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The Tudors were a “typically Welsh family”….!

Henry VII and Henry VIII, taken from Remigius van Leemput, after Hans Holbein the Younger, Whitehall Mural, 1667

 Today in 1495 marked the death of Henry VII’s uncle, Jasper Tudor, and so seems an appropriate day for me to post the following extract, which is from The Country Gentry in the Fourteenth Century by N. Denholm-Young, published in 1969.

“…It is a crying fault among English historians that they pay only lip-service to the fact that the Tudors, who came from a farmhouse at Penmynydd in Anglesey, were a typically Welsh family, and it is time for their conquest of England in 1485 to be described with this in mind….”

Really? A typically Welsh family? Well, maybe they were (to a certain extent) prior to Owen Tudor apparently getting it together with Katherine of Valois (whether in holy matrimony or not), but after that Owen and his “descendants” most certainly were NOT a typical Welsh family. They moved in court circles, became earls, were Henry VI’s half-brothers and had French royal blood, and snapped up incredibly rich Beaufort heiresses who were underage. Let’s face it, they wouldn’t have been seen DEAD inspecting the farmland at Penmynydd!

As for Henry VII acknowledging and showing pride in his Welsh antecedents, he forgot all that rubbish as soon as they’d served their purpose and got him into England, with his foreign army, paid for by the French. And it was traitorous Englishmen (and his slippery mother Margaret Beaufort) who put him on the throne, not the Welsh. I’m sorry, but I regard myself as Welsh (and proud of it!) but I certainly don’t agree with the above extract.

Plus, of course, there may not be any Tudor blood at all in the so-called House of Tudor, because Katherine of Valois was widely suspected of using Owen Tudor to cover the fact that she was actually pregnant by Edmund Beaufort, Earl of Somerset. Beaufort wouldn’t/couldn’t marry her and so she turned to the convenient Owen Tudor instead. And there doesn’t appear to be any proof that she and Owen really did marry.

So it just might be that the Tudors who seized the throne of England were all Beauforts and doubly illegitimate! Why? Because the Beauforts were originally an illegitimate line anyway, offspring of John of Gaunt and his then mistress, Katherine de Roët, and they were supposedly denied any right at all to ascend the throne. So decided their very legitimate (if usurping) half-brother, Henry IV, first king of the House of Lancaster. So, the Tudors become less and less “typically Welsh”, right?

To read more about Penmynydd, where the Tudors did indeed originate, go to this article.

Penmynydd, Anglesey

Mind you, the thought of Henry VII toiling in those Welsh acres, preferably on a very wet and windy day, cold too, manoeuvring a plough in amazingly straight lines, rather does appeal….!

And to please all Ricardians and Yorkists, here’s how Wales should have greeted Henry T in 1483!


Gloucester on 28th October, 1378, 1483 and 1967….

from Gloucester Archive

28th October is a notable day for me because of three events in Gloucester’s history:-

(1) It was the day my second favourite king, Richard II was in Gloucester and Tewkesbury—well, he was from 20th October 1378 until mid-November, so had to be in one or the other on the 28th.

A young Richard II from the wilton Diptych

(2) It was also one of the days in 1483 when the treacherous Duke of Buckingham’s rebellion against Richard III floundered (and foundered!) and failed. 

Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham

(3) Most important of all, of course, it was the day I was married in 1967 (not actually in Gloucester, but right outside).

Very late 1960s!


Right, back to 1378 . This was another difficult year for England, and for Parliament. Demands for ever higher taxes made holding Parliament in London a rather hazardous matter, and so the venue was moved to Gloucester instead. The citizens of that city being deemed less militant? Anyway, the MPs met close to the abbey/cathedral in a half-timbered house that is still called Parliament House.


RII was eleven years old at the time, and is recorded as having stayed at Llanthony Secunda Priory, where he was seen in the gardens. The priory was (parts of it still are) just outside Gloucester city walls, close to the Severn.

Llanthony Secunda Priory

Gloucester had a special significance for young Richard, because his great-grandfather, Edward II, was buried in the abbey. All his life, Richard held Edward in special regard, and strove without success to have him canonized.

Tomb of Edward II

When Parliament rose, Richard and his retinue rode north to Tewkesbury, and thence out of “my” area.

On to 1483. Richard III, of course, had been Duke of Gloucester. And yes, I’d have liked him to be interred in Gloucester Cathedral. Well, he was ours, in a manner of speaking. And he certainly wasn’t unpopular here, far from it.

For a timeline of 1483 see here It’s OK for the dates, but be warned, it’s anti-Richard. For example for 12th October 1483 it says “Richard writes to Russell, calling Buckingham ‘The most untrue creature living’ (next to himself, I suppose)”. Oh, excuse me while my sides split. But the dates are useful.

Richard III

The town of Gloucester had reason to be grateful to Richard. After his coronation on 6th July 1483 he went on a royal progress accompanied by Buckingham, and on reaching Gloucester on 29th July he granted it a charter that stayed in force until 1974. This gave the city the status of a county, allowed it to have a Sheriff who could hold a County Court, and allowed the election of a mayor, aldermen and a coroner. See here.

Extract of the charter granting rights to Gloucester, GBR/I/1/22 held at Gloucestershire Archives. Reproduced by kind permission of Gloucester City Council

Richard also presented what is said to be his own personal sword (the so-called Mourning Sword) to the City, which still has it.

The Mourning Sword – my photograph

On 2nd August 1483, when they both left Gloucester, Buckingham parted company from the king and made his way over the Severn into Wales and his own lands. He had with him, supposedly as his prisoner, a treacherous Lancastrian serpent by the name of Bishop John Morton.

John Morton at Canterbury – from

It will probably never be known exactly why the Duke of Buckingham rose against his cousin, Richard III. That Morton whispered in his ear in the Garden of Brecon is not in doubt! The man responsible for the odious Morton’s Fork surely had a forked tongue as well! See

I’ve tweaked a painting by Edmund Leighton entitled “Call to Arms”

Buckingham had been grandly rewarded, and was doing very nicely from the new king. What his motive was for turning on Richard is a mystery, and may simply have been that he fancied being kingy himself. What I doubt very much is that he rose in support of Henry Tudor. Never! Buckingham’s claim to the throne was much better, and he probably thought Tudor was helping him, not the other way around.

But then, I don’t think our duke was over-endowed with grey cells, just with ego. Henry, on the other hand, was as crafty as they come.

Henry Tudor

But that’s not the point now, because I’m concerned with 28th October. When Buckingham commenced his rebellion, he left his castle in Brecon and made for Gloucester, which was the best place to cross the awkward River Severn. It also provided the most direct route in England, and to wherever the duke intended to go from there. To take London while Richard was elsewhere in the realm? But one big thing seems to have been overlooked. That autumn was one of the worst in living memory, and the Severn (as well as all other rivers, especially in the west) was in flood. And how. It’s a beast of a river, believe me, even when it’s at normal levels.

So there’s Buckingham, banner unfurled, riding at the head of his reluctant army of Welshmen, who weren’t inclined to fight against Richard in the first place. They reached the river…. Suddenly the duke turned to look back and his army had melted away. Yikes! He’s practically on his own, and by now he knows Richard has been alerted and is on the way on the English side of the river. The king will not be pleased…or in a forgiving mood. Time to panic, methinks.

Severn in flood, 2007

So Buckingham turned tail…at least, his horse did…and off to the north he fled. Then it’s into the hands of a “friend” named Bannaster. Oh dear, another nasty shock, capture and being bundled down the English side of the Severn toward Salisbury, where a trial awaited. Richard refused to listen to his cousin’s abject pleas for a chance to explain himself. Which is as well, because Buckingham’s son afterward said his father had concealed a dagger about his person and intended to drive it into Richard however he could.

Here’s more about this Bannaster connection. “….Buckingham’s rebellion began – and failed, largely because his Welsh tenants decided they liked him less than Richard III.  Robbed of this crucial support, he fled to a friend’s home but the friend, Ralph Bannaster, turned him in and, on 31 October, Buckingham was taken to Sir James Tyrell and Christopher Wellesbourne, staunch supporters of Richard III….”

This betrayal by Bannaster is still remembered (see here) by the name of a house in Finchampstead in Berkshire. It’s thought that the Berkshire property is actually a confusion with another property closer to the northern Welsh borders, where Buckingham fled when he realised the game was up. The name of the betrayer isn’t questioned, it was definitely a Bannister/Bannaster/Bannastre. You will also find more at

Duke’s Head, Gnosall, from

And Henry Tudor? Well, he sailed for England with French backing, and lurked off shore like an animal sensing a foe. Henry was a great lurker. When he heard the uprising had collapsed, he scuttled back to France. Tomorrow was another day, as someone on celluloid once said.

The Old West Gate over Severn, Gloucester, over which Buckingham had hoped to advance

Right, that was Buckingham’s fate, but what had been going on in Gloucester during all this? The city had known that if the Severn should miraculously recede again, and the crossing were sufficiently exposed, they were going to be invaded by a rebel army. They didn’t know if the rains had long since ceased upstream and in the Welsh mountains, where the Severn began. If there was no flood water coming downstream, then the river would go down again, perhaps too quickly for comfort.

The Western Prospect of Gloucester, showing crossing and branches of the Severn

Gloucester was the king’s city, and I think the inhabitants must have flocked to the abbey and every other available church to get on their knees and pray the Severn stayed nice and high, even though it flooded the lower parts of the town. Nice and high at nearby Tewkesbury as well, because that was the next crossing, and was ticklishly close to Gloucester.

Tewkesbury Abbey surrounded by flood water in Gloucestershire as the river Severn burst its banks. 27 Nov 2012 . Concerns have been raised that there will be further flooding as the River Severn is expected to reach its peak in Gloucester later. The Environment Agency said the river would be at its highest level since the mass flooding of 2007, when much of the county was under water.

Neither town wanted to be caught up in Buckingham’s antics. They probably took to their knees again, this time in praise, when it was known Buckingham had been captured and executed, because their first prayers had been answered! The danger was past.

Oh dear, there they were on 28th October 1483, on their knees while the autumn rain came down in stair rods…fast forward 484 years, still in Gloucester, and there I am, on my knees in a church on my wedding day while the autumn rain came down in stair rods. Yes indeed, and guess what? The Severn was in flood then too! The autumn of 1967 was as bad as the one in 1483.

Not that my marriage proved as disastrous as the duke’s uprising! It lasted until my husband Rob passed away in 2015.

THE THREE HUNDRED YEARS WAR – PART 2: the just cause  



This is the second of three articles charting the course of continual Anglo-French conflict from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries. In the first article, I wrote about the rise and fall of the Angevin Empire, culminating in the Treaty of Paris (1259). This article picks up my narrative after the death of Henry III in 1272 and culminates in the Treaty of Bretigny (1360). The caveats to my work mentioned in the first article remain: i) I write from an English perspective; ii) I have omitted any historical events and matters that are not strictly relevant to my subject; iii) this is not a military history; iv) I make no claim to original research or a new interpretation. Since the facts I rely on are well known and relatively uncontroversial, I have used only those sources, and books readily available to the general public.



The Treaty of Paris resolved some practical issues between King Henry III and King Louis IX, but failed to address the combustible problem of English vassalage, which was the cause of their conflict. King Henry surrendered his hereditary claims to Normandy, Poitou (northern Aquitaine) and other places, in return for the retention of Gascony (southern Aquitaine). He also bound himself and his successors to give ‘liege homage’ to the French king for Gascony. By this, Henry and his successors had an irrevocable obligation to give fealty and service (including military service) to the French kings. Predictably, this condition was abhorrent to the Plantagenet kings as it was incompatible with their own sovereignty. The Treaty of Paris went well beyond Henry’s ducal authority in Gascony; it fettered his royal prerogative to make treaties, war or peace as he thought best. It was peace settlement born of the concurrence of French strength and English weakness and it could not last.


Things were hardly much different during the reign of Edward I. His focus was on the conquest of Wales and Scotland, though not simultaneously. That is not to say he was unmindful of his family’s inherited rights in Normandy and Poitou, but Edward I was a realist. He did only so much as was necessary to maintain the status quo in Gascony. He did dutiful homage to Phillip III in 1272 and to Phillip IV in 1285; however, on each occasion he took considerable care over the wording of his oaths so as to leave some scope for evading the worst of his feudal obligations.[1] Neither was he prepared to accept continual French breaches of the treaty that threatened his feudal rights. He raised the matter with Phillip in 1285 and obtained some redress in the form of a fresh treaty in 1286. Unfortunately, the peace was never wholehearted on either side. The habitual violence that accompanied any meeting of English and French mariners not only continued unabated, it got worse. On the 15 May 1293 a ‘great sea battle’ took place off the coast of Brittany. Norman ships flying ‘bausons of red sendal’ (no quarter) attacked an Anglo-Gascon flotilla sailing from the Cinque Ports. In a vicious hand-to-hand fight, the Normans were defeated and the survivors taken prisoner together with their ships and cargoes. For good measure, the Gascon sailors sacked La Rochelle on their way home.[2]


Phillip IV was furious. He commanded the offenders to be delivered to him for punishment and ordered the French prisoners to be released along with their ships and cargoes. He also extended his right to hear Gascon appeals and dispatched troops to the Gascon border.[3] Unfortunately, Edward misjudged Phillip’s intention. Edward was already committed to fighting Welsh and Scottish nationalists; the last thing he needed was a war with Phillip. He was, therefore, genuinely prepared to compromise sovereign to sovereign. Phillip IV, however, was intent on exploiting the situation to his advantage. By treating this as a feudal dispute between a disobedient vassal and his suzerain, he was able to seize Gascony for the French Crown and humiliate his rival; whereupon Edward renounced his homage and prepared to send troops to Gascony. It was only a gesture as there were insufficient English troops and loyal Gascons to retake Gascony. The best he could do was to prevent Phillip overrunning Gascony altogether.[4] By 1303 Phillip was under pressure from Flemish rebels in Flanders. He was, more or less, driven to restoring Gascony to the English Crown for the sake of a general peace. [5] The quid-pro-quo for such a peace was a double marriage between King Edward and Marguerite, Phillip’s half-sister, and also between Edward of Caernarvon (Edward’s son) and Princess Isabella, Phillip’s daughter. Nevertheless, despite the joinder of two royal families, disputations over English Gascony continued to flourish during the reign of King Edward II.[6]


King Edward II’s royal deficiencies are too well documented to doubt.[7] It is probably true that his domestic troubles were largely self-inflicted, but it is misleading to suggest that he was entirely responsible for the political and diplomatic problems that resulted in war with France. He inherited the thorny issue of homage, which neither his grandfather nor his father had managed to solve and which was problematic on both sides of the Channel. The Capetian kings found it difficult to enforce their feudal rights against a sovereign king and the Plantagenet’s found it intensely painful to swear allegiance to a foreign potentate. Edward was particularly unlucky in that during his reign four different kings ruled France: Phillip IV, Louis X, Phillip V and Charles IV. Edward II’s policy was always to evade giving homage if possible and if it was not possible, to delay the ceremony for as long as he could. He did homage to Phillip IV fairly quickly, but prevaricated over his oath to Louis X. He eventually acknowledged Louis as his landlord but did not swear liege fealty. He also managed to delay giving homage to Phillip V until it was rendered unnecessary by Phillip’s premature death. The other great problem Edward faced was his marriage to Isabella. It was meant to bolster the peace of 1303, but actually, it made things worse by highlighting Edward’s subservience to his father-in-law. It also raised the great, though latent, question of the French succession, of which more anon.


Providentially, an Anglo-French entente prevailed during much of Edward’s reign. Despite the inflammable question of homage and the repeated encroachments of French royal officials in Gascony, there was no serious threat to the peace of 1303 prior to 1322.[8] In January of that year, Charles IV ascended the French throne and once again Edward was expected to swear fealty to a French king. Unfortunately, the fateful confluence of political and diplomatic dramas that played out during the winter of 1323-1324 set in motion a sequence of events leading to the loss of Gascony and the War of Saint-Sardos (1324-25). Charles thoughtfully waited until August 1323 before inviting Edward to appear at Amiens 4 to do homage for Gascony between the 2 February and 15 April 132. Edward excused his attendance on the grounds that the political situation in England was too dangerous for him to leave the country. That letter was dispatched by envoy to France sometime ‘just before’ the 22 November 1323. Coincidentally on that day, Edward was informed of a serious incident in the small Gascon village of Saint-Sardos during which a French sergeant was murdered by one of Edward’s vassals. Although the question of homage and the affair of Saint-Sardos are separate matters, they both touch on Edward’s rights and obligations as Duke of Aquitaine. To understand how this interrelationship led to catastrophe, it is necessary to follow the chronology.


Unknown to Edward, Charles IV commissioned the building of a royal bastide (fortress) at Saint-Sardos. On the 15 October 1323, a sergeant sent by the French seneschal of Périgueux laid claim to the land by erecting a stake carrying the royal arms of France. However, the local Gascons opposed this claim. They feared that the privileges habitually granted to bastides would damage the local economy. Raymond-Bernard, Lord of the castle of Montpezat took matters into his own hands. He attacked Saint-Sardos, hanged the sergeant from the royal stake he had just erected and burned the village to the ground. On being informed of this, Edward immediately wrote a letter of abject apology to Charles assuring him that he personally had nothing to do with the incident and promising to punish the offenders. This letter was sent post haste after the envoy already en route to Paris with a request for the deferral of the homage ceremony. The envoy arrived at Paris on the 27 November with both letters. By then, however, the affair of Saint-Sardos had become a full-blown international incident. Anglophobia was running high in Paris aggravated by the refusal of Edward’s Gascon vassals to cooperate with the subsequent investigation. Charles even took the precaution of issuing a warning order for troops to muster at Toulouse for possible service in Gascony. Even so and despite his misgivings, Charles accommodated Edward on the question of homage, which was put back to the 1 July 1324. He also accepted Edward’s protestation of innocence in the Saint-Sardos affair.[9] However, he summoned Raymond-Bernard, Ralph Basset (Edward’s seneschal) and others to appear before him on the 24 January1224. Their failure to attend on that day resulted in the accused being outlawed and their possessions seized by the French Crown. The French seneschals of Toulouse and Périgueux were ordered to take possession of the castle of Montpezat by force if necessary.


It is surely no exaggeration to say that the ‘War of Saint-Sardos’, which had such dire consequences for Edward, was started by mistake. He made three serious errors in his dealings with Charles. First, he never kept his promise to punish the offenders if they were guilty, which they assuredly were; nor did he deliver them over to French justice. Second, his continual attempts to defer giving homage created the suspicion (probably justified) that he was simply trying to avoid his feudal duty. Edward’s third and most serious blunder was to think he could get himself out of his difficulty by negotiating as an equal with the French king. Instead of accepting responsibility as a vassal of the French king, Edward tried to argue the toss with him. He sent another embassage to Paris charged with three tasks (in order of priority): i) secure a further postponement of the homage ceremony; ii) ‘mention’ Edward’s concern about the number of Gascon appeals pending on the French Parlement;[10] iii) in the matter of Saint-Sardos, they were to ‘suggest’ that this was perhaps best left to the two monarchs to discuss when they met for Edward’s homage. Charles, who was already on the verge of confiscating and occupying Aquitaine, was astonished by Edward’s impertinent suggestion that a king should compromise with a subject on the performance of his public duty. It was tantamount to treason.[11] He therefore presented the English ambassadors with stark choice: they must promise that the guilty officials would be given up, Montpezat would be surrendered and Edward would pay homage on the 1 July 1324 or face war.[12] Their courage failing, the ambassadors duly made the promise demanded, which they must have realised would not be honoured. When French officials next came to take possession of Montpezat they were again sent away empty-handed.


What followed had elements of farce that would be laughable were the situation not so serious. Edward sent yet another embassage to Paris led this time by the earl of Pembroke with instructions to secure a delay to the homage ceremony on Edward’s promise to surrender Montpezat. However Pembroke died of a heart attack while in France: it was a catastrophe. The remainder of the embassage reached Amiens on the 1 July but the king was not there. He had gone to Anet-sur-Marne and had already declared Aquitaine forfeit once it was obvious Edward would not appear. Once the English envoys reached him of the 5 July, he told them brusquely that owing to Edward’s failure to make amends for the crime of Saint-Sardos, he could not take his protestations of innocence seriously and ” because he found no man for Gascony or Ponthieu on the appointed day he had taken them into his hands before [the envoys] arrived.[13] Edward was now at war with Charles.


  • Charles of Valois invaded Aquitaine with a French army in August. He quickly overran most of English-held Gascony and arrived before the castle of La Réole, which surrendered on the 22 September 1324. A six-month truce was agreed whereby the English were confined to Bordeaux, Bayonne and a small strip of coast between Saintes and the eastern marches. English authority everywhere else was quickly expunged. As winter turned to spring, the French began preparations to renew the war. Edward was now in an impossible position. The political opposition in England was so hostile to his government that he dare not leave the realm either to give homage or (unlikely) to defend Gascony in person. Outmaneuvered by his artful opponent, Edward was forced send his wife Isabella and afterwards his son Edward of Windsor to France to negotiate the details of a peace treaty, the outcome of which could hardly have been worse for Edward. He lost virtually all of Gascony, had to pay French reparation costs in full and must still do homage for the pitiful remnants of Gascony. Rage though he might, Edward had no choice but to accept these terms. The Treaty was signed on 23 June 1325. Edward had lost control of Gascony, his wife and his heir. Once young Edward arrived in France, his mother and her lover Mortimer used him as a tool to depose his father. The end was inevitable. Mortimer and Isabella landed in Suffolk on the 24 September 1326. King Edward II, deserted by his friends, was deposed within four months.


‘It is as it is’[14]

Edward of Windsor was a noble and high-spirited youth with a warlike disposition quite unlike his father, but he was still a minor when he ascended the English throne. The direction of the realm, therefore, was taken into the hands of his mother and Sir Roger Mortimer. They exploited his youth and inexperience to arrogate royal authority for their personal aggrandizement and to suppress opposition to their injustices. It was, however, their incompetence in the direction of foreign policy that was most damaging to the Crown and to the kingdom. For three generations the raison d’etre of Plantagenet foreign policy was the subjugation of the British Isles under English dominion and the full restoration of Aquitaine in sovereignty to the English crown. In 1327, Edward III had no choice but to accept the fait accompli of a patched-up truce with Charles IV, whereby the French king undertook to restore the remnant of Gascony granted to Edward II, on condition that the English pay 50,000 marks in addition to £60,000 already pledged to the French Crown.


Charles IV died without male issue in February 1328. For the first time in three centuries there was no male heir to the French throne. Ironically, Charles’ nearest male blood relative was his nephew the king of England whose title came through his mother. The only other male candidate was Phillip of Valois, a nephew of Phillip V and second cousin to Charles IV. The line of succession could not be settled immediately, however, since Charles’ widow was seven months pregnant when he died. If she gave birth to a boy, he would succeed his father. If it were a girl, the baby would never wear the French crown. The choice in that eventuality was between Edward and Phillip. The prospect of a ‘foreign’ ruler horrified the French and despite the strength of Edward’s genealogy there were political reasons for not choosing him as the next French king. He was a foreigner and a minor, and his accession would give far too much power to his mother, whose wicked conduct towards her royal husband had alienated the French against her. Conversely, Phillip of Valois was a man of considerable political substance, an experienced man of affairs and the son of a French hero, and thereby “…entitled to a place at the centre of French political life, while his rival was by birth no more than Phillip the Fair’s grandson, an outsider to all but genealogists.”[15]


The so-called Salic law that they had in France has been the subject of scholarly debate and controversy. To Edouard Perroy, it was a ‘museum piece’ unearthed by Valois lawyers to strengthen their master’s royal claim. “ It so happened that by a stroke of luck unique to history this long line of kings from Hugh Capet at the close of the tenth century to Phillip the Fair at the dawning of the fourteenth always left at every generation one of more sons capable of succeeding them. Hereditary succession by the male line was on record in fact. It did not exist in law, since no precedent had enabled it to be formulated explicitly as a rule. The kings themselves consistently recoiled from the task, quite simple though it was, of decreeing how their inheritance was to devolve in future.” [16] Lately, Jonathan Sumption has argued that it was a rule ‘of recent origin, of doubtful legality, and, moreover, a rule of force rather than principle’. It was also contrary to civil inheritance law in France and elsewhere in Christendom at that time. Indeed, women were known to have inherited the throne in lands ruled by cadet branches of the Capetian dynasty.


The Salic law first appeared in 1316, when Phillip V succeeded to the throne instead of the infant daughter of his brother. It was far from obvious to his contemporaries that Phillip should succeed to the throne and there does not appear to have been any reason for him doing so beyond the presence of his armed supporters and his forceful personality. But even so, he had to buy-out his niece’s claim and bribe doubters with his use of patrimony. By contrast, when Philip died in 1322, his own daughter was pushed aside in favour of Charles IV without demure: ‘ practice was now law.’[17] It is reasonable to infer from Sumption’s analysis that in the event of a problematic or disputed succession political expediency was a more influential factor than strict hereditary right. The situation in 1328 was, however, different to that in 1316 and in 1322. In 1328, the legal issue was not whether a woman could succeed to the throne, but whether she could transmit a right of succession to her son. This was to the French no more than a legal quibble that was rendered academic by overwhelmingly sound political reasons for rejecting Edward, who did not have the support of any of the princes of the blood royal nor anybody else with influence. The Chronicler Saint-Denis summed-up the French view of the legal issue: ‘the mother had no claim, neither did the son’. Despite the difficulties, Isabella had no choice but to press her son’s claim lest it go by default. Whilst Edward’s legal right was not thereby diminished, it did mean war à outrance if he tried to enforce it. And the English were in no position to go to war for the Kingdom of France. Edward III was still in the power of Isabella and Mortimer, and there was a serious risk of civil war, which precluded any possibility of sending a military expedition to France. Queen Isabella, therefore, relinquished her son’s claim and recognized Phillip Valois as king of France. It should be noted, however, that Isabella gave way to superior force and not because she thought the French were right. Nor should we assume that English indifference was due to anything other than their preoccupation with the threat of civil war at home.[18]


In the autumn of 1328, Phillip summoned Edward do homage in person for Gascony. Isabella’s tactless defiance to this summons (‘’The son of a king will never do homage to the son of a count.”) infuriated Phillip who sequestered Gascon revenues in reprisal and repeated his summons. In February 1329, the threat of civil war in England was so grave that Phillip’s demand was put to Parliament for advice. The nature of the debate and what was said is unknown to us as the Parliamentary Roll is not extant. However, the editors’ note in my edition of PROME is quite clear. In 1328 when Edward’s claim to the French throne was first raised, Phillip of Valois had just succeeded to the throne ‘and his position was still insecure. Now [in 1329] the situation had changed. Edward had no choice but to obey the summons in the same way his father had’. Jonathan Sumption relies on chronicle sources for his assertion that Parliaments advise was unequivocally that Edward’s claim to the French throne was unsustainable and it was his duty to do homage for Gascony.[19] Be that as it may, Edward III dutifully travelled to Amiens and on the 6 June 1329 and gave homage in the usual form (‘Homage de foi et de bouche’) That is, he “…paid homage with words and a kiss only without putting his hands between the hands of the King of France.” [20] And he declined to do more until he had returned to England and taken further advice. Thus, Edward acknowledged Phillip as his landlord but not as his sovereign. To the modern historian Michael Packe this seemed more like defiance than homage.[21]


Edward was back in England by the 11 June; within weeks, he received a demand from Phillip to acknowledge ‘liege’ fealty by the 28 July 1330 or lose the rest of Gascony.[22] Queen Isabella and Mortimer prevaricated to gain time for the Gascon defences to be strengthened. Negotiations were started but broke down; by August Edward was in default and faced the complete loss of Gascony. Parliament met in November to debate the defence of the Gascony; but, this was overtaken by the fall of Isabella and Mortimer, which dominated proceedings. Nothing, therefore, was done to strengthen the Gascon defences or to resolve the problem of Edward’s homage. By the end of December frustrated French ambassadors arrived in England to seek Edward’s answer. By now, Edward had entered on his adult personal rule and he was anxious to placate Phillip and prevent the loss of Gascony. Negotiations were relatively successful due to Edward’s conciliatory approach and his policy of giving way to French demands whenever possible. A settlement was reached on the 9 March and ratified by Edward before the end of the month. Edward’s acknowledged that his earlier homage include the word ‘liege’.

Edward was in no position to resist Phillip’s demand, but the significance of this new oath was not lost on him or his advisors. The obligation to provide military service as and whenever required touched the fault line of Anglo-French relations. The Plantagenet kings neither could nor would ever accept the full consequences of their fealty to the French kings. To them, homage was a ritual to be avoided if possible and got through if that was unavoidable. Indeed, the words of their previous oaths were deliberately ambiguous to fudge this issue. Liege homage went much further than simply providing troops. It placed an intolerable constraint on Edward’s sovereign prerogative. He might for example be required to take the part of France — seen by the English as their natural enemy — against (say) the Flemings or Germans who were regarded as England’s natural allies. It also damaged England’s commercial interests. The king therefore travelled incognito to France, where he met Phillip at Pont-Sainte-Maxeme sometime between the 12 and 16 April 1331. Both men were eager for a permanent resolution of the Aquitaine problem, though for different reasons. Edward wanted to re-focus English attention on the conquest of Scotland, whereas Phillip was fixated on a crusade to the Holy Land. Edward’s conciliatory approach had him gained him some relief but not much. He was forgiven for his ‘dilatoriness on the matter of the oath’ and relieved of an obligation to repeat the ceremony. Phillip also authorized a joint judicial commission to examine and then to effect ‘a mutual restoration of Aquitaine territories seized by force since the war of Saint–Sardos’; he also lifted the banishment of Gascons involved in the war. But that was as far as he would go. The clock could not be turned back. The lands confiscated in 1325 would not be returned the English Crown. Phillip did not preclude the possibility that Edward could sue for their return, but he retained absolute discretion to do what he thought proper. It was not an equitable settlement. It resolved some minor grievances of the recent past, but it did not address the deeper, fundamental issues that dated to the Treaty of Paris 1259. Phillip saw no reason to concede what the law did not demand of him.


Edward’s diplomacy had achieved nothing so far. His Gascon inheritances remained diminished by French occupation, and the giving of liege fealty to Phillip had further weakened his authority. Yet despite that, he had no choice but to continue negotiating with the French king, since the only other options were war or surrender, both of which were unthinkable.[23] Edward could not contemplate war with France until he had subdued the Scots, and the idea of abandoning his claim to Aquitaine or submitting it to arbitration were anathema to him and to his subjects.[24] It is, nonetheless, questionable whether diplomacy had any further usefulness, as neither Edward nor Phillip seems to have been well served by it. The process itself was cumbrous and unlikely to produce the ‘imaginative compromise’ that was required.[25] In the early fourteenth there was no regular, arrangements in England and France for managing international relationships. Ad hoc embassages were dispatched as events or circumstances demanded. The ambassadors who led these embassies were accompanied by large stately retinues and lived in magnificent style very much in the public gaze. They moved slowly (‘a dignified pace’) taking time to proclaim their master’s wealth and power for the benefit of foreigners and their rulers. Necessarily, their instructions were given in advance and more often than not, they were overtaken by events. In which case, new instructions had to be taken causing yet more delay as a messenger was dispatched post haste to take new orders.


Furthermore, those charged with conducting talks were rarely professional diplomats. Usually they were bishops or high status members of the lay nobility, lacking the diplomatic expertise and skills required to achieve success. Those charged with advising the ambassadors also had shortcomings. For the most part they were lawyers and antiquarians, ‘students of precedent and form’. They possessed expert knowledge of ‘the ancient and complex territorial dispute between England and France’, but were consumed by process and detail. They did not always see the issues and problems as political in nature, requiring political solution. Except on those rare and obvious occasions when legal form was beside the point, they tended to regard the problems in legal terms entailing a detailed forensic analysis and a legal solution. They were, in fact, obsessed with arguing about process rather than outcome, and also with minutiae. As the talk continued ‘their slow, sinuous but familiar path neither king saw the dangerous drift towards war’. [26] I am not sure that last sentence, which comes from Perroy, is altogether fair. Personally, I am not convinced that either king allowed the situation to drift aimlessly towards war. I believe that war was unavoidable. The fundamental problem of English vassalage was unsolvable by diplomatic means as the relative positions of the English and French were so utterly opposed. Ideally, the English crown would hold all of Aquitaine in full sovereignty; whereas, the French could not countenance the cession of the least part of sovereign French territory to a foreign power, nor could Phillip concede or moderate any of his strict feudal rights over Aquitaine.


Edward was playing for time. By keeping the talks going and by not giving Phillip any excuse to confiscate what was left of Gascony or to intervene in Scotland, Edward was better able to prepare for the reckoning with Phillip, which he knew must come. To which end, he instructed his commissioners in the joint Anglo-French judicial commission to continue their conciliatory line in the talks. He was even prepared to commit to joining Phillip’s crusade in return for the restoration of Gascony ante bellum the War of Saint-Sardos[27]. This moderate approach seemed to have borne fruit by the spring of 1334. After one particular day of talks, the English ambassadors were convinced that an equitable settlement of the Aquitaine problem had been achieved. However, as they arrived back at their lodgings, they were told to return to the French court, where their hopes of peace were dashed by Phillip’s proclamation that the settlement just agreed must include the Scots.[28] So there it was at last: Edward could not have a settlement on Gascony without abandoning his conquest of Scotland. He risked further confiscation of Gascony and the involvement of French soldiers north of the Tweed, and possibly even an invasion of England from the north. Phillip’s intervention in Scotland marked the moment of no return in the drift towards the Hundred Years War. The Scottish question rankled with Phillip no less than Edward; it was a distraction that imperiled the crusade, which he was committed to leading in the Holy Land. The French were bound to Scotland by an alliance that Phillip for honour’s sake could not ignore,[29] even at the cost of postponing the crusade.[30] In the summer of 1335, therefore, as the English army was assembling on the Scottish border, the French Royal Council committed to sending a seaborne force of six thousand soldiers to Scotland to restore the throne to Robert Bruce’s heir, David II.


An open breach between the two foremost kings of Christendom was bound to disrupt the crusade. In the hope of preventing such disruption, Phillip wrote to Edward on the 7 July 1335 ‘inviting him to submit his dispute with David II to the ‘impartial arbitration’ of the Pope and Phillip himself.[31] It is, I think inconceivable, that Phillip could have made such a crass suggestion unintentionally. He must surely have realised how that would simply inflame the situation. Scotland was to Edward at this time what Gascony was to Phillip: non negotiable. Edward’s reply was instant and unequivocal. ‘There was no danger of the Scottish problem endangering the proposed crusade, since Edward would soon pacify the rebellious Scots effectively and permanently. Furthermore, Phillip should not interfere in a domestic matter between Edward and his Scottish subjects. Finally, the idea of arbitration was obnoxious to Edward who was dealing with his own subjects and vassals. It was as complete a rebuff as could have been drafted.’ Desperate Papal efforts to broker a permanent peace were brushed aside by the parties. In March 1336, therefore, at a private meeting with Phillip, Pope Benedict XII cancelled the crusade.[32] It was a blow to Phillip’s hopes and his pride, but even more damaging to Edward as it removed his best bargaining lever for obtaining concessions and freed the French fleet for redeployment from the Mediterranean to Norman ports, where it could be used against the English.


Edward was in a difficult position. The war in Scotland was going badly. It was taking longer and costing more to subdue the Scottish nationalists than he had expected, and the English gains of 1335 were threatened by a French plan to raise and equip a force of 26,000 men for service in Scotland, and possibly also in England. In the Channel, the French were sinking English ships, killing their sailors and damaging their commerce with Flanders. French raids on the English east and south coast ports were increasing and causing much alarm among the civilian population. The redeployment of the French fleet to the Channel merely added to English concerns since it was seen as the prelude to a full-on French invasion, which the inhabitants of the southeast were arming themselves to resist. For all practical purposes, Phillip was treating Edward and his subjects as enemies wherever he found them. Things were hardly any better for the English in Gascony. Phillip’s plan to seize the remains of the duchy was well advanced. His officials, who were there already, were brazenly enforcing French royal authority at the expense of ducal authority. Also, the ‘flurry’ of litigation in the royal French courts that was emanating from Edward’s truculent Gascon vassals was undermining ducal authority. Phillip had already rejected out of hand Edward’s last proposals for a peaceful settlement of their differences, when on the 30 April he proclaimed the arriéve-ban summoning all able-bodied Frenchmen of military age for war service with the Crown.


As it happened, however, the casus belli for war was not Phillip’s threat to England or French piracy in the Channel, but Edward’s position as a peer of France. His refusal to extradite Robert of Artois a French outlaw who had taken refuge in the English court after being condemned as a traitor in France gave Phillip the excuse to confiscate what was left of Edward’s French inheritance,[33] which he did by proclamation on the 24 May 1337, ’…on account of the many excesses, rebellions and acts of disobedience committed against our royal majesty by the king of England, duke of Aquitaine.[34] To ensure there was no misunderstanding, Phillip did not send his demand for Artois’ extradition through diplomatic channels (i.e. sovereign to sovereign); he sent it to the English Seneschal of Gascony who was instructed to deal with the Master of the Royal Archers when he arrived in Gascony for the purpose. This was an unequivocal ‘sovereign to subject’ communication and tantamount to a declaration of war. Phillip’s actions found Edward at a considerable military disadvantage. He could not conquer Scotland and defend Gascony at the same time. Neither did he have the ships to challenge French naval supremacy in the Channel and the Atlantic, and his financial problems seemed insurmountable.


Edward’s solution to all these difficulties was to broaden the war. In 1337 and 1338 he set out to create an anti-Phillip coalition. The Holy Roman Emperor Ludwig IV and a cluster of German princes who had cause to fear Phillip’s territorial ambition agreed to fight on Edward’s part for gold. The Flemings were forced to join this coalition by Edward’s embargo on the export of wool and leather to Flanders.[35] They suspected (probably correctly) that Edward was using them. To maintain the coalition and to convince the unreliable Flemings that Phillip was not their lawful suzerain, Edward with the consent of the English parliament resurrected his claim to be the legitimate King of France. In a public challenge to Phillip dated the 3 October 1337, Edward claimed the French crown on the ground of his closer degree of kinship to Charles IV. ” Wherefore we give you notice that we will claim and conquer or heritage of France by the armed force of us and ours, and from this day forward we and ours challenge you and yours and we rescind the pledge of homage we gave you without good cause.” [36]  Henceforth, Phillip and his French subjects were treated as enemies of Edward. In 1338, he travelled to Antwerp to cement his alliance. There, he found his allies “…slippery, timid and tepid. They were hesitant and dilatory, and not much was achieved”.[37] It would be wrong, nevertheless, to describe the period 1337 to 1340 as a ‘phony war’ (as Christopher Allmand does). [38] The fighting may have been desultory and indecisive but it was bloody nonetheless, and both sides were guilty of atrocities and cruelty. Furthermore, the economic impact on northern Europe was considerable.[39]


Edward’s coalition depended on his ability to pay his allies and to lead an English army on campaign in the Low Countries: by 1340 he could do neither. His debts far exceeded any subsidy from Parliament and the Crown’s feudal revenues. The German’s, would fight only so long as English gold lasted and the Flemings were unreliable allies anyway. It was this crisis that prompted Edward to take the next logical step. On the 26 January 1340 he formally assumed the title ‘King of France’ and received the recognition of those Flemings who did not side with the Count of Flanders on Phillip’s side.[40] In the same month, he held his first French ‘court’ in Ghent to which his new vassals were summoned to swear their allegiance to him as ‘the successor to St Louis and Phillip the Fair’. He styled himself ‘King of England and of France’, quartered his royal arms with those of France and dated his documents ‘in the fourteenth year of our reign in England and in the first in France.’[41] It was a remarkable and dramatic escalation of the conflict, which transformed its fundamental nature, astounded the Church and the secular rulers of Christendom, and has been the source of scholarly muddle ever since.


There are three questions that historians find difficult to answer conclusively. First, did Edward have a legitimate and superior title to the French throne? Second, was his claim at this time based on principle or expediency? And finally, was it the cause of the Hundred Years War? I will deal with the last question first since it is the most straightforward. The simplistic view taken by Edward’s sternest critics of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that his claim was the cause of the Hundred Years War flies in the face of the facts as we now know them and of common sense. Phillip’s confiscation of Gascony marked the moment war became inevitable. The occupation of Gascony by French soldiers soon afterwards marked the start of hostilities. These acts took place months before Edward wrote to Phillip claiming the French throne and years before he assumed the title of King of France. As Ian Mortimer is quick to point out, Edward’s dynastic claim was a symptom of the conflict, not its cause.[42]


The issue of legitimacy, however, is more problematic. The objection to a woman succeeding to the French throne was hardly relevant to Edward’s claim for obvious reasons. His claim was sui generis in that it turned on the question of whether a woman could transmit such a title to her son. The French lords answered that question with a resounding no. Although the English bowed to superior force, there is no suggestion they accepted the French interpretation of the ‘rules’ of succession. It could be argued that by giving homage to Phillip in 1329, Edward effectively renounced his claim to the French Crown, The counter argument put forward at the time by his advisors is that Edward could not be held to an oath given while he was still a minor and furthermore an oath he was coerced into giving. It is arguable, as Jonathan Sumption suggests, whether that argument is weakened by Edward’s liege homage’ of 1331.[43] Personally, I do not think that Edward’s claim — such as it was — is emasculated by his concession in 1331. In the first place, he made no concession about the legitimacy of his title or that he accepted the legitimacy of the French lords’ decision. He simply bowed to superior force. To do otherwise was folly. It would commit him to a war he could not win at that time. He saw the risk of confiscation and war clearly, which he sensibly decided to prevent by making a limited concession that his oath of 1329 was liege fealty. Moreover, I can see no rational reason for Edward to pursue a claim, which he and everyone else knew was false. I must now turn to the question of motive.


We can be sure that Edward’s reason for pressing his title at this point was expediency. He was seeking to gain a tactical advantage. No doubt if the throne fell into his hands he might think again, but at this time he showed no genuine desire to rule two kingdoms. His war aim was to recover all of English Gascony in full sovereignty, plus of course any other lands he managed to conquer during the war. But, by turning his dispute into a dynastic one, Edward shed the feudal straitjacket that cast him as nothing more than a disloyal and disobedient vassal’, and dispensed with the tiresome duty of swearing fealty to the French crown. Thereafter he referred to his opponent as ‘Phillip of Valois who calls himself the king of France’, with whom he was able to treat on equal terms. Nevertheless, if Edward wanted to steady his allies and influence the neutrals, he could not afford to put forward spurious claim; there must be some legal and moral legitimacy to his claim no matter how ambiguous or arguable it was.


Before I turn to the immediate events leading up to the Treaty of Bretigny in 1360, I must write a little about the course of the war by way of context.[44]   After 1340 Edward abandoned his foreign coalition, preferring instead to rely on his seasoned English and Welsh troops. A war of succession, which broke out in Brittany during 1341 gave him the pretext to bring his army to France on behalf of one of the parties. Not unnaturally, King Phillip took the part of the other side. What started as a ducal dispute soon became an international war between England and France. The English established their military supremacy with hard fought victories at Morlaix (1342), Auberoche (1345) and Crecy (1346). The battle of Crecy was a triumph for the discipline and professionalism of Edward’s infantry over the élan of Phillip’s mounted knights. King Phillip fled the field with his royal and political reputations in tatters. The flower of French chivalry was humbled and soon after the English captured Calais, which they held for two hundred years. But the war was not continuous; it was interrupted by the pestilence of the Black Death, which temporarily disorganized, social, economic and military activity in England and France.[45] Furthermore, the nature of English and of French society was such that neither side was able to maintain a large standing army in the field for a long time. And, there was also the papal policy of consistently offering mediation. All these factors, coupled with the death of Phillip in 1350 unsettled French society. Opposition to the Valois line was increasing; factionalism was breaking down political unity, stirred up by Charles of Navarre (known as Charles the Bad) who was another claimant to the French throne. It is possible that he and Edward were planning to destroy the Valois line and divide France between them.[46]


Even the fact that King John (who had succeeded his father in 1350) came to terms with Charles of Navarre at Nantes In1354 was insufficient to overcome the French disadvantage. Most royal councilors were by this time receptive to the notion of peace with Edward even at the price of French territory. Contact between ambassadors was ongoing and the French prepared for the ‘worst of surrenders’.[47] Edward agreed in principle to trade his claim to the French throne for territory. All that remained to be agreed was the extent of the land to be yielded to him. This was finalized at the Treaty of Guines (1354). In exchange for renouncing his claim to the French throne, Edward was to receive in full sovereignty: that part of Aquitaine known as Gascony (anti bellum the war of St-Sardos), Poitou, Limousine, Maine, Anjou and Touraine. Edward was delighted. He had achieved almost all his war aims, though he dared not say so too loudly. The terms agreed were highly controversial and could not be published straight away lest the fragile peace be endangered.[48] Edward’s fears were soon realised. On hearing the agreement, the opposition of the French lords hardened. In the autumn of 1354, King John was persuaded to repudiate the Treaty of Guines. The temporary truce was revoked and the war resumed. As far as Edward was concerned no other course was possible now.


The chevauchée that Edward Prince of Wales led from Bordeaux to the Languedoc in the autumn of 1355 marked the opening of a new chapter in the Hundred Years War. The English raiders inflicted terrible havoc and destruction on the French civil population and their property, as they rode from Bordeaux to the shores of the Mediterranean and back, laden down with booty and unmolested by a French army, which stood idly by and watched. Militarily, the raid achieved little; no ground was taken, no castles were captured, and no battle was fought. The value of the raid, however, lay in its effect on French morale. King John’s authority was challenged in his own back yard and he was shown to be powerless to protect his people from English depredations. The shock wave was felt in Paris, where plots, coups and counter-coups widened the division between the King and the Dauphin and between the various political factions: worse was expected in 1356.


It was the presence of Henry Duke of Lancaster with a small English Army in Brittany, and Prince Edward with his larger Anglo-Gascon force in Gascony that created a problem for John and an opportunity for Edward in 1355/56. Despite his military successes, a decisive war-winning campaign had thus far eluded King Edward. Perhaps this was an opportunity to put that right. It seems that in the spring of 1356 he conceived a plan to lead a third English army in France. It was anticipated that after the king had linked-up with Lancaster’s force, they advance from the west and rendezvous ‘somewhere on the Loire’ with Prince Edward’s army coming up from the south. We must be careful not to attribute to this some sort of strategic masterstroke by Edward, since it was in fact nothing more than a vague pipe dream. It was a plan that required three English medieval armies manoeuvring on exterior lines, without maps, active communications, active intelligence, relying on extempore logistics and in enemy territory, to co-ordinate their movements so as to combine their strength for a decisive battle against an outnumbered foe. There was simply too much that could go wrong, and indeed did go wrong before it even started! Edward’s efforts to raise another army for service in France came to nought owing to the threat posed by the Aragonese Galley Fleet that was spotted off the coast of Kent. Instructions were sent to Lancaster and to Prince Edward to rendezvous on the Loire. In the event, however, no junction between the English armies was achieved owing to the movements of the enemy and the English failure to synchronize their movements. Prince Edward reached the Loire to find that he was alone. Worse still he did not know at that point where the French army was. In fact it was only a few miles away in an good position to cut the Anglo-Gascons’ line of communication from Bordeaux. Edward waited for three days for news of Lancaster that never came. It was only when he realised that the French were threatening his rear that he ordered an immediate retreat. There is some dispute as to whether the prince was retreating or actually manoeuvring to bring the French to battle near Poitiers. It is a purely academic argument since a battle did tale place on the 19 September 1356, which was an even more astounding English success than Crecy. The French army was destroyed; King John and his son Phillip along with scores of French nobles were captured. The irony of Poitiers is that it gave Edward the decisive victory that he craved. King John was held captive in London (albeit highly honoured), and France descended into anarchy and revolution in his absence. Even so, it still took Edward four years to consecrate Poitiers with a permanent peace treaty.


While John was a prisoner in London, Edward tried twice to force terms on the French. The first Treaty of London (1358) ceded the following territory to Edward in full sovereignty: Guines, Saintoge, Poitou, Limousine, Quercy, Rouerget, Bigone, Ponthieu, and Calais. John’s ransom was put at 4,000,000 ecus payable by installments. Though this was less that Edward had demanded at Guines, these were still tough terms for the French to accept. They were ceding sovereignty of about a quarter of sovereign French territory. However, such was the anarchy in France that even the hawkish Dauphin accepted this humiliation as the price for peace. The return of Charles of Navarre to France and further fighting in Normandy forced the French nation to it knees. They were unable to pay the first installment of John’s ransom. The opportunistic Edward saw the opportunity to get even more from the beleaguered John by changing the terms of the peace already agreed in principle. The second Treaty of London was much severer than the first. Edward tinkered with the ransom and the installment plan, but his new territorial demand was astonishing; all that was ceded in 1358 plus all the land between the Loire and the Channel together with Anjou, Maine, Tournai, Normandy and the coastal region between Calais and the Somme, all in full sovereignty. It return, Edward renounced his claim to the French crown. If ratified, this treaty would destroy France. It shows, the depth of John’s desperation to go home that he should have agreed, however reluctantly, to such severe terms. Unsurprisingly, the Dauphin and the Estates General rejected this treaty, which they said was neither tolerable not practicable. It was obvious now that if King Edward III wanted to restore the ‘Angevin Empire’, he was going to have to conquer it. Even he realised that that was not feasible despite the obvious French difficulties.[49]


The Treaty of Bretigny was more than just an agreement between King Edward and King John, it was meant to secure a general and a permanent peace in Christendom.[50] The conference opened on the 1 May 1360 in the wake of Edward’s failed attempt to force his terms on the French. “Sixteen French ambassadors, twenty-two English ones, three papal legates and an observer sent by the king of Navarre, all with their [bodyguards, staffs and servants]. The chief negotiators were all veterans of past occasions of this sort.[51] The English constrained by events took a more conciliatory line than hitherto and did not maintain their territorial demands of 1359. Once this was known, negotiations did not take long. By the 3 May, the essential details were agreed in substantially the same terms as those of the first Treaty of London. Edward was to hold in free sovereignty all the provinces to the southwest that had once belonged to the Angevins, ‘in the same manner as the king of France and his ancestors held them’. In addition to Gascony, this meant Poitou, Saintoge, Angoumois, Perigold, Limousine, Quercy and Rouerget together with certain (unspecified) territories bordering on Gascony. In the north he was to get Ponthieu, Calais and the town of Montreuil in Picardy. In return, Edward would renounce his claim to the French throne. The detail remained to be settled, of course, and as might have been anticipated the devil was indeed in the detail. The treaty ratified by the English Parliament did not include the so-called ‘renunciation clause’. That was put aside in a separate document for discussion later. Sadly, neither Edward nor John complied with their obligations under the treaty. Though the next decade was peaceful this failure to enforce the terms of the agreement on both sides was to dominate Anglo-French diplomacy for the next half-century. But that, as they say is another story.

[1] M Prestwich – Edward I (Yale 1997) p.314: Maurice Powicke – The Thirteenth Century (Oxford 1988, 2nd edition) pp.290-292; Powicke’s analysis of the Gascon question (pp.270-318) is a useful introduction to the real politick of Anglo-French relations in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. See also, Marc Morris – Edward I: a great and terrible king (Windmill 2009) p.204

[2] Powicke pp. 644-645, points out that this was not an isolated incident, though it was the most serious thus far. Powicke is in no doubt that the Cinque Port flotilla were sent to avenge some earlier French outrage.

[3] Powicke pp. 648-649; Morris pp. 264-265: both these authors explore Phillips motive and his means for recovering English lands in France

[4] Edouard Perroy – The Hundred Years War (Eyres & Spottiswoode 1965 -English trans) p.65, provides a useful analysis of Edward’s military, political and fiscal problems at home and in France at this time. Peroy asserts that the conquest of Gascony was relatively easy for Phillip’s troops: “three short summer campaigns in 1294,1295 and 1296 sufficed to enable Charles Valois to occupy the whole of Aquitaine”: Perroy exaggerates, though not by much..

[5] Powicke pp.649-688; summarizes the complex web of diplomacy between the monarchs and princes of northwest Europe at this time. It is a good introduction to the problems faced by Edward and Phillip in achieving their own foreign policy objectives

[6] Powicke p.654; Powicke also gives a fascinating insight into the legal argument between English and French lawyers over the feudal status of Gascony (pp.650-653). His penetrating analysis is worth quoting at length: “It was impossible to break from the past. The status of Gascony had become involved in a network of juristic learning; the boundaries were not clearly fixed, old disputes had not been settled. In Edward II’s reign all sorts of thorny difficulties survived to become even more complicated…The duty of the duke to take an oath of fealty as well as to do homage in person was disputed. The marriage between Edward of Caernarvon and Isabella raised the great problem of the French succession. The treaty of 1303 was but an incident, a breathing space in the interminable wrangle which the Treaty of [Paris] 1259 had produced.

[7] Kathryn Warner – Edward II: an unconventional king (Amberley 2014) pp.14-16 contains a helpful summary of Edward II’s historical reputation. See also May McKisack – The Fourteenth Century: 1307-1399 (Oxford 1959) pp.107 for a damming and unsurpassed assessment of Edward’s character faults.

[8] Jonathan Sumption – The Hundred Years War 1: Trial by Battle (Faber and Faber 1990 edition) pp. 86-91.

[9] Sumption (battle) p.92; see also Warner p.177. Warner make the point that at this time Edward was angry with Charles for not extraditing the English traitor Roger Mortimer who had been at the French court. The question is: did Edward’s anger cloud his judgement about the Saint-Sardos affair?

[10] Sumption (Battle) pp.86-90; refers to the ‘mosaic of competing jurisdictions’ which existed in Gascony. The boundaries were still undefined and ancient disputes were still unresolved. Edward’s litigious Gascon vassals were as much to blame as anybody for this state of affairs, since they were determined to exploit the dual jurisdiction to their best advantage in local inter-family feuds. It became a frequent device to bypass ducal control in order to gain an advantage over opponents. This situation was a source of genuine grievance for the English, since the pronouncements of the French Parlement left them defenceless against the continual French encroachment into the land and affairs of Gascony, except for retaliation. The problem was not that this would lead to war, everybody accepted that; the real danger was that war would come at a time of the French king’s choosing.

[11] Sumption (Battle) p.93

[12] Sumption (Battle) p.94; Peroy passim; Charles IV is also known to history as Charles the Fair. There is no doubt that he did not try to take advantage of Edward’s domestic troubles. Neither does the evidence support an inference that the Capetian monarchs had a deliberate policy to disinherit the Plantagenets. In this instance and in others since 1259, it is much more likely that the French employed a policy of strict enforcement of their feudal rights backed-up by brutal punishment for the slightest infringement. However, I believe there is merit in Peroy’s opinion (p.65) that Charles was being unreasonable to Edward’s ambassadors (‘he would not listen to reason’). Their instructions did not authorise them to make the promise requested and it would have been treasonable for them to diminish the Crown estate by promising parts of it to a foreign potentate. Besides, any promises made under these circumstances of duress, is unenforceable.

[13] Sumption (Battle) p.95; Warner pp. 178-179

[14] Mortimer (Perfect King) pp. 200-201; ‘it is as it is’ seems to have been Edward’s personal motto, which was first seen in public at a tournament in 1342 embroidered on all of Edward’s heraldic devices. Nobody is really sure what it means: is it fatalistic (things cannot be changed)? Or is it celebratory (things are as they should be). It might even have been a reference the immutability of his title to the French throne. Mortimer discusses these possibilities and others.

[15] Sumption (Battle) p.107

[16] Sumption pp. (Battle) 68-69; Perroy p.71; both of these superb historians analyses this issues involved and come to the same conclusion. Sumption’s analysis is, as one would expect, of almost judicial clarity and objectivity. Perroy’s analysis though more emotional is equally effective.

[17] Sumption (Battle) ibid; this section is based entirely on Sumption’s own work

[18] Sumption (Battle) p.109: asserts that the fact Edward was passed over for the French crown was a matter of indifference to his English subjects. It was, he suggests, ‘only the Queen Mother who felt strongly about the issue’. However, see McKisack p.111 who argues convincingly that ‘contemporary feudal practice and the prevailing uncertainty about the law of succession made it almost inevitable in these circumstances that a claim should be proffered on behalf of Edward III a direct descendant of Phillip IV through his mother. Failure to make such a claim would be tantamount to letting it go be default and Isabella’s overtures for alliances with Gelderland, Brabant and Castile suggests that she might have had some notion of taking action at a later date.

[19] Sumption (Battle) ppp109-110: Sumption cites a number chronicles sources to which I do not have access: Foedera convetiones, literae et acta publica – ed T Rymer, ne A Clarke et al 7 Volumes (1826-29) pp.775, 783, 784, 789; Lettres d’état enregistrées au Parlement de Paris sous le régne de Philippe de Valois, ABSHF, xxxiv (1897), 193-267, xxxv (1898) 177-249; Annales Londinieses, W Stubbs (ed) – Chronicles of the reign of Edward I and Edward II (1882) PP. 247-249. See also

Chris Givern-Wilson (Gen Ed) – The Parliamentary Rolls of Medieval England 1275-1504 (Boydell 2005); Vol IV – 1327-1348 (Seymour Phillips and Mark Ormrod (Eds) p. 96 (PROME): There are two circumstantial points that are worth considering when discussing the lords’ advice. First, Edward was still a minor in the power of his mother and Sir Roger Mortimer, and accordingly he did all that was asked of him as Duke of Aquitaine when swearing fealty to Phillip. Second, the advice was given ‘against a background of barely suppressed tension’ caused by the earl of Lancaster’s rebellion, which was only suppressed at the cost of Mortimer’s complete domination of the government. I am confused by the significant difference between the note in PROME and Sumption’s conclusion from the chronicles. Was Edward required to do homage because his claim was unsustainable in law, or because it was unsustainable (unenforceable) in fact? See also John Joliffe Froissart’s Chronicles (Harvill 1967) pp. 53 -54 and Ian Mortimer – The Greatest Traitor (Vintage 2010) p.221.

[20] Geoffrey Brereton (editor and translator) – Jean Froissart Chronicles (Penguin 1978) p.55; see also, John Jolliffe (editor and translator) – Froissart’s Chronicles (Harvill 1967) pp. 53-66; which contains a more detailed account of the homage ceremony.

[21] Michael Packe – Edward III (Law Book Company 1983) p.44

[22] McKisack p.112; Perroy pp.82-84: the French drew attention to the ambiguity of the first oath even though it was the same oath sworn by Henry III in 1259, by Edward I in 1274 and again in 1286, and by Edward II in 1308 and 1320. Perroy speculates whether Phillip’s ‘brusque’ demand was the prelude to another confiscation. It is noteworthy that by the time of Phillip’s demand for ‘liege’ fealty the French were already in occupation of the Agenais and Saintonge

[23] PROME Vol 4 pp.154-155; Edward sought Parliaments advice in September 1331. He asked the lords whether they thought he should go to war to recover his rights. Parliament offered him three options: arbitration, negotiation or war. Arbitration and war being too risky, the lords advised further negotiations in the form proposed by King Phillip himself ballasted if possible by a diplomatic marriage settlement.

[24] Sumption (Battle) p.119; see also PROME V4 pp. 153-156

[25] Sumption (Battle) pp146 & 152-184 passim; Mortimer pp.124-126; Sumption charts the course of Anglo-French diplomacy in detail, which I can only summarise.

[26] Perroy pp.88-89; see also Sumption (Battle) pp118-122

[27] Perroy pp. ibid; suggests that Phillip was keen to take the Cross following a suggestion from Edward. It is clear, however, that Edward had no intention to go on a Holy Crusade while Scotland was unconquered; Sumption (Battle) p.155, considers Edward’s promise to go on Crusade was ‘indistinct and probably dishonest’.

[28] Perroy ibid

[29] Perroy ibid; Sumption (Battle) pp.123-151 passim; Mortimer (Perfect King) pp.95-96 & 453.n42

[30] Perroy p.88; ‘Phillip of Valois felt that it lay neither with his interests nor his duty to abandon his Scottish ally’

[31] Sumption (Battle) pp.152-184

[32] Sumption (Battle) ibid the Papal Legate produced a draft compromise meant to disengage Phillip from the ‘British conflict’ so that he could concentrate on the Holy Crusade. It was futile gesture; Phillip regarded the attempted mediation as impertinence since this was not a dispute between sovereign kings but between a sovereign and his vassal on a subject that touched the authority of the French crown.

[33] Sumption (Battle) pp.172-174; Sumption argues that strictly speaking Edward’s refusal to extradite Artois was not grounds for confiscating Gascony since Edward was self-evidently acting in his sovereign capacity as king of England to make an alliance with whomever he chooses. However, such considerations counted for little with the French who feared such an alliance might threaten their interests. See also Christopher Allmand- The Hundred Years War (Cambridge 2001 revised edition) p.12, who takes a different line. He suggests that by sheltering Artois, a traitor and Phillip’s enemy, Edward was guilt of breaking his oath of fealty to Phillip. It is a classic illustration of the conflict of interests placed on the English king/French duke that was created by the Treaty of Paris 1259 and was the root cause of Anglo-French discord

[34] McKisack p.115

[35] Sumption (Battle) p.189; Edward’s embargo on the export of Wool, though it damaged the English economy, had catastrophic consequences for the Flemish economy. Most of the population worked in the cloth-making industry and were entirely dependent on English wool for their livelihood, ‘there being virtually no other raw material’. The embargo coupled with a poor harvest ensured that many textile workers went hungry during the winter. In 1337, public order in Ghent and Bruges broke down.

[36] Brereton pp. 59-60

[37] Alfred H. Burne – The Crecy War: 1337-1360 (Greenhill Books 1990 edition) p.24

[38] Allmand p.14; see also Perroy pp.95-105

[39] Sumption (Battle) Chp7, 8, 9 contains the best and most thorough account of the diplomatic, financial and military activity between 1337 and 1340; Perroy ibid provides the best summary of events during that period.

[40] Sumption (Battle) ibid; Perroy ibid; Mortimer (Perfect King) pp.136, 137, 144, 148 & 162-165

[41] Sumption (Battle) pp291-296; Perroy ibid; Mortimer (Perfect King) p.144: Edward’s title seemed more a matter of convenience depending on who or what it was intended for. He did, for example style himself as king of England and of France in one document and as king of France and of England in another.

[42] Mortimer (Perfect King) p.135; see also Perroy pp. 95-97; Allmand pp. 7-12 contains a useful discussion on the causes of the war and provides some interesting alternative general interpretations of the cause and nature of the war.

[43] Sumption (Battle) pp. 294-295

[44] For those interested in the military history, Jonathan Sumption’s uncompleted ‘History of the Hundred Years War’ in four volumes is the definitive English account (The fifth and final volume is awaited.). The best general introduction remains Edouard Perroy’s superb History (English translation 1959). It is also still worth referring to Alfred Burn’s two-volume military history The Crecy War’ and ‘The Agincourt War ’(1955)

[45] A general truce was agreed in 1347 and repeatedly extended.

[46] Allmand p.17

[47] Jonathan Sumption – The Hundred Years War 2: Trial by Fire (Faber and Faber 1999 edition) pp.132-133.

[48] Sumption 2 (Fire) p.133: the terms agreed at Guines were better than Edward managed to get at Bretigny in 1360, when John was his prisoner and an English army stood at the gates of Paris.

[49] Sumption (Fire) ibid

[50] Perroy p178

[51] Sumption (Fire) ibid

Richard III and Harold II

We all know that Richard is directly descended from William the Conqueror, who is his eleven times great grandfather. Here is Richard’s pedigree to William in three parts – follow the yellow dots left to right. (N.B. the first few generations have the yellow combined with red and blue which lead to other ancestors).

But did you know that he is also directly descended from William’s enemy, Harold Godwinson, also Harold II, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England and Richard’s twelve times great grandfather? This time follow the blue dots.

So, who did he have more in common with?  Looking into this, I found that there are many similarities between Richard and Harold.

Battles and Death

Obviously, both died in battle, valiantly defending their country. In fact, Richard was the last English king to die in battle and the first (and only other) was Harold himself. Richard was the last Plantagenet king and Harold the last Anglo Saxon one.

Both could be impatient and impetuous. Richard charged Henry Tudor to try to end the battle and refused to take a horse and leave the battle. Harold joined battle with William quite hastily. He might have succeeded if he had waited a little while. Also, both men did not attempt to wait for contingents of their armies who were late arriving; Richard’s York men did not reach the battlefield until the battle was over and Harold’s brothers-in-law, the Earls of Mercia and Northumbria had not yet arrived when the battle of Hastings began.

Battle of Bosworth, 1485

Both were hacked to death fighting their enemies, Henry “Tudor” and William of Normandy respectively. Both of these enemies were of bastard stock and both invaded from France. Neither of them had any legal right to the throne of England. And both Henry Tudor and William of Normandy had attempted a previous invasion, only to have been thwarted at that time. The battles of 1066 and 1485 were both pivotal in English history and, arguably, in both cases, England would have been much better off had the defending king prevailed.

Battle of Hastings, 1066


Richard was the youngest son of the Duke of York, with no expectation of becoming king. Many of us believe he took the throne out of duty, not ambition. One of the reasons may have been the fact that Edward V was just a boy of thirteen and no-one wanted a king who was a minor.

Harold, too, was a younger, if not the youngest, son of his family. He never expected to be king either – when he was young, Edward (the Confessor) was on the throne and was expected to have heirs.

Edward the Confessor

As it happens he did not, but there was another claimant, Edgar Ætheling (sometimes known as Edward Ætheling), Edward’s nephew, who was, at the time of the Confessor’s death, aged about thirteen. Sound familiar? The Witenagemot (English assembly of nobleman and clergy, etc) decided that Harold was the better prospect as king to defend the country, since it was known that William of Normandy was also planning to claim the crown. So, both Richard and Harold were elected king, after an Edward had died and by putting aside thirteen-year-old claimants, possibly both also called Edward.


Both Richard and Harold had troublesome brothers. Richard had his older brother, George, with whom he had to debate to claim a share of the Neville sisters’ inheritance and whom Edward IV ended up executing for treason.

Harold had Tostig, a younger brother, who rebelled against both Edward the Confessor and Harold himself and ended up siding with Harald Hardråda, a Norwegian claimant to the throne, thus also committing treason. Harold had to take his army up to York to oppose them and won, taking the Norwegians and Tostig by surprise. Tostig was killed in the battle of Stamford Bridge, but this battle was probably one reason for Harold losing at Hastings a few day later. It seems both George and Tostig were ‘problem’ middle children.


Richard had to twice go into exile with members of his family; with George when he was eight and with Edward when he was eighteen.

Harold accompanied his father, Earl Godwin, into exile in 1051, and helped him to regain his position a year later.


In 1483, Richard, as Duke of Gloucester, was the most powerful noble in the country and the senior adult male heir. He also held many titles such as Constable of England, Admiral of England, Ireland and Aquitaine, Chief Justice of North Wales, Great Chamberlain of England, Steward of the Duchy of Lancaster and Lord Protector.

Richard III

Likewise Harold was, by 1066, the most powerful man in the country after the king. As well as being Earl of East Anglia from a young age, he became Earl of Wessex after the death of his father in 1053 and later Earl of Hereford. In addition, his sister (another Edith!) was Edward the Confessor’s queen.

Harold Godwinson


Richard is known to have suffered with scoliosis, which would have been the source of great challenges for him. Perhaps partly because of this, he was very pious and is known to have founded and built many religious houses and chapels.

Harold was also known to have had an illness of some kind which must have been quite serious, resulting in a form of paralysis. He was apparently cured and founded an Abbey at Waltham, in thanks for his life.


Richard married Anne Neville and thus helped to secure the North for his brother, Edward IV, since the Nevilles were well-respected there.

Harold had been married more Danico ‘in the Danish fashion’ (i.e. not in a way recognised by Christianity) to Edith Swannesha for many years and had at least six children by her. This may have partly been to gain influence in his new Earldom, when he became Earl of East Anglia, as she had land in the area. He later married another Edith, sister of Edwin, Earl of Mercia and Morcar, Earl of Northumbria, probably in order to ensure their loyalty to him and secure the North, so all these marriages were probably at least partly politically motivated.

In addition, when Richard married Anne she was the widow of Edward of Lancaster, who opposed Richard and the Yorkists at Tewkesbury.

Edith, Harold’s second wife had also been previously married to his opponent, the Welsh king, Gruffydd ap Llywelyn.


Both Richard and Harold had previous good reputations. Harold was described by chronicler, Orderic Vitalis, as being:

‘distinguished by his great size and strength of body, his polished manners, his firmness of mind and command of words, by a ready wit and a variety of excellent qualities’.

Richard was of course of no great size but Archibald Whitelaw described him thus:

‘Never has so much spirit or greater virtue reigned in such a small body.’


They were also both proven warriors. Richard had been involved in the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury with his brother, Edward, and had also been successful in repelling the Scots and retaking Berwick.

Harold had quelled the Welsh in a series of effective campaigns against Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, and was later victorious at Stamford Bridge.

Battle of Stamford Bridge


Richard was crowned on 6th July 1483. Harold was also crowned on 6th, but of January, in 1066, both in Westminster Abbey. It is thought that Harold was the first to be crowned there. Both of them were criticised for being crowned with unseemly haste, although both had good reason, since in both cases the nobles, clerics and others who needed to be present were already there. In Richard’s case, they had assembled for the coronation of Edward V and in, Harold’s, for the funeral of Edward the Confessor.

Harold’s Coronation


Both men had mysteries surrounding their burials. Richard’s we know about – it had been thought by some that his bones had been dug up and thrown into the River Soar, but they were located successfully in 2012.

After the Battle of Hastings, Harold’s mutilated body was identified by his first wife, Edith Swannesha, through marks known only to her, but his final resting place is unknown.

Edith Swannesha identifies Harold’s body

The traditionally accepted location is Waltham Abbey, but this is disputed. Another candidate is Bosham, because of Harold’s strong association with it as his birthplace, and the discovery in 1954 of an Anglo-Saxon coffin in the church there. Also, it is near the sea and William was said to have wanted him buried near the Channel for his impudence in opposing him.

Left: Harold’s supposed burial at Waltham and right: Church at Bosham

A third, more recent, suggestion is St Michael’s Church, in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire. This theory stems from the fact that the ‘remains’ believed to be Harold’s that were found at Waltham Abbey could not have been human bones as they had turned into dust. It is possible that he could have had a ‘heart burial’ there – common for high status individuals – where their heart was buried at a separate location to the rest of their body.

Harold’s first wife is known to have lived in Bishop’s Stortford and the team behind this theory found four surviving, intact Norman stone coffins in a vault under the church, which have not been examined in modern times. The coffins seem too unusual to be for commoners.


After their deaths, both kings had family members who tried to wrest the crown back from the two usurpers, Henry and William. In Richard’s case, these were ‘Lambert Simnel’ and Perkin Warbeck’, probably actually his nephews, Edward and Richard.

Two of Harold’s sons, Godwine and Edmund, invaded England in 1068 and 1069 with the aid of Diarmait mac Máel na mBó (High King of Ireland). We know that Ireland also supported the Lambert Simnel attempt. However, all of these bids for power sadly failed.


I recently read the following as a description of a Facebook page in support of king Harold:

Redressing the balance of Norman propaganda against King Harold Godwinson and the Anglo-Saxons, and the blinkered hagiographies for Duke William…

You could substitute Tudor for Norman, Richard III for Harold Godwinson, Yorkists for Anglo-Saxons and The Tudors for Duke William and there we have our own aims. It’s so true that history is written by the victors.

What do we know about St Mary in Gysma and her connection with London….?


In my continuous roamings for information, pure chance led me to this reference:-

“….Benyngton (Simon de), draper.—To be buried in S. John’s Chapel, to the south of the chancel of the church of S. Laurence in Old Jewry, near Idonia his late wife. To Idonia his present wife he leaves lands and tenements in the parishes of S. Laurence aforesaid and S. Mary de Aldermanbury for life; remainder to the church of S. Laurence for the maintenance of chantries therein for the good of his soul, the souls of his wives, of Roger his father and Cecilia his mother, John de Abyndon, and others. In default of the vicar and parishioners of S. Laurence aforesaid providing the chantry priest, the aforesaid lands, tenements, and rents are to go to the Mayor, Aldermen, and Commonalty of the City of London for the time being, for the maintenance of a chantry in Guildhall Chapel. To the Master and Brethren of the house or hospital of S. Thomas de Acon, near the Conduit of London, a certain quitrent for the maintenance of a chantry in the church of S. Thomas aforesaid, at the altar of S. Mary in gysma,  for the good of his soul, the souls of John de Abyndon, late draper, Idonia, wife of the same, John their son, and others; similar remainder to the foregoing in case of default. Dated London, 14 October, 42 Edward III. [A.D. 1368]….”

In his book The Black Death in London, Barney Sloane says “….the altar of St Mary in Gysma (in childbirth), probably situated in the Lady Chapel in the priory of St Thomas Acon….” Was the priory at the hospital in Cheapside? Or elsewhere. If elsewhere, the only one I can find from that time was in Kilkenny, which I somehow doubt would have caught the attention of Simon Benyngton, mercer of London.

I’d never heard of St Mary in Gysma before. It means St Mary in Childbirth, and at that time, with the pestilence recurring it’s likely many women died in childbed, and their babies with them. I decided I ‘d like to bring this information into my wip, so the search was on for more information. But first I had to find out about the apparently very English Knights of  St Thomas of Acon, for this altar was located in their church.

from Rocque’s Map of 1746

This section from Rocque’s Map has been taken from here, together with the passages:

“….Look to the southern end, and to the right of Ironmonger Lane is a block of building and the abbreviation “Cha” for Chapel – this is the area where Thomas a Becket was born and also the site of the Hospital of St Thomas of Acon….

“….The hospital was built on land purchased from the Becket family. The name Acon is the anglicised version of Acre (now part of Israel), and dates from the Third Crusade between 1189 and 1191, and possibly originates from an order of monks / knights formed during the Crusade and the siege of Acre….”

“…In Rocque’s map, you can see that the Mercers’ Hall is also shown where the hospital was located….

“….The Mercers’ Company represented the interest of merchants who traded in materials such as wool, linens and silks and it was the Mercers who became patrons of the Hospital of St Thomas of Acon, and used the hospital’s chapel as a ceremonial meeting site from when the chapel was built in the 13th century in 1248….”

from A Map of Tudor London, England’s Greatest City in 1520
by Town & City Historical Maps
This statue was found buried at Mercers’ Hall, which stands on the site of
the Church St Thomas of Acon in Cheapside

Well, after floundering around for some precise information about who, what, where,why and when, I finally reached this British History online piece , which commences:-

“….This entry concerns the house where Thomas Becket, the martyred archbishop of Canterbury, was born; the hospital of St. Thomas of Acre, which was established on the site of the house and was then extended over several neighbouring properties; the hall and chapel of the Mercers’ Company, which were first set up within the church of the hospital; the rebuilding of the hall and chapel in the early 16th century; and the site of the dissolved hospital, part of which after the Great Fire came to be occupied by the third hall and chapel of the Mercers’ Company….

“….On the street frontage the property corresponded to nos. 85-6 Cheapside in 1858….”

If you read the above article, you will find the following, which concerns the chapel to which Simon Benyngton referred in his 1368 will:-

“….The choir, which was presumably between the high altar and the nave, is first mentioned in 1372. There are several references to the Lady Chapel, presumably to the E. of the choir, where the altar of St. Mary in childbirth (in gisina), mentioned in 1368, was probably located. 20

20 Cal Wills ii, pp. 149, 548; MC, Reg of Writings i, ff. 13, 80; PRO, PROB11/24, f. 22r-v.

There is much much more information in the article, but my concern is the late 14th century, and so my requirements are limited to that period only.

St Mary Colechurch, which was not rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666

I tell you now that Google Search insisted on asking me if I meant “St Mary in Gym”. Well, I can’t quite see Our Lady working out, even if Google can!

Anyway, unless someone out there knows better, I will have my fictitious character (who has suffered miscarriages) go to the Lady Chapel of the Hospital of St Thomas of Acon in Cheapside, to pray at the altar of St Mary in Gysma.

If that’s wrong, please let me know.

Oh, and if your Middle English is up to it:-


The Royal Progress of Richard III

Following his coronation, Richard III – like all medieval monarchs – went on his “royal progress” through the realm.  Along with an entourage in excess of 200 household men, ecclesiastics, supporters, and administrative officials, he visited towns and cities as far west as the River Severn, as far north as the River Ouse, and as far east as the River Witham.  It was while he was staying in Lincoln along the River Witham when he received the news that the Duke of Buckingham and others were in open rebellion in the south.  This required the king to respond accordingly by making his “Great Journey” towards Salisbury.  It was not unusual for uprisings to occur during the royal progress of a new monarch.  During his royal progress in 1461, Edward IV had to respond to insurrection in Wales and dispense hard justice by presiding over the execution of a Lancastrian traitor.[1]  This article will not cover Richard III’s “Great Journey” to suppress Buckingham’s rebellion, as that was not part of the planned royal progress and is better addressed elsewhere.  For this discussion, we will define Richard III’s royal progress as being from when he first left Windsor on July 21 to the time he received news of the rebellion on October 11.  We will also include the king’s January 1484 visit to Canterbury, as it seems to fit the pattern of the royal progress and may have been on the original itinerary.  First, however, it is important to understand the reason why a king went on royal progress.

The Iconography of Power

Sir John Fortescue (1397-1479), the preeminent Chief Justice under Henry VI and one of the most influential medieval writers about English government, wrote of the necessity for the monarch to use ceremony, etiquette, and organized pomp to advertise his status and strength to the realm and to foreign countries.  He encouraged the king to wear luxurious clothes, furs and jewels, to bedeck his household and chapels with rich tapestries, vessels and ornaments, and to acquire expensive horses with ostentatious trappings.  If he did not do so, wrote Fortescue, he would be living below his estate and would be overshadowed by ostentatious magnates, upsetting the natural balance of power.[2]  If Richard III had not gone on royal progress or had something less than magnificent, it would have sent a message that he was insecure in expressing his royal authority or was not “up to the job”. The Arrivall of Edward IV makes this very point when it depicts Henry VI, in the last days of his “readeption”, processing through the streets of London with such a lack of regality that the people lost confidence in him.[3]  The Great Chronicle of London makes a similar observation that it seemed “more like a play than the showing of a prince to win men’s hearts” and provides the infamous detail about Henry VI being dressed dowdily in a long blue gown, as though he had nothing more resplendent to wear.[4]

The progress taken by a king after his coronation was just one of the many ways the monarch could project what modern historians have called the “iconography of power” – a set of highly visual and ritualistic ceremonies that were shared by a common culture and used by the governing class to create or sustain political and social consent.  The goal was to persuade “opinion formers” and to secure the loyalty of the common people.[5]  Thus, an effective king would engage in “triumphant entries” into cities and towns – lavish parades with spectacles and religious ceremonies to celebrate military victories, welcome a foreign queen-consort to her new homeland, or entrench a hereditary claim to the throne.  The latter can be seen with the Duke of York’s reburial in 1476.[6]  The Crowland Chronicle was perfectly correct to make the observation that Richard III’s royal progress was aimed “to attract to himself the affection of many people” with many feasts and entertainments.[7]  But it was also a time for the king to mingle with his subjects and to hear and address their petitions and concerns.

Lest we think this was a phenomenon unique to England in the medieval age, the era that followed saw even more complicated and drawn-out spectacles.  The royal progress taken by the newly-minted Charles IX and his mother Catherine de Médicis in 1564-1566, for instance, lasted 27 months and took in more than 100 towns.[8]  As we shall see below, it was simultaneously important to the towns and cities that received the monarch and provided the infrastructure and performers to welcome him.  It was a display of their political status too: the grander their reception of the king, the more respect and favor they might hope to receive from him.

In terms of distance and days spent, Richard III’s royal progress was not dramatically different from Edward IV’s in 1461, the latter of which, over the course of two months, traveled 620 miles and involved great pomp and ceremony.  Edward’s itinerary, unlike Richard’s, focused on southern and western England and included Canterbury, Sandwich, Ashford, Lewes Priory, Arundel, Bishop’s Waltham, Salisbury, Bristol, Gloucester, Hereford, and Ludlow, returning to London via Stony Stratford.  This reflects how the north and midlands of England were not securely Yorkist following the Battle of Towton.  Edward IV had to deal with roiling insurrection in the north and in the Welsh Marches, and his royal progress was intended to involve a military campaign embarking from Hereford.  This turned out to be unnecessary, thanks to the successful efforts of Lords Herbert and Ferrers of Chartley in suppressing lawlessness.  Instead of a military campaign, Edward IV’s entourage went to his childhood home and family powerbase of Ludlow where, surprisingly, he was greeted with little fanfare thus suggesting it was an impromptu visit.[9]

Richard III’s royal progress not only skipped over Ludlow, but his itinerary also involved distinctly different geographical areas from those of his brother’s.  In a very literal sense, Richard was tracing a map of the cities having particular meaning to his personal history and his expression of royal authority.

The Royal Progress of Richard III 

July 21-August 1:  Reading (1 night) – Oxford (4) – Woodstock (2) – Minster Lovell (3)

The first leg of Richard III’s royal progress went in a northwest direction from Windsor Castle towards Oxfordshire.  The first destination was Reading, a relatively short 20-mile journey.  The king was in the company of John Lord Howard (recently made Duke of Norfolk), the Duke of Buckingham, the Bishops of St. Asaph and St. Davids, and many others. Queen Anne would later join the entourage at Warwick Castle. While staying in Reading, Richard executed an indenture guaranteeing the widow of William Lord Hastings, Katherine Neville, his protection and to secure for her the enjoyment of her husband’s lands, goods, and privileges, the custody their male heir, and the wardship of the young Earl of Shrewsbury who was married to their daughter, Anne.[10]  As we shall see, dispensing mercy and justice was an integral part of the king’s progress.

At Oxford University, an assembly of regents and scholars greeted the king.  This group was headed by William Waynflete (the Bishop of Winchester and founder of Magdalen College) and the University’s chancellor who at that time was Lionel Woodville, Bishop of Salisbury.[11]  The reference to Woodville has sparked some controversy amongst historians, as he had taken sanctuary earlier in June and had been under some suspicion.  Whatever those suspicions were, they were ostensibly resolved by the time of the king’s visit to Oxford and there is no hint of any discord.  Less certain is whether the Duke of Buckingham was present, for he is not specifically mentioned in the college register.  In any case, the king was entertained with academic debates in Latin on the subjects of philosophy and theology, and tours of the colleges.[12]  He rewarded the disputants and won the hearts of the fellows.  The register describing the visit closed with the words “Vivat Rex ineternum” (“let the king live forever”).[13]

The king then spent one or two nights at the royal hunting lodge at Woodstock, the birthplace of Edward III’s sons Edward the Black Prince and Thomas of Woodstock, the first Duke of Gloucester.  It had once been a splendid palace with an enclosed park in which lions and camels were kept, and this could have provided an opportunity to do some hunting and catch up on business.  A king never stopped working while on royal progress and had to respond to a constant flow of events, petitions, and diplomatic missives, which is why he would be accompanied by staff from various government offices.

Richard’s entourage traveled to Minster Lovell Hall, the home of Francis Viscount Lovell, his faithful friend and Lord Chamberlain.  This was one of the few times Richard III stayed in a private residence during his reign.  It had undergone several enlargements to its great hall and the building of a tower, both completed by 1455, so it would have been a suitable lodging for such distinguished guests.[14] Perhaps the most notable thing about the king’s time here is the text of a warrant dated July 29th issued from Minster Lovell and addressed to Chancellor John Russell, concerning a mysterious enterprise.  It has been suggested that it refers to a forthcoming trial of unnamed persons for the murder of the king’s nephews.  However, historian Rosemary Horrox believes that John Stow’s Annals gives a more accurate description of the enterprise as being one to rescue the princes from the Tower under cover of confusion caused by fires started in the city.  The four conspirators, two of whom served in Edward IV’s household, were tried at Westminster and executed.[15]

August 2-27:  Gloucester (2 nights) –Tewkesbury (1) – Worcester (3) – Warwick (6) – Coventry (2)  – Leicester (4) – Nottingham (8)

From Minster Lovell, Richard went on to Gloucester where he took up residence in St Peter’s Abbey (now Gloucester Cathedral) for two nights.  Here, for the place that bore the name of his ducal title, the king granted a charter of liberties releasing it from paying Ł45 of the Ł60 for the fee farm, giving its burgesses the right to choose their own mayor and coroner, allowing it to have its own sheriff to preside over a court, to incorporate themselves as an entity, to acquire lands and tenements, and to have standing to plead or interplead before the king’s justices or any other justices in the courts of England.  Some of these rights and privileges were retained by Gloucester up to 1974.[16]  In 1538, the borough was granted a coat of arms with the red and white roses of Lancaster and York along with a boar’s head – a reference to Richard III’s favorite badge.

Gloucester’s St Peter’s Abbey had wealth and prestige. It was the place where Henry III was crowned king of England, and where Edward II was buried following his deposition.  Parliaments had been summoned there twice (1378 and 1407), but due to a combination of factors, including the Black Death and competition from nearby Bristol, the town borough was having some economic difficulty.  Nevertheless, Gloucester had performed an extremely valuable service for the Yorkists when it closed its gates to Margaret of Anjou’s army in 1471, forcing it to march on to Tewkesbury.[17]

Undoubtedly with this history in mind, Richard bestowed the liberties mentioned above and also presented the city with a sword, which is believed to have been his own; it can still be viewed at Gloucester City Museum.  It was also at Gloucester that the Duke of Buckingham took his leave from the royal progress; what prompted this is unknown.  Buckingham’s manor house at Thornbury, from where Lionel Woodville would later be issuing letters on September 22, was only 25 miles away, and he was holding Bishop John Morton in custody in his castle in Brecon, in Wales, about 70 miles from Gloucester.

Although we have no description of Gloucester’s reception of Richard, we can assume that it was similar in pomp to the royal entry of Edward IV into Bristol in 1461.  When Edward arrived at Bristol’s Temple Gate, a “great giant” attended by three lords delivered the keys of the town to him and a poem comparing the king to William the Conqueror was recited.  As the entourage processed to Temple Cross, the king beheld the spectacle of Saint George on horseback “fighting with a dragon, and the king and queen on high in a castle, and his daughter beneath with a lamb.  And at the slaying of the dragon there was a great melody of angels.”[18]  Edward granted the town a royal charter, oversaw the trial and execution of the Lancastrian rebel Sir Baldwin Fulford, and left with an extra fifty marks in a loan from his host, mayor William Canynges.[19]  “The event provides a small snapshot of what the progress of the monarch involved in this fraught period of political insecurity and highlights the multifaceted role the king played.”[20]

From Gloucester, Richard progressed to Tewkesbury for one night, where he had been a commander in the battle of 1471 that regained the crown for Edward IV.  Tewkesbury Abbey was also the place where his brother George was buried following his execution for treason in 1478.  George apparently still had outstanding debts to the Abbot, and Richard ordered that those debts be satisfied with revenues from nearby royal manors.[21]  It is likely Richard paid his respects at the battlefield and George’s tomb, symbolically highlighting not only the Yorkist military triumph over the Lancastrians but also the implications of George’s death.[22]  Titulus Regius, the 1484 parliamentary act which settled the crown on Richard, would specifically mention the attainder of George and his heirs as a reason why Richard was the next legitimate heir to the throne.  Titulus Regius also sets out to show that Edward IV’s children were illegitimate due to the bigamy of their parents.  Therefore it is not surprising that Ludlow, where Edward IV’s Prince of Wales had had his household for almost a decade, was not part of Richard’s royal progress despite the fact that it could have easily been put on the itinerary.  It is probably safe to assume that Richard would not have had a very warm reception there.

The entourage traveled to Worcester, where the king resided at the Cathedral Priory, and then moved on to Warwick Castle, where Queen Anne joined the royal party, and there was a pause of several days.[23]  Warwick Castle had been the place where the Kingmaker imprisoned Edward IV in 1469, and became George of Clarence’s principal residence after his marriage to Isabel Neville.  Coming into possession of Warwick Castle after George’s attainder, Richard instigated the construction of two gun towers, the Bear and Clarence towers, and he probably spent time inspecting the ongoing work during his six days there.

The royal party then moved to Coventry before progressing to Leicester and then Nottingham.  The choice of Coventry may have been logistical, but the symbolic value of a Yorkist monarch making his royal progress there would have been noted.  In 1471, Coventry had lost its civic liberties as punishment for backing the Kingmaker during the readeption of Henry VI. In 1469, Edward IV suffered the humiliation of being captured near Coventry, and Earl Rivers and Sir John Woodville were executed by the Kingmaker at Gosford Green on the edge of the city the same month.  Coventry had strong Lancastrian connections, but in 1474 it worked hard to redeem itself by welcoming the king, his queen, and his heir, with festivities and streets filled with performers, music and singing, pipes running with wine, incense burning, and cakes and flowers being cast to observers.[24]  That Richard chose to honor Coventry with his royal progress shows how successfully it had been converted to a Yorkist city.

At Leicester, the king began to occupy himself with planning his royal entry into the city of York.  He issued a summons for 19 knights and 52 gentlemen to meet him at Pontefract on August 27 in anticipation of the procession.  Those summoned included Northumberland, Surrey, Lincoln, Lovell, Fitzhugh, Stanley, Strange, Lisle and Greystoke, and the bishops of Durham, Worcester, St Asaph, Carlisle and St David’s, with their attendants, to be with him when he reached York.[25]  Edward of Middleham was named Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, with the powerful earl of Kildare being appointed as acting deputy.[26]  It was also from Leicester that Richard issued a letter to Louis XI, which was cheekily delivered by one of the grooms of his stable, in which he promised to honor past treaties and requested the French to refrain from molesting English merchant ships.[27]

The king then progressed to Nottingham Castle, where he would spend much of his reign and complete the remodeling work started by Edward IV.[28]  While there, Richard created his son Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester:  “And we invest him as the custom is by the girding on of the sword, the handing over and setting of the garland on his head, and of the gold ring on his finger, and of the gold staff in his hand.”[29]  The decree uses language that suggests some trepidation (“We have turned the gaze of our inward eye to the greatness of this noble state and of its members, having great care that, in the great anxieties which press upon us, those who are necessary to support us should not now seem to be lacking”), but many historians believe the verbiage is typical for such proclamations.  It also poetically employs celestial imagery, and as historian Anne Sutton observed, presages the concept of the monarch being like the sun with his court surrounding him like planets:  “The clarity and charity of the sun’s light is so great that when it is poured on the other heavenly bodies the sun shines with no less light and splendor, nor does it suffer any diminution of its strength, rather it is pleased to be seen, to shine as a king in the midst of his nobles and to adorn the greater and lesser stars in the whole court of heaven with his outstanding light.  Which without doubt we should take as an example seeing the vocation to which we are called, that is, by the favour of the almighty to govern and be set at the head of all the mortals of this realm.”[30]

At Nottingham, Richard’s secretary John Kendall wrote to York’s mayor, recorder, aldermen, and sheriffs, complimenting the city, saying how fond the king was of it, and “hinting broadly that a splendid reception for the king and queen would be in order upon their arrival in York”.[31]  The civic leadership in York was ahead of Kendall, and had already been discussing the expected visit as early as the end of July.[32]

August 27-October 17:  Pontefract (2 nights), York (23), Pontefract (19), Gainsborough (1), Lincoln (6)

 Richard III’s royal progress spent the largest portion of its time in the north – a total of 44 days – indicating a dramatic shift from where Yorkists had traditionally drawn support.  Although Richard’s father and brother had borne the title Duke of York, the north was a bastion of Lancastrian support for much of the Wars of the Roses.  In 1460, the duke’s decapitated head was displayed at York’s Micklegate Bar in a mocking tribute; in 1461-64, there were Lancastrian uprisings in Carlisle and Hexham; in 1471, the city of York reluctantly opened its gates to Edward IV only after he promised to seek his ducal inheritance and not the crown.[33]  That Richard had chosen York as the city for his most prominent display of royal authority, one that the Crowland Chronicler described as a second coronation, shows how much had changed in the intervening years.[34]  The city of York was no longer repulsing a pretender to the throne, but was instead welcoming a king and paying tribute to a prince who had often interceded on its behalf.

The royal entry was carefully timed and organized to maximize its symbolic meaning. Those 71 lords and knights who had earlier been summoned now joined the king and queen at Pontefract, along with Prince Edward, who had journeyed from Middleham.  On August 29, the sheriff of York and other officials met the royal entourage with their rods of office at Tadcaster and led it towards the city.  At Breckles Milles, still outside the city, the procession was joined by the mayor and aldermen, dressed in scarlet, and by other civic officers and leading citizens in their ceremonial robes.  Although a litter had been provided for his journey from Middleham, the king’s 10-year old son rode on horseback during the entry into York, indicating he was not as frail as some have suggested.[35]  The residents of York were on hand to greet the procession as it passed by St James’ Chapel and into the city through Micklegate Bar.  Just within the walls, on streets hung with tapestries and arras, was staged the first of three pageants for the entertainment of the royal party, with the next being staged at the bridge crossing the River Ouse, and the third in Stayngate.

The date of the royal entry, August 29, was the Feast of the Decollation [Beheading] of St John the Baptist.  In 15th century England, the image of the head of St John the Baptist on a platter was symbolic of the Eucharist sacrament and the doctrine of transubstantiation.  This feast day had special importance to York’s Guild of Corpus Christi, of which the king and queen had been members since 1477, because it was dedicated to honoring the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.[36]  The guild was responsible for presenting the famous mystery plays (the Creed and Corpus Christi plays) in which the streets of York became venues for processions and staging of various scenes from the Bible and Christ’s life and passion.  Richard III’s royal progress in York drew upon these traditions.  Not only did he specifically request a performance of the Creed Play, but his royal entry through York also followed the same processional route used during the annual June Feast of Corpus Christi.  “As their actors trod the Via Crucis through their own streets, so now their king came among them as the incarnate and temporal representative of divine order.  Richard would not have missed the significance of making his triumphal entry on what was, in York, tantamount to a second Feast of Corpus Christi”.[37]  For Yorkist adherents who remembered the decapitation of Richard’s father and the display of his head on Micklegate Bar, the symbolic import of commemorating the Baptist’s decapitation would have been much more politically charged and may have represented a kind of atonement for the injustices of bygone days.

As the cavalcade moved through the city, the mayor, John Newton, delivered a speech of welcome and offered a gift to the king of one hundred marks of plate.  Newton himself had contributed Ł20 to the royal presents, and spent additional sums on entertainment during the royal visit.  The royal procession carried on through the city to York Minster for an ecclesiastical reception.  The Cathedral Church of St Peter of York would have been an impressive backdrop for the royal reception.  The great tower had been rebuilt early in the century, and the southwestern tower was almost new.  It was at the west door of York Minster that the king was formally received by a delegation of ecclesiastics headed by the dean.  The dean was Dr. Robert Booth, a Cambridge-educated legist and a member of a highly accomplished Lancashire family.  Booth became dean in 1477 through the patronage of his uncle, Archbishop Lawrence (d. 1480), who had been Keeper of the Privy Seal and Chancellor of England in the reign of Edward IV.[38]  The current Archbishop of York, Thomas Rotherham, was out of favor and thus not in attendance; he would, however, be restored not long after this event, and would serve as one of the triers of petitions during Richard’s III only parliament.

An eyewitness recorded the events as the dean and his fellow clergymen, all strikingly vested in copes of violet silk, welcomed the visitors.  The king was sprinkled with holy water and censed as he made his way into the cathedral church.  Richard was not a passive actor in the ceremonies taking place.  He made his way to a prie-dieu beside the baptismal font, and there he said a Paternoster; some historians suggest this was the first time an English king led a congregation in public prayer.  “The succentor of the vicars choral began the liturgical response De Trinitate with the words Honor, virtus, and it was finished by the choir standing before the steps of the high altar.  Then there was a pause long enough for a Paternoster and an Ave Maria.  Then Dean Booth began the prayer Et ne nos inducas for the benefit of the king.  Following the prayer, the dean and canons processed to their stalls in the cathedral choir, together with the other clergy, as the organ intoned the Amen.  We are told that the officiating prelate (prelate executor officii), most likely Dean Booth, began the psalm Te Deum laudamus, which was concluded by the choir and organ.  Immediately thereafter the succentor chanted the antiphon of the Trinity beginning with the words Gracias tibi, Deus, with a versicle and prayer to the Trinity.  The service now being concluded, the royal party left York Minster for the short walk northwest to the palace of the Archbishop of York where the royal family stayed during their visit.”[39]

On August 31st, the king decided to have his son invested as Prince of Wales while in York.  On this date, Richard sent an urgent message to Peter Courteys, keeper of the Great Wardrobe in London, outlining goods he wished transported to York.  These included two short gowns of crimson cloth of gold, a cloak with a cape of violet lined in black velvet, a stomacher of purple satin and another of tawny satin, enough white cloth of gold for the trappings of a horse, other gowns, spurs, and five coats of arms for heralds, together with forty trumpet banners and 13,000 badges of Richard’s white boar emblem.  Processional banners were requested of the Virgin Mary, Trinity, St George, St Edward, St Cuthbert, and one of Richard’s arms, along with three coats of arms beaten with fine gold for Richard himself.[40]

The week of September 1st to the 7th was filled with banquets and hospitality leading up to Prince Edward’s investiture.  On Sunday, September 7, the Creed Play (an abbreviated version of the cycle of mystery plays) was performed for an audience that included the king, the mayor, twelve aldermen, and York’s Council of Twenty-Four.  The next day, September 8th, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was the occasion of Prince Edward’s investiture as the eighth Prince of Wales to be recognized by an English king.  The same eyewitness that recorded the king’s arrival in York provides the account of events.  “A procession led by the king and queen, both wearing crowns, entered York Minster for mass.  The procession included Prince Edward, temporal and spiritual lords, and other dignitaries.  The officiating prelate was Bishop William Dudley of Durham, and the focal point of the high altar of the cathedral was enhanced by silver figures of the twelve apostles, as well as other ornaments of gilt and numerous relics, all provided by the king.  The assemblage remained at mass until the sixth hour of evening.  Then, following mass, all returned to the archbishop’s palace, and there in the hall before dinner the king invested his son as Prince of Wales by arming or girding Edward with a sword, presenting him with a gold rod and ring, and placing a coronet on his head.  A four-hour dinner, during which the royal family sat crowned, continued into the evening.”[41]  On the same day, Richard made knights of his illegitimate son John of Gloucester and the ambassador from Queen Isabella of Castile (Gaufrid de Sasiola) who had joined the royal progress at Warwick in the company of Queen Anne and who had come to England expecting Edward V on the throne.[42] The ceremonial sword used in Prince Edward’s investiture is still on display at the British Museum.[43]

On September 17th, the king summoned the mayor, aldermen, and other citizens to meet with him in the Chapter House of York Minster.  “It soon became apparent that Richard had been dazzled by his reception in York.  The king, without any petition on their part (or so the record states), thanked the assembly for their good service to him before he came to the throne and at his recent coronation.  Richard cited the decay and poverty of the city, which was indeed experiencing an economic slump, although it was still likely second in size only to London in the kingdom.  He then went on to promise that the city would have a substantial reduction in the annual fee farm due to the crown, from a sum on the order of Ł160 to about Ł100, and Mayor Newton was appointed Richard’s chief serjeant-at-arms with an annual fee of Ł18 5s.  The financial arrangements were also meant to encourage trade in York by allowing any lawful non-resident to sell in the market of York without paying tolls.”[44]

The royal party departed York on September 20th or 21st, having stayed there for more than three weeks.  From there, the king went to Pontefract for 17-18 days, and then traveled to Gainsborough, where (according to local history) he spent the evening of October 10 at Gainsborough Old Hall, a grand manor house built by Sir Thomas Burgh in 1460.[45]  Richard was at Lincoln on October 11, and made a gift to Barnard Castle of Ł40 toward the building of the Church of Our Blessed Lady, and gave some money to the wardens for the feast of St. Martin.[46]  It was here that he first heard that a great rebellion had broken out in the southern counties, headed by his erstwhile ally, Henry Duke of Buckingham.  The uprising was originally meant to restore Edward V to the throne but when rumors of his death spread, the Lancastrian claimant Henry Tudor was invited to join the rebellion.[47]  On hearing the news of the rebellion, the king moved to Grantham, where he wrote to Chancellor Russell asking for the Great Seal, and expressed in a postscript, added in his own hand, his outrage at the desertion of Buckingham.[48]

January 10-17:  London to Canterbury and Sandwich

The southern rebellions cut short the king’s progress, but by January he was able to resume a “convivial and splendid” role.[49]  He invited the citizens of London to his Epiphany feast on January 6 at Westminster Palace’s White Hall, during which he wore his crown.  He presented the mayor with a gold cup set with pearls and gems, offered to make the borough of Southwark part of the city’s jurisdiction, and to give Ł10,000 for the building of walls and ditches around it.  “Richard was rewarding the citizens for their financial assistance, and he was also, like Edward IV before him, adeptly making available the luxuries of his court – its wines, cooking, fine napery, music and good manners – beyond its usual aristocratic confines, and welcoming to it his merchants and townsmen.”[50]

The king then traveled with an entourage to Canterbury, where there was a formal reception along the lines of how Edward IV had been received in 1461.  This can be deduced from the Canterbury City Archives, which date Richard’s entry from January 10-12, 1484: “For the Lord King on his first coming to Canterbury — And paid for a purse bought at London – 26s 8d, which purse with Ł33 6s 8d in gold, collected from the mayor and his brethren and thirty-six of the better sort of persons of the city of Canterbury, was given and offered to the Lord King and which the Lord King with gracious actions ordered to be redelivered to the said persons from whom the said sum had been collected.  This being done the said purse was given to Doctor Langton, at that time Bishop of St. Davids, on account of his many acts of kindness and favours to the citizens of Canterbury.  Upon all these considerations the aforesaid mayor and his brethren presented the following gifts to the Lord King.  Firstly paid to John Burton for four great fattened beefs – Ł7.  And paid to the same John Burton for twenty fattened rams – 66s 8d.  And paid for twenty capons of various prices given to the Lord King – 21s 10d.  And paid for six capons given to the Bishop of St Davids and other bishops then with the King – 6s.  And paid to John Stoubregge for two gold beads given to the Bishop of St Davids and the Bishop of ‘Seynt Tasse’ – 5s 4d.  TOTAL Ł13 6s 6d.”[51]

Richard then departed from Canterbury to Sandwich where he stayed several days overseeing the preparation of ships to send against the Bretons and French.[52]  Edward IV, similarly, had taken in Sandwich while on his royal progress.  Richard appears to have fitted in a visit to Dover where the citizens bought an ox and capons to feed him and his entourage at the castle.  A note in the Canterbury Chamberlain’s Account records that the King’s secretary was given three gallons of red wine and two gallons of white wine by order of the mayor on the occasion when “the Lord King returned from Sandwich to Canterbury”.[53]

The Canterbury records note that, rather than lodging at the Archbishop of Canterbury’s palace or St. Augustine’s Abbey, the king was accommodated at a place called “Le Hale” outside the city.  The Le Hale costs included payments for carpentry work, repairing the road, for the carriage of furniture, cushions and for hangings of cloth of gold and silver loaned by various citizens, and for the provision of wine and food.  This would explain the “first coming” or “first arrival” to be the occasion of the ceremony of the purse with presumably one or more other “arrivals” into the city after the king’s return from Sandwich.[54]

One author[55] has offered the theory that the mention of “Le Hale” refers to a hill in the Royal Forest of Blean near the town of Harbledown, the latter of which was part of the established route where pilgrims would remove their shoes and walk penitent to the Shrine of Thomas à Becket.  The road was likely quite travel-worn and in need of repairs although this could probably be said for other local roads.  The same author deduces that King Richard’s mental state was burdened by guilt from past nefarious deeds and his choice of Le Hale as base camp indicates he walked as penitent pilgrim from Harbledown to Canterbury.

Whether King Richard traveled on The Pilgrim’s Way cannot be determined with any accuracy since the precise location of “Le Hale” has never been ascertained.  But even if he did act as a pilgrim, this is no more evidence of a particularly guilty mind than when Henry V came on pilgrimage to Canterbury soon after Agincourt and then again the following year in 1416 with the Emperor Sigismund.[56]  It would have been an act of conventional piety, albeit with the added spectacle of the king’s presence.  Whatever we are to make of this leg of his progress, King Richard returned to London a few days before the opening of parliament on the 23rd of January, and proceeded to take the reigns of government without any outward signs of remorse or a guilty mind.

Final Observations

What can we conclude about Richard III’s royal progress?  Historians uniformly observe it shows he was well aware of the importance of public display as part of the art of kingship.  He was adept with the techniques used by a king to cultivate the good will of his subjects.  He achieved this by easing their financial burdens, granting charters, and – where possible – using his own money to defray expenses.[57]  One of the striking differences between Richard’s royal progress and Edward IV’s is how often Richard declined gifts of money compared to how often Edward accepted them.  It also shows he was effective at dealing with city officers and the ecclesiastical community.  So successful was the precedent of Richard III’s use of royal display in his coronation and progress that Henry VII copied much of it in 1485.[58]

Questions still remain.  For instance, where did Richard intend his royal progress to go before it was interrupted by “Buckingham’s Rebellion”?  Was he intending to progress from Lincoln to Fotheringhay, his birthplace and the final resting place of his father, brother Edmund, and uncle?  It would have been a fitting bit of symbolism.  Would he have then progressed to Cambridge University to visit the construction work on King’s College chapel or to tour Queen’s College, both of which would become beneficiaries of his royal generosity?  It is enticing to think of the possibilities.

Also, why did Richard seem to make a sudden decision to invest his son Edward as Prince of Wales in York when the precedent was to do so at Westminster?  Was this necessitated by the mysterious “enterprise” noted in his July 29th letter to Chancellor Russell, which may have required him to firmly establish Edward of Middleham as his heir and thus dilute any popular uprisings in the name of Edward IV’s sons?  Or was it merely a reflection that York was a more reliable ally than London during this politically delicate time?

Finally, how did the people of England respond to Richard III’s royal progress?  The Crowland Chronicler was particularly sour, noting that while King Richard was popularly received, his royal progress nevertheless wasted the large treasure acquired by Edward IV through diligence and thrift.  Although that has been shown to be untrue by Rosemary Horrox’s review of the financial memoranda,[59] we do have an eye-witness account rendered by Thomas Langton, Bishop of St David’s.  Langton was with the king at York, and later in Canterbury, and his words ring more faithful to the historical record than those of an unknown cleric who harbored a deep prejudice against northerners.

In Langton’s words:

He contents the people where he goes best that ever did prince; for many a poor man that hath suffered wrong many days have been relieved and helped by him and his commands in his progress.  And in many great cities and towns were great sums of money given him which he hath refused.  On my troth I liked never the conditions of any prince so well as his; God hath sent him to us for the weal of us all.[60]

– Written and Copyrighted 2020 by Susan Troxell, originally published in the Ricardian Register, the journal of the American Branch of the Richard III Society

Author’s Note:  I would like to credit Dr. Compton Reeves and Pamela Tudor-Craig, in particular, for their very detailed descriptions and analyses of Richard III’s entry into York.  Their articles, which provided a wealth of information for this essay, are listed in the Sources below.  Rhoda Edwards’ Itinerary provides a definitive resource for Richard III’s whereabouts, citing to Signet Office and other government records.


 Carolyn Donohue, “Public Display and the Construction of Monarchy in Yorkist England 1461-1485”, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of York, 2013.

Rhoda Edwards, The Itinerary of King Richard III 1483-1485 (Richard III Society, 1983)

P. W. Hammond, “Richard III at York”, The Ricardian, No. 41 (June 1473), pp. 3-4

P. W. Hammond & Anne F. Sutton, Richard III: The Road to Bosworth Field (London 1985)

Rosemary Horrox, “Richard III and London”, The Ricardian, Vol.  VI, No. 85 (June 1984) pp. 322-329

Horrox & Hammond (eds.), British Library Harleian MS 433 (Richard III Society, 1980)

David M. Luitweiler, “A King, a Duke and a Bishop”, The Ricardian Register (Winter 2004) pp. 4-10

Mulryne, Aliverti, Tastaverde (eds.), “Ceremony and the Iconography of Power”, Ceremonial Entries in Early Modern Europe: the Iconography of Power (Ashgate, 2015)

Nicholas Pronay & John Cox (eds.): The Crowland Chronicle Continuations 1459-1486 (Alan Sutton, 1986)

Compton Reeves, “King Richard III at York in Late Summer 1483”, The Ricardian, Vol. XII, No. 159 (December 2002), pp. 542-553

Cora L. Scofield, The Life and Reign of Edward the Fourth King of England and of France and Lord of Ireland, Volume 1 (London, 1923)

Anne Sutton, “The Court and its Culture in the Reign of Richard III”, in Richard III: A Medieval Kingship (John Gillingham ed.), New York, 1993, pp. 75-92

Anne Sutton, “Richard III’s visits to Canterbury”, The Ricardian, Vol. 5, No. 73 (June 1981), pp. 363-366

Anne Sutton & Peter Hammond (eds.), The Coronation of Richard III: the Extant Documents (Alan Sutton 1983)

H. Thomas & I. D. Thornley, The Great Chronicle of London (Alan Sutton 1983)

Pamela Tudor-Craig, “Richard III’s Triumphant Entry into York, August 29th, 1483, Richard III and the North (Horrox, ed.), University of Hull (1986), pp. 108-116

Pamela Tudor-Craig, Richard III NPG Exhibition, 2d ed. (1977)

Warkworth’s Chronicle (Camden Society, reprinted 1968)


[1] Scofield, p. 201.

[2] Sutton, Coronation, p. 76, quoting Fortescue.

[3] From The Arrivall:  “Hereupon, the ix. day of Aprell, th’Archbyshope callyd unto hym togethars, at Seint Powles, within the Citie of London, suche lords, gentlemen, and othar, as were of that partye, [with] as many men in harneys of theyr servaunts and othar as they cowthe make, which, in all, passed nat in nombar vj or vij{m} men, and thereupon, cawsed Henry, called Kynge, to take an horse and ryde from Powles thrwghe Chepe, and so made a circute abowte to Walbroke, as the generall processyon of London hathe bene accustomyd, and so returned agayne to Powles, to the Bysshops Palays, where the sayd Henry at that tyme was lodged, supposynge, that, whan he had shewed hym in this arraye, they shuld have provokyd the citizens, and th’enhabitants of the citie, to have stonde and comen to them, and fortified that partye; but, threwthe it is, that the rewlars of the citie were at the counsell, and hadd set men at all the gates and wardes, and they, seynge by this manner of doinge, that the power of the sayde Henry, and his adherents, was so litle and feble as there and then was shweyd, they cowld thereby take no corage to draw to them, ne to fortefye theyr partye, and, for that they fearyd, but rathar the contrary, for so moche as they sawe well that, yf they wolde so have done, ther myght was so lytle that it was nat for them to have ones attemptyd to have resystid the Kynge [Edward] in his comynge, whiche approched nere unto the citie, and was that nyght at Seint Albons.”

[4] Thomas, Great Chronicle, p. 215.

[5] Mulryne, p. 1.

[6] See, for instance, Anne Sutton & Livia Visser-Fuchs, “The Entry of Quyeen Elizabeth Woodville over London Bridge, 24 May 1465”, The Ricardian, 2009, pp 1-31.

[7] The Crowland Continuator was not as accurate when describing it as a squandering of Edward IV’s huge treasure.  As Rosemary Horrox showed in her study of the financial memoranda under Edward V, Edward IV’s treasury had already been depleted when Sir Edward Woodville was given charge of the fleet in the days following Edward IV’s death.  Horrox, Financial Memoranda of the Reign of Edward V, in Camden Miscellany, Vol. XXIX (London 1987), p. 213.

[8] Linda Briggs, “Concernant le service de leurs dictes Majestez et auctorité de leur justice: Perceptions of Royal Power in the Entries of Charles IX and Catherine de Médicis (1564-1566), in Mulrayne (ed.) Ceremonial Entries pp. 37-52

[9] Scofield, vol. 1, p 197.

[10] Harleian MS 433, vol. 2, pp. 4-5.

[11] Luitweiler, pp. 4-6, citing Magdalen College Register “A” f.27.b.

[12] Reeves, p. 545.

[13] Luitweiler, p. 9.

[14] Tudor-Craig, NPG, p. 55.

[15] Horrox, “Richard III and London”, p. 326, note 11.

[16] “Richard III and the City of Gloucester”,


[18] Scofield, p. 199.

[19] Donohue dissertation, p. 30.

[20] Donohue dissertation, p. 30.

[21] Edward IV had earlier ordered that the same royal manors convey 100 marks to the Abbot of Tewkesbury to satisfy George’s debt.  However, it is interesting to see how Richard refers to his two brothers in this grant, referring to “oure late brothere the Duc of Clarence whome god pardonne” versus “the famous prince of moost noble memorie king Edward the iiijth”.  Horrox and Hammond, Harleian MS 433, vol. 2, p. 7.

[22] PRO C81/886/18Reeves, p. 545.

[23] Reeves, p. 545.

[24] Donohue, pp. 30-31.

[25] Tudor-Craig, Triumphant Entry, p. 109.

[26] Reeves p. 545, citing Horrox and Hammond, Harleian MS 433, vol. 1 p. 75; Hammond and Sutton, Richard III: The Road to Bosworth, pp. 130-34.

[27] Hammond/Sutton, pp. 128-129.

[28] Reeves p. 545.

[29] Pamela Tudor-Craig believed that the proclamation of Edward of Middleham as Prince of Wales may partially explain why Buckingham parted ways with Richard III and rebelled.  Under Edward V, Buckingham was appointed Chief Justice and Chamberlain of north and south Wales, and upon Edward V’s coronation, would remain so until the king had a male heir.  But with Edward V’s deposition, Richard III effectively and “prematurely” cut short Buckingham’s status (and revenue streams) in Wales since the new Prince of Wales would come into his majority within a half-dozen years or so.   “By declaring his son Edward Prince of Wales, Richard III in effect ended his minority.  The letters sent by the newly created prince from York to the knights and esquires of north and south Wales to continue to pay their dues to our ‘right trusty & righte entirely beloved Cousyne the duc of Buckingham’ did not convey the same message as they had contained on 15th May when Buckingham received those Welsh offices during the Protectorate.”  From that point onwards Buckingham was only the agent, who would be required to transfer the funds to the Prince of Wales.  The letters from the new Prince of Wales went out on September 16.  By October 11, Buckingham was known to be in rebellion.  Tudor-Craig, Triumphant Entry, pp. 109-110.

[30] Hammond/Sutton, p. 138 citing Harleian MS 433 vol. 2, pp. 82-3.  Tudor-Craig, Triumphant Entry, p. 109-110.

[31] Reeves, pp. 545-6.

[32] Hammond/Sutton 139-40, citing Harleian 433 MS, vol. 2, p, 42.

[33] Warkworth’s Chronicle, p. 14.

[34] “Wishing therefore to display in the North, where he had spent most of his time previously, the superior royal rank, which he acquired for himself in this manner, as diligently as possible, he left the royal city of London and passing through Windsor, Oxford and Coventry came at length to York. There, on a day appointed for the repetition of his crowning in the metropolitan church, he presented his only son, Edward, whom, that same day, he had created prince of Wales with the insignia of the gold wand and the wreath; and he arranged splendid and highly expensive feasts and entertainments to attract to himself the affection of many people.  There was no shortage of treasure then to implement the aims of his so elevated mind since, as soon as he first thought about his intrusion into the kingship, he seized everything that his deceased brother, the most glorious King Edward, had collected with the utmost ingenuity and the utmost industry, many years before, as we have related above, and which he had committed to the use of his executors for the carrying out of his last will.” Pronay & Cox, Crowland Chronicle, pp. 161-163.

[35] Tudor-Craig, Triumphant Entry, p. 109.

[36] Alexandra Johnson, “The Plays of the Religious Guilds of York:  The Creed Play and the Pater Noster Play,” Speculum, 1975, pp. 55-90.

[37] Tudor-Craig, Triumphant Entry, pp. 111-113, quotation from p 113.

[38] Reeves, p. 547.

[39] Reeves, p. 548.

[40] Reeves, pp. 548-9.

[41] Reeves, pp. 549-550.

[42] Reeves p. 550.


[44] Reeves p. 550.


[46] Hammond/Sutton, Road to Bosworth, p. 137.

[47] Hammond/Sutton p. 141.

[48] Hammond/Sutton p. 144.

[49] Sutton, Court & its Culture, pp. 77-79.

[50] Sutton, Court & its Culture, pp. 77-79.

[51] Hammond/Sutton, 152-153, citing Canterbury City Archives, Chamberlains’ Accounts, Michaelmas 1483-Michaelmas 1484, f. 13b, quoted in The Ricardian, 1980, vol. 5, p. 283.

[52] Edwards, Itinerary of Richard III, p. xiii.

[53] Sutton/Hairsine, “Richard III’s visits to Canterbury”, p. 365.

[54] Sutton, “Richard III’s visits to Canterbury”, pp. 365-66.

[55] Amy License, “New evidence: Was Richard III guilty of murdering the Princes in the Tower?, New Statesman, 5 March 2013.

[56] “Canterbury and the Battle of Agincourt,” January, 2016 lecture given by Dr David Grummit, Canterbury Christ Church University, reported in  Adam of Usk also reported that Henry V walked barefooted from Shrewsbury to St. Winefride’s Well, which is believed to have occurred in 1416.

[57] Reeves, p. 551.

[58] Sutton, Court & its Culture, pp. 77-79.

[59] See note 7, above.

[60] Adapted from Hammond/Sutton, p. 135.  Richard developed the work of the royal council receiving the petitions of the poor who could not afford the usual processes of the law.  He appointed a special clerk to deal with these matters.  From this developed the Court of Requests.  (“December 27, 1483.  Grant for the life to the king’s servitor John Haryngton, for his good service before the lords and others of the council and elsewhere and especially in the custody, registration and expedition of bills, requests and supplications of poor persons, of an annuity of Ł20 at the receipt of the Exchequer and the office of clerk of the council of the said requests and supplications, with all commodities.”  Hammond/Sutton 151, citing Calendar of Patent Rolls 1476-1485, London 1954, no. 1152, p. 413.)


Why did Richard III allow Elizabeth of York such liberty at his court….?


Medieval Court – detail of a 15th-century miniature. (Royal 16 F II, f. 1) British Library

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.

Published by John Player & Sons, after Unknown artist.
Colour relief halftone cigarette card, 1935

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.

Richard III, Queen Anne and their son, Edward, Prince of Wales from Rous Roll

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.

from Livre de La Chasse by Gaston Phoebus

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.

Henry Tudor’s arrival at Mill Bay 7 August 1485, by Graham Turner

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.

Elizabeth of York and her sister Cicely/Cecily

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.

The Princes in the Tower. Cigarette card, from series on Famous Boys, published by Godfrey Phillips, early 20th century

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

Extract from Titulus Regius

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.

Picture by viscountessw

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.

Sir William Stanley places Richard’s crown on Tudor’s head

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.

Perkin Warbeck

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.

Rennes Cathedral

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.

Marriage of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty

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.

Elizabeth Woodville

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?

Edward IV

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! ☺

Cicely/Cecily of York, second surviving daughter of Edward IV

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.

Margaret of York, Duchess of York, sister of Edward IV and Richard III

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.

John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln – well, not really, there are no portraits of him. This picture has been adapted from Portrait of a Man with a Red Hat, Titian (15th century) by viscountessw in the 21st century!

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.

Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, Henry VIII and Jane Seymour from a mural that was destroyed by fire at Whitehall Palace

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.

The Battle of Bosworth fought again in the sky by ghostly armies
illustration by viscountessw


My Questions About Richard III.

If Richard was planning to seize the throne all along why did he a.) start by getting everyone in Yorkshire to swear allegiance to Edward V and b.) set off south with only a modest retinue of 300 men? Given that he was in a position to raise most of the north in arms, wouldn’t it have been a good idea to do just that?

If we accept that Richard did not initially plan to seize the throne what made him change his mind? a.) An attempted ambush by the Woodvilles/Wydevilles? b.) The realisation that he ‘couldn’t work’ with Edward V? c.) The discovery of the precontract? d.) Or did he just wake up one morning and think ‘**** it, I’ve not got any supporters down here but I’ll take the throne anyway!’

Why did Elizabeth Woodville run off into sanctuary, given that the Woodvilles were (supposedly) innocent of any wrong-doing? As a woman and a Queen, no one was going to kill her, and by staying out and standing her ground, could she not have made Richard’s work a lot more difficult to achieve?

Why did Richard only send for his supporters when things had already kicked off and when it was actually too late for them to get to London to help him? Was he really that bad a planner or is it more likely that he was taken by surprise by some development?

Why did Anthony Woodville send off for an exemplification of his powers to recruit troops in Wales just at this particular time? Did he think Owain Glyndwr had come back or had he some other purpose for raising armed men?


(Reblogged from The Yorkist Age)

So wrong he may be right (2) – William Cowper

Here we have the poet and hymnwright William Cowper (left), who we referred to in our previous article but couldn’t find the evidence for the Essex anniversary in February. The usual sources have been a little troublesome but we know from Lord David Cecil’s The Stricken Deer that he was the great-nephew of an Earl and that his mother was a Donne from Norfolk. From this clue, further research revealed a direct female line to Mary Boleyn, giving Cowper the same mtDNA as Elizabeth I.

Among Anne Donne’s more distant relatives was another poet and Dean of St. Paul’s, the great John Dunne (right) from a Welsh Catholic background. Donne, although married with many children, seems to have had no grandchildren or uncles on either side so this descent couldn’t be direct or immediately collateral.

‘I saw something shining…’ Metal Detecting Finds..


The Staffordshire Hoard.  One of the biggest hoard of Anglo Saxon artefacts every discovered.  See more of this hoard below..

A story has broken of four ‘metal detectorists’ who have been convicted of stealing a hoard of Anglo-Saxon coins and jewellery worth 3 million pounds, most of which is, tragically, still missing.  You can tell from the pictures of the stuff that has been recovered the quality of the still missing items, which now may never be recovered,  after probably being sold on the black market.


A gold ring dating back to the reign of King Alfred the Great


A crystal rock pendant chased in gold  dating back to the 5th century


Gold arm bangle with a dragon or serpents head design dating from the 9th century..


A gold coin from the reign of King Alfred the Great..

Just before this story broke I was intending to write a story about metal detectorists that have made some wonderful discoveries and have done the right thing handing them over,  also being paid quite handsome sums.  I list some of these discoveries below.    Although I have had to mention the fact that a small handful of people wielding metal detectors have behaved despicably, for which they will now being paying the price –  long prison sentences –  the majority of finds are declared most of which would have lain undiscovered if not for metal detectorists.  So I say as long as they behave honourable and do not disturb places of historical importance then long may they continue to find beautiful items of great historical interest.


Medieval garnet and turquoise ring circa 1250-1450.  Found at Barnham Broom, Norfolk.



The Escrick Ring.  900-1100 AD -Viking.  Only the second time a use of a sapphire has been recorded in England (1)  Found in 2009 and  now in the Yorkshire Museum.


The famous Middleham Jewel.  Gold with a sapphire.  Dated between 1475 and 1499.  Discovered in 1985 near Middleham Castle.  Now at the York Museum.  



A gold 15th century hat pin found inches below the surface of a newly ploughed Lincolnshire field.  


Seventeen Medieval coins.  A Welsh find.

image.pngSword Pommel.  Bedale Hoard.  Late 9th to 10 Century.  One of 48 items.  Now in the Yorkshire Museum.



Gold Brooch – two hands clasped together, note the decorative sleeves.  Only the size of a pound coin.  Found in a field in Cheshire.  Circa 1350.  Thought to be a betrothal gift.  

image.pngA fitting from hilt of a Seax (a large single bladed knife) – one of the items from the Staffordshire Hoard  discovered in 2009 in a field near Lichfield and the largest collection of Anglo Saxon Gold and silver to be ever discovered.image.png

A helmet from the Staffordshire Hoard and fit for a King..image.png

The helmet has been reconstructed as it was  badly damaged before it was buried.


A mystery object from the Hoard that has left archaeologists  baffled.    Suggestions have been the lid of a container, an extension of a helmet, a saddle fitting?

And so its clear that metal detectorists are a valuable asset in recovering lost treasures frequently  alerting archaelogists to a site and further finds that would have remained undiscovered.  How many more finds are out there awaiting the intrepid metal detector to discover them?  Bring it on!


  1. Online article.  University of York.  The first earliest example of a sapphire being used in jewellery in England was 5th century Roman.


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