Lady on Horseback, mid-15th c., British Museum
Dartington Hall, near Totnes in Devon and just southeast of Dartmoor National Park, represents a uniquely British form of historical contradiction. It is both medieval, having parts of a Grade I-listed late 14th century manor house, and modern, being the current home of the Schumacher College and formerly the site of a progressive coeducational boarding school which broke all the molds of English education and even attracted the attention of MI5. Today, it operates a hotel, restaurant and conference center, and has Grade II* listed gardens.
Our visit was prompted by the prospect of staying briefly in the house built between 1388-1400 by John Holland, first earl of Huntingdon and duke of Exeter. The Holland dukes of Exeter were themselves highly controversial figures and their history is closely intertwined with that of the Houses of York and Lancaster. We didn’t…
View original post 2,433 more words
Lady on Horseback, mid-15th c., British Museum
For me, being a “Ricardian traveler” doesn’t necessarily mean that you only visit places where Richard III — as a child, the Duke of Gloucester or the King — lived. It means exploring towns, castles, battlefields, and churches which have some association to his family or to the Wars of the Roses. I would call Conisbrough in South Yorkshire a “Ricardian” site because it does have connections to Richard’s ancestors, including a rather infamous one! And, to my surprise, I discovered that Richard did give its castle some attention during his life, consistent with his reputation as being a Duke who made extensive investments in architecture and his estates’ infrastructure.
From the 11th to the 14th century, Conisbrough Castle was in the possession of the de Warenne Earls of Surrey. Construction began in the late 11th century, with the unique great…
View original post 1,307 more words
In 1416, Richard, Duke of York was just four and a half years old when, in March, he was placed into the care of Robert Waterton. Richard’s mother, Anne Mortimer, had died shortly after he was born and his father, Richard of Conisburgh, had been executed a year earlier for his part in the Southampton Plot. Richard became something of a problem for Henry V’s government when his uncle, Edward, Duke of York was killed at Agincourt. As he had no children, Richard was Edward’s heir. The son of a traitor had suddenly become one of the most important figures in England.
Robert Waterton was a stalwart of the Lancastrian government having been keeper of the king’s horses and dogs but it was in his role as keeper of problem people that he is most interesting. After the Battle of Agincourt, Henry V returned to England with a long line of prominent French prisoners in tow. Waterton acted as gaoler for many of these prisoners, though in reality their confinement was a comfortable affair with a degree of freedom.
A mandate for payment of Waterton’s expenses in 1423 noted that he was responsible for Richard, Duke of York but also listed the French prisoners still under his care. The list included Charles, Count of Eu, Arthur de Richmont, son of the Duke of Brittany, Perrin de Luppe, Guichard de Sesse and, most notably of all, Jean le Maingre, better known as Marshal Boucicaut.
Boucicaut had passed away in Yorkshire in 1421, but he was one of the most famous knights in Europe and was a tower of chivalry. He was Marshal of France at the time of Agincourt and travelled to England as a prisoner following the battle. Robert Waterton was responsible for some of the most important figures captured in France alongside his young English ward.
Whilst no evidence of any fraternising remains, it is tantalising to consider whether a young Richard, Duke of York might have met and spent time with some of France’s finest knights, representing the pinnacle of French chivalry. What would the boy have made of these famous and accomplished knights who had ended up as English prisoners? If they did spend any time in each other’s company it may well have been an experience that helped to shape the man that this young boy would become.
Charles d’Orleans was possibly the most notable of Waterton’s charges. He was a grandson of Charles V of France and lived until 1465 after his years as a prisoner. He was a senior figure in French politics and although only in his early twenties when he entered Waterton’s care, he had seen first-hand the devastation caused to a proud kingdom by the rule of a weak and incapable king. He was a prisoner in a foreign land, snatched from his dukedom and all but ruined in the prime of life because his king was not a strong leader capable of governing. His experience was almost prophetic of Richard’s later life. It is tempting to wonder what lessons Richard, even as a young boy, saw in the fate of these men and what words of wisdom they may have offered him.
Richard, Duke of York: King By Right is released on Friday 15th April 2016 by Amberley Publishing. It is a fresh examination of a figure who towers over fifteenth century history but who frequently appears in his later years at the outbreak of the Wars of the Roses. By looking at his formative years and the world around him as he grew up a very different man emerges who was not the ambitious, war-mongering man history remembers him as. Richard as a very real man will emerge from this book to demand a fresh look at his actions throughout the 1450s.
You can buy Richard, Duke of York: King By Right from Amazon now.
Richard of Conisbrough was Richard III’s grandfather on the paternal side. He is a shadowy figure, the last son of Edmund of Langley and his wife Isabella of Castile. Even his date of birth is uncertain, varying in different accounts by up to ten years. His father left him no inheritance, and there were rumours that Edmund and his eldest son suspected that Richard was not Langley’s child, but that of John Holland, with whom Isabella of Castile was known to have had an affair. (Some have suggested that this may account for the y-Dna mismatch between Richard and the current Beauforts, and this is a possibility, although it is far more likely it occurred somewhere in the past 16 Beaufort generations.)
At any rate, Richard was known to be the ‘poorest Earl’ due to his lack of income; he was his mother’s heir but monies due to be paid him came only irregularly after Richard II was deposed and Henry IV came to the throne. In 1408, he married Anne Mortimer in secrecy, without parental permission. It appears to have been a love match as Anne came with no particular wealth. With Anne, he had three children, the latter of whom was named Richard— he eventually became Duke of York, and the father of Edward IV and Richard III
When Anne Mortimer died in 1411, Richard of Conisbrough married the heiress Maud Clifford and swiftly had a daughter Alice.
Then in 1415, he fell in with a plot against the reigning Henry V shortly before the King was meant to sail to France for Agincourt. Along with Lord Scrope of Masham and Thomas Grey, he plotted to replace Henry with Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, Anne’s brother, who also had a strong claim to the throne. However, Edmund himself informed Henry, and the conspirators were arrested in Southampton after they had made several meetings. They seemed to have expected mercy, with a heavy fine…but no mercy was forthcoming from the stern Henry.
All three men were executed; Grey hanged, drawn and quartered; Scrope decapitated and his head sent to York; and Conisbrough executed by the headsman but allowed to ‘keep his head’ with him after death due to his royal ancestry. He was buried without ceremony in the tiny St Julien’s church, which formed part of the God’s House hospital. Dating from 1185, this chapel still stands in the shadow of a massive towered gateway, although it is in private hands and can only be viewed from the exterior.
So one may think Richard got his just dues for plotting against King Henry. But how serious was this plot? Was there even a plot at all? Professor Anne Curry has doubts as to its veracity as does historian T.B. Pugh. It is just as likely that Henry was simply removing a few disgruntled lords (Conisbrough had some reason to be disgruntled—he had been charged a 10,000 mark marriage fine) and sending a harsh warning to anyone who thought to defy him when he was away on campaign in France. The three plotters were not terribly organised and their supposed plots vague at best, and none of them seemed particularly supportive or loyal to Edmund of Mortimer, which may make it unlikely that they truly wanted him as king—apparently, they called him a hog and a pig!
So whatever the case, Conisbrough lost his life aged somewhere between the ages of 30 or 40, but luckily, because he was not attainted, he was able to pass on his estates to his orphaned son, four year old Richard. Shortly thereafter, Conisbrough’s elder brother died at Agincourt, and in due time young Richard was acclaimed as his heir and inherited his titles and lands.
Conisbrough is rather a forgotten figure, except as dealt with in a Shakespeare play. Despite the possibility he had done very little against Henry V other than grumble a bit with a few other northern lords, no one seems to mourn his execution overmuch…unlike, for instance Anthony Rivers, executed for treason by Richard III in 1483. There is certainly just as much if not more evidence that Rivers was plotting against the Duke of Gloucester on behalf of his Woodville kin; the fact that no one spoke up for him after his arrest speaks volumes. They had weeks to do so. But it seems, alas, Conisbrough did not have Rivers’ charisma…or write poetry.
Anne Curry: Agincourt-A New History
TB Pugh: Henry V and the Southampton Plot of 1415
Following on from my recent post about the reception of the Agincourt campaign by later generations and the associated ‘myth-making’ which has informed our view of those events, I wanted to look at the character of the central figure in Shakespeare’s play and compare and contrast it with the ‘real’ Henry in the evidence that comes down to us today and the interpretations of some modern historians.
Shakespeare makes his hero a paragon of virtue in so many respects that it would be well nigh impossible for the real, historical figure of King Henry to live up to his alter ego. Firstly, Shakespeare’s Hal is both stern and commanding yet also approachable and affable with his men. He is intelligent and charismatic, displaying all the qualities of a great leader and yet disarmingly gauche and awkward with Princess Catherine as he stumbles over his school boy French and tries to woo her in…
View original post 3,804 more words
The “official” version of Richard II’s death is straightforward. After his deposition he was imprisoned in Pontefract Castle, and, following a rebellion of his followers in early January 1400, starved to death. The date of death is usually given as 14th February 1400. His body was subsequently taken by stages to London, being publicly exhibited (as is the tradition for deposed, dead kings in England) culminating in a final display in St Paul’s Cathedral prior to a relatively obscure burial at King’s Langley, Hertfordshire. However, rumours persisted that he was still alive, and the promise of his return was often, if not invariably, attached to the various conspiracies of Henry IV’s reign.
