murreyandblue

A great WordPress.com site

Archive for the tag “Margaret Beaufort”

THE DARRELLS OF LITTLECOTE

Littlecote House in Wiltshire, now a Warner’s hotel (those with very long memories might remember it as a sort of theme park/tourist attraction in the 1980’s) is considered to be one of England’s most haunted houses. Amongst the many spooks that haunt its halls is a burning baby, said to be the spirit of  a child murdered by Wild William Darrell, the master of the house in the 1570’s, who supposedly threw an  illegitimate infant into the fire directly after its birth. (He was later said to have been killed by falling off his horse when the baby’s apparition appeared before him–he then became a ghost himself.)

Whether any part of the legend is true or not (and there’s some evidences parts of it are), there were certainly Darrells living at Littlecote house long before Wild William or the Tudor/Elizabeth mansion we see today–back in the late medieval period.

One of its residents at that period was Margaret Beaufort. No, not THAT Margaret Beaufort but the ‘other one’, who also had a notorious son called Henry. She was the mother of Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. Daughter of Edmund Beaufort, second Duke of Somerset and Lady Eleanor Beauchamp, Margaret first married Humphrey Earl of Stafford, son of the first Duke of Buckingham (also called Humphrey) and produced Henry and another son (Humphrey again!), whose ultimate fate is unknown. (He was taken into Elizabeth Woodville’s household and made a Knight of the Bath at the same time as Henry but references to him vanish after that–presumably he died young.)

Humphrey Stafford was badly wounded at the first battle of  St Albans and never seemed to fully recover. He died a few years  after the battle, possibly of plague, possibly through effects of his injuries, making Henry the heir to his grandfather’s title at the tender age of 4/5.

Margaret soon remarried,  to Richard Darrell of Littlecote. They had one daughter, Margaret (Henry Stafford’s half-sister), who married James Tuchet, 7th Baron Audley. James was one of the commanders in the Cornish rebellion against Henry VII in 1497. He was captured, along with the other leaders of the rebellion, and executed on Tower Hill on June 28.

Although now a hotel, Littlecote House still allows non-residential visitors to look around the gardens, several of the interior rooms rooms, and visit the amazing Roman mosaic that lies within its grounds. Look for the sign that says ‘day parking’ and park there for access.

 

P1320537P1320509P1320526

Advertisements

Which man fathered the first Beaufort….?

birth-in-the-middle-ages

Here is the scene. The mother with her newly born child, her ladies, the air of relief and happiness. But presumably she is a faithful wife, and her delighted husband will soon be summoned to see his new offspring. No doubt he hopes for a son.

But what if she isn’t a faithful wife, and the sire of her baby isn’t her late husband. What’s more, the father is a royal prince?

The following article must be viewed against the 14th-century background of the Hundred Years War, the reigns of Edward III and Richard II, the plague and the convoluted private life of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster . . . forebear of Margaret Beaufort, and therefore of Henry VII and the Tudors.

Just when did Gaunt (b. 6 March 1340 – d. 3 February 1399) become the lover of his children’s married governess, Katherine, Lady Swynford (b. 1349/50, d. 10 May 1403)? And was he first the lover of her sister, Philippa, who was married to Geoffrey Chaucer? In fact, were all the children born to Chaucer and Philippa actually Gaunt’s offspring? (See John Gardner, The Life and Times of Chaucer (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, INC., 1977), 158-162.)

I do not place much faith in this claim about Gaunt and Philippa, but if it were true, it raises an interesting point. Here is an extract from The Duchesses of Lancaster: an examination of English noblewomen’s exercise of power and influence during the fourteenth century, a thesis by Amanda Elizabeth Sanders.

“. . . Gaunt and Katherine confessed to having an affair during his marriage with Constance and that he was godfather to her eldest daughter with Hugh Swynford, which was seen as incest . . .” 

Why was it considered incest? Because in the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 it was recorded that anyone’s wife, or sexual partner, is related to her sisters in the first degree, which is incest. It was considered incest up to the fourth degrees of affinity. (See Harry Rothwell, English Historical Documents, 1189-1327,” in Love, Sex, and Marriage in the Middle Ages: A Sourcebook, ed. Conor McCarthy, (London: Routledge, 2004), 68-69.) Gaunt, being Philippa’s lover first and godfather to Katherine’s daughter Blanche Swynford, would have been considered to commit incest with Katherine, because she was within the degrees of affinity.

Well, I think I follow all that. My education stopped at GCE ‘O’ level in 1960, and I did not take history or religious education. A vital part of Henry VII’s ancestry was that his mother, Margaret Beaufort, could claim descent from John of Gaunt, and therefore Edward III . . . but it just might be that Gaunt had nothing whatsoever to do with John Beaufort’s conception, except to later claim fatherhood. (Note for those who do not know: Beaufort is the name granted to all of the children of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford.)

Disregarding any possible incest, the point of interest for me is that Gaunt and Katherine confessed to being lovers during his marriage to Constance of Castile. Call me Doubting Thomas, but I think it more likely they were lovers before that marriage, a conclusion I have reached while in pursuit of the all-important dates for the start of the affair with Katherine.

These matters are of great consequence to Ricardians (and Tudorites) because the parentage of Gaunt and Katherine’s eldest son, John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset, can be called into question due to his actual date of birth not being known. The event is generally stated to be ‘circa 1373’, and anything ‘circa’ in mediaeval terms can stretch quite a way in either direction. Certainly to the middle of 1372, which is the date I believe.

john%20beaufort

To explain why, it is necessary to tell something of Katherine Swynford’s marriage to Sir Hugh Swynford (1340-September 1371), a fairly lowly knight of Kettlethorpe in Lincolnshire, whose only claim to distinction, apart from the identity of his wife, was being “small, stocky and known by his fellows as ‘the battling Saxon ram’!” He was a fierce and shrewd warrior, and clever battle tactician, with a beautiful but unfaithful wife from a lowly background in Hainault. But Katherine Swynford had been raised in the household of Queen Philippa, also from Hainault, and had the formal education and knowledge of court that made her ideal to become the governess of the queen’s grandchildren, Gaunt’s brood by his first duchess, Blanche of Lancaster.

