Tag Archives: Perkin Warbeck

Who murdered the princes in the Tower?

princes_in_the_tower_2.jpgThe honest answer to that is that it rather depends on your interpretation of the sources and, as I have said before, your affiliations. Richard III is a monarch who stirs strong sentiments!  I first encountered the event and a few of the various sources aged eleven when my History teacher used the Jackdaw activity pack about the princes to encourage his class to see that History isn’t something cast in concrete and that the same source can be valued or discredited according to viewpoint and known facts. The story of the princes is the story of an unsolved murder – it’s a bit like unmasking Jack the Ripper in that everyone has their pet theory and some evidence to back up their ideas. The novelist Patricia Cornwall has spent a huge sum of money to gather overlooked evidence which points to Jack being the artist Walter Sickert. Unsolved historical murders have a fascination because everyone can look at the available evidence and draw their own conclusions.  Difficulties arise when historians – and determined amateur sleuths – try to find previously unknown evidence that has disappeared down the crevices of time  that will point in the right direction. It is often the work of painstakingly moving the pieces around until a more clear picture emerges. Until then it has to be best and most accepted fit – but that doesn’t mean that in a modern court the evidence would produce a guilty verdict.

So here  are the possibilities of what happened to the Princes- in no particular order, other than the order they’ve emerged from my brain.

  1. King Richard III had them killed. Please don’t inhale and reach for your keyboard if you think he’s innocent – he is a rather notable suspect.  Richard, as duke of Gloucester, served his brother Edward IV with loyalty and honour.  Edward left him to get on with ruling the North of England and he did a stonkingly good job of it.  The good folk of York felt sufficiently strongly about it to make a note of his deposition and death at Bosworth – an act guaranteed to hack off the new regime.  The problem for Richard, if you’re that way inclined, was that Edward IV allowed the Woodville faction to gain dominance at court in terms of lucrative positions, marriages and ultimately by giving the care of his son into Woodville hands.  Richard only found out about his brother’s death because Lord Hastings sent him a note warning of Woodville intentions to get young Edward crowned as quickly as possible which would have seen Richard as a protector without any power because he didn’t have control of the king. When Richard intercepted the young king at Northampton it could be argued that Richard was acting in the interests of rather a lot of people who weren’t terrible keen on the aforementioned Woodvilles who were regarded by many as too big for their boots – and now is not the time to go down the side alley of Jacquetta Grey’s lineage. So far so good. Nor is this post the time to go through the whole chronology of events. The key things that stick in my mind are the Eleanor Butler incident i.e. the announcement that Edward IV had already been pre contracted in marriage thus rendering all his children illegitimate and Richard as heir to the throne.  The argument is usually put forward that if the children were illegitimate and since the Titulus Regulus act of Parliament said they were then there was no way they could inherit-so why kill them?  There’s also the episode with Lord Hastings finding himself being manhandled out of a privy council meeting to a handy lump of timber where he was executed without trial – clearly a large chunk from the historical jigsaw missing there although plenty of historians have presented theories on the subject as to why Richard should fall out with his brother’s friend so dramatically and decisively. Jane Shore found herself doing public penance, lost her property and ended up in jail in the aftermath of the episode – again why should Richard do that?  His brother had plenty of other mistresses.  The problem with skulduggery is that people don’t tend to make careful notes before, during or after the event – at least not if they wanted to keep their heads. There is obviously much more that I could write about both for and against Richard’s involvement.  I have four rather hefty volumes on my desk as I type.  Richard was the key suspect at the time according to rumour- Dominic Mancini left an account of events as he understood them.  He left England the week of Richard’s coronation, doesn’t provide an account of what Richard looked like and his manuscript went missing until 1934.  He says:” But after Hastings was removed, all the attendants who had waited on the king were debarred access to him. He and his brother were withdrawn into the inner apartments of the Tower proper, and day by day  began to be seen more rarely behind the bars and windows, til at length they ceased to appear altogether. The Physician John Argentine, the last of his attendants whose services the king enjoyed, reported that the young kin, like a victim prepared for sacrifice, sought remission of his sins by daily confession and penance, because he believed that death was facing him.”

    “I have seen many men burst into tears and lamentations when mention was made of him after his removal from men’s sight; and already there is a suspicion that he had been done away with. Whether, However, he has been done away with, and by what manner of death, so far I have not yet at all discovered.” 

