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Thomas More and the Removal Men

Thomas More’s detailed and heart-wrenching account of the murders of Edward IV’s sons is well known, and is usually either accepted or dismissed in toto so it would probably be useful to pause at this point to remind ourselves exactly what it was that Thomas More claimed had happened to the boys and why opinions as to the veracity of his story are so divided.
Richard, said More, set off on his progress leaving the boys in the Tower with four keepers (one being an habitual murderer named Miles Forest) and just one of their old servants (William Slaughter). The King’s intention was to kill the boys at some point in order to secure his position, and when he reached Gloucester (say, 31 July or 1 August) he finally made up his mind to get on with the business. He sent one John Grene ‘whom he specially trusted’ to carry a letter and a verbal credence to Sir Robert Brackenbury, the Constable of the Tower, instructing him to put the boys to death; but, contrary to the royal plan, Brackenbury replied that he would rather die. Grene returned with the bad news, finding the King at Warwick (this would have been the second week of August). That night, Richard complained to a ‘secret page’ of his that no one could be trusted, to which the page replied that there was an overlooked attendant lying in the antechamber who, he was sure, would do anything in return for recognition. At this Richard got up, roused Tyrell from his pallet and instructed him to organise the boys’ deaths. The next day, Richard sent Tyrell off with a letter commanding Brackenbury to hand him the keys of the Tower for one night.
Having decided he would need two murderers, Tyrell enlisted his own horsekeeper John Dighton as the first, trusting that the homicidal Miles Forest would have no objection to being the second. At the Tower, Brackenbury obligingly handed Tyrell his keys, and that night Tyrell dismissed all the boys’ attendants except for Forest. At about midnight Dighton and Forest crept into the Princes’ chamber, smothered them with their own bedding then laid out the bodies for Sir James’ inspection.

Tyrell inspects Forest and Dighton’s handiwork

Satisfied that they were dead, Tyrell commanded Dighton and Forest to bury them at the foot of the stairs (presumably those leading down from their bedchamber in the White Tower, though this is not specified), ‘meetly deep in the ground under a great heap of stones’.
When all this had been done, Sir James galloped back to Richard with the good tidings. Richard thanked him profusely but was unhappy with the ‘vile’ burial arrangements. Thus (it was said) Sir Robert Brackenbury had a priest of his disinter the bodies and rebury them somewhere more fitting; but, since Richard, Brackenbury and the priest were all dead by the time More wrote, there was no longer any way of discovering where this was. More supports his story, picked up (so he claims) from ‘them that much knew and little cause had to lie’, with the assertion that Tyrell and Dighton had confessed to the crime when they were questioned in the Tower prior to Tyrell’s trial and execution in 1502 (but note that More did not claim this confession to have been written down, still less to have seen a transcript of it).

The flaws in this account are many. First, though we are told that Richard ‘before had intended’ to kill his nephews, he had clearly not thought to sound out Brackenbury about it before leaving London. And, when Brackenbury rejects his orders, does Richard have him removed from post, or quietly despatched on account of his dangerous knowledge? No, he simply asks him to hand over the keys to Tyrell for the night (actually, it is not clear from More’s tale why Tyrell needed the Tower keys). This time Brackenbury meekly does as he is told although he evidently knows what is afoot as he later has one of his priests move the remains. More puzzling still, the real-life Sir Robert continued in post as Constable of the Tower throughout Richard’s reign and died fighting for him at Bosworth.
As for Sir James himself, More’s picture of a frustrated servant overlooked for promotion simply does not fit the facts although there have been recent attempts to rehabilitate it. Tyrell was one of Richard’s most prominent knights and the rewards he enjoyed after this period were by no means out of keeping with his previous career. Miles Forest existed, but the real-life job of this alleged serial-killing hard man had been looking after Richard’s wardrobe up at Barnard Castle, and he does not appear to have ever been in any trouble with the law. More’s depiction of him seems no more than a device to explain how Tyrell had felt able to count on his co-operation without having had an opportunity to sound him out about the murders in advance.
The burial of the bodies, even ‘meetly deep’ as described by More, would have been a challenging task for two men during the course of a short August night. If the murderers had crept into the Princes’ room at about midnight, then work on the gravedigging is unlikely to have been started before 12.30 am, giving them a window of little more than four hours to complete their task before the keys would be needed for the reopening of the Tower at sunrise. And if we try, as is generally done, to reconcile More’s description of the Princes’ burial with the discovery of the 1674 remains, the problems merely multiply. The 1674 remains were not found ‘meetly’ deep at the foot of an internal staircase, but 10 ft down under the foundations of an external staircase that was being removed. The two descriptions do not match, and the 1674 burial could never have been effected and made good in the space of four hours. Another possibility is that the remains were found in 1674 where Brackenbury’s priest had removed them, but such an interment place would have been no less ‘vile’ than the original burial place, and a solitary priest would scarcely have been able to dig the bodies up and rebury them in such a location with total discretion.

More’s staircase (supposedly). Note: Not the one removed in 1674.

Against these objections, however, must be set the fact that Polydore Vergil, writing at a roughly similar time, also pinned the blame for the boys’ deaths on the late Sir James Tyrell and, like More, has Richard write from Gloucester to the Constable of the Tower ordering him to find a suitable means of despatching the princes. But according to Vergil the Constable merely prevaricated and Richard went on waiting for him to act, finally losing patience during his stay in York (31 August to 20 September) and despatching a woeful Sir James to do the deed. Vergil’s chronology is not precise but he seems to be placing Tyrell’s departure from York after Prince Edward’s investiture (8 September), which is just as well because Sir James had a special role in the investiture procession as Master of the Henchman. Nor does Vergil mention any confession; indeed, he flatly states the manner of the boys’ death to be unknown and attributes the rumour of the murders to Richard himself. The nature of the story, however, is such that – if there is any truth in it at all – it is most likely to have emanated from individuals working at the Tower.

