There are hopes that a lock of hair in the possession of a private collector in the United States may provide the key to Leonardo da Vinci‘s DNA. The hair is to be put on display at a function that is timed “….to coincide with the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death, which occurred on May 2, 1519….” The function will also mark the commencement of scientific investigations into the hair’s origins.
As with Richard III, the DNA of the hair will be traced through generations of Leonardo’s known family, to relatives who are alive now. Let us hope that a successful connection is made!
I must state from the outset that I could not find any contemporary likenesses of Henry Holand, so the above is of him as played by an actor unknown to me.
The life of Henry Holand, 3rd Duke of Exeter—*actually 4th Duke, by my calculations, see below—has never been of particular interest to me, but I did think that he was murdered at sea, and his body dumped in the water. It was believed that as he was a tiresome Lancastrian, he fell victim to Yorkist retribution. Specifically, the retribution of his former brother-in-law, Edward IV. At least, that was my impression. Apart from that, I also understood that Henry Holand was a very unpleasant person.
Henry was born in the Tower of London on 27th June, 1430. At his baptism he was carried from the Tower to Coldharbour, and then taken by barge to St. Stephen’s Westminster, where he was christened. (I mention this because we all know Coldharbour, and its Ricardian connections.)
Henry Holand married Anne of York, who was born in 1439 at Fotheringhay. She was the elder sister of Kings Edward IV and Richard III, and it was her mitochondrial DNA that proved the remains discovered in Leicester were those of Richard III.
When Henry was aged 19, in 1449, he became 3rd Duke of Exeter and Lord High Admiral. The Holands had started as Ricardians—Richard II—but had then Lancastrian supporters of Henry IV. Henry Hoiland supported Lancastrian Henry VI when the Yorkist Edward IV came to the throne. The duke was thus attainted after the Battle of Towton on 29th March 1461, and fled to exile in Scotland.
His estates had been forfeited, but Holand regained many of them when Henry VI was returned briefly to the throne. But then the estates were forfeit again when Edward IV surged back to power.
Meanwhile, Holand’s wife had managed to obtain all his estates for herself. Such are the perks of being Edward IV’s sister. An Act of Parliament passed in 1464 meant that “such gifts and grants that the king made to Anne, his sister, wife of Henry, Duke of Exeter, were to all intents good in law to the only use of the said Anne.” (Tower Records). Edward granted her the Holand castles, manors, etc. in Wales, Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Wilts to herself for life, with the remainder to her daughter by the Duke of Exeter.
Henry Holand returned to England in 1469, still supporting Lancaster, and was wounded at the Battle of Warwick.
Then, on 14th April, 1471, he fought at the Battle of Barnet, at which the Lancastrians were beaten, and the great Earl of Warwick, the “Kingmaker”, was killed.
Sir James Ramsey, in his book, Lancaster and York, vol. ii, p. 370, states that Henry Holand was in the Tower of London until June of 1475. On 21st June, 1471, a bill of 6s. 8d. was paid to William Sayer, purveyor to the Tower of London to feed “Henry, called Duke of Exeter”, for seven days from 26th May, and again 6s. 8d. for the week beginning 31st May. Rymer, vol. xi, p. 713.
Henry Holand and Anne had parted in 1464, and were divorced on 11th December, 1467. They had one child, a daughter, also named Anne. Then the Duchess Anne married Yorkist Sir Thomas St Leger in 1474-ish. Another daughter was born of this second match, on 14th January, 1476, and they called her Anne as well! So, we have Anne of York, Lady Anne Holand and Lady Anne St Leger.
On learning that his wife was pregnant, St Leger engineered a legal settlement that would enable his child, Anne St Leger, to inherit everything in the event of his wife’s death and the death (without issue) of Lady Anne Holand. I’ll bet Henry Holand appreciated that!
Henry must have been a brooding presence for his ex-wife. In 1475, around the time that she realised she was expecting St Leger’s child, Henry Holand had redeemed himself enough with Edward IV to volunteer (and be accepted) by that king for an expedition/invasion of France. This venture began at around the time Anne realised she was expecting St Leger’s child.
It was on the return voyage from France that Henry’s body was found bobbing in the Channel (or on the beach at Dover, according to another version).
Everyone scratched their heads and spread innocent hands as to what had befallen him. Edward IV may or may not have had a tiresome Lancastrian eliminated—he wasn’t above such things—but there was someone else with a good reason to dispose of Henry Holand.
