And to cap it all, we even have Kittens in the Tower!
Oh, for heaven’s sake!
Right, there is a famous “story” about one of our 15th-century princes of Wales, specifically Edward of Lancaster (or Westminster), seven-year-old son and heir of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou. The fame goes that after the 2nd Battle of St Albans, which his side won, his mother asked him to decide the fate of two opposition knights who had been found guarding his father, the captive, rather weak-minded Henry VI. Little Edward chose to have their heads lopped off, even though his father protested. The prince was to eventually come off worst at the Battle of Tewkesbury, at the age of eighteen. (There are various versions of how he died, and at whose hand.)
Royal boys had armour in those days, and there are examples in the White Tower. Was Edward wearing something like this at the time of his supposed seven-year-old bloodthirstiness?
Well, of course, no one knows if the story is true. If it is, the adjective “bloodthirsty” is well earned where Edward of Lancaster is concerned. If it’s untrue, well, he is exonerated. But, given all the ferocious training young aristocratic and royal boys had to go through from the age of seven, he would certainly have already been faced with the brutal reality of medieval warfare. They all were. They learned to handle weapons that could kill, and were shown exactly how to put an end to an opponent. Some idea of this can be seen at http://www.lordsandladies.org/knighthood-training.htm and the following illustrations show more.
Imagine our little boys being confronted with such an armoury, and told they will be expected to be master of it all before they’re even men. Imagine them even being sent away to strangers to start learning how to shed blood. Unthinkable.
Like Edward of Lancaster, Richard of Gloucester (the future Richard III) is another example of this same rigorous knightly tuition from the age of seven, and learned every battle skill he might ever need. And he was very good at it. By seventeen he had his own independent command, and took part in the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury. It was expected of him, and he met the challenge.
The boys in the Tower were Richard’s nephews. The elder was another Edward, Prince of Wales of questionable legitimacy (there are considerable doubts that Henry VI was Edward of Lancaster’s father), and was coming up for thirteen when he and his younger brother Richard of Shrewsbury (aged ten) were ensconced in the royal apartments of the Tower in 1483, after their father’s unexpected death. Both boys would have been well into their training.
They were princes of the blood. They were educated, conditioned with a sense of their superiority and importance, and learning the hows and ways of defending themselves in battle. So, in my opinion, big-eyed, clingy, vulnerable, little golden angels they were not. Yet all we see are paintings that follow the same melted-marshmallow theme.
Do we ever see similar gushing illustrations of little eight-year-old Richard of Gloucester, in exile, clinging to his not-much-older brother George of Clarence after the deaths of their father and another elder brother, Edmund? No. Why? Because there are Tudor pawmarks all over the advent of the nauseating chocolate-box images. For the advent of everything concerning the boys of 1483, in fact. There is no evidence that they were killed at all, let alone by their wicked Uncle Richard. And they weren’t in a dungeon in the tower, they were in the royal palace apartments. Theories of their fate abound, of course, but that is not of concern here. And—whisper it loudly!—the Tudors themselves weren’t without good motive for despatching the boys.
Anyway, if I never see another sugary portrait of these yucky little angels, I will be well pleased.
(On another note entirely, there is another Murrey and Blue post about how portraits can influence us. See https://murreyandblue.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/can-a-picture-paint-a-thousand-words/)
Everyone knows about Leslau and his theories concerning the Hans Holbein portrait of Sir Thomas More and his family. In Leslau’s opinion, the portrait reveals much about the fates of the “Princes in the Tower”. Another Holbein painting, “The Ambassadors” is also filled with secret messages. Or so it is said. I cannot argue one way or another, because I do not know.
Now it seems there are similar mysteries to be solved in the National Portrait Gallery of Richard III. The hands/rings are crafted to expose cryptic clues and give answers concerning his supposed involvement in the deaths of the same two boys mentioned in regard to the More portrait above.