In 1369, while Gaunt was away fighting the war on the continent, Katherine was called to Bolingbroke to spend Christmas with Blanche. But she arrived to find the duchess dying of the plague. Katherine took care of her, and managed to find a priest to administer the Last Rites. Katherine’s loving attentions were appreciated, and on his return to England, Gaunt invited her to come south to London to attend Blanche’s funeral. When she eventually went home to Kettlethorpe, he had rewarded her ‘for the care shown to the late Duchess and for the Lancastrian children after their mother’s death’. She had been granted her own blazon, consisting of three Catherine wheels, which Gaunt had designed, bestowed and registered himself. She also received, as a pension, ‘all issues from, and profits from his towns of Waddington and Wellingere to be paid yearly’.

Lavish rewards indeed! If I were Hugh, I’d be highly suspicious about the nature of the attentions Katherine had paid. And to whom! But there is no proof that anything had yet gone on between Katherine and the duke. Just a very strong hint, in my opinion.

There aren’t any known contemporary portraits of Gaunt and Katherine, so (to give a flavour) here is a rather romanticised view, taken from the cover of an edition of Anya Seton’s excellent novel, Katherine. Fiction maybe, but Katherine was very lovely, and Gaunt was indeed a royal prince.

john-and-katherine-anya-seton

Next, Hugh went to France to fight in a company led by Sir Robert Kindles, from whom Gaunt would take over command. In 1371 Hugh was seriously wounded and taken to Bordeaux in Gaunt’s train. The duke found him suitable lodgings and instructed his own personal physician, Brother William Appleton, to care for him. A certain Nirac de Bayanne, the duke’s servant (and Hugh’s enemy of old) is mentioned at this juncture, although he had actually entered the story a little earlier because he (and therefore Gaunt?) figured quite considerably in Swynford affairs.

From http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=ancestorsearch&id=I920

“ . . . May 1367 . . . when the registers note that John of Gaunt appointed his servitor, Nirac de Bayanne, as Steward over Kettlethorpe until Hugh could be sent home. They also record that he stood sponsor to Blanchette, Hugh and Katherine’s daughter born in May 1367 and ordered for her the silver and gilt cup as a baptismal gift . . .”

Hugh and Nirac did not get on at all, and I imagine Hugh resented the man’s presence on his land and in his house. Especially when Katherine was there and gave birth to their daughter.

Now we come forward to Bordeaux again, September 1371, and Hugh recovering from his wounds (or from dysentery, or both, according to opinion). Katherine arrived to be among the English ladies of Gaunt’s forthcoming second duchess, the Infanta Costanza (Constance) of Castile. Gaunt had sent that same Nirac de Bayanne to be Katherine’s escort, and was apparently highly annoyed when she went straight to tend her ailing husband.

The following has been gathered (not word for word) from http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=ancestorsearch&id=I920.

. . . Less than a week after Katherine’s arrival, Hugh was dead. His death surprised everyone as he had been making a good recovery. [It was thought he had been poisoned by the hate-filled Nirac de Bayanne, either from personal dislike or on the duke’s instruction.] Katherine seemed to have been genuinely shocked and upset by her husband’s passing. Aided by Brother William, she arranged for Hugh’s body to be returned to England and Kettlethorpe for burial. Unusually, she returned to court in Bordeaux, rather than accompany the body home. Hugh was buried, and faded into obscurity, leaving Katherine free to enter into a liaison with John [Gaunt] . . .

. . . Nirac was posthumously implicated in Hugh’s death. He is reputed to have confessed to poisoning Hugh, and on his deathbed repeatedly stated that neither John nor Katherine was aware of what he had done. (Hmmm. Maybe she didn’t, but I’d hazard Gaunt knew full well. Hugh was an inconvenience with a husband’s rights, and Katherine had just miffed the duke by putting her husband first. Were those conjugal rights being enjoyed? Might ducal jealousy have raised its head?) . . .

. . . It is known that John and Katherine disappeared for several weeks prior to his second marriage (which took place on 21st September 1371 near Bordeaux). She returned to England and was obviously pregnant because (in the summer of 1372?) she gave birth to John, later John Beaufort. It was assumed that John was Hugh’s posthumous child, but when Henry (My note: second Beaufort son) was born to [Gaunt] and Katherine, they acknowledged John as theirs . . .

Back to my narrative. So, September 1371 was a vital month in this story. Hugh probably died in about the first week, and Gaunt married Constance of Castile on 21st. Between the death and marriage, Gaunt and Katherine disappeared together . . . and they were not intent upon needlepoint, I’ll warrant. Katherine was not pretending to be a grieving widow, nor was Gaunt being much of a bridegroom. Given this conduct, I strongly suspect them of hanky-panky while poor old Hugh lingered.

When Gaunt returned to England not long after his wedding, he did not bring his new duchess with him. Going straight to the Savoy, he spent Christmas with his children by Blanche of Lancaster . . . and their widowed, pregnant  governess was there too. If tongues did not wag into a thunderous racket, I would be absolutely amazed!

How intriguing is the whole scenario, because if it was thought Katherine’s child could be Hugh’s posthumous offspring, then presumably everyone in Bordeaux believed he had recovered enough to be capable of siring it! Maybe he would have survived had fate, or Nirac de Bayanne, not intervened.

So . . . was Hugh the real father of John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset? He was still alive for the likely period of the earl’s conception. Might Katherine have warmed her husband’s bed and Gaunt’s during the same week? Should John Beaufort have actually been named John Swynford?  His date of birth is unknown, and is given as ‘circa 1373’, which certainly could have encompassed the middle of 1372, which is nine months or so from September 1371.

And on top of all this, we have the interesting point mentioned at the very beginning. If Gaunt had been the lover of Philippa Chaucer before he tumbled into bed with Katherine, the latter relationship would have been regarded as incestuous, as well as adulterous. Their Beaufort children were subsequently legitimised, and specifically excluded from any claim to the throne, but I can’t imagine that, according to the then rules, they could be freed from the stigma of incest. Could the Pope have done that? I don’t know. (An aside: Presumably this means that Henry VIII’s activities with the Boleyn sisters was incestuous too?)

