here called, proceed to give general directions that no member of the council, for favour, affection, hate, malice or meed (a bribe) do ne speak (sic) in the Council, otherwise than the King’s laws and good conscience shall require but shall be impartial in all things, and that if any matter comes before the Council in which one of its members is interested, that member shall retire.” [44] There is no need to discuss the detailed regulations since Richard’s respect for the law of the land is clear from the above quote.

 

It is helpful, however, to briefly mention one important case that came before the Council, which illustrates how Richard thought the legal process should work. In 1484 there was a riot in York that arose from the enclosure of some common land. Roger Layton and two other men ‘riotously destroyed the enclosure’. After some careful thought the Mayor and Council arrested and imprisoned the ringleaders, and sent their man to learn the king’s pleasure. The matter came before the king’s Secretary and Comptroller, Sir Robert Percy[45]; at the same time Lincoln, then at Sandal was informed. A week later Sir Robert arrived at York with a message from the king. The king was willing that the citizens should enjoy their common pasture; however, he reprimanded them for seeking to recover their rights by a riotous assembly, instead of putting their case to the Mayor and Council. If they failed to get justice there, they should have referred the matter to the King’s Council of the North. And if they failed to get lawful redress there they could lay the case before the king. This message was  a clear indication that the King’s Council in the North was to be a court of first instance. Matters were only laid before the King’s Council of State if the King’s Council of the North failed to do justice.  The Council remained throughout its existence, pretty much as it was in 1484 “ Neither its jurisdiction nor its procedures underwent any serious modification. Such changes as came, were just the changes of time.” [46]  In 1640, the Long Parliament abolished the King’s Council in the North.

 

Courage

This article is not really about Gloucester’s governance of the north, or the state of English justice in the second half of the fifteenth century; it is about moral courage. The type of courage described by General Sir Peter de la Billiére in his introduction to ‘The Anatomy of Courage’ by Charles Moran: “Moral courage is higher and rarer in quality than physical courage. It embraces all courage and physical courage flows from it…it is applicable to business, in law, within institutions such as schools and hospitals. It takes moral courage to stand up against a crowd, to assist a victim of bullying, or to reveal negligence where others would prefer it to remain hidden. Moral courage implies the belief that what you are doing or saying is right, and are willing to follow through your conviction regardless of personal popularity or favour: so easy to expound, so demanding to achieve. In my experience a person of high moral courage will seldom fail to demonstrate an equally distinguished level of physical courage”.

 

The reality is that Richard’s valour in battle, whilst admirable, is not enough to save him from the accusation that he was a bad man. To be given the benefit of the doubt, it is necessary to demonstrate his goodness, with examples of his moral courage and acts of kindness, justice and mercy. That is what I have tried to do in this essay. The examples of Richard’s governance to which I have referred, are merely illustrations of what I regard as his high moral courage. They demonstrate not merely his potential for goodness, but that those who lived under his governance for more than a decade thought he was a good lord.  It is not, of course, a defence against the accusations of, regicide, infanticide, incest and usurpation levelled against him; but then, it can be argued that  an active defence is hardly necessary anyway, since those accusations are only the result of  gossip, rumour and hearsay.

 

[1] I have taken the liberty of borrowing the idea for this title from the book ‘Richard III: loyalty, lordship and law’ (PW Hammond (Ed) (R3 and Yorkist History Trust i 1986). It is an excellent volume containing a number of erudite papers presented at a symposium to mark the quincentenary of king Richard III’s reign.

[2] CAJ Armstrong – The Usurpation of Richard the Third by Dominic Mancini (Oxford 1969 edition) p.65. There is a risk in inferring too much from a single source, especially as Mancini’s narrative is hearsay. Nevertheless, I am using it here for good reasons. First, Mancini provides a truly  contemporary assessment of Richard’s character (See Charles Ross–Richard III (Yale 1999 edition) p. Lvii, for an opinion on the importance of Mancini’s narrative.). Second, Mancini was no friend of Richard’s; he never met or even saw him. What he knew of Richard’s character he heard from others. Third, given Mancini’s animus towards Richard (He assumed that Richard aimed to seize the throne all along.), this unsolicited testimonial suggests there was truth in his good reputation. Finally, there is contemporary, and independent evidence that corroborates this passage.

[3] Ross (R3) pp. Lxvi and 64: professor Ross acknowledges the ‘extraordinary difficulties of the evidence’ (in deciding when and why Richard decided to assume the crown) and assures us that modern (20th century) historians ignore the Tudor tradition in favour of inferring Richard’s character and motives “ …from a close scrutiny of the events themselves without preconceptions.” He further argues that they have a more critical appreciation of the worth of the Tudor tradition, ” …and a certain unwillingness to throw the whole bodily out of the window, especially when it can be confirmed by contemporary evidence.” It is not clear quite how closely the events are scrutinised by modern historians given the ‘extraordinary difficulties of the evidence’ already alluded to. Furthermore, the near contemporary material cannot corroborate the Tudor tradition since they are one and the same thing. Corroboration means evidence independently confirmed by other witnesses. The so-called ‘Tudor tradition’ is no more that an uncritical résumé of the earlier post Richard material and repeats their mistakes.