If you follow this link:-
http://www.holbeinartworks.org/efaqssevenkrichardiiitwentyone.htm you will come to a long article (some 70 pages in all) about Richard III. It details Richard’s activities from early on, for instance, when still Duke of Gloucester, he would not accept a French bribe. It dissects the likes of Commynes and Mancini, revealing how the use of invisible ink (probably lemon juice) added information for certain eyes only, almost like a 15th-century le Carré. And at the centre of it all is Richard, plotted against and lied about, his fault being to “underestimate his enemies and overestimate his friends”. His fate being to be innocent, yet
“proven “ guilty by his self-interested foes, especially the French and Henry VII, often working in unison.
So here we go into the pages of ENIGMAS: THE PRINCES AND THE KING: RICHARD III, which commences:-
“#1. “Apart from the Holbein evidence, does “new” documentary evidence exonerate Richard III from the charge of having murdered his two nephews?”
“Apart from the Holbein allegations, you ask if “new” documentary evidence exonerates Richard III from the charge of having murdered Edward V and Richard, Duke of York. The short answer is ‘No’. However, if DNA findings are positive it means that new evidence can be added to old evidence that will exonerate Richard III for all time. In the event, we will request further instructions from the inquiry. For the present, we continue to test ALL evidence by NIET criteria. The aim and objective is to plan on paper and build on rock.
“To this end, I offer for the first time some seventy or more pages of abstracts from the files of new NIET positive and negative evidence entitled The Princes and the King : Richard III. The pages are divided in ‘Parts’, 1 through 8.”
Given the length and depth of all this, I trust you will forgive me for not attempting to go into great detail.
This link gives more details concerning the NPG portrait, and in particular the configuration of Richard’s fingers and rings.
I will not spoil it all by revealing too much here, but suggest that if you don’t know about all this already, then an hour or so spent delving through the articles will be rather rewarding. Even if you end up pooh-poohing the whole thing.
Whether one believes such theories or not, unravelling them is fascinating, and always—always—there are some points that have enough ring of truth about them to get us wondering if there’s something in it after all. Please excuse the awful pun.
It’s said a picture can paint a thousand words. It certainly can but not always accurately. It can distort the truth. Art work based on the Ricardian period is certainly true of this. Take for example the stunning painting by Edwin Austin Abbey, Richard Duke of Gloucester and the Lady Anne.
Richard Duke of Gloucester and Lady Anne, Edwin Austin Abbey, 1896.
Here we have an angst ridden Anne, while a definitely humpbacked Gloucester offers her a ring. It just makes you want to shout at the canvas ‘run, run Anne and don’t look back..!’ although it should in fairness be remembered the painting is based on a scene from Shakespeare’s version of Richard lll rather than the actual facts.
There have been numerous paintings of Richard of Shrewsbury being removed from his mother, a distressed looking Elizabeth Wydeville, and although for all I know Elizabeth may well have been distressed on that day, it aint looking good for the ‘wicked uncle’ is it?
This version is by Philip Calderon. Young Richard gazes tenderly at his mother while being yanked away by his arm by a portly gentleman in red..poor little blighter.
A couple of paintings of the ‘princes’ do stand out for me. The beautiful one by Millais (he used his daughter as a model for one of the princes) where he has the boys, standing in a darkened stairway of the Tower (where, to add poignancy to the scene, some believe their remains were found buried) clinging to each other while a dark shadow lurks ominously at the top of the stairs…Yikes!
The Princes in the Tower, John Everett Millais 1878.
Another one. this time by Paul Delaroche, King Edward V and the Duke of York in the Tower, depicts the two young boys, gazing into the middle distance, unaware, hopefully, of their impending doom, while their spaniel’s attention, tail between his legs, is drawn to the door. These artists certainly knew how to twang on the old heart strings! Great stuff but maybe not very helpful to some in forming positive perceptions of Richard’s character.
King Edward V and the Duke of York in the Tower, Paul Delaroche 1831.