The only details in the accounts of More and Vergil that might have been witnessed by third parties are Richard’s despatch of a messenger (possibly John Grene) to Brackenbury from the city of Gloucester, the later despatch of Sir James Tyrell to the Tower, and the absence of any sightings of the Princes by Tower staff after the night of Tyrell’s visit; these are also the only details upon which More and Vergil are agreed. After Bosworth there was only one acceptable explanation for the disappearance of Edward IV’s sons, which was that they had died during Richard III’s reign, preferably on his orders, and so any theories built around the boys’ disappearance had to fit into that framework.
It is interesting, and probably relevant, that two separate sources describe a failed attempt by supporters of Edward V to rescue the boys from the Tower after Richard left the capital; the ringleaders were identified and arrested, and are probably those who had ‘taken upon themselves the fact of an enterprise’ about whom Richard wrote to his Lord Chancellor from Minster Lovell on 29 July. This foiled attack on the Tower might have suggested to Richard that the boys would have to be killed, had he been so inclined, but it is equally – if not more – likely, given his rivals’ youth and innocence, that Richard’s response would have been to have them discreetly removed to secret locations far from the city, where they would no longer be the focus of discontent.
For this plan to work well, it would have been reasonable for Brackenbury to have been given some advance warning so that bags could be packed for the boys’ journey, and so that one or two of their attendants could be enlisted to accompany them; the delivery of such a warning could have been the real purpose of Grene’s mission to Brackenbury. On this reading of events, Tyrell’s mission would not have been dependent upon Brackenbury having rejected the orders from Grene, and Miles Forest may have come under suspicion simply because he too disappeared from the Tower that night, having been brought along to attend upon the boys during the journey. The hours of darkness would have been the best time to smuggle the boys out of the Tower, and if there was any concern that they might not wish to co-operate then they could have been sufficiently sedated to enable Tyrell and his men to carry them both out without waking them. The Tower keys would have been needed in order to get the little party out of the fortress under cover of darkness, and Sir Robert Brackenbury would have had no reason to interfere with such a mission.

This scenario is merely offered as a suggestion as to the sort of reality that might possibly underlie More’s implausible murder tale. I would be the first to admit that there is no evidence that this is what occurred, but it would see off the inconsistencies in More’s story remarkably well. I make no suggestion as to where the boys might have been taken next, how they might have travelled, or what might have become of them in the longer term: those are separate questions.


SOURCES

Sir Thomas More: ‘The History of King Richard III’ and Selections from the English and Latin Poems, ed. Richard S. Sylvester, Yale, 1976

The History of King Richard the Third, ed. Richard Bear, website of the American Branch of the Richard III Society

Polydore Vergil, ‘Anglica Historia’ (1555 Version), ed. Dana F. Sutton, Philological Museum website of the University of Birmingham

https://www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london/history-and-stories/the-ceremony-of-the-keys/#gs.7frn87

Histoire des Règnes de Charles VII et Louis XI par Thomas Basin, Evéque de Lisieux, ed. J. Quicherat, vol 3, Paris, 1857, p. 137

Signet Warrants for the Great Seal and Signet Letters to the Chancellor, transcribed R. C. & P. B. Hairsine for the Richard III Society, 1979

‘Observations of the Wardrobe Account for the Year 1483’, Rev. Dr. J. Milles, Dean of Exeter, Archaeologia, Vol. 1, 1770, p.375

Helen Maurer, ‘Bones in the Tower: A Discussion of Time, Place and Circumstance, Part 2’, The Ricardian, No. 112, March 1991

John Stow, Annales of England, 1600 edition, p. 767

More on More

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive”
(Marmion, Sir Walter Scott)

We all know that there was some deception in Thomas More‘s “History“, but how much? In Cairo, they think that the whole first half of his narrative is the gospel truth but the second half is an invention – because it conveniently fits with the discredited, soon to be disproved, theory of the “Princes”‘ burial.

Suppose More departed from the truth earlier than that. Successful deceit starts with some facts that the reader will know and continues with some that he or she can verify, before misleading them. In particular, when he accuses Sir Robert Brackenbury, Sir James Tyrrell, Miles Forrest and “Will Slaughter” (Slater?) of carrying out the killing of Edward IV’s illegitimate sons, is it not more likely that they transported them, probably separately, to safe locations? This would be far easier than digging a large hole, burying the “Princes”, filling it in and sending all the attendants away, even if we aren’t supposed to believe that a priest disinterred and reburied them – it doesn’t correspond with Charles II’s antics.

Forrest, by the way, was a Northerner who died by 1484 (1)(2a)(2b), Brackenbury at Bosworth and Tyrrell, who was abroad in 1485, was beheaded for a separate offence seventeen years later. Thomas Dighton, however, lived beyond 1502, as even More admitted.

Notes:
(1)   9 September 1484: “Grant for life to Joan Forest, widow, late wife to the King’s servant Miles Forest, and Edward her son of an annuity of 5 marks from the issues of the lordship of Bernard Castell.” (CPR, p. 473).
(2a) 12 September 1484: “Johanne Forest and Edward his (her) son an an annuytieof v markes during theire lyfes and of eithre of theim lenger lyving of thissues of the lordship of Barnardcastelle by the hands of the Receyvour etc.“(Harleian Manuscript 433, ed. Horrox and Hammond, vol.1, p.216).
(2b) 14 September 1484: “A warrant to the Receivor of the lordshippe of Bernard Castelle to content and pay unto johanne Forest widow late wyf to Miles Forest deceased the somme of five markes sterlinges due unto the said Miles at Michelmase now next commying for keping of the warderobe theire yeven etc at Notingham the xijth dat of September A* secundo 2*.” (Harleian Manuscript, op. cit. vol.2, p.160)

Archbishop Octavian and the Simnel Plot

A couple of months ago, this post attracted a reply from an individual who has commented before. He was responding to the suggestion that the boy crowned in at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin (see illustration opposite) may actually have been Edward V rather than an earl of Warwick (false or otherwise). Whilst he is correct in stating that there is evidence that the boy was crowned as Edward VI, unfortunately the evidence he has chosen, whilst it sounds impressive, is actually not what it seems.

