Tag Archives: Elizabeth Woodville

Edward Courtney, Earl of Devon

edward courtney.jpgEdward Courtney was the only surviving son of the Marquess of Exeter born in 1526.
More significant  was the fact that he was the great-grandson of Edward IV.   Katherine, the sixth of Edward and Elizabeth Woodville’s children to survive babyhood, was married off to Sir William Courtney a loyal Lancastrian in the aftermath of Bosworth which must have been a bit of a comedown from an earlier proposal for her to marry either a Scottish or a Spanish prince but better by far than scuttling around in the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey.  Unfortunately for poor old William he somehow became inveigled into a conspiracy to put Edmund de La Pole on the throne in 1502 and spent the rest of Henry VII’s reign in custody – it’s fairly safe to say that the Courtneys were framed.
Katherine Courtney of York.jpgWhen Henry VIII came to the throne he had his uncle by marriage released from prison but persuaded his Aunt Katherine to renounce her claim to the earldom of March- and the Mortimer inheritance which caused so much mayhem during the Wars of the Roses- and following the death of William in 1511, Katherine took a vow of chastity.  This seemed to go down well with Bluff King Hal who gave her the rights to the income from the Courtney lands during her life time, drew her son Henry into the inner court circle and made her godmother to the Princess Mary in 1516. The problem so far as her grandson Edward would be concerned would be that little drop of Plantagenet blood.  It had been alright for Katherine to sign herself ‘the excellent Princess Katherine, Countess of Devon, daughter, sister and aunt of kings’ (Westcott) but royalty wasn’t such a good thing to have in one’s bloodstream during the mid-Tudor crisis and especially not if one fancied wearing a crown rather than a coronet.
Edward Courtney looked all set for a charmed life – he was a cousin of the Tudors and his grandmother had been a respected member of the inner family circle.  He’d spent time in the household of Mary Tudor, Duchess of Suffolk – presumably to learn the art of being a gentleman.
Unfortunately for Edward his father Henry Courtney  came up with the wonderful wheeze of marrying young Edward off to the Princess Mary – you’d have thought he’d have learned from his own father’s experiences.   In addition, Henry’s second wife (and mother of Edward) Gertrude Blount was a daughter of Baron Mountjoy who had served Katherine of Aragon since her arrival in England – Blount, a Derbyshire man  and Katherine’s chamberlain- had a bit of a torrid time of it during the 1530s but Gertrude remained unswervingly loyal to Katherine – and yes, Gertrude was related to Bessie Blount (Henry VIII’s mistress and mother of Henry Fitzroy) but this isn’t the post for that particular amble around Tudor family trees. The Mountjoy clan and the Courtneys were identified as members of the Aragonese faction as supporters of Katherine were called. Henry  Courtney was not only related to the Poles and the Nevilles but on good terms with them – they, being Catholic, were decidedly grumpy about the break with Rome. Put in a nutshell Courtney managed to get himself caught up in one of Thomas Cromwell’s snares in 1538 to keep anyone with a claim to the throne under lock and key- the planned match between Edward and Mary being the icing on the cake so far as Cromwell’s evidence was concerned, so as to speak.
In November 1538 Gertrude, Henry and twelve-year-old Edward found themselves in the Tower.  Henry was executed at the beginning of December and Edward remained a prisoner for the next fifteen years. Henry paid for his distant cousin’s food and education. Upon Henry VIII’s death the regency council and the duke of Somerset decided that an adult male with Plantagenet blood was better in the Tower than out of it – so there he remained, although he now had the company of Bishop Gardiner.  The pair took something of a shine to one another.  Edward referred to the bishop as “father” and Edward became Gardiner’s protégée.
In August 1553 Princess Mary fresh from Framlingham arrived in London to claim her throne from Lady Jane Grey.  A month later Edward was created earl of Devon and Reginald Pole described him as the “Flower of English Nobility” on account of his learning –  let’s face it there wasn’t much else for him to do in the Tower to while away the hours other than read, translate various ancient works and play the lute.
On 1 October 1553 Courtney took his place in Mary’s court by bearing the sword of state at her coronation.
Edward now spent considerable amounts of time running around London with the wrong kind of women – but I don’t suppose he’d had much opportunity for drunkenness and debauchery whilst in custody. Queen Mary was not impressed.
Meanwhile Mary was determined to marry into the family of Charles V.  It had been her mother’s wish and she refused to consider any other options – no matter what anyone else might say on the matter. The thought of Philip II of Spain made quite a lot of English gentlemen feel a little nauseous. Gardiner did try and suggest Courtney as a match but it was no go.  Instead, Sir Thomas Wyatt and Sir Peter Carew came up with the idea of Courtney marrying the Princess Elizabeth – voila Protestant, English – Tudor/Plantagenet- what more could one wish for? Sir William Paget the Tudor administrator was keen on the match as well.  Obviously Gardiner wasn’t so keen on the idea – him being very catholic and everything but Courtney whose freedom seems to have done strange things to his personality and common sense thought it was a terrific plan, as did the recently freed duke of Suffolk Henry Grey, father of Lady Jane Grey.
The plan for the regions to rise up did not go well.  The council found out that there was rebellion in the air and various parties ran around in ever decreasing circles until they were rounded up and placed under arrest – the only exception was in Kent where Wyatt’s rebels advanced upon London and caused quite a lot of panic. Henry Grey scarpered to the Midlands where he met with indifference or hostility whilst Gardiner slapped Courtney metaphorically around in order to find out exactly what he knew.  Gardiner had no intention of languishing in the Tower or loosing his head although it looks as though Gardiner did try and keep Courtney out of trouble no matter what the rest of the Privy Council and the now very influential Spanish Ambassador had to say on the subject.
Ultimately Wyatt’s Rebellion foundered and Edward Courtney found himself back in the Tower once more scratching his head and looking vaguely bewildered. Unfortunately for Courtney, Wyatt had been tortured and had incriminated the earl in the hope, it is believed,  of securing a pardon.  The two men would meet on the 11 April 1554 when Wyatt went to the block and is said to have begged Courtney’s pardon. Wyatt made it quite clear before his execution that neither Courtney nor Elizabeth had been involved in his rebellion. Henry Grey went to the block and so too did Lady Jane Grey and her husband Guildford Dudley who had no part in the plot and were not intended to benefit from the plot – it was an opportunity to tidy up loose ends. But not as it turned out to get rid of Courtney and Elizabeth.
At the end of May 1554 Courtney was sent to Fotheringhay where he stayed for a year. Then he took a journey, presumably for the benefit of his health to Brussels and from there to Venice.  Unfortunately the Spanish took a dim view of the earl and were planning to have him assassinated – the assassin changed sides in Venice thus saving Courtney from an untimely end.
It does appear that Courtney couldn’t help but dabble in treason as the moment he arrived in Italy he hooked up with Sir Henry Dudley, one of Northumberland’s sons, and between them they came up with a harebrained plan to murder Mary  and replace her with Elizabeth – with Courtney as royal spouse. There was even talk of a possible match to Mary Queen of Scots  thanks to Henri II of France.
On the 18 September 1556 Edward Courtney died in Padua where he had enrolled as a student. There were rumours of poison but in reality he’d caught a chill whilst out hawking. A letter sent to Queen Mary by Peter Vannes provides an account of events, “for his Honest recreation… to see his hawks fly upon a wasted ground, without any houses” was caught “in a great tempest of wind and rain” Rather than leave his sport he’d refused to get changed out of his wet clothes and by the end of the week “entered into a continue hot ague, sometimes more vehement than at another… so that his tongue had so stopped his mouth, and his teeth so clove together” that he couldn’t take the Sacrament at the end.
Inevitably with an unexpected death in a time of intrigue and treason there are always conspiracy theories. Poisoning is a favourite so far as Courtney is concerned but I have also read that he may have died of syphilis – that other perennial Tudor exit strategy. The earldom of Devon was extinct  as there were no more male sprigs. Four girls inherited his estates but not the title. There was also one less contender for the throne.
Ian W. Archer, ‘Courtenay, Edward, first earl of Devon (1526–1556)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/6449, accessed 17 March 2017]
Margaret R. Westcott, ‘Katherine, countess of Devon (1479–1527)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/70277, accessed 17 March 2017]

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Henry Grey, duke of Suffolk – father of Lady Jane Grey.

henry-greyHenry Grey was the great grandson of Elizabeth Woodville by her first husband Sir John Grey of Goby – and incidentally it’s pronounced ‘Grooby’. He died at the second Battle of St Albans in February 1461 leaving Elizabeth a widow with two sons.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Henry Grey’s father was the second marquis and on of Elizabeth of York’s closest relatives.  He found that his credentials were suspect under the new Tudor regime not least because of his suspected conspiracy in the Lambert Simnel affair.  What saved his bacon was his skill at jousting and his friendship with Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk.  When he died in 1530 it is perhaps not surprising that young Henry found his wardship in the hands of Brandon.  And with that knowledge it is unsurprising that he ended up married to Charles’ daughter Frances.  His links to the crown mad whim a suitable match for a girl of royal blood – Frances’ mother was, after all, Princess Mary or the French Queen as she was known during her lifetime.