[4] Ross (E4) pp.199-203; Ross (R3) p.26; Hicks pp.83-86; Anthony Pollard – Richard III and the Princes in the Tower (Bramley Books 1997 edition) pp.83-85; professor Hicks’ angst about Gloucester’s wickedness is so great that he couldn’t resist the following comment: “He was not a great soldier, general or chivalric hero, not a peacemaker, not even a northerner. The great estates he assembled, the north he united and the local tradition he fostered all resulted from a judicious mixture of violence, chicanery and self publicity” (p.85). Gloucester’s ‘dispute’ with Clarence over the Neville inheritance; his behaviour towards the dowager countess of Oxford whilst she was committed to his ‘keeping and rule’, his part in the trial and attainder  of Clarence and his preference for war against France are all cited as examples of his grasping, malicious  and violent  character. The trouble with this opinion is that its validity depends on accusations made after Bosworth by people with an axe to grind and at a time when it suited the Tudors to embroider his shortcomings for their own advantage. For a different opinion see Kendall pp.127-150. It is noteworthy that professor Kendall disregarded the Tudor myth, relying instead on contemporary source material to support his generally favourable interpretation of Gloucester’s behaviour as a duke.

[5] Anne F Sutton – A curious Searcher for our Weal Public: Richard III, piety, chivalry and the concept of the good prince’, published in ‘Richard III: loyalty, lordship and law’ pp.58-90. Ms Sutton’s essay provides an evidenced and balanced view of Richard as a good prince within the medieval context.

[6] Mark Lansdale and Julian Boon – Richard III: a psychological portrait (Ricardian Bulletin March 2013) pp.46-56. Professor Lansdale and Dr Boon offer a number of plausible hypotheses that might explain Richard’s behaviour. Although their professional opinions are necessarily speculative, they do not in my opinion go beyond what might be inferred from the available evidence.

[7] It is interesting (I put it no higher) to analyse the main biographies of Richard written in the last one hundred and fifty years. James Gairdner’s biography (1878) contains 332 pages, of which 52 relate to Richard’s life as duke of Gloucester; the remainder analyse Richard’s reign and the controversies surrounding it. Clement Markham wrote a biography (1898) in direct response to Gairdner’s work. Of its 327 pages, 42 deal with the period 1470-83. Paul Kendall’s biography (1955) is generally positive for Ricardians. Of its 393 pages (excluding appendices and notes), 152 are devoted to Richard as a duke, of those 49 are specifically about his time in the north. Charles Ross’ biography (1999) is — for the want of something better — considered to be the standard work on Richard’s life and reign. It contains 232 pages, of which 39 are devoted to Richard as a royal duke: including 20 pages as ‘Lord of the North’. Finally, Michael Hicks’ biography (2000 revised edition) analyses Richard’s actions in the context of a criminal trial in which Hicks’ prosecutes, defends, and is judge and jury. It contains 199 pages, the story of Richard’s life before April 1483 being compressed into 31 of them. My analysis is, of course, academic since it does no more than suggest that quantitatively, the first thirty years of Richard’s life get significantly less attention than the last two; it does not examine the reason for that. Nevertheless, it suggests to me that Ricardian studies may benefit from a new scholarly biography of Richard’s life and reign. Hopefully, it would be one that emulates in its breadth, thoroughness and objectivity Cora Scofield’s definitive account of Edward IV’s life and reign (including all that ‘merciless detail’ that professor Hicks found so tiresome), and Professor Ralph Griffiths’ equally comprehensive and objective biography of Henry VI. I live more in hope than expectation.

[8] Pollard (R3) p71-73

[9] Horace Walpole – Historic doubts on the life and reign of King Richard III (1768)

[10] Ross (R3) pp.24-26; Keith Dockray – Richard III: a source book (Sutton 1997) pp.32-33.

[11] Annette Carson – Richard duke of Gloucester as Lord Protector and High Constable of England (Imprimis Imprimatur 2015) pp. 23-26 and 61 contains a guide to the office of constable of England and Gloucester’s chivalric, martial and judicial powers. The duchy of Lancaster had held palatine status since 1351 and was independent of royal authority. Its lands in the north were vast and its power great; so much so that the Lancastrian kings retained the title of duke of Lancaster to themselves to prevent diminution of royal authority. On ascending the throne, Edward IV held the dukedom in abeyance but reserved to himself its authority, benefits and responsibilities. As Chief Steward of the duchy, Gloucester was the chairman of the council appointed by the king to administer the duchy territories.

[12] Paul Kendall – Richard III (George Allen & Unwin 1955) pp. 129,456 note 7 (citing Letters and papers of the reign of Henry VIII by JS Brewer, London 1864-76, 1, 2, pp.1054, 1260). Lord Dacre, Warden of the West March complained to Wolsey that he shouldn’t be expected to match the accomplishments of Richard duke of Gloucester. Predictably, he was told that he must provide the same standard of effective governance as the duke.

