Today I once again heard Henry VIII described as Bluff King Hal. Well, this is usually said almost affectionately, which the Henry VIII we all know does not warrant. He was a monster. I think his voice was probably stentorian. Eventually he was downright nasty and needed to be approached with an excessively long bargepole. But not prodded with it, even accidentally! Heavens, no. Your head would be lopped before you drew your next breath! A frightening and frightful man in every way, he viewed women as disposable, as a few of his wives found out the hard way. And if you were male, being on his wrong side was very hazardous too, but you didn’t have to grace his bed.
Of course, there’s more than one way of defining bluff, and if you go to Merriam-Webster, you find that it also equates to surly. Go then to surly, and definition 1 is domineering, haughty, imperious. That suits Bluff King Hal for me. Another definition of bluff is having a good-naturedly abrupt, frank, and outspoken manner. That’s not Henry. Definition 1 does it for me, with dangerous, half-mad and bloody-minded added for good measure.
Well, given this view of him, I began to wonder about how other monarchs of that period, and before, might sound. I don’t mean their accents, whether or not they spoke Norman-French or even if they understood English, just their general sound. I mean, someone hopping around in a French fury is going to sound much like someone hopping around in an English fury, right? The overal impression would be the same.
So, in reverse order from Henry VIII, I go first to his father, Henry VII. Now I can only imagine him with a soft, measured voice, always with much thought before anything was uttered. Rarely any humour, but when he did laugh, he went for it! Not that the laughter would necessarily be joined by others. Well, not with honesty, anyway. They’d all be too nervous. Henry’s reign was spent in anxiety of being kicked off the throne (after all, he’d stolen it). I think the endless worry affected his health. He wasn’t the most robust of men, and although he died in bed, it wasn’t a pleasant death.
Henry has been defended as doing his best to avoid executing his opponents, but that didn’t stop him scything his way through anyone with the “wrong type” of royal blood, i.e. anyone who could even remotely be described as Yorkist! Great care would be always be needed with him because he was constantly veiled. You really did not know what he was thinking…or what his solution to a problem would be. Except that when push came to shove, you’d be permanently disposed of.
Still going back, I come next to Richard III. He too I always hear as soft-spoken, but not quite as measured as Henry VII because Richard wasn’t forever concealing his inner self. He was more likely to be honest, and had a sense of humour, not least as proved by his dry comment to that gentleman who wished to marry Jane Shore! Now, when Richard wished to be heard, he could command attention without much effort. He wasn’t a big man by any means but he had great presence. No need to shout and wave his arms, a glance would probably say what was necessary. He was royal to his fingertips, and yet approachable. When he made friends, he kept them. Loyalty was a word that meant everything to him; he was loyal and he expected the same from others. The Stanleys must have been a very nasty experience, but by the time they exposed themselves it was too late. Richard didn’t deserve to die at Bosworth, but he couldn’t fend off such low treachery.
Contrary to all the traditional stories, Richard wasn’t hated and resented when he accepted the throne. There was in fact great relief throughout the land because a dangerous minority rule had been avoided—memories of Henry VI and Richard II were still strong. Richard was a reliable man of experience, proven in worth and loyalty, and intent upon improving the lot of his subjects. And he was regarded as the rightful king. Everyone knew how dodgy his big brother’s love life had been, and that Edward IV would indeed have lied to women to get them in the sack. The only ones who resented Richard were those who supported Edward’s offspring whether or not they were legitimate. The thwarted Woodvilles were particularly angered of course, because they’d planned to rule England through Edward V. Richard had out-manoevred them.
So, I stand by my first description of his voice. Whether or not he had a West Midlands accent, a Yorkshire accent, or whatever, he was the very opposite of a bellower. But he certainly spoke English and wrote in it.
Edward IV’s elder son, Edward V, was a boy, much brought up and completely influenced by his mother’s family, the Woodvilles, who wanted him on the throne and Richard of Gloucester 6’ under it! I hear young Edward as a strident boy who’d been taught to view his Uncle Richard with deep suspicion. Not the boy’s fault, but I shudder to think what his reign would have been had his illegitimacy not come to light. Richard, would have remained Duke of Gloucester and would have come to a swift, very sticky end, of that I’m sure. And the new young Woodville king (I can’t view him as a Plantagenet!) would have rubbed his hands at a job well done. Thank the Lord we were spared the House of Woodville. If only the same could be said of the awful House of Tudor. Anyway, I feel Edward V was a superior, know-it-all, just-about-teenaged prat…er, sorry, brat. And we all know what they sound like – they’re the same today.
Now we come to Edward V’s father, Richard’s big brother, Edward IV. Hmm, somehow I think his voice was level and imperative at the same time, but never on the strident Richter scale of his grandson, Henry VIII. When Edward wanted to be heard, he upped the volume without ranting, and everyone jumped to attention. Plus, of course, with his great height he simply commanded from above! And as he was prepared to order the execution of his brother, George, Duke of Clarence, I think everyone tippy-toed around him. His sense of humour was very evident, however, especially when he’d had a few. If he hadn’t married a Woodvuille, and proceeded to lavish every possible grace and favour on her numerous and unworthy relatives, he’d have been mourned much more than he was.
Edward IV had always known that he wasn’t legally married to his queen, yet he kept his mouth shout, fully intending his illegitimate son to succeed him. By so doing he made certain of endangering the life of his only remaining brother, Richard, whom Edward knew was his rightful successor, and who had a trueborn son of his own who should have eventually become king as well. Richard was the true line of succession, but Edward sat on his grubby little secret. When Richard finally realised this, he must have been cut to the quick. Loyalty was a quality singularly lacking in Edward IV, and my opinion of him is very low indeed, although not quite as low as Henry VII and Henry IV. I put Edward IV in third place in the Nasty Man Stakes. Edward was unlikeable, I feel, albeit behind an exterior of warm bonhomie.
