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What were our medieval kings’ voices like….?

On your knees was the best place around Bluff King Hal

Today I once again heard Henry VIII described as Bluff King Hal. Well, this is usually said almost affectionately, which the Henry VIII we all know does not warrant. He was a monster. I think his voice was probably stentorian. Eventually he was downright nasty and needed to be approached with an excessively long bargepole. But not prodded with it, even accidentally! Heavens, no. Your head would be lopped before you drew your next breath! A frightening and frightful man in every way, he viewed women as disposable, as a few of his wives found out the hard way. And if you were male, being on his wrong side was very hazardous too, but you didn’t have to grace his bed.

King Henry VIII

Of course, there’s more than one way of defining bluff, and if you go to Merriam-Webster, you find that it also equates to surly. Go then to surly, and definition 1 is domineering, haughty, imperious. That suits Bluff King Hal for me. Another definition of bluff is having a good-naturedly abrupt, frank, and outspoken manner. That’s not Henry. Definition 1 does it for me, with dangerous, half-mad and bloody-minded added for good measure.

Well, given this view of him, I began to wonder about how other monarchs of that period, and before, might sound. I don’t mean their accents, whether or not they spoke Norman-French or even if they understood English, just their general sound. I mean, someone hopping around in a French fury is going to sound much like someone hopping around in an English fury, right? The overal impression would be the same.

King Henry VII

So, in reverse order from Henry VIII, I go first to his father, Henry VII. Now I can only imagine him with a soft, measured voice, always with much thought before anything was uttered. Rarely any humour, but when he did laugh, he went for it! Not that the laughter would necessarily be joined by others. Well, not with honesty, anyway. They’d all be too nervous. Henry’s reign was spent in anxiety of being kicked off the throne (after all, he’d stolen it). I think the endless worry affected his health. He wasn’t the most robust of men, and although he died in bed, it wasn’t a pleasant death.

Henry has been defended as doing his best to avoid executing his opponents, but that didn’t stop him scything his way through anyone with the “wrong type” of royal blood, i.e. anyone who could even remotely be described as Yorkist! Great care would be always be needed with him because he was constantly veiled. You really did not know what he was thinking…or what his solution to a problem would be. Except that when push came to shove, you’d be permanently disposed of.

King Richard III

Still going back, I come next to Richard III. He too I always hear as soft-spoken, but not quite as measured as Henry VII because Richard wasn’t forever concealing his inner self. He was more likely to be honest, and had a sense of humour, not least as proved by his dry comment to that gentleman who wished to marry Jane Shore! Now, when Richard wished to be heard, he could command attention without much effort. He wasn’t a big man by any means but he had great presence. No need to shout and wave his arms, a glance would probably say what was necessary. He was royal to his fingertips, and yet approachable. When he made friends, he kept them. Loyalty was a word that meant everything to him; he was loyal and he expected the same from others. The Stanleys must have been a very nasty experience, but by the time they exposed themselves it was too late. Richard didn’t deserve to die at Bosworth, but he couldn’t fend off such low treachery.

Contrary to all the traditional stories, Richard wasn’t hated and resented when he accepted the throne. There was in fact great relief throughout the land because a dangerous minority rule had been avoided—memories of Henry VI and Richard II were still strong. Richard was a reliable man of experience, proven in worth and loyalty, and intent upon improving the lot of his subjects. And he was regarded as the rightful king. Everyone knew how dodgy his big brother’s love life had been, and that Edward IV would indeed have lied to women to get them in the sack. The only ones who resented Richard were those who supported Edward’s offspring whether or not they were legitimate. The thwarted Woodvilles were particularly angered of course, because they’d planned to rule England through Edward V. Richard had out-manoevred them.

So, I stand by my first description of his voice. Whether or not he had a West Midlands accent, a Yorkshire accent, or whatever, he was the very opposite of a bellower. But he certainly spoke English and wrote in it.

King Edward V

Edward IV’s elder son, Edward V, was a boy, much brought up and completely influenced by his mother’s family, the Woodvilles, who wanted him on the throne and Richard of Gloucester 6’ under it! I hear young Edward as a strident boy who’d been taught to view his Uncle Richard with deep suspicion. Not the boy’s fault, but I shudder to think what his reign would have been had his illegitimacy not come to light. Richard, would have remained Duke of Gloucester and would have come to a swift, very sticky end, of that I’m sure. And the new young Woodville king (I can’t view him as a Plantagenet!) would have rubbed his hands at a job well done. Thank the Lord we were spared the House of Woodville. If only the same could be said of the awful House of Tudor. Anyway, I feel Edward V was a superior, know-it-all, just-about-teenaged prat…er, sorry, brat. And we all know what they sound like – they’re the same today.

King Edward IV

Now we come to Edward V’s father, Richard’s big brother, Edward IV. Hmm, somehow I think his voice was level and imperative at the same time, but never on the strident Richter scale of his grandson, Henry VIII. When Edward wanted to be heard, he upped the volume without ranting, and everyone jumped to attention. Plus, of course, with his great height he simply commanded from above! And as he was prepared to order the execution of his brother, George, Duke of Clarence, I think everyone tippy-toed around him. His sense of humour was very evident, however, especially when he’d had a few. If he hadn’t married a Woodvuille, and proceeded to lavish every possible grace and favour on her numerous and unworthy relatives, he’d have been mourned much more than he was.

Edward IV had always known that he wasn’t legally married to his queen, yet he kept his mouth shout, fully intending his illegitimate son to succeed him. By so doing he made certain of endangering the life of his only remaining brother, Richard, whom Edward knew was his rightful successor, and who had a trueborn son of his own who should have eventually become king as well. Richard was the true line of succession, but Edward sat on his grubby little secret. When Richard finally realised this, he must have been cut to the quick. Loyalty was a quality singularly lacking in Edward IV, and my opinion of him is very low indeed, although not quite as low as Henry VII and Henry IV. I put Edward IV in third place in the Nasty Man Stakes. Edward was unlikeable, I feel, albeit behind an exterior of warm bonhomie.

King Henry VI

Henry VI. Oh dear, rightly or wrongly I always hear him speaking querulously, except when praying, which he did constantly. When addressing God, he was almost cringingly respectful. Now, I don’t mean that as an insult to his piety, merely a statement of fact. My fact, and I may have him wrongly pinned. His long reign was an absolute disaster for England. He would have been better off—and much happier—in a monastery, as I think he might have agreed. It was a relief for England when he was toppled by Edward IV and the House of York. The Lancastrians were all usurpers, although Henry V certainly redeemed them. But, like so many good things, he died to soon and was replaced by his baby son.

King Henry V

Onward—or backward—to Henry V, hero of Agincourt. Well, I have difficulty with him, perhaps because I know so little of him. I too have been indoctrinated, at school by Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I. But he must have been a very commanding man, almost rivetingly charismatic on the battlefield. His voice? Very clear, with no room for misunderstanding. And no extra words.

King Henry IV

Then his father, the eponymous Henry IV, Parts I and II, who was the first Lancastrian king (and the first to usurp the throne!) One of my least favourite kings—in my estimation he and Henry VII are almost neck and neck, with Henry VII over the line by a short head. Henry IV was an unpleasant man (in my estimation), and I always hear him with a clipped, gruff voice. Like Henry VII, he spent his entire reign needing to justify his usurpation, and his health gradually failed. In his case I hear slight hesitations now and then because he was always on guard. These hesitations Henry VII concealed by being so measured, but Henry IV wasn’t clever enough for that. Also like Henry VII, he was never a happy man. Neither of them was able to relax and be himself. Serves them both right for rising against the rightful king and stealing the throne.

King Richard II

Richard II. Ah, one of my favourites, and although I don’t see him as angelic by any means, I do think he’s had a shabby rap from history. He was still a little boy when he succeeded to the throne, and was quite cruelly controlled and ordered around by his royal uncles. His voice when he reached maturity? Crisp, often hasty, and as his reign went on, increasingly nervous and suspicious as well as swift to turn to anger, which is hardly surprising, given the political mayhem all around him. Like Richard III, he has been and continues to be the target of Lancastrian/Tudor spite and their need to justify their illegal actions. Henry IV murdered Richard in cold blood, probably by starvation, and I hope had nightmares about it ever afterward.

King Edward III

Edward III, the last king I intend to consider. He was Richard II’s grandfather, his father, the “Black Prince” having predeceased Edward. Well, Edward was quite some king, and for two thirds of his reign was the great monarch and saviour of England. He was much loved, by his subjects and his aristocracy, and I always hear him talking to the latter on the level. He was amenable, but always in charge, and seldom raised his voice. He knew how to keep things on an even keel, and was a very open, approachable man who was deeply in love with his queen. When Philippa died, Edward was desolate. He’d needed her, and was caught (on the rebound, so to speak) by one of her ladies-in-waiting, the infamous Alice Perrers. This coincided with his gradual deterioration, mentally and physically.

Toward the end of his life Edward was a shadow of his once great self, and seemed to only listen to Alice and her cohorts (“evil advisers”). It was a very sad close to an illustrious career, and I hear his once amiable voice becoming weaker, more confused, puzzled even. Sometimes he was lucid and had moments of ability, but mostly he was incapable of withstanding Alice’s machinations. She, of course, had to make hay while the Edwardian sun shone, because when he died, so did her power. She needed to amass what she could while she could as the vultures were waiting to strip her bones bare. Whether or not she resorted to the services of a necromancing friar is another matter.

So there you have it. This is how I imagine these kings to have sounded. I doubt if everyone will agree with some of my opinions, maybe any of them, but I’ll be interested to learn how others have always imagined the voices of monarchs of the medieval period.

Did ANYONE do the dirty deed in the Tower….?

If you go to this link this article you’ll find an interesting if challengeable article about “Perkin Warbeck” and whether he could or could not have been Richard of Shrewsbury. Well, there were enough people who thought he was, and to make Henry Tudor’s existence thoroughly miserable. Pleasant thought. The article also discussed who might really have disposed of the boys in the Tower, if indeed they were disposed of.

At the beginning, as an example of how important naming names can be to a lot of people, there is a comment about the novelist Patricia Cornwell paying a lot to try to prove the identity of Jack the Ripper, inspired by a now (apparently) debunked theory. Well, I’m as interested in Jack the Ripper as the next person, but to be honest, in his case I don’t know that I want to know who he actually was. The mystery is the thing, especially as the royal family itself is implicated in one of the other theories.

The Princes in the Tower
Arthur C Michael, English (1881-1965)

But when it comes to the boys in the Tower, I’m definitely interested in knowing who did what, simply because it matters when Richard III’s name is hauled around in the mire. I’m convinced he didn’t do anything to his nephews, but either got them away somewhere safe, or was caught up in the consequences of someone else’s conspiracy, during which they died.

So it’s always intriguing to read someone else’s thoughts on these thorny matters, and some hoary old myths always make an appearance of course. Including in the above link. The first is that Hastings was bundled straight from the privy council meeting to a convenient log and had his head lopped. No trial, no nothing, just instant retribution. Well, that’s silly. Of course Hastings had a trial. It’s Tudor propaganda that he didn’t. Anything to blacken Richard’s character. One thing’s certain, if Hastings hadn’t been plotting against Richard, he’d have survived. But he was, so he didn’t.

And if Richard were really evil, would he really have just sentenced Jane Shore, or whatever her name really was, to walk barefoot through the streets? I think not. She’d been up to her pretty neck in scheming against Richard…if he’d been a Tudor, she too would have been hauled off to that bloody log! So don’t blame Richard, look to the Tudors as the instigators of nasty things happening to women. They made a speciality of the art.

The Penitance of Jane Shore, 1824, by Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863)

Mancini is believable because he “had no axe to grind”. Well, not that we know of, anyway. But does he tell the truth? And he was an Italian without great command of English, so how much did he mishear/misinterpret? If there’d been a plot involving Hastings, to do away with Richard and put Edward V on the throne, Richard would have been pretty stupid not to secure Edward somewhere solid and safe. The Tower — in the royal apartments, not the deepest, darkest, dampest, direst old dungeon below the low water level of the Thames! And whatever else Mancini may say, he doesn’t actually accuse Richard of murdering the boys. How could he? No one knows even now what happened to them, if anything. They might well have been taken abroad…or they may have died of natural causes. There was always some disease or other circulating in medieval times.

Mancini’s thoughts on Richard III

Then we come to the “it’s Buckingham wot done it” bit. Well, I’m prepared he believe he did. He wanted to be rewarded more by Richard than he already had been, and when the riches weren’t forthcoming quickly enough, he raised a rebellion. Which was tied up with Henry Tudor, courtesy of John Morton, Margaret Beaufort, Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all…. The usual traitors in fact. Well, what I don’t think is that Buckingham rebelled in order to put Tudor on the throne. What? Why the heck would he? He was genuine through and through blue-blooded royal, Richard’s first cousin, why on God’s own earth would be conspire to put a Beaufort nonentity like Henry Tudor on the throne. I think it more likely that Buckingham found out the hard way that they weren’t supporting him, but he was supporting them. Not flaming likely, thought he, but then the British weather put paid to the entire enterprise, and he was captured, tried and beheaded. And good riddance to the ingrate! He was no loss to Richard, or to England.

18th-century portrait of Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, from Wikipedia

Sir James Tyrell is considered next, because he apparently confessed to the boys’ murder later on in Henry VII’s ill-gotten reign. If Tyrell did confess, it was wrung out of him by means of the vast and novel array of implements in the Tudors’ extensive torture repertoire. Besides, there is a Tyrell family story, firmly believed, that the boys stayed briefly on their East Anglian estates and were then helped to escape to safety at Richard’s behest. If Sir James had murdered them, I think the Tyrells would have kept their heads down, not preserved a heroic story of their involvement in the boys’ escape.

Sir James Tyrell views the dead princes, from John Cassell’s Ilustrated History of England, Vol. II
London: W. Kent & Co, 1858.30.

To move on, did a Lancastrian faction try to rescue the boys in a botched attempt that ended with the boys’ death? Hmm, I’m afraid I have a problem with the thought of Lancastrians “rescuing” the sons of a Yorkist king. The Woodvilles would want to put Edward V on the throne, and possibly some disgruntled Yorkists, but not any Lancastrians, surely? Anything the latter did would be a cover for extinguishing the boys, not saving them. My opinion only, of course.

Next, if the boys died of natural causes, why didn’t Richard put their bodies on display? Well, perhaps he would if he could, but he didn’t have them. I think he spirited them away to safety, maybe through the Tyrells, but then something befell them. Maybe even a shipwreck on their way to Richard’s sister, their aunt Margaret in Burgundy. You can’t produce what’s lying at the bottom of the North Sea. And who would believe their uncle had acted for their safety anyway? Don’t forget we were soon to have the Tudor Propaganda Machine chugging along with supreme success. I’m sure it could have taught Saatchi & Saatchi a lesson or three in advertising!

Elizabeth Woodville, portrait in public domain, artists unkown

Did Elizabeth Woodville ever actually claim her children were legitimate? Not as far as I’m aware, and I’m sure that if she did, then her dear son-in-law, Henry VII, would have spread it with a thousand fanfares. He needed those children to be legitimate (and the boys dead!) because he was marrying the eldest daughter. Perhaps their mother’s silence was enough? Somehow I don’t think so. Henry would have wanted her to stand up on her hind legs and bray that she and Edward IV were legally married. She didn’t. Nor did Henry’s queen, Elizabeth of York, ever condemn her wicked Uncle Richard. Nor did the next sister, Cicely, who was married off p.d.q. to Henry’s half-uncle, John Welles, Viscount Welles. (Yes, she was this viscountessw’s inspiration.) For an interesting speculation tha Elizabeth Woodville eventually died of the plague, look here 

Bishop Stillington supposedly witnessed, or at the very least knew about, what passed for a clandestine marriage ceremony between Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV. I don’t recall hearing of him repeating the precious lines Henry endeavoured to drum into him, no doubt aided by a ruler over the devout knuckles. Nor did the family of Lady Eleanor Talbot, who seems to have been Edward’s first and very legal wife. How selfish of her not to have turned up her toes before her spouse moved on to Elizabeth. Thus Eleanor’s survivl for four years after the Woodville match, made the second ceremony bigamous. I don’t recall hearing the Talbots utter a single word, either to deny or confirm the first marriage. Like everyone else, they stayed silent as mice.

Lady Eleanor Talbot as she’s believed to have looked.

I can’t imagine that John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, set about murdering the boys so he could claw back the Norfolk inheritance (of the Mowbray dukes) from the younger one. Why would he when Richard had already returned the Mowbray inheritance to him two days after acceding to the throne?

John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk

As for John de la Pole murdering them, well, he’d have to murder Richard’s son, Edward of Middleham, as well. It begins to look like mass murder. And if Edward of Middleham was eventually murdered, as many think he was, I don’t believe it was John de la Pole’s doing. But yes—oh yes!—I believe it of Tudor, Margaret Beaufort, John Morton et al. It suited them very nicely indeed to rob Richard of his only legitimate child. I’ll bet they toasted themselves with the very best plonk for a job well done.

John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln – portrait tweaked by me from Man with a Red Cap by Titian. There do not appear to be any actual portraits of the earl

And when it came to Bosworth, another of their slimy creatures, Sir William Stanley (and sort-of/maybe/perhaps aided by his crafty fence-sitting brother, who incidentally, was also Henry’s stepfather) all but stabbed Richard in the back by turning on him at the vital moment. The Stanleys had pledged themselves to be Richard’s men, for Pete’s sake. With such friends, who needs enemies? I think it was a salutary lesson to Henry Tudor…who never trusted anyone, except his Mum. One of the best things he ever did was later in his reign to chop off Sir William’s Janus head! Pity he didn’t do the same to both Stanleys.

I couldn’t find a suitable likeness of Sir William, but here’s his brother, Thomas Stanley, Baron Shifty…er, sorry, Stanley.

Right, I’m well aware of how biased I am in favour of Richard III, but then this blog bears the name of the Yorkist colours and his portrait, both of which are a bit of a clue. The blog is quite clearly aimed at people like me, so posting something anti-Richard is unthinkable.

So, Lancastrians should tread with care! 🙄

THE RISE AND FALL OF WILLIAM LORD HASTINGS AND HIS CASTLE OF KIRBY MUXLOE

Reblogged from

A Medieval Potpourri sparkypus.com

 

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The atmospheric ruins of Kirby Muxloe Castle, showing the moat, the gatehouse and the only tower to near completion ..

Kirby Muxloe Castle, lies in Leicestershire countryside,  in ruins, the unfinished project of William, Lord Hastings.  Hastings was the epitome of a successful and powerful  15th century lord.  But as with other nobles of those turbulent times, success run cheek by jowl with downfall, dishonour, betrayal  and death.  Hastings’ life is well documented elsewhere and I want to concentrate more upon Kirby Muxloe Castle but to tell the story of the castle its necessary for a brief summary of Hastings life to be told too.

Hastings,  c1430-1483,  had been raised to be  a loyal Yorkist from youth,  his father, Sir Leonard Hastings having been a retainer of Richard Duke of York.  He first begun his rise and rise to power and fortune after the Battle of Towton 29 March 1461 where he was knighted.  Soon after as a mark of the closeness between him and Edward IV he was made Chamberlain of the royal household and in 1462 he was further rewarded with the granting of ‘full power to receive persons into the king’s grace at his discretion’.  Grants and lands,  removed from defeated and disenfranchised Lancastrians, enabling him to support  his new status were swiftly bestowed upon him.

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THE STALL PLATE OF WILLIAM HASTINGS, ST GEORGE CHAPEL, WINDSOR c.Geoffrey Wheeler

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Manticore badge of William Hastings c.1470

He seems to have been blessed with the trait of being able to run with the hounds and play with the foxes as he managed to stay on friendly terms with his brother in law, the great Richard Neville,  Earl of Warwick,  known later as the Kingmaker, after Warwick become disenchanted with Edward IV.  Rosemary Horrox suggests that Warwick  may have seen Hastings as ‘the acceptable face of Edward’s court circle, but it is certainly not evidence that Hastings had supported the earl’ (1).  Indeed when Edward went into exile in the Low Countries Hastings accompanied him, thus strengthening even more the bond between them.

Hastings extraordinary power and privilege stemmed from this closeness to the king and was known and commented upon  at the time,   a servant of the Pastons observing  ‘what my seyd lord Chamberleyn may do wyth the Kyng and wyth all the lordys of Inglond I trowe it be not unknowyn to yow, most of eny on man alyve’ (2). No doubt this would have led to clashes with the Queen, Elizabeth Wydeville, and her delightful  family, including her sons, despite one of them, Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset being married to Hastings step daughter, Cicely Bonville.    Later, Edward knowing death was approaching, pleaded with his bosom pal Hastings and his stepson, Grey,  to put their differences behind them and work together for the benefit of Edward’s young son.  Edward died at a comparative young age, 42, a death which came out of the blue for some.  Hastings, no doubt alarmed at the appalling thought of his enemies, the upstart and voracious Wydevilles getting it all, sent a letter to Edward’s brother, Richard Duke of Gloucester, warning him of  the Wydeville plots.  Hastings seems to have got on well with Richard, as he had with Warwick.  Gloucester,  having been warned,  took control of the situation and with a minimum of bloodshed took  up his role of Lord Protector as set out in the late king’s will.   Croyland Chronicler reports Hastings ‘as bursting with joy over this new world’ (3)   The rest is history, and  the mystery of why Richard,  known for his fairness, had Hastings removed from a council meeting at the Tower of London and beheaded on the 13th June 1483 can only be speculated upon.  After his death Richard dealt kindly with his widow, Katherine Hastings nee Neville,  granting  permission for Hastings to be buried close to his  late friend and king, in St Georges Chapel, Windsor , as requested in Edward’s will and allowing her to keep her husband’s lands and  which leads me to Kirby Muxloe….

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The Western Tower with the Gate House to the left..with thanks to Bobrad for photo.

On the 17th April 1474 Edward IV had granted Hastings, by then a very wealthy man.  licence  to fortify with walls and battlements  four of his properties plus enclose large areas of land to create hunting parks around them, one of these properties  being Kirby Muxloe (4) There was already an earlier medieval manor house there  but I have been unable to ascertain what condition it was in when building  of the castle commenced.  Its most likely that whatever condition it was in the intention would have been to demolish it at some stage as completion of the castle neared its end.  Indeed its known that some repair work was carried out on the old house while building of the new castle was taking place.   The foundations of this old house can still be seen today.  Its an indication of Hastings fabulous wealth that he had not completed Ashby de la Zouch Castle, intended to be his main seat, before work commenced on Kirby Muxloe in 1480.  The plans were for a rectangle courtyard surrounded by a moat  with a tower at each of the four  corners.   The gatehouse and one tower were nearing completion when news reached the builders of Hastings execution.    This must have thrown the workmen and craftsmen into disarray and its not beyond probability some of their number would have downed tools at that stage although  Katherine Hastings continued the work on a much smaller scale until finally giving up altogether the following summer.

Hastings had employed master mason John Cowper who trained as an apprentice  in the building of Eton College.  It is from Eton that Cowper would have come across the  method of bricklaying known as ‘diaper work’ – patterns made from dark bricks built into lighter brickwork – and used   it in the design of the walls at Kirby Muxloe.  The initials WH (although not the initials of his wife..really Sir William!), the maunce or  sleeve from his coat of arms, a ship and a jug are among designs  incorporated  into the diaper work.   Cowper was  also familiar with Tattershall Castle and may have based the gate house at Kirby on Tattershall’s great tower.  All that remains of what would have been a massive gatehouse is the base.  The remains of a  wooden bridge that led to the gatehouse and drawbridge were discovered in 1911  and are preserved in the  moat.   On entering through the gate  two rooms are to be found, both with fireplaces, one of them likely intended as a porters lodge.     Two spiral staircases, both made of brick lead to the first floor with rooms containing  fireplaces, latrines and  windows.  The floors above were never completed.

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Example of the diaper work at Kirkby Muxloe.  

Six towers were intended, four at each corner and two midway in the perimeter walls.  The surviving foundations of these towers can still be seen.  The West Tower is the only complete tower to survive, square in shape and comprising of three floors, a spiral staircase and latrines.

Luckily the building accounts for the castle have  survived.  They were written in a mixture of Latin, French and English by Hastings’ steward Roger Bowlett.  So we know that a Flemish man called Antony Yzebrond in charge of the manufacturing of the huge amounts of bricks required  was paid 10d a week, a man called John Powell was redirecting a brook to feed the moat, another man, Hugh Geffrey,  was building a cart track for the carriage of stone while John Peyntour was sent to gather crab apple trees to be used as grafting stock.  Were these gentlemen present when the shocking news arrived of the demise of their master we will disappointingly never know.    After Hasting’s widow, Katherine,  gave up her  valiant attempt to complete the work the  following year  Kirby Muxloe was abandoned, used as farm buildings for a  while before being finally  given up  to the elements.

 

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Gatehouse with replacement wooden bridge…

It is interesting to compare the rise and fall of Hastings to that of the building and fall of Kirkby Muxloe.  Whatever led to the execution of Hastings – did he betray Richard? Who in turn betrayed him?   – Catesby perhaps?  Was he perhaps bitter that he was not given the awards he had hoped for by Richard, Richard being a different kettle of fish to his brother Edward,  as he watched the rise and rise of Buckingham..Or  was it that Richard blamed him for keeping the pre contract between Edward and Eleanor Butler nee Talbot a secret from him..a secret that was the catalyst for the fall of the House of York.  Its sad to reflect that if Hastings had survived those initial very dangerous days his presence at Bosworth alongside Richard may well have led to a completely different outcome.

 

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William Hastings, first Baron Hastings’ signature..

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Doorway in the gatehouse leading to possibly a porters lodge.

 

I give a massive thank you to John Goodall and his most informative Guidebook on Ashby de laZouch and Kirby Muxloe.  Also to Rosemary Horrox for her article Hastings, William, first Baron Hastings to be found on the Oxford DNB.

  1. Hastings, William, first Baron Hastings Rosemary Horrox Oxford DNB
  2. Paston Letters 1.581
  3. Croyland Chronicle Continuations,159
  4. License to crenellate: Although never mandated by the monarchy nor a common practice until after 1200, applying for a license to erect a castle or to fortify a standing residence indicated not only that the applicant had the self-confidence to approach the king, but also demonstrated that he possessed the financial and personal status that came with the ability to build a castle. For many lords, receiving the license to crenellate was accomplishment enough, so they felt no urgency to complete the process with an outlandish expenditure of money that could result in bankruptcy. Just having the royal license proved they were qualified to move in the circles of the rich and famous and that the monarch recognized their social status.  Lise Hull Kirby Muxloe Castle – Quadrangular Glory in Brick and Water

     

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)

Another sad dose of misinterpretation for poor old Richard III….

In case you don’t know, there is a new book out by Thomas Penn – he of the excellent The Winter King, about Henry VII. His new book, The Brothers York, is about about the three sons of Richard, 3rd Duke of York: Edward IV, George of Clarence and Richard of Gloucester/Richard III, has been eagerly awaited. Oh, dear, not worth hanging around for if you believe Richard has always been failed by historians (most of whom insist on believing More and Shakespeare wrote the truth!) I fear Thomas Penn has joined the traditionalist ranks. What a terrible disappointment.

If you go to the Guardian you will find a detailed review of the book. It’s a review that agrees with Penn’s assessment of Richard. Here is a very brief extract: “Penn’s Richard is a serious thinker, a pious Catholic and a profoundly ambitious politician.” Well, while he was indeed a serious thinker and pious Christian, he certainly was not a profoundly ambitious politician!

Events in 1483, which are always cited as proof positive of Richard’s callous ruthfulness and overweening determination to steal the throne for himself, were in reality prompted by two very different matters.

  • The need to thwart the Wydevilles (who WERE profoundly ambitious politically) from taking over the new king and thus the entire realm.
  • The need to protect his own life and that of his son. The Wydevilles would have done away with him at the first opportunity, so he wasn’t going to roll over and let them proceed.

If this makes him a “profoundly ambitious politician” then I can’t help wondering what dictionary Penn uses.

If Edward IV had kept sensible control of the contents of his codpiece, instead of marrying bigamously and in secret, Richard would have been content to be Lord Protector and to oversee his nephew’s minority. But do the same for an illegitimate nephew? Why should he when he himself had a legitimate claim to the throne and also a son to come after him?

These historians who take the traditionalist view about Richard would, presumably, ignore their own claim to an inheritance, and the claims of their children? In a pig’s ear would they! So to blame Richard for doing what any just man would do makes them hypocrites of the highest order.

Thomas Penn has written more about his book here.

Hastings was executed because….?

from the link below

“….[executed in the Tower of London was] William Hastings, who tried to support the claims of Edward VI [sic] children to the throne in 1483….”

The above is a quote from this link – which contains boo-boos, as you can see from my quote.  Well, was that why Hastings was executed? For trying to support the claims of Edward IV’s children, not those of the precocious Edward VI, who died at fifteen? Let’s be honest, no one really knows what Hastings did to warrant swift trial, sentence and execution, so such a broad statement is a little OTT, although the crime must have been pretty serious. Despite the history as claimed by traditionalists, Richard III was not a man to react in such a way lightly. His record of head-lopping was relatively small, unlike many other kings, who notched up quite a total in just as short a time. Nor was Richard the sort of man who would gladly murder his brother’s children, of that I feel certain. So why does he get all the opprobrium?

Forget the heartstring-plucking story of the boys in the Tower. No one knows what happened to them – certainly not that Richard had them exterminated in their beds.

There were may reasons why Hastings might plot against Richard, and one (in my opinion) was the realisation that in Richard’s reign he, Hastings, wouldn’t enjoy anywhere near the same position and influence as he had in Edward IV’s. The Hastings nose was out of joint, perchance?

He might also have known about Edward IV’s pre-contract with Lady Eleanor Talbot…which was what made Edward’s sons and daughter illegitimate and led to Richard ascending the throne. If that was the case, it wouldn’t be Richard who wanted him out of the way. Indeed, Richard would be one of the last people to sweep him into eternity. Step forward any number of Woodvilles, who wanted to be back in power and couldn’t be if someone could prove there’d been a pre-contract.

There’s also the possibility that supporters of Henry Tudor wouldn’t want Hastings around if he knew about the pre-contract. Very inconvenient when Henry pledged to marry Elizabeth of York and unite England’s warring Houses of York and Lancaster. Well, that was his noble claim, of course. In fact he resented having to marry her and just had a fancy to usurp the throne. He had to legitimise her and her siblings, and thus her missing brothers, giving them a much better claim to the throne than his own.

Hmm, Hastings was therefore an exceedingly inconvenient presence if he could somehow prove she was definitely illegitimate – um, not that Henry’s family history erred on the side of legitimacy, come to think of it. They may have been legitimised by Richard II and confirmed as such by Henry IV, but the latter also made a point of barring them from the throne. Henry VII’s blood claim was therefore very washy, and he relied upon conquest to justify his usurpation. Having to marry Elizabeth in order to satisfy the strong Yorkist element among his nobility must have stuck in his craw.

That’s not to say the ensuing marriage did not become a happy one, but I doubt very much if it started out that way. It wouldn’t have started out at all if Hastings had put his oar in and strengthened Richard’s case. With him vouching for the existence of a pre-contract, far more wavering Yorkists would have accepted in 1483 that Richard, Duke of Gloucester, Edward IV’s last remaining brother, was indeed the rightful occupant of England’s throne.

So, we have the Woodvilles and Henry VII as Hastings’ likely enemies. Who knows what “horrible plot” they may have cooked up and seen that Richard heard about it? That he believed Hastings was scheming against him is quite clear. He thought/accepted that his own life was in danger because of whatever it was Hastings was supposedly up to. Only a fool would do nothing about it, and stand idly by until the Grim Reaper struck. But contrary to traditionalist insistence, Hastings was not hauled out immediately and executed over a tree trunk or whatever. There was a trial, conviction and sentence.

No doubt many of you will not agree with my reasoning, but it’s what I genuinely think.

The Queen of England the Tudors chose to overlook….

Yes, of course the Tudors dismissed the fact that Eleanor Talbot (Butler) was Edward IV’s first wife. Well, only wife, as it happens, because she was still alive when he “married” Elizabeth Woodville, whom he never did wed legally. In law, she was little more than a glorified mistress, and as a consequence, all the children she bore to Edward were illegitimate. So the usurper Henry VII pretended Eleanor had barely existed, let alone had married Edward IV.

It mattered to him because he wanted to marry Edward’s oldest daughter, Elizabeth of York. Ostensibly to unite the warring Houses of York and Lancaster; in reality to give himself some credibility. It was all very well to claim the throne through conquest, but knew his hold on the throne was very shaky. Elizabeth of York was rather necessary to him, and the sooner she could produce an heir, the better for Henry!

But he couldn’t marry a bastard. So he overturned Richard III’s legitimate right to the throne, declared Elizabeth trueborn, married her and gave us the delightful Henry VIII. Thank you very much. But, of course, by making her trueborn, he also did the same to her two brothers, whose claim to the throne immediately became far superior to his own. Oh, dear. Poor Henry. What a dilemma. The result was that he was hounded throughout his reign by the fear that one or other of these Plantagenet “princes” would come to take the crown from him. My heart breaks for him,. Natch.

If you go to this article you can read an explanation of what happened. It doesn’t do Richard III any favours, of course, but then that’s par for the course! Always the slight nudge into the rough or the bunker. Never the hole in one he so rightly merited. Here’s a sample:

“…. Eleanor never claimed a crown for herself but as the Wars of the Roses raged to their bloody end at Bosworth Field, she became a central figure in the path to the throne. She was actually already dead by the time her name was passed through parliament in the fight for the right to rule but the fact that she had ever lived at all was a vital part of the hold that Richard III had on the title of King of England following the death of his brother, Edward IV, in 1483…..”

Fight for the right to rule? Um, read the Woodvilles trying to seize power and get rid of Richard of Gloucester, Edward IV’s only surviving brother. A vital part of the hold Richard III had….? If Eleanor and Edward IV were married, which clearly they were because the Three Estates believed in it sufficiiently to beg him to become king, Richard was the rightful heir to the throne. It wasn’t a case of his having a “hold” on being King of England, he WAS the King of England. Rightfully. Lawfully. By blood. Even by invitation, because everyone wanted Richard to wear the crown, except the Woodvilles and some of Edward’s old buddies, who feared a loss of influence. If the traditionalists can’t swallow this fact, then they’re even more blinkered than I thought.

Oh, and BTW, the above illustration seems to be solely of Henry VIII and his offspring. There is no sign of Old Miseryguts VII, not even a portrait on the wall. What an oversight. After all, he was the Tudor who made sure Eleanor’s marriage to Edward IV was ignored. Henry VIII and his children owed their thrones to his sleight of hand and devious brain. And the treacherous support of the Stanleys at Bosworth.

Matthew Lewis on YouTube: 2) Mancini

Here is the second in my series of Top 10’s. This one is focussing on Dominic Mancini’s account of the events of 1483. It’s a hugely problematical source, both in terms of Mancini himself, who spoke no English, had no grasp of English politics and very limited sources, and in terms of the current translation in use which often chooses weighted words to make Mancini’s account darker.

It’s a negative source, without a doubt, written for a French audience hostile to England and Richard III and gripped by their own minority succession crisis, but it’s also misused and misunderstood. Mancini explains that he has had his arm twisted by Angelo Cato to write the account, which he had not wished to commit to paper. Cato worked at the French court, so had his own agenda is seeking to make Richard and his England seem like a land of murderous monsters.

More than this, Mancini admits, when complaining about being brow beaten into writing his account, that he knows almost nothing for certain. He wrote ‘I indeed decided that I ought not to expatiate so freely in writing as in talking, for, although on your account I did not shrink from pains, yet I had not sufficiently ascertained the names of those to be described, the intervals of time, and the secret designs of men in this whole affair.’ He adds ‘Wherefore you should not expect from me the names of individual men and places, nor that this account should be complete in all details; rather shall it resemble the effigy of a man, which lacks some of the limbs, and yet a beholder delineates for himself a man’s form.’

If Mancini had visited Torquay in the 1970’s, he might have given Manuel a run for his money.

Manuel

I know nothing…

The Pink Queen

John Ashdown-Hill’s last book, a biography of Elizabeth Wydville, was published in July. To mark this, it is time to compare the flow of her life with that of his other subject Lady Eleanor Talbot (1). Generally, Lady Eleanor’s social status, as determined by their fathers and husbands is higher at any point, or even relative to age, until Edward IV favoured the Wydeville clan in the aftermath of their “marriage”.

The other essential differences, of course, are that her relationship with Edward IV was made public and that she had many children by him. “The Pink Queen” also refers to St. Seberga of Ely, whose feast day is 6th July (2) and who we have shown to be a collateral ancestor of Richard III, crowned on that day in 1483.

Sources:
1) Eleanor: The Secret Queen (Appendix 1,pp.253-260, 2016 paperback).
2) The Pink Queen (p.113).

BOOK REVIEW

Stuart Bradley – JOHN MORTON: adversary of Richard III, power behind the Tudors (Amberley 2019)

 

John Morton served the English crown for a almost forty years during one of the most turbulent periods in English history. He wielded considerable influence at the courts of three kings. First, in the Lancastrian household of Henry VI: as an eminent lawyer, he was one of the draftsmen of the bill of attainder against the Yorkists in 1459, which triggered Richard, duke of York’s claim to the throne. In 1471, after the final defeat of the Lancastrians, Morton entered the service of the Yorkist king Edward IV, by whom he was pardoned. He soon became a valued member of Edward’s inner circle of advisors and was appointed Master of the Rolls in1472. Following the death of Edward IV in 1483, he rebelled against Richard III and became a pivotal player in the subsequent Tudor conquest of England. From 1485 until his death in 1500, Morton served as Henry VII’s Lord Chancellor, and as Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury. At various time during his career, therefore, Morton had been head of the judiciary, head of the church in England and head of the king’s government. For the last fourteen years of his life he was, excepting the king, the most powerful man in England. He was the archetypal Tudor enforcer: a model for the likes of Wolsey, Cromwell, Cranmer and the Cecils. And yet despite his fame, a serious study of Morton’s life has been much neglected. Although historians have explored aspects of his career, Dr Stuart Bradley’s recent book is only the second biography of Morton to be published in the five centuries since his death and the first to be published since Victorian times. It seems strange that such an important historical figure is chiefly remembered — if he is remembered at all — for his association with a shabby piece of Tudor logic known as Morton’s Fork. A reassessment of his whole life is, therefore, well overdue.

 

A major difficulty facing any biographer of John Morton is that we know so little about the private man. What we know of his character and interests we get only from his public works and from what others tell us about him. We know of his personal interest in religious architecture from the church building works he commissioned or patronized. We know of his preoccupation with civil and canon law, and oratory from his few surviving books, and we can gauge his piety and his spirituality from his will. But we have little from him that provides insight into his political reasoning or actions. Even examples of his signature are rare. His cenotaph at Canterbury Cathedral was broken centuries ago and his bones scattered. All that remains of the earthly John Morton is his skull. We do not even have a painted portrait of him.

 

It is against that background that Dr Bradley has approached his task. He believes that John Morton was a “…man whose story needs to be told in full and who deserves to be brought from the obscurity where for too long he has remained hidden.” To that end he has published a volume containing 288 pages, of which less than half (125) are devoted to a narrative of Morton’s life. In addition, there are 75 pages of appendices, 44 pages of footnotes and an extensive bibliography. The narrative comprises a conventional rendering of people, dates and places in more or less chronological order, and is focused mainly on Morton’s contribution to the Tudor state. Consequently, the major part of Morton’s life and particularly his career during the reigns of Henry VI and Edward IV, and his controversial rebellion against Richard III receive substantially less consideration. That is a regrettable lacuna in this biography, which is made worse, for me, by the author’s rather glib analysis of Morton’s political motives after 1471.

 

I mention these things now because they are relevant to a question that has puzzled me from the start: is Dr Bradley’s book aimed at the general reader or the scholar? The book’s subtitle, the presentation of the sleeve and the scarcity of detailed analysis in the narrative suggested to me that it is intended for a general readership; however, the quality and the quantity of the footnotes are more indicative of a book aimed at the specialist scholar. If Dr Bradley was writing for the casual reader, his tendency to quote from medieval manuscripts written in 15th century English or Latin, without a modern English translation, is baffling. It is a problem with the main narrative but more particularly with some footnotes, which are written in Latin. Moreover, some of the footnotes might in my personal opinion have been better incorporated into the main narrative, to aid the reading flow and prevent the crosschecking of footnotes becoming a distracting chore.

 

It would also have helped, I think, if Dr Bradley had included in his introduction information about the process of writing and publishing this book. There is no indication, for instance, whether other scholars saw the manuscript before publication, or commented on it with advice or correction.  Finally on this aspect, the schedule of Morton’s clerical and secular appointments was an invaluable source in helping me to quickly chart Morton’s career and his rewards. Similarly, the schedule overview of Henry VII’s and Morton’s itineraries, though long-winded, provided a visual representation of the author’s assertion that Henry VII relied completely on Morton to protect the crown’s interests during his own absence from London.

 

Even so, and despite my reservation, it is impossible not to admire the depth of Dr Bradley’s research of original manuscript and calendar sources, and of secondary works. This is nothing if not a thoroughly researched account of Morton’s life, which brings to life his learning and the softer, artistic side of his nature to counter the harshness of his reputation as a wily and inveterate schemer.

 

Dr Bradley makes a good case for Morton’s value and effectiveness as a royal servant. The longevity of his service, the speed with which he became one of Edward IV’s intimates, the trust placed in him by Henry VII and the rich rewards he received for his services are testament to his efficiency and capacity for hard work in a royal cause. His political acumen and his networking skills were particularly important to Henry VII in establishing his reign against the Yorkist remnants after Bosworth. Morton had learned the lessons of the past. He understood the damage done to the authority of the crown by ‘over-mighty subjects’ during the Wars of the Roses. Throughout the closing decades of the fifteenth century, therefore, he worked tirelessly to enforce law and order, and the primacy of royal authority. It was principally with his advice that Henry established his authority, rebuilt royal finances and founded the Tudor dynasty. Morton was also a restraining influence on Henry; a feature that is more obvious after Morton’s death, when Henry’s avaricious nature becomes more pronounced.

 

The claim that Perkin Warbeck was the youngest son of Edward IV had, if true, obvious, serious consequences for Henry and for Morton. When asked by the Milanese Ambassador if Warbeck was really one of the Princes in the Tower, as claimed by the King of Scots and the Duchess of Burgundy, Morton replied: ‘indeed he is nor reputed the son of King Edward in this kingdom.’ It is a curiously oblique answer and certainly not a plain denial of Warbeck’s claim. “Was this duplicity?’ asks Dr Bradley “Was Morton so implicated in the Tudor regime that recognizing the true claimant was impossible and that by standing with Henry he was seeking to save his own skin? “ Those are good questions and they are important ones. The fate of Edward IV’s sons is the defining mystery of the reigns of Richard III and Henry VII, and it is immensely disappointing that having asked these questions, Dr Bradley dismisses the various possibilities out of hand (“It seems highly unlikely”), on the basis that Morton believed the two Princes were already dead and that Warbeck was obviously an imposter – a ‘mawmet‘.

 

Dr Bradley’s treatment of Morton’s life and service during the reigns of Henry VI, Edward IV and Richard III is perhaps one of the least satisfactory aspects of this book. Central to his vindication of Morton’s behaviour is the notion that he was a honourable man whose loyalty to the crown was both absolute and principled. For example, he justifies Morton’s ten year rebellion against Edward IV after Towton thus: “This behaviour pre-figures his actions between 1483 and 1485 when he actively worked against Richard III during his second period in exile. When reviewing Morton’s career it seems he held firmly to principles of hereditary and legal legitimacy, and while Henry may [sic] have been defeated comprehensively in the field he was still the anointed king to whom Morton had sworn allegiance.” To be frank, this statement smacks of special pleading since it ignores the facts. Richard Duke of York claimed the throne in 1460 by right of inheritance; subsequently, the combined lords in parliament confirmed the superiority of his hereditary title over that of the Lancastrian incumbent. As York’s heir, Edward IV confirmed the lords’ judgement in trial by combat at Towton. The corollary of Yorkist legitimacy is, of course, Lancastrian illegitimacy. It was the central tenet of York’s claim that Henry VI, his father and his grandfather were — and always had been — usurpers. In that context, Morton’s adherence to the claim of a usurping Lancastrian and his efforts to gain the support of a foreign power against the legitimate Yorkist king of England can be seen for what they were: treason. To suggest that he remained loyal to Henry from his belief in ‘principles of heredity legitimacy’ is implausible. As an attainted traitor, he had no choice but to flee the realm and join Henry’s retinue if he was to avoid the consequences of his actions. The death of Henry’s heir in battle at Tewkesbury, followed soon afterwards by the death of Henry himself, marked the end of the Lancastrian cause but not the end of Morton’s political career. He accepted an offer to serve at the court of Edward IV.

 

Dr Bradley’s reason for this volte-face is simply that, “Henry [VI] was now dead and the dispensation of God had to be accepted. It was not what Morton had foreseen, or even wanted, but this was how events had transpired and now he must accept divine justice and accept the new status quo…He was there to serve and serve he did. The principles of hereditary and legal legitimacy came to the fore again.” It is, I have to say an unconvincing explanation, which ignores the possibility that Morton was motivated by political expediency and personal ambition to accept service with Edward IV, a motivation that might better fit what we know of his character. Mancini, writing about the events of the summer 1483 described Morton as being ‘trained in party intrigues under Henry VI’. Francis Bacon, Henry VII’s seventeenth century biographer wrote rather more on Morton’s character. “He was”, we are told “a wise man, and an eloquent, but in his nature harsh and haughty; much accepted by the king, but envied by the nobility and hated by the people.” He won the king by his ‘diligence and secrecy’, and his ‘subterfuge’. By contrast, Thomas More who knew him personally, thought Morton was be a great man and an exemplar of ethical and moral behaviour; I am, nonetheless, mindful of professor Sylvester’s sardonic caveat to More’s opinion: “A less shrewd man than More might well have seen a good deal of political conniving in Morton’s career

 

Similarly, Dr Bradley justifies Morton’s implacable disloyalty to Richard III on the rather limited ground of his unswerving loyalty to Edward V, who was the legitimate king (“Morton was clearly not swayed by the tales of bastardy…”). He is depicted as a leading member of the ‘resistance’, and his behaviour is rationalised only “…in terms of what he [Morton] regarded as Richard’s unacceptability as king…..He had no obligation of loyalty to the usurper; indeed, Richard’s actions gave him a moral responsibility to act against him, and the events of 1483 to 1485 show him doing just that.” A few weeks after being arrested and imprisoned by Richard, Morton transferred his allegiance to Henry Tudor. “The single logical explanation for this” suggests Dr Bradley ” is that he along with others …was convinced of the death of the two princes by this time.” It is a view that runs contrary to the opinion of Francis Bacon, who wrote that Morton won Henry Tudor’s favour because he had’…an inveterate malice against the House of York, under whom he had been in trouble.”

 

I am not going to enter the heated debate between Richard’s critics and his apologists, concerning the events of 1483. However, Dr Bradley’s analysis into Morton’s involvement in those events is, in my personal opinion, so punctuated with misconceptions and anomalies that it is positively misleading. No review could be complete if I didn’t at least mention some of these matters. For example, he dismisses without reason the possibility that Edward IV’s progeny were illegitimate. The Lords petition to Richard asking him to assume the throne and the parliamentary confirmation of his title in Titulus Regius are not even mentioned. Not only that, but Dr Bradley ignores the complex political dynamics of 1483. Edward IV’s legacy to his heirs was a kingdom divided. The force of his personality and his political acumen had held things together for many years. However, following his sudden and unexpected death, the fear of Woodville power resurfaced among the old nobility. William Lord Hastings and the other Yorkist lords were desperate for the duke of Gloucester to come south as Lord Protector to counter Woodville aspirations. The Chronicles and some private correspondence confirm that initially at least Richard was seen as a force for good, since the fear of another civil war was very real. Of course, support for Richard ebbed away once a rumour was spread that the ‘sons of Edward IV had been done away with’. Dr Bradley does not analyse or discuss these issues or the fact that the accusation of regicide against Richard III is based entirely on that rumour, which in all likelihood was started deliberately (possibly by Morton) to subvert a plot to seize custody of Edward V, into a rebellion aimed at putting a Lancastrian pretender on the throne.

 

But most problematic of all is the absence of any critical analysis of Morton’s motive for transferring his allegiance from Edward IV’s sons to Henry Tudor and also of what he knew about the fate of the two princes. Dr Bradley recognizes the significance of these issues but does not address their complexities. He is satisfied simply to argue that Morton thought the boys were dead. In accepting this explanation so readily, he seems to have overlooked Vergil’s account of a conspiracy that took place during August 1483 between Morton, Henry Stafford the ambitious duke of Buckingham and Margaret Beaufort the equally ambitious mother of Henry Tudor. If it is true, the implication of Vergil’s account is that by early August at the latest Morton had decided to support a Tudor invasion to depose Richard III. Did he know then that the boys were dead?   If so, when, why and how did he know? What role did the Tudor conspirators play in the fate of the princes? Furthermore, the rumour of the boys’ death began only after Buckingham had joined the conspiracy. So, when Buckingham wrote to Henry Tudor on the 24 September, inviting him in effect to claim the English throne, he must have known the boys were dead, or he was keeping a guilty secret. It is disappointing that Dr Bradley chose not to explore these questions or to deal with the inferences arising therefrom.

 

Dr Bradley’s stated aim was to tell John Morton’s story in full. And, it would be churlish not to acknowledge the value of this contribution to that story. This is a reasonable, modern reassessment of John Morton’s life and career, which raises Morton’s historical profile beyond mere responsibility for Morton’s Fork.It demonstrates that despite his softer side, he was in fact the archetypal early Tudor enforcer: a model for the likes of Wolsey, Cromwell and Cranmer. Though by no means a panegyrical work, this biography lacks, in my opinion, a balanced critical analysis of the contentious aspects Morton’s actions and his behaviour prior to 1485: particularly his political motivation. I think, therefore, that the full story of Morton’s life and career is still not written.

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