Thomas St Leger was also on the expedition to France, and had been prominent in the proceedings. “St Leger played a key role in ending the Hundred Years’ War when he signed the Treaty of Picquigny with Louis XI on 29 August 1475.” At this time he knew he was to be a father, and had accomplished the settlement that could so greatly benefit his child’s future. Thanks to his foresight, little Anne St Leger might one day inherit the entire Holand fortune!
But while Henry Holand was still alive, there was a chance he’d return to complete favour, remarry and produce more legitimate offspring. Perhaps male. And that the king might decide he should have his inheritance back. The way politics were at that time, heaven knows who might occupy the throne? Another Lancastrian, perchance? Oh, no, I don’t think Thomas would have relished that scenario. So, as the English forces were returning to England from France, St Leger could have found an opportunity to see that Henry Holand was despatched to the hereafter. Heave-ho, over the side you go!
Well, that’s my theory. Far-fetched? I don’t think so. It’s a possible explanation for Henry’s immersion in the Channel.
Yes, there were others who loathed the very sight of Henry Holand, a man who seems to have signally lacked the famous Holand charm. But St Leger’s situation was different. He had a very personal reason to want Holand out of the way for good and all. Of course, let it not be forgotten that St Leger himself would one day become a treacherous brother-in-law. In 1483 he rebelled against Richard III, and paid the price.
*And I haven’t forgotten the asterisk at the beginning of this post. Why do I regard Henry Holland as the 4th Duke of Exeter? Because it is my belief that his grandfather’s (John Holand, 1st Duke of Exeter, d. January 1400) eldest son, Sir Richard Holand, who died at the end of 1400, survived the 1st Duke’s death long enough to be considered of age, and had thus inherited the right to his father’s titles—as much as Edward IV’s eldest son was Edward V! I know the 1st ~Duke had been demoted and attainted at the time of his death, but the title was resurrected and then given to his second son, another John. I still think this would have made the 2nd Duke actually the 3rd. OK, so I’m an amateur and don’t know what I’m talking about!
Bisham Abbey was the burial place of the Earls of Salisbury, and also Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, the ‘Kingmaker’ and his unfortunate grandson Edward of Warwick, executed on a trumped-up charge by Henry VII. The Abbey was destroyed in the Reformation, and on the grounds now stands the National Sports Centre, where many professional athletes train. However, it is less known that it is not just a sports centre but a hotel too, and that although the priory buildings are gone, the medieval manor house still remains.
The house is very striking–and what a history! It was first built and owned by the Knights Templar, passing into the hands of King Edward II when the order was dissolved. Elizabeth, the wife of Robert the Bruce, was kept in captivity there for a while, along with the Bruce’s daughter, the tragic young Marjorie.
Later, in 1335, William Montacute, Earl of Salisbury purchased the building. He founded a priory that stood alongside the manor house, and he and many of his descendants and their spouses were buried there. Burials in the priory include:
William Montacute, 1st Earl of Salisbury & 3rd Baron Montacute, d.1344 along with Catherine, his wife.
William Montacute. 2nd Earl of Salisbury, d.1397
William, d.1379/83, son of William Montacute, 2nd Earl of Salisbury
John Montacute. 3rd Earl of Salisbury, d.1400 along with Maud his wife
Thomas Montacute. 4th Earl of Salisbury, d.1428 and his two wives. He and his three-tier monument (as described in his will) can be seen depicted in the east window of Bisham Church.
Richard Neville. 5th Earl of Salisbury, d.1460 (aftermath Battle of Wakefield)
Sir Thomas, d.1460, son of Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury (Battle of Wakefield)
John Neville, d.1471, Marquis of Montague and Earl of Northumberland (Battle of Barnet)
Richard Neville “Warwick the Kingmaker”, d.1471, 6th Earl of Salisbury and 16th Earl of Warwick (Battle of Barnet)
Prince Edward, 8th Earl of Salisbury & 18th Earl of Warwick, d.1499, son of Prince George, Duke of Clarence (executed)
Arthur Pole, son of Richard Pole & Margaret, Countess of Salisbury, 1539
Margaret Pole, tragic daughter of George of Clarence and Isabel Neville, also lived at Bisham for a while, and a dovecote, still standing, is thought to have been raised by her.