[13] Rachel Reid – The King’s Council in the North (Longman Green & Co 1921) p.27 et al

[14] Ross (E4) p.199; professor Ross argues that that it is not true that Northumberland was placed under Gloucester’s ‘supervisory authority’ as suggested by Cora Scofield and Paul Kendall. He relies on the indentures made between the duke and the earl in 1473 and 1474, which did indeed separate their authority. On his interpretation of those indentures any subordination was a private matter and not official, and the earl’s freedom of action was assured. Unfortunately, professor Ross (not for the first time) fails to read between the lines to understand what was really happening. There was indeed some early friction between the duke and the earl, arising from Northumberland’s resentment that Gloucester had inherited the Neville mantle and was an obvious threat to Percy hegemony and independence in the north. The indenture of 28 July 1474 (Dockray [sources] p. 34) was intended to calm the situation by confirming their relationship as being that of a ‘good lord’ and his ‘faithful servant’, which was the conventional arrangement, since a royal duke trumped a belted earl in status. However, the caveat inserted into the indenture that Gloucester would not to interfere with Northumberland’s duties as warden of the east and middle marches or poach his servants, was a sensible recognition of the feudal reality and a concession to the touchy earl (see Dockray [sources] p.35 for evidence of Northumberland’s touchiness). The Percy’s were notorious trimmers; they had fought against a Lancastrian king at the turn of the fifteenth century and for a Lancastrian king during the Wars of the Roses. Although their power was effectively destroyed at Towton, they played a major and distinctly treacherous part in the northern rebellions of the early 1460’s. Although, Edward never forgot their treachery, he needed Percy assistance during the 1470’s and was keen not to upset them: Gloucester obviously concurred. There can be little doubt that the indentures were a fiction to preserve Northumberland’s pride. In reality he had less influence in the north than Gloucester. Significantly, Edward was quick to clarify his brother’s supreme authority by appointing him the king’s Lieutenant General in the North when he decided to invade Scotland: not once but twice. By 1482 Gloucester was endowed with what amounted to quasi-royal authority to conduct the war (or peace) with Scotland.

[15] FW Brooks – The Council of the North (Historical Association 1953, revised edition 1966) p.6

[16] AJ Pollard – North, South and Richard III, published in ‘Richard III: crown and people (J Petre –Ed) (Richard III Society 1985) pp.350-51. Pollard refers to various local studies that show northern England to have been ‘economically backward’ at this time. Although the six counties of Westmorland, Cumberland, Northumberland, Durham, Lancashire and Yorkshire occupied about a quarter of England’s total area, they accounted for only 15% of the population (Pollard’s best guess).

[17] Brooks p.10

[18] Ross (E4) pp.45-49

[19] Keith Dockray – Richard III and the Yorkshire Gentry 1471-85, published in Richard III: loyalty, lordship and law pp.38-57. Only the personal intervention of Henry Percy (heir to the earl of Northumberland killed at Towton) prevented the northerners from attacking Edward and his small entourage when they landed on the Yorkshire coast in 1471.

[20] Sutton (R3, piety etc.) p.62

[21] Robert Davies – Extracts from the Municipal Records of the City of York during the reigns of Edward IV, Edward V and Richard III (London, 1843); and the York Civic Records, supra; Chris Given-Wilson (Gen Ed) – The Parliamentary Rolls of Medieval England (Boydell Press 2005): Rosemary Horrox (Ed) Volume 14, pp. 412 & 425; Washington DC, Library of Congress, Thatcher 1004 (a letter from Gloucester to Sir Robert Claxton, 12 August 1480, which is reproduced in Pollard (R3) p.237) and Mancini supra

[22] Calendar Patent Rolls Edward IV, Edward V and Richard III -1476-85, p.339; T Stapleton (Ed) Plumpton Correspondence (Camden Soc 1839) pp.31-33 & 40 and A Raine (Ed) – York Civic Records (Yorkshire Archaeological Society Records Series 1939) Vol 1, PP.2-3.

[23] YCR pp.15-16, 51-52 & 54

[24] Dockray (R3 sources) pp. 30, 34-37

[25] Davies p.89; this is a quote from a letter from the York City Council to the duke of Gloucester.

[26] Reid p.58; Davies passim

[27] Pollard (R3) pp.231-32, and Appendix 1, pp.234-236. The original arbitration agreement is in North Riding County Record Office, Clervaux Cartulary, ZQH.

[28] Davies pp.80-95; the cost of Pike ranged from 10s.3d to 11s.3d ‘a piece’ old money, which equates to about 52-62p today.

