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Once upon a time, back in the  Middle Ages, a large, thriving Welsh city existed between Monmouth and the village of Trellech. Its size was astounding for the day—it had 10,000 inhabitants (for comparison London had 40,000.) Another 10,000 souls may have lived in a shanty town along its edges.

What makes Trellech’s size particularly startling is that it reached this number in a mere 25 years, meaning that vast numbers of people must have been flooding into the area. This was undoubtedly something to do with the powerful de Clare lords, who held the local lands and used Trellech for smelting iron for their personal army.

Then…something happened. It possibly began with a  devastating raid over poaching deer, which destroyed a large portion of the town.  Then the Black Death roared in during the 1300’s, causing the population to drop dramatically. More trouble followed in the early 15th century when Owain Glyndwr was on the rampage in those debatable borderlands. By the time of the Civil War, the city had been completely abandoned, and soon nature reclaimed what was once its own, and grass grew over the walls of once mighty Trellech.

By modern times, it was mainly known through a few medieval documents and in local legend, its precise location lost and subject to much speculation, with many believing it was sited under the modern village of Trellech.

No one seemed terribly interested in definitively locating it and finding out if it was as extensive and important as claimed, although some earlier surveys were indicative. But then an enthusiastic young archaeologist, intrigued by the story of the lost city,  decided to use his life savings to buy the fields where folklore said Trellech stood.

And it turned out,  when the trenches were dug, that legend, this time, was correct.



The project is ongoing, so if anyone is in the area and wishes to join in this summer, there are details in the second link.

Besides the archaeological site of the city, the nearby village of Trellech is itself worth a visit, with its Holy Well dedicated to saint Anne, the Grade I Church of Saint Nicholas, a castle motte called the Tump, a 16th C pub, and three enormous Bronze Age standing stones (Harold’s Stones) which are aligned on the Midwinter sunset.




The Tower of London is holding an event of interest to Ricardians. Between December 27 and 31, you will be able to enter King Richard III’s court as it celebrates Christmas 1484.

Court intrigue and plotting takes place amidst the pageantry, glorious costumes, and revels, all under the eye of the traditional Lord of Misrule.

Events begin at 11 A.M. with the King’s Arrival, then progress to ‘Court and Conspiracy’  at 11:30 and 14:30, and ‘The Hunt’ at 1:30 and 15:30.

It is nice to see  Richard’s reign getting some recognition, although we do not yet know  how fair a view the entertainment will take. It is too easy (or should that be lazy?) for someone au fait only with Shakespeare or bad documentaries to imagine that such a short time was spent in nothing but warfare and misery, with the Tower a sinister symbol (which it was generally not, being a royal palace, not just a place of imprisonment). Richard liked a good party!

In the Midst of a Usurpation — A Knightly Summons & a Dog That Did Not Bark

While searching for something else related to Richard III, I happened to notice a few interesting details I hadn’t noticed before, pertaining to the chronology of events leading up to his taking the throne. (Please note that the items below are a partial chronology of events.)

1. Late May/early June 1483. Years later, Phillippe de Commynes (a writer and diplomat in the courts of Burgundy and France) claimed that Robert Stillington (Bishop of Bath and Wells, who was also a member of Edward V’s council), went to the Council and provided evidence that Edward IV had been pre-contracted to another woman before marrying Elizabeth Woodville. However, Simon Stallworthe, reporting the events of the Council meeting in question immediately after the meeting took place, reported that nothing unusual had happened.

de Commynes is also the writer who states that Bishop Stillington privately told Richard of Gloucester about his deceased brother’s pre-contracted marriage to Eleanor Butler.

If this pre-contracted marriage was true, per medieval canon law it would have made Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville bigamous, and any children of that marriage illegitimate.

2. ~16 May 1483. In her book Richard III: The Maligned King, Annette Carson writes: “In the British Library Harleian record of items that passed under Richard’s personal seal of signet, there is a writ dating to about 16 May 1483. In it King Edward V, via the protector, calls upon Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury, to summon at St Paul’s a convocation of the southern clergy to consider ‘certain difficult and urgent matters closely concerning us and the state of our realm of England and the honour and benefit of the English Church’. Further matters were to be raised at the time of the meeting.”