Henry did what nobles did – he jousted. He gambled. He wandered around looking magnificent whilst being short of cash.  He took part in ceremonies such as Henry VIII’s funeral.

To all intents and purposes he does not appear desperately interesting, until that is he became embroiled involved with Sir Thomas Seymour at the beginning of Edward VI’s reign. Seymour convinced Henry and Frances that he could arrange a marriage between their oldest surviving child, Lady Jane Grey, and the new king, young Edward VI.  With this in mind and perhaps on account of Henry’s rather sizeable gambling debts, Henry sold the wardship of his daughter to the king’s uncle and was drawn further and further into Seymour’s web.  Whilst  Jane was at Chelsea in Katherine Parr’s household all initially seemed to be well.  Young Jane was in receipt of a first rate education and a step closer to the crown. All that can be said with the clarity of hindsight  is that Grey was either extremely ambitious and took gambling to the extreme or that he was incredibly naive to believe that any of Seymour’s schemes would work. Not only that of course but it soon became clear that Seymour was behaving inappropriately by romping with Princess Elizabeth. For reasons best known to themselves, even after they’d heard the rumours Jane’s parent allowed her to remain in Seymour’s care. She did refer to him as a beloved father and there is no evidence of any untoward behaviour on Seymour’s part.

Grey was a man of the time.  He had  Protestant sympathies. He was father to three of the potential claimants to the throne and husband of the fourth.  He was a man worth cultivating. Perhaps for this reason he was appointed to the privy council in 1549 after the fall of the duke of Somerset. He certainly started to extend his collection of lands at this time, he rounded up some of the property of the duke of Somerset when he was convicted of treason, and added to his offices. In 1551 he became a warden of the marches but didn’t really seem to know what to do.  It was something of a relief to all concerned, apart possibly from the Scots, when he handed in his notice. Even if he was fairly nondescript as a politician or a military commander his role as head of the family of female Tudors made him important in the Tudor political world so it is fairly unsurprising that Dudley made him duke of Suffolk following the death of his father-in-law and two young  half-brothers-in-law. There was also a handy little grant of £2000 a year.

lady-jane-grey

Suffolk, as I shall now call him in line with his title, must have felt as though everything was falling into place when Northumberland persuaded Edward, who was seriously ill by the beginning of 1553, that it would be a good idea if his own son were to marry Lady Jane Grey and that she should be nominated heir to the throne given her protestant credentials. There was the small matter of persuading Jane that it was a good idea but it was effectively a done deal with the marriage being celebrated in May 1553 along with the nuptials of Jane’s younger sister Lady Katherine Grey to William Herbert, heir of the earl of Pembroke on the same day.  At the same time as the Grey girls acquired husbands the duke of Northumberland’s daughter, also called Katherine and not yet twelve years old, married Henry Hastings, son of  the earl of Hastings – another man with Plantagenet blood threading through his veins. Northumberland was binding his party together through promises of power and through the traditional medium of marriage.  Edward VI died on 6 July 1553.
 On the 9th July 1553 Suffolk together with the privy council declared Jane queen.  A few days later Suffolk declared Mary queen outside the Tower before tearing down the canopy of state from over his daughter’s head.  He then left her to face the music.
Somehow or the other Suffolk managed to avoid being  incarcerated in the Tower and having the key  to his cell thrown into the Thames. He was imprisoned, along with Frances, on the 27th  May 1553. After a few days he was released without charge, unlike seventeen year old Jane. She was a hostage and Mary’s pro-catholic council, featuring amongst its number men who’d made her queen, were looking for an excuse to end her life. Under those circumstances you’d have thought that Suffolk would manage to keep his head down and his nose clean.
Of course, he didn’t. Whilst Frances and their two  younger daughters returned to court where they were welcomed by Queen Mary, Suffolk having paid a fine made disgruntled noises about the prospect of a return to Catholicism.  It was for this reason that he became involved with Sir Thomas Wyatt who wished to prevent Queen Mary from marrying Philip of Spain.  Suffolk thought that as a leading gentleman of the Midlands that he could raise support for a rebellion.  He also thought that the Earl of Hastings would support him. Hastings was very busy at that particular time back tracking as fast as he could. Unfortunately  Suffolk was just about as good a rebel as he was a politician and had failed to spot that the band of nobles who’d sealed their deal with the marriages of their children were now backtracking rather rapidly – poor Katherine Grey was virtually kick rout of the Pembroke house despite the young couple having taken rather a shine to one another. The plot was betrayed by Edward Courtenay, earl of Devonshire, who also happened to have quite a lot of Plantagenet blood and who Wyatt thought would make a better royal spouse.
It wasn’t long before the Privy Council asked Suffolk to pop around for a cosy little chat.  Had he heard anything about a rebellion?  Would he take command of men in order to put the insurgents down? Suffolk panicked and scarpered home to Bradgate where the locals showed a determined line in being loyal to the Crown.  Leicester and Coventry turned him away.
Suffolk realising the game was up thought that it would be sensible to leave rather rapidly…he wasn’t terribly good at being a fugitive either. He decided that he would flee to Denmark but wasn’t quite sure about the direction he needed to take. Unsurprisingly he was softly captured and returned to the Tower where he was executed on 23rd February 1554. His actions were the excuse that Mary’s government needed to execute his daughter. Grey, attainted of treason,  went to his death grieving for his daughter who was executed along with her husband on the 12th.
It’s hard to feel any sympathy for Henry Grey. He played at the top table of Tudor politics without having any real aptitude for the game. His eldest daughter paid with her life.

Robert C. Braddock, ‘Grey, Henry, duke of Suffolk (1517–1554)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/11535, accessed 27 Feb 2017]

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Jean de Waurin – Chronicler

edward-receives-book-jwaurin-detail.jpgJean de Waurin or de Wavrin, pictured on his knees presenting his work to Edward IV, is a bit of a conundrum according to the British Library who also offer a digitised version of his history, written in French http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Royal_MS_15_E_IV.

He’s thought to be the illegitimate son of Robert Count de Wavrin who was legitimised by the Duke of Burgundy after a successful career fighting in the Hundred Years War commencing at the Battle of Agincourt. Being Burgundian he was an English ally.

 

He wrote a chronicle of English history to stave off boredom, so he claimed, after a successful career as a soldier and then a diplomat – and that’s the conundrum; was he simply someone seeking to fill his time or was there a more significant underlying message. Is he a Yorkist spin doctor? What makes the chronicle unique is that he knew the people and saw the Wars of the Roses from a European perspective. He’s not always accurate, take the Battle of Wakefield for example – he puts a spin on it that paints the Lancastrians in a none too positive light as well as using a bit of creative licence to explain the course of events. We know from the evidence of other chronicles that Sir Andrew Trollope’s plans to arrive at Sandal with men disguised as Yorkists then lure York into the open having won his confidence is an unlikely set of events.

What de Waurin does do is to describe people from first hand knowledge and try to explain reasons for their success or otherwise. Gransden uses the example of Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville. He observes that although she is descended from the St Pol family and that her mother had been the Duchess of Bedford that her father was a mere knight and that she herself was a widow with two children. He explains that for these two reasons Edward’s counsellors were signally unamused by Edward’s marriage to her. He also explores the reasons behind the Earl of Warwick’s power and prestige.