The article to which this post linked is Dr. Mario Sughi’s biography of Octavian de Palatio or Palagio, the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland at the time of the Simnel Rebellion . Dr. Sughi is the acknowledged expert on Octavian, being the editor of the published version of his archiepiscopal register and other scholarly articles regarding his clerical career. Dr. Sughi’s edition of Octavian’s register is a remarkable work, comprising a transcript of the complete contents of the register and an introduction that shows the depth of Dr. Sughi’s understanding of his subject.[1] The Lambert Simnel Rebellion, however, is a different area of study, and a veritable minefield because of the rewriting of its history which very quickly occurred.

Not this Octavian …

Just for convenience, I will quote directly the passage of Dr. Sughi’s online article to which “David” drew our attention:-

This principal adviser of the king, with whom Octavian corresponded throughout this period, informed Octavian that the new Tudor king, Henry VII, had entirely discredited Lambert Simnel’s credentials by parading the real Earl of Warwick, then a prisoner at the Tower of London, through the streets of London. We know of the existence of that letter, the “Addition in Antiquities”, because we are informed by Octavian himself that at this point of the crisis he took the initiative of briefing Pope Innocent VIII about developments:

The clergy and secular are all distracted at this present with a king and no king, some saying he is the son of Edward, Earl of Warwick, others saying he is an impostor; but our brother of Canterbury hath satisfied me of the truth, how his majesty the king of England hath showed the right son of the said earl to the publick view of all the City of London, which convinceth me that it is an error willingly to breed dissension.

The careful reader will notice that this quotation is neither in Latin – the language in which Octavian would have corresponded with the Pope – nor in modern English, which one would expect if this were Dr. Sughi’s own translation. There is a reason for this: the only known source for this alleged letter is a work published in the early 18th century.  The background, in brief, is as follows:

There was an Irish antiquarian by the name of Sir James Ware (1594-1666), a collector of manuscripts who authored several scholarly works during his lifetime, all in Latin.[2] Late in his life he published a history of Ireland in two volumes; the first edition, which went out under the none-too-snappy title De Hibernia et Antiquitatibus ejus Disquisitiona, was published in London in 1654 (vol. 1) and 1658 (vol. 2); a revised edition was  published in Dublin in 1664 as Annales Hibernicarum Rerum. Both editions include a section on Henry VII’s dealings with Ireland, with considerable focus on the Simnel Rebellion. Ware’s account of the rebellion is based largely on Polydore Vergil,[3] although he does include brief references to some original documents, such as a papal Bull, and a letter written by Octavian to an English prelate after Sir Richard Eggecombe’s visit in 1488, in which the Archbishop insists that he alone had opposed the boy’s coronation and asks his correspondent (generally assumed to be Morton) to use his influence with King Henry to have him appointed Chancellor of Ireland. Dr. Sughi includes in his online article his translation of a small part of this letter, which still exists in Octavian’s Register.[4] This letter, however, nowhere refers to the name or title claimed by the defeated pretender and provides only Octavian’s retrospective assertions of loyalty.

Four decades after Ware’s death, the Dublin printing house that had published the Annales put out an English translation of it entitled The Antiquities and History of Ireland by the Right Honourable Sir James Ware, Knt; the translators have been identified as Sir William Domvile and Sir James’ son Robert Ware.[5] Unfortunately, it is not sufficiently often realised that they appended some extra material to the end of each chapter (each of these sections is marked with the word ‘Addition’ in the right-hand margin). The alleged letter written by Octavian to the Pope during the Rebellion forms the Addition to the chapter covering the events of 1486, and it serves the purpose of proving that Octavian was already hostile to the pretender’s cause in the weeks leading up to his coronation.[6]

The lead-in insinuates (but does not absolutely state) that this is one of the letters from Octavian to Pope Innocent that are to be found in his register. Actually, it is not there. There are eleven letters to Pope Innocent in Octavian’s register, and none of them refers to political events. Were this letter in the Archbishop’s register, Dr. Sughi would have been able to identify it and provide his own translation. It should be acknowledged at this point that some material had gone missing from Octavian’s register before it was bound, but since the binding took place during the 1600s this item, if it ever had been in the register, cannot have been there in 1705. Nor does it appear in any catalogue of Sir James Ware’s manuscripts.

It would seem that no historians, even those writing within a generation of the 1705 translation, have ever been able to lay their hands on the original of this letter. In 1739 Ware’s grandson-in-law and the then owner of his manuscripts, Walter Harris, included a reference to the letter in his entry on Archbishop Octavian in his Whole Works of Sir James Ware, though he was unable to provide any more solid reference for it than the Addition in the 1705 Antiquities and History.[7] James Gairdner accessed Sir James Ware’s manuscript collection for his Letters and Papers; from this, he obtained Ware’s copy of Octavian’s 1488 epistle (which he reproduced in full), but not, apparently, the epistle to the Pope, concerning which he was only able to report: “A letter of this prelate is mentioned in Harris’ Ware, vol 1, p. 88. . . .”[8]

