Tag Archives: King Richard III

Cecily Neville, Duchess of York

Joan BeaufortCecily, the youngest child of Joan Beaufort and Ralph Neville, was born on 3 May 1415 at Raby Castle.  Like the rest of her siblings an advantageous marriage was arranged for her by her parents.  She was possibly married by 1427 to Richard of York when she reached the age of twelve certainly she had become betrothed to her father’s ward when she was nine and Richard was thirteen.

Once she became a duchess Cecily was required to leave her childhood behind her  in Raby and fulfil court duties wherever Henry VI resided or else to run their main residence of Fotheringhay Castle.  With the patronage of the king’s aunt Richard whose father had been executed for his part in the Southampton Plot was able to regain lands which had been forfeit.  Cecily’s accounts and correspondence reveal that she was busy in helping her husband run his estates and also in the running up of bills – Cecily appears to be rather a heavy shopper who did not stint on expensive fabrics and jewels.  In 1443-44 she spent £608 on clothes – Richard kept a close eye on her spending and probably had a long discussion about the need to buy matched pearls when he saw the bill.

The couple’s first child, a daughter called Anne was born in 1439.  Two years later Richard became governor general of France and the couple moved to Rouen.  It was in Rouen where Cecily’s son Edward was born.  A later smear campaign would suggest that an archer called Blaybourne was Edward’s father rather than the duke – evidence for this particular conspiracy theory comes from the fact that Edward’s baptism was a low key affair unlike that of his younger brother Edmund and that Richard was elsewhere waging war on the key dates.     Amy Licence observes that if Edward was premature this would not apply and would explain why he was baptised quickly and without fuss.  She also notes that the concept of full term is a moveable feast and that equally Cecily could have been pregnant when she arrived in France making the evidence of Richard’s location an irrelevance.  The fact that Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and even George, Duke of Clarence made the accusation is really neither here nor there given the circumstances in which they decided to have doubts about Edward’s right to be king…that would be just before they staged their rebellion in 1469.  It was reported at the time by the Milanese ambassador.  Michael Hicks speculates as to whether Cecily may have assisted in the campaign to remove Edward from the throne. It would have to be said, does it really matter very much in any event as Richard of York acknowledged Edward as his son?

Whilst in Rouen Cecily would have two more children and become the hostess of Margaret of Anjou in 1445 after Henry VI had married her by proxy.  Shortly after that Cecily returned to England and her family continued to expand.  In 1447 Richard was appointed Lieutenant of Ireland, Cecily went with him to Dublin, but his relationship with Henry VI was becoming increasingly difficult.  Richard began to liken himself to Henry VI’s uncle Good Duke Humphrey as he was excluded from what he saw as his rightful share of power.

Cecily inevitably became embroiled in the Wars of the Roses being present in Ludlow after the Battle of Ludford Bridge in 1559.  Richard’s flight with Cecily’s brother and nephew resulted in him being attainted for treason.  Cecily lost everything and was sent off to stay with her sister Anne, Duchess of Buckingham.  Cecily was permitted to attend the Coventry parliament where her husband was attainted in order to plead his cause to the king.  Whilst Richard was attainted his men were only fined and Henry VI issued 1000 marks a year for her upkeep and that of her children.

The following year the wheel of Fortune turned once again. Richard of York, the earls of Salisbury and Warwick returned to England. Briefly Cecily was a finger’s tip away from the crown.  John Harding’s chronicle compares Margaret of Anjou with Proud Cis and concludes Cecily was a more appropriate sort of queen not least because she was under her husband’s control (clearly the chronicler hadn’t received word of Cecily’s shopping trips).  Of course, it all went hideously wrong and Richard ended up with his head on York’s city wall wearing a paper crown in the aftermath of the Battle of Wakefield (30 December 1460).

 

Once her son Edward became king after the Battle of Towton (29 March 1461) she was effectively the first lady of the court until such time as he married.   Her relationship with sister Anne can perhaps be seen in the fact that one of the first things that was done was to confirm Anne’s dower rights as Duchess of Buckingham.  Edward also ensured that he wouldn’t have to worry about his mother’s desire for rich clothing and jewellery.  He gave her lands valued at 5,000 marks a year.   She was one of the wealthiest women in England. She had additional income from customs revenue on wool.

Cecily even styled herself “queen by right,” after Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville became public knowledge – much to her irritation; like the Earl of Warwick she had been working towards an alliance with a European princess.

As the end of the 1460’s approached festering family resentments erupted into rebellion. Cecily’s relationship with Edward became increasingly difficult and in 1478 when Edward had George drowned in a vat of Malmsey Cecily left court and stayed away until Edward died. The Yorkist matriarch then supported her son Richard in bypassing the claims of her grandsons who were declared illegitimate.  With the death of Richard at the Battle of Bosworth in August 1485 Cecily retired from public life and took holy vows.