Henry VI. Oh dear, rightly or wrongly I always hear him speaking querulously, except when praying, which he did constantly. When addressing God, he was almost cringingly respectful. Now, I don’t mean that as an insult to his piety, merely a statement of fact. My fact, and I may have him wrongly pinned. His long reign was an absolute disaster for England. He would have been better off—and much happier—in a monastery, as I think he might have agreed. It was a relief for England when he was toppled by Edward IV and the House of York. The Lancastrians were all usurpers, although Henry V certainly redeemed them. But, like so many good things, he died to soon and was replaced by his baby son.
Onward—or backward—to Henry V, hero of Agincourt. Well, I have difficulty with him, perhaps because I know so little of him. I too have been indoctrinated, at school by Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I. But he must have been a very commanding man, almost rivetingly charismatic on the battlefield. His voice? Very clear, with no room for misunderstanding. And no extra words.
Then his father, the eponymous Henry IV, Parts I and II, who was the first Lancastrian king (and the first to usurp the throne!) One of my least favourite kings—in my estimation he and Henry VII are almost neck and neck, with Henry VII over the line by a short head. Henry IV was an unpleasant man (in my estimation), and I always hear him with a clipped, gruff voice. Like Henry VII, he spent his entire reign needing to justify his usurpation, and his health gradually failed. In his case I hear slight hesitations now and then because he was always on guard. These hesitations Henry VII concealed by being so measured, but Henry IV wasn’t clever enough for that. Also like Henry VII, he was never a happy man. Neither of them was able to relax and be himself. Serves them both right for rising against the rightful king and stealing the throne.
Richard II. Ah, one of my favourites, and although I don’t see him as angelic by any means, I do think he’s had a shabby rap from history. He was still a little boy when he succeeded to the throne, and was quite cruelly controlled and ordered around by his royal uncles. His voice when he reached maturity? Crisp, often hasty, and as his reign went on, increasingly nervous and suspicious as well as swift to turn to anger, which is hardly surprising, given the political mayhem all around him. Like Richard III, he has been and continues to be the target of Lancastrian/Tudor spite and their need to justify their illegal actions. Henry IV murdered Richard in cold blood, probably by starvation, and I hope had nightmares about it ever afterward.
Edward III, the last king I intend to consider. He was Richard II’s grandfather, his father, the “Black Prince” having predeceased Edward. Well, Edward was quite some king, and for two thirds of his reign was the great monarch and saviour of England. He was much loved, by his subjects and his aristocracy, and I always hear him talking to the latter on the level. He was amenable, but always in charge, and seldom raised his voice. He knew how to keep things on an even keel, and was a very open, approachable man who was deeply in love with his queen. When Philippa died, Edward was desolate. He’d needed her, and was caught (on the rebound, so to speak) by one of her ladies-in-waiting, the infamous Alice Perrers. This coincided with his gradual deterioration, mentally and physically.
Toward the end of his life Edward was a shadow of his once great self, and seemed to only listen to Alice and her cohorts (“evil advisers”). It was a very sad close to an illustrious career, and I hear his once amiable voice becoming weaker, more confused, puzzled even. Sometimes he was lucid and had moments of ability, but mostly he was incapable of withstanding Alice’s machinations. She, of course, had to make hay while the Edwardian sun shone, because when he died, so did her power. She needed to amass what she could while she could as the vultures were waiting to strip her bones bare. Whether or not she resorted to the services of a necromancing friar is another matter.
So there you have it. This is how I imagine these kings to have sounded. I doubt if everyone will agree with some of my opinions, maybe any of them, but I’ll be interested to learn how others have always imagined the voices of monarchs of the medieval period.
If you go to this link this article you’ll find an interesting if challengeable article about “Perkin Warbeck” and whether he could or could not have been Richard of Shrewsbury. Well, there were enough people who thought he was, and to make Henry Tudor’s existence thoroughly miserable. Pleasant thought. The article also discussed who might really have disposed of the boys in the Tower, if indeed they were disposed of.
At the beginning, as an example of how important naming names can be to a lot of people, there is a comment about the novelist Patricia Cornwell paying a lot to try to prove the identity of Jack the Ripper, inspired by a now (apparently) debunked theory. Well, I’m as interested in Jack the Ripper as the next person, but to be honest, in his case I don’t know that I want to know who he actually was. The mystery is the thing, especially as the royal family itself is implicated in one of the other theories.
But when it comes to the boys in the Tower, I’m definitely interested in knowing who did what, simply because it matters when Richard III’s name is hauled around in the mire. I’m convinced he didn’t do anything to his nephews, but either got them away somewhere safe, or was caught up in the consequences of someone else’s conspiracy, during which they died.
So it’s always intriguing to read someone else’s thoughts on these thorny matters, and some hoary old myths always make an appearance of course. Including in the above link. The first is that Hastings was bundled straight from the privy council meeting to a convenient log and had his head lopped. No trial, no nothing, just instant retribution. Well, that’s silly. Of course Hastings had a trial. It’s Tudor propaganda that he didn’t. Anything to blacken Richard’s character. One thing’s certain, if Hastings hadn’t been plotting against Richard, he’d have survived. But he was, so he didn’t.
And if Richard were really evil, would he really have just sentenced Jane Shore, or whatever her name really was, to walk barefoot through the streets? I think not. She’d been up to her pretty neck in scheming against Richard…if he’d been a Tudor, she too would have been hauled off to that bloody log! So don’t blame Richard, look to the Tudors as the instigators of nasty things happening to women. They made a speciality of the art.
Mancini is believable because he “had no axe to grind”. Well, not that we know of, anyway. But does he tell the truth? And he was an Italian without great command of English, so how much did he mishear/misinterpret? If there’d been a plot involving Hastings, to do away with Richard and put Edward V on the throne, Richard would have been pretty stupid not to secure Edward somewhere solid and safe. The Tower — in the royal apartments, not the deepest, darkest, dampest, direst old dungeon below the low water level of the Thames! And whatever else Mancini may say, he doesn’t actually accuse Richard of murdering the boys. How could he? No one knows even now what happened to them, if anything. They might well have been taken abroad…or they may have died of natural causes. There was always some disease or other circulating in medieval times.
