Richard Duke of Gloucester being offered the crown by the Three Estates at Baynards Castle, June 1483. Painting by Sigismund Goetze at the Royal Exchange…(or according to some.. Richard in the actual act of ‘usurping’ the throne)…
I came across this article on a forum devoted to late medieval Britain.
Unfortunately I read it..5 minutes from my life I will never get back again… but as I was laid up with a bad head cold I had nothing much better to do. I should have been warned by the photo of a little girl in what looked like an attempt at Tudor costume and the words ‘I have no idea who this little girl is but she is adorable. Little kids in this era were adorable and vulnerable too ..just like modern children..lets keep that in mind’. This should have alerted me to the fact the writer was a writer of rubbish. Nevertheless I cracked on. As it transpired the article has more holes in it than a hairnet…and worse was to come.
John Howard, having been cheated out of his inheritance, which ‘seems to have stuck in his craw’ then went on to become ‘one of the first men to help the new king’s uncle usurp his throne and become King Richard III’. When I challenged the word ‘usurp’ I received the reply of a emoji rolling on the floor laughing. It then became clear to me the quality of the author’s debating powers were going to be found somewhat lacking. But casting that aside for the moment lets look at the word ‘usurp‘ as used by the author to describe the actions of Richard. The late historian John Ashdown-Hill addressed this point very well. “Definitions of the verb ‘usurp’ include include terms as to seize power by force and without legal authority…Richard III did not gain the throne by fighting a battle nor did he seize the crown. He was offered the crown by the Three Estates of the Realm. Later the decision of the Three Estates of the Realm was formally enacted by the Parliament of 1484′ (1) . Thus to describe Richard as a usurper is incorrect and a nonsense.”
Not content with calling Richard a usurper, John Howard, later Duke of Norfolk is next in line to be maligned by the statement regarding Anne Mowbray, (the 4 year old heiress of John Mowbray who died just before her ninth birthday) ‘All that John Howard could do was wait and hope something happened to Anne…’! This is quite an offensive thing to say as well as ludicrous as no source has come down to us informing us of Howard’s personal thoughts on this matter and which I very much doubt would have been ‘hoping’ for the death of a small child. Incidentally, he was raised to the Duchy of Norfolk whilst the “Princes”, including the previous in suo jure Duke, were known to be alive – see p.78 and pp.117-124 of The Mythology of the “Princes in the Tower”, also by Ashdown-Hill.
Howard later went on to fight and lay down his life for his king aged 60 years old. This colossus of a man could easily have wormed his way out of fighting, as others did, with his age as an excuse. He did no such thing and its a great pity that we have modern day pip-squeaks having the brass neck to disparage such a man. The author needs to hang their head with shame but I doubt if that will happen any time soon.
As we go on we see Lady Eleanor Butler nee Talbot – a lady of the nobility and daughter to the great John Talbot lst Earl of Shrewsbury a, sister to the Duchess of Norfolk and a lady known for her piety – described as one of King Edward’s ‘side pieces’…(I know, I know..my guess is this is a stab at ‘bit on the side’ but your guess is as good as mine). She was in actual fact no such thing, being the legal wife of Edward who married her in order to get her into bed. Surely Eleanor deserves more respect than this….as I said pip-squeaks and all.
The writer then follows up with a message touching on the execution of Lord Hastings to prove her point that Richard was a Bad Man. I say ‘touching’ in a very loose way as she makes no attempt to explore, let alone mention, what reasons were behind the execution only pointing out, unnecessarily, that Hastings was executed ‘even though he was one of the most richest and powerful men in the country’..what has this got to do with it? Furthermore…’Richard had him dragged out and beheaded on a log’. Presumably Dickens, who was unborn, or More, aged five at the time, cannot be taken seriously as eye-witnesses? Is it not about time this myth was debunked? Three accounts survive of the dramatic events at the meeting at the Tower that day – those from Historical Notes of a London Citizen 1483/84, Mancini and Croyland (2) – none of which mention the infamous log.
A log, something that Lord Hastings was NOT beheaded on…
Hastings was probably, as Carson points out, executed under the Law of Arms (3), having tried to eliminate the Dukes of Gloucester and Buckingham and been judged by the Constable’s Court, Gloucester being Lord High Constable at the time. In much the same way, Rivers, Vaughan and Grey were judged by the Earl of Northumberland, the designated Vice-Constable.
- The Mythology of Richard III chapter 6 p74 John Ashdown-Hill.
- Historical Notes of a London Citizen 1483/8, English Historical Review, Vol. 96. p588 Richard Firth Green, Mancini p.89, Croyland p.479-80. I am indebted to Peter Hammond and Anne Sutton for their very useful book, Richard III The Road to Bosworth Field, a complete and handy reference to all the primary sources covering Richard’s reign.
- The Maligned King p.98, but Carson’s other book illustrates the powers of the Constable and Protector and the documents assigning the role to Gloucester.