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Seeking the Real Duke of Clarence

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about Richard III’s brother, George of Clarence. You know the one–typical ‘middle child’, ‘false fleeting Clarence’, the one drowned in Malmsey who was also a drunk and quite possibly insane, hanging, as he did,  old ladies on the vaguest of suspicions.

And I began considering–is George, like Richard, maligned, doomed forever to be hidden in an obscuring web of myth and invention?

Certainly he was disloyal, joining Warwick against his own brother, Edward IV. He created a fuss when Richard wanted to marry Anne Neville, his protests lasting several years. He did indeed accuse Ankaret Twynho, and others, of poisoning his wife and baby son–and hanged the old lady after a brief and decidedly unfair trial.

But mad? A drunk? And in regards to his wife and child…what if he were right?

Like Richard’s supposed hump, limp, withered arm and other defects, George’s ‘insanity’ and ‘drunkenness’ appear to have been exaggerated if not completely  invented,  mainly in fiction. (And yes, I admit I am guilty of adding to this stereotype myself.) There is no mention in primary sources of George drinking or being dissolute; that idea seems to have come solely from his supposed death in a vat of malmsey, and the questions it raised (ie. Did Edward have him drowned in booze because he liked a tipple and maybe even requested such an end as a macabre  final joke?) Fickleness aplenty went on, certainly, and his last acts with the Twynyho affair were erratic, but he wasn’t spouting gibberish, having hallucinations, or lying catatonic like poor old Henry VI. He defended himself  in regards to the charges laid against him by the King, and apparently one of Elizabeth Woodville’s main fears was that people would follow him and her children would never inherit the throne. The people of England were hardly likely to follow another mad king. This implies to me that George was not generally seen as a loony, treacherous lush, but someone who might have had some decent enough qualities, or at very least some kind of strong charisma.

So that brings us back to the whole mystery surrounding the death of George’s wife, Isabel Neville, and his infant son Richard of York. Many have claimed Isabel died of childbirth-related illness…but she actually succumbed two and a half months after the birth. Childbed fever, the biggest killer of women in her day, normally took its victims far sooner. TB has also been suggested, and it is certainly not impossible, for in some victims TB symptoms can appear with frightening suddenness and ‘gallop’ on to their bitter end, but there is no written evidence of her having such symptoms. In the interim between childbed and her death, she travelled from Tewkesbury to Warwick, which implies she was not grievously ill at that point.  The baby too was alive and outlived its mother by about 10 days. So both mother and  child lived more than two months after the birth and made a moderately long journey without incident before their deaths.

Ankaret Twynyho (nee Hawkeston) herself is also the subject of some myth-making. In fiction she is often portrayed as a simple ordinary local woman, perhaps the midwife who delivered Isabel’s baby. However, she was not a peasant woman, nor is their any evidence she was Isabel’s midwife. It is merely known the she ‘served’ in the Clarence household. She did leave George’s service rather quickly after Isabel’s demise however, going to her home in Keyford, Somerset in the days before George accused her of murder.

Of John Thursby, who was hanged alongside her, little is known, save that he was from Warwick and said to be her accomplice. The third person who was accused,  managed (somehow and rather oddly) to escape any consequences, and is, interestingly, the one who George claimed to be the ‘mastermind’ behind the supposed poisoning. Strangely he is seldom mentioned in regards to the incident–and my feeling is his possible involvement needs to be re-assessed.

This suspect was Sir Roger Tocotes  of Bromham, long time associate of George of Clarence. (Michael Hicks went so far as to suggest George might even have called him ‘friend.’) He had supported the House of York and fought at Towton, Barnet and Tewkesbury (where he may have been knighted). He even accompanied George on Edward IV’s ill-fated ‘invasion’ of France.

Why would George think this seemingly loyal supporter masterminded his wife and child’s death? What would be Tocote’s reason? What evidence existed at the time that made George believe him involved? Some writers say Tocotes ‘escaped’ George’s vengeance, others that he received an aquittal (from the king?) despite being the prime accused in  Isabel’s ‘murder.’

Later, long after George’s death,  Roger Tocotes would go on to be one of the Duke of Buckingham’s supporters  in the October rebellion of 1483. (Richard pardoned him.)  He then fought for Henry Tudor at Bosworth and did rather well for himself under the Tudor regime, becoming Sheriff of Wiltshire for a second time and also a Knight of the Body. He is buried in a very lavish chantry chapel in the parish church in Bromham, Wiltshire.