[29] Kendall pp135-37; see also Davies pp140-41

[30] Dorothy Mitchell – Richard III and York (Silver Boar 1987) p.27; Alderman Thomas Wrangwyshe was a colourful character indeed. Aged about forty-five in 1482. He commanded a company of archers in Gloucester’s Scottish campaigns. In 1483 he personally led 300 men from York to be at the king’s side during Buckingham’s rebellion. He was a rough diamond, with a distinctly ‘Ricardian’ sense of justice. In one case in January 1485, when he was the Mayor, he sent a man to the gaol for being cruel to another man, who was, in the stocks. The sergeants were escorting the prisoner to the city gaol, when a ‘large group of his heavily armed friends’ tried to release him. Wrangwyshe, hearing the violent affray, stormed into the street and settled the fight with his fists; thereafter he grabbed the prisoner in ‘his strong hands’ and  dragged him off to the gaol. Wrangwyshe was a  formidable fighter in and out of the council chamber and seems to have won Gloucester’s friendship.

[31] Reid p.47

[32] Reid p.48

[33] Reid p.54

[34] Reid p.58: the sub-heading for this section is paraphrased from a sentence in Dr Reid’s work on the council of the north, which reads as follows “Richard did not reserve his favour for the victims of economic change. In his Council he offered good and indifferent justice to all who sought it, were they rich or poor, gentle or simple”.

[35] There was an upsurge in unfair fines and illegal evictions due to economic factors on the continent, which was driving-up the price of wool and hides (the North’s most marketable commodity). As a consequence, the value of pastureland increased. Tenants who held manor lands by feudal custom were liable to have their land enclosed by ruthless landlords intent on turning arable land or rough common land into valuable pasture.

[36] Reid pp. 57-58 citing Sir Thomas de Littleton- Tenures (published 1482) (1841 edition) Sec 77; Brian CJ’s dictum was incorporated into the 1530 edition of Littleton. Sir Thomas de Littleton (1407-1481) was an English judge and jurist. His treatise on ‘tenure’ was the standard legal textbook on the law of property until the nineteenth century.

[37] Reid, ibid

[38] Reid p.59

[39] Reid pp.59-61

[40] Nicholas Pronay and John Cox (Eds) – The Crowland Chronicle Continuations 1459-1486 (Richard III and Yorkist History Trust 1986) p.171

[41] Pronay; ibid

[42] Rosemary Horrox and PW Hammond (Eds) – British Library Harleian Manuscript 433 (R3S 1982), Vol 3, pp. 107-08 [f264b]. The Commission creating the Council and appointing the earl of Lincoln as its first president is undated. However, Lincoln was at the time Richard’s heir and so the Commission must have been signed after the death of the Prince of Wales, probably around the 24 July 1484.

[43] Harleian MS433, Vol 3, pp. 114-117 [f 270]); see also Reid pp. 58-70 for a detailed appreciation of Richard’s regulations governing the council’s conduct.

[44] Harleian MS433, ibid; I think there may be  a double negative in Richard’s regulations.

[45] Mitchell p.30; Sir Robert Percy (not a member of the Northumberland Percies) was king Richard’s closest personal friend after Francis Lovell; the three had trained together at Middleham. Faithful to the end, he died fighting beside his king in the final charge at Bosworth. Percy’s son was attainted after the battle of Stoke in 1487.

[46] Reid p.62

THE TOMB OF THOMAS COCKAYNE, YORKIST

DSCF1250

In my many travels I once came upon a very fine effigy in Youlgrave Parish church, high in the Derbyshire Peak District. Exquisitely carved from alabaster, with great attention paid to detail, it shows the small figure (only about three or four feet long, crafted in such a manner because Thomas died before his father) of a young man with shoulder length hair and a moustache— wearing plate armour and, most interestingly, a Yorkist collar of suns and roses. Even more interestingly, the date of the effigy was 1488, three years after Richard III’s death at Bosworth and in a time, presumably, when it would not be particularly politic to be seen supporting the ruined House of York, especially as Stoke Field had only been fought the year before.
The Cockayne family appear to have been quite notable in the Peak district and not always in a good way. Initially at least, they also appear to have been Lancastrian and in the service of the Duchy of Lancaster. The earlier Cockayne tombs in Ashbourne church clearly show Lancastrian collars.
John Cockayne, who lived a long life into the early 16th C, despite having a propensity for raiding and violence, was the father of Thomas. John had a reputation for brawling since at least 1449, when he and a gang of ‘bully boys’ would attack their neighbours, the Okeovers and the Bassets. With one Nicholas Longford, he even raided the manor of Elvaston, not far out of Derby, in 1454.
By the time Edward IV came to the throne in 1461, John Cockayne was still rampaging out of control, leading a band of marauders through the wild countryside of the Peak. Orders were sent for his arrest on at least two occasions.
He seems to have suffered no punishment however, and eventually his exploits ceased. Possibly, he began to support the House of York at this time.
His son Thomas seems to have taken after his father in personality and been rather fractious. Born in 1451, he married a woman called Agnes Barlow and had several children with her. He was killed at the age of 37 after a fierce quarrel and subsequent duel with his friend, Thomas Burdett, at Polesworth, Warwickshire. (Some say the death was accidental; that Thomas stumbled and fell onto his friend’s blade.) His body was returned to Youlgrave for burial. At least one source refers to Thomas Cockayne as being a ‘staunch Yorkist’, along with his brother in law, Robert Barlow.
However, the effigy of Sir Henry Pierrepoint at Holme Pierrepoint also wears a Yorkist collar, and yet he supported Henry Tudor at Bosworth and thereafter. Perhaps his loyalty was with Elizabeth of York, and this may have been the same with Thomas Cockayne. However, it must have taken some courage or foolhardiness to wear such an obvious emblem in a time that was still unsettled, and I wonder how it would have been viewed had Thomas lived some ten years longer into the time of Perkin Warbeck’s arrival?

The Tragedy of King Richard 111 (not by William Shakespeare)

 

Part 2: The hearts of men are full of fear

“ My Lord, whoever journeys to the Prince,

For God’s sake let us two not stay at home;

For by the way I’ll sort occasion

As indexed to the story we late talked of,

To part the Queens proud kindred from the Prince.”

(Shakespeare: Richard III)

“Why this it is when men are ruled by women…”

Loyaulté me lie. That is Richard Duke of Gloucester’s personal motto. It means ‘loyalty binds me’ and it was much more than a motto to duke Richard; it was a lifestyle choice. Throughout his relatively short life he displayed a rigid and remorseless dedication to the chivalric code of personal loyalty. He was loyal to those he loved, and to those who served him well. He was loyal to those he trusted regardless of the circumstances, regardless of his personal feelings and, fatally for him, regardless of the consequences.

Every schoolboy should have a hero. Richard Plantagenet’s hero was his magnificent eldest brother, Edward. In late 1460, when he was in lodging in London with his other brother George and his sister Margaret, Edward used to visit them every day. To Richard, aged just seven “…he shone with the blaze of mighty affairs and was the companion of paladins. Yet he took care to watch over his brothers and sister, regaling them with tales of his adventures, warming them with his affection and his greatness. How could there be anything better than to follow forever and to serve this wonderful brother, so splendid, so kind?[1] Yet for all his devotion and loyalty to his brother, Richard was his own man: they argued. For example, in 1475 he disliked the fact that Edward had accepted a French bribe to such an extent that he returned to England, having himself refused the French king’s bung. And then there is the question of his relationship with the Woodvilles. We need not give too much credence to the notion that he hated the queen and her relations; his loyalty to Edward would not permit that. However, I think its fair to say he disapproved of the king’s relatives by marriage. When Richard left York on about the 23 April 1483 he was still in the service of the dead king and intent on ensuring that his wishes were fulfilled. He would work dutifully toward the enthronement of his nephew king Edward V because that is what his brother expected of him; that is what he expected of himself.

A lot had happened in the two weeks between Edward’s death and Gloucester’s departure from York. Hastings was keeping him informed of events in London by letter and messengers.[2] Gloucester had been corresponding with Henry Stafford, duke of Buckingham who was in Brecon; they “… exchanged views and agreed to unite their resources…[3] Hastings was clearly aware of the Gloucester-Buckingham alliance and anticipated that they would both journey to London.[4] Finally, Gloucester had written to the king at Ludlow to arrange a rendezvous en route to London so that Gloucester and Buckingham could accompany him “…that in their company his entry to the city might be more magnificent. The king assented to this and did as they requested[5]. Gloucester’s predicament is beautifully summarized by Kendall “ Precisely what was happening in the capital he could not tell; precisely what attitude Lord Rivers and his two thousand men would take at Northampton he did not know. He did know that the authority of the protector was rightfully his, and he trusted in his abilities and the will of the realm to make good that authority. There is something at once naïve and formidable about Richard’s rigorous confidence in the face of opposition so aggressive and a political situation so complex and so explosive.”[6]

“Last night, I hear, they lay at Stony Stratford…”

The rendezvous at Northampton was a defining moment in a series of events that would lead Gloucester inexorably towards the throne. To his detractors, his actions are proof that he intended all along to usurp the throne; to his defenders, they mean the exact opposite. They are proof of a Woodville plot to ambush and kill the dukes of Gloucester and Buckingham. Given this gulf in opinion, it is all the more annoying that we have no eyewitness testimony or a trustworthy third-party report of events.   The versions subsequently published in the vernacular chronicles, in Mancini’s report and in the Crowland Chronicle are all based on hearsay. What’s more, the vernacular chronicles’ are brief and in some cases obviously inaccurate. Furthermore, the two main sources, those of Mancini and Crowland, differ significantly in their detail[7].   This makes it difficult construct a credible narrative of the sequence of events. Nevertheless, there are three things we can be sure of. First, The king did not wait for Gloucester and Buckingham at Northampton as agreed; given the context, it is understandable that the royal dukes might think that was suspicious. Second, Gloucester secured custody of the king’s person, which was the key moment in crushing the Woodville coup. Third, Gloucester arrested Rivers, Grey, Vaughan and others, and sent them to his castles in the north; his breach with the Woodville’s was now irrecoverable.

“ Those uncles that you want were dangerous…”

When Gloucester arrived at Northampton on the 29 April 1483, neither the king and his party, nor the duke of Buckingham was there to greet him. Later that day, Anthony Woodville, earl Rivers arrived and explained the King’s absence. He said that the accommodation at Northampton was insufficient for the needs of the king and his party, and those of the dukes Gloucester and Buckingham. Consequently, the king had moved on to Stony Stratford, fourteen miles closer to London. Gloucester accepted this excuse with good grace but it is certain that he was not fooled by what he regarded as Rivers’ deceit. In view of what Hastings had already told him, Gloucester most probably regarded this as a blatant attempt to prevent him from meeting the king, and part of the Woodville plot to rule through a compliant monarch.

Gloucester Buckingham and Rivers spent a convivial evening together. Later, after Rivers had retired to bed, the dukes discussed the situation: it was dangerous[8]. They were outnumbered three to one and they were no nearer meeting the king. Nevertheless, Gloucester, an able and experienced soldier, was not a man to lose his nerve or to be intimidated by the size of the ‘opposition’; he devised a good plan, relying on speed and surprise. Before dawn on the 30 April 1483, the dukes’ men surrounded Rivers’ accommodation. They disarmed his guards and posted their own. Nobody was allowed in or out. Meanwhile, they deployed men on the Stony Stratford road to prevent news of what was happening in Northampton reaching the king and his party. Rivers, on being told of this by his servants, protested but to no avail: Gloucester was in control of the situation.

Gloucester and Buckingham rode to Stony Stratford. There, they found the king and his retinue on the point of departing. Indeed, one detachment has already started for London. Dismounting, Gloucester, with his whole retinue kneeled in homage to the king.   After paying due condolence to him on the loss of his father, Gloucester explained in calm but plain terms what was happening. He told the king that some of his father’s ministers had encouraged his excesses and ruined his health. They must not be allowed to do the same thing to young Edward. Moreover, he “…accused them of conspiring his death and of preparing ambushes both in the capital and on the road, which had been revealed by their accomplices. Indeed, he said it was common knowledge that they had tried to deprive him of the office regent conveyed on him by his brother (the late king)[9]”.

Edward defended his ’friends’. He said that he was satisfied with the government his father had arranged for him; nevertheless, he was outmatched by the two dukes and had no choice but to acquiesce. Having gained control of the King, Gloucester ordered the escort of armed soldiers to disperse to their homes. His reputation as the first soldier of the realm, his calm authority and the loss of their leadership ensured that his order was obeyed; the Woodville ’army’ seems to have just turned around and gone home. Sir Richard Grey (the King’s stepbrother) and his servant Sir Thomas Vaughan were arrested, along with Rivers and some others, and sent in custody to Richard’s strongholds in the north. The king was escorted back to Northampton, where all contact was severed with his Woodville kin and his old servants.   Gloucester provided his own picked men to serve the king.

Richard’s coup at Stony Stratford was a neat mopping-up operation. He had gained custody of the kings person without bloodshed, using the minimum force to maximum effect. It could not have been handled better. For the first time, Richard had the initiative in the power struggle with the queen and her kindred. What’s more, his action to curb Woodville ambitions was popular — at least for the moment.   Lord Hastings is reputed to have boasted that the transfer of power had been achieved without so much blood as could be got from a cut finger.

After spending a few days at Northampton, tidying-up the kings affairs and writing to the Lord Mayor and Citizens of London explaining his action and assuring them of his good intentions, Richard escorted the King to London. His situation was transformed, but he still had problems. The power struggle was not over yet.

“The tiger now hath seized the gentle hind”

Most historians see only the guilty hand of Gloucester at work on the 29 and 30 April 1483. They regard his ‘ruthless seizure’ of the young king’s person as a prerequisite for his later usurpation. It is an opinion based largely on the near-contemporary hearsay accounts of what happened and the later Tudor embellishments. How anybody can be so certain of Gloucester’s motives after more than five centuries and in view of the ‘mosaic’ of conflicting and confused source material is a mystery, which is almost as baffling as the disappearance of the two princes. The conclusion that Gloucester was the villain in this power struggle seems perverse in the face of the contrasting behaviour of those involved.

The queen and her party acted provocatively, making a deliberate attempt to impose an unconstitutional regency government on the realm: by force of arms if necessary [10]. Gloucester, on the other hand, reacted with impeccable correctness. His response was loyal and measured. He affirmed his fealty to young Edward V on oath, and in a letter to the queen and the council. He made his leisurely way towards London after first hearing a requiem service in York for his brother. He was accompanied by only three hundred of his own retainers and he declined Buckingham’s pragmatic offer to bring a thousand men to the meeting at Northampton. Given that he probably knew the size of the king’s escort, his actions are hardly those of a man intent on seizing the throne. If they were, he could only hope for success without expecting it. There can be little doubt that Gloucester, supported by Buckingham, was intent on gaining control of the situation in order to ensure a constitutional settlement. However, it is irrational to conclude from those facts that Gloucester was intent on usurpation: unless, of course, one has a preconception of his male fides.