But there is more reason to doubt the authenticity of this letter conjured into print by Robert Ware and his colleague than merely the fact that it is missing: the situation it reports, whilst it fits the Tudor tradition (for which Polydore Vergil is largely responsible), does not actually fit the facts as they can be established from genuinely contemporary documents; this is something about which I mean to write at more length in the future. It is also rather surprising that, in this mysterious letter, Octavian twice mistakenly refers to the boy as claiming to be the son of Edward Earl of Warwick, thereby carelessly amalgamating the two alternative ways in which he was actually described at the time, i.e. as the son of the Duke of Clarence and as Edward Earl of Warwick. If Octavian had really written such a letter to the Pope in the weeks leading up to the boy’s coronation, it is difficult to understand why in the immediate aftermath of the rebellion King Henry believed him to have been heavily complicit in the conspiracy; why Pope Innocent initiated an investigation of his role in the affair as late as January 1488; and why Octavian was forced to swear an oath of allegiance before Sir Richard Edgecombe in the summer of 1488 along with all the other rebel Irish VIPs.[9]

The answer to the riddle is probably to be found in the extra-curricular activities of Robert Ware. He was as unlike his father as a son could possibly have been, both in his religious and political leanings and in his attitude to historical research. Where Sir James Ware was an assiduous collector and rescuer of genuine ancient documents, his son Robert employed forgery to bolster his favoured – Establishment – view of history.[10]Ware’s method of forgery was to insert material in blank pages of the manuscripts of his father, whose high reputation (as well as that of James Ussher) he exploited to give credibility to these inventions when he published them.”[11] The letter from Octavian to the Pope, however, he did not even bother to write it up in his father’s collection.

In a nutshell, the letter is spurious. As an expert said in 2007 of an old letter that had surfaced in Scotland and appeared to corroborate More’s story of Sir James Tyrell’s murder of the Princes on the orders of Richard III:  “It has fake written through it like Brighton through a stick of rock….”[12] There is no evidence that Archbishop Octavian wrote to the Pope, or anyone else, during the period of the rebellion, denouncing the pretender as a fake.

© Marie Barnfield, 2020

[1] M. Sughi, Registrum Octaviani Alias Liber Niger: the Register of Octavian de Palatio, Archbishop of Armagh 1478-1513, 2 vols., Dublin, 1999.

[2] G. Parry, ‘Ware, Sir James (1594-1666)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004.

[3] Anglica Historia. An online version can be found here: http://www.philological.bham.ac.uk/polverg/

[4] M. Sughi (ed.), Registrum Octaviani, vol. 2, p. 429.

[5] Alfred Webb, ’Sir James Ware’, A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878, https://www.libraryireland.com/biography/SirJamesWare.php .

[6] Antiquities and History, 1705: ‘The Annals of Ireland’: ‘The Reign of Henry VII’, p. 5.

[7] W. Harris, The Whole Works of Sir James Ware concerning Ireland, vol 1, 1739, p. 88.

[8] J. Gairdner, Letters and Papers Illustrative of the Reigns of Richard III and Henry VII, vol 1, London, 1861, p. 283.

[9] Gairdner, Letters & Papers, vol 1, pp. 94-96; J. A. Twemlow (ed.), Calendar of Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland, vol. 14, London, 1960, pp. 305-309, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-papal-registers/brit-ie/vol14/pp305-309; The Voyage of Sir Richard Edgecomb into Ireland, in the Year 1488, Corpus of Electronic Texts (CELT) edition, https://celt.ucc.ie//published/E480001-001.html .

[10] Mark Williams, “’Lacking Ware,withal’: Finding Sir James Ware among the Many Incarnations of his Histories”, The Perils of Print Culture: Book, Print and Publishing History in Theory and Practice, ed. J. McElligott & E. Patten, Springer, 2014, pp. 70-71: https://orca.cf.ac.uk/73576/1/WILLIAMSREF3%20EDITEDVOLUMEARTICLE.pdf .

[11] John Bergin, ‘Ware, Robert’, Dictionary of Irish Biography, https://dib.cambridge.org/viewReadPage.do?articleId=a8929&searchClicked=clicked&quickadvsearch=yes .

[12] Wendy Moorhen, ‘A Death Warrant for the Princes?’ The Ricardian Bulletin, Spring 2007.

Matthew Lewis on YouTube: 1) More

I’ve decided to have a little go at some YouTube stuff. My first foray is a breakdown of my Top 10 problems with Sir Thomas More’s story of Richard III. It’s so full of problems that I’m left dismayed that academic historians I speak to still insist on relying on More’s evidence even today. There is a lingering insistence that More was a contemporary source, or at least had the chance to speak to witnesses so that he’s as good as primary material.

In truth, More was 7 during the events of 1485 and wrote 30 years later. He can’t possibly have remembered the complex political events of 1483 with clarity, or have been witness to any of the moments he describes in excruciating detail. Anyone he spoke to in Henry VIII’s England had reason to distance themselves from Richard III and his reign. Richard was already the monster from which the Tudors had rescued England. Who would have been brave enough to offer a different narrative?

I also think More, like Shakespeare, was never writing history in the way that we would recognise it – as a literal, factual retelling of events. He wrote allegory, a humanist exercise in moral tales veiled behind a convenient trope. More wrote about murderous tyranny and the dangers it posed, both to the kingdom and the king who indulged in it. In the years just after Henry VIII’s accession, when he had executed Empson and Dudley for following his father’s instructions, who might More have been really writing about? He could hardly name the king and risk his wrath. Richard offered a convenient front for what More had to say. Like Shakespeare, it has been wrongly accepted as the truth.

What else is wrong with More’s Richard III? Plenty. My top 10 problems are outlined here.

Sir James Tyrrell – Sheriff of Glamorgan

As we said in an earlier article,“ Richard III appointed James Tyrrell Sherriff of Glamorgan and Constable of Cardiff in 1477. The importance of Glamorgan is little understood or recognised in Ricardian Studies, but this was certainly a key job and one of the most important at Richard’s disposal. The practical effect, given that Richard was mainly occupied in the North or at Court,, was that Tyrell was his deputy in one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Marcher Lordships. It was a position of considerable power and almost certainly considerable income.”