Then we come to the “it’s Buckingham wot done it” bit. Well, I’m prepared he believe he did. He wanted to be rewarded more by Richard than he already had been, and when the riches weren’t forthcoming quickly enough, he raised a rebellion. Which was tied up with Henry Tudor, courtesy of John Morton, Margaret Beaufort, Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all…. The usual traitors in fact. Well, what I don’t think is that Buckingham rebelled in order to put Tudor on the throne. What? Why the heck would he? He was genuine through and through blue-blooded royal, Richard’s first cousin, why on God’s own earth would be conspire to put a Beaufort nonentity like Henry Tudor on the throne. I think it more likely that Buckingham found out the hard way that they weren’t supporting him, but he was supporting them. Not flaming likely, thought he, but then the British weather put paid to the entire enterprise, and he was captured, tried and beheaded. And good riddance to the ingrate! He was no loss to Richard, or to England.
Sir James Tyrell is considered next, because he apparently confessed to the boys’ murder later on in Henry VII’s ill-gotten reign. If Tyrell did confess, it was wrung out of him by means of the vast and novel array of implements in the Tudors’ extensive torture repertoire. Besides, there is a Tyrell family story, firmly believed, that the boys stayed briefly on their East Anglian estates and were then helped to escape to safety at Richard’s behest. If Sir James had murdered them, I think the Tyrells would have kept their heads down, not preserved a heroic story of their involvement in the boys’ escape.
To move on, did a Lancastrian faction try to rescue the boys in a botched attempt that ended with the boys’ death? Hmm, I’m afraid I have a problem with the thought of Lancastrians “rescuing” the sons of a Yorkist king. The Woodvilles would want to put Edward V on the throne, and possibly some disgruntled Yorkists, but not any Lancastrians, surely? Anything the latter did would be a cover for extinguishing the boys, not saving them. My opinion only, of course.
Next, if the boys died of natural causes, why didn’t Richard put their bodies on display? Well, perhaps he would if he could, but he didn’t have them. I think he spirited them away to safety, maybe through the Tyrells, but then something befell them. Maybe even a shipwreck on their way to Richard’s sister, their aunt Margaret in Burgundy. You can’t produce what’s lying at the bottom of the North Sea. And who would believe their uncle had acted for their safety anyway? Don’t forget we were soon to have the Tudor Propaganda Machine chugging along with supreme success. I’m sure it could have taught Saatchi & Saatchi a lesson or three in advertising!
Did Elizabeth Woodville ever actually claim her children were legitimate? Not as far as I’m aware, and I’m sure that if she did, then her dear son-in-law, Henry VII, would have spread it with a thousand fanfares. He needed those children to be legitimate (and the boys dead!) because he was marrying the eldest daughter. Perhaps their mother’s silence was enough? Somehow I don’t think so. Henry would have wanted her to stand up on her hind legs and bray that she and Edward IV were legally married. She didn’t. Nor did Henry’s queen, Elizabeth of York, ever condemn her wicked Uncle Richard. Nor did the next sister, Cicely, who was married off p.d.q. to Henry’s half-uncle, John Welles, Viscount Welles. (Yes, she was this viscountessw’s inspiration.) For an interesting speculation tha Elizabeth Woodville eventually died of the plague, look here
Bishop Stillington supposedly witnessed, or at the very least knew about, what passed for a clandestine marriage ceremony between Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV. I don’t recall hearing of him repeating the precious lines Henry endeavoured to drum into him, no doubt aided by a ruler over the devout knuckles. Nor did the family of Lady Eleanor Talbot, who seems to have been Edward’s first and very legal wife. How selfish of her not to have turned up her toes before her spouse moved on to Elizabeth. Thus Eleanor’s survivl for four years after the Woodville match, made the second ceremony bigamous. I don’t recall hearing the Talbots utter a single word, either to deny or confirm the first marriage. Like everyone else, they stayed silent as mice.
I can’t imagine that John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, set about murdering the boys so he could claw back the Norfolk inheritance (of the Mowbray dukes) from the younger one. Why would he when Richard had already returned the Mowbray inheritance to him two days after acceding to the throne?
As for John de la Pole murdering them, well, he’d have to murder Richard’s son, Edward of Middleham, as well. It begins to look like mass murder. And if Edward of Middleham was eventually murdered, as many think he was, I don’t believe it was John de la Pole’s doing. But yes—oh yes!—I believe it of Tudor, Margaret Beaufort, John Morton et al. It suited them very nicely indeed to rob Richard of his only legitimate child. I’ll bet they toasted themselves with the very best plonk for a job well done.
And when it came to Bosworth, another of their slimy creatures, Sir William Stanley (and sort-of/maybe/perhaps aided by his crafty fence-sitting brother, who incidentally, was also Henry’s stepfather) all but stabbed Richard in the back by turning on him at the vital moment. The Stanleys had pledged themselves to be Richard’s men, for Pete’s sake. With such friends, who needs enemies? I think it was a salutary lesson to Henry Tudor…who never trusted anyone, except his Mum. One of the best things he ever did was later in his reign to chop off Sir William’s Janus head! Pity he didn’t do the same to both Stanleys.
Right, I’m well aware of how biased I am in favour of Richard III, but then this blog bears the name of the Yorkist colours and his portrait, both of which are a bit of a clue. The blog is quite clearly aimed at people like me, so posting something anti-Richard is unthinkable.
Today, 10th August, is my birthday, and on this date in 1485, the last Yorkist king, Richard III, was in Nottingham preparing for the imminent invasion of his realm by his Lancastrian foe, Henry Tudor, who didn’t have much of a blood claim to the throne but touted himself as the last remaining heir of the House of Lancaster.
