Tag Archives: Polydore Vergil

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 James Tyrell – reputed murderer of the Princes in the Tower.

Princes in towerFor those of you who like your history traditional – boo hiss!  For those of you who like your history revised – poor maligned soul!  I’ve blogged about Sir James before.  Depending on your interpretation of the sources and your historical affiliations, he either murdered the princes in the Tower, has been framed for the deed or for those of you who like happy endings there is a story that he removed them from the Tower and shuttled them to obscurity in the Suffolk countryside – I’ll get to that in another post.

Sir James is the chap who worked for Richard III – no problem with that, plenty of facts to support it.  It looks like he started on the Plantagenet career ladder in 1471 which would coincide with Richard getting his mitts on the Neville inheritance – remember he was married to Anne Neville, widow of Prince Edward of Lancaster and daughter of the Kingmaker. This would account for how Tyrell from Gipping in Suffolk came into Gloucester’s employment. We know he served in the Scottish war in 1492.

Once Richard was in power he was rewarded with a number of prominent positions across the country- which may have been tricky when it came to actually doing the jobs so presumably from Cornwall to Wales he had a number of deputies to help out.

He turns up in the Paston Letters in 1473 when he is identified as the employee who transported the Countess of Warwick, Anne Neville’s mother, from her sanctuary in Beaulieu to Middleham and Richard’s custody – Edward IV having conveniently declared the unfortunate countess dead for the purposes of the legal system so that brothers Richard and George could inherit estates which properly should have belonged to the countess.

In 1483  he helped carry Edward IV’s body to its final resting place and the same year Bishop Rotherham, the chap who’d helpfully rushed the Great Seal of England along to Westminster Abbey where he handed it into the care of Elizabeth Woodville on realising that Richard of Gloucester had taken charge of the young king, found himself in the custody of Sir James Tyrell. – Nothing unpleasant happened and the bishop died in his bed in 1500, just in case you were wondering.

It was in 1483, if Sir Thomas More and Polydore Vergil are to be believed Tyrell arrived in the Tower late one evening with a letter from Richard III, Brackenbury – the Constable of the Tower handed over the keys and Tyrell got rid of the princes by having them smothered.  Clearly More who was only five at the time wasn’t watching events unfold through a telescope and  Vergil- Henry VII’s official historian- wasn’t hiding in a convenient trunk, quill and parchment in hand to record events as they unfolded. Tyrell, inconveniently, didn’t keep a diary nor did he hand himself in to the authorities immediately after the event. Furthermore he couldn’t even find the bodies,  More says it was because Brackenbury removed them from where Tyrell had put them.

At the beginning of 1485 Tyrell was given command of Guisnes, a fortress in the Pale of Calais where he was in August and where he stayed when the Plantagenet dynasty became the Tudor dynasty. He was not attainted. On the 16th June 1485 Tyrell was issued with a pardon from Henry VII for anything and everything (well it was certainly unspecified). And then the pardon was issued again.  Two pardons in swift succession tends to make some folk think that Tyrell may have been doing work on behalf of the Tudors prior to Bosworth – bringing a whole new meaning to the concept of being a double agent. I would merely point out that whilst this is possible that in order to inherit Henry Tudor would have had to kill off rather a lot of people before the family tree perched the crown on his bonce…think Alex Guiness in Kind Hearts and Coronets for the general idea (spoiler alert – a distant relation stages a series of unlikely accidents wiping out an entire family in order to inherit). Historians have argued both sides of the equation eloquently and with passion with the same basic evidence.  It tends to come down to whether they are pro-Richard or pro-Henry.