Oh, to get to the truth of it all, for the possibility exists that Margaret Beaufort, the scheming mother of the first Tudor king, might have only been the granddaughter of the obscure Kettlethorpe knight, Sir Hugh Swynford, not any offspring of Gaunt.

But there was more scandal, because when it came to blood descent, the man she took as her first husband, Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, father of Henry VII, was most likely not a Tudor at all, but a Beaufort/Swynford by a son of the  same John who had been conceived in Bordeaux in September 1371!

How could this be? Well, according to entirely different and equally salacious whispers, Edmund Tudor’s father wasn’t Owen Tudor (the supposed second husband of Queen Catherine of Valois, widow of Henry V) but was sired by one Edmund Beaufort, third son of the Bordeaux John Beaufort/Swynford. Catherine of Valois was widely rumoured to have had an affair with this Edmund Beaufort, who would not/could not marry her, but got her with child anyway. Catherine swiftly married Owen Tudor, maybe for love, maybe for protection. (Note: It cannot be proved that they actually did marry, but tradition has it they did.) The baby was born a Tudor, but naming him Edmund certainly fanned the rumours.

So, Margaret was Beauchamp on her mother’s side, but either Beaufort or Swynford on her father’s. Edmund Tudor was half Valois, and either Beaufort or half Swynford, but most likely not Tudor. Poor old Henry, all that playing upon his Welshness, and even naming his son and heir Arthur, when all the time there was most likely no proud descent from great Welsh heroes, both mythical and real, and certainly no link to Camelot. Or to Gaunt and Edward III. I would love to have seen the faces of Margaret and Henry had they discovered all this to be true.

mb

 

 

Tales of a Ricardian Traveler – Debunking a Myth at Dartington Hall

RICARDIAN LOONS

Lady on Horseback Lady on Horseback, mid-15th c., British Museum

Dartington Hall, near Totnes in Devon and just southeast of Dartmoor National Park, represents a uniquely British form of historical contradiction. It is both medieval, having parts of a Grade I-listed late 14th century manor house, and modern, being the current home of the Schumacher College and formerly the site of a progressive coeducational boarding school which broke all the molds of English education and even attracted the attention of MI5. Today, it operates a hotel, restaurant and conference center, and has Grade II* listed gardens.

Our visit was prompted by the prospect of staying briefly in the house built between 1388-1400 by John Holland, first earl of Huntingdon and duke of Exeter. The Holland dukes of Exeter were themselves highly controversial figures and their history is closely intertwined with that of the Houses of York and Lancaster. We didn’t…

View original post 2,433 more words

Not Hating Henry

I admit it: when I first fell for Richard III and through him, the House of York and Wars of the Roses history in general, I hated Henry VII. (I also hated his mother Margaret Beaufort, the perfidious Stanleys, the late queen Margaret of Anjou, and anyone else I could blame for bringing harm upon my beloved Yorkists). But blind hate – like blind love – doesn’t help an objective study of history. For some vehement anti-Ricardians, the absolute conviction that Richard III was a nephew-murdering usurper warps their entire view of the man, negating every positive achievement in his life before and during his reign, and denying the possibility that his character might have possessed any likeable or praiseworthy aspects. Similarly, for some vehement pro-Ricardians, Henry VII is akin to the anti-Christ, a snivelling, cowardly pretender for whose sake a good and rightful king was treacherously done to death. Initially, the latter was my view – but the more I’ve studied the period, its personalities and politics, the more sympathy I’ve come to feel for everyone involved in that difficult, dangerous time. So, at the risk of making myself thoroughly unpopular, I’ll tell you why I don’t hate Henry: basically, it wasn’t his fault. Yes, think about it: once upon a time, just like Richard III, Henry was an innocent child caught up in a political situation that was none of his making and beyond his control. By pure accident of birth he was deprived of his inheritance, separated from his mother, and in 1472, (as the last faint spark of the Lancastrian claim to the crown), forced to flee for his life with his uncle Jasper Tudor. En route to seek help from Jasper’s cousin, Louis XI of France, they were blown off course and landed in Brittany, where they were obliged to beg asylum from Duke Francis II. Recognising them as valuable pawns in any future diplomatic games with France and England, the Duke was pleased to grant this – and thus, at the age of fourteen, began Henry’s long term of effective, if luxurious, imprisonment. So as he entered his majority, instead of taking possession of the lordship of Richmond, building his affinity, developing his career, looking for a suitable wife and enjoying all the normal rights and privileges of his rank, this blameless youth was being shunted around the Duke’s chateaux under close guard, like some priceless piece of furniture, to prevent him either being rescued by the French or captured (and probably killed) by Yorkist agents. It’s easy to imagine the sense of burning injustice, festering resentment and outright hatred building up in his heart – he certainly had no reason to love the House of York. But he had every reason to leap at the chance of revenge, and of securing an unexpectedly glorious future, which presented itself in the aftermath of Edward IV’s untimely demise in 1483. I don’t blame him for that, either – and the rest, as they say, is history. I still don’t warm to Henry VII as a character, although I believe that his dislikeable traits including suspicion, domination and avarice are a direct result of the fear, deprivation and insecurity he experienced in his early life. Nor do I particularly rate him as a monarch – his first act, predating his reign to the 21st August 1485 in order to attaint the late king’s supporters, was a nasty trick; his later treatment of the unfortunate Princess Katherine of Aragon was heartless in the extreme; and he did plenty of other stuff in between that I can’t like or approve of. Having said that, he performed remarkably well considering his unpromising start and lack of training for such office, and was a paragon of competence compared to the previous Henry. And while I’d still prefer the result of the Battle of Bosworth to have been reversed, (I think Richard III was a good king and, had he lived, would have made a great one), I’d prefer it even more if that battle had never happened at all: if Edward IV had reconciled with the Tudors, made allies of the Earls of Pembroke and Richmond, and that Henry had subsequently supported Richard’s assumption of the throne – surely their combined abilities would have made them a medieval government dream-team! So while I might not exactly like Henry VII, I can no longer find it in my heart to hate him… because I suspect that if I’d been in his position, I’d have done much the same. And if you’re open to persuasion on the subject, try reading Chris Skidmore’s Bosworth: The Birth of the Tudors – it might rouse your sympathy for Henry, as it did mine.