    Mancini recognises that rumours aren’t fact but does give us a circumstantial account which holds water in that he doesn’t have any particular axe to grind on the subject.  Richard was in charge – whilst dying in the Tower was a huge risk for any of its imprisoned inhabitants it should only have happened if the bloke at the top of the chain of command gave the order; medieval Kings needed to secure their dynasties.  In having Edward of Middleham created Prince of Wales, Richard was laying a marker for the future.  If nothing else, and this is my thought on the subject, the Wars of the Roses would have taught him that having two kings on the board isn’t a terribly good idea in terms of political stability.  Little boys, bastardised or not, have a nasty tendency of growing up to be focal points of rebellion (and so does the idea of their existence as Henry VII swiftly discovered). I should also add that I have no problem with it if Richard did do it – medieval kings weren’t required to be nice they were required to hold on to the throne, pass it to the next generation and preferably win a large number of wars abroad whilst avoiding the scenario of their own citizens killing each other. I might also add that no one has any problem with Edward IV bumping off Henry VI in order to ensure no further unrest – of course he had the body displayed which eases the problem of conspiracy theories popping up out of the woodwork and he produced heirs – not to mention a brother who managed to land himself with a far more juicy tale. Equally Henry IV who bumped off his cousin doesn’t suffer as much as Richard on account of the fact that there were two further generations of Lancastrian kings making Henry’s actions less noteworthy (if you wanted to keep your head) whilst Richard lost his throne and his life after only two years  allowing the Tudor propaganda machine to get to work which also muddies some of the sources.

  2. Henry Stafford, the Duke of Buckingham was descended from both John of Gaunt and Thomas of Woodstock. Again, if contemporary/near contemporary accounts are to be believed he had something of a grudge against the Woodvilles believing that his marriage to Katherine Woodville was beneath his dignity and that he hadn’t been permitted to take up his correct position in society. There are accounts where it is Stafford who is encouraging Richard to do away with the two princes. Things weren’t going terribly well for Stafford in terms of promotion and power although he swiftly became virtual ruler of the whole of Wales when Richard followed his brother’s model of giving titles, offices and lands to people he trusted and then letting them get on with it. By the winter of 1483 Bucking was in open rebellion against Richard and in cahoots with Margaret Beaufort who we  know he met on the road to Brecon where Bishop Morton was being kept under house arrest.  There seem to be two separate plots that turned into one plot – untidy but demonstrating that the great and the good had seen an opportunity for making their moves and also demonstrating that beneath the surface there were some very nasty currents at work – none of which is evidenced through much more than hearsay, some gleaned documentary comments and a few very interesting travel itineraries. The combination of  Buckingham’s arrogance and a few well chosen words of encouragement could have  been enough to see Buckingham have the boys murdered.  He had the means and the opportunity in that he was Constable of the Tower and had Richard’s trust.  He was executed in Salisbury on 3 November 1483.  He was not permitted to make a speech before his death.  It is plausible that he had the boys killed in order to make life difficult for Richard and also to open his way to the throne – it would have to be said that if the latter was the case Stafford was an inordinately optimistic chap.  If the former is true then he succeeded better than he could ever have dreamed. Jean Molinet is one of the sources who references Buckingham as does Commines.  There’s also a fragment of manuscript in the Ashmolean that points in Buckingham’s direction. The key thing here is that Richard didn’t know about it until it was too late and then who would have believed him.
  3.  

    Sir James Tyrell- according to Sir Thomas More and Polydore Vergil – the chap that did the deed. He apparently confessed in 1502 prior to his execution.  There is no known copy of the confession in existence. The Great Chronicle of London repeated the rumour.