What we can be sure of is that up until 1501 Tyrell was a man of influence and power.  Then he helped Edmund de la Pole, possible Plantagenet heir, avoid Henry VII’s wrath.  Next thing you know he’s under arrest on charges of treason and there is apparently a confession – allegedly made under torture- to the effect that it was him who topped Eddie and Richard. Quite honestly, I think most of us would agree that we would fess up to having committed the murders under those circumstances.  Unfortunately the paper copy of the confession seems to have been poorly filed and hasn’t yet turned up – meaning that it possibly never existed if you’re that way inclined.  Henry VII executed Tyrell for treason but failed to mention the murder of two members of the royal family  which you think he might have done, even in passing, as it would have scotched rumours of pretenders which bubbled up throughout his reign. It was pointed out to me that Richard ought to have paraded the princes in order to douse the rumours of 1483- and so he should.  But equally so should Henry have announced that Tyrell had confessed and executed him not just for treason but for murder…did he? No – he didn’t.   Maybe he didn’t want to draw attention to the princes  because it would, after all, have reminded his citizens that his general claim to the throne was a tad shaky – and yes I know he was the last Lancastrian standing, was married to Elizabeth of York and had won the Battle of Bosworth but Henry spent most of his reign bolstering up his claim one way or another so to draw attention to the correct albeit missing claimants might have been a bit counter productive in his mind.  Do I know that for sure? No – I don’t.  Sadly, Henry VII didn’t keep a personal diary, it’s just his financial accounts that are pretty nifty. Am I bearing in the general direction of sarcasm?  Quite possibly. There is only a basic amount of evidence and as any decent lawyer will tell you any story can be worked from both ends.

Tyrell was not, apparently, permitted to make a speech before being executed. Three years later the attainder against Tyrell was reversed and his son inherited Tyrell’s property.

Did Tyrell murder the princes? Quite probably  based on the evidence in hand but until such time as more evidence is forthcoming – like a DNA test on the bones purported to be the princes-  History’s biggest mystery will keep folk passionate and partisan not to mention keeping book sales buoyant.

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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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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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Henry VII – king of ‘spin’?

henryviiHenry VII’s claim to the throne was weak – and that’s putting it mildly. There was only the thinnest of Plantagenet threads running through his blood. Even that had to be legitimised in 1397 by Richard II who issued Letters Patent to that fact when the children of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford (they’d finally married the previous year) were bought into Parliament along with their parents to stand beneath a canopy of State. Pope Boniface IX had already issued a papal dispensation legitimising the Beaufort clan. However, Henry IV added a note into the legal record in 1407 stating that the Beauforts were not to inherit the throne. It might not have been strictly legal but it weakened Henry’s already weak claim.  In addition to which England did not have a salic law prohibiting women from the crown so technically the aftermath of the Battle of Bosworth should have seen the crowning of Queen Margaret.

 

Henry was able to make a play for the throne simply because by 1483 there weren’t many Lancaster sprigs left – the Wars of the Roses took a terrible toll on the aristocratic male population who counted themselves as having direct male descent from Edward III whether they were for York or for Lancaster. George, Duke of Clarence’s son, Edward – the young Earl of Warwick, was a child. The Duke of Buckingham claimed Plantagenet blood but like Henry Tudor’s it came from the Beaufort line and a junior one to Henry’s. There were others descended from female lines including the de la Poles who would be regarded as a key threat to the Tudors.  After Henry came to the throne as well as demonstrating prudent fiscal policy Henry also demonstrated a dab hand at pruning the Plantagenet branches still further – as did his son, to ensure that the Tudor dynasty continued.

 

DSCF2105.JPGWhatever one might think of the twists and turns of the Battle of Bosworth on 22 August 1485, not to mention the Stanley turncoats, the fact is that Richard III’s army gave way to Henry’s and Richard lost his life. Henry became king of England on the battlefield by conquest and thus by God’s will – Divine Right – working on the principle that God had given Henry the power to overcome Richard III. Yes, I know that some of the readers of this post are going to mutter about treachery but the view is a valid one when one takes account of the medieval/early modern mind set. The badge to the left of this paragraph is in the keeping of the British Library and it reflects this fact.  Henry wasn’t shy about reminding people.

bosworth-windows.jpgThere were also ballads entitled ‘Bosworth Field’ and the ‘Ballad of Lady Bessie”.  The earliest printed version (well – a summary) dates from the sixteenth century and there is some question as to whether these ballads are pure fiction, their reliability is questionable. However, it is not unreasonable to assume that Henry would have encouraged ballads like this in order that ordinary people heard about the fact that someone who was really very obscure had taken the crown on the battle field.  According to the ballad – in a king on king struggle to the death Henry was personally victorious…history is after all the winners version and does not necessarily take all the facts into consideration. Double click on the image on the right to open a new window linking to the American branch of the Richard III society and a version of the ballad.