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

Part 6 – “The peace of England, and our safety enforced us to this…”

“So mighty and many are my defects

That I would rather hide me from my greatness

Being a bark to brook no mighty sea

Than in my greatness covet to be had

And is the vapour of my glory smothered”

(William Shakespeare)

 

“ I am unfit for state or majesty”

Richard duke of Gloucester had to put his thinking cap on. His hopes for a peaceful transition from the reign of Edward IV to that of Edward V were dashed. The bishop of Bath and Wells’ revelation that Edward IV was still wed to Eleanor Butler when he married queen Elizabeth had cast a deep almost impenetrable shadow over the royal succession. If true, it meant that he, and not any of his brothers’ children, was the legitimate Yorkist heir.[1] All the while he believed that Edward’s children were legitimate, the duke saw it as his duty to work towards Edward V’s enthronement regardless of his personal feelings. However, the truth was that England was not ready for a boy king, especially a Woodville one. The knowledge that young Edward and all his siblings were illegitimate presented the best opportunity to secure the peace and stability of the realm by putting a proven soldier and administrator on the throne instead of a callow youth. Once the duke was sure that the pre-contract was true his course was obvious. He must take the crown in the national interest and his own. The problem was that that course cut right across the creed he lived by: ‘Loyaulte Me Lie’. Duke Richard was a soldier, a practical man, a ‘doer not a wooer’. The requests for help from York and from his northern adherents were Gloucester’s military solution to a security problem. However, Gloucester the politician was in denial. Catesby’s news that Hastings had joined the conspiracy to murder him and Buckingham and that he (Hastings) had known of the pre-contract for some time raised another practical crisis he could get his teeth into. He had faced danger and death many times in his relatively short life. Ironically, it put him in his comfort zone to deal with this problem like a good soldier rather than a savvy politician[2].

My contention is that since emotionally he was unable to solve the paradox between what he — in his heart of hearts — knew he must do and what he wanted to do about the pre contract he took it out on Hastings. This dilemma clouded his judgment and led him to make two huge mistakes. His first and most serious mistake was to underestimate the role of Margaret Beaufort with Morton in this and in other conspiracies. His second mistake was his failure to bring Hastings before a properly constituted law court for his treason. The outcome was that it allowed his opponents to circulate adverse rumours about him and to defame his posterity. Worst of all, it united disaffected Yorkists and ambitious Lancastrians against him. All this, however, lay in the future. For the moment, he had retained the trust of the council and the city fathers, who believed he was acting in Edward V’s best interest.   They were pleased that he had curbed Woodville power and removed the king from under their baleful influence.

“Look to see a troubled World”

We know from contemporary private sources that whilst there may have been an air of crisis over the weekend with armed gangs on the streets, Londoners in general (and I include the merchant middle class guilds and aldermen in this) and the councilors in particular did not see the threat as coming from the duke of Gloucester. Professor Hicks sums-up the situation nicely: “ Hastings’ death did not stir fears amongst the political leadership that Richard aimed for the throne, but, if anything served to reinforce fears of the queen and the Wydevilles (Woodvilles) and to strengthen trust in Richard.” Hicks also cites the enigmatic note of George Cely as evidence that Richard was not seen as the threat to the peace and stability of the realm: “There is great rumour in the realm. The Scots have done great [damage] in England. The Chancellor [Rotherham] is deprived and not content. The bishop of Ely is dead. If the king, God save his life, were to die; the duke of Gloucester were in any peril.   If my lord Prince, whom God protect, were troubled. If my lord of Northumberland were dead or greatly troubled. If my lord Howard were slain.” This is not only a good indication of the fear and rumour prevalent, but it also shows that Cely (a Lancastrian wool merchant) feared for the safety of Richard.[3] Notwithstanding Charles Ross’ assertion that the evidence of a Hastings/Woodville conspiracy rests entirely on Richard’s say so,[4] Michael Hicks and Annette Carson both provide evidence that people believed him at the time[5]. It is impossible to escape the conclusion that the accounts of Mancini, Crowland and the vernacular London Chronicles included ex post facto embellishments of these events, which were added for partisan reasons to blacken Gloucester’s reputation. They seriously exaggerated the backlash against him.

 

“You break not sanctuary be seizing him”

It is early Monday morning the 16 June 1483: grey and cheerless. An unseasonal chill wind is blowing from the east as the king’s councilors gathered at the Tower. They were understandably wary and nervous. The sudden execution of the Lord Chamberlain last Friday has caused consternation in the city. Notwithstanding the Lord Protector’s calming proclamation, treason is in the air; ordinary people had their swords and daggers to hand; armed men roamed the city streets. Everybody was edgy and suspicious. The tension was tangible. Once the council had assembled and the royal dukes were ready, the whole party moved to Westminster in boats, accompanied by ‘eight boatloads’ of soldiers. Thomas Bourchier the Archbishop of Canterbury together with Lord Howard and other councilors preceded to the Abbots house at Westminster escorted by the soldiers. The dukes of Gloucester and Buckingham with the remainder of the council adjourned to the Star Chamber at Westminster Palace to await events.

After an emotional exchange with the Archbishop, the queen allowed her youngest son to leave sanctuary. She is said to have done so graciously, ‘as far as words went’. Nevertheless, she and the remainder of her family remained in sanctuary. Following a brief reception at Westminster Palace, the young duke of York was escorted to be with his brother in the royal apartments at the Tower. The council then turned to the other main business of the day: the king’s coronation. The councilors were satisfied that the Lord Protectors actions on Friday were justified. The Woodville faction was still regarded as the biggest danger to the stability of the realm. Two important decisions were made. First, the coronation was postponed from the 22 June until the 9 November 1483. Second, the Parliament fixed for the 25 June was cancelled. The business of the day was done[6].