The priory church was completely destroyed in the Reformation, although some of the cloister remains attached to the side of the manor house. Judging by its position, this would place the east end of the priory church, with its high status burials, somewhere under the modern tennis courts. So the Kingmaker and his relatives lie snugly under tarmac, much as Richard III lay in the buried remnants of Greyfriars. If there was ever a move to locate them, it would be quite easy to identify the remains; if autosomal DNA could be extracted, they all should have close similarity to Richard (the 5th Earl being his uncle, and the Kingmaker being a cousin, and Edward of Warwick should share Richard’s Y-Dna through George, as well as a lot of autosomal DNA). Several of the skeletons should also show battle wounds, and several evidence of beheading.
Although the priory site has been obliterated, part of two tombs have, in fact, survived–although they are not in Bisham. In the tiny, sleepy village of Burghfield, a few miles outside Reading, the broken effigy of Richard Neville, 5th earl of Salisbury lies in the porch next to a lady who is NOT his wife but most likely one of his ancestors. Records from the 1600’s describe how Salisbury’s effigy was ‘dragged to Newbury by wild horses’! How it ended up in Burghfield is unknown but it seems the local lord had some Neville ancestry, so he may have rescued it because of that. Although the face seems to have been mutilated, Salisbury’s effigy shows a great deal of fine craftmanship and must have been very spectacular in its day.
Top left: Salisbury’s effigy, Burghfield; Top right. The tennis court where the burial most likely lie. The rest: Views of the manor house, including the cloister.
Here is the BBC’s official post about Dr. John Ashdown-Hill, who died last Friday. However, his permanent legacy includes these Powerpoint presentations, originally devised so that he can still educate you about Richard, his life, family and era when he first became unwell enough to do so in person. Alternatively, this is the East Anglian Daily Times’ take.
This excellent post from Nerdalicious, whose tabs appropriately include “History of Folk and Fairy Tales”, shows just how desperately ridiculous the Cairo case really is, particularly when they treat More’s first half as a Fifth Gospel and ignore his second.
With permission, we present an extract from Kristie Davis Dean’s book “On the trail of the Yorks”, with a particular focus on Margaret of Burgundy and the duchy ruled, during her marriage and widowhood, by her father-in-law, husband, stepdaughter and stepson-in-law. Mechelen is, of course, where a certain historian sought Margaret’s remains, although their identity could not yet be proven.
Finding a present day mitochondrial DNA match for either Henry I, buried in Reading Abbey in 1135, or Stephen, buried with his family in Kent’s Faversham Abbey in 1154, is going to be very difficult. However, one factor is often overlooked: Stephen is the son of Henry I’s sister so both are descended in the female line from Matilda of Flanders. In other words, if both sites still contain likely remains of noblemen between fifty-five and seventy, they ought to be identical in their mtDNA. At Faversham Abbey, younger male remains should belong to Eustace, Stephen’s son and heir who predeceased him.
……… in which Dr. John Ashdown-Hill, who located the mtDNA match, tells nerdalicious what these findings really mean, not what the Cairo brigade (eg Hicks, Dan Jones and their acolytes) are already twisting them to mean:
1) Given that Richard III is only four generations down from Edward III, whilst the Somerset samples are about twenty down, they are about five times as likely to contain the “milkman”‘s DNA. In the interview, he even mentions the John of Gaunt – John Beaufort “connection” as a possibility for the broken link, which would substitute the (mere gentleman) Sir Hugh Swynford for Gaunt.
2) One of the live Somerset “cousins”, descended from the 5th Duke of Beaufort, doesn’t match the others, suggesting that the broken link could be quite recent, as well as the extra one this shows.
Just to emphasise a few points:
1) “forensic evidence in the 1950s was not exacting” – it wasn’t in the 1930s either, as we know.
2) Richard III is unquestionably the template for such cases. First, find your location. Then find a mtDNA or Y-chromosome comparator, preferably one who is still alive (but a mixed line will not do). Then find permission to dig and compare the DNA sample. Consider the height, age, approximate year of death, dietary evidence and wounds.
3) Harold was Richard III’s ancestor, via Russia and France. Both were experienced and successful commanders who had reigned for a short time having been chosen (by the Witangemot or Parliament) after a longer reign by an Edward who had reclaimed the Crown. Harold had won battles in Wales in 1064 just as Richard’s 1482 campaign in Scotland was a success. Both were defeated by French invasions led by challengers with no valid claim.
The best of luck to anyone identifying Harold II, or Alfred, particularly with the DNA comparison.