Could Roger Tocotes have indeed been a  turncoat who went from friend to traitor and tried to  bring Clarence and his family down? If so, who was behind it, what was the reason? After Isabel’s death, George was apparently afraid of being poisoned himself and blamed the King, his brother. He claimed Edward meant to ‘consume him in likewise as a candle is consumed by burning’. George’s seemingly wild claims have led  over the years to a probably false view of him as being paranoid and mentally unstable. There is always a chance that he may have been genuinely afraid, not crazy–and that he may have truly had something to fear.

Maybe Roger Tocotes, lying in his graffiti-covered tomb in Bromham church, took a dark and unhappy secret to the grave.

 

georgeP1220521

 

 

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Anne of Brittany’s heart has been stolen; literally….

Anne of Brittany

At least the word “presumed” has been allowed in! It introduces an element of doubt about Richard III. Which is better than nothing.

I hope this relic is returned to where it belongs. This sort of thievery is despicable.

Footnote: I am delighted to be able to report that since I wrote this article, the stolen treasure has now been found. See here.

The merry widows of medieval England….?

The above illustrations show two royal widows. On the left Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, mother of both Edward IV and Richard III. On the right an imagined meeting between Edward IV and the widow he was to marry, Elizabeth Woodville.

In this modern age, when we are striving to live longer and longer, it’s hard to imagine what it could be like in the medieval period if someone, especially a widow, lived on into their eighties. Oh, yes, some did. We are always told that medieval widows had much more freedom than other women, but that is questionable. Merry widows? Not necessarily.

The following is based on Medieval Women by Henrietta Leyser.

In the twelfth century, Maud be Bohun was widowed at the age of ten. She married again, but through her long life (she was an octogenarian) she retained the dowry she had inherited as a child. This was to the considerable dismay and disadvantage of her first husband’s family, who had to wait for her eventual demise. The same can be said of Margaret of Brotherton of Framlingham, who survived two husbands, four children and died in the same year as her grandson (17-year-old John Hastings, 3rd Earl of Pembroke, who was killed in a jousting accident at court of Richard II at the end of December, 1389).

seal-margaret-brotherton

The seal of Margaret of Brotherton

 

stone-head-framlingham

This late medieval carving of a woman’s head is one of five at Framlingham Castle that may be likenesses of the Mowbrays, Margaret Brotherton’s descendants

More about Margaret of Brotherton, see http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/learn/histories/women-in-history/womens/margaret-brotherton/

During the long lives of such widows, their families and in-laws could suffer great hardship because the widows held large parts of the inheritance. The two ladies above were from aristocratic backgrounds, but those in lesser circumstances could cause penury! Mind you, even rich widows could find themselves forced into remarriage. They had to do all they could to stay one step ahead of forceful, unwelcome suitors. (see https://wordpress.com/post/murreyandblue.wordpress.com/27858) Or, of course, they could deliberately seek another marriage because of the protection afforded by a man. It depended on the woman, and was all a case of swings and roundabouts.

But under the Anglo-Norman and Angevin kings, widows had no choice in the matter, because they were in the gift of the king. Yes, really. Would-be suitors paid handsomely into the royal coffers for this gift of marriage to a particular widow of their choice! It must have been like selecting from a menu. Eventually, the coronation charter of Henry I contained promises regarding widows’ rights of dower and that they would not be forced into marriage. Then Magna Carta further supported the rights of these women, who were not to pay for their dower or be compelled to remarry. Empty promises, it seems, because the practice continued to fill the treasury. Of course, it could work the other way too, and a widow could (if she had sufficient funds) pay the king not to give her away. In either case, the king profited.

Then came the growing practice of holding lands in jointure, which gave widows greater financial security. Unfortunately for them, this also made them more desirable as wives. According to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged dictionary, jointure is:

A – (1) : the joint tenancy of an estate; (2) : the estate so held

B – (1) : an estate settled on a wife to be taken by her in lieu of dower; (2) : a settlement upon the wife of a freehold estate (as in lands or tenements) for her lifetime at least to take effect upon the decease of the husband and to act as a bar to dower.

Yet another aspect of a widow’s trials came when they were urged in their late husband’s wills to “take the order of widowhood”. That is, not go into a convent, but to take a public vow of chastity. Failure to embark on such a course could result in the terms of the will severely reducing the widow’s income. The reason was not always male spite from beyond the grave, but could safeguard her and any children from a new husband who might not have their best interests at heart. Or whom she definitely did not want! Not so good if she wanted a physically loving relationship.