There is no record of this meeting actually taking place. Annette suggests that Richard and the boy-king’s Council may have decided “such explosive matters were best discussed by a more discreet private gathering of clerical experts on canon law.”[i] It should be noted that the Council itself had ecclesiastical members on it who were well-versed in canon law.

3. 16 May 1483 – 8 June 1483. Information was gathered and organized regarding all aspects of the alleged pre-contract.

4. 19 May 1483. Edward V moves into the Tower in anticipation of his coronation scheduled for 22 June 1483. Traditionally, kings and queens processed from the Tower to Westminster Abbey on the morning of their coronation. Additionally, at that time the Tower was a royal residence without the violent, bloody reputation it gained in Tudor times.

5. 5 June 1483. Through his Protector, Richard of Gloucester, Edward V summoned 50 persons by writ, commanding them, “to prepare and furnish yourselves to receive the noble order of knighthood at our coronation.”

Below is a complete list of the esquires summoned to become Knights of the Bath on the eve of Edward’s coronation, as it appears in The Knights of England.[ii] There was no summons for candidates to become Knights of the Garter under Edward V.

  1. OTES GILBERT, esquire.
  5. [1483, June.] WILLIAM GARRAUNT.
  18. GRAVILE.
  20. THOMAS BUTTELER, of Beawsey.
  24. Lord DORMOND [?Sir John Drummond, afterwards 1st lord Drummond]
  25. EDWARD (SUTTON alias Dudley), 6th lord Dudley, or lord Sutton de Dudley.
  26. [EDMUND] CORNEWALL, lord of Burford.
  27. [GEORGE] NEVILL, son of, and afterwards 5th lord Abergavenny.
  28. JOHN BROWN, of Stamford.
  29. [1483, June.] [GEORGE] (GREY), lord Grey, of Ruthin, afterwards 13th [sic] earl of Kent. (NOTE: Lord Grey was actually the 2nd earl of Kent)
  31. WILLIAM CHENAY, of Shepay.
  32. ROBERT WHITE, of Southwarne Borrowe.
  33. GERVASE CLYFTON, of Oddisake.
  35. WILLIAM BERKELEY, of Beverston.
  38. GRENE
  41. [? THOMAS BROOKE], son and heir of lord Cobhain.
  42. TH. HAMDEN, of Hamden.
  46. HENRY COLET, alderman of London.
  50. JOHN EOGER, of Frefolke.

6. 9 June 1483. Four-hour Meeting of the Great Council, with lords temporal and spiritual. Note that this was not merely a meeting of the boy-king’s Council; note also how long the meeting lasted.

Simon Stallworth (a member of the household of John Russell, Bishop of Lincoln and currently Lord Chancellor) wrote a letter to William Stoner reporting on the meeting. He mentioned that the dowager queen, Elizabeth Woodville, and her brother, Bishop Lionel Woodville, and others were still in sanctuary. He then went on to say, “My lorde Protector, my lorde of Buckyngham, with all other lordys as wele temporal as spituale wer at Westminstre in the councelchamber from 10 to 2 butt there wass none that spake with the Qwene. There is gret busyness ageyns the Coronacione wyche schalbe this day fortnyght as we say.”[iii]

Please note that the word ‘ageyn'” more often meant ‘again’ rather than ‘against’ as some writers have assumed.

Richard Grafton (the King’s Printer under Henry VIII and Edward VI) in his Chronicle at Large stated that Richard brought before the Council “authentic doctors, proctors and notaries of the law, with depositions from divers witnesses”.[iv] Of course, since Grafton was writing under Tudor monarchs, he also repeats the Tudor lie that Edward IV had pre-contracted himself to Elizabeth Lucy, rather than to Eleanor Butler.

All privy writs in the name of Edward V ceased on this day. The last was sent by Edward V’s secretary Oliver King this same day.

