The earldom of Northumberland and the Percy family part 2 of 4

Harry Hotspur AlnwickI had thought three parts to this little series but having written today’s post which is largely about the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries I shall be extending it to four parts.

Generation 10 of Topcliffe/2 of Alnwick:

Henry Percy Junior was only sixteen when his father died in 1314.  Initially John de Felton held his lands in ward but by the time he was twenty Edward II had granted Henry more lands in Northumbria than his father held.  These had been part of Patrick Earl of March’s territory.  Patrick was Scottish and the land offer reflects the way in which northern territories fluctuated between Scotland and England during troubled times.  Henry was no more impressed with Edward II’s choice of male favourite than his father had been nor with the foreign policy and military prowess that saw the Scots raiding deep into Yorkshire.

In no particular order, Percy  conspired against the Despensers and was made governor of both Pickering and Scarborough Castle.  The northern Percy powerhouse was further built upon when he married into the Clifford family and Edward III granted him Warkwarth Castle.  In 1346 he was one of the English commanders at the Battle of Neville’s Cross near Durham against the Scots which must have been a bit irritating given that he had gone to Scotland in 1327 to help negotiate a peace treaty with them.

Generation 3 of Alnwick:

The next generation Henry Percy was at the Battle of Crecy – so should probably be regarded as the Hundred Years War Percy.  His correct title was the 3rdBaron Percy of Alnwick.  His first wife was Mary of Lancaster – the best way of thinking of her is as Blanche of Lancaster’s aunt.  Blanche was the first wife of John of Gaunt who is commemorated in the Book of the Duchess by Chaucer and whose land ensured that Gaunt was the wealthiest man in the country.  Mary was a daughter of Henry III.  With each marriage the Percy family made the wealth and the prestige of the family rose, as did the amount of land that they held and their proximity to the throne.

Generation 4 of Alnwick – 1st Earl of Northumberland:

The Percy family now found itself elevated to the earldom of Northumberland – after all Mary of Lancaster was a Plantagenet princess so it is only reasonable to suppose that her first born son should have a sufficiently impressive title.  The first earl, yet another Henry Percy, was born in 1341. He supported Edward III and then he supported Richard II in his various official capacities on the borders.  It was Richard who created him an earl at his coronation in 1377.  Unfortunately despite being having been married to Margaret Neville, Percy was distinctly un-amused when his power base was eroded by Richard II who created his rival (and nephew-in-law) Ralph Neville the earl of Westmorland.  The First Earl of Northumberland now had a hissy fit because of the creation of the First Earl of Westmorland. He swapped sides. Instead of backing Richard II against his enemies he supported Henry of Bolingbroke, John of Gaunt’s son, against Richard II. Bolingbroke duly became Henry IV and Percy found himself swaggering around with the title Constable of England.

Unfortunately in 1403 the earl swapped sides once more.  He was slightly irritated by the outcome of the Battle of Homildon Hill in 1402.  It was an English-Scots match that the English won.  Percy stood to make rather a lot of cash from ransoming his Scottish prisoners.   Unfortunately Henry IV was feeling the financial pinch and besides which felt that the Percys had too much power in the north.  So he demanded all the hostages and gave Percy a fraction of their value.  The earl was underwhelmed but didn’t immediately voice his irritation.

Having been given the task of subduing the Welsh in 1403, Percy and his son Harry Hotspur now joined with Owain Glyndwr.  Hotspur died at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403 but Henry IV couldn’t pin anything on the earl who hadn’t taken part in the battle.  The most that Henry IV could do was remove the office of constable from Percy who didn’t learn the lesson and continued to conspire against Henry IV. In 1405 Percy decided to take a long holiday in Scotland for the sake of his health. He took Hotspur’s son with him. The earl returned to England in 1408 where he managed to get himself killed at the Battle of Bramham Moor near Tadcaster.  This was the final battle in the Percy family rebellion against cousin Henry IV.

 

2nd Earl of Northumberland:

Joan BeaufortHotspur’s son another Henry had spent most of his childhood in Scotland because both his father and grandfather were at loggerheads with the monarch.  Very sensibly after his grandfather was killed the second earl remained safely in Scotland.  It was only when Henry IV died that Henry Percy took the opportunity to be reconciled with the Crown.  He was officially recognised as the 2ndearl in 1413.