In the case of a third Margaret—Lady Margaret Beaufort—she was too powerful to be pushed around, and when it came to her final marriage, she took the public vow of chastity. A physical relationship cannot have appealed! She chose to marry Thomas Stanley, who presumably didn’t care if she was in his bed or not. A definite marriage of convenience and an alliance of great fortunes and power that was to cost Richard III his life when Margaret’s Tudor son usurped his throne. As you will see, Margaret and her boy were not high on the list of beautiful people. Sour pusses, both. Thomas Stanley, if this is a reasonable likeness, was better looking.

Margaret Beaufort, Henry VII and Thomas Stanley, who became 1st Earl of Derby

A medieval widow could therefore be caught in a vicious circle, and unable to rule her own life as she saw fit. That is something we just accept these days. Well, we do in the West, it is still very different in many other parts of the world.

So, as I said at the beginning, the freedom of medieval widows is debatable. Truly merry widows were probably rather thin on the ground.

Two more medieval widows, in the regulation black and white

Why Shakespeare repeated the Tudors’ fake news….

Elizabeth l and ShakespeareAs Ricardians, we all know that Shakespeare toed the Tudor line. He repeated the falsehoods of More and the like, and labelled Richard III for all time as a deformed monster. But this article discusses the circumstances that compelled the Bard to write as he did. Well worth a read.

 

A Biased Review of a Biased Book

Picture of an angry woman by Vera Kratochvil

I have just seen a review of Chris Skidmore’s biography of Richard III which has got me rather incensed. Now, I have to admit first of all that I haven’t read the book in question, because I have heard from several reliable sources that it is biased against Richard, despite claiming to be neutral, so I don’t want to a) waste my money or b) give custom to an anti-Ricardian. I did hear him speak at the 2017 AGM of the Richard III Society and wasn’t impressed at all. I’m surprised he was asked to speak, frankly.

Anyway, I am commenting on the review rather than the book itself. You may be able to see it here: Wall Street Journal link although you may be asked to subscribe. If you can’t see it, here is my comment where I have replied to someone who said it was a ‘great review’. I wrote all this, and then found there was a word limit so I had to edit it, but this is what I wanted to say, quoting the points I am replying to:

Not so great actually: –
1. ‘…Princes in the Tower, who had a better claim to the throne than he did’ – this is wrong – they were legally declared illegitimate by the Three Estates and confirmed as such by Parliament.
2. ‘since the king consistently went wildly beyond the norms of even what was considered politically acceptable at the time’ – he did everything legally at the time – it might not seem ethical to us but he did everything by the book of the age. His ‘coup’ was almost bloodless.
3. ‘Richard was charged with protecting the young Edward V’ – no he wasn’t – Protector of the Realm was his title, not Protector of the princes. It was the equivalent to Head of Homeland Security – it was not the same as regent either – the country would have been ruled by the Council with him as a member. He was there to put down rebellions from within and without the realm (which he did wrt the Woodvilles).
4. ‘he tried to argue that Edward V (who was never officially crowned) was illegitimate through his father’s supposed bigamy’ – he succeeded! The ‘princes’ were legally declared illegitimate and he was the next in line.
5. ‘Within a couple of months, he had sent Edward and his brother Richard (age 10) to the Tower’ – the Tower was the traditional place for the next king to reside before his coronation. It was also a place of safety.
6. ‘Does it matter that we don’t know the method of the princes’ murder, considering that their corpses were never found?’ – yes it matters because there is no evidence they were killed at all, by anyone.
7.  ‘Richard worried that if he did faithfully undertake the role of Protector, he would be punished for the persecution of Queen Elizabeth’s Woodville relatives’ – well, unless Mr Skidmore is a time-travelling mind-reader, nobody knows what Richard thought or worried about.
8. ‘The coup itself was flawlessly executed, with soldiers brought down from York, Edward V’s coronation suddenly “postponed,” potential Woodville supporters eliminated, the young king moved to the Tower “for his own safety” and the nobility squared with threats and promises’ – if you read Annette Carson you will see that Richard acted completely properly wrt having Edward V crowned until the bigamy was revealed. He even had coins minted in Edward’s name – would he really have done this if he had planned to take the throne the minute his brother had died? He only had 300 soldiers with him when he met the royal party to escort the new king into London – it was only after a plot had occurred that he sent for more soldiers. He reacted to events rather than instigating them.
9. ‘Richard saw that he needed to undertake one more outrage to secure his throne, since no one seemed to accept the argument that the princes were illegitimate’ – nonsense – he was accepted as the anointed king and everyone believed the princes were illegitimate – even Elizabeth Woodville never claimed her marriage was legal – not even after Richard’s death.
10. ‘When it became clear that Richard had indeed killed the princes’ – Really? They disappeared and there were rumours here and there that they had been killed (not always saying it was at Richard’s hands), but there were also rumours they were still alive. The death rumours were suspiciously in areas where Bishop Morton/Margaret Beaufort had supporters or had themselves been.
11. ‘Elizabeth…entered into a secret alliance with the Tudor family’ – no evidence for this. She seemed to have kept her options open.
12. ‘this highly readable chronicle comprises vaulting ambition, familial betrayal, moral corruption, high politics, foul murder and a beautiful queen lusting for revenge. Shakespeare can hardly be blamed for a little exaggeration’ – sounds very dramatic – the truth would be much less saleable and salacious, wouldn’t it? I note the comment about the graphic detail of Richard’s death, which only serves to make me suspect that other events are equally exaggerated by Skidmore – horror and evil sells unfortunately.