It is obvious that Gloucester had prepared for the removal of York from sanctuary. The eight ‘boatloads’ of troops did not magically appear. They were organised and tasked for their role beforehand. Similarly, the decision to pierce the sanctuary boil had to have been taken over the weekend. Things like that cannot be done extempore. It suggests some basic rethinking by Gloucester. The presence of the young prince was desirable at his brother’s coronation; it was unthinkable that king Edward should be crowned without him there. Indeed, that was the reason given to the queen by the Archbishop when requesting York’s release. The subsequent postponement of the coronation and the cancellation of Parliament were the inevitable consequences of the events of the previous week. In theory it gave more time for reconciliation between the Lord protector and council, and the queen. However, the reality was that reconciliation was almost impossible now. Though in practical terms, the cancellations gave Gloucester more time to resolve the pressing problem of the pre-contract.

If Gloucester decided to seize the crown the possession of both Princes was a pre-requisite. This may explain the ambiguous use of troops. It’s true that the soldiers could have been there simply to protect the royal family and the councilors from the armed gangs in London. It might have been just happenstance, but there is little doubt that the presence of troops was meant to put pressure on the queen to release her son. Mancini reports that Gloucester intended to use force if necessary, and the credulous Professor Charles Ross believes that Gloucester would have risked the ‘moral obloquy’ of forcing sanctuary’ if need be[7]. I’m not so sure he risked obloquy by forcing sanctuary. It would not have been his preference, but he had tried all reasonable means to persuade the queen to re-join the court and she was obdurate. He was a deeply religious man, almost puritan in his piety and it would have grieved him. However, he had the backing of the council, and I doubt if the Archbishop of Canterbury would have acted as his spokesman if he thought Gloucester was a threat to Edward V; neither could Gloucester compel him to do so.

I have been thinking about what has happened over this weekend 532 years ago. What does it mean for Richard duke of Gloucester? Did he do the right thing? And what should he do next? I suspect that those were also his thoughts half a millennium ago. From his perspective, the weekend was a success. The plan was good and its implementation almost flawless.   He crushed a dangerous conspiracy with ease; three of the conspirators are in custody and Hastings is dead. Reinforcements from the north are being organised and he now has custody of both of Edward’s sons. Nevertheless, I have the feeling this was the weekend when Richard won a battle but lost the war. Fatally, his ‘victory’ was nor decisive. His most dangerous and inveterate enemies escaped, and those he did capture were allowed to continue their treasonous plotting unhindered. Even that peerless Ricardian Sir George Buck criticizes Richard for not executing John Morton and keeping Margaret Beaufort incommunicado under lock and key.

Anthony Woodville Lord Rivers, Sir Richard Grey and Sir Thomas Vaughan were executed on the 25 June 1483. Sir Richard Ratcliffe supervised their execution under the auspices of the earl of Northumberland and Ralph Neville. Both Mancini and Crowland say that they were executed without trial or justice. However, the presence of Northumberland suggests that there may have been some form of judicial process. Mancini says that Richard gave the order for this execution on his own authority and in defiance of the council’s earlier decision not to charge Rivers et al with treason. However, Gloucester had no reason to flaunt the council, nor was he likely to do so as he was dependent on their support.  He ordered their execution in his capacity as the Lord Protector and Defensor of the realm, with specific responsibility for defending England against external enemies and internal traitors. I have little doubt myself that Rivers, Grey and Vaughan fall into the category of traitors.

Be that as it may, more important to me in this essay, is what this tells us about Gloucester decision to claim the throne by right of strict inheritance. For the executions to take place on the 25 June, they had to have been ordered by the 16 or 17 June 1483 at the latest. Hicks infers that Sir Richard Ratcliffe carried the death warrants north on the 11 June 1483 with Gloucester’s urgent plea for help: but he is mistaken[8]. Crowland writes explicitly that Sir Richard Ratcliffe with the northern lords and their troops were moving south when they interrupted their journey at Pontefract to execute these prisoners[9]. Indeed, they bought Rivers and Grey with them from where they were incarcerated to the place of execution. This indicates to me that they knew the duke’s need for troops was no longer so urgent since he had already foiled the Woodville conspiracy. It is also clear that at the same time they received instructions to execute the Woodville traitors. The inference that I draw from this is that duke Richard sent another message north; one, which, by its secret nature, we may never know about. This contained not only the details of the arrest and execution of Hastings but also the warrants for the execution of Rivers Grey and Vaughan and it must have been sent after the 13 June and before the 17 June 1483. That is when I believe Gloucester decided to assume the crown in place of his nephew. He could not have contemplated executing Rivers and Grey unless he intended to become king of England.

[1] I have not forgotten Edward of Warwick, Clarence’s infant son. It is simply that he was never a serious contender for the throne. First he was the son of an attainted traitor and second, he had no support amongst the English nobility for the reversal of the attainder or for his succession.

[2] As the youngest son of a duke, Richard was not expected to succeed to the throne. Consequently, his upbringing, training and experience had done very little to prepare him for this situation.   Throughout his adult life he had served his brother faithfully and well in a subordinate capacity. His training and aptitude for soldiering, and his military experience, combined with his successful tenure as ‘Lord of the North’, demonstrated that duke Richard was a capable governor and certainly not a soft touch. However, his voluntary absence from Edward’s decadent court meant that he was unused to the intensity and causticity of Beaufort and Woodville intriguing when he had to deal with it. A shrewder politician might have seen the danger of the Beaufort/Tudor/Morton axis earlier, and dealt with it.

[3] Michael Hicks – Richard III (Tempus 2000 revised edition) at pages 114-116. Hicks’ analysis of the contemporary opinion of Richard during May and June 1483 supports the view that his action in curbing the Woodvilles was popular and the execution of Hastings was justified. In fact, Hicks makes a point of rejecting Mancini’s account as hindsight, along with other chronicle accounts. He observes, “The events that follow are a better guide.”

[4] Charles Ross- Richard III (Yale 1999) at page 81

[5] See Hicks, ibid. See also Annette Carson – Richard III: the maligned king (The History Press 2013 revised edition) at pages 102-104. Carson is a particularly useful reference since the author has helpfully collated the relevant sources for this episode in one place. It obviates the need for me to go into any more detail.