He arrived back in England and settled down to a spot of feuding with his Neville relations. The Nevilles, particularly Richard Neville (aka the Kingmaker) and his father the Earl of Salisbury were associated with Richard of York so naturally the Percy family supported Henry VI and the Duke of Somerset.  Ironically the 2ndearl’s mother was Elizabeth Mortimer, the grand-daughter of Lionel of Antwerp, so you would have thought that he would have been more sympathetic to Richard of York who based his claims on his descent from Lionel.  Not only that but his return to the earldom had been smoothed by Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmorland. She also arranged his marriage to Eleanor Neville – her second daughter with the Earl of Westmorland – making the Earl of Salisbury Percy’s brother-in-law and the Kingmaker his nephew.  Talk about a tangled family web.

 

I’ve blogged about Eleanor Neville and the Battle of Heworth Moor before so there is no need to write about it again. Enough to say that it demonstrates the depths to which the feud had sunk.  And things were about to get worse.  The earl was born in 1393 and died on 22 May 1455 at the First Battle of St Albans.  It was a comprehensive victory for the Yorkists and according to the chronicles of the time an opportunity for Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, to settle some personal scores – the death of the Earl of Northumberland being on his “to do” list.  Obviously it didn’t help the relations between the Percy and Neville families as the Wars of the Roses spiralled towards the bloodiest battle in English history.

 

3rd  Earl of Northumberland:

Another Henry Percy, swearing vengeance for his father’s death was one of the commanders of the army that surrounded Richard of York and the Earl of Salisbury at Wakefield. The deaths of Richard, his son Edmund and the Earl of Salisbury on the 30 December 1460 were part of the  continuing vendetta.

The victors of Wakefield were now joined by Margaret of Anjou’s army.  They marched south and won the Second Battle of St Albans but stopped short of taking London.  Various armies marched back and forth but for the purposes of this post the next time we need to focus is at the Battle of Ferrybridge – 27 March 1461. Northumberland was supposed to stop the Yorkists from crossing the River Aire at Castleford whilst Lord Clifford held Ferrybridge for the Lancastrians. Lets just say that Northumberland arrived at Castleford late allowing Lord Fauconberg and his men to cross the river and come around behind the Lancastrians who retreated to Dintingdale (28th March) where Lord Clifford was killed by an arrow.

On the 29thMarch 1461, blinded by a snowstorm the 3rdEarl commanded the van of the Lancastrian army.  Closing with the enemy he was killed.

Edward IV was now the only king in England and issued an act of attainder against all the Lancastrian nobility who had fought at Towton.  Edward now rewarded the Nevilles who supported the House of York and punished the Percys who supported the house of Lancaster.

 

John Neville, Earl of Northumberland.

John was the Kingmaker’s younger brother. He was created Earl of Northumberland in 1464 after he had spent three years finishing off the Lancastrian threat in the north. Unfortunately for John, the Kingmaker became increasingly dissatisfied with Edward IV who, in return, became increasingly suspicious of his cousin.  In 1470 Edward removed John from post and gave him the tile the Marquis of Montagu and assorted lands to compensate for the loss of the earldom of Northumberland. It did not go down well with the Neville family who did not see any need for the balance of power  in the North to be restored by the return of the Percy family.

 

Edward was forced to flee his realm in October 1470 but returned in 1471.  John had not regained his title to Northumberland despite his brother effectively ruling England with a puppet king in the form of Henry VI on the throne.  Rather than attack Edward when he landed at Ravenspur, Neville simply shadowed the returned Yorkist king.  Ulitmately Neville would died at the Battle of Barnet along with his brother.

4th Earl of Northumberland:

Henry Percy (what a surprise) was imprisoned in the Fleet Prison in the aftermath of Towton (he was about 12 at the time) and from there he was sent to the Tower in 1464. In 1469 after swearing fealty to Edward IV he was released.  He then set about trying to get his estates returned. He petitioned for the reversal of his father’s attainder though this was not granted by Parliament until 1473.

Interestingly his wife was Maud Herbert, the  girl who Henry Tudor should have married had events not unfolded as they did in 1470.  They had eleven children.