Mancini’s interpretation of the facts throughout his narrative is coloured by his assumption that Gloucester always intended to seize the throne[11]. There are also difficulties about Crowland, who had a clear prejudice against Gloucester, which may or may not be due to his unreasoning hatred of northerners[12].  Although Professor Ross assures us that modern historians discount the Tudor tradition in favour of inferring Gloucester’s “…character and motives from a close scrutiny of the events themselves, without preconception”[13], it seems obvious to me that the notion that all Gloucester’s actions were deceitful, regardless of the lack of objective evidence of his evil intent, suggests a predisposition to believe the worst of him no matter what.

The news that Richard had secured control of the King seems to have reached London sometime during the night 30 April-1 May 1483. According to Mancini: “ The unexpectedness of the event horrified everyone.   The Queen and the Marquis, who held the royal treasure, began collecting an army to defend themselves and to set free the young king from the clutches of the dukes. But when that exhorted certain nobles who had come to the city, and others, to take up arms they perceived that men’s minds were not only irresolute, but hostile to themselves. Some even said openly that it was more just and profitable that the youthful sovereign should be with his paternal uncle than with his maternal uncles uterine brothers.”

As Kendall points out, whatever men may have thought about the conflict between the queen and the, duke of Gloucester, few identified the Woodville cause with that of the young king.   In any event, the Woodville’s panicked:“ Lacking either the innocence or the courage to quietly await the king’s arrival, they could only think of flight.” These comments though harsh are probably correct. Panic or not, the Marquis of Dorset did not forget to loot the Tower of London of the king’s treasure before retreating to sanctuary[14].


[1]. Paul Murray Kendall – Richard the Third (Geo Allen and Unwin 1955) at page 38; I accept that Kendall’s flowery writing style verges on the sentimental at times, but his biography of Richard brings him alive in ways other authors cannot hope to reach)

[2]. Dominic Mancini – The Usurpation of King Richard III (AJ Armstrong editor) (Oxford 1969 edition) at pages 71-73.

[3]. Mancini at page 75; see also Armstrong’s note 43 at page 115 for a detailed discussion of how the two dukes might have corresponded.

[4]. Nicholas Pronay and John Cox (editors) – The Crowland Chronicle continuations 1459-1486 (Richard III and Yorkist History Trust 1986) at page 155.

[5]. Mancini at page 75; see also the note 44 at page 115. Armstrong’s suggestion that Rivers went considerably out of his way to rendezvous with Gloucester and Buckingham is an unproven assumption. Notwithstanding that, Charles Ross (Richard III – Yale 1999 at page 71) and Michael Hicks (Richard III -The History Press 2009 edition at pages 161 and 162) both repeat it. Stony Stratford is situated on Watling Street (now the A5 trunk road), which itself passes within about five miles of Northampton. Watling Street was then and for many years afterwards, the main route from Shropshire to London. To journey by any other route was simply impracticable for such a large party as the king’s (2000 soldiers and their impedimenta, household officials and royal servants with their impedimenta). The alternative route through Worcester and Oxford was possibly shorter but it was hardly quicker for such a large body of men and equipment. The terrain through the Mendip and Chiltern Hills is problematic and the royal ‘snake’ would have been much longer, not to mention the logistical problems.   The rendezvous at Northampton made sense for its convenience if nothing else. However, it may have suited Rivers for other reasons. If he was planning to ambush Gloucester and Buckingham, this was the place to do it. It was close to the Woodville family seat at Grafton Regis and the terrain was ideal for an ambush. The key question is: who suggested Northampton? It is not a frivolous question because what happened in Northamptonshire at the end of April 1483 is regarded as proof either of Richard’s guilty mind or of the Woodville’s guilty minds, depending on one’s point of view.

[6]. Kendall at page 165: however, he is not quite right about Gloucester’s authority as Lord Protector.   The fact is that at this stage he had no authority as Lord Protector. Under the constitutional settlement  of 1422 a king has no power to determine the governance of the realm after his death; he could suggest but not direct.

[7]. I have adopted the Mancini sequence, which though different to Crowland and some of the vernacular sources, seems more plausible to me..

[8]. We do not have the detail of this discussion or what information Buckingham had. He may, for instance, have warned Gloucester of an ambush (See Gordon Smith – Stony Stratford: the case for the prosecution R3S Bulletin, spring 2004 at pages 27-32). www.richardIII.net/http://issuu.com/richard_third/docs/2004_03_spring_bulletin?e=7156033/4522512). Smith postulates the possibility that the RV at Northampton suited Rivers because it was close to Grafton Regis, which was situated on the shortest road between Northampton and Stony Stratford. Rivers sited a deliberate ambush on that road with a view to enticing the dukes into it. However, Buckingham who was following Rivers down Watling Street realized something was wrong after he turned off for Northampton at Weedon. It soon became obvious that the king with his large escort had had continued straight on to Stony Stratford, making no attempt to visit Northampton. Buckingham warned Gloucester, who acted as he did next day. The dukes avoided the ambush by moving to Stony Stratford via Towcester and taking the king’s party by surprise from behind (Smith’s article in the R3S Bulletin has two useful diagrams which explain how the ambush was planned and how it the two dukes foiled it.).