[6] I have followed the following sources in reconstructing this event. AJ Armstrong (ed) – Dominic Mancini: the Usurpation of King Richard III [Oxford, 1969]) at pages 89 and 124, note 74. See also Nicholas Pronay and John Cox (editors) – The Crowland Chronicle continuations 1459-1486 (Richard III and Yorkist History Trust 1986) at page 159; and also Richard J Sylvester – The complete Works of St Thomas More, Volume 2: the History of King Richard III (Yale 1963) at pages 45-49 and note 46/7-47/1 page 216.

[7] Ross, page 87.

[8] Hicks, at pages 132-133; Hicks makes the point that Northumberland and Neville were hardly likely to comply with Gloucester’s instructions unless they were assured of immunity from any recriminations. His inference that they knew of Gloucester’s intended usurpation before they set out from the north is inescapable. However, and not for the first time, professor Hicks has failed to explore other possibilities. Instead, he confines himself to an inference that fits his pre-conceived conclusion that Gloucester was deceiving the council and manipulating public opinion. It is a conclusion based on the premise that usurpation was always his intention. A premise, which is not supported by the evidence of what actually happened between April and June 1483.

[9] Crowland at page 161

The Welsh Rebellion that Henry VII Lost to Richard III

To win against these two, you had to hit ‘em where it hurt the most. And never give up, never surrender.

To win against these two, you had to hit ‘em where it hurt the most. And never give up, never surrender.

While reading Michael K. Jones’ dry, if detailed, study of the life of Margaret Beaufort[1], I was amazed to learn about a small but significant Welsh rebellion conducted against Henry VII and his hagiographic mummy that I’ve never heard mentioned anywhere else.

It appears that Henry and Margaret were thwarted on at least one occasion, and not just by pesky York which, after all, could only be expected to rise up against the Welsh usurper because of the duke of Gloucester’s (aka Richard III) good lordship to York and their loyalty to him, no matter he was dead. It also appears that some Welshmen were prepared to cast aside military tactics in favor of thumping the king and his mummy where they knew it would hurt the most – and in such a way that John de Vere (13th earl of Oxford) couldn’t run in and save Henry’s visually disabled, skinny derrière as de Vere did at the Battle of Redemore (aka Bosworth) and the Battle of Stoke.

This, kiddies, is the Brecon Rebellion I’ve never heard mentioned in any “We loves us the Tudorz” documentary — and pray let it be remembered that author who revealed it is not a Richard III devotee, yet he still documented this cold, unfriendly historical fact that has been pretty much ignored in a “La la la, can’t hear you” sort of a way because it’s not favorable to Team Tydder.

The complicated details are thus:

  • On 2 November 1483, Richard III chopped off Henry Stafford’s (2nd duke of Buckingham) head directly after Stafford led a failed rebellion against the king.
  • On 22 August 1485, French pikemen enabled Henry “Tudor” to win the battle of Redemore (aka Bosworth). Henry subsequently and retroactively declared himself king from 21 August 1485, the day before the battle.
  • On 7 November 1485, Katherine Woodville (the duke of Buckingham’s widow and younger sister to Elizabeth Woodville) married Jasper “Tudor” (uncle to the new king, and the newly minted 1st duke of Bedford).
  • On 3 August 1486, Henry VII gave Margaret Beaufort wardship of Edward Stafford (the 3rd duke of Buckingham, and the oldest son of Catherine Woodville-Stafford-“Tudor” and the beheaded duke). The king also gave his mummy custody of all the lands belonging to Edward, with the exception of the lordships of Newport, Thornby, and Tonbridge because Catherine Woodville had joint ventures on those. Happy 8th birthday, Edward!

The paperwork transferring Edward Stafford’s lands may have been done by Henry’s clerks in August 1486, but Henry retroactively declared his Mummy had the right to revenues reaching back to September 1485.

Given that Henry had the unmitigated gall to date his reign from the day before the battle of Redemore, I’m sure he saw no problem backdating his mother’s grant. She was, after all, working as his agent (that is, his collection agency) as well as in her own interests. So why not let a stroke of the royal quill create an instantaneous 13-month retrospective profit for both their coffers? It’s nothing personal and certainly not greedy; it’s just good business – at least from the crown’s point of view.

Margaret obtained direct control of the following estates, among others:

  • English estates centered around Maxstoke, Stafford, and Holderness.
  • The Welsh lordships of Brecon and Caurs.

These lands had the following financial obligations:

  • Revenues to Jasper “Tudor” for his wife’s dower.
  • 500 marks per year to help maintain the Stafford brothers. (Edward had a younger brother named Henry.)
  • £1000 per year to help maintain the royal household.

The English estates cooperated and paid up. The Welsh estates did not.

Why not? As Michael Jones puts it: “In Brecon, Lady Margaret’s authority was much weaker than in the English lordships,” and, “Margaret’s officers had massive problems in trying to collect revenue.”

Whatever could have been the problem? Oh, you know…the usual general administration difficulties in the Welsh marches. Every king had ‘em, didn’t they?

It’s strange that England cooperated, but Wales did not, especially since Margaret did a marvelous job of changing the accounting system for her English estates. She centralized all the receipts and had the final say on fees and wages. She appointed her own receiver-general (and changed him frequently), slashed local costs, and wasn’t afraid to eliminate whole offices — like the bailiff feodary (i.e., feudal vassal) of Staffordshire. So if administrative difficulties had been the only ones she encountered in Wales, she should have had no problem in solving those difficulties.

Alas, the Welsh of Brecon had other ideas. Other loyalties. And they weren’t about to let the usurping “Tudor’s” Welsh pretences, or his pushy mother, have their way.

You see, the more serious problem that Henry and Margaret faced was that Brecon had previously supported Richard III.

Way back in October 1483, Brecon locals had made clear their fury and contempt after Henry Stafford (the same 2nd duke of Buckingham whom Richard III subsequently beheaded) threw in with the supporters of Henry “Tudor” (which supporters included his mummy). At that time, the Welsh attacked and sacked Buckingham’s castle of Brecon. Afterward, Richard rewarded Welsh loyalty by giving back Brecon farms and reducing their rents.

So the Welsh of Brecon liked Richard III, and they liked his rewards. As a consequence, and as Jones understates it, “There was as a result considerable unrest early in the reign of Henry VII.”

What forms, exactly, did this unrest take against the Welsh usurper?