7. 16 June 1483. Richard of York joins his brother, Edward V, in the Tower.

Surely, by 16 June, Elizabeth Woodville would have known that the Council had decided her marriage to Edward IV was invalid and her son would not be crowned King of England on 22 June 1483? Yet she released young Richard of York into his uncle’s care on 16 June.

There is a Sherlock Holmes story called “Silver Blaze,” wherein the following exchange takes place:

Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”

In the story, a race horse was removed from a stable in the dead of night, yet the dog that lived in the stable did not bark. The dog’s silence was an important clue in solving the mystery of who removed the horse.

Regarding Elizabeth Woodville, her silence is an important clue in solving the mystery of whether Edward IV’s pre-contracted marriage with Eleanor Butler was invented or actual. The widowed queen had easy access to religious canon expects while in sanctuary for weeks at Westminster Abbey, yet she failed to mount a defense. The fact that she did not strongly suggests that she knew very well that her marriage to Edward IV was indefensible — that it was indeed bigamous.

Elizabeth remained silent as her marriage to Edward IV was declared invalid and their children were declared bastards. Even after Henry Tudor took the throne as Henry VII, Elizabeth had every opportunity to denounce Richard III and proclaim to all and sundry that a ruthless usurper had invented the pre-contract, that his ill-conceived fantasy had accommodated his stealing her oldest son’s throne. Beyond that, Elizabeth also had the opportunity to reveal that Richard III had murdered Edward V, his brother Richard, and Elizabeth’s own brother, Anthony Woodville. Instead, she said nothing.

What explanation is possible for the former queen’s failure to mount a defense of her marriage and an accusation of child-murder against Richard III – before or after his death — other than that she already knew that Edward IV had pre-contracted marriage with Eleanor Butler?

Richard acceded to the throne on 26 June 1483 when he sat on the Marble throne. He was crowned on 6 July 1483, a mere four weeks after issuing the summons for Edward V’s prospective Knights of the Bath. Below is a list of those he summoned to become Knights of the Bath on the eve of his own coronation. It should be noted that the last two names were on Edward V’s list as well.[v]

  1. EDMUND DE LA POLE, afterwards 3rd duke of Suffolk.
  2. JOHN [sic for George] GREY, son of and afterwards 13th earl of Kent.
  3. WILLIAM ZOUCHE, brother of John, lord Zouche.
  4. WILLIAM or HENRY [sic for George] NEVILL, son of and afterwards 5th lord Abergavenny.
  6. WILLIAM BERKELEY of Beverston.
  7. HENRY [ ? William] BANINGTON [Babington].
  9. THOMAS BOLAYNE or Boleyn.
  10. EDMUND BEDINGFIELD [Beningefeld].
  11. GERVASE or BREWAS of Clifton.
  14. THOMAS [James] LEWKENOR.
  17. WILLIAM BARKELEY of Wyldy.
  18. EDMUND CORNWALL, baron of Burford.
  20. GEORGE, LORD GREY OF BUTHEN, afterwards 2nd earl of Kent.

The last person on the list — George, Lord Grey of Buthen — was married to Elizabeth Woodville’s sister, Anne. He later became the 2nd earl of Kent and prospered under Henry VII. I could find no trace of William Garraunt — perhaps he lurks in the historical record under another surname.

After considering the chronology of events above, we may conclude that on 9 June 1483, after considering witness testimonies and the evidence presented, the Great Council concluded that Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was indeed bigamous, which meant that under canon law the children of their marriage were illegitimate, which in turn meant that Edward V was not eligible to take the throne.

We may also conclude that at least through 5 June 1483, when Richard of Gloucester, acting as Protector, summoned 50 esquires in his nephew’s name to be made Knights of the Bath — esquires who were undoubtedly loyal to Edward rather than to his uncle — Richard was not acting to usurp his nephew’s throne. From all indications, Richard was still planning to see Edward of York crowned Kind Edward V a mere 17 days later.



[i] Richard III: The Maligned King, Annette Carson, The History Press, Gloucestershire, 2009, pgs 76-77.

[ii] The Knights of England: A complete record from the earliest time to the present day of the knights of all the orders of chivalry in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and of knights bachelors, incorporating a complete list of knights bachelors dubbed in Ireland (1906). The document is in the public domain and can be downloaded in many formats here: . The complete list of the esquires to be made knights at Edward V’s coronation is on page 138 in the text version.

[iii] Stonor Letters and Papers, 1290-1483, ed. C.L. Kingsford (1919), ii, pp 1590-60.

[iv] Grafton’s Chronicle, Or History of England: To which is Added His Table of the Bailiffs, Sheriffs and Mayors of the City of London from the Year 1189, to 1558, Inclusive: in Two Volumes; Volume 2, London, (1809) (Google eBook available at Quoted in Richard III: The Maligned King, pg 78.

[v] The Knights of England. The complete list of the esquires to be made knights at Richard III’s coronation is on page 141.


Richard III, Rasputin, Vlad the Impaler: One of these is not like the others

ImageMirror, mirror on the wall,
Who’s the most evil one of all?

Has anyone else tried to read The Religious Life of Richard III: Piety & Prayer in the North of England by Jonathan Hughes?

I knew going in that Hughes is openly anti-Richard; I didn’t know he’s anti-Richard with a vengeance. I’m reading the book for insights into Richard and his medieval Catholicism and how it affected his personality/life. But every evil thing laid at Richard’s feet…in his introduction Hughes insists that Richard did it. Everything. No exceptions. He killed Henry VI. He killed Edward, Prince of Wales after the Battle of Tewkesbury. He helped kill his brother, Clarence. He wanted to marry his niece and so he poisoned his wife. His problem was pride; it’s better that his brother was a glutton and lustful because gluttony and lust don’t lead to the same dastardly doings as does the sin of pride. On and on and on. Ad nauseum.

Hughes even posits that Richard knew ahead of time his brother the king, Edward IV, was going to die of gluttony. (Edward did? And Richard did? Where the heck is that proven?) Richard made plans accordingly while his brother was still alive. I’m surprised Richard’s crystal ball hasn’t been dug up yet at Middleham.

While reading the seemingly endless list of Evil!King Richard III accusations and mentally ticking off historically valid rebuttals (like the Juana of Portugal and Infanta of Spain marriage negotiations, which Hughes didn’t know about or ignored; and the unreliability of More and Vergil), it occurred to me that if Richard had done everything tradition says he did, he would have been a full-blown psychopath, even more manipulative and murderous than the character Shakespeare framed.

It also occurred to me that if Richard had been as manipulative, murderous, and sneaky-crafty at hiding his intentions for nigh on 12+ years and hiding out in Yorkshire while planning to satisfy his (always hidden) overweening ambition by snatching the throne when Edward IV obligingly died, then that Richard would never have lost the Battle of Bosworth. That Richard would have lost no time running away to fight another day. Because self-preservation? That’s been at the top of every known psychopath’s list of priorities.

And not only that: “All for one and more for me” would have been Richard’s obvious and consistent policy long before he took the throne. If that was the case, I doubt any Yorkshireman would have missed Richard after he died. Yet plenty did. A few years after Bosworth, the Earl of Northumberland lost his life at the hands of a Yorkshire mob because of his role in helping the man they thought of as their king to go missing.

How amazing is it that Richard as Duke of Gloucester didn’t arbitrarily go murdering children. Nor did he plot against and behead members of the gentry or the nobility during the 12 years he lived in the North — regardless he would have been within his rights legally to do so, if only because he was Constable of England.

How amazing is it that instead of hanging and beheading his way through Yorkshire, when the city of York wrote to say, “We’ve had this bloke in prison for some weeks because he badmouthed you, yer Grace. What should we do with him?”, Richard, Duke of Gloucester wrote back, “Release him.”

Maybe Richard’s reply was really code for, “Torture him until he’s very nearly dead, then lynch the bugger. While you’re at it, exile his wife and kiddies, yeah?”