Richard hadn’t had an easy time since coming to the throne, in fact he’d been through some harrowing experiences. His only legitimate son, 10-year-old Prince of Wales, had died on 9th April 1484, closely followed in March 1485 by Richard’s much-loved queen, Anne Neville. He’d had to repel an earlier invasion by Tudor, which had been aborted at the last minute, and put down the Buckingham rebellion. He’d endured many unpleasant rumours about murdering his nephews, aged twelve and nine, and also of having incestuous/marital intentions toward his own niece.
All this on top of his eldest brother Edward IV’s sudden death in April 1483, the revelation that his, Edward’s, marriage had been bigamous and that consequently Richard himself was the rightful king. He and Anne were crowned on 6th July that same year. Now he was alone, a grieving widower and father, with another invasion imminent. Small wonder he took some time out at Nottingham to go hunting with friends at Bestwood (Beskwood, as it was called then) just north of the city.
It was while there that he heard of Tudor’s landing in Wales, and therefore the battle was fast approaching. On 22nd August 1485 the two armies met at Bosworth, where treachery brought about Richard’s violent death. He was only thirty-two, and was killed while fighting mightily to get at Tudor himself. Perhaps Richard was glad to go, to be with his wife and son again in a better place.
My purpose today is to discuss something that happened over a year earlier a month before his son’s sudden death….the March 1484 appearance at his court of the illegitimate daughters (and possibly their mother) of his late brother, Edward IV. The 19-year-old eldest girl, Elizabeth of York, was the one Richard was soon to be accused of wanting in a way no uncle should.
When Richard died he left behind some mysteries that consume us to this day. First and foremost, of course, is what happened to Edward IV’s two sons, Edward V, aged twelve, and Richard of York, aged nine. On their father’s death, Richard became Lord Protector and took Edward V into his custody. The younger boy had always been with his sisters and mother, Elizabeth Woodville, in sanctuary at Westminster, where they’d fled when the Woodville plot against Richard failed—she had a large family in high places thanks to Edward IV’s indulgence—and the new boy king fell into the Lord Protector’s hands while en route to London. The Woodvilles had intended to seize Edward V, rush his coronation and keep him under their control. Richard would have been assassinated, so Elizabeth Woodville had good reason to fear him. Fleeing into sanctuary probably seemed her only option. As did taking a lot of crown treasure with her! It’s understood she had a hole broken in the sanctuary wall in order to haul all the loot through.
The boy Richard of York was eventually given into Richard’s keeping, to join his lonely brother in the apartments of state in the Tower in May 1483 (it was a palace as well as a fortress). They both seemed to disappear from history after late summer that same year, but had been seen practicing archery and playing in the Tower grounds. And Richard was still issuing writs in Prince Edward’s name as late as 16th September. Richard has always been blamed for their deaths (the usual accusation is that he had them smothered) even though no bodies/remains have ever been found. No, they are not in that urn in Westminster Abbey! Many of those bones are from animals.
At the time it suited the Tudors, Lancastrians and Woodvilles—and still suits Tudorite historians to this day—to trumpet that Richard was the original murderous Wicked Uncle. If he was, why on earth didn’t he dispose of other awkwardly legitimate nephews and nieces too? The two boys weren’t the only Yorkists with claims to the throne. His other brother, George of Clarence, had a son and daughter too, but they were barred from the throne by their father’s treason and attainder. Attainders could be reversed, so these children were dangerous to Richard, if he wanted to view them that way. He could have binned the whole lot, his sisters’ offspring too, had he wanted, but he didn’t. It was left to the blood-drenched Tudors to rid the world of just about every Yorkist they could think of, women and all. Yet Richard is always accused as if he was a mass killer on a jaw-dropping scale.
Every single Tudor is much more deserving of being called a mass murderer. They even executed George of Clarence’s children, who had survived safe and well under Richard. The hero of Bosworth trumped up a charge against the by then 24-year-old Edward, Earl of Warwick, and chopped his head off. He beheaded Richard’s illegitimate son, John of Gloucester, as well. Among others. Henry VIII condemned to the block George of Clarence’s daughter, Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, who was sixty-eight. But then, the delightful ‘Bluff King Hal’ liked to chop off his wives’ heads for good measure. Including the one for whom he’d caused such upheavals in the Church, leading to the religious bloodbaths of the following reigns.
Tudor propaganda also spouted that, to secure his nephew’s throne for himself, Richard falsely declared Edward IV’s children illegitimate (this was thanks to evidence provided by Bishop Stillington in 1483 that Edward IV had been married to someone else before his bigamous union with Elizabeth Woodville). Well, the children of bigamy couldn’t inherit the throne. Period. Then it was said that once Richard became a widower (having poisoned his now-infertile wife, Anne, of course) he intended to marry his eldest niece, Elizabeth of York.
It would seem that her illegitimacy didn’t bother Uncle Richard as much as it was to bother Henry Tudor, who turned legal cartwheels in order to make her trueborn again. Henry even tried to suppress/expunge all legal evidence of her illegitimacy by destroying royal and parliamentary documents. Indeed, if a copy of Richard’s right to the throne, known as the Titulus Regius, hadn’t survived, we might never have known what really happened. The Tudors were nothing if not thorough when it came to hiding their bloody tracks. See http://www.richardiii.net/2_7_0_riii_documents.php.
The warning signs were there from the moment Richard breathed his last at Bosworth, because Henry promptly declared his own reign to have commenced the previous day. Thus he branded traitor every man who had supported their anointed king, Richard III. It was a dangerous precedent to set, and ever afterward Henry remained jittery about suffering the same fate. Serves him right. But he’d set the guidelines for the Tudor prospectus and it should have alerted everyone who’d supported him that they’d made a monumental mistake! But England was to suffer over a century of the gruesome House of Tudor.
Richard III had every true claim to the crown of England. He was Edward IV’s only surviving brother and had a son and heir of his own whose destiny was to follow his father on the throne. The latter wasn’t to happen, of course, but at the time Titulus Regius was drawn up, Richard’s queen and son were still very much alive.