  4. And that was more or less it until historians began revising their views in the Twentieth Century – the Victorians as the image above demonstrates were rather keen on the wicked uncle theory.  There is an account written by the Tudor historian John Stowe which says that there was a failed rescue attempt complete with a diversion of fire.  Again, I have no problem with that as it is entirely plausible that Stowe had access to sources that are now lost – happens a lot in this story.  This account opens up the possibility that the princes were killed accidentally or on purpose by someone other than on the orders of the folk in charge.  If there was a rescue attempt and it went wrong it would be very easy for the princes’ guards to kill them either to prevent their rescue or – and this is pure speculation- trying to do their best Thomas Becket replay for reward or someone could have paid the killer on the staff to do the deed – which opens up the possibility of the Lancastrian faction weighing in…all of which has no evidential base – Josephine Tey and Philippa Gregory are fiction writers. They can take  scraps and use the wriggle room as they wish. For accounts in the history books to be changed there needs to be something rather more substantial.
  5. They died accidentally or of illness. Well, why didn’t Richard just say?  Who would have believed him – look what happened to Edward II and Richard II and Henry VI – no one believed their deaths were natural….and that’s mainly because they weren’t.  There are plenty of other examples of the elite dying unexpectedly and the next thing you know its on account of poison or dastardly deeds. The average medieval man and woman in the street liked a conspiracy theory as much as the present generation – another thing which doesn’t help the primary accounts that we do have.  It’s largely all gossip.
  6. They didn’t die at all.  There was a story in Tyrell’s family that he removed the boys from the Tower.  There’re un-identified children in Richard’s financial records in Sheriff Hutton (oh goody, more speculation- but at least there’s something documented). There is also the Laslau Theory that says that John Clement, Margaret Gigg’s husband, was actually Richard of York. It’s a really interesting theory based on Holbein’s picture of Sir Thomas More’s family – obviously with flaws like the idea of Sir Edward Guildford (father of the duke of Northumberland’s wife) actually being Edward V incognito  but it would account for some of Sir Thomas More’s more glaring errors in his account of events – if you’re a follower of the Laslau Theory, Sir Thomas rather than being a Tudor propagandist/historian (depending on your viewpoint) is actually laying a screen of misinformation in order to protect the identity of a surviving prince. Laslau does offer some slender  threads of documentary evidence in his quest which are  interesting and which muddy the waters still further.  And finally and most obvious of the lot there is Henry VII’s on-going fear of pretenders.  King James of Scotland accepted Perkin Warbeck as Duke of York. This isn’t without its difficulties as Warbeck was initially acclaimed in Dublin as Earl of Warwick but you get the gist.  Elizabeth Woodville testified to the legitimacy of her children but never accused anyone of murder – either before or after Richard’s demise…and yes there’s a whole host of things that could be added to that statement.
  7. There are a couple of other candidates for murderer- take John Howard who became Duke of Norfolk.  He was the claimant to the estate of the Mowbray Dukes of Norfolk.  He was given custody of the Tower of London under less than regular circumstances the night the Princes are supposed to have disappeared from the Tower (Weir). He had opportunity and it turns out he had a motive—Richard, Duke of York was also Duke of Norfolk in right of his deceased child bride Anne, the daughter of the last Mowbray Duke.  Normally land and title reverted to the family where a child marriage was not consummated and no heir produced – which is why Edmund Tudor didn’t wait until Margaret Beaufort was a bit older before getting her with child.  he was concerned she’d die and he’d lose the lolly. In this case though, Richard had kept the title, the estates and the revenue…
  8. And finally John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln. John had been by Uncle Richard’s side throughout 1483.  Like Buckingham he was trusted.  He would become Richard’s heir presumptive after Edward of Middleham’s death.  If we’re going to suggest that Buckingham was looking to be king then it also makes sense that someone a bit nearer to the Crown would bear some investigation.

The thing is that there is some evidence but its contradictory and circumstantial.  It might be possible to rule out the princes’ survival if the bones in the urn in Westminster Abbey turned out to belong to Edward V and Richard of York. Even if they weren’t it wouldn’t necessarily mean that they had survived their misadventure. And if the bones were theirs, it wouldn’t prove who did the killing since the skeletons did not emerge from their resting place clutching a note identifying the murderer – though it would make the account offered by More more plausible – errors and all.

And that’s all I intend to post about the Princes in the Tower for the time being.  Most of the time, with a few notable exceptions, if it weren’t for the traffic stats on the History Jar I wouldn’t know whether anyone was reading my ramblings or not.  I’ve not got the hang of being liked, joining communities or developing conversations through comments – Richard III, the Woodvilles and the Princes on the other hand certainly get a response! So thank you for your comments – positive, negative, knowledgeable and thought provoking as they are.

Primary sources or near primary sources include:

André, Bernard: Vita Henrici VII (in Memorials of King Henry VII, ed. J. Gairdner, Rolls Series, 1858)

Bull of Pope Innocent VIII on the Marriage of Henry VII with Elizabeth of York (ed. J. Payne-Collier, Camden Miscellany I, 1847)

Fabyan, Robert: The Concordance of Histories: The New Chronicles of England and France (1516) (ed. H. Ellis, 1811)

Grafton, Richard: Grafton’s Chronicle, or History of England (2 vols, ed. H. Ellis, 1809)

Hall, Edward: The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancaster and York (London, 1550; ed. H. Ellis, 1809; facsimile edition of the original published 1970)

Holinshed, Raphael: Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland (6 vols, ed. H. Ellis, 1807–8)

Leland, John: Collectanea (6 vols, ed. T. Hearne, Oxford, 1770–74)

A London Chronicle in the Time of Henry VII and Henry VIII (ed. C. Hopper, Camden Society, Camden Miscellany IV, 1839)

 

More, Sir Thomas: The History of King Richard the Third (in The Complete Works of Sir Thomas More, Vol. II, ed. R. S. Sylvester and others, Yale, 1963, London, 1979)

Rous, John: Joannis Rossi Antiquarii Warwicensis. Historia Regum Angliae (ed. T. Hearne, Oxford, 1716 and 1745)

The Song of the Lady Bessy

Stow, John: A Survey of London

Vergil, Polydore: The Anglica Historia of Polydore Vergil, AD 1485–1573 (trans. and ed. D. Hay, Camden Series, 1950)

For secondary sources both for and against Richard as well as presenting other possibilities and candidates see http://erenow.com/biographies/richardiiiandtheprincesinthetower/26.html

 

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Sir Thomas Lovell – Tudor lawyer and henchman.

sir thomas lovell.jpgI’ve arrived at today’s metaphorical advent in a rather circuitous way. My story starts with John Billesdon’s will. He wrote it on the 18th of December 1522 and left rather a lot of money to chantries being built for the repose of Sir Thomas Lovell’s soul.  The image on the left comes from the National Portrait Gallery. Here’s the will:

Billesdon (John),”grocer.”—To the Wardens of the Commonalty of the Mistery of the Grocery of London he leaves certain messuages, comprising “the Weyhouse,” (fn. 2) in Cornhill in the parish of S. Michael, held by him in trust, so that the said wardens maintain two chantries, in the chapel erected by Sir Thomas Lovell on the south side of the priory church of Halywell without Bysshoppisgate, for the souls of the said Sir Thomas when dead, Isabell, late wife of the same, and others, with observance of an obit, &c., in manner as directed. The sum of three hundred pounds he declares to have handed over, on behalf of the said Sir Thomas Lovell, to the wardens aforesaid, for repairing the above messuages. In case of default made in carrying out the terms of the devise the property is to go over to the Master and Wardens of the Marchaunte Taillours of the Fraternity or Guild of S. John Baptist of London under like conditions, with further remainder to the Mayor and Commonalty of the City of London. Desires that his will be enrolled of record before the Mayor at the Guildhall, there to remain for ever. The will made tripartite: one part to remain with the Wardens of the Commonalty of Grocers, another with the Prioress of Haliwell, and the third with Sir Thomas Lovell and his heirs. Dated 18 December A.D. 1522.

Roll 240 (54).

 

‘Wills: 21-38 Henry VIII (1529-47)’, in Calendar of Wills Proved and Enrolled in the Court of Husting, London: Part 2, 1358-1688, ed. R R Sharpe (London, 1890), pp. 634-651. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/court-husting-wills/vol2/pp634-651 [accessed 10 December 2016].

Why was I perusing  wills?  Well, for a start wills are an insight into the medieval/Tudor hereafter and the way ordinary people perceived themselves.  In this particular hereafter it was important, somewhat unexpectedly, for Mr Billesdon not to care for the repose of his own soul but to fulfil a debt to Sir Thomas Lovell.  Lovell would die two years after our grocer made his will but it is clear he was already concerned with his immortal soul – and further exploration suggests he may have had cause for concern.

The specific purpose of a chantry was to say prayers for the dead so that their souls would spend less time in Purgatory before heading off to Heaven – think of Purgatory not so much as God’s waiting room but God’s sauna for the soul where you had to go in Catholic ideology until such time as your soul was sufficiently cleansed in order to be admitted to Heaven. The prayers offered by the monks and nuns who prayed in the chantries weren’t necessarily ‘get out of Purgatory free cards’ but definitely ensured that you would arrive at your destination sooner than otherwise.

And who was Sir Thomas Lovell? The name Lovell is suggestive of someone with strong white rose sympathies – think Francis Lovell of Minster Lovell in Oxfordshire- but this particular Lovell came from a Norfolk family and was not related to Richard III’s friend, chamberlain and most loyal supporter. Sir Thomas, a Lincoln’s Inn trained lawyer, was strongly Lancastrian in sympathy, so Lancastrian in fact that he’d had to flee to Brittany to join Henry Tudor during the reign of Richard III in 1483 having become involved with Buckingham’s rebellion. His brother-in-law was Henry Tudor’s standard bearer at Bosworth.

Sir Thomas returned with Henry and after Bosworth was elected to Henry’s first parliament. Sir Thomas was the chap who asked that Henry should honour the arrangements made between Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville and marry Elizabeth of York – of course, Henry was going to do it anyway but by having Parliament make the request dressed the whole thing up as the will of the people. The logic is rather like a succession of falling dominoes: if the people want something to happen anyone reacting against it or Henry in particular was essentially not only a traitor to the Crown but also a traitor to the country…a nice piece of Tudor spin.

Lovell continued in his support for Henry not only politically but militarily at the Battle of Stoke in 1497 where he was knighted and also in terms of his financial policies.  Henry’s best known money men were Empson and Dudley but records show that Lovell was also a signatory to the forced loans that much of the nobility were required to make during this period, thus ensuring they didn’t have money to plot against Henry and were finically reliant upon the Tudors. Empson and Dudley were the sacrificial tax collectors executed by Henry’s own son when he became Henry VIII in 1509 in a bid for popular acclaim. It should be noted he also cancelled most of the outstanding loans.

Lovell may well have felt that he was lucky not to join Empson and Dudley, not least because as Chancellor of the Exchequor ( an appointment for life) as well as master of wards for a time, he’d successfully feathered his own nest during the reign – the Magnificat Window at Great Malvern was part funded by his donations which is why his image once featured in it.  Lovell even lent Elizabeth of York money.  The debt was secured against her plate.  A clue as to where this younger son gained his wealth can be gleaned from William Worseley,  Dean of St Paul’s.  The dean kept careful accounts which reveal that he paid Reginald Bray and Thomas Lovell ‘fines of allegiance’ on a regular basis.  Lovell was perhaps fortunate in 1909 that he was one of the executors of Lady Margaret Beaufort’s will along with Reginald Bray, Henry VII’s own shady ‘Mr Fix-it.’

Lovell could bear looking at a little more closely.  He was appointed Constable of the Tower and was present at the time when the Earl of Warwick and Perkin Warbeck made their ‘escape’ in 1499. This very foolish not to mention convenient action allowed them to be executed, leaving the way clear for Katherine of Aragon to marry Prince Arthur.

It was Lovell who arrested Sir James Tyrell at Guisnes near Calais  in 1501 where he’d served since 1485 with only a brief interlude to change allegiance from Richard III to Henry VII who pardoned him not once but twice from all possible crimes he might have committed whilst in the service of Richard III (you can just feel the conspiracy theory thickening nicely can’t you?)

Tyrell’s arrest and eventual execution was precipitated from having become involved with the doings of the de la Pole family. Tyrell had given Edmund de la Pole, earl of Suffolk, shelter at Guisnes then waved the earl merrily on his way rather than arresting him on the spot. Lovell turned up, offered Tyrell safe conduct and then promptly arrested him. Tyrell rather belatedly made his confession as regards to the killing of the two princes in the Tower but claimed not to know where the bodies were on account of the fact they’d been moved.  He also named another person who was alive at the time – oddly Lovell didn’t feel the need to have words with the chap.  No one has ever clapped eyes on Tyrell’s confession (That’s not to say it doesn’t exist of course because things can get put on the proverbial safe place only to turn up five hundred or so years later but none the less circumstantially very suspect whatever Thomas More may have thought on the subject). Thomas Penn, Henry VII’s award winning biographer, notes that ‘strange things tended to happen’ in Lovell’s vicinity. It’s also worth noting that Tyrell was attainted two years after his death but at no point does the bill against him mention slaughtering the princes in the Tower – which in the circumstances you might think it should. Tyrell’s son was arrested at the same time as his father but was granted his freedom and after a sufficient time had elapsed regained his father’s estate…make of it what you will. There will be more posts on the topic in 2017.

And how does our grocer fit into this rather shady picture? Further exploration reveals that  Billesdon was one of a number of merchants sent to negotiate with Lovell on behalf of the Mercers’ Company in relation to subsidies and rates (Watney:349). His name also turns up on the Calendar for Payment of Fines. This together with the will suggests that palms had been greased and favours exchanged in the cut throat world of Tudor politics.

Lovell is one of Henry VII’s new men. These men were appointed for their ability rather than their bloodline and because since Henry had made them, Henry could break them. This did not necessarily win friends and influence people at the time but it ensured that the Tudor administrative system was much more effective than anything that had come before. I’ve posted about Bray earlier in the year.  Double click on his name to open a new page for the earlier post.

anne_ashby_largeIn an interesting aside, Sir Thomas featured in another of the History Jar’s posts. He and his wife had no children. He left his estate at East Harling in Norfolk to his nephew Francis. Francis married Anne Ashby who turns out to be Hans Holbein’s ‘Lady with the Squirrel.’ I told you the Tudor world was a small one! Double click on Anne’s image to open the post on a new page if you want to read further.

Penn, Thomas. (2012) Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England. London:Penguin

 Watney, Frank D and  Lyell Laetitia. (2016) Acts of Court of the Mercers’ Company 1453-1527 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Wroe, Ann (2003) Perkin A Story of Deception. London: Jonathon Cape

‘London and Middlesex Fines: Henry VIII’, in A Calendar To the Feet of Fines For London and Middlesex: Volume 2, Henry VII – 12 Elizabeth, ed. W J Hardy and W Page (London, 1893), pp. 16-68. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/feet-of-fines-london-middx/vol2/pp16-68 [accessed 28 November 2016].

http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1509-1558/member/lovell-sir-thomas-i-1450-1524

 

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Sir Reginald Bray – Tudor advisor, architect and spymaster

sir reginald bray.jpgSir Reginald Bray is often mentioned as Margaret Beaufort’s man of business and then as Henry VII’s advisor – a sort of Tudor prime minister and chancellor of the exchequer rolled into one politically astute package.  Bray first came to Tudor attention when he was master of the household to Margare Beaufort’s third husband (if you count the childhood proxy marriage and annulment from John de la Pole), Henry Stafford and given that Richard III issued him with a pardon of Lancastrian sympathies. His father is mentioned by Leland as one of Henry VI’s doctors. Indeed Sir Reginald is also mentioned as doctoring Henry. There seem no end to the man’s talents. In the meantime after Sir Henry Stafford’s death, following injuries sustained at the Battle of Barnet in 1471, Bray continued as the steward of Margaret’s household.

 

Somehow or other Bray often found himself at the centre of things. Whilst Margaret Beaufort was conspiring with the Duke of Buckingham  in 1483 it was Bray who carried messages for Buckingham on the advice of his ‘house-guest’ Bishop Morton of Ely who described Bray as “secret, sober and well-witted.” Following Bosworth it was Bray who allegedly retrieved Richard’s crown from a thorn bush so that Lord Stanley could place it on his step-son’s head. It was Bray who told Henry VII during his progress to York in April 1486 that Lord Lovell and the Stafford brothers (Sir Thomas and Humphrey) intended to break out of sanctuary in Colchester. Henry initially didn’t believe him because Bray’s source would not reveal the name of the person who had told him the information. On a later occasion Sir Francis Bacon records that bray paid a bribe of £500 from the king’s privy purse to Sir Robert Clifford to betray Perkin Warbeck.

 

Bray appears to be something of a polymath since not only did he do finance and spying but also a spot of doctoring and architecture. He had a hand in the design of Henry VII’s chapel at Westminster and also St George’s Chapel Windsor. The image  of the Sir Reginald on the left hand side of the picture in this post comes from the Henry VII window at Worcester Cathedral. Sir Reginald was one of the donors.

 

Sir Reginald reaped the rewards for his service. As well as being made a knight of the Bath he also became a knight of the Garter, was granted the constableship of the castle of the castle of Oakham in Rutland, and was appointed joint chief justice of all the forests south of Trent, and chosen of the privy council. After this he was appointed high-treasurer and chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. He was also made keeper of the parks of Guildford and Henley, with the manor of Claygate in Ash for life. He was also high steward for the university of Oxford and a member of Parliament.

 

In Jun 1497 following the Cornish Rebellion and the Battle of Blackheath he was rewarded with more titles. He also landed Lord Audely’s estate in Surrey when the unfortunate lord was found gulty of treason and lost his head.

He was born in Worcester in 1440 and buried in St George’s Windsor in 1503 after a career devoted to the Tudors. Edmund Hall extolled him as “a sage and grave person.”

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Who was Perkin Warbeck?

 

ch23_WarbekOfficial record, complete with supporting evidence, states that Warbeck was a pretender to the English throne, the son of a customs‘ officer from Tournai in Belgium who was taken up by Yorkists when his resemblance to the younger of the missing princes in the Tower, Richard Duke of York, was noticed during a visit to Ireland.

 

He was the apprentice of Pregent Meno, a Breton merchant and when he arrived in Cork in 1491 his princely looks and manners were spotted whilst modeling the silks that his master was selling.

Perkin’s first stop in Europe in 1491 was at the court of Margaret of Burgundy where the aunt of the princes in the Tower recognized Perkin as her younger nephew. She claimed to recognize him from his knowledge of life in the Royal Household and from birthmarks. Perkin said that he should have been murdered but that the would be killer took pity on him.  Whether she believed that Perkin was Richard is another matter entirely. The ‘diabolic duchess’ as the Tudor chroniclers labeled her offered sanctuary to erstwhile Yorkists and funded a variety of pretenders to the crown. So depending on the version of history you wish to believe she was either an aunt grateful for the return of her lost nephew or a hater of Henry VII grooming young Perkin for the role of a lifetime.

 

Perkin became a royal pain in Henry VII’s neck with a grand tour of Europe including a visit to the court of the Holy Roman Emperor and King James IV of Scotland touting for support.  All of Henry VII’s treaties include a clause whereby the other country agrees not to support Yorkist claimants to the throne.  Perkin’s journey around Europe culminated in a disastrous invasion of England via Ireland when he’d worn out his welcome at the court of James IV of Scotland in 1497.

There was little in the way of a popular uprising.  Warbeck was forced to take sanctuary in Beaulieu Abbey and then to surrender.  For a year Henry VII treated Warbeck almost like a guest, although he did have to sleep in Henry’s wardrobe ( a whole room rather than a cupboard)  when the court was travelling and nearly burned to death on one occasion in an accidental fire.

Then in June 1498 Warbeck attempted to escape to claim sanctuary in Sheen.  His freedom didn’t last long.  He was put in the stocks at Westminster and Cheapside.  From there he was sent to the Tower.  Early in 1499 another pretender sprouted and the Spanish refused to send Catherine of Aragon to England until all Yorkist would-be kings were removed from the equation.

Edward, earl of Warwick (son of George duke of Clarence- the one who drowned in a vat of Malmsey) and Warbeck were placed in adjoining rooms.  Their gaoler was an ex-rebel.  Before long both Warbeck and Warwick were plotting to burn down the Tower, to escape abroad and to set Warwick up as a Yorkist king.  Unsurprisingly, they were both found guilty of treason and executed.  Warbeck was hanged at Tyburn whilst Warwick had his head chopped off – a reminder that Warbeck was a common man rather than a prince.

 

So who was Perkin?