Henry Percy went back to doing what the Earls of Northumberland had been doing for a very long time – i.e. ruling vast tracts of land and skirmishing with the Scots. He held many of the important government posts in the north of England which were traditional in his family including from 10 May 1483, as protector, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, confirmed the fourth earl of Northumberland’s appointment as warden-general of the east and middle marches ‘during the space and time of a whole year’, after which it was renewed for five months but perhaps it would appear not as much power from Richard III as he had hoped. Naturally enough he fought at Bosworth where he commanded the right wing of Richard III’s army.  The Percys were naturally Lancastrian by inclination. Percy’s father and grandfather had died for Henry VI. Some historians says that Percy betrayed Richard III by holding his forces back from action.  Percy’s northern levies weren’t committed to the battle.

If Northumberland had been a metaphorical spoke in Richard’s wheel he wasn’t very well rewarded by Henry Tudor who now became Henry VII. Northumberland, along with the earls of Westmoreland and Surrey was taken into custody and kept in prison for several months, being released only under strict conditions of good behaviour.  He was restored to his position as warden but with curtailed powers.  Henry may not have trusted him but Percy knew how to protect England’s northern border. He was also at hand to help defeat the Yorkist forces that gathered during the Lambert Simnel rebellion in 1487.

In 1489 Northumberland was part of the king’s administration gathering £100,000 of tax. This led to the Yorkshire Rebellion.  Northumberland had to deal with the resistance of Yorkshiremen to the tenth of incomes demanded for Henry’s Breton war and for the raising of a force against the Scots.  Things can’t have gone well for the Earl as his own tenants were up in arms.  He was so alarmed that on Saturday, 24 April, he wrote to Sir Robert Plumpton from Seamer, close to Scarborough, ordering him to secretly bring as many armed men as he could to Thirsk by the following Monday. It didn’t do him much good.

On  Wednesday, 28 April, having gathered a force estimated at eight hundred men, he came into conflict with the commons, whose ringleader was one John a Chamber, near Thirsk, at a place variously called Cockledge or Blackmoor Edge, and was killed.  Popular history claims it wasn’t so much the tax collection that irritated the locals as the fact that as good Yorkshire men their loyalty lay with Richard III.

 

Katherine Neville, Duchess of Norfolk and her toy boy.

Joan BeaufortKatherine Neville, daughter of Ralph Neville  earl of Westmorland and his second wife Joan Beaufort, was married first to John Mowbray, 2nd Duke of Norfolk.  The pair had only one child – a boy named John.  He’s the chap who turned up late to Towton in Easter 1461 and helped the Yorkists to win.  He died in 1461and was succeeded by his son also named John – this particular Duke of Norfolk as well as being Katherine Neville’s grandson was also the one who had the on-going feud with the Paston family about Caistor Castle.

Meanwhile Katherine had been married off to Thomas Strangeways with whom she had two children; Joan and Katherine.  I posted about Katherine earlier in the week. After Strangeways died Katherine Neville married for a third time to John, Viscount Beaumont.   He was a member of the Lincolnshire gentry and a trusted Lancastrian advisor.  He was Constable of England between 1445 and 1450. It was in this capacity helped make the arrest of Good Duke Humphrey back in 1447 and he had been around for Jack Cade’s Rebellion which came about partially as a result of the disastrous French campaign. By 1460 he was part of Henry VI’s bodyguard – this position was to cost him his life  on the 10 July when the Lancastrians lost the Battle of Northampton.

The Earl of Warwick returned from Calais where he had gone after fleeing the scene of Ludford Bridge the previous year and demanded to  see the king.  This was denied him.  His army marched north from Kent whilst Henry VI’s army came south.  The Lancastrians camped at Delapre Abbey with their backs to the River Nene.  Lord Grey of Ruthin ordered his men to lay down their weapons.  It turns out that one of the reasons he changed sides was over a property dispute.  The Earl of Warwick’s men were able to get to the very heart of Henry VI’s camp where John Beaumont was killed. His death is recorded in John Stone’s Chronicle.  History also has his will which was made four years previously in 1456 – a sensible precaution given the unsettled nature of the times.

In 1465 – Katherine then aged sixty-five was provided with a new spouse by Edward IV.  Her groom was one of Elizabeth Woodville’s brothers – John, aged just nineteen.  The marriage was scandalous at the time and there are various tales told after the fall of the Woodvilles which suggest that she was not so keen on the idea. One chronicler described the whole affair as “diabolical-” though admittedly the writer William of Worcester did think that Katherine was closer to eighty than sixty. It has been suggested that this marriage was one of the straws which broke the Earl of Warwick’s loyalty to his cousin.