But finally, one that is actually closer to the truth, from a mural in the Royal Exchange by the artist Sigismund Goetz, and one I can clearly remember, as a small child, from its inclusion in Cassell’s History of the English People. I would gaze at it, not properly understanding what it actually represented, but nevertheless entranced. It was not until years later that I could understand what was going on and who the people were in the painting. A grave, noble, and rather handsome humpless Duke of Gloucester being offered the Crown at Baynards Castle. Beautiful ladies in butterfly headdresses look down at the scene from the top of the stairs….its Cicely and Anne!. A rather frivolous looking young man, leaning nonchalantly against the stairs, as an elderly man, almost hidden from sight, leans over and surreptitously whispers in his ear..ah!..tis Buckingham and Morton..meanwhile in the background Gloucester supporters , in harness, roar their approval. Splendid stuff and about time too.
Mural in the Royal Exchange, Offer of the Kingship to Richard Duke of Gloucester at Baynards Castle June 26 1483 , Sigismund Goetz
Paul Delaroche also painted The Execution of Lady Jane Grey..not one of our Ricardian characters… but a descendant of one, Elizabeth Wydeville, via her son Thomas Grey, lst Marquess of Dorset. Delaroche again gave his artistic license free reign..Jane was in fact executed in the open air, in the part of the Tower that is known as Tower Green where Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and also Margaret of Salisbury, Clarence’s daughter were executed.
The execution of Lady Jane Grey, Paul Delaroche 1833
So at least one of these extremely gifted artists managed to get it right in terms of accuracy as to what actually happened. What gifts for the art world but for the greater part, I do wonder if in the past, these paintings proved for some people to be rather a hindrance for the rehabilitation of Richard’s character.
Written in 1989, The Wench is Dead was broadcast on Radio 4 in 1992 and was John Thaw’s penultimate television case as Morse on ITV in 1998.
“A breakthrough in the search for Richard III’s remains was the fact that Dr Ashdown-Hill, who is a genealogist as well as historian, had used DNA science to trace a descendant of the king – Mrs Joy Ibsen who lived in Canada.
“He is now using that DNA sequencing to dispel the centuries-old myths surrounding the fate of the Princes in the Tower. Are the ‘bones in the urn’ in Westminster Abbey really those of the young princes? Dr Ashdown-Hill tempted students with the news that new evidence could be revealed later in the year.”
How exciting! I do not know what the news might be, but it seems that Dr Ashdown-Hill has something intriguing up his capacious sleeve, or so he has hinted in a talk at Brentwood School. Has he discovered something that might, at last, lead to the identification of the bones in the urn in Westminster Abbey?
We can but wait!
Josephine Tey’s novel Brat Farrar is widely perceived as having been based on the Victorian Tichborne case where a well-upholstered Australia-based butcher’s son posed as the missing claimant to a baronetcy. Arthur Orton/ Castro persuaded Roger Tichborne’s mother that he was the heir to the title, but very few others and lost his court cases.
In a book serialised by BBC1 in 1986, in their classic “Sunday teatime literature slot”, Tey makes some of the Ashby family circumstances different and introduces an interesting psychological feature: Simon knows that Farrar cannot be his elder twin, Patrick, because … but we won’t spoil the ending for those who have not yet read it. This frequently occurs in great literature and Rattigan, for example, plays with the facts of George Archer-Shee’s postal order problems at Dartmouth Naval College in The Winslow Boy.
Is Tey implying something more? We all know that she also wrote The Daughter of Time, in which she employs the device of a fictional mid-C20 policeman to explore the facts about the “Princes”. Is Brat Farrar, written two years earlier, a previous attempt at this objective. Is Patrick actually the younger “Prince” (or a combination of both) and is Simon his, or their, brother-in-law? It is more than sixty years too late to ask Tey but perhaps she wrote about it somewhere, privately.