Looking for further information about Sir James, I came across “An Inventory of Ancient Monuments of Glamorgan” which said that the Lordship of Glamorgan was passed to Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, through his wife Anne Beauchamp. After Warwick’s death at the Battle of Barnet his daughters inherited it. However, due to a dispute between Richard Duke of Gloucester and George Duke of Clarence, as to how the inheritance should be split, King Edward IV stepped in and enforced partition of the lands and Richard became Lord of Glamorgan. In the Autumn of 1477 Richard appointed Tyrrell as Sheriff of Glamorgan and Constable of Cardiff Castle.

The Richard III Society of Canada reported in an article that during the Scottish Campaign in July 1482 Tyrrell was made a Knight Banneret and in November 1482, along with Sir William Parr and Sir James Harrington he was appointed to exercise as Vice Constable to Richard’s office as Constable of England.

Tyrrell was obviously well thought of by Richard. He trusted him to bring his mother in law from Beaulieu Abbey to Middleham. After Hastings’ execution and the arrest of suspected conspirators Richard temporarily placed Archbishop Rotherham in Sir James’ custody. It is also thought that James Tyrrell was responsible for taking the Princes or one of the Princes out of the country before Bosworth. I have always thought it was odd that he was out of the country when Richard needed him, but it is possible that he was performing a much more important task for Richard.

In researching another previous post , I discovered that Rhys ap Thomas had married Jane Stradling, nee Matthew, the widow of Thomas Stradling of St Donat’s Castle and that he was guardian to the young heir, Edward Stradling when Thomas died in 1480. I assumed that when ap Thomas had married Jane Stradling he had taken over the guardianship of Edward Stradling, however, Richard had given Edward Stradling’s guardianship to James Tyrrell in 1480 when his father died so it was probably after Bosworth that Rhys ap Thomas was given the control of the young heir of St Donat’s. Thomas was later accused of taking money from the Stradling’s estates for three years running. The young man was obviously better served by Tyrrell.

Sir James Tyrrell was obviously someone Richard could trust, so it could be said that was evidence that Richard trusted him to be responsible for taking the Princes out of the country. On the other hand, I am sure that those who believe the traditionalist version would say that it could also mean that Richard could have trusted him to do away with the Princes. Personally I have always thought that the former scenario was probably the true version. In her book “The Mystery of the Princes” Audrey Williamson” reported a tradition in the Tyrrell family that “the Princes were at Gipping with their mother by permission of the uncle”. This was told to her by a descendant of the Tyrrell family in around the 1950s. Apparently the family didn’t ever talk about it because they assumed that if the boys had been at Gipping that it must mean that Sir James was responsible for their deaths. However, they were supposedly at Gipping with their mother and by permission of their uncle, so I doubt that their mother would have been involved with their murder. Gipping in Suffolk is quite near to the east coast of England so would have been an ideal place to stopover on the way to the Continent.

In conclusion, it is my opinion that James Tyrrell was a very loyal, trustworthy member of Richard’s retinue. This is evidenced by the fact that he was trusted by Richard to carry out important tasks like bringing his mother-in-law from Beaulieu to Middleham, to carry out his duties as Lord of Glamorgan by making him Sheriff of Glamorgan and as Vice Constable to Richard’s role as Lord Constable. We might never know if the Princes even died in 1483/84 let alone were murdered or if they were taken out of the country. There isn’t any definite evidence to prove that, if they were taken abroad, Tyrrell was responsible for taking them. However, there is evidence that Richard made a large payment to Tyrrell while he was Captain of Guisnes. It was £3000, a huge amount in those days. There is an opinion that it would have been enough to see a prince live comfortably for quite some time while others say that it was probably towards the running of the garrison. As I said before we might never know what happened but it does seem odd to me that when Richard needed him most to fight the Battle of Bosworth, James Tyrrell was abroad as was Sir Edward Brampton, another person who could have helped to save the day at Bosworth.

Ricardian Heavy Metal & Tyrell’s Rotten Rap

RUNNING WILD–BLOODY RED ROSE

I came across this heavy metal song from the 1980’s a while back– BLOODY RED ROSE by Running Wild.  It is ‘pro-Richard III’  and here are the lyrics:

In the war of the roses, the tragedy source
King Edward was bound to die
Richard III the new “lord protector”
Ruled with “loyalty me lie”
A vigilant guardian to the sons of the king
As sure as an eagle will fly
He died in a battle in 1485
And Henry defamed Richard with lies

Richard was charged in the “act of attainder”
With tyranny, murder and gain
Henry revoked the “titulus regius”
With the smile of the vicious insane
Henry (8th?)that rotten bastard
Executed the whole house of York
Elizabeth Woodville was (injured?)for life
And Tyrrel the liar was acquitted by court

The poisoned thorns of the bloody red rose
Red venom of deepest dye
Henry the traitor, the victor by sin
Soiled Richard’s blood with a grin

While Richard was ruling, the boys were alive
When he died the boys disappeared
Henry killed them to get onto the throne
But the book of truth was sealed
Henry paid Tyrrel to say that he had murdered
In the name of Sir Richard the brave
Henry killed Tyrrel without any trial
So Tyrrel took the truth to his grave

The poisoned thorns of the bloody red rose
Red venom of deepest dye
Henry the traitor, the victor by sin
Soiled Richard’s blood with a grin
The poisoned thorns of the bloody red rose
Red venom of deepest dye
Henry the traitor, the victor by sin
Soiled Richard’s blood with a grin.