It all seems a bit odd when all is said and done. Katherine was aunt to both the earl of Warwick and Edward IV.  When Edward was crowned Katherine was present with Edward’s mother, Duchess Cecily of Raby, who was after all her sister. It can’t have helped that Katherine’s fourth husband was the same age as her grandson from her first marriage who doesn’t seem to have regarded the marriage favourably either – it should be remembered that his grandmother held a considerable portion of the Norfolk estates as part of her dower – which John Woodville now benefitted from.  Most historians are of the view that it all came down to providing wealth and status to the Woodville clan.  Certainly John benefitted financially from his marriage to Katherine and even gained land from William Beaumont, her step-son from her third marriage, who was as Lancastrian as his father.

John Woodville was executed in 1469 by the Earl of Warwick  and George Duke of Clarence who had joined in rebellion against Edward.  John was with his father who was also executed. History does not record Katherine Neville’s view on her bereavement.

Katherine survived until 1483 – possibly with the help of various medications prescribed by the king’s apothecary John Clark which she did not pay for – a case was presented to the Court of Common Pleas on the matter.  Robes were issued so that she could play her role in Richard III’s coronation. There is no further record of Katherine nor do we know where she is buried.

The image that I have used for the last few posts depicting Joan Beaufort with her daughters comes from the Neville Book of Hours

Kleineke, Hannes (2015) “The Medicines of Katherine, Duchess of Norfolk, 1463–71” in Medical History 2015: Oct; 59(4): 511-524  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4595958/

Blickling Hall and the Boleyns

Queen Anne BoleynThere are rather a lot of halls in England and they aren’t all ancient seats – rather some of them seem to have been given the name hall to hint at an antiquity that didn’t exist. The Telegraph’s list of best stately homes has houses and palaces – the first hall is number ten on the list.  So that is my post for today.  Blickling Hall in Norfolk which definitely  has a pedigree.

Blickling was originally a medieval moated hall of the end described in earlier posts this month. It changed hands several times but this post is particularly interested in its purchase by Sir Geoffrey Bullen.  He was a successful merchant who would become Lord Mayor of London. Not only did he do well financially but he married up when he took the hand of Ann Hoo the daughter of the first Lord Hoo – not bad for the son of a yeoman farmer from Salle.   Geoffrey was knighted by Henry VI and was a friend of Sir John Falstaff of Caistor who was the inspiration for Shakespeare and who left his home to the Pistons causing a feud between the family and the duke of Norfolk.

Geoffrey’s son William did even better in the matrimonial stakes than his father.  He married Lady Margaret Butler, the daughter of the earl of Ormonde and one of his co-heirs.  It was form here that the Boleyn claim to the earldom of Ormonde stemmed – and which could have changed Anne Boleyn’s fate had she been married off to James Butler in order to resolve an inheritance dispute over the title and lands.   William was created a knight of the Bath by Richard III. He died in 1505.

Blickling was Thomas Boleyn’s residence from 1499 until 1505 when he inherited Hever from his father.  Thomas did even better in matrimonial terms than his father or grandfather in that he married the daughter of a duke – Lady Elizabeth Howard.    It’s thought that both Anne, Mary and their brother George were born there. If Anne was born after 1505 rather than in about 1501 then its more likely that she was born at Hever in Kent.

As with the medieval site there’s not a great deal of Tudor Blickling left as it was rebuilt during the Jacobean period by Sir Henry Hobart in about 1616. The house is worth visiting as one of the most beautiful Jacobean houses in the country but sadly I have no photographs of it as the last time I visited digital cameras were unheard of.

Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without a good ghost story – so here it is.  Anne Boleyn is said to return to her place of birth on the anniversary of her execution (19th May 1536).  The former queen arrives in a coach,  driven by a headless horseman and pulled by four headless horses, at midnight.  Dressed in white, carrying her own head she descends from the coach to walk the corridors of her childhood home, undeterred by Sir Henry Hobart’s rebuilding of the hall, until the sun rises.

 

If that’s not your cup of tea, Blicking Hall is home to a portrait supposed to be a young Ann Boleyn. There’s also a portrait of her daughter Elizabeth I.

 

 

Medieval Halls

DSC_0204Until about 1600 halls were large official rooms rather than private spaces.  Gainsborough Old Hall is the advent for December 2nd.  It’s a wonderful building constructed from timber frame and brick.  It was built by Thomas Burgh who inherited the manor of Gainsborough in 1455 – so just as the Wars of the Roses was kicking off.  Thomas’s father had done rather well from the Hundred Years War and had married into the Percy family to improve their social standing.  It was his marriage into the Party family that bought Gainsborough into the Burgh’s possession.