 

Interestingly de Waurin knew Antony Woodville (Elizabeth Woodville’s brother) as well as the Earl of Warwick. Woodville fancied himself as a patron of the arts and its perhaps not surprising that de Waurin’s lavishly illustrated chronicles contain images of Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville and also an image of himself presenting his book to Edward IV – the king’s copy can be found in the British Library these days. It is from de Waurin that we learn about the political shenanigans at court between the Woodvilles and the likes of Warwick and the Duke of Clarence.

 

De Waurin’s chronicle which covers English history drawing on earlier chronicles explores the reigns of Edward II and Richard II amongst others. He finishes in 1471 when Edward and his line looked to be secure on the throne.

 

Gransden, Antonia (1997). Historical Writing in England: c. 1307 to the early sixteenth century London: Routledge

British Library blog (see link in post)

 

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Duke of York arrives in Sandal Castle

Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York 2.jpgHaving returned from Ireland in October 1460, tried to claim the throne and ultimately agreed that he would inherit it after Henry VI died, Richard duke of York made his way north to deal with Margaret of Anjou who was not terribly impressed with the turn of events. Her forces were recorded at Pontefract, Hull and then further north.  Amongst them was Richard’s own son-in-law Henry Holland, duke of Exeter.

anne holland.jpgHenry Holland, a great-grandson of Edward III and descendent of Joan of Kent (thus a descendent of Edward I), had been married off to Richard of York’s eldest daughter (to survive childhood) Anne in 1447.  He  remained loyal to Henry VI and would be a commander on the Lancastrian side of the field at the Battle of Wakefield.  It would be a mistake that would leave him attainted for treason after the Battle of Towton in Easter 1461.  Anne Holland and her only child, Anne, would gain Holland’s estates. The couple’s marriage would be annulled in 1472  after Holland was badly wounded at the Battle of Barnet.  Anne would remarry Thomas St Leger and die in childbirth – another Anne.  As for Anne  Holland Junior she would be married off to Elizabeth Woodville’s son, Thomas Grey, marquis of Dorset.  She would be dead by 1474. If you want to know more about Anne of York read Susan Higginbottom’s post here. In a twist of history when the skeleton of Richard III was discovered under the car park it would be Anne of York’s descendants who provided the DNA that proved that it was Richard.

But back to December 1460, Richard was troubled by bad weather and an unfortunate interlude with the duke of Somerset at Worksop on the 16th December recorded by William of Worcester.  The Worcester chronicle stated that Richard arrived at Sandal on the 21st December (although Edward Hall states that he didn’t arrive until Christmas Eve).

Richard’s arrival in Sandal revealed that the castle didn’t have enough stores to feed the extra mouths – and not enough space either- lots of Richard’s soldiers spent a chilly Christmas under canvas. Nor was it possible to go foraging very easily as Sandal was a York pinpoint on a noticeboard of Lancaster red.

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Filed under December, Fifteenth Century, On this day..., The Plantagenets

Margaret Beaufort’s other family

Stained_glass_in_the_Burrell_CollectionDSCF0301_07.jpgThe Wars of the Roses or The Cousins War as it was called at the time is complicated enough without looking too closely at the relationships that existed between the women of the period and the links forged by marriages often arranged to secure family alliances and extend land holdings. Yet, to do so gives a new insight into the power dynamics, politics and family relationships of the period and also of the Tudor period given that Henry VIII emulated his father when he approached mid-life by starting to execute members of his nobility with too much Plantagenet blood in their veins.

 

Margaret Beaufort and her assorted extended family is typical of the far reaching links that often seem to run counter to what might be expected from the overarching political affiliations depicted in history books. Her mother was Margaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe. Margaret Beauchamp was married three times. She had children by all three of her husbands. These children were Margaret Beaufort’s half-siblings and thus aunts and uncles of Henry Tudor, thought much less publicized than Jasper Tudor. Margaret Beaufort’s youngest half-brother, John born sometime around 1450, was the child of Margaret Beauchamp’s third marriage to Lionel de Welles, the sixth baron Welles.

 

Lionel died at the Battle of Towton in 1461 fighting on the Lancastrian side. Barons number seven and eight (Lionel Welles’ son and grandson from a previous marriage) had their heads chopped off for plotting against Edward IV in 1470. This resulted in an Act of Attainder and the removal of titles and estates most of which were situated in Lincolnshire. John Welles, not put off by the severing of heads from shoulders, continued the family tradition of loyalty to Lancaster by becoming involved with Buckingham’s rebellion against Richard III in 1483. He then scarpered across the Channel where he joined his nephew Henry Tudor.

 

So far so good – though I admit a family tree would help. He returned to England in 1485 by his nephew’s side, was knighted and got his lands back. He also acquired a bride some nineteen years his junior and who tied him more closely than ever to the royal family.

 

His bride was Cecily Plantagenet, the second daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville to survive to adulthood (her elder sister Mary died young). She had been offered as a bride to King James III of Scotland’s heir in 1474 – and in 1482, the year before Edward IV’s death, to the Duke of Albany although there was the slight problem of Albany already having a wife.

 

Cecily’s grand Scottish match came to nothing. Instead her father died and she found herself in sanctuary for the second time in her short life and no longer a princess. Her parents’ marriage was declared invalid on account of her father’s alleged pre-contract with Lady Eleanor Butler making his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville bigamous and Cecily and her siblings illegitimate.

 

Richard III arranged for his niece to marry Ralph Scrope the younger brother of a northern baron. The marriage was swiftly brought to an end once Henry VII gained the throne. Cecily was required at court and in the hands of a good Lancastrian rather than a supporter of Richard III. In 1486 she carried Prince Arthur to his baptism and in 1487 she accompanied her sister Elizabeth, Henry VII’s wife, to her coronation. By the following year she was married to Henry VII’s less well-known uncle John Welles. This was a clever move on Henry’s part. It rewarded his uncle for his loyalty and ensured that Cecily didn’t acquire an overly ambitious husband.

 

It was, however, a marriage that makes for complicated family ties. Cecily as well as becoming Henry Tudor’s sister-in-law also became his mother’s (Margaret Beaufort) sister-in-law; something of an irony bearing in mind that Margaret Beaufort in the red corner and Elizabeth Woodville in the white corner (Cecily’s mother) were consummate rivals and only united in 1483 against a common foe in Richard III (if popular history is to be believed and we set aside the fact that Elizabeth Woodville not only accepted Margaret Beaufort at court whilst Edward IV was alive but asked her to be godmother to one of her daughters at a time when both women might reasonably have supposed that their positions were established and secure…I did say it was complicated).

 

Cecily and John had two daughters both of whom died in childhood. John died in 1499 and Cecily continued with her duties at court where she seems to have been something of a favourite. She was part of Prince Arthur’s marriage to Katherine of Aragon. Records state that she carried the bride’s train and danced with Prince Arthur at the festivities afterwards. Jones and Underwood note that during this time she and Margaret Beaufort spent time together and seem to have grown to like one another.

 

She was also financially secure. Welles having died without children left a will giving Cecily an interest in his estates for her lifetime. He named her as executor of his will along with Margaret Beaufort’s, and now Henry VII’s, long trusted henchman Sir Reginald Bray.

 

Behind the scenes Cecily was taking her life in her own hands. History knows relatively little of the arrangements behind her first marriage to Ralph Scrope but in all likelihood it was arranged by Richard III who’d promised his nieces marriages to gentlemen (but not nobility of the first order). Her second marriage was obviously political. In that Cecily’s life was no different from countless other women of the period but she was about to break the rules. In 1502, Cecily married Thomas Kyme of Friskney, a Lincolnshire esquire, without royal license and socially far below her in rank.

 

Henry VII was not amused.

 

However, Cecily and Thomas had an unexpected ally in Cecily’s sister-in-law, Margaret Beaufort. Margaret permitted Cecily, of whom she appears fond, to stay in her house at Collyweston until the king’s anger had time to simmer down. She also began negotiations on Cecily’s behalf. As you might expect much of Henry’s anger was about loss of prestige, something important to the parvenu Tudor. But, almost as important to Henry VII was his treasury. As soon as the marriage came to light Henry set about removing the Welles’ estates from his sister-in-law but Margaret, canny negotiator, ensured that Cecily retained some of her lands and was able to pay her way out of trouble though not back into royal favour which may explain why she didn’t attend her sister, Elizabeth of York’s funeral – a noticeable absence after all the other key events she’d played an important role in.

 

Cecily appears to have continued to be often in Margaret Beaufort’s company and when Cecily died in 1507 it was Margaret Beaufort who paid most of her funeral expenses.

 

Jones, Michael K and Underwood, Malcolm G.(1992) The King’s Mother: Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

 

 

 

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Kirby Muxloe Castle and William, Lord Hastings

DSC_0077There’s not much left of Kirby Muxloe Castle today apart from two red brick octagonal corner turrets and a gate-house. There’s also a rather fine moat filled with water lilies and at this time of year rather a lot of Canada geese. DOn’t go during the week because the doors are locked! The gate house boasts some state of the art gun loops which reflect the ways in which war fare was changing during the fifteenth century.

 

Originally there was a manor at Kirby Muxloe but when William Lord Hastings got hold of it in 1474, he applied for a license to crenulate. Being best buddies with Edward IV, Hastings was promptly granted the right to turn the manor into a castle. He began work in 1480.

DSC_0087.JPGThe bricks which form the towers and gate house were fired locally under the direction of John Cowper, who’d been an apprentice working on Henry VI’s school at Eton. The red bricks are interspaced with a black diamond or ‘diaper’ pattern which also incorporates the initials WH – William wanted folk to know who lived in the snazzy new castle. There’s also a sleeve or ‘maunch’ from his coat of arms, a jug and a boat – although the guide book admits that historians are till scratching their heads as to why Hastings wanted those particular decorations.  A set of accounts survives from 1480 to 1484 detailing work on the castle. It reveals 100,000 bricks a week were being fired.

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The west tower was the only part of Hastings’ project to be completed. Work stopped five years later when Hastings had a nasty accident with an axe on Tower Green on 13 June 1483. Hastings’ wife continued working on the building and the family continued to live there until 1630 although Hastings’ plan was never fulfilled.

 

So who was William, Lord Hastings? He was born in approximately 1430 and his father owed his service to Richard, Duke of York. William was knighted by Edward IV in the aftermath of Towton in 1461 and swiftly became chamberlain to Edward’s household. He was one of the courtiers who helped arrange the marriage of Margaret of York (Edward’s sister) to the Duke of Burgundy. Hastings took the opportunity to build his land base in his native Leicestershire – principly Ashby de la Zouche and Kirkby Muxloe as well as Slingsby in Yorkshire whilst in the royal household. When Edward briefly lost his throne in 1470 on account of the Kingmaker being unamused at Edward’s secret wedding to Elizabeth Woodville, Hastings fled to the continent with his monarch. Hastings was with Edward fighting against the Earl of Warwick at the Battle of Barnet which may have taken some explaining at home as Hastings’ wife Katherine was actually Katherine Neville – the Earl of Warwick’s sister (also making him cousin by marriage to Edward IV and Richard, Duke of Gloucester).

 

Hastings took part in the Battle of Tewkesbury which saw the death of Lancastrian Prince Edward and the capture of Henry VI’s queen, Margaret of Anjou. In the aftermath of Tewkesbury Hastings found himself being sent to Calais in order to restore order on behalf of Edward IV. As a consequence of all that loyalty and martial activity he was even more liberally rewarded once the Yorkists were secure on the throne… and he got to go to all of Edward IV’s parties as well. Mancini describes Hastings as being privy to all of Edward’s pleasures ( i.e. all that drinking and debauchery that ruined Edward IV’s health).

 

Of course, like many other of Edward’s courtiers Hastings fought a running smear campaign against the Woodvilles and in particular with Edward’s step-son Thomas Grey, the Earl of Dorset and Elizabeth Woodville’s brother Anthony (Earl Rivers). It was, perhaps, as a consequence of this faction fighting that Hastings sent a messenger to Richard in Middleham when Edward died unexpectedly on April 9, 1483. The Croyland Chronicle suggests that Hastings may have feared for his life.

 

The Woodvilles seemed to be about to conduct a coup which would have seen them in control of the young king Edward V and which would have paid no heed to Edward IV’s clear instructions that Richard, Duke of Gloucester was to be the regent. Things must have looked bad when Hastings tried to stop the proposed coronation of 4 May saying that the Woodvilles should wait until Richard arrived in London.

What we know is thus:

April 9 1483: Edward IV died.

April 11 1483: Edward V proclaimed king. The date for the coronation was fixed on May 4. Edward V was summoned to London from Ludlow. There was an argument between Elizabeth Woodville and Hastings over the number of men who should be sent to bring the king to London. Hastings threatened to go to Calais . Hastings wrote to Richard, Duke of Gloucester in Middleham informing him of his brother’s death and the dangers of a Woodville coup. Richard had the letter by April 20th.

 

April 14 1483: News of Edward IV’s death reaches Ludlow and probably the Duke of Buckingham.

 

April 20: Council sits in London. Arguments between Woodville faction and other older noble stock including Hastings about apparent haste of coronation.

April 24: Earl Rivers sets out for London with Edward V and 2,000 men.

April 26: Richard of Gloucester in Nottingham where a certain Humphrey Percival met with him in secret to discuss the Duke of Buckingham’s proposal to meet with him in Northampton. Earl Rivers met with messengers on the road and agreed to meet Gloucester and Buckingham in Northampton.

April 29: Edward V and Lord Rivers arrive in Northampton. Sir Richard Grey (Edward’s half brother) arrived from London ordering Rivers to hurry to London. Rivers moved on to Stony Stratford- Rivers then went back to Northampton where Buckingham and Goucester had arrived to find the king gone.

April 30: Lord Rivers discovered that he was a prisoner. Sir Richard Grey was arrested as were others of Edward V’s escort. Late on the evening of the 30th Elizabeth Woodville went into sanctuary at Westminster Abbey with her remaining son and her daughters. Dr Morton, (Lord Chancellor and later Cardinal and Henry Tudor’s right hand man) surrendered the Great Seal into Elizabeth Woodville’s keeping. Hastings wrote and told Richard what Morton had done.

April 31: Hastings speaks to the Councilsaying that Gloucester was “fastly faithful to his prince.” (Weir: 85). He also said that Rivers and Grey would receive impartial justice.

May 2: Gloucester despatches Rivers and Grey north. Issues orders that Dr Morton was to be sacked as Lord Chancellor but the bishop was allowed to keep his seat on the Council.

May 3: Edward V and Richard, Duke of Gloucester leave Northampton for London.

May 4: Having spent the night in St Albans the king and the duke travel towards London.

 

To all intents and purposes Richard, Duke of Gloucester was in complete control. The Croyland Chronicle comments on how well Lord Hastings was doing out of the whole affair. But something was wrong. Perhaps Hastings resented the fact that he’d stayed in London at the heart of the danger sending information to Richard for very little reward. Perhaps he didn’t much like the Duke of Buckingham who seemed to be in the ascendant. Perhaps he was a bit concerned about Richard’s power. Certainly he discussed with like minded peers how the regent’s new powers should be kept under control. Was it possible that Hastings changed his mind and began negotiating with the Woodvilles? How was Edward IV’s mistress Jane Shore involved?

 

Jane Shore had transferred her affections from the deceased Edward IV to William Hastings if Mancini and Thomas More (who was a child at the time but who seems to have got his information from the Howard family) are to be believed. Alison Weir comments that Edward IV was generous with his friends in that he wasn’t jealous of his mistresses’ affections. It appears that one of the causes of rivalry between Hastings and Dorset were a shared interest in Mistress Shore (Weir: 55)

 

June 10 1483 Richard sent Sir Richard Ratcliffe north to the mayor of York and the Earl of Northumberland with letters ordering them south to support Richard against the Woodvilles. The letters state that Richard believed that the Woodvilles intended to murder him (Cole:185).

 

Friday June 13 1485: Lord Howard called in at Jane Shore’s house where he collected William, Lord Hastings. Howard and Hastings made their way to a council meeting in the Tower of London. At 9 in the morning Richard arrived at the meeting and sent  Dr Morton the Bishop of Ely for a “mess of strawberries.”   Richard excused himself and returned an hour and a half later in a bit of a temper. Hastings was accused of treason. Lord Stanley was taken prisoner, as was Dr Morton.

 

Hastings was dragged down to the courtyard and beheaded on some timber after his confession had been heard by a cleric. A herald was sent through London denouncing Hastings’ plot and announcing his execution.

 

Monday June 16 1485: Westminster Abbey surrounded by armed men. Richard, Duke of York went into the Tower to keep Edward V company , Richard the Protector having given his word as to the boy’s safety.

 

June 25 1485: Anthony Woodville, Elizabeth Woodville’s brother executed at Pontefract Castle.

 

Richard restored Hastings’ family to its position the month after William was killed with their titles, estates and wealth. Royle and other historians of the Wars of the Roses make the point that Richard’s accusation that Hastings was plotting with the Woodvilles via Jane Shore seems hard to believe. Hastings couldn’t stand the Woodvilles. Was it possible that Hastings feared that Richard would usurp the throne? Did he know something that no one else knew at that time? Did Richard have to silence him – a case of political expediency? Mancini wrote that Hastings needed to be taken out in order for Richard to claim the throne and that Hastings never suspected his friend of duplicity. Medieval politics weren’t just brutal, they were deadly.

Hastings’ death is the first of the historical events chalked up against Richard III – whatever we might think of him as an individual or a monarch.  It was an execution without trial and as such must be seen as murder. Earl Rivers and Richard Grey didn’t get a trial either. And no, he’s not the only monarch to indulge in a spot of murder – with or without the law on his side.

 

Cole, Hubert (1973). The Wars of the Roses. London:Granada Publishing

Royle, Trevor. (2009). The Road to Bosworth Field. London: Little Brown

Weir, Alison. (1992) The Princes in the Tower. New York: Ballantine

 

 

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Filed under Castles, Fifteenth Century, The Plantagenets, Wars of the Roses

The End of Elizabeth Woodville

 

elizabeth woodville

Henry VII’s year didn’t get off to a good start in 1487.  A priest from Oxford turned up in Dublin with a young lad in tow.  Depending upon the source you read the lad, Lambert Simnel, was to be passed off either as Richard, Duke of York – the younger of the two princes in the tower or as Edward, Earl of Warwick who was very much alive and well but in Henry’s custody.  Unsurprsingly Henry VII summoned a council meeting.  What happened next so far as Elizabeth Woodville, dowager queen of England, mother-in-law of Henry VII and mother of Elizabeth of York, Edward V and Richard of York  is open to debate.  Its a certainty that she was deprived of her dower lands which were given to Elizabeth of York.  Elizabeth Woodville was packed up and sent off to the Abbey at Bermondsey where she remained for the next five years until she died.

Polydore Vergil in his official history said that she was sent there by Henry VII as punishment for having made her peace with Richard III in 1484 – when she came out of sanctuary having received written guarantees that no harm would come either to her or to her daughters.  If this is the case then Henry must have found out something about Elizabeth Woodville that made him very cross indeed to have delivered such a belated relegation to the ‘naughty step’.  Certainly there hadn’t been any problem when the doting granny was allowed to be Prince Arthur’s godmother in September 1486.

Franics Bacon, taking his lead from Vergil, writing in 1622 suggested that she was up to her neck in the Lambert Simnel conspiracy arguing that Simond, the priest, couldn’t have known how to train the young impostor.  Therefore someone must have been in the background pulling the necessary strings.

So it cannot be, but that some great person, that knew particularly and familiarly, Edward Plantagenet, had a hand in the business, from whom the priest might take aim. That which is most probable, out of the precedent and subsequent acts, is, that it was the Queen Dowager from whom this action principally originated. For, certain it is that she was a busy, negotiating woman, and in her withdrawing chamber had the fortunate conspiracy for the king against King Richard III. been batched, which the king knew, and remembered perhaps but too well, and was at this time extremely discontent with the king, thinking her daughter, as the king handled the matter, not advanced, but depressed; and none could hold the book so well to prompt and instruct this stage play as she could.

 

Bacon may have had a point but he does ignore the fact that if Elizabeth was plotting against her son-in-law then she was also plotting to turf her daughter off the throne and endanger her new grandson.  This then, surely, would raise the question that maybe she believed that rather than Edward, Earl of Warwick that she thought that the young man was her son Richard of York – the chronicles of the time can’t make their mind up about which Plantagenet sprig Simnel started off as which further muddies the water.  Of course, all that aside, may be Henry didn’t trust Elizabeth’s son from her first marriage Lord Grey.  In any event since there’s no evidence its all rather circumstantial.

Henry VII had good cause for his paranoia whether Elizabeth Woodville was innocent or not. John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln was in London by Henry’s side at the beginning of 1487.  It was he who met with Edward, Earl of Warwick when he was paraded through London and then fetched to Sheen.  He stated categorically that the unfortunate young man was the son of George, Duke of Clarence.  It didn’t stop him sneaking away a few days later in order to join the Yorkists.  By the time of the Battle of Stoke in June that year Henry was demanding that John be taken alive as he wanted to know who else had been conspiring against him.  Perhaps unsurprisingly John de la Pole did not survive the battle.

As for Elizabeth Woodville,  she appeared at court from time to time and she was allowed visitors in Bermondsey. In 1490 she received an annuity and at Christmas 1491 she received a prettily worded Christmas gift of 50 marks from Henry VII. She was even considered as a bride for King James III of Scotland (d. 1488), an unlikely match for Henry VII to make if he believed that Elizabeth had been plotting against him. Henry wasn’t that silly – but there again Elizabeth Woodville didn’t end her days having been queen of two countries either.

We are left with a further option that Elizabeth chose, voluntarily or with a hefty shove from Margaret Beaufort perhaps (but that’s another story), to end her days at Bermondsey, a perfectly respectable decision for a dowager queen in her twilight years.  Historians have observed that she’d rented a house in the precincts of Westminster Abbey in 1486 so perhaps she simply chose to retreat further from the heart of politics; perhaps Westminster held too many memories.

She died in June 1492 and was buried without fanfare next to Edward IV in Windsor having left a will that reflected how far she’d moved away from the world she’d once inhabited,  “I have no wordely goodes to do the Quene’s Grace, my derest doughter, a pleaser with, nether to reward any of my children, according to my hart and mynde, I besech Almyghty Gode to blisse here Grace, with all her noble issue, and with as good hart and mynde as is to me possible, I geve her Grace my blessing, and all the forsaide my children.”  She goes on to request that her “small stuff” and other goods be used to settle any outstanding debts.

So ended the life of the woman who’d created chaos when Edward IV married for love, broke with convention and irritated the Kingmaker.  Before him, the only other monarch or royal heir to marry for love was the Black Prince; after Edward IV and rather more frequently – Henry VIII.  The Stuarts all married diplomatically but not necessarily with any more success.

Elizabeth Woodville was not of a suitable status, she was not a diplomatic asset and when she arrived at court she also come with a huge extended family who upset the balance of power and snaffled all the best marriages but she remains the consort that anyone with an interest in English History can name – apart from those unfortunate ladies of her grandson’s choosing.

 

Baldwin David, (2002) Elizabeth Woodville: Mother of the Princes in the Tower.  Stroud: The History Press

 

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Filed under Queens of England, The Plantagenets, The Tudors, Wars of the Roses

Edward IV’s wily mistress…or should that be elusive mistress?

images-17I’ve become side tracked by Edward IV’s mistresses and illegitimate children. I’ve already posted about his holiest mistress – Lady Eleanor Butler and I posted last year about the ‘merriest mistress’ Jane, or rather Elizabeth, Shore. I may write another post about her in due course. That just leaves the wiliest mistress – who would appear to be Elizabeth Lucie or Lucy nee Wayte and who often merits only a sentence in works on Edward IV  because unlike the other two very little is known about her.

There were other women as well but they seem to have been so numerous and so unimportant in the great scheme of things that no one bothered to jot down their names. Polydore Vergil writing after 1505 for his Anglica Historia commissioned by Henry VII suggests that Edward may have made overtures in some very inappropriate places – including the Earl of Warwick’s wider household “and yt caryeth soome colour of truthe, which commonly is reportyd, that king Edward showld have assayed to do soome unhonest act in the earls howse; for as muche as the king was a man who wold readyly cast an eye upon yowng ladyes, and loove them inordinately.” Obviously it wasn’t in Vergil’s best interest to sell the York king as a choir boy but then neither did anyone else. Commines noted that much of Edward IV’s problem was his interest in pleasure. Mancini described him as “licentious in the extreme.” He also wrote “he (Edward) pursued with no discrimination the married and unmarried the noble and lowly: however he took none by force.”  According to Ross, the Croyland Chronicle was amazed that Edward was able to rule a kingdom whilst partaking of so many “sensual enjoyments.” Gregory’s Chronicle, which Ross notes is the most contemporary of the reports, commented that Edward wasn’t very chaste…something of an understatement it would appear.

 

Sir Thomas More, who was only four when Edward died, wrote about Elizabeth Lucy and seems to have mistaken her with Eleanor Butler – either that or Edward spent his time running around the countryside promising to marry unsuitable widows whenever they put up a bit of resistance to his advances. He writes, “The Duchess (Cecily, Duchess of York, Edward IV’s mother), with these words nothing appeased, and seeing the King (Edward IV) so set thereon that she could not pull him back, so highly she disdained it that under pretext of her duty to God, she devised to disturb this marriage [to Elizabeth Woodville], and rather to help that he should marry one Dame Elizabeth Lucy, whom the King had also not long before gotten with child. Wherefore the King’s mother objected openly against his marriage, as it were in discharge of her conscience, that the King was betrothed to Dame Elizabeth Lucy, and her husband before God….Whereupon Dame Elizabeth Lucy was sent for. And although she was by the King’s mother and many others filled with good encouragement-to affirm that she was betrothed unto the King-yet when she was solemnly sworn to say the truth, she confessed that they were never betrothed. However, she said his Grace spoke so loving words unto her that she verily hoped he would have married her, and that if it had not been for such kind words, she would never have showed such kindness to him, to let him so kindly get her with child.”

 

So just who was Dame Elizabeth Lucy? Ashdown-Hill, pro-Richardian historian, identifies her as the daughter of Thomas Wayte of Hampshire. Further digging around reveals that this is not necessarily the case. Michael Hicks notes that  More was wrong about the pre-contract and goes on to suggest that he was also wrong about the lady’s name as there is no one by the name of Elizabeth Lucy in the records – at least not some one of reasonably noble birth. Digging around on the Internet yielded an interesting forum discussion which identifies Margaret FitzLewis widow of Sir William Lucy. Its perhaps not surprising then that historians have placed her social status as anything from the wife/daughter of the peer of the realm to good-time girl or  as the Seventeenth Century historian Buck described her – a ‘wanton wench.’

 

Byrne is much more clear cut in her introduction to the Lisle Letters. She places Elizabeth Lucy as being a nineteen-year-old widow  of  Lancastrian connections from an established Hampshire family holding a number of manors when she met the king.

 

Whoever the elusive Elizabeth really was she is the mother of Arthur Plantagenet (born anytime between 1461 and 1475 depending upon which source you read but Byrne opts for 1462) who is referenced as having family in Hampshire, a fact which is corroborated in the Lisle Letters which locates the Wayte family, or parts of it, in Titchfield. Arthur also had a sister called Elizabeth (born 1464 ish), though apparently we can’t even agree on that, some researchers argue that actually she was called Margaret…so there’s either a name error or possibly two daughters.  And of course, some historians argue that because of the possible difference in their ages Arthur and Elizabeth might not have had the same mother (yes I know, if there’s only about three years between them that its not an issue but there is a reference which suggests Arthur was born in 1475 -so a lot of ifs, buts and maybes.)

Any way, Elizabeth daughter of Edward IV married Thomas Lumley of Durham. The Duchess of Cambridge is numbered among her descendants. Further evidence as to Elizabeth’s royal father is provided by the papal dispensation which allowed Elizabeth’s son Roger to marry Anne Conyers – the two of them being related within the prohibited degrees of affinity (something like fourth cousins) Testamenta Eboracensia 3 (Surtees Soc., vol. 45) (1865): 355).

History isn’t totally sure what happened to Elizabeth Lucy nee Wayte. She simply disappears from the records which suggests that either the king was no longer interested in her, she died or if she was from the lower social orders simply got on with her life along with countless other undocumented medieval people.  Putting a post on Elizabeth Lucy together is rather like a composite character exercise!

Edward IV did have other illegitimate children, not counting his children with Elizabeth Woodville who found themselves delegitimised by their Uncle Richard, but history doesn’t provide them with mothers. Grace Plantagenet, for example, turns up at the funeral of Elizabeth Woodville but beyond that we know very little.  There is a tantalising hint of an unknown daughter marrying into the Musgrave family but it was unsupported by any evidence. There’s a better evidenced possibility of the wife of the 6th Baron Audley being one of Edward IV’s daughters – though I’m sure that there are probably arguments for her being someone else entirely!

 

Ashdown-Hill, John (1999) ‘The Elusive Mistress: Elizabeth Lucy and Her Family’ in The Richardian  11 (June 1999), pp. 490–505. 31

Crawford, Anne. (2007)  The Yorkists: The History of a Dynasty. London: Continuum

Given-Wilson & A. Curteis (1984) Royal Bastards of Medieval London:Routledge and Keegan

England

Hicks, Michael. (2002) English Political Culture in the Fifteenth Century.  New York: Routledge

Hicks, Micael (2004) Edward IV London: Bloomsbury

Ross, Charles Derek. (1997)  Edward IV (English Monarchs Series)  New Haven and London: Yale University Press

St. Clare Byrne, Murial (1983) The Lisle Letters: An Abridgement

Weir, Alison (1994) The Princes In The Tower  London:Random House

http://www.thomasmorestudies.org/docs/Richard.pdf

Elizabeth Waite, in Lundy, Darryl. The Peerage: A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain as well as the royal families of Europe.

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Filed under Fifteenth Century, Kings of England, surprising connections, The Plantagenets, Wars of the Roses

Eleanor Butler -the holiest harlot or an unrecognised queen

images-17Edward IV has a bit of a reputation for liking, and being liked by, the ladies… he once said that his mistresses were the merriest, wiliest and  holiest in the land. The merriest naughty lady was Jane Shore, the best known of Edward’s mistresses. Lady Eleanor Butler nee Talbot finished up in a nunnery, so presumably she was the holy mistress and the topic of today’s post. The wiliest mistress was Elizabeth Lucy/Lucie or Wayte by whom Edward had at least two children.  Sir Thomas More thought that it was Elizabeth Lucy with whom Edward was pre-contracted but there are other sources including Mancini and later Philip de Commines who discuss Edward’s marriage to another woman before Elizabeth Woodville.

 

History, in order to be fact relies on evidence which can, of course, be misleading.  Much of the evidence relating to Edward’s marriage to Eleanor Butler is circumstantial and the sources are often rather biased.  Wagner makes the very good point that Margaret of Anjou and the Lancastrians never made any reference to a pre-existing marriage…but then the marriage was a secret. Mancini wasn’t a big fan of Richard III so the fact that he reports a sermon which identified the king’s children as illegitimate has to have some clout.  For the sake of fairness I should point out that Vergil wrote an account of the same sermon and categorically states that no one mentioned illegitimacy…feeling confused yet?  The Croyland Chronicle was troubled by no doubts at all.  It very clearly states that the whole thing was cooked up by Richard to justify the usurpation of the throne.  The Richard III Society have rather a lot to say on the subject and plenty of evidence to support the view that Richard wasn’t making up the marriage but none of the evidence is incontrovertible.  It is a deductive process.

 

We can be sure that Lady Eleanor Butler, nee Talbot, was daughter to the Earl of Shrewsbury and Margaret Beauchamp. When she was thirteen she was married off to Sir Thomas Butler who was the son and heir of Lancastrian Lord Sudeley.  Thomas died in 1461 but before the Battle of Towton – though there was a Thomas Butler who died during the Yorkshire battle on the Lancastrian side. The evidence for the date of Thomas’s death is discussed by Ashdown-Hill (who frequently writes in the Ricardian) who notes that the inquisition post mortem was dated to Henry’s reign rather than Edward IV’s.  It is possible he died from injuries sustained at the Battle of Blore Heath.  Eleanor should have been a wealthy widow.

 

In the rather complicated game of chess that was landownership Eleanor’s father-in-law took back one of the two manors that had been settled upon her with her marriage to his only son. A licence was required for the transfer. This was neither applied for nor issued so the Crown promptly confiscated both properties that were Eleanor’s inheritance.  By this time the king was not Henry VI but Edward IV.  The confiscation may or may not have been because of Sudeley’s Lancastrian sympathies – it might simply have been part of a strengthening of the York hand.