 

Cecily died on 31 May 1495 having outlived all her sons and all but two of her daughters. She had lived the last years of her life along religious lines – giving rise to a reputation for piety. She had been the mother of two kings and was the grandmother of Henry VII’s queen.  She was buried in Fotheringhay next to her husband.  Their tomb was broken down during the Reformation but re-established by her two times great grand-daughter Elizabeth I.

Laynesmith, J.L. Cecily Duchess of York

Amy License. (2015) Cecily Neville: Mother of Kings. Stroud: Amberley Publishing

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Richard III windows Leicester Cathedral

IMG_7218It’s more than a year since King Richard III was reinterred at Leicester Cathedral in March 2015 after famously being discovered under a car park.

In addition to the rather large slab of Swaledale stone fashioned to represent a sarcophagus there are two fine new windows in the north side of St Katherine’s chapel designed by artist Thomas Denny which are truly beautiful.

The reds and golds are particularly eye-catching.  The more you look; the more you see. There’s even a football in the window for those who look carefully enough – a reminder of Leicester’s successful 2015-2016 football season.

I love the window depicting Leicester’s archeology including mosaics, Saxon treasure and  a skeleton – presumably Richard’s.IMG_7242The window on the left shows women tending to bodies in the aftermath of battle – Bosworth, although it could, of course, be any Wars of the Roses field. Above the women a window depicts a body slung over a horse reflecting Richard’s last undignified journey back to Leicester. Study of his skeleton revealed that his body was not treated honourably in the aftermath of his death.

The central panel depicts the road to Emmaus.  Above this scene young man learns to ride a horse at Middleham Castle and three children play at Fotheringay. Richard was born in Fotheringay Castle in 1452 and grew up in Middleham in the care of his Neville relations who held Middleham at that time.  Later it would become his own home.

IMG_7243The window on the right depicts Richard and Anne Neville mourning the death of their son Edward of Middleham who died on April 9 1484.  Richard’s journey through the shadow of the Valley of Death continued with the death of Anne in March 1485.  Richard was dead five months later.  Above the main panels there’s a boar – Richard’s emblem; the Battle of Tewkesbury and Kirkby Muxloe built by Lord Hastings.  There’s an oak and a castle representing a kingdom.  Richard became king in 1483 after serving his brother Edward IV loyally throughout his life.  Richard’s motto was “Loyalty binds me.”

Richard  reigned for two years. He was the last Yorkist Plantagenet king of England. It is the events leading up to his claiming the kingdom and the disappearance of his two nephews which focus people’s attention away from the loyal and good service that he fulfilled on his brother’s behalf. There’s a discarded crown as well in the main panel on the right as well as an orb and sceptre. Richard can be seen riding across Leicester’s bridge on his way to battle.

Half a millennia after Shakespeare’s hatchet job on the last Plantagenet kingIMG_7244, Richard III has acquired a breath taking monument which seeks to redress the balance.  I’m not saying the man was a saint – he was a medieval king and generally speaking they probably weren’t the type of people you’d wish to meet down a dark alley but neither was he the monster that the Tudors portrayed. Politics was a bloody and brutal affair-just ask Lord Hastings who was summarily executed for reasons we don’t fully understand even today and equally consider Francis, Lord Lovell who remained loyal to Richard when all hope was lost.

DSC_0055.jpgI’m not sure it it was intentDSC_0055.jpgonal or not but knowing the story of Richard III and his missing nephews I found it impossible to look at the Emmaus scene without pondering on the fates of King Edward V and his brother Richard of York – although the two young men are too old to be the princes their presence is something that continues to haunt Richard’s history.  Whether the question as to what happened to the princes will ever be answered is another matter – and generally speaking there’s nothing like a conspiracy theory to keep writers and academics in employment.

 

But that’s not to say the truth won’t eventually surface. We now know that Richard III wasn’t the hunchbacked monster of Tudor propaganda but that he did have scoliosis which developed as he grew to maturity – so a sort of middle ground between two differing historical views. Perhaps more than anything Richard III was the one thing which no medieval king could afford to be – ultimately unlucky.  He was the last English king to die on the battlefield.  Henry Tudor dated his reign to the day before Bosworth to ensure an act of attainder hung over the heads of all the nobility who’d been loyal to Richard.

But for all that, the one medieval king who most people can name whether they’re interested in history or not is King Richard III.

A trip to Leicester can also involve a visit to Bosworth Field and Kirkby Muxloe Castle.  There’s even a Richard III experience opposite the cathedral though I must admit I didn’t avail myself of that particular facility. I was more than happy with Thomas Denny’s windows.