Although Richard’s body was displayed, only part of his face was actually visible, and he was presented on a high catafalque. This may have led to some suspicion that the corpse had been substituted as it would have been impossible for anyone to study the King’s features with any degree of thoroughness.
Richard II had a known “double”, his clerk, Richard Maudelyn, the son of no less a person than Hawise Maudelyn, sometime waiting-woman to Katherine Swynford, mistress and later third wife of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. The family resemblance suggests that Maudelyn’s father may well have been John of Gaunt himself, or perhaps one of the other royal uncles, and it is reasonable to assume that Maudelyn was at the least a cousin to Richard II, and maybe rather closer in blood to Henry IV.
Maudelyn was used by the January 1400 conspirators to impersonate Richard II in the hope of drawing out support. This suggests that the resemblance was at least strong enough to deceive country gentlemen and the like, if not people who knew Richard really well. Maudelyn was captured and executed by the usual method of hanging, drawing and quartering. It seems improbable that his body could have been used as a substitute for Richard’s, unless this was decided upon almost immediately and the remains embalmed. One might expect the bones of Maudelyn would show signs of his violent execution. As far as I am aware, no such signs were discovered when (what is presumed to be) Richard II’s body was examined in the 19th century.
The “Scottish Richard II” was found wandering about on the island of Islay, of all places. He was “recognised” by a woman who claimed that she had seen him while visiting Ireland the previous year, and following this was conveyed to the Scottish Court, where he lived out his life as a pensioner of the Scottish Crown.
Islay is a small and relatively remote island off the west coast of Scotland, nowdays best known for the production of the incomparable Laphroaig whisky. Assuming that Richard II escaped from Pontefract, is it likely that he would make his way to such an obscure place? Surprisingly, the answer is – yes, he might.
Richard saw himself primarily as emperor of the British Isles, and his complex diplomacy in the 1390s had as one of its principal objectives the detachment of Scotland from the Franco-Scottish alliance and its subordination to England. This proved impossible because of the attitude of the French, and the Scots were eventually included in the 28 year truce concluded in the autumn of 1396. However, as part of his diplomacy Richard had secured an alliance with the semi-independent Lord of the Isles, valuable in strategic terms for both his Scottish and Irish pretensions. (Since the Lord of the Isles came close to destroying the Scottish Crown’s forces at Harlaw, 1411, it seems likely that the Lord of the Isles plus England would have been able to complete the job!)
Therefore Richard had some reason to expect help in the Western Isles. That the supposed imposter should turn up there is surely significant.
The Grey Friars in England were persistent in spreading the rumour that Richard II was alive, and several were executed for their trouble. Several nobles are known to have received letters from “Richard II”, bearing one of his authentic seals, which had somehow been carried away to Scotland. And in 1403 the Percys – in effective alliance with Scotland – promised the men of Cheshire that Richard II would appear at their rendezvous at Sandiway, Cheshire. Needless to say he did not, and the Percys were defeated, but the rumours of his survival went on.
Bolingbroke claimed that the “Scottish Richard II” was one Thomas Warde of Trumpington, Cambridgeshire, and continued to execute those foolish enough to spread the word that Richard was alive. (It is not explained how Thomas Warde came to be on Islay.) As late as 1415 the Southampton Conspirators were still talking of bringing “Richard II” back from Scotland while in December 1417 Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham, refused to recognise the authority of his judges “so long as his liege lord King Richard was alive in Scotland.”
Thomas Warde was a real person. His few acres of land in Trumpington were forfeited in 1408. However the evidence to prove he was the same individual as the Scottish Richard II no longer exists, if it ever existed in the first place.
It appears that the man responsible for many, if not all, of the rumours of Richard II’s survival was William Serle who had been a minor member of Richard’s household. When captured he admitted he had stolen Richard’s seal and forged a number of letters. Of course it entirely possible that this confession was extracted by torture so it is not necessarily conclusive. Bolingbroke, who was rarely generous to traitors unless they shared his blood, had Serle half-hanged several times in different locations before his eventual execution.
When the “Scottish Richard” died at Stirling in 1419 he was buried with full honours close to the High Altar of the Blackfriars. Whether he was the “real Richard” we shall probably never know, but it remains a fascinating possibility.
(Reblogged from English Historical Fiction Authors).