 

Eleanor went along to petition Edward for the return of her property (you may be familiar with a similar story – there are several parallels between Eleanor’s plight and that of Elizabeth Woodville.)  At which point the teenage Edward became very friendly indeed with the pretty widow who was slightly older than him. In fact he became so friendly that he may have promised to marry Eleanor.  Interestingly if its a question of a pattern repeating itself it’s worth noting that Edward attempted to bribe Elizabeth Woodville’s father and when that didn’t work there was the story of the threat of violence which didn’t work either so that Edward found that the only way to enjoy rather more of Elizabeth Woodville’s company was to offer her marriage…note the word story…hard evidence is in short supply.   Had Edward been much more naive three years earlier when he is supposed to have pre-contracted to Eleanor Butler?  Or did he want to avoid marriage already having one secret wife?   Ashdown-Hill speculates that Edward’s promise  to Eleanor took place just after his coronation.

In the Middle Ages, the promise of marriage followed by intercourse was marriage and recognized as such by the Church although it required the irregular marriage to be regularised before any children could inherit. No priest was required for an irregular marriage and actually there really would be no witnesses around (one hopes) to testify as to whether a promise of marriage had been made prior to any activity that could be deemed naughty.

In 1483 Duke Richard of Gloucester claimed that Edward’s children were all illegitimate because Edward was pre-contracted to another woman before marrying Elizabeth Woodville. Cue Robert Stillington to step forward. He claimed that not only had the pre-contract existed but that he had witnessed an exchange of vows – so, much more organized that a quick promise to marry Eleanor at some point in the future whilst muttering sweet nothings and fumbling with the laces of her dress.  The next thing you know Parliament was merrily constructing the Titulus Regius which proclaimed Edward’s bigamy to the world and bastardized all his children including the young King Edward – who swiftly lost his crown to his uncle.  It is worth mentioning at this point that Henry VII had the Titulus Regius reversed prior to his marriage to Elizabeth of York who was also bastardised by the proceedings.

 

This all leaves many, many problems. Firstly, you’d have thought that Eleanor Butler might have had something to say about her spouse getting re-hitched. Certainly you’d have thought her family might have had something to say on the subject – it is often suggested that Eleanor was a poor widow rather like Elizabeth Woodville with no one to speak up for her but Eleanor’s sister was the Duchess of Norfolk. Her mother was Margaret Beauchamp – the eldest daughter of Richard Beauchamp the Earl of Warwick – her half-aunt was Anne Beauchamp, Countess of Warwick meaning that the Kingmaker was her uncle and yes you’d have thought that Talbot being the husband of the eldest sister would have been the Earl of Warwick, he certainly thought he should have been and it definitely caused ill will amongst the Beauchamps and their respective spouses. But all that aside, Eleanor was not on her own in the world and even if she had been she’d already demonstrated that she was capable of speaking for herself when she petitioned Edward for the return of her manors. There was a large network of noble relations who surely to goodness would have taken a dim view of Edward doing the dirty on Eleanor? Unless they had something to gain perhaps? Or to lose?

 

Of course, since Edward married Elizabeth Woodville in secret it would have been impossible for anyone to jump up and down about just causes and impediments at the time of the marriage.  Also it has been suggested that Eleanor Butler had no children and seems to have been disposed to a contemplative life. She may have been quite happy to let sleeping dogs lie…sadly she didn’t leave a deathbed confession witnessed by a posse of nuns that would have settled the issue without further ado.

 

Thirdly, how very convenient it was for Richard that Edward was dead before he chose to mention the embarrassing news that his brother had made one too many marriage vow – and just before Edward V’s coronation as well, such a co-incidence!  However, if Stillington didn’t tell Richard about the marriage until after Edward’s death Richard could hardly be expected to take action any sooner.

Fourthly, just why didn’t Stillington spill the beans earlier? That’s easier to explain- though still circumstantial. Stillington managed to move from being someone fairly insignificant to the keeper of the Privy Seal as well as Bishop of Bath and Wells during the reign of Edward IV– co-incidentally at the same time the marriage of Edward to Elizabeth Woodville became public knowledge.

 

Interestingly Stillington found himself in the Tower in 1478 along with Edward’s other brother, George, Duke of Clarence. It has been alleged that Clarence, who may or may not have been drowned in a vat of Malmsey, had been told by Stillington of the pre-contract – hence the private execution…although if I was Edward, I would probably have ensured that Stillington had a nasty accident with some marbles at the top of a steep set of steps at about the same time, if he had indeed been telling tales or there was even the remotest possibility of tale telling.  Edward was capable of that sort of behaviour – just look what happened to Henry VI on the very night that Edward arrived in London on May 21, 1471.

 

Legally speaking Richard should have had the matter tried in an ecclesiastical court to be absolutely certain that his nephew didn’t have a claim to the throne and equally if Edward had been married to Eleanor Butler presumably he could have got a Papal Dispensation in order to then marry Elizabeth Woodville – though his grandson, Henry VIII, knew all about the difficulties of that particular route.   Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick – Kingmaker and Eleanor Butler’s uncle might have had a view on it…a good reason for saying nothing, especially as Elizabeth Woodville was introduced to the court as Mrs Edward Plantagenet at the very point that the Kingmaker was in France negotiating for the marriage of a French princess to Edward.

 

Edward married Elizabeth Woodville in 1464 three years after his supposed marriage to Eleanor – historians tend to accept that she was definitely his mistress. The only real difference between Eleanor’s so-called marriage, if it happened, and Elizabeth’s was that Edward acknowledged Elizabeth as his bride.  Elizabeth had taken the precaution of having her mother as an additional witness but none of the testimonies survive today, or if they do they’re tucked away in some dark corner of the archives.  This means that either Edward made false promises to Eleanor in order to have his wicked way; he intended to marry Eleanor but then the political situation changed and besides which he’d had his wicked way; he was married to Eleanor but both parties decided to pretend it had never happened; or Richard made the whole thing up in order to usurp his nephew’s throne.

 

And whilst we’re on the subject of irregular marriages – which Edward and Elizabeth Woodville’s marriage was then a papal dispensation was required to ‘regularise’ the whole thing and preferably before children were born because if the marriage remained irregular then whilst the union itself was legal the children of the union couldn’t inherit. As it happens there is no evidence of Edward seeking a papal dispensation to regularize his marriage to Elizabeth – it would appear that Richard III was quite right – he was the heir not his nephews – but there was absolutely no need to go dredging up a pre-contract.  It has been suggested that Edward IV didn’t ask the pope for a dispensation to regularise his irregular marriage to Elizabeth Woodville because that would have meant deceiving the Pope about his marriage to Eleanor Butler – which moves us from circumstantial evidence to mind reading.

 

Eleanor took herself off to a convent where she died in June 1468 in the Convent of the White Carmelites in Norwich as a lay sister. She’d been a benefactress to the nuns before joining them behind the convent walls. Interestingly, because there is something of a mystery in the whole business Ashdown-Hill identifies the fact that Eleanor held land that she didn’t inherit, didn’t gain through her marriage and which she couldn’t have afforded to buy – indicating that someone had given Eleanor the land…that someone – well, Edward IV…though Ashdown-Hill doesn’t provide the reader with a handy grant signed and sealed with the Crown stamp meaning that it is possible that someone else might have given her the land – though we don’t know who.  It’s also worth mentioning that Ashdown-Hill is very much in favour of Richard III.   You never know though, all sorts of interesting documents turn up in archives around the world from time to time – perhaps one day someone will uncover some incontrovertible evidence about Lady Eleanor Butler and Edward IV, in the meantime there’s plenty to speculate about.

Edward V was born in 1470, two years after Eleanor Butler died – if his father had been pre-contracted the fact that Eleanor was dead would still not have made his marriage to Elizabeth  Woodville legal and even if it was his only marriage it was still an irregular marriage.  It wasn’t as though Edward didn’t know that a papal dispensation was required to regularise the union – his own grandparents Anne Mortimer and Richard of Conisbrough required one- and you’d have thought that one of his advisors might have mentioned it in passing.

 

Ashdown-Hill, John. (2010) Eleanor the Secret Queen: The Woman who put Richard III on the throne. Stroud, The History Press

Wagner, John A. (2001) Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses Oxford: ABC Clio

 

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Filed under Fifteenth Century, Kings of England, The Plantagenets, Wars of the Roses

Arthur Plantagenet -not quite royal and not a traitor.