Contrary to an intention to marry Elizabeth, on being widowed Richard embarked on arranging royal Portuguese matches for himself and his niece. He had no option but to marry again because kings needed heirs to secure their thrones. So these Portuguese matches were purely practical matters. He was still a young man and had no reason not to hope for more children through a much more acceptable and conventional marriage, so why risk a dangerously incestuous match, the very idea of which was anyway bound to be abhorrent to him? He was conventionally pious. Conventional in every way. Marrying his niece would be a line across which he would never tread.
There was, of course, a now-lost letter supposedly written by Elizabeth to Richard’s friend, cousin and ally, John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, begging him to intercede with Richard on her behalf. When referring to Richard, this letter was couched in what appeared to be rather inappropriately affectionate terms. Whether the letter ever existed, I don’t know, but it’s certainly lost now. Maybe Elizabeth did have improper feelings for her uncle (Richard was a handsome young man and had been kind to her), but I doubt very much if he returned those sentiments. When he at last felt compelled to deny publicly that he had intentions toward his niece, he was definitely telling the truth. We’ll never know what Elizabeth thought of Richard, except that she didn’t once speak out against him. Nor for him either, of course. She stayed silent. I’m sure Henry Tudor would have loved her to accuse Richard of all sorts crimes, but she held her tongue. In public, at least.
I know you’ve read all the preceding before and have concluded that if anyone really needed to marry Elizabeth of York, it was Henry Tudor, whose success at Bosworth was solely due to the two-timing Stanley brothers, one of whom pulled a sickie to avoid the battle . The other turned Judas and set his men on Richard at a pivotal moment. With allies like them, who needed enemies? But mere conquest wasn’t enough to make Henry safe. You’ll probably be relieved to learn that I don’t intend to drone on about his Beaufort antecedents. The heir of the House of Lancaster? Give me a break. Richard’s supporters weren’t about to take Bosworth lying down, and Henry’s blood-claim to the throne was gossamer thin.
It was this very tenuousness that meant he had to do something to secure for good the support of the countless disaffected Yorkists swarming around his stolen realm. They’d given him their aid at Bosworth solely because they wanted Edward IV’s blood on the throne again, and he had vowed to marry Elizabeth. Should she have died, then he’d marry the most senior surviving daughter instead. If he didn’t keep his word, his reign was going to be as brief as Richard’s, if not briefer. And the good old unreliable Stanleys were just as likely to switch sides again. They were great at watching their own backs and stabbing everyone else’s.
The younger of the brothers, Sir William Stanley, who’d struck the decisive blow against Richard, was said to be the man who found Richard’s crown in a bush and placed it on Henry’s head. I don’t think he stayed happy with the consequences, because he eventually turned coat again to join a Yorkist plot against Henry. Sir William believed the claimant Perkin Warbeck really was the younger son of Edward IV, Richard, Duke of York, and wanted Edward IV’s proper line back on the throne. Henry’s exertions with Elizabeth of York in the marriage bed weren’t enough for Sir William. Their offspring weren’t proper Yorkists, whereas Perkin was the Real McCoy! Hey-ho, what goes around comes around.
To return to the main narrative. Henry had realized before leaving exile in Brittany and France to invade England (France was financing him) on this, his second bid for the crown, that marrying Elizabeth of York was a necessary evil. Without her the clarion calls to the banners of the White Rose would soon echo across the countryside, and the lord regarded as Richard’s chosen heir, his sister’s eldest son, John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, had rather selfishly survived Bosworth.
Henry was to dither about Lincoln, at first trying to win him over (what a trophy he’d have been for Richard’s killer!) But Lincoln couldn’t stand Henry or what he embodied, and so the dithering eventually led to the last true battle between the warring houses of York and Lancaster. The Battle of Stoke in 1487 saw the end of Lincoln, and Henry dared to give a small sigh of relief. But the battle only went Henry’s way because Lincoln’s men believed (rightly or wrongly at that precise moment) that Lincoln had been killed. They fled the battlefield, and at some point Lincoln was indeed mown down, which didn’t please Henry, who wanted him alive to be “worked upon” for information..
Henry’s respite wouldn’t last, of course, the shadows and ghosts would always follow him. Lincoln (who had a number of brothers) was probably the reason why Henry began to systematically eliminate the remnants of the House of York, and why the succeeding Tudors continued the bloodfest.
Anyway, to return to 1485. As Henry prepared to sail with his army of English traitors, Frenchmen and other foreign mercenaries, he took a solemn vow in Rennes Cathedral that he would marry Elizabeth and through their children bring the warring factions in England together at last. Noble sentiments, but he just wanted the crown, make no mistake of that.
First, however, Elizabeth had to be legitimized again. Henry was in a delicate enough position already, without adding to it by marrying a baseborn queen, even if she was Edward IV’s eldest daughter. He had to be a legitimate king with a legitimate queen. But he made sure to have himself crowned first on 30th October 1485. He wasn’t about to be dubbed Elizabeth’s consort, so he didn’t marry her until 18th January 1486.
Elizabeth’s own coronation didn’t come until 25th November 1487, after she’d done the right thing and presented him with a son in the September. Hm, yes, the maths are a little iffy. The baby was a bouncing eight-monther. It was said to be a happy marriage, and that he didn’t stray from the marriage bed even once. I’d like to know how they can be sure of that! Was he followed 24/7?
What Henry didn’t need was his wife’s tiresome brothers, whose claim to the throne had become legal and vastly superior to his own from the moment he legitimized her. The boys’ whereabouts were unknown, of course. They certainly weren’t in the Tower, because one of the first things Henry did on reaching London after Bosworth was instigate exhaustive searches. No one knew anything at this point…and so Henry crossed his fingers, but if he had found the boys in the Tower you can bet your bottom dollar he’d have them disposed of. Hellfire, their claim to the throne was going to be infinitely better than his own because he was going to legitimize their big sister in order to marry her and produce the vital half-York, half-Tudor offspring!
So, if any such murdering of boys did go on in the Tower, my money would have been on Henry in the very early days of his reign. But there was no proof they died at all, let alone were murdered. It was all smoke and mirrors. Henry ordered the further spreading of rumours that Richard had done away with his nephews, but the Tudor fingers remained very tightly crossed. Richard murdered them! Richard murdered them! The mantra worked, in a great part because Richard had failed to produce the boys to refute the charges. Down through the centuries the same chant can still be heard by rote. And we all know Shakespeare’s part in the lies. But then, he did want to please a Tudor!
If Elizabeth knew that her brothers were still alive, she couldn’t have told Henry before she travelled south from Sheriff Hutton after Bosworth. They’d never met before then. Perhaps she did tell him—he was going to make her Queen of England, so it was in her interest to hitch her waggon to his. But by then he’d already set the ‘Richard was Evil’ ball rolling. And as he hadn’t found any bodies or any sign of where the boys were, he would ever afterward be angst-ridden that they were going to come after him for their throne. If Richard had set out to torment Henry from beyond the grave, he succeeded brilliantly!
Now, to my main point. (At last, did I hear you cry?) For me, Edward IV’s daughters appearing at Richard’s court presents an important and intriguing indication about their brothers. Two of the three youngest girls were children under Richard but made good marriages as Henry’s sisters-in-law. The youngest girl, Bridget, was little more than a baby in 1483, and became a nun. As for the two eldest girls, Richard not only welcomed them to his court, but treated them well—and he probably welcomed their mother, Elizabeth Woodville, who’d schemed against him and whose family had almost certainly intended to assassinate him before he even reached London immediately after Edward IV’s sudden demise. Whether she returned to court or not isn’t quite certain, but she certainly accepted Richard, gave her younger son into his care in 1483 and permitted her two eldest girls to go to his court.
Would a woman like Elizabeth Woodville have all done that if she really believed Richard murdered her sons? I think not. She had reason to fear Richard, having worked against him, but she apparently came to trust him. It was to be her sour Tudor son-in-law who’d steal her property and kick her off to the wilds of Bermondsey Abbey for the rest of her days. Under Richard she—or at least her daughters—enjoyed the luxury, privileges and entertainments of court life.
Nevertheless, her two senior daughters, Elizabeth and Cicely had presented Richard with a problem. Or so it seems to me. Even though they were illegitimate, they were still a magnet to ambitious enemies (Henry, for one—and if Elizabeth had died, he had his eye on Cicely instead), and what’s more, they were not only marriageable, but of beddable age too. In less than a year they could produce annoyingly legitimate sons whose calculating eyes would soon slide pensively toward the throne. Henry should know, for hadn’t his eyes turned to someone else’s throne?
It seems that Richard solved the Cicely problem first, by marrying her to Ralph Scrope, younger brother of one of his northern supporters, Thomas, 6th Baron Scrope. It wasn’t a particularly grand union for a king’s daughter, even though she was baseborn, nor was it particularly lowly, but it still surprises me. To begin with it was low-key…its very existence was only discovered recently. Perhaps it was a lovematch? Perhaps they married behind Richard’s back? We’ll never know, and anyway, as soon as Henry stepped up to the throne, with Elizabeth of York safely tucked up as his wife, he had the Scrope marriage annulled. Cicely was the second surviving daughter of Edward IV, and had to be plucked from a dangerously Yorkist marriage and placed in the custody of a safe Lancastrian relative. Take one pace forward his dependable half-uncle, Sir John Welles (Henry’s mother’s half-brother), who was rewarded by elevation to the rank of Viscount Welles. And so Cicely became the first viscountessw! ☺
Thus, if we discount Cicely as being married to Ralph Scrope during Richard’s reign, and the three youngest girls as being too young, there remained the most important one of all, Elizabeth of York. There she was, beautiful, charming and desirable, welcomed by Richard and Anne, and wandering freely around court. Her importance would have been enhanced still more if Richard really had done away with her brothers. So, I have to ask, would he really have permitted her such freedom and access to court if her brothers were indeed dead?
Not everyone believed Edward IV’s children were illegitimate, nor did everyone want Richard on the throne. Yet Richard and Anne treated her and her sisters with overt generosity and kindness. Why? Simply because he was a benign uncle? Well, maybe—even probably —but I think he had an ulterior motive as well.
One of the first questions always asked is, if the boys were still alive why on earth didn’t Richard simply produce them and put a stop to the rumours? Why indeed. My feeling is that he couldn’t show them because they were no longer in the Tower or indeed in his personal care. No, they weren’t dead, rather do I think he’d sent them somewhere to safety very early on in his reign, well away from Lancastrians to whom they were a grave impediment to Henry’s ambitions…and from Yorkists who wanted Edward IV’s line back on the throne, illegitimate or not. But something eventually happened to the boys, I don’t know what, but believe it was after Richard’s death. Were they hidden with Richard’s sister, their aunt Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy? Did they die of some pestilence? Accidents? It could have been anything. Margaret—Yorkist to her elegant fingertips—loathed Henry, and certainly wouldn’t announce their deaths. She’d want him to stew in his own juice. Which he did.
Without her brothers, Elizabeth would be the Number One of Edward IV’s children, in the eyes of many the true Queen of England, and Richard would have had to keep a very tight grip on her. But what does he do instead? He promises publicly to do all he can for them and provide for their future, and to always treat them well. Thus he entices them from sanctuary into his care. But he wasn’t saying and doing this under false pretenses. No, he meant every word. He would take good care of them. And they were delighted to go to him. They trusted him, and so enjoyed the complete liberty of court, new clothes, fine company, dancing, music…Oh, how they must have been missing all that when they were banged up in sanctuary.
It’s my contention that after his treacherous cousin Buckingham’s unsuccessful rebellion in October 1483, Henry’s aborted invasion of the south coast at the same time (it seems a two-pronged attack was intended, Buckingham from Wales and the west, Henry from the south, Devon and Dorset) as well as the ever-louder whispers about the murders of the boys in the Tower, Richard felt he had to do something to deal with the rumours and let Henry know that even if a second attempt at invasion were successful, the path to the throne wasn’t quite as pretty and primrose as he hoped. The boys stood in his way.
Richard knew his ploy had to be subtle—guileful even—to persuade at least some Lancastrians, Woodvilles and Edwardian Yorkists not to be too hasty about throwing in their lot with the Lancastrian upstart. Bringing the girls out of sanctuary would certainly give pause for thought in the relevant circles. Surely Richard wouldn’t let Edward IV’s daughters wander freely at court if they were their father’s principal heirs. Therefore their brothers had to be alive and well, and still in Richard’s care.
Henry wasn’t deterred from invading again—I think he’d gone too far to back out—but he was convinced the boys still lived and so scoured the Tower for them after Bosworth. He had to get rid of them, and maybe he managed to do just that. But his subsequent behaviour suggests he hadn’t a clue where they were. They’d vanished. Impasse. Where were they? Safe in some Yorkist haven, soon to grow to manhood and return to claim their rights?
If Richard really had been a murdering monster, he’d have killed and buried the boys and then imprisoned the girls before burying them as well. But he wouldn’t be able to stop there. He had other nieces and nephews, and they were legitimate. They were to die once Henry got hold of them, but they all lived happily while Richard was king, including John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, who subsequently became useful as a temporary heir when Richard’s son and then his queen died. Richard obviously expected to have new heirs of his own when he remarried and didn’t for a moment think Lincoln would really become King John II, but if the worst happened, Lincoln was a man grown, experienced and a truly loyal Yorkist. He’d make a fine king.
There was no dark side to Richard III. He wasn’t a bloodthirsty monster or child-killer, but an honest man who in 1483 found himself in an impossible position. He would have become a great monarch if he’d lived long enough to prove it, but Henry got his way, stole the throne and married Elizabeth of York…having first made sure his coronation was safely over. He wasn’t about to be labelled her consort! He was kingy, and she had to wait to be his queeny. But he remained haunted by the missing boys throughout his reign. He dreaded their return. Maybe Perkin Warbeck was indeed the younger of the boys, Richard of York…in case he was, Henry sliced his head off. But there was still the older brother, the more important Edward V, who would have succeeded his father had his illegitimacy not come to light.
Is it a flight of Ricardian fantasy for me to perceive in Henry’s death mask the dying horror of seeing vengeful Yorkists coming for him at last? Yes, probably too much fantasy.
So there you have it. In my opinion, the arrival of Elizabeth of York at her uncle’s court suggests to me that Richard was letting his opponents know her brothers were still alive and under his protection. It was a risk, not least because Henry’s scheming mother, Margaret Beaufort, was also at court, and doing everything she could to support her son. Margaret was very definitely the enemy within, and there were others too, but Richard thought it worth the risk. And, as far as I’m concerned, it worked to some extent. But thanks to Tudor indoctrination, his not having actually produced the boys had the unwelcome side-effect of marring his reputation through the centuries.
Now I don’t doubt that many will disagree with this theory, and will probably say so. There may be holes in my reasoning, but I see these events as a strong indication that the boys in the Tower were still alive and remained so right to the end of Richard’s reign.
And for Henry, Richard’s ghost—and those of his nephews—always waited in the shadows, taunting the first Tudor king. Taunting the entire House of Tudor throughout its ascendancy.
Well, it makes a change to find an article that doesn’t damn Richard III with every other word. This one simply states the known events without launching into Richard’s so-called dark plans, twisted nature and evil acts.
It isn’t quite flawless, because it omits to say that Henry Tudor won at Bosworth because Richard was betrayed, The switching of allegiance by Sir William Stanley was the sole reason Tudor emerged victorious, and is a known fact, not invention. It should have been mentioned.
Yes, of course the Tudors dismissed the fact that Eleanor Talbot (Butler) was Edward IV’s first wife. Well, only wife, as it happens, because she was still alive when he “married” Elizabeth Woodville, whom he never did wed legally. In law, she was little more than a glorified mistress, and as a consequence, all the children she bore to Edward were illegitimate. So the usurper Henry VII pretended Eleanor had barely existed, let alone had married Edward IV.
It mattered to him because he wanted to marry Edward’s oldest daughter, Elizabeth of York. Ostensibly to unite the warring Houses of York and Lancaster; in reality to give himself some credibility. It was all very well to claim the throne through conquest, but knew his hold on the throne was very shaky. Elizabeth of York was rather necessary to him, and the sooner she could produce an heir, the better for Henry!
But he couldn’t marry a bastard. So he overturned Richard III’s legitimate right to the throne, declared Elizabeth trueborn, married her and gave us the delightful Henry VIII. Thank you very much. But, of course, by making her trueborn, he also did the same to her two brothers, whose claim to the throne immediately became far superior to his own. Oh, dear. Poor Henry. What a dilemma. The result was that he was hounded throughout his reign by the fear that one or other of these Plantagenet “princes” would come to take the crown from him. My heart breaks for him,. Natch.
If you go to this article you can read an explanation of what happened. It doesn’t do Richard III any favours, of course, but then that’s par for the course! Always the slight nudge into the rough or the bunker. Never the hole in one he so rightly merited. Here’s a sample:
“…. Eleanor never claimed a crown for herself but as the Wars of the Roses raged to their bloody end at Bosworth Field, she became a central figure in the path to the throne. She was actually already dead by the time her name was passed through parliament in the fight for the right to rule but the fact that she had ever lived at all was a vital part of the hold that Richard III had on the title of King of England following the death of his brother, Edward IV, in 1483…..”
Fight for the right to rule? Um, read the Woodvilles trying to seize power and get rid of Richard of Gloucester, Edward IV’s only surviving brother. A vital part of the hold Richard III had….? If Eleanor and Edward IV were married, which clearly they were because the Three Estates believed in it sufficiiently to beg him to become king, Richard was the rightful heir to the throne. It wasn’t a case of his having a “hold” on being King of England, he WAS the King of England. Rightfully. Lawfully. By blood. Even by invitation, because everyone wanted Richard to wear the crown, except the Woodvilles and some of Edward’s old buddies, who feared a loss of influence. If the traditionalists can’t swallow this fact, then they’re even more blinkered than I thought.
Oh, and BTW, the above illustration seems to be solely of Henry VIII and his offspring. There is no sign of Old Miseryguts VII, not even a portrait on the wall. What an oversight. After all, he was the Tudor who made sure Eleanor’s marriage to Edward IV was ignored. Henry VIII and his children owed their thrones to his sleight of hand and devious brain. And the treacherous support of the Stanleys at Bosworth.
After reading Michael Jones‘ book “Bosworth 1485 The Psychology of a Battle”, I have leaned towards his site of the Battle of Bosworth. Since the book was published more evidence has come to light that shows that the battle probably did not take place around Ambion Hill. I have also read John D Austin’s book “MEREVALE and Atherstone”. John lives in the Atherstone area and his book provides lots of local evidence to suggest that the battle may well have been fought in the area.
Michael Jones cites The Crowland Chronicle, one of the earliest sources of the battle, which refers to Richard having camped near to Merevale Abbey ready to meet Tudor’s challenge and names their clash the next day as the Battle of Merevale.
In the Spring 2004 Ricardian Bulletin I came across an article by Lynda M Telford entitled “WarHorses at Bosworth”. Lynda Telford states that thirty years of experience with horses leads her to believe whether Dadlington or Atherstone is the battle site, it cannot have been Ambion Hill. This is due to the cramped area thought to be the battlefield which is quite unsuitable for large numbers of horses.
We have recently fought the second Battle of Bosworth with Ricardians pitted against Hinckley Borough Council which ended with them giving planning consent to Horiba Mira so that they could build an electric car testing site on the battlefield site. Unfortunately, the second battle was lost as was the first, however, it appears to confirm that the battle was fought in the area suggested by Michael Jones.
So, if this is the case it begs the question: where was the Earl of Northumberland during the battle? When it was thought that the battle was fought at Ambion Hill, it was said that Northumberland was posted to rear of Richard as the reserve and that he didn’t become involved in the battle. This was taken to mean that Northumberland deserted Richard too, as did the Stanleys.
I am going to suggest that, given the new site of the battle with Richard to north of Atherstone and Tudor to the south of it, Northumberland was to the south of “Tudor”. What if he was guarding the road to London to ensure that “Tudor” didn’t take off down Watling Street? On page 22 of his book ”Merevale and Atherstone”, John D Austin comments “ Tudor marched Northwards through Wales from Milford Haven hopefully to gather Welsh supporters and then he intended to march south from Shrewsbury, more or less down Watling Street to London. Henry had never fought in a battle before and particularly with his puny forces and lack of experience the last thing he wanted to do was to search out and attack Richard” It makes sense, why would Tudor turn east off Watling St to confront Richard when he could have hopefully carried on marching south to London?
Richard would have realised that the battle would have to be in a place of his choosing and he would have remembered that when he and Edward returned from Burgundy in 1471 and they challenged Warwick at Coventry, they moved off and found that the road to London was unguarded and so they set off immediately and entered London unchallenged. He may well have instructed Northumberland to guard the road and ensure that no one got through. What if his instructions to Northumberland were not to leave the road unguarded in any circumstances?
I have read that it was considered strange that “Tudor” went to Leicester after the battle and not straight to London. I wonder if that was because having turned east to do battle he knew that Northumberland was still guarding the road and Tudor, not being battle hardened at all, couldn’t face an encounter with troops who would have been relatively fresh in comparison with his troops.
On 17th September 1483, Richard III sold the manor and village of Northwich, Cheshire, to the Stanleys. Did that grasping family do some good for once? Or did Northwich wish Richard had kept it? Who knows. The Stanleys were certainly expert at acquiring property and then hanging on to it—Northwich remained theirs until the late 18th century.
Regarding Northwich itself, this site deals with photographs of its 1950s self. It’s always astonishing to see how much things have changed in the last half-century or more…and how much some things haven’t. The house in the above image (Joe Allman’s shop) looks as if it should have fallen in on itself centuries ago, yet there it stood…until removed by the soulless powers-that-were.
Regarding Joe Allman’s shop in the image, according to Francis Frith :-
“…. This shop had solid soil floors. It was full of old junk which now I suppose would be classed as antiques. Joe Allman was the owner and was made to leave as the Council stated that the building was unfit for human occupation; another great blunder by the local council that seems to be hell bent on removing anything of interest in Northwich. The shop was situated at the bottom of Winnington Hill, next door to the barrel roofed house (again destroyed) reputed to have been built by navvies who put their canal tunnel building to use….”
Oh, isn’t this example of wanton vandalism by councils just typical? So much of our heritage was lost this way. It’s something that makes me so angry, because almost all of it was unnecessary. Medieval buildings and whole streets could have been saved with a little thought. Instead they were swept away, usually for modern buildings that won’t stand any test of any time! And aren’t worth preserving anyway.
The above site is well worth a visit because of the photographs…and to learn of Northwich’s development since the 15th century.
The Legendary Ten Seconds have a new album out. The tracks go back chronologically to Arthurian times, before including two about the Battle of Hastings – or of Battle to be precise. The last six cover Richard III’s adult life and reign, from the seemingly effortless taking of Edinburgh to the Harrington dispute and the subsequent Stanley treachery at Bosworth.
Here is a recording of their performance at Coldridge, with reference to the stained glass window there.