  • “Various rebels moving against the king” narrowly failed in their attempt to take Brecon and its castle.[2]
  • The porter of the castle gate deliberately let escape prisoners sympathetic to Richard III.
  • Henry was forced to garrison 140 soldiers at Brecon to guard against future attacks.
  • Henry fined those who had supported the rebels.

Jones writes that “amidst the disorder and uncertainty, Margaret’s officers faced massive problems trying to collect revenue,” but it sounds like the Welsh were anything but disorderly in their intentions or uncertain in their actions. To put it simply, they liked the king they’d had before, and they weren’t about to let the Tydder raise their rents after Richard III had lowered them. Or, as a contemporary source says, “No man would take an increment above the old rent or would pay it.”[3]

Henry and his mummy had other troubles with Brecon as well:

  • No man wanted the office for the “great farm.”
  • Margaret couldn’t get any income from the agistment (i.e., the feeding or pasturing of livestock for a fee) because Richard had also granted the Welsh free passage to the forest.
  • The drastic drop in overall receipts wasn’t a one-year wonder; it was an ongoing financial rebellion on the part of Brecon’s Welsh for years.

Tenants usually paid a fee to be excused from the duty of attending great sessions in Brecon. In 1488, those receipts dropped from 2060 marks to 760. So to spite the Tydder, the tenants preferred to attend the sessions rather than pay to not attend them.

Eight years later in 1496, the “I want to be excused from the sessions” fee raked in 1100 marks for Margaret. But this was still less than half the total she anticipated, and her son took 800 marks of it into his coffer.

What about the matter of the rents? Did Margaret raise them over time? Did the Welsh end up paying what the crown demanded?

No.

A measly £300 was the total income in 1494 from the lordship of Brecon — little more than a third of its actual value.

This means that Brecon’s Welshmen had been tweaking the royal nose for eight years, which makes me wonder what “Do what we want and pay up, and we won’t hurt you…much” tactics Margaret and her avaricious son tried on Brecon that have been lost to history. Eight years is a long time to tolerate losing that much revenue, so we’re missing much of the story.

Obviously, this sort of behavior from the unwashed could not continue to be tolerated by the anointed. And so it was that Margaret sent three new men to deal with the uppity Welsh of Brecon.

  • William Bedell – Margaret’s new receiver for the Stafford lands.
  • David Philip – A most trusted servant of the king’s mummy.
  • John Gunter – An experienced royal auditor.

The mandate from the king and his mummy? “Collect the debts.” Privately, that mandate may have been something more like, “Collect the #@! debts from the #@! Welsh, would you?”

Now, in the usual heartless, greedy scheme of the “Tudor” regime, Henry “the winter king” VII usually got what he wanted. So the three officers bled the Brecon Welsh dry and returned with sturdy oak chests filled with bags simply bursting with coin, yes?

No.

The Brecon Welsh refused to let Henry and Margaret bleed them as they did others. We don’t know the financial-battle tactics the Welsh used. We only know that the king and his mummy had no choice but to write off Brecon’s one-year deficit of £2095.[4] What, I wonder, did they have to write off for the other years, past and future?

The Welshmen of Brecon knew their true value – Richard had told them. They rebelled against Henry VII. And they won.

__________

[1] Jones, Michael, the King’s Mother: Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond & Derby, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1992, pp 108-110.

[2] British Library, Egerton Roll, 2192.

[3] Public Record Office, E101/414/6, folio 103v.

[4] Public Record Office, SC6/Hen. VII/1652.m.5v: Rawcliffe, C., The Staffords, Earls of Stafford and Dukes of Buckingham, 1394-1521, Cambridge, 1978, p. 128.

TUDOR HISTORY: FACT OR FICTION? – PART 1

House-of-Tudor

Hey! Who let Lady Jane Grey in there?

Once upon a time, I had a history teacher who asked his class, “What do you believe about [X]?”

We wrote down our answers. He collected them.

And then he asked, “Why do you believe what you believe?”

We discussed. In only a few minutes we had reached a conclusion: “Our parents, our religious leaders, or our teachers taught us what to believe.”

And then my teacher said, “Don’t believe what others tell you, because they often don’t know what’s true. You have a mind: use it and don’t assume. Go and see for yourself. Research [x]. Look at it from all angles. Think about things, and reach your own, independent conclusions. You will then own your knowledge and your conclusions. You will no longer merely regurgitate what someone else has told you.”

Lately I’ve been thinking about Tudor history. Specifically, what we should call it when Tudor history is presented as accurate in schoolrooms, on the telly, in books, on the Web, and in the media…yet it’s anything but accurate.

POSSIBILITY #1: It’s ironic; or,

POSSIBILITY #2: It contains lies; or,

POSSIBILITY #3: Both #1 and #2 might apply, depending on the motives of the source; or,

POSSIBILITY #4: It’s sloppy reporting, and the originator should receive a failing grade and be sent back to do his or her work over again.

POSSIBILITY #5: It might be a lazy form of “whisper down the alley,” where the author used traditional sources, but didn’t bother to go back and verify the accuracy or truthfulness of those sources.

POSSIBILITY #6: It’s another form of Tudor propaganda, which has never ended and likely never will because those who have a horse in the race (e.g., advertising dollars to lure, a degree or tenure to get, an academic reputation to preserve, an ego that admits no possibility for wrong, etc.) pick their team (Plantagenet or Tudor), hunker down, and refuse to reassess their position or any portion thereof. Ever.

ADDITIONAL POSSIBILITIES: There are others. One is the age-old rule for producers of documentaries: always cast three experts. Expert #1 should be “for” whatever the focus of the show is. Expert #2 should be “against” whatever the focus of the show is. Expert #3 should be “neutral” regarding the focus of the show. This, so the project appeals to everyone in the audience and offends no one. In theory, anyway.

In this series of articles, I will present and examine a few historical Tudor truths for your consideration. If you care to look for yourself, there are hundreds of others I won’t have space to mention – details most Tudor historians flick aside as if they don’t matter. Or perhaps the truth is closer to this:

EARNEST STUDENT OF HISTORY: Do you swear you’re in an honest, honorable relationship with Henry, Henry, Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth, so help you God, and that you’ll tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about ’em?