Given the consistent way the Duke of Gloucester conducted his life while living in the North, and how he served as the equivalent of a circuit judge for so long (upholding the law village by town, and even taming those pesky border reivers), he’d have to have undergone a total personality transplant (or been infested with medieval demons) to do what tradition and Tudor propaganda says he did.

Maybe Richard fell off of his horse and received a great blow to the head a few days before he received word from Hastings that his brother the king had died. Maybe that’s the reason for the alleged change in his personality.

Now…admittedly Hughes wrote this book in mid-2000 and the historical analysis pendulum has swung a bit more to center in the past 14 years. I’ve read that current Richard III scholars no longer believe he did all the dastardly things he was convicted (in absentia and on hearsay — which isn’t admissible in a court of law) of doing 500+ years ago. But there’s Ross’s and Hicks’ biographies, and a handful of other books…”Selectively murderous” is what I remember from Ross, and I’ve been warned to avoid Hicks.

I know there’s Good King Richard? by Jeremy Potter, and the most excellent The Maligned King by Annette Carson (both foundationed in solid research), but I’m not seeing the centered pendulum of academia, so perhaps someone could provide a list of the more moderate scholars and their writings?

Hughes’ writing is broad-stroke, and his matter-of-fact insistence on “GUILTY!” for everything — with no more “proof” than hearsay writings decades past Bosworth — is wearying.  He isn’t as bad in tone as Desmond what’s-his-name’s poison, but close.

I’m going to continue wading through this thing, looking for useful morsels of information on Richard and his medieval Catholicism, but it’s at a cost. I’m having to read the book in short spurts. After 30 minutes, I feel like I need a shower to wash off the bad feelings that come with this book. I’m not exaggerating about the shower.

I know Richard wasn’t all treacle and divinity, but eesh. When you lay out the catalog of terrible sins he’s supposed to have committed (and I hadn’t done this in awhile), it’s a list that is unbelievable. Not because a medieval warlord wouldn’t have done those things, but because if he had done all those things, a solid evidence trail would be there for at least some of them. The “proof” wouldn’t all be hearsay and deliberate Tudor smear campaign.

If you go researching Vlad the Impaler (1431-1476/77), you run into eyewitness accounts of his medieval warlord nastiness in great, violent, and bloody detail. You learn about his childhood, his training in cruelty from the Turks when he was held captive as a child, his political and personal reasons for acting so violently toward others when he ruled. You have no trouble placing him in context with his surroundings and culture. You don’t get, “It was rumored that he impaled his enemies on spikes,” or, “Some say he nailed the visiting diplomats’ turbans to their heads, but as yet I haven’t been able to ascertain why he did this.” You get stark information. (He nailed the turbans to the diplomats’ heads because said diplomats refused to remove their turbans in his presence. Obviously, the penalty for insulting the Voivode of Wallachia could be severe.)

You can stack up the 15th century historical record in the case of Vlad and know it supports your conclusion. You back away from the blood and mayhem and realize there’s no question about it: he was a ruthless medieval ruler and a great model for Dracula.

On the other hand, the trouble with researching Richard is that you have to dig through a lot of backstairs gossip and keep digging (as Annette Carson has) before you get to reliable contemporary details regarding him, his reign, or his life. Many writers — academic and fiction as well — seem unwilling to do this. Annette Carson is the only writer I know who has based her work on the events of Richard III’s reign as they actually happened, and based on reports in only the original sources — are there others?

I simply cannot understand why historians seem to lose all their power of discernment when they come to research and write about Richard III. Shakespeare wrote a powerful play, but it’s dramatic fiction, not history. Why does tradition treat a playwright and his 16th-century sources as reliable historical accounts of actual events when they’re not?

Does this happen with other historical figures, or only with Richard?

Oh. Wait. It happens with Rasputin as well. So there’s another “He was too evil!” example of someone who lost his reputation to his murderer.

I’m going to take that shower now.

PS. Someone has whispered to me that I’ll find more sympathetic and reasonable assessments of Richard’s piety from Sutton & Visser-Fuchs, & Pamela Tudor-Craig. Thank heaven for interlibrary loan….


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