 

Henry was equally swift to ensure that the written word reflected not only the Tudor right to rule but how much better they were than their immediate predecessors.  Polydore Vergil arrived in England in 1502 to collect Peter’s Pence but as a humanist scholar Henry VII was keen to have him on board.  It is thought that he began writing the Anglica Historia in 1505, although it wasn’t published until 1534. Double click on the title to open a new window and the online version of Vergil’s unashamedly pro-Tudor writing.  In this excerpt we see Vergil extol Henry’s virtues as he took up the reigns of office:

 

His chief care was to regulate well affairs of state and, in order that the people of England should not be further torn by rival factions, he publically proclaimed that (as he had already promised) he would take for his wife Elizabeth daughter of King Edward and that he would give complete pardon and forgiveness to all those who swore obedience to his name. Then at length, having won the good-will of all men and at the instigation of the both nobles and people, he was made king at Westminster on 31 October and called Henry, seventh of that name. These events took place in the year 1486 after the birth of Our Saviour.

 

There were other contemporary chronicles, principally The Great Chronicle of London and the Chronicle of Calais as well as later chroniclers including Edward Hall who wrote The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancastre and Yorke, more commonly known as Hall’s Chronicle – Hall was born in 1497.  Sir Thomas More wrote about the reign of Richard  III – he was four in 1485. And, of course, there was Holinshed’s Chronicle which heavily influenced Shakespeare. It made its first appearance in 1577. All of them were vehicles for the Tudor State one way or another.

gold medal.jpgBack to Henry – having driven home the message that he was king by Divine Right and because he was better (yes, I know its Tudor spin) than his predecessors because he paid attention to the country and didn’t murder small boys he also needed to make it clear that the Tudor dynasty was a fresh start. The pope had been so glad that the English had stopped slaughtering one another that he didn’t hesitate in signing the dispensation that allowed Henry to marry Edward IV’s daughter, Elizabeth of York. He  was swift to honour his pledge to marry her, once the stain of illegitimacy had been revoked by Parliament. A medal was struck commemorating the marriage in 1486. This rare survivor is in the hands of the British Museum.  Double click on the image to open a new page with information about the medal. Elizabeth wasn’t crowned until the Tudor dynasty looked like becoming a certainty. Henry did not want to be seen as Elizabeth’s consort. He wanted it to be understood that he was king in his own right.

marriagebed + henry tudorBizarrely Henry VII’s marriage-bed came to end up in a car park in Chester.  However, since it’s identity has been verified the magnificent carvings can be used to tell the story that Henry wanted to tell in his union with Elizabeth of York Double click on the image to open a window and find out more.

 

DSC_0002Which – brings us back to the dodgy bloodline.   Henry got around the problem by simply using a much older legacy. He claimed that he was descended from the ancient British hero Cadwallader, and produced pedigrees to prove it.  He fought under the red dragon at Bosworth and a red dragon was swiftly added to the permitted armorial supporters before his coronation. Cadwallader was reflected on his coat of arms as shown in the first image in this post. The white greyhound is the Richmond greyhound but the red dragon, which flew on Henry’s banner as he marched through Wales from Pembroke belonged to the ancient king. Other images show Henry’s coat of arms also bearing a portcullis. This came from the Beaufort armorial bearings.

Penn’s acclaimed book about Henry VII demonstrates the lengths that Henry went to in order to secure his kingdom and his dynasty.  An article published in The Guardian in 2012 notes that Henry didn’t just use the red dragon he also made use of the red rose of Lancaster – a somewhat obscure symbol at that time- which was then united with the white rose of York to create the Tudor Rose signifying the union of the two houses and the end of the thirty years of conflict.  He then proceeded to plant his roses everywhere: on architecture, on pre-existing manuscripts and on new documents. Double click on the image of Henry’s banner to open a new page with the full article.

 

Another well used symbol locating Henry’s right to be king in conquest is the image of that crown perched on a wild rose bush. This was a reminder that Henry had won his crown on the battlefield. In an age of low literacy it was important for there to be symbolism that people understood. Henry was a master of propaganda, right down to the Tudor livery of green and white. White symbolised purity whilst green represented renewal.