TUDOR HISTORIAN: [hesitates] It’s complicated.

EARNEST STUDENT OF HISTORY: Um… okay. Do you at least swear you’ll teach me as truthfully as you can about the Tudor dynasty?

TUDOR HISTORIAN: [hesitates] That’s also complicated.

Diving into the actual, factual details of Tudor history are like diving headlong into a twisty, messy maze. Of course the maze is whitewashed (was any other woman as pure and pious as Margaret Beaufort? Maybe Joan of Arc, but that’s a whole other story. Was any other queen as magnificent as Elizabeth I?). In all fairness, the Tudor Maze is far from the only historically whitewashed maze out there.(1)

There are times I wish there was somewhere a definitive table I could consult regarding specific points of Tudor history – sort of an official Akashic Record of Historical Tudor Truths. The headings would go something like this:

Tudor
Event
Assumed
Historical Fact
What
Really Happened
Contemporary
Primary Source

Alas, there is no such table. If you want the truth about the events of the soap opera that is the Tudor Dynasty, you have to dig. A lot.

If you don’t want to dig, if you’re happy skimming and listening to surface-skimming telly presentations and media quickies, then don’t ever think you know the historical truth. All you know is what someone else with a specific agenda has told you, 500 years beyond the events themselves.

I’m not someone who’s happy skimming the surface. I like to dig. So if you’re still with me, let’s begin with a basic assumption about “The House of Tudor” and see where we can go from there.

ASSUMED HISTORIC FACT: The House of Tudor proclaimed itself The House of Tudor

“Once upon a time, Henry Tydder won the Battle of Bosworth and the English crown. Because his last name was Tydder, he and his contemporaries called his new dynasty the House of Tudor.”

(Right out of the box, my Muse asks, “Hey, who first called the Battle of Bosworth the Battle of Bosworth?” I shove Ms. Muse back inside her box because we’re not talking about how battles were named. Yet ‘Battle of Bosworth’ is another one of those taken-for-granted-Tudor things you might want to research if you feel so inclined.)

So. Where, exactly, did the phrase “The House of Tudor” originate?

  1. Every Tudor descended in the male line from the Tudors of Penmynydd, a noble and aristocratic family connected with the village of Penmynydd in Anglesey, North Wales.
  1. The Tudors trace no further back than 13th-century Wales.
  1. There were three Tudor brothers in the 15th century: Rhys ap Tudur, Gwilym ap Tudur and Maredudd ap Tudur (great grandfather of Henry VII).
  1. Prior to the 18th century, the only references to “The House of Tudor” are in Welsh. This means there are no contemporary references in English to “The House of Tudor.”(2)
  1. What does “contemporary” mean? It means the people living and the sources written at the same time the Tudors lived. It means primary sources; not secondary, not hearsay, and not something some writer made up after everyone involved with the events has died.
  1. The lack of contemporary English references to the phrase, “The House of Tudor” means that Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, Elizabeth I did not refer to “The House of Tudor.” Neither did their contemporaries.
  1. Henry VII, et. al., thought of themselves, and their contemporaries thought of them, as just more Plantagenets.

ACTUAL HISTORIC FACT: “The House of Tudor” was invented by an 18th-century Scottish writer

We humans like to categorize. We like to stuff things into separate boxes for the ease of our own use.

So who conveniently invented the phrase “The House of Tudor” and inserted it into history, so that it was picked up and used by others, until this, our present day?

  1. His name was David Hume, Esq. He lived from 1711-1776 – long after the death of the last Tudor monarch.
  1. Who the heck was David Hume? He was a Scottish historian, philosopher, economist, diplomat and essayist who spent much of his life in Edinburgh. Today, he’s regarded as one of the most important philosophers to write in English. In his own time, he was known as an historian and essayist.
  1. He wrote a little book called The History of England in installments while working as the librarian of the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh. His little book was published in six volumes in 1754, 1756, 1759, and 1761.
  1. The volume we’re interested in is volume 2, published in 1759. It’s called, The History of England: Under the House of Tudor.(3)
  1. Until Hume released his work, the House of Tudor was never referred to in English as “The House of Tudor.”
  1. Come to think of it, the Houses of Lancaster and York may not have been defined until Hume, either.

If “The House of Tudor” isn’t historical fact…what else isn’t historical fact when it comes to the Tudors?

I’ll bet you thought “The House of Tudor” was a proud, happy phrase invented by Henry VII and his saintly mother to celebrate their new dynasty. Or perhaps you thought it was a thing that evolved organically and naturally, like the Tudor rose that triumphantly merged the Plantagenet with the Lancastrian, after Henry Tydder saved England from…whatever he’s supposed to have saved England from.

(Remember that rose. It’ll come up in a future discussion.)

(Remember the myth of Henry Tydder saving England from…something or other. It’ll also come up in a future discussion.)

In the meantime, you might also want to ask yourself what you believe about the Tudors, and where you learned to believe it.

You might also want to question everything your history teachers or documentary hosts and anyone else has told you about that dynasty and its blessed rulers. Because if the “experts” are wrong about something so basic as the contemporary name bestowed on a dynastic house, what else are they wrong about?

Don’t take things for granted: go and see and learn for yourself. You just might be surprised at what we think we know…but we really don’t.

And look for Part Two of “Tudor History: Fact or Fiction?” coming soon.

_______

(1) A good example to begin with is here: “6 Ridiculous Lies You Believe About the Founding of America” (http://www.cracked.com/article_19864_6-ridiculous-lies-you-believe-about-founding-america.html). Regardless it’s a Cracked article and not published in some scholarly journal, it is historically accurate; sometimes you find truth in the most unlikely of places.

(2) John Ashdown-Hill, Royal Marriage Secrets: Consorts and Concubines, Bigamists and Bastards (2013). Bibliography online here: http://tinyurl.com/lu37gu3 .

(3) You can get your own copy of volume 2 for free, here:

http://books.google.com/books/about/The_History_Of_England_Under_The_House_O.html?id=a8Q_AAAAcAAJ

…or all six volumes of Hume’s The History of England are available here in multiple formats:

http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/hume-the-history-of-england-6-vols

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: