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The Human Shredder again

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

On May 27 (https://murreyandblue.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/polydore-vergils-destruction-of-evidence/) we clearly showed the audit trail of some destruction. It was recorded by John Caius, Norwich-born and after whom a Cambridge college was named, through Vergil’s 1844 publisher to Potter in 1983. Strangely enough, instead of being rebutted, this very particular allegation was totally ignored, probably on the grounds of inconvenience.

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

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

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

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Mary I was bastardised by her father’s legislation and eventually succeded to the throne, partly by force, but only repealed the Act and didn’t actually destroy it.

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On the preservation of sources beyond our shores

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

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

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

Another view

Note, in particular, the beginning of the last paragraph:

THE BONES IN THE URN
The main accusation against Richard III has always been the assumption that he murdered his nephews, and the discovery of the skeletons of two children under a Tower staircase in the 17th century has often been quoted as virtual proof of this dastardly act.

I should like to try and put a few of these assumptions into perspective. In 1674 at the Tower of London a group of workmen were employed to demolish the stone staircase attached to the White Tower, and over several days had dug a full ten feet down to the level of the Tower foundations, when they came upon two human skeletons. Seeing little of interest in this discovery, they threw the bones, along with the surrounding rubble, onto the rubbish dump.

When the workmen related these facts afterwards, others realised that this find could be of some importance. Since the skeletons appeared to be of two young people, being neither of fully grown adults nor of small children, someone began to wonder if these could be the remains of the so-called ‘princes in the Tower’ – i.e. the two sons of the late King Edward IV who had seemingly disappeared during the subsequent reign of King Richard III. The bones were therefore recovered from the dump. The reigning monarch at the time (Charles II) subsequently ordered the bones entombment in an urn, to be kept in Westminster Abbey. The assumption, given that forensic examination was unknown at that time, was to accept the bones as those of the allegedly murdered ‘princes’.

This was certainly not the first time that human bones had been discovered in and around the Tower. However, not only did these particular skeletons seemingly, judging by size alone, match the ages of the king’s lost boys, but they were discovered under a staircase, and this rang bells with the unfinished story written long before by Sir Thomas More and entitled “The History of King Richard III.” So those are the simple facts. But a considerable number of myths, misinterpretations and assumptions have gathered around these facts ever since, and the principal one concerns that same unfinished story left by Sir Thomas More.

Neither at the time, nor during the Tudor age following, did anyone else conjecture as to such precise details concerning the boys’ fates – though assumption continued and increased as the blackening of Richard III’s reputation became a political tool of the Tudors. The only reliable account of when they were last sighted (at least by anyone who cared to write of it) appears in the Crowland Chronicle which indicates they were still resident in the Tower in late August or early September 1483. Yet surprisingly the actual contemporary evidence appears to indicate that little interest was aroused in the vicinity at the time of this disappearance, and Londoners went about their business as usual. Many today speak as though contemporary rumour of the murder was rife, but this is absolutely untrue as far as surviving documentation tells us. Whether the sons of Edward IV then died, were murdered, or were simply smuggled safely away, was guessed at but never proved.

It was not until around 1515 (30 years after the death of Richard III) that Sir Thomas More started to write his ‘history’. Over the years he wrote several versions of this but neither finished nor published any of them. They have survived however, and many researchers have chosen to take them seriously in spite of the anomalies, excessive number of mistakes, and insistence on recording discussions word for word even when the possibility of knowing what had been said was completely non-existent.
Within his pages, More initially records that the fate of the boys remained in doubt. Then later and quite suddenly he offers a detailed scenario of their heinous slaughter. He gives no explanation of how he could possibly know the exact details which he relates, however the story appears to be partially inspired by Polydore Vergil, the man recently employed by Henry VII to write a history of England. More, however, elaborates hugely on Vergil’s account, adding no end of specific extra colour. How (more than 30 years after the fact) he suddenly came by this wealth of gossip is difficult to imagine. Did More chat afterwards with the murderers? Did he talk with the priest, yet decide to confide in no one else even though he then wrote it down for anyone to read? Did he receive information from some other nameless soul, who also chose to disclose these essential facts to no one else? More, however, now confidently tells us that after their violent deaths the two sons of Edward IV were secretly buried at the foot of a staircase in the Tower of London. He then goes on to explain that Richard III (who had ordered the murders) objected to such an improper burial and ordered a priest to dig up the corpses and rebury them in another more suitable (but unnamed) place, and that this was promptly done.
So the burial under a stairwell is certainly mentioned. Yet according to More, (the only one ever to mention burial under a staircase at all) that is NOT where the two bodies were finally left. He specifically says they were moved to a secret place more appropriate to their station. And here the secret supposedly remained – no longer under a staircase at all.

Yet the actual ‘bones in the urn’ were found under a stone stair attached to the exterior of the White Tower (known as the Keep). Apart from the contradiction within More’s absurd story, such a rigorous endeavour is difficult to accept as this area was the access point to the only entrance, and would certainly have been one of the busiest parts of the Tower. Anyone digging there would have been clearly visible. So we are asked to accept that a couple of amazingly determined murderers managed between them to dig 10 foot under solid stone, avoiding all passing gentry including the guards, and to deposit there two suspicious bundles – all while the princes’ staff raised no alarm nor even blinked in curiosity. And the subsequent solitary priest somehow dug them up again? And so, in accordance with More’s little book – why were they still found under the staircase?

At that time hundreds of busy people, many with their entire families, lived and worked in the Tower. This was no dreadful place of isolated dungeons and cold haunted corners. It was a royal palace with grand apartments and a number of council chambers, beautiful gardens complete with gardeners, clerks and administrators, a menagerie and its keepers, the Royal Mint and all its wealth of workers, a whole garrison of guards, kitchens, cooks, scullions and cleaners. How a pair of strange and suspicious ruffians could have dug such a deep secret grave in one night completely unnoticed by anyone is frankly an impossible situation. Even at night the Tower really was a hive of industry and activity, and the ‘princes’ themselves had servants day and night. They were not under arrest and nor were they locked in the dungeons – they lived together in a comfortable apartment and more than 14 personal staff were paid to look after them. Yet we are asked to believe that their murder was magically accomplished without anyone at all knowing how, who, or even exactly when.

But let us return to the urn. It rested undisturbed in the Abbey for many years, but in 1933 it was decided to open it and discover just what was inside. The complete description of the contents is on record of course, and the remains were immediately examined by experts of the time. Apart from the fragmented human remains, there were a number of animal bones – clearly all collected together from the rubbish pit nearly 300 years previously. There were, however, no textiles of any kind. So please – let’s forget that other silly myth of the scraps of expensive velvet. Yes – hundreds of years ago an anonymous scribble in a margin evidently mentioned velvet – but no such thing is mentioned elsewhere, no such thing has survived in any form, and the anonymous scribble has also disappeared – if it ever existed in the first place. So no velvet. Another red herring.

I have also read that a dark stain which ‘could’ be blood, was found on one skull. After 200 years underground we are asked to accept an anonymous stain as an indication of violent murder??? And when this same skull had been left for some time rolling around with fresh animal remains from the butchers? Indeed, those who mentioned the possibility of the stain being blood, later entirely retracted their statement, although this important development is often overlooked. Another ludicrous myth.

Now the more important evidence – the scientific examination. But this was 1933 and science has moved a long, long way since then. No DNA examination was possible back then. Carbon dating was not employed, impossible anyway with bones that had been so contaminated for so long. Their antiquity could not therefore be established, so simple assumptions were made – which have been seriously questioned since. The age of the children when they died is also extremely open to opinion. There is absolutely no possibility of sexing these bones. They could have been girls and this remains perfectly likely. At the time a conclusion was made that the two children had been related (this from an examination of the teeth and not from DNA) which has now been shown as probably erroneous. Historians and orthopaedic experts are divided. Some still maintain that these remains ‘could’ be the sons of Edward IV, while others point out the inconsistencies and inaccuracies.

And there are other anomalies. For instance, it has been shown that the lower jaw bone of the elder child indicates the presence of a serious bone disease. This would have been both painful and visible. Yet the young Edward V is documented as having been fit, active, prepared for coronation, and described as ‘good looking’. No record is shown of any such existing disease which would have seriously undermined his future life and reign.

There’s another red herring here. Doctor Argentine, the elder prince’s long-standing physician, related that, “the young king, like a victim prepared for sacrifice, sought remission of his sins by daily confession and penance, because he believed death was facing him.” But Dr. Argentine did not visit his charge because of ailing health. All junior royalty were under the permanent care of doctors who were responsible for their day to day health ever since birth. And the prince’s recorded statement, apart from being second-hand hearsay, is extremely ambiguous. I doubt he was cheerful at the time, poor boy – with his status in doubt, and his expected coronation suddenly delayed. He may well have expected (and been warned by his dour and pessimistic Lancastrian and Woodville guardians) a bitter end. This does not mean it actually occurred.

So these are the basic facts, and as anyone can see, they do not point specifically in any direction. They prove nothing, not even circumstantially, and any assumption that the bones in the urn are almost certainly those of the two lost boys of Edward IV is absolutely unjustified. Until permission is finally given (many have asked and always been denied) for the urn to be opened once more and the contents subjected to up-to-date forensic examination, we cannot know anything at all. So far the very sketchy facts (based on depth of burial and the type of soil, etc) point towards the bones dating from Norman, or even from Roman times, and at least some experts strongly suggest that the elder is female.

Those interested authors of articles claiming these bones are definitely those of the lost boys, are either fooling themselves or attempting to fool their readers. Should the bones eventually be examined and proved by DNA matching to be the ‘princes’ after all – we may with our present level of technology discover roughly when they died (to the nearest 50 years). We may perhaps also ascertain the causes of their deaths, but unless there are signs of injury it is unlikely we will learn whether they were killed – still less who killed them. If, on the other hand, as seems most likely, they are proved NOT to be the ‘princes’ it will settle a long-standing controversy, and provide some very interesting material for archaeological study. In particular it will silence some of the more exaggerated and erroneous myths.

The consequences of the Human Shredder

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

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

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

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

Proof of Edward IV’s ‘lost’ granddaughter?….

In everything I’ve ever read about Cicely/Cecily, daughter of Edward lV, and her last marriage, to Thomas Kymbe/Keymes/Kyme/Kymbe, various spellings, there is a question mark over their supposed children. No proof, no further history and so on. Yet today, on reading Perkin, A Story of Deception by Ann Wroe, in the Epilogue about Perkin’s wife, Lady Katherine Gordon, I came upon something that surely must prove the existence of at least one such child, a daughter, Margaret.
Katherine Gordon took several husbands after Perkin /Richard Duke of York, the last being Christopher Ashton of Fyfield, Berks. In her will, she left to her ‘cousin’, Margaret Keymes, ‘such of my apparel as shall be meet for her by the discretion of my husband and my said executor’. I quote Wroe: “Margaret was the daughter of Cicely, Edward IV’s second surviving daughter, who had taken Thomas Keymes or Kyme as her second husband. This marriage ‘to an obscure man of no reputation’, as Vergil called him, had made Cicely at outcast among the royals. Evidently, at some point, Katherine had befriended her and her daughter. The term ‘cousin’ though, suggested either a blood tie or that general cousinage of royals that Richard Plantagenet (Perkin) had claimed, in 1493, with half the crowned heads of Europe. Katherine’s claim to be cousin to Margaret [Keymes] could have only come through her first husband (Perkin), assuming that he had been the prince he said he was. It was perhaps a tiny signal that she still believed in him.”
If this really is in Katherine Ashton/Gordon’s will, surely it verifies that at least Cicely and Thomas had this one daughter, if no more children? Unless, of course, Wroe is wrong, and there was another Margaret Keymes, totally unrelated to Cicely.
Wiki says: “Two children, Richard and Margaret (or Margery) are mentioned in the enhanced copy, dated 1602, of the heraldic Visitation of Hampshire (1576) made by Smythe, Rouge Dragon pursuivant at the College of Arms, indicating that they lived, married, and had offspring. The children of the princess and her last husband were granted no royal titles or styles, nor did they enjoy any royal favours, lands, or positions at court, nor, indeed, any public recognition whatsoever. Over the centuries any memory of them has been obscured, and thus the veracity of their historical existence is now difficult to substantiate.”
Wiki, I know, but if Margaret Keymes was Cicely’s daughter and is in Katherine Ashton/Gordon’s will, then she is surely verified?
The picture below is a tweaked version of a likeness in the Royal Window, Northwest Transept, Canterbury Cathedral.
Image23

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The mysterious Human Shredder

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

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

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

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

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