DSCF2103Henry also looked to the legend of King Arthur.  Unsurprisingly Henry simply claimed him as an ancestor and reminded folk of Merlin’s prophecy that Arthur would return with the union of the red king and the white queen.  It probably isn’t co-incidence that Malory’s Morte d’Arthur was one of the first books off Caxton’s printing press in England. Elizabeth of York went to Winchester which Malory claimed was Camelot in order to have her first child.  Prince Arthur was duly born and baptised in Winchester.  The Italian humanist, Petrus Carmelianus wrote a poem to celebrate the birth and the end of the civil war.  One of the illustrated pages shows the royal coat of arms being supported by two angels (back to Divine Right). It might also be worth noting that Petrus went on to become Henry VII’s Latin secretary and chaplain.  Double click on Petrus Carmelianus to open a new page with an illustration of one of the pages from his poem. Henry also reinstated Winchester’s round table which dates from the reign of Edward III.  This together with a small number of King Arthur related tapestries and images, according to the article on the subject by Starkey, is all that remains of Henry’s arthurian public image strategy – one which he’d borrowed, it should be added from earlier Plantagenet kings including Edward III and Edward IV.roundtable.jpg

In other respects Henry simply took up long established traditions such as being portrayed in manuscripts as a king, including one where he was depicted as a classical hero and issuing coinage which showed a very lifelike looking Henry.

The most easily accessible online image in a manuscript of Henry as king can be found in the British Library. The book called Henry VII’s book of Astrology shows him sitting on his throne in royal regalia receiving the book of astrology as a gift. Obviously Fate and the stars were on Henry’s side when he became king. Double click on the image from the manuscript to open a British Library article about the imagery in the text.  The manuscript itself has been digitised and pages can be viewed on the British Library website Astrology was a ‘proper’ science. All the Tudors had court astrologers – the most famous being Dr John Dee during the reign of Elizabeth I.

henry vii receiving book.jpgHenry VII’s astrologers appear not to have been a particularly able bunch.  One predicted that Elizabeth of York would live until she was eighty whilst William Parron’s 1503 manuscript predicted that young Prince Henry would grow up to be a good son of the Catholic Church. Parron had originally found favour by predicting that all of Henry VII’s enemies would die…

 

 

 

 

 

Doran, Susan. The Tudor Chronicles. London:Quercus

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

Starkey, David, “King Henry and King Arthur,” in Arthurian Literature XVI, ed. James Patrick Carley, 171-196. Woodbridge, Suffolk: D.S. Brewer, 1998.

 

 

 

 

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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

The face of Henry VII

henry7manuscript2I’m delivering a session on Henry VII tomorrow so this is by way of a warm up for me. I thought it would be quite interesting to look at the way we perceive Henry through his portraits. The one to the left of this paragraph shows a very young man receiving the book in which he is illuminated (Henry VII’s book of astrology).  It could be any medieval  monarch- apart from the fact that his robe is embroidered with roses – I’m not sure whether its the red rose of Lancaster or the Tudor rose.  It should be noted that the Yorkists and the Lancastrians did not make as much of the roses as history and novelists would perhaps like.  It was Henry Tudor who sought to use the red and white rose unified to weld together a new royal house through its symbolism.

According to the National Portrait Gallery there are sixty-four portraits in its collection of Henry Tudor – most of these are, of course, reproductions of a few images dating from the Tudor period.

Most of us, me included, think of the arched portrait of him in middle age against a backdrop of blue, leaning out of the frame holding a rose in one hand. There are several versions. There’s the version in the National Portrait Gallery by an unknown artist from the Netherlands copied from Michael Sittow which has him holding a Tudor Rose and wearing a collar for the Order of the Golden Fleece (founded by Philip of Burgundy. Henry was elected to the order in 1491). Michael Sittow was a Flemish painter who worked, largely, for the courts of the Hapsburgs and Isabella of Castille.  In that particular version of the portrait – which was destined for abroad rather than home Henry holds the Lancaster rose.

 

henryviiSittow painted other Tudors as well as Henry VII. There is a portrait in Vienna of a demure young girl. It is usually thought of as a youthful Katherine of Aragon following the death of Prince Arthur but in recent years it has been suggested that it might be Mary Tudor. Whoever the young girl might be the reason for the portrait is relatively straightforward – betrothal and marriage. It was a usual part of the diplomatic process of international marriage for portraits to be exchanged. Fitch Lytle dates the Sittow portrait to 1505 and a commission by Margaret of Austria when there were marriage plans in the air between Margaret and Henry (p135). The negotiations came to nothing but Margaret kept the portrait. It remained in her palace at Mecelen until her death in 1540.

 

The words that spring to mind are cautious and watchful. Note also the fur-lined robe embroidered with gold thread.  It actually looks remarkably like the robe from the first illustration in that there seems to be Tudor roses embroidered into the design.  The clearest one in the picture is to the right of Henry’s fingers.  Henry wanted his prospective bride to realise the King of England wasn’t a pauper. There’s also the rose. In the Sittow portrait it’s a red rose. Henry is a Lancastrian  after all- or else perhaps he was indicating that despite the fact that he’s a monarch in his middle years he’s still a passionate man; or possibly a martyred one! – a rose can mean many things in medieval/renaissance symbolism. In other copies – this one housed at the National Portrait Gallery for example- he is holding the red and white rose unified – and is much more straight forward to interpret.

 

holbeinmural

The other portrait I immediately think of isn’t taken from life but copied from elsewhere by Hans Holbein for the Whitehall Mural which is a piece of political propaganda for Henry VIII created in 1537. Looking at the portrait of Henry VIII the viewer sees a powerful renaissance monarch. It disguises the fact that Henry had experienced a disastrous tilt yard accident the previous year that would leave his leg increasingly badly ulcerated; that his subjects in Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Westmorland and Cumberland had risen up against him in the Pilgrimage of Grace (the citizens of the West Country hadn’t been frightfully well behaved either); and most importantly that he was having trouble producing a brood of healthy sons, Jane Seymour had died after giving birth to his only son. Yet if you look at the Whitehall Mural you see none of that.

 

In the mural Henry VII, the founder of the Tudor dynasty, is overshadowed by his son. Henry VII is robed as befitting a king, medieval and stately- though possibly slightly chilly as he seems to twitch the robes more closely around him, but in the shadows. His son, dressed as a renaissance prince faces the viewer squarely in a dominant stance – a daring thing in a portrait of that time. It drives home the answer to the question that the inscription on the central plinth poses: ‘If it pleases you to see the illustrious images of heroes, look on these: no picture ever bore greater. The great debate, competition and great question is whether father or son is the victor. For both, indeed, were supreme’.  The answer quite definitely (in Henry VIII’s mind at least) is that Henry VII is outshone by his son. He may have founded the Tudor dynasty but Henry is majesty personified.

 

There are however at least three other contemporary (ish) images of the king as well as Polydore Vergil’s posthumous description of the monarch. Interestingly eye-colour and hair colour as well as general demeanour aren’t always in agreement. Polydore Vergil’s description comes from knowing Henry VII and being commissioned to write the Anglia Historia  in 1501 but wanting to please Henry VIII as the official history of England wasn’t published until 1534:

His body was slender but well built and strong; his height above the average. His appearance was remarkably attractive and his face was cheerful, especially when speaking; his eyes were small and blue, his teeth few, poor and blackish; his hair was thin and white; his complexion sallow. His spirit was distinguished, wise and prudent; his mind was brave and resolute and never, even at moments of the greatest danger, deserted him. He had a most pertinacious memory. Withal he was not devoid of scholarship. In government he was shrewd and prudent, so that no one dared to get the better of him through deceit or guile. He was gracious and kind and was as attentive to his visitors as he was easy of access. His hospitality was splendidly generous; he was fond of having foreigners at his court and he freely conferred favours of them. But those of his subjects who were indebted to him and who did not pay him due honour or who were generous only with promises, he treated with harsh severity. He well knew how to maintain his royal majesty and all which appertains to kingship at every time and in every place. He was most fortunate in war, although he was constitutionally more inclined to peace than to war. He cherished justice above all things; as a result he vigorously punished violence, manslaughter and every other kind of wickedness whatsoever. Consequently he was greatly regretted on that account by all his subjects, who had been able to conduct their lives peaceably, far removed from the assaults and evil doing of scoundrels. He was the most ardent supporter of our faith, and daily participated with great piety in religious services. To those whom he considered to be worthy priests, he often secretly gave alms so that they should pray for his salvation. He was particularly fond of those Franciscan friars whom they call Observants, for whom he founded many convents, so that with his help their rule should continually flourish in his kingdom, but all these virtues were obscured latterly only by avarice, from which…he suffered. This avarice is surely a bad enough vice in a private individual, whom it forever torments; in a monarch indeed it may be considered the worst vice, since it is harmful to everyone, and distorts those qualities of trustfulness, justice and integrity by which the state must be governed.

Polydore Vergil, The Anglia Historia

 

henry7deathmaskThe three images that spring to mind are Henry VII’s death mask for his funeral effigy; his bust by Torrigiano and the effigy on top of the vault where he is entombed in Westminster Abbey. Henry died 21st April 1509. He’d suffered from gout and asthma. The death mask, which is exactly what it says it is, was made to form part of the funeral effigy which would have lain on top of Henry’s casket when it was transported to Westminster for burial. The wooden image would have been dressed, and looked exactly, as Henry looked in life. Westminster has a slightly macabre but hugely interesting collection of these effigies. Henry looks careworn and, unsurprisingly, ill.

 

henry viit

By contrast the bust by Torrigiano (the chap who once broke Michelangelo’s nose) depicts a man clad in the fur lined gown and black Tudor style hat who looks as though he probably could win a battle if push came to shove.   Like his portrait’s there is something cool (and not in a modern slang sort of way) about the subject. He looks as though he is weighing up his options. Whatever it is that he’s looking at he doesn’t seem terribly approving but then king’s weren’t supposed to look merry or approachable – though being a shade more charismatic might perhaps have been helpful especially when you were a king trying to hold a country together in order to avoid another outbreak of civil war. It is thought that Torrigiano made use of Henry’s death mask and then knocked several years off. The bust which is made from painted terracotta is in the V & A.  This image comes from their website.

The bust was probably a preliminary to the gilt bronze tomb effigy. Incidentally Torrigiano wasn’t terribly impressed with the English. He described them as ‘bears’ and ‘beasts.’

Cooper, Tarnya. (2008)  A Guide to Tudor and Jacobean Portraits. London: National Portrait Gallery

Eds. Fitch Lytle, Guy and Orge, Stephen. (1982) Patronage in the Renaissance

 

 

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Filed under Fifteenth Century, Kings of England, Sixteenth Century, The Tudors

Owain Tudor

Katherine of Valois was widowed at just twenty-one years of age when Henry V, victor of Agincourt, died of dysentery. Her infant son’s protectors-he uncles and great-uncles- could see that she might wish to marry again. However, they don’t appear to have been terribly keen on the idea given some of the strictures that they imposed. Firstly Katherine’s prospective spouse had to be prepared to give up his titles and his lands. Secondly she had to get her son’s permission and in order for young Henry VI to give it he had to have reached his majority – so sixteen. These rules seem to have been proposed by Duke Humphrey of Gloucester who became concerned in 1428 that Katherine was showing a bit too much interest in Edmund Beaufort, Earl of Somerset.

 

As luck would have it the lonely young woman did encounter a man that she wished to marry, her Keeper of the Wardrobe – one Owain Tudor as he would eventually become known. Depending upon which version of events you read she either spotted him whilst he was swimming or he fell into her lap whilst dancing. There is, it would have to be said, no historical evidence for either.

 

Owain ap Maredudd was born, we think, the same year his father Maredudd’s cousin Owain Glyndwr raised a rebellion against English rule- so about 1400. Maredudd’d brothers were heavily involved in the conflict. Owain Glyndwr had vanished by the time young Owain was six – another subject for legend despite his uprising against the English being quelled.   Maredudd’s fortune was in a state of parlous repair so, in one history, he went to London to make his fortune. Other accounts say that he murdered someone and fled into Snowdonia…so take your pick. In any event young Owain did not have a settled childhood.