 

 

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Jane Shore

The Penance of Jane Shore in St Paul's Church c.1793 by William Blake 1757-1827Jane, or rather Elizabeth, Lambert was  a Londoner.  Her father John Lambert was a successful merchant who ensured his daughter received a good education and  spent time at court.  It is probable that John loaned money to King Edward IV to pursue his campaign against Margaret of Anjou and the Lancastrians.  By 1466  Jane was married to a goldsmith by the name of William Shore on account, it is thought that young Jane attracted rather a lot of attention at court from wealthy men – sadly all of whom appeared to have been married.  One of her admirers was Lord Hastings another one was the king himself – Edward IV.

In 1467 Jane’s marriage to William Shore was annulled.  The cause given is Shore’s impotence which is a bit puzzling because he wasn’t an old man, even though Sir Thomas More described the goldsmith as ‘frigid.’  Even more peculiar, some ten years later, King Edward  gave his protection to Shore and his servants.  It is difficult to know whether William stood back to make way for his king – he certainly never remarried- or whether he just wasn’t interested in women.  In any event, Jane swiftly became King Edward’s favourite mistress.  He described her as the ‘merriest harlot in the realm.’  Her concern for others didn’t just extend to her ex-husband.  Even Sir Thomas More admitted that rather than profiting from her relationship with Edward IV herself she used her influence to help other people – a bit of a contrast with Edward’s lady wife who managed to irritate rather a lot of people by lining her own pockets and those of her family.

When King Edward died she became the mistress of Thomas Grey, stepson of the King and then took up with Lord Hastings- who’d admired her for more than two decades at this point. She was then implicated in a plot purported to have been formulated by Lord Hastings to bring about the overthrow of Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

According to Margaret Beaufort who had it from her husband Lord Stanley, Richard  had concluded the best thing to do was to become king himself.  Hastings had summoned Richard from Middleham when Elizabeth Woodville set a plan in motion to keep all the power within Woodville hands.  As a result of Hastings sending a messenger north, Richard was able to intercept the young king on his way from Ludlow to London and scupper the Woodvilles chances of controlling the kingdom.  Elizabeth Woodville had immediately sought sanctuary in Westminster along with her daughters and the Duke of York.  Hastings apparently had a change of heart once he realised that Richard was contemplating changing the role of protector for that of monarch and immediately began plotting against Richard.

Jane was apparently a key figure in this murky world of royal conspiracy – bizarrely Margaret Beaufort (yes, the mother of Henry Tudor – Lancastrian claimant to the throne), sent a letter explaining all of this to Elizabeth Woodville.  It’s not so far fetched because Margaret had made her submission to the Yorkist king following the Battle of Barnet in 1471.  At that stage no one thought of her teenage son as a possible king.  In the intervening years Margaret had become sufficiently friendly with Elizabeth Woodville to be a godparent to the Princess Bridget. And, in order to support her story she mentions Jane because, equally oddly, Elizabeth was on friendly terms with Jane… and who better to carry messages than Jane. (Who needs soap operas when the Plantagenets are available?)

Whatever the truth of the plot, whether there even was one, Richard swiftly accused Lord Hastings, Jane Shore and Elizabeth Woodville of conspiring against him.  Hastings was sent to the Tower and executed without a proper trial.  The whole affair was so hasty that there wasn’t even a block in place. Jane, deprived of her latest protector and incarcerated was accused of witchcraft (as incidentally was Elizabeth Woodville)  but the case was eventually dropped.  Instead Jane was charged with being a harlot – and having been Edward IV’s mistress, Thomas Grey’s mistress and also Lord Hastings floozie it was a charge that was going to stick. Jane, like Eleanor Cobham before her and countless other women, was  forced to walk through London barefoot in her shift with a taper in her hand in  penance for her sins – apparently the Londoners who had come out to mock her were moved by her dignity.

Jane was clearly a woman of some importance in this murky dangerous world. Richard was  troubled by her and sought to remove her from the picture altogether.  Edward usually discarded his mistresses pretty swiftly but Jane had remained friendly with him until his death – suggesting friendship and respect.  Certainly the king’s wife liked her and Margaret Beaufort felt able to trust her to carry messages -a reminder perhaps that England was ruled by a family rather than a bureaucracy (albeit a family who appeared to have joyously murdered, executed and plotted against one another). And yet her role in history is the one given to her by medieval society which sought to diminish her- a harlot.

Jane must have been a looker and had a sparkling personality because you’d think that this was going to be a story with a very unhappy ending but even after being unceremoniously dumped in Ludgate Prison she found a new man – not a turn key or a felon but the King’s solicitor.  Thomas Lynom must have fallen in love because he married her  even though the newly minted King Richard III told him that it was an inappropriate marriage.

Jane died in 1527 at the age of 82 having spent the rest of her life with Thomas Lynom and even become friends with Thomas More who admired her wit.

William Blake was interested in her story as this water colour demonstrates.

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