There are some very good biographies of Edward IV, by the likes of Pollard, Ross, Kleinke and Santiuste but surely none have tracked his movements, sometimes month by month, like this book does. This is not a full biography and it does not claim to be, but focuses on Edward’s romantic life – his known partners including his legal wife, Lady Eleanor Talbot, Henry Duke of Somerset (!), Elizabeth Lambert and Elizabeth Woodville, as well as the more … elusive … ones.
Edward had other children, apart from those born to Elizabeth Woodville, and Ashdown-Hill tries to identify their mothers. Two of these children were Lady Lumley and Arthur Wayte.
Having devoted much of his nine previous books to explaining the context of the Three Estates offering the throne to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, the writer now goes further into the mystery of “Princes” through an excellent appendix by Glenn Moran, which takes their female line forward to a lady who died earlier this year. It also encompasses the complication of someone who definitely ended his life in the Tower about sixty years later and whose mtDNA would almost certainly be identical.
Together with this discovery, we know somewhere else that Edward V and his remaining brother cannot be found. It seems that we only have to wait for the urn to be accessible to determine its contents, one way or the other.
The following is courtesy of my good friend Eileen Bates, whose hard work has unveiled the truth about Edward IV’s tomb and those mysterious children’s coffins at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. Could they be those of the boys in the Tower?
The above is a Section from the Plan of Grave Stones of St George’s Chapel, Windsor, 1789. Edward’s tomb and the presumed vault containing his son George can be clearly seen on the right. This is the largest version of this plan that I have been able to find.
There has been a story hanging around for some time now that when Edward’s vault/coffin was discovered in 1790, an adjoining vault was also discovered which contained the coffins of two children, at the time thought to be those of Edward’s children – George who died aged 2, and Mary who died aged 15. A ledger stone was laid naming George. A drawing/diagram that was made at that time was on St George’s timeline clearing showing the ledger stone with the inscription.
Again, I have been unable to find a clearer version of this illustration.
In 1810, during further work being made at St George’s, the actual lead coffins of George and Mary were discovered in another part of the chapel. So, whose little coffins were in the vault beside Edward and Elizabeth? Thus the legend was born that there were two mysterious coffins in the vault, which might, just might, belong to the missing boys in the Tower. Eileen wondered if, for example, Buckingham might have murdered the boys, and Richard (not guilty of a hand in it!) then had them buried secretly next to their father.
The puzzle of the coffins appeared on the web page of the chapel and also an article in the Richard III Society Bulletin in September 2001, by someone who worked at the chapel in the capacity of a steward. In the article it stated that further investigation would be made about the vault and its contents, but unfortunately this was never updated.
Together with another friend on the RIII Society Forum, Eileen made an on-line search for the report that had been made at the time. It was found but could not be opened. Eileen then asked the St George’s Archivist directly, who kindly responded on 22nd November, 2016, to the effect that the original information on their website was inaccurate. In 1790 the report related that a vault was noticed, but not explored, and it was thought it would contain the coffins of the children, George, Duke of Bedford, and Princess Mary. But then in 1810 their coffins were discovered elsewhere in the chapel, so it was no longer possible that they lay in the vault in the North Quire Aisle, next to their parents.
The blog posted in 2012 misinterpreted the information, and speculated that the coffins in Edward’s vault belonged to the missing boys from the Tower. This has now been corrected on the website.
So, the whole story is based on an omission. When the secret vault was discovered it was not explored, but was believed to probably hold the remains of Edward’s children, George and Mary, who were subsequently located elsewhere No one actually looked. If there are coffins in there next to Edward and Elizabeth, it is not known when they date from or who they are. St George’s webpage has now been edited to reflect this.
So, Eileen has finally solved the mystery of the coffins in the St George’s vault, that could have contained the boys in the Tower. They are not George and Mary. In fact, no one even knows if there are coffins in there at all, because no one has ever looked. It was just taken for granted.
viscountessw: Which, of course, provides another mystery!
At the time of writing this (25th November 2016), the St George’s website appears to be down. http://www.stgeorges-windsor.org/about-st-georges/history/st-georges-timeline.html