While it was nice to have a Ricardian point of view in Running Wild’s song, I could not help but feel rather sorry for James Tyrell, whom I  think has been  defamed in a similar manner to Richard with no strong proof. And to think almost 30 years after this song was written, David Starkey was still pointing (a very shaky) finger at Tyrell in the ‘Princes  in the Tower’ documentary that, rather ungraciously, appeared at the time of Richard’s reinterment.

The so called ‘confession’ Tyrrell made appears to be mythical; there is not one shred of evidence it actually existed, and one has to wonder if it were true, why Tyrell was not executed for regicide and murder but for treason in aiding Edmund de la Pole, the Duke of Suffolk. Starkey seemed to make a huge deal of the fact Henry was at the Tower with Elizabeth of York at the time of the trial ‘so something was clearly going on.’ A pretty weak ‘finding’, I would say, since James Tyrell was not tried at the Tower but at Guildhall, and while Starkey’s beloved Thomas More wrote about the ‘confession’, other writers of the time such as Polydore Vergil make no mention of it. A pretty important thing to miss, no?

More, it might be worth saying, also had Tyrrell knighted by Richard for killing the princes when ,in reality, he had been knighted years before by Edward IV at Tewkesbury.  The whole scene by More regarding  the Princes ‘murder’ smacks of farce to me–Richard on the toilet telling his wicked plans to a random page boy, then stepping into the corridor and stumbling  upon some  convenient thugs lying on a pallet outside the door whom he casually asks to do the wicked deed alongside Tyrell. I think More may will have been writing some  form of satire here–and let us not forget that he starts off his book  with the death of Edward IV, but the age of the King at his death is WRONG by many years. The age More gives is that of  Henry Tudor at HIS death! So what was he really trying to say?

Clearly, certain historians like to cherry-pick More’s work and perhaps, lacking as it would seem, a sense of humour, take every word  literally  and far more seriously than  perhaps was ever intended by the author (who, incidentally, neither finished nor published it in his lifetime.)

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James Tyrrell’s Ancestor

You may know or suspect from a previous post in Murrey and Blue, that Sir James Tyrrell, Richard’s henchman, was a direct descendant of Sir Walter Tyrrell, the ‘Killer Baron’, who fled during a hunting expedition with King William II (Rufus) after shooting him with an arrow. It is not known whether this was an accident or murder on the orders of Rufus’ brother, Henry!

But you may not know that he is also a direct descendent of Sir John Hawkwood, through Hawkwood’s daughter, Antiochia, (by his first wife, whose name is unknown for sure but who was probably English). He was Hawkwood’s 2 x great grandson. You can see this on the family tree below (you may have to enlarge it to see clearly).

Tyrell family tree

 

So, who was Sir John Hawkwood? Well, he was reportedly the second son of a tanner from Sible Hedingham in Essex, Gilbert Hawkwood. However, it seems Gilbert was actually a land owner of some wealth. John Hawkwood was apprenticed to a tailor in London, but obviously wasn’t content with that career and became an archer, a longbowman, in the Hundred Years War under Edward III, and it is thought he participated in both the battle of Crécy and the Battle of Poitiers. He may have been knighted by the Black Prince but there are no written records and it is possible he was just styled a knight by convention in Italy at the time.

A little later, when free companies of soldiers began to form, Hawkwood joined the largest, The White Company or The Great Company, a gang of mercenaries who fought for various factions in France and collected bribes, ransoms and booty as they went. After two years, Hawkwood rose to be their commander and proved an expert in pillaging, blackmailing and duplicity. Eventually they arrived in Italy, where there were many city-states who were always in conflict with each other. This proved to be rich pickings for Hawkwood and his Company, as over the next thirty years he fought both for and against the Pope, Florence, Milan, Pisa, Siena and Perugia. He extracted huge bribes from all of them and such was Hawkwood’s military reputation that he never lacked for clients. This was even though over the years he betrayed them all!

Detail of fresco of Sir John HawKwood

(Image – Public domain)

He eventually signed a contract with Florence and remained there in a mainly defensive role for the rest of his career. He died on 17th March 1394, just before he could return to England as he was planning to do. Florence granted him an elaborate funeral and there is still a fresco there which commemorates him.

Fresco of Sir John Hawkwood

Image credit: By Paolo Uccello (Italian, 1397–1475) (Jastrow, own picture) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Richard II requested that his remains be returned to England and this was agreed, though there is no written record of his remains being actually buried in the Church of St Peter’s in Sible Hedingham, where there is also a monument to him.

Pic of St Peter's Church, Sible Hedingham

Image credit: Robert Edwards [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikim

Hawkwood’s reputation was one of ruthlessness, guile and intelligence. He was obviously a clever tactician as witnessed by his success and he must have been courageous to lead that sort of life. However, he did have a reputation for brutality and deviousness. He was known to have had two wives as well as several mistresses and illegitimate children, as many men did in that occupation. Conversely, he had Mass said before his campaigns. He is also described as showing honesty and fidelity. I wonder whether his 2 x great-grandson inherited any of these traits?

 

 

 

Another clue to the mystery of the “Princes”?

On the left is Gipping Chapel in Suffolk, attached to the Tyrrell property of Gipping Hall. It is a traGippingChapeldition within the Tyrrell family that the “Princes”, the sons of Edward IV who were technically children, lived there during 1483-4 “with the permission of the mother”

.

To the right is St. Nicholas of Myra, the 4th Century Bishop who is the patron saint of children, inter alia. He survived Diocletian’s persecution to take office under Constantine and die of old age. Gipping Chapel was dedicated to him.

So what is he trying to tell us about them?

The Abbey of the Minoresses of St Clare without Aldgate and the Ladies of the Minories

anne-darcy2Anne Montgomery nee Darcy.  One of the much respected Ladies of the Minories from the window of Holy Trinity Church, Long Melford, Suffolk.