Historians believe that the hall and kitchen were built first from timber in the traditional manner with a cruck frame and wattle and daub. The brick was added later when the Burgh family wanted new ways of showing off their wealth.  The great hall is constructed from huge oak beams.  Originally there would have been a central fire.  The smoke escaped through a louvred frame in the roof – so more kippering.  The raised dais where the lord and his family sat was at the opposite end of the room from the cooking  and service areas which were accessed through three doors.  Evidence of the screen hiding these doors can still be seen in the wall above the door frames.

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Thomas was a Yorkist so found that his position in society was further established.  He became Sheriff of Lincoln as well as one of the Esquires to the Body of Edward IV.    He celebrated his new position by marrying a wealthy widow.

Thomas continued to be loyal to Edward in 1469 when the Earl of Warwick rebelled against Edward’s lordship and then during the so-called Re-Adaptation of Henry VI.  In fact it was Thomas who was one of the Yorkists who helped Edward escape his foes in 1471.

Richard III  visited the hall on the way from York to London on October 10th 1483.  The owner of the time Sir Thomas Burgh  was the same chap who’d commissioned the building in the first place and who had demonstrated his loyalty to the Yorkist cause throughout the period.  A week previously Henry Tudor had attempted to sail from Brittany with a fleet to invade at his mother’s behest.  He was forced to turn back leaving the duke of Buckingham to rise in rebellion agains this former friend Richard III.  Buckingham would be executed in Salisbury at the beginning of November and Edward V’s coronation postponed for the last time.

However, something went seriously awry between the House of York and the Burgh family because Thomas turned his coat and by 1485 was a supporter of Henry Tudor. As a result of his support of the Tudors, Thomas was elevated once again becoming Baron Gainsborough.

Sir Thomas’s heir, Edward was loyal to the Tudors as well but suffered from inherited mental health problems meaning that a younger son also called Thomas became the head of the family.  This particular Lord Burgh was Anne Boleyn’s chamberlain and sat as part of the jury at her trial. His son, another Edward, was Katherine Parr’s first husband. They married in 1529 but by 1533 he was dead.

Katherine Howard.jpg Henry VIII visited the hall with wife number five- the ill fated Katherine Howard.

It’s unusual to find an untampered medieval hall simply because later owners added extensions and made alterations to suit their own needs. I must admit that I rather liked the Henry VIII and his wife dolls scattered around the hall – a couple of whom are pictured here and its not often you can trot around corridors that cover such a fascinating period of history from start to finish.

Katherine Parr Henry VIII

Jacquetta and Sir Richard Woodville – Yorkists

Plate 4--Garter Stall Plate earl riversSir Richard Woodville (Lord Rivers) and his eldest son Sir Anthony were men in trouble in the aftermath of the Battle of Towton fought at Eastertide 1461.  They were Lancastrians who within six weeks of the battle found themselves attainted of treason and their lands confiscated.

By July 12 1462 Lord Rivers was pardoned.  It would appear from the correspondence of the time that Jacquetta had a hand in the changing state of affairs.   By 1463 Lord Rivers had found a place in the Privy Council.

Even more unexpectedly perhaps the new king married the couple’s eldest daughter the recently widowed Elizabeth Grey – who history knows as Elizabeth Woodville in May 1464.  Presumably Edward knew that marrying a penniless Lancastrian widow wouldn’t go down well with Warwick, especially as Edward had been in Calais in 1460 when Lord Rivers had been paraded through the town and rated as a “knave.”  Perhaps this was why Edward failed to mention the fact of his marriage to his cousin.

Elizabeth was crowned on May 26 1465.  There was a lot of emphasis placed upon Elizabeth’s maternal pedigree. In February 1466 the couple’s first child was born.    Between 1463 and 1483 the Woodvilles would rise in power and political dominance.    The earl of Warwick realised this would be at the expense of the Nevilles within week’s of Elizabeth Woodville’s public acknowledgement as between 1464 and 1466 Elizabeth arranged the marriage of many of her siblings into the richest and most powerful families in the land starting with the marriage of Elizabeth’s sister to the heir of the earl of Arundel.  Personally Warwick would not have been amused when the match he arranged between his nephew George and Anne Holland, heiress to the earldom of Exeter was overturned so that Anne could marry Elizabeth’s oldest son Thomas Grey.  Warwick’s aunt the dowager duchess of Norfolk (Katherine Neville) found herself married to nineteen year old John Woodville.  The duchess would have qualified for her bus pass at the time.  I could go on but you get the gist – there were a certain number of heirs and heiresses available and the Woodvilles swamped the market.