There are a number of theories:

  1. Richard, Duke of York Given the existing primary evidence it is unlikely that Perkin was Richard, Duke of York. Ian Arthurson’s text looks at Perkin’s impact upon Henry VII as well as evaluating the evidence.  Having said that there’s sufficient circumstantial evidence not to entirely dismiss the idea out of hand.
  • Elizabeth of York never met with Perkin Warbeck in public. If he was an imposter surely there would have been no risk in this?
  • Warbeck demonstrated such musicality that Henry VII’s court musician was jealous. The real Richard of York was noted for his musical skills as a child.
  • Even Polydore Vergil, Henry VII’s official historian acknowledged that popular rumour said that the princes had been spirited away to a ‘secret land.’
  • Would King James IV of Scotland really have allowed his cousin Katherine Gordon to marry someone he believed to be a pretender or unknown provenance?

 

2.    Perkin Warbeck was the son of a Tournai Customs official

Perkin’s confession of 5th October 1497 confirmed that he was the son of John de Werbecque and his wife, Katherine de Faro. Henry spent rather a lot of time and money finding out every last dreg of information about Warbeck. The existence of the Werbecques can be confirmed in the Tournai archives.

  • Henry himself was never satisfied with the evidence. He kept picking at the information as recorded by the sums of money paid out and recorded in his accounts books.
  • One of the difficulties was that Henry could never find out anything about Perkin’s childhood below the age of nine.
  • Warbeck’s confession was made and recorded with Henry VII in a position of power over Warbeck’s life. Henry needed a ‘feigned lad’ not the rightful heir to the throne.

3.    Historians have hypothesised that Warbeck was the illegitimate son of Edward IV. There is no evidence for this other than the fact that Edward IV had many mistresses and one night stands as well as several illegitimate children including Arthur Plantagenet, Viscount Lisle who served as a cupbearer in Elizabeth of York’s household.  This would account for Warbeck’s looks and musical skills.

4.   Other historians have suggested that Warbeck was actually the illegitimate son of Margaret of Burgundy.

A final twist in Perkin’s tale

Warbeck spent time in Portugal in the service of Edward Brampton. Brampton was not an Englishman as the name would suggest but a Portugese Jew called Duarte Brandão who converted to Christianity. He was also a suspected murderer and a loyal supporter of his nominal godfather King Edward IV and then of Richard III. Did Brampton groom him for the role of prince? Or did Brampton secure a safe hiding place for the youngest son of the English king who’d elevated him from fugitive to wealthy man?

Evidence for Warbeck having Plantagenet blood of any description in his veins is lacking.  It is entirely based upon speculation.  Speculation is not history but it is a good story.

Arthurson, Ian. (2009) The Perkin Warbeck Conspiracy 1491-1499  Stroud:The History Press

Wroe, Ann. (2003). Perkin A Story of Deception London: Jonathan Cape

 

 

 

 

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Lady Katherine Gordon – Mrs Perkin Warbeck

ch23_Warbek.jpgThe Beauforts get everywhere during the Wars of the Roses and Tudor history as well, so lets just get the Beaufort link out of the way at the start. Katherine Gordon’s grandma was supposed to be Joan Beaufort who was, of course, the daughter of John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset making John of Gaunt Joan’s granddad…possibly. History being what it is there are other sources, including the coat of arms above Katherine’s monument in Swansea, which identifies clearly in her coat of arms that her mother was actually the third wife of George Gordon, Elizabeth Hay.  This removes the Beauforts from the picture entirely but who am I to interrupt a good story not that Lady Katherine Gordon’s story needs spicing up.

 

Lady Katherine Gordon met Richard,Duke of York‘ in 1495, pictured at the start of this post, when he arrived in Scotland having decamped from Ireland where he’d failed to convince the citizens of Waterford of his identity. He’d spent years wandering around Europe garnering support from crowned heads who wanted to irritate Henry VII.

 

The Duke, who I shall refer to from now on as Warbeck because that’s the name history knows him by (nor am I delving into the depths to investigate whether he might have been the youngest of the two Princes in the Tower), was welcomed with full honours as a prince by King James IV to Stirling Castle.

 

Apparently Warbeck’s marriage to the beautiful Lady Katherine in January 1496 was a love match but it also meant that James was able to demonstrate to Henry Tudor that he was serous in his support for Warbeck because he’d given him the hand of his cousin. James’ support extended to a raid on behalf of Warbeck. Unfortunately the attack on England only lasted three days on account of the fact that the people of Northumberland did not rise up in support of the so-called Duke of York. After that Warbeck and, sadly for her, his wife began to wear out their welcome at the Scottish court.

 

The little family; Warbeck, Lady Katherine and their son Richard boarded a boat at Ayr and headed to Ireland where Warbeck met with resounding indifference. He decided to try his luck in Cornwall where the locals were up in arms about Henry VII’s taxes.

 

When Warbeck invaded Cornwall and marched north to Bodmin and from there to Exeter Lady Katherine initially remained at St Michael’s Mount. As it became apparent that their venture was unlikely to succeed Warbeck moved his wife to St Buryan which was rather bleak but had the benefits of sanctuary.