Shakespeare said ‘all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players’.  Following on from that if we may be allowed to say that the Wars of the Roses were a stage then surely some of the saddest players on it were the ladies of the Minories – the widows, mothers, sisters and daughters of some of the main players of that tragic and violent period who survived their menfolk but in what must have  been difficult and sometimes straightened circumstances.  I have here leaned heavily on W E Hampton’s excellent article, the Ladies of the Minories (1)

The Abbey of the Minoresses of St Clare without Aldgate was founded by Edmund Crouchback Duke of Lancaster and his wife, Blanche of Navarre,  in 1293 for the nuns that Blanche had brought to England with her.  Surviving until 1539  the abbey, which was very large,  was surrendered by the last abbess,  Dame Elizabeth Savage,  to Henry Vlll.  The abbey had already suffered what must have been a catastrophic loss in 1515 when 27 nuns and other lay people i.e. servants died of the plague (2)

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Edmund Crouchback, illustrations of his tomb in Westminster Abbey by Stothard from Monumental Effigies of Great Britain 1832

According to Edward Tomlinson who wrote A History of the Minories there is an old manuscript in British Museum ‘which appers to have escaped the notice of any historian’ which states that Edmund’s ‘hart ys buryed at the North end of the high Awter in the mynorysse And his body ys buryed at Westminster in the Abbey’.  This manuscript which is probably a transcript from a register kept in the Abbey contains ‘the names of all p sones beyng of Nobull Blode whiche be buryed wthin the Monastorye of the mynnorysse’.  The names of these illustrious burials are too numerous to name here but a few..

Dame Elizabeth Countess of Clare

Dame Isabel daughter of Tomas of Woodstock Duke of Gloucester

Margaret Countess of Shrewsbury daughter of Humphgrey Duke of Buckingham

Agnes Countess of Pembroke

Eleanor Scrope wife to Lord Scrope and Daughter of Raufe/Ralph Neville

Edmunde De La Pole and Margaret his wife

Elizabeth de la Pole, Edmund’s daughter (3).

Among those burials I am focusing here on those from the turbulent period of the Wars of Roses and the fall of the House of York..

I shall start with one of the leading ladies of this little band,  Elizabeth Mowbray nee Talbot, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk.  Elizabeth was the daughter of John Talbot lst Earl of Shrewsbury and sister to another lady of great importance from the period, Eleanor Butler.  Mother to the tragic Anne Mowbray child bride to Richard of Shrewsbury, Edward IV’s youngest son.  Elizabeth lived in the Great House within the Close for which she paid a rent of 10 pounds.  Elizabeth it will be remembered, on the sudden unexpected death of her husband was forced soon after to take a diminished dower in order to augment the revenue of her young son-in-law. Frustratingly Elizabeth’s thoughts on this  were, as far as is known, never recorded.  The   marriage of her daughter Anne to the youngest son of Edward IV and Elizabeth Wydeville,  whose own marriage had ruined her sister, Eleanor,   ensured that the vast Mowbray estates would pass to Richard if it should come to pass that her daughter died, which as it transpired is exactly what happened.   Anne died shortly before her 9th birthday at Greenwich one of her mother-in-law’s favorite homes.  Anne was buried in Westminster Abbey but her body was removed from there in 1502 when the chapel she was buried in was demolished to make way for Henry Tudor’s grandiose new chapel.  Anne was returned to her mother at the Minories and buried there –  ‘Dame Anne Duches of yorke doughter to lord moumbray Duke of Norfolke ys buried yn the sayed Quere’ (4)

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Elizabeth Mowbray, nee Talbot, Duchess of Norfolk as depicted in the window of Holy Trinity Church, Long Melford, Suffolk.

Although the glory days must have been over for Elizabeth with the demise of her husband – her retirement to the Minories  would have been a serious case of downsizing –  a look at her will tells us that she had not lost absolutely everything  as did  her daughter’s mother in law, Elizabeth Wydville, whose pitiful will tells us that she was left more or less destitute.  Ah well Karma is a bitch as they say.

Jane Talbot, sister-in-law to the above, having married Sir Humphrey Talbot.  Humphrey was the son of John Talbot by  his second wife Margaret who was a daughter of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick.  Jane’s interesting will which left numerous bequests especially to her servants also requested that ‘I Dame Jane Talbott, wedowe late the Wif of sir Humfrey Talbott knyght…  my body to be buried within the inner choer of the churche of the Mynores withoute Algate of London nygh the place and sepulture where the body of Maistres Anne Mongomery late the wif of John Mongomery Squyer restity and ys buried within the same quere’.

Anne Montgomery widow of John Montgomery who was executed in 1462, brother of Sir Thomas Montgomery, Sir James Tyrell was her nephew.  Anne was clearly a person much revered.  As well as Jane Talbot, Elizabeth Mowbray also requested to be buried close to her in her will made 6 November 1506 – ‘And my body to be buried in the Nonnes qwere of the Minorsesses without Alegate of London nyghe vnto the place Wher Anne Montgomery lyeth buried’.

Mary Tyrell.  According to Hampton ‘Almost certainly one of the sisters of Sir James Tyrell – probably the youngest – and therefore a niece of Anne Montgomery  (5 )

Elizabeth Brackenbury.  Daughter to the loyal Sir Robert Brackenbury, Richard III’s Constable of the Tower,  who died with his king at Bosworth.  Hampton mentions that Elizabeth”s poverty was clear in her will of 1504 and  that she found shelter under the wings of the Talbots and requested in her will that her debts to Elizabeth were to be paid –  ‘I Elizabeth Brakkynbury..beyng of goode and hole mind’ – all such money ‘as my lady’s grace of Norff’ to whom I am most specially bounde’ had paid, or was charged with, for Elizabeth ‘of her charitie’ was to be repaid (6).  Hampton also adds that there was some connection between Sir Robert and Sir Thomas Montgomery which could partly explain his daugher’s connection to these ladies, although it is not certainl if Brackenbury’s daughter was an inmate at the time of Anne Montgomery’s tenancy at the Minories.