It was undoubtedly the rise of the Woodvilles that contributed to Warwick’s decision to turn against Edward in 1469. Not only had the family married above themselves so far as he was concerned but Sir Richard had ousted Lord Mountjoy (who just so happened to be the earl of Warwick’s uncle by marriage) from the position of treasurer in 1466.  Matters probably weren’t helped when the following year he was elevated to being Constable of England.

Warwick broke away from Edward in 1469 giving his association with low born men like earl (yes that’s right there was a promotion as well) as one of his reasons.  The two had apparently reconciled their differences earlier but a northern rebellion led by Robin of Redesdale was actually the earl of Warwick’s doing.  In addition the earl was plotting with Edward’s brother George duke of  Clarence.  The whole thing only came into the open when George married Isobel Neville (Warwick’s oldest daughter) on 11 July in Calais.  Edward suddenly discovered that not only was he facing an army of rebels from the north but that Warwick and Clarence had arrived in Sandwich and were marching with a second army having been allowed into London and “borrowed” some money from the City.  Edward was caught between two armies and became reliant on the earls Pembroke and Devon to raise an army on his behalf.

It didn’t go well for Edward or his earls for that matter.  On 26th July 1469   The earl of Pembroke’s army was intercepted by Warwick at Edgecote near Banbury and bested at the river crossing there.   The army might have fought on but Pembroke’s men seeing more of Warwick’s forces arriving assumed that the earl’s army was much larger than it really was.   William Herbert, the earl of Pembroke was captured and executed the following day.  The earl of Devon was also executed as were a number of Edward IV’s other key supporters.

Edward was happily oblivious to all of this being ensconced in Nottingham at the time when he left the city on the 29th July he was captured by Bishop George Neville at Olney and now found himself in the situation of Henry VI – i.e. in need of protection from bad advisers – or more correctly a prisoner.  By August he was resident in Warwick’s castle at Middleham and Elizabeth Woodville was firmly situated in Westminster with her children in sanctuary.

Where were the Woodvilles in all of this?  Sir Richard and his second son John were in Edward IV’s army.  They fled the went into hiding.  They were found in August at Chepstow and executed on the 12th August 1469 at Kennilworth.

That same month one Richard Wake accused Woodville’s widow Jacquetta of being a witch.  The earl of Warwick had Jacquetta arrested and taken to Warwick Castle.  Jacquetta did not panic.  Instead she wrote a letter to the mayor and aldermen of London calling in a favour.  George duke of Clarence became involved and Warwick for whatever reason seemed to get cold feet about the whole business and released her.  She very sensibly joined Elizabeth claiming sanctuary in Westminster Abbey.

The witchcraft case only failed ultimately because Edward was able to escape his cousin’s clutches in 1470 and the family disagreement patched up (for the time being).  On the 10th February 1470 it was added to the record books that the dowager duchess of Bedford was not in fact a witch and that her accusers were malicious trouble makers.  The story came out of the woodwork again in 1484 when Richard III wanted to use the tale against the Woodvilles – it can be seen in the Titulus Regulus.

Since then much has been made by fiction writers of Jacquetta’s magical abilities from blowing up storms to arranging for a nasty fog.  However, in reality the lady’s biggest mistake was to be an educated woman at a time when being able to read was suspect and being the mother of the most hated family in England (by some powerful factions in any event) did not help.  In the previous generation Good Duke Humphrey’s wife, Eleanor Cobham, was accused of witchcraft as a ploy to bring down Humphrey whilst Henry IV’s second wife Joan of Navarre was also accused of witchcraft – by her step-son no less- as a method of controlling her dower lands.

England did not remain long at peace.  By September 1470 Warwick and Clarence were in Lancastrian colours and Margaret of Anjou had invaded.  Jacquetta returned to sanctuary with Elizabeth and her grandchildren whilst Edward IV and Jacquetta’s son Anthony fled abroad.

Jacquetta died on the 30 May 1472.  She was fifty-six and like Katherine Swynford – her descendents would be English monarchs to this day.