200px-ArmsOfArthurPlantagenet_ViscountLisle.jpgWho would have thought that Henry VIII had a maternal uncle  whom he loved very much. He once said that Arthur had the kindest heart of anyone he knew.

Arthur Plantagenet was Elizabeth of York’s illegitimate half-brother. His mother was Elizabeth Lucie or Lucy or possibly Wayte. Thomas More describes her as a naïve girl who believed Edward IV’s blandishments. There were other mistresses and other children. History has not provided a clear list of which children belong to which mother or how long Edward’s various relationships lasted or indeed whether he was pre-contracted to any of them before his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville.

In any event, young Arthur was born in Calais and is mentioned in an exchequer account of 1477 – assuming that Edward didn’t have any other natural male sons kicking around Calais at that time, and then vanishes into historical mist and fog  for a time or, depending upon which source you read, is brought up in Edward IV’s court. He emerges after the difficulties of 1483-1485 in Elizabeth of York’s household. On her death he moved into Henry VII’s household. He then appears to have been inherited by his half-nephew in 1509. He became an ‘esquire of the king’s bodyguard,’ and was apparently much loved by Henry – a dangerous position to hold as poor Arthur came to recognize.

 

In 1511 he married Elizabeth Dudley the widow of Henry VII’s tax collector. The position of husband having fallen vacant because young Henry VIII had executed his father’s two foremost tax collectors in a move guaranteed to win friends and influence people. Elizabeth also happened to be the daughter of Edward Grey, Viscount Lisle (who just happened to be the younger brother of John Grey of Groby who was married to Elizabeth Woodville prior to his death at the Second Battle of St Albans in 1461- making for a very complicated family tree.)   Now would probably also be a good time to mention the fact that Elizabeth Grey is Robert Dudley’s granny – which just makes things even more incestuous when you consider Elizabeth I’s interest in that young man.

 

Back to Arthur:
 he turns up in the records on 8 February 1513 having obtained protection from his creditors- he seems to have been frequently troubled by there being too much month for his money- on the proviso of going to sea with an expedition to Brittany. The ship in which he sailed had a nasty accident with a rock and he was saved from death by something close to a miracle. Understandably he took himself off on a holy pilgrimage to Walsingham to give thanks for his safe return from the sea.

His experience didn’t stop him from returning to Europe where he joined his nephew on his European military adventure culminating in the Battle of the Spurs  which was more of a skirmish than a battle whilst the real action was taking place at home on the English Scottish Border – the Battle of Flodden.

By the following year Arthur, who was in Henry’s good books, was Sheriff of Hampshire and a captain on the vice-admiral’s vessel, the Trinity Sovereign. He turns up at the Field of the Cloth of Gold and was one of the king’s carvers. He also seems to have played an important role in the life of young Henry Fitzroy, Henry VIII’s natural son by Bessie Blount. In 1524 he became a Knight of the Garter.   As is the way of these things he became a widower and remarried in 1528 to Honor Basset nee Grenville.

 

On March 24 1538 he was made Deputy of Calais and then things started to go very wrong. In addition to personal debt; there were the shifting sands of the king’s religious preferences and the faith of the locals; keeping Calais’s garrison fed and watered; keeping the local elite happy- and they frequently weren’t very happy and spent a lot of time trying to stab him in the back; keeping Cromwell informed as well as providing him with a new pet dog (no I’m not making that up – it’s all there in Arthur’s letters) and then there was keeping his wife happy and ensuring his children received an appropriate education. Ultimately things did not go well – there were simply too many plates to keep spinning. Arthur was summoned back to London in 1540 and sent to the Tower whilst his wife and daughters were kept under house arrest in Calais.

Rumour had it that it was Honor who was the traitor rather than her unfortunate spouse – whatever the case it seems to be agreed by Bishop Foxe (who didn’t like her- suspecting that she was a closet Catholic) and another chronicler that she lost her senses and never fully recovered them as a consequence of  Arthur’s arrest and imprisonment.

 

Unfortunately for Arthur  there was a plot. His chaplain, Gregory Botolph had come up with the idea of handing Calais over to the Pope in the person of Cardinal Pole, who was of course, a Plantagenet and Arthur’s cousin.  Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury styled Arthur ‘cousin’ in her correspondence a fact which Henry VIII must have been aware.  By now the Tudor monarch was ageing and vicious.  Being a Plantagenet had become exceedingly dangerous to one’s health as Margaret Pole was to discover.  Botolph managed to evade capture even though an act of attainder was passed against him. He evaded the king’s wrath, unlike his fellow conspirators – Edmund Brindholme, Clement Philpot and Adam Damplip- who presumably paid the full price for their treason – though I need to find confirmation of that.

 

There was no direct evidence against Arthur. So naturally he was released? Er, actually – no, he wasn’t. Arthur remained a prisoner in the Tower until 1542. It seems unfair that Arthur should have been rounded up as a consequence of Botolph’s misdemeanours as Arthur had spent considerable time and effort trying to get his chaplain a living, first in Lowestoft and then in Kettlebarston in Suffolk as demonstrated in his various letters.  It seems even more unfair that Arthur who had served the Tudors most loyally should have been so poorly treated. At the beginning of Henry VIII’s reign a family member could be looked upon with warmth, especially one who could never make a claim on the throne because of his illegitimacy but by 1540 Henry VIII had contemplated forwarding the claims of his own illegitimate son so the bar-sinister wasn’t the protection it had once been.  Arthur languished in the  Tower – Cromwell fell, Katherine Howard was married and discarded, her various lovers executed along with the erstwhile queen.

In March 1541 Honor Plantagenet, Lady Lisle and her daughters were released. Their jewels were returned to them and £900 made available to cover their debts and transport them wherever they wanted.  Honor ultimately returned to her home county of Cornwall where she died in 1566.

Arthur remained in the Tower, although he was allowed to walk upon the ramparts.  According to one story Arthur saw his nephew sailing along the Thames in the royal barge, shouted and waved at him reminding henry that he’d locked his uncle up and left him there.  As you might expect, this is anecdotal and not back by any concrete evidence.  Arthur must have thought that things were looking up when his collar of the Garter was restored to him. Two months later Henry VIII sent him a diamond ring via the person of his secretary Sir Thomas Wriothesley– Arthur was possibly so overwhelmed by relief “immoderate joy” was the way that Holinshed phrased it that he had a heart attack. He died in the Tower, of old age rather than a sharp pain in the neck, and was buried there, leaving his wife distraught with grief whilst he himself became a footnote in Ambassador Marillac’s letter to Francis I. “Lord Lisle, formerly deputy of Calais, being out of trouble and his Order, honour and goods restored, died a few days afterwards.” (4 March 1542)

 

Papers were seized in Lisle’s house at the time of his arrest – 3,000 of them. They were mainly letters to him and his wife, ranging in date between 1533 and 1540, from ambassadors, princes, governors of French and Flemish frontier towns: he knew them through his role of courtier, politician and Deputy of Calais. There were letters to and from friends and agents in England; including one which suggests that sending Anne Boleyn a pet monkey wasn’t one of Arthur’s better ideas. There was also letters between him and his wife during visits of one or the other to England.  Thomas Cromwell complained about Arthur’s letter writing. He said that Arthur wrote trivia that was of no political interest what-so-ever and to please get a grip on his meanderings.  Of course, so far as historians are concerned they couldn’t disagree more. The Lisle Letters are one of the most important collection of Tudor documents that we have available to us.  They can be purchased in six volumes or one abridged selection.

 

As an aside it is worth noting that Arthur’s daughter Frances was an ancestress of George Monck who famously, or infamously depending on your viewpoint, fought on both sides of the English Civil War

 

 

‘Henry VIII: March 1542, 1-10’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 17, 1542, ed. James Gairdner and R H Brodie (London, 1900), pp. 62-71 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol17/pp62-71 [accessed 18 January 2016].

Notes and Queries (1926) CLI (aug21): 129-130. doi: 10.1093/nq/CLI.aug21.129.

Plantagenet Ancestry: A Study In Colonial And Medieval Families, 2nd Edition

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Filed under Fifteenth Century, Sixteenth Century, The Plantagenets, The Tudors