 

 

 

Photo: Free public domain download by Vera Kratochvil at PublicDomainPictures.net

 

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Henry Tudor lurked in a Tenby cellar….?

Black Snow

Um, 14-year-old Henry Tudor hid in a Tenby cellar under what is now Boots? While fleeing the future Richard III? I don’t know how that is right. When Tudor fled the country, Edward IV was the king, and as far as I know, Richard did not go hurtling off to Tenby, even with his bucket and spade. But, Black Snow sounds a strange book in all respects.

 

Snow at Tewkesbury, and a pile of bodies for Richard III….

Um - the battle of tewkesbury

Believe it or not, the above is supposedly the Battle of Tewkesbury. At least, it is according to the BBC website. Tewkesbury was in May. Silly author. The picture is of Towton, which took place in the middle of a snowstorm. The article itself is referring to Henry VI, Part 3 – first transmitted in the UK: 16 January 1983

Nothing daunted, I read on, and came to The Tragedy of Richard III – First transmitted in the UK: 23 January 1983. Oh dear. I now have to say Silly Beeb! Here we have a pyramid of bodies, topped by a cackling Margaret of Anjou!

Um - pile of bodies in BBC Richard III

Delightful, yes? Is there such a pile in the Bard’s original? I quote from the article:-

. . .The production is unusual amongst filmed Richards insofar as no one is killed on camera except Richard himself. This was very much a conscious choice on the part of Howell; “you see nobody killed; just people going away, being taken away – so much like today; they’re just removed. There’s a knock on the door and people are almost willing to go. There’s no way out of it. . .

. . .Somewhat controversially, the episode ended with Margaret sitting atop a pyramid of corpses (played by all of the major actors who had appeared throughout the tetralogy) cradling Richard’s dead body and laughing manically, an image Edward Burns refers to as “a blasphemous pietà.” Howell herself referred to it as a “reverse pietà,” and defended it by arguing that the tetralogy is bigger than Richard III, so to end by simply showing Richard’s death and Richmond’s coronation is to diminish the roles that have gone before; the vast amount of death that has preceded the end of Richard III cannot be ignored. R. Chris Hassel Jr. remarks of this scene that “our last taste is not the restoration of order and good governance, but of chaos and arbitrary violence.” Hugh M. Richmond says the scene gives the production a “cynical conclusion,” as “it leaves our impressions of the new King Henry VII’s reign strongly coloured by Margaret’s malevolent glee at the destruction of her enemies that Henry has accomplished for her.”. . .

Good grief. Did you get all that? No, nor me. Nor do I want to. Serious stuff though, right? Er, no. It sounds like a load of silly and affected directorial posturing, and not worth bothering with. Someone should have kicked the Beeb’s pants for broadcasting it. Bah!

 

 

Normal for Normans? Exploring the large round mounds of England….

Silbury Hill

“….Most of England’s monumental mounds are assumed to be Norman castle mottes built in the period immediately after the Conquest – but could some of them have much earlier origins? Jim Leary, Elaine Jamieson, and Phil Stastney report on a project that set out to investigate some of these mighty constructions….”

There is information about Fotheringhay included in the article from which the above paragraph is taken. To read more, go here.

 

Now the boys in the Tower were drowned in Malmsey….?

 

malmsey

Well, we all know the story (and that’s just what it was, a story) about the demise of the boys’ uncle, George, Duke of Clarence, in a butt of Malmsey, but this is the first I’ve heard of the boys themselves suffering a similar fate.

I quote:

“The manner of their death triggered debate among contemporaries, many of whom believed they were strangled in bed, drowned in Malmsey wine, or poisoned.”