 

After Warbeck’s 3000 men had finally melted away and he’d been taken captive Henry VII sent for Katherine. On the morning of October 7th 1497  the Earl of Shrewsbury arrived at St Buryan to find her in mourning. Historians think that she had lost a second child, brother to young Richard who was alive at this time. Henry VII provided her with a complete travelling outfit of black. She travelled slowly to Exeter and from there to Sheen. Polydore Vergil notes that Henry fell in love with Lady Katherine Gordon – how his wife felt about that is not recorded.

 

Andre’s account of the meeting between Henry, Warbeck and Lady Katherine Gordon spells out that Katherine was to be regarded as the victim of an abduction or rape on account of the deception that had been perpetrated. In Andre’s account Katherine reviles Warbeck and turns to Henry VII as the personification of kingly heroism. From that time on she is referred to as Lady Katherine Huntly. She reverted once more in official documents to being her father’s daughter yet there was no divorce and assorted ambassadors reported that the couple remained a couple even though they were not permitted to cohabit. No doubt Henry had no desire for more little Warbecks to muddy the waters of his security, not to mention his knightly passion for the fair Lady Katherine.

 

Katherine was sent to live with Elizabeth of York – how strange a meeting that must have been. She was after all married to the man who had claimed to be Elizabeth’s brother.  No public or recorded meeting ever took place between Elizabeth and Warbeck.  As for Katherine she was descended from kings and held a high place at court. It must have been an odd half-life for Lady Katherine who must also have been mourning her son Richard who came to London with her but who disappears very quickly after that into obscurity. Wroe records that a family on the Gower claim descent from one Richard Perkins, son of Perkin Warbeck. Co-incidentally when Katherine lived in Wales with her third husband she lived eight miles from Reynoldston where it is just possible that her son grew up.

 

On 23 Nov 1499 Lady Katherine was made a widow when Warbeck was hanged at Tyburn. He’d been convicted of plotting with Edward, Earl of Warwick to burn down the Tower, flee to Flanders and set Warwick up as a claimant to the throne. Katherine continued to live in England. She was no longer a prisoner. Henry not known for his generosity paid for her wardrobe and made her several presents over the years. She was the chief mourner at Elizabeth of York’s funeral in 1503. Henry VIII granted her lands in Berkshire which had once been owned by John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln on the proviso she didn’t travel abroad without royal licence. She remained at court. In Scotland the chronicler Adam Bell speculated that Katherine was married to Henry. The reality as Wroe considers must have been much more complicated. In 1510 she became an English citizen.

 

Katherine married several times although she remained a widow for eleven years after Warbeck’s death. There was James Strangeways; Matthew Craddock – a Welshman so licence had to be granted for her to travel to Wales; finally there was Christopher Ashton. She died in 1537 and is buried in Fyfield Church.

 

Many of Perkin Warbeck’s confessions survive. It was after all in Henry VII’s best interest that they should exist and evidence suggests that he kept picking at the story of the pretender like a scab that wouldn’t heal.  The problem was that he could find no reference to Warbeck before the age of nine.  Much more poignant  is Perkin’s letter to Lady Katherine:

 

“Most noble lady, it is not without reason that all turn their eyes to you; that all admire love and obey you. For they see your two-fold virtues by which you are so much distinguished above all other mortals. Whilst on the one hand, they admire your riches and immutable prosperity, which secure to you the nobility of your lineage and the loftiness of your rank, they are, on the other hand, struck by your rather divine than human beauty, and believe that you are not born in our days but descended from Heaven.

 All look at your face so bright and serene that it gives splendour to the cloudy sky; all look at your eyes so brilliant as stars which make all pain to be forgotten, and turn despair into delight; all look at your neck which outshines pearls; all look at your fine forehead. Your purple light of youth, your fair hair; in one word at the splendid perfection of your person:—and looking at they cannot choose but admire you; admiring they cannot choose love but you; loving they cannot choose but obey you.

 I shall, perhaps, be the happiest of all your admirers, and the happiest man on earth, since I have reason to hope you will think me worthy of your love. If I represent to my mind all your perfections, I am not only compelled to love, to adore and to worship you, but love makes me your slave. Whether I was waking or sleeping I cannot find rest or happiness except in your affection. All my hopes rest in you, and in you alone.

 Most noble lady, my soul, look mercifully down upon me your slave, who has ever been devoted to you from the first hour he saw you, Love is not an earthly thing, it is heaven born. Do not think it below yourself to obey love’s dictates. Not only kings, but also gods and goddesses have bent their necks beneath its yoke.

 I beseech you most noble lady to accept for ever one who in all things will cheerfully do as your will as long as his days shall last. Farewell, my soul and consolation. You, the brightest ornament in Scotland, farewell, farewell.”

Wroe, Ann. (2003). Perkin A Story of Deception London: Jonathan Cape 

 

 

 

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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Fifteenth Century, The Plantagenets, The Tudors