Maredudd and his brothers claimed a line of descent from Cadrod of Calchfynedd and were relations of the Princes of  Deheubarth (South-West Wales). Maredudd himself held land inAnglesey.  Prior to Glyndwr’s rebellion he’d served both Welsh and English kings in important posts. In 1392, for example,  he  was Escheator of Anglesey.  He was also the Bishop of Bangor’s  steward.

Despite his rebellious father, cousin and uncles by the time he was seven Owain was at the court of Henry IV – the very man that his family were revolting against on their native Anglesey.

It is possible that Owain was at the Battle of Agincourt as a squire but we cannot be certain. He turns up in the records in 1421 in the service of Sir Walter Hungerford and then he must have entered the household of Katherine of Valois but we can only guess that Hungerford recommended him for the post. Equally we only have the two romanticized tales of how a dowager queen and her keeper of the wardrobe fell in love.

 

Inevitably Tudor ‘spin’ was bought to bear on proceedings by Henry VII. His historian Polydore Vergil wrote of “Owen Tyder” that he was “a gentleman of Wales, adorned with wonderful gifts of body and minde, who derived his pedigree from Cadwalleder, the last King of the Britons.” Henry VII needed to bulk his ancestry out a bit and since he was rather short on Plantagenet genes had to look back into the mists of time in order to garner some shreds of royalty.

 

Of course, Henry’s desire to justify his right to the crown by blood rather than right of conquest- was somewhat thwarted by the fact that Owain and Katherine couldn’t exactly publicise their nuptials so had married in secret and the problem with secrets is that there are no records. Katherine certainly hadn’t got Henry VI’s consent and she’d married beneath her another issue that the parliamentary act regarding any marriage she might have made had issue with– but at least Owain didn’t need to worry about losing his titles and his lands. He may perhaps have been a bit more concerned about losing his life when the various uncles of Henry VI’s protectorate found out what the dowager queen had been up to.

 

We can surmise that the couple married somewhere between 1428 and 1430 when Edmund Tudor was born.  We know that they went on to have at least four children – Edmund, Jasper, Owen and Margaret. There may have been others. We also know that Humphrey of Gloucester wasn’t terribly amused when he found out that Katherine had not only married but was producing the king’s half-siblings who were to be treated, according to the parliamentary act which had laid so many stipulations upon Katherine’s remarriage, as members of the royal family.

In 1436 politics caught up with Katherine and Owen, despite their quite life it is ultimately quite difficult to hide such a rapidly growing family.  The children were removed and Katherine retired to Bermondsey Abbey where she gave birth to her last child- Margaret.  The dowager queen died on January 3rd 1437.

Owain was ordered to come to court but he very sensibly refused without a letter of safe conduct.  He did set out for London but decided that it would be better for his safety if he took sanctuary in Westminster rather than throw himself on the Protectorate’s mercy.

Ultimately Owain was acquitted of all charges against him but the establishment can be a spiteful thing.  Owain was retrieved from Wales and imprisoned by Lord Beaumont who handed him over to the Earl of Suffolk.  He spent time in Newgate Prison and in 1438, following his escape from Newgate and recapture was sent to Windsor.  In 1439 he was finally released.

By that time Henry VI was of age.  He pardoned Owain for any crime that may have been committed, took Owain into his own household and welcomed his half-brothers.  Owain, unlike some more nobly born Englishmen remained loyal to Henry for the rest of his life. He must have dreamed of returning to his home in North Wales because in 1460 Henry VI made him Keeper of the Parks at Denbigh.

The following year Owain took part in the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross.  The old man was captured and executed in Hereford market square on the orders of Edward IV who was furious about the death of his own father.  Owain believed that he would be ransomed until the moment that he was faced with the executioner’s block.  Owain’s head was put on display at the market cross where a young woman combed his hair and washed his face before placing lit candles around it.  Contemporary sources describe her as mad but Leanda de Lisle contemplates the possibility that the young woman was the mother of Owain’s illegitimate son Daffyd who was about two in 1461.

 

de Lisle, Leanda. (2013) Tudor: the family story London: Chatto and Windus

 

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Filed under Fifteenth Century, Queens of England, Wars of the Roses