This is taken from Martyrs in the Making: Political Martyrdom in Late Medieval England, by Danna Piroyansky, and she gives many sources:-

The Great Chronicle of London, A.H. Thomas and I.D. Thornley (eds) (London, 1938), pp 236-7. For an overview of the various speculations see, for example, P.W. Hammond and W.J. White, ‘The Sons of Edward IV: A Re-examination of the Evidence on Their Deaths and on the Bones in Westminster Abbey’, in Loyalty, Lordship and Law, P.W. Hammond (ed) (London, 1986), pp. 104-47; A. Weir, The Princes in the Tower (NY, 1992), chapter 13; A.J. Pollard, Richard III and the Princes in the Tower (NY, 1991), chapter 5. Many articles on the subject of the princes’ fate have been published in The Ricardian (the publication of the Richard III Society) along the years.

The sons of Edward IV

The sons of Edward IV

Whether any of these actually say the boys perished in Malmsey I don’t know, I only know I hadn’t heard the theory before. However, I do know that the book from which I have taken this information adopts an unashamedly Lancastrian viewpoint, and Richard is damned outright. For example:-

“Many suspected the usurper Richard III of instigating the princes’ murder. True or false, Richard III had no interest in promoting a cult around them, one which could only have drawn attention to their rightful claims to the throne. Henry VII may have been interested in them, but was too preoccupied with other challenges to his reign to rake over past events.”

Um. . . Where shall I start? The usurper Richard III? No, he was the true king. The boys’ rightful claims to the throne? Rubbish. Henry VII too preoccupied to rake over past events? Good grief. No mention of Edward IV’s bigamy. And of course Henry kept quiet – the last thing he wanted was for the boys to still be alive! He’d reversed Titulus Regius in order to marry the boys’ big sister! If they’d turned up alive, they’d have a much, much better claim to the throne than he did.

RIII and HVII

If anyone murdered the boys (and we don’t know what happened to them, let alone whether they died naturally, were murdered or even lived into old age), it was Henry Tudor and his Beaufort mother. Or the Duke of Buckingham. As for Henry not having time to rake over the past, for Pete’s sake, he did it all the time! He was both hounded and haunted by it. As well he might have been, given his usurpation and guilty conscience. Oh, yes, there was a usurper at Bosworth, and it wasn’t Richard!

the only usurper at Bosworth

I will not go on. The book has nothing good to say about the House of York, and I wish I’d never bought it. My reason wasn’t even anything to do with York, but because there is a section that deals with the 1397 trial and execution of Richard Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel, in whom I am very interested. Another man who generally gets a bad press, of course. Trust me to find a great deal to like and admire about him! (For more information about Arundel’s death and the “miracles” that gave rise to a cult, try here)

Richard Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel

Richard Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel (wearing blue)

 

Look who’s coming to dinner….

Nicola Tallis

Nicola Tallis

The following is taken from this interview in History Extra

“Q: Which three historical figures would you invite to a dinner party and why?

  1. “Queen Anne Neville. Frustratingly little is known of her life. I’d love to know if Anne was happily married to Richard III and how she felt about the events of 1483, when King Edward IV unexpectedly died and Richard declared himself king of England.
  2. “King Louis XIV of France. He has always fascinated me, and even more so since watching the TV series Versailles! All of the intrigues of the French court and Louis’s various mistresses enthrall me. Plus, I have always wanted to ask him what inspired him when creating the Chateau de Versailles.
  3. “Anne Frank. Her story is such a sad one, and to have the opportunity to speak to her about her experiences in hiding during the Second World War would be very moving.”

I don’t know that I would wish such a small dinner party to be a ‘moving experience’, so maybe Anne Frank would not be on my list, but then, is not Anne Neville’s story a moving one as well? So, this dinner party is going to be a quiet affair, I think, unless Louis XIV runs riot.

What Richard’s queen might have to say is bound to be of intense interest to Ricardians, of course. I hope that she would recall the wonderful days before 1483 spoiled everything for her and for Richard. And please do not think I brush Anne Frank aside, because I certainly do not. I would just hope to find she still had a lighter side, a trace of her original self, undamaged by her dreadful experiences. Maybe she would rather seek her lost, happier self, too.

Anyway, the above guest list has been compiled by historian Nicola Tallis, in an interview connected with her appearance at the York and Winchester History Weekends this October. See the above link for more details. Ms Tallis appears to be mainly interested in the Tudor queens and period, so perhaps it is strange that she would not invite, say, Elizabeth I, to dinner!

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