Hampton wrote  ‘All of these ladies, with the possible exception of Jane Talbot had suffered great loss, but it would perhaps be unwise to to think too much of them as sheltering in the Minories, where life may not have been too severe.  They may as Dr Tudor-Craig suggests have gathered around the Duchess yet Anne Montgomery’s influence may have been greater spiritually’.

While some ladies had  been most grieviously  injured by Edward IV and his Wydeville wife – i.e. the shabby way Elizabeth Mowbray was forced to augment the revenue of her small son-in-law, the betrayal of her sister, Eleanor, the executions  of  William Tyrell and John Montgomery, further injury was inflicted by Henry Vll with the unjust attainder of Sir Robert Brackenbury and the execution and attainder of Sir James Tyrell.

FullSizeRender.jpgWynegaerde’s Panorama of London (1543)  in which the Minories can be seen just above  and to the left of the White Tower/Tower of London.  .  Note the close  proximity of the scaffold on Tower Hill, shown to  to the left of the Minories.  

Doubtless they were great comforters of each other and it is very easy to imagine them being of a great solace to Elizabeth Mowbray when her daughter’s remains were returned  to her.

The beginning of the end for the once grand Minories came when the last abbess, Dame Elizabeth Salvage surrendered the abbey to Henry Tudor Jnr in 1539.  Stowe describes how in place of  ‘this house of nuns is now built divers fair and large storehouses for armour and habiliments of war, with divers workhouses serving to the same purpose’ although there is  ‘a small parish church for inhabitants of the close, called St Trinities’ (7)  Some of the abbey walls survived until a fire in 1797.  Around 1566 the parishioners came into possession of what had once been the Minories church but  was now the parish church and set about ‘renovating’ it.  This involved the removal and destruction of ancient monuments and the adding of a steeple.  Finally around 1705 , having surived the Great Fire of 1666,  begun the final destruction of the fabric of  the ancient church and the rebuilding of a new one although the medieval northern wall was retained.

 

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Diagram of the 18th century Holy Trinity church showing the north 13th Century  retained.  This wall managed to survive the fire and bombs until clearance of the site in 1956-58.  

 

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The remains of the abbey after the fire in 1796

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Another print showing the abbey remains after the 1796 fire.

It would have been about this time that the building of new burial vaults was begun and in the process of which,   the ‘greater part of the ground beneath the parish church must have been evacuated which would have not been achieved without the unfortunate removal of the remains of those, who in the past centuries, would have been buried there’ (8). Alas!

The 18th century  church was finally destroyed after being bombed during the war.   But that is not the end of the story of our intrepid band of Minory ladies or indeed the Minories itself, for in 1964 the remains of Elizabeth’s daughter, Anne Mowbray were  discovered by an excavator driver in a vaulted burial chamber of the Minories which had somehow been, fortunately,  overlooked.   Anne was once again reinterred in Westminster Abbey as close to her original burial place as possible…but, that dear reader is another story.

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18th century Holy Trinity Church prior to its destruction by a bomb.    It was in the excavation of this area after the war that Anne Mowbray’s remains were discovered in a vault.

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Holy Trinity Church looking slightly less stark in this painting,1881, artist unknown.

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The area now covering where once stood the Abbey of St Clare (The Minories).  Such is progress.  

 

1. The Ladies of the Minories, W E Hampton, Richard lll Crown and People p195-201

2.  A Survey of London Written in the year 1599. John Stowe pp 122.1233.

3. A History of the Minories pp68.69 Edward Murrey Tomlinson M.A

4. Ibid p 69.

5. The Ladies of the Minories W E Hampton, Richard lll Crown and People p.19

6. Ibid p.198

7. A Survey of London Written in the year 1599.  John Stowe p.128.

8. A History of the Minories p 299 Edward Murrey Tomlinson

More Tyrrells, this time in Oxfordshire. One family or two?

This (below) is Shotover Park in Oxfordshire, formerly part of the Wychwood royal hunting forest. It becamAerial_View_of_Shotover_House_(geograph_4217497)e the property of one Timothy Tyrrell in 1613, the year after the death of Henry Stuart,  Prince of Wales, whom Tyrrell had served as Master of the Royal Buckhounds. Tyrrell was further honoured with a knighthood in 1624 and his grandson James built the current House, a listed building, on the site in 1714-5.

Stuart Oxfordshire was not Yorkist Suffolk, Prince Henry was not Richard III and buckhounds are not horses. Nevertheless, Sir Timothy was serving the Crown in a very similar role to that of his namesake and it is not surprising that readers will wonder whether he was related to Sir James through a different branch of the family, as a direct descendant or not at all. In a similar case, we showed “Robin” Catesby to be descended from William.

We can take a few clues from Sir James’ life and career. He was born into a Lancastrian family in about 1455 at Gipping Hall, near Stowmarket, and was appointed Master of Horse in 1483. In 1485, he became Governor of Guisnes and may have transported the “Princes” to the continent en route to taking up this position – in which case they could have resided at Gipping Hall for a short while. Gipping Chapel (left) still stands. In 1502, he was arrested for helping the fugitive Earl of Suffolk and tried at the London Guildhall for this alone. Starkey has shown that Henry VII and Elizabeth of York watched it at the Tower, presumably live on television, including Tyrrell’s murder confession which nobody mentioned until More wrote some years after Henry’s death – see Leas’ article.

In other words, this Tyrrell was associated with the sons of a King, as Sir Timothy was to be. Sir James’ family was also associated with Great Wenham near Capel St. Mary and benefitted when his 1504 attainder was reversed only three years later. He had three sons and a daughter, of whom at least three survived him.

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