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Archive for the tag “Robert Morton”

The Human Shredder again

It seems that a denialists’ source has denied that the first “Tudor” had any documents destroyed, except for the 1484 Titulus Regius that documented Edward IV’s bigamy so conclusively, for which they were caught red-handed. With this exception, there “isn’t a ghostly trace” of destruction, so it seems.

On May 27, we clearly showed the audit trail of some destruction. It was recorded by John Caius, Norwich-born and after whom a Cambridge college was named, through Vergil’s 1844 publisher to Potter in 1983. Strangely enough, instead of being rebutted, this very particular allegation was totally ignored, probably on the grounds of inconvenience.

Of course, the shredding of documents from Richard III’s reign, whether by Vergil himself, by Robert Morton or by others, probably didn’t end with Henry VII’s death. Religious houses were dissolved wholesale towards the end of Henry VIII’s reign and they were renowned depositories of historic documents. This may not have been deliberate.

Until the 1930s, French accounts of Richard II’s deposition were regarded as unreliable but now the Dieulacres Chronicle is available and largely confirms them. Still the denialists rely on sources they must know to be unreliable. In this case of John Caius they have, as our learned friends have it, “failed to come up to proof”. Then again, it comes from the sort of people who insist that a yet-to-be-born Bishop witnessed “Perkin”‘s letter or that a long-dead Catherine de Valois addressed Parliament. Whether they are writing satire or intentional fiction, or both, we are not sure.

It really isn’t hard to blow a hole through their “argument” with a specific example. Richard III spent quite a reasonable part of his reign in Nottingham (his “castle of care”) , yet there is almost literally nothing in the city records about him. There must be many more cases of documents systematically destroyed in the half-century or so after his death.

By contrast, Mary I was bastardised by her father’s legislation and eventually succeded to the throne, partly by force, but only repealed the Act and didn’t actually destroy it.

On the preservation of sources beyond our shores

Our post on Thursday (https://murreyandblue.wordpress.com/2015/06/04/the-book-kendall-could-write-today-4-two-little-boys/) showed that Jehan de Wavrin’s comments on the relative sizes of George and Richard in 1461 are available to us because Wavrin’s “Recueil des croniques et anchiennes istories de la Grant Bretaigne” (p.357) was composed in Burgundy. It was, therefore, beyond the reach of the “Tudor” agent known as the Human Shredder, whether he was Polydore Vergil or Robert Morton.

Similarly Dr. Anne Sutton (in the June 1977 Ricardian) has rediscovered Richard’s 28 June 1483 letter to Lord Mountjoy in Calais, enclosed a copy of the Three Estates’ petition to Richard – and perhaps the evidence Stillington gave to them is available?. The record of Richard’s remarriage plan surfaced in Portugal, thanks to Barrie Williams. Evidence relating to the “Simnel” coronation remained in Ireland.

Is a pattern emerging here? I wonder what else the archives of the rest of Europe have to tell us that England’s own could but can no longer?

The consequences of the Human Shredder

We already know that William, Lord Hastings, was one of several people arrested on the morning of 13 June for a conspiracy against the Duke of Gloucester, who was both Constable and Lord Protector. We know that Bishop Morton was among the others but that Hastings alone was executed, that the Constable had the right to order a summary trial and that Hastings was not attainted. We also know that Morton’s nephew, Robert, as Master of the Rolls, is a leading candidate to have been the “Human Shredder” who destroyed several documents, probably including Hastings’ trial records. These records would also have exposed John Morton’s complicity.

Consequently, lazy historians and others have relied upon More’s “History”, which assumes that the destruction of the trial records suggests that there wasn’t a trial. Now More either adapted an earlier work by Cardinal Morton, as the Bishop had become, or he didn’t. If he did then his source was a defendant at the trial, seeking to expunge his guilt. If he didn’t then his “History” was composed of his own memories as a five year-old who was surely not at the meeting. Either way, it is unworthy of serious consideration in this context.

The way records were kept is also of interest. Richard’s Titulus Regius, which we absolutely know to have been destroyed in 1486, was kept on a “membrane”. Similarly, the Hastings-Stanley-Morton-Rotherham-Lambert-King trial records would have shared a membrane with other judicial matters. We no longer have a record of the 1486 treason trials of five men in York, of Sir Thomas Metcalfe and Roger Layton in 1487 or of the thousands of Bodmin rebels in 1497, although they were taken in overt treason. Does this prove that the York quintet, Metcalfe and Layton were not tried or does it suggest that Robert Morton/ Vergil destroyed the membrane with their trial records on?

Do we now wait for the Cairo dwellers to accuse Henry VII of at least seven executions without trial or attainder within a year and a half? Consistency has never been their strong point so it might be a long wait.

The mysterious Human Shredder

So was it Robert Morton, Richard III’s Master of the Rolls and nephew of the future Cardinal, or Polydore Vergil, Henry VII’s pet “historian”? Either way, quite a few documents from Richard’s reign have gone missing. We will adopt a cautious approach to this list:

There remain no letters between Richard and Anne although they were married for about a decade. The record of the 13 June council meeting, including Lord Hastings’ trial, is lost although we know that the Constable and Lord Protector would have the implicit authority to preside over one and we know who occupied those roles. Similarly, the quasi-Parliamentary petition to Richard to become King is missing, as is Stillington’s testimony to the fact of the pre-contract and Edward IV’s codicil confirming Richard’s authority in these positions. Even the Pastons seem to have uncharacteristically silent. All of these missing documents would be favourable to Richard, which completely explains why they are missing.

The human shredder was not wholly successful, however. Richard’s “Titulus Regius” was ordered to be destroyed unread, unprecedentedly, but a copy was preserved in the Crowland Chronicle for Buck to publish. “Tudor” power did not extend to Portugal where the true remnants of the House of Lancaster lived, thus Richard’s negotiations to marry the Lusophone King’s sister whilst his own illegitimate niece married Joao II’s cousin survived. His (late June) letter to Lord Mountjoy in Calais may have had a copy of the great petition attached.

Of course, the denialists would have us believe that Richard had nothing to do in his twenty-five and a half months as King but destroy documents that would portray him in a favourable light, whilst the “Tudor” monarchs that followed were all far too busy throughout their 118 years for anything like that.

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