[9]. See Mancini at page 77; it is important to point out that neither Mancini nor the author of the Crowland Chronicle accept Gloucester’s assertion of a plot against him. Both regarded the seizing of the king as part of his plan to usurp the throne at any cost. They also note that despite Gloucester’s popularity in some quarters there were people who were suspicious of his intention even at this time.

[10]. Ralph A Griffiths – The Reign of King Henry VI (Sutton Publishing 1998 edition) at pages 19-24; see also Annette Carson ‘Protector and Defensor: the constitutional position’ at www.ajcarson.co.uk (27 Apr 14). Richard duke of Gloucester’s appointment as Lord Protector was based on a constitutional precedent set in 1422 following the untimely death of Henry V. On his deathbed, the victor of Agincourt appointed his youngest brother Humphrey duke of Gloucester as virtual regent (tutelage) in England during Henry VI’s minority. However, the concept of personal rule by a regent was unknown to English constitutional practice, which owned that ‘royal authority’ can only be exercised by the monarch in person   In council and in Parliament, the lords rejected Henry’s wish on the grounds that it was ‘repugnant’ to them, and also because, as a matter of principle, a king cannot be allowed to determine the governance of the realm after his death. The solution devised was to offer duke Humphrey the post of ‘Defender of the realm and Chief Councilor to the king’. The lords made it clear that his role imported his personal attendance to the defence of the realm against external enemies or internal rebels“…but no name of tutor, lieutenant-general, nor regent nor no name that should import authority of governance of the realm.” The Lords reserved to themselves the right to govern during the king’s minority and they left the personal upbringing of the king to his mother and the royal household. Not only that, but the appointment was in the gift of the king; the Lord Defensor (which would develop into the Lord Protector) must come and go at the whim of the king/lords. Gloucester’s father Richard duke of York knew this in 1454 and 1455 during Henry VI’s incapacity. He resigned his appointment as Lord Protector as soon as he was told to. This is the role that Edward V wished his brother to take-up in 1483. A king cannot rule from the grave, so Edward could only suggest Gloucester’s appointment: he could not compel. There was nothing irregular or unconstitutional about Edward’s deathbed codicil. He was, in fact, expressing his preference for a 1422 type minority rule. The difference between 1422 and 1483 was simply this: in 1422, the lords were moved to prevent the king dead from imposing an unconstitutional settlement, which they feared opened the door for despotism; whereas, in 1483 Gloucester, supported by the anti-Woodville lords, was moved to prevent the queen and her family from imposing an unconstitutional settlement on the realm, which they too feared might lead to despotism. That was a situation that Edward IV had not anticipated. Until his appointment was confirmed by the lords in council Gloucester held no constitutional authority as Lord Protector. The other point of note is that, under the terms of his appointment, Gloucester was not the ‘protector’ of the king’s person. Ordinarily that would be left to his mother and the royal household. Though in this case, the Woodvilles’ behaviour made it impossible for the king to remain in their custody, care and control.

[11]. Mancini at page 17; in his introduction, professor Armstrong notes that Mancini showed little animus to Gloucester “…save for his assumption that the duke of Gloucester was always aiming for the throne.” Such an assumption is so prejudicial that one wonders whether Mancini’s narrative has any historical value at all. It coloured his interpretation of events throughout his account. Every good act of Gloucester’s is regarded as evidence of his deceitful, dissembling nature; every firm or decisive act is proof of his cruelty and tyranny. There are other reasons for not accepting Mancini’s account at face value. Some basic errors of chronology and geography coupled with doubts about the provenance of his sources, and his misunderstanding of the workings of Parliament all suggest that ‘ Mancini is no more reliable that More or Vergil’.

[12]. See AJ Pollard – ‘North, South and Richard III’, an article published in ‘Richard III: crown and people’ – J Petre-editor (Richard III Society 1985) at pages 349-355, for a discussion of regional friction and differences in fifteenth century England. Interestingly, the author (no Ricardian) make a good case for the notion that those people who actually knew or had served Gloucester thought well of him. This article first appeared in the ‘Ricardian’ (volume 5, number 74, Sep 1981 at pages 384-388).

[13]. Ross at page 63: I cannot agree with professor Ross. I see little evidence of objectivity in Ricardian literature generally. Ross (page 64) refers to the “…extraordinary problems of the evidence…” and especially the problem of answering the vital question: when and why did Gloucester decide to go for the throne?   If, as Ross suggests, historians really do eschew the Tudor tradition in favour judging for themselves from peoples’ actions, then there is no rational basis for disbelieving Gloucester’s bona fides; unless you have a preconception that everything he did, was in bad faith. If historians are relying on hindsight to argue that the sequence of events and their timing indicate that Gloucester must have been planning usurpation, then their logic is flawed. That argument is quite simply a non sequitur.

[14]. Kendall at pages 178-179: it seems that Sir Edward Woodville had sailed with the Royal Navy and his share of the treasure on the day before news reached London of the events at Northampton. The loss of this treasure and the Royal Navy were to significantly hamper Richards attempt to carry out the essential government of England. In particular it undermined attempts to protect the south coast from French pirates.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: