Croft Castle church is older than it looks. Historians think that the church as first built in about 1300. In the seventeenth century the clock tower was added and the interior provided with box pews. All well and good. I failed to photograph the sun in splendour on the stained glass window, representing an association with the House of York, and although I noted the medieval floor tiles I didn’t photograph them either. I was sidetracked! I nearly didn’t photograph the fortified house (ok I know that later architects have romanticised the whole concoction)
Sir Richard Croft died on 29 July 1509 and is depicted in effigy form with his wife Eleanor, the widow of Sir Hugh Mortimer. Eleanor ran the royal household of Edward, Prince of Wales a.k.a one of ‘The Princes in the Tower’ while he was at Ludlow learning how to be a king. Croft was Henry VII’s treasurer, fought at Mortimer’s Cross (Yorkist), Towton (Yorkist) , Tewkesbury (Yorkist) and Stoke (Tudor). The Pastor Letters record that plain Richard Croft was knighted in the aftermath of Tewkesbury. He also became High Sheriff of Herefordshire, as did his son.
Sir Richard inherited Croft Castle when he was just 14-years of age in 1445. He and his younger brother were tutored with Edward Earl of March and Edmund Earl of Rutland. History knows this because in 1454 a letter was sent to Richard of York complaining about their behaviour. He owed loyalty to his powerful Mortimer neighbours. He was their steward but rose under the Yorkists before transferring allegiance to Henry VII who made him Prince Arthur’s steward at Ludlow making him a key official educating the prince (p.528 -Anthony Emery, Great Medieval Houses of England and Wales volume 2).
Sir Richard was very much part of the “famous and very Knightly family of the Crofts”, as William Camden called them in his Britannia. Somehow, a member of the minor gentry became a key player serving as a royal official for Kings Edward IV, Richard III, and Henry VII. Sir Richard was one of the nobles who wished for the young King Edward V to be crowned at once to avoid the need for a protectorate. Rumours of their murder spread throughout court. Believing the boys’ deaths to have been ordered by their uncle, Sir Richard Croft, an astute player of court politics, remained a royal official to Richard III while secretly offering his support to Henry Tudor’s cause it would appear although Breverton records that Croft was in exile with Henry Tudor and played an important part in his coronation.
And you’ll love this (not a lot) Richard Croft had a brother who was younger than him also called Richard! Richard the Younger was born in 1437 and died in 1502. Little brother was one of Edward Prince of Wales’ tutors at Ludlow. The Younger Richard fought for Henry at Bosworth as did Richard the Younger’s illegitimate son Thomas who was appointed a ranger at Woodstock but got himself into a spot of bother over a murder in the marches.
The Crofts did not get on well with the Stanley family. The latter were rather too acquisitive of land and the Crofts weren’t keen on losing territory to their neighbours.
I love the happy looking Croft lion laying at Sir Richard’s feet but most historians are fascinated with the boar on the wonderfully carved tomb. The hog actually belongs to St Anthony, one of the saints decorating the niches behind Sir Richard’s head, but its impossible to escape the thought of Richard III with his white boar…and then there’s that sun in splendour.
And because I can…Sir Richard Croft was the great grandfather of Henry VIII’s mistress Bess Blount making him the 2x great grandfather of Bessie and Henry’s son, Henry FitzRoy.
Bremerton, Terry, Henry VII: The Maligned King