Gregory, Philippa, Baldwin, David and Jones, Michael. (2011) Women of the Cousins’ War.  London: Simon and Schuster

The Vernons of Haddon Hall – Sir Henry Vernon.

sir henry vernon.jpgI’ve posted before about Henry Vernon being a canny politician.  He was ordered to attend Richard III prior to the Battle of Bosworth but there is no evidence for him on the battlefield – on either side. Having been in good odour with Edward IV, the duke of Clarence and the earl of Warwick if the letters in the Rutland Archive are anything to go by it is a little surprising that Sir Henry did so well under the Tudors – In fact a study of a range of Vernon’s letters gives helpful insight into the changing politics of the period – which is exactly what I intend to do in a couple of weeks with my Wars of the Roses group, along with a peek at Sir Henry’s will.

Sir Henry was from a notable Derbyshire family. The Vernons had been part of the Lancaster Affinity in the fourteenth century. His grandfather, Sir Richard, had fought in the Hundred Years War and been made Treasurer of Calais.  He was also an MP for Derbyshire as was Henry’s father Sir William Vernon who died in 1467 when his son was about twenty-six.

The Battle of Towton took place at Easter 1461.  This event saw  Yorkist Edward taking the throne.  The power behind the throne was Edward’s cousin, Richard Neville, the earl of Warwick – a.k.a -the Kingmaker. Unfortunately the two Yorkist cousins had a falling out when Edward IV married the widow of Sir John Grey of Groby in secret. Elizabeth Woodville was not who the earl of Warwick envisaged as queen of England.  He had been negotiating for the hand of a French princess so felt a bit foolish.  Nor did it help that Elizabeth Woodville had a large family all of whom had to be found excellent positions within the establishment not to mention wealthy and titled spouses: let’s just say noses were put out of joint. The political situation became more tense. Ultimately in 1470 Edward IV was forced to flee and his wife and their daughters seek sanctuary in Westminster Abbey. In March 1471 Edward returned via Ravenspur and marched on London where he was greeted with popular acclaim. There then followed the battle of Barnet and the demise of the earl of Warwick and his brother Lord Montagu.  Clearly this is a rather brief outline but you get the gist!

So where was Sir Henry Vernon in all of this? He was the recipient of rather a lot of letters from various people who want this support.  He on the other hand appears to have taken a rather measured approach to the royal cousins charging around the countryside trying to slaughter one another.

Duke of Clarence to Henry Vernon, squire. (This was written when Warwick was in charge of the kingdom and Clarence had deserted his brother Edward’s cause thinking that Warwick was a better proposition! He’d married Warwick’s eldest daughter only to have Warwick marry off his other daughter to the Lancastrian Prince Edward – meaning that Clarence was no better off than he had been before and was regarded as a bit of a swine for doing the dirty on his brother.)

1470, Oct. 4, Tewkesbury.

Trusti and welbeloved we grete you wele, lating you wite that wee bee fully purposed with the grace of our Lord to bee at Lichefield on Twysday now commyng, on Monday at our toun of Asthebourne and on Thursday next ensuying at our town oI Chestrefield. Wherefore we woll and desire you to mete with us at our commyng at the said parties, and to com- mande on our behelf our offrcers and tenanntes within your ofhces to doo in like wyse. Geven under our signet at Teukesbury the iiii day of October.

 

This letter is swiftly followed up by a second letter which asks Vernon to find out how the rest of the gentry in Derbyshire feel about Clarence.  It should be noted that Clarence did own some manors in Derbyshire and his cousin was married into the Talbot family. A third letter sounds a note of panic with the news that Edward is on his way back to England. By the time Vernon received it, Edward had already landed at Ravenspur and was making his way south.

Yet another letter, this time from the earl of Warwick describes Edward as a “gret enemy rebelle and traitour is now late arrived in the North partes of this land and commyng fast on Southward accompanyed with Flemminge, Esterlands and Danes.” The letter is a commission of array.  Essentially it orders Sir Henry to gather men and join Warwick’s army immediately in order to maintain the rule of Henry VI (or rather the earl of Warwick who preferred the idea of being a puppet master to that of loyal subject.)

Sir Henry is then in receipt of several more letters from the duke of Clarence.  Clarence is marching from Malmsbury, at the end of March ostensibly to intercept his brother Edward. By the 2nd of April he is in Burford and from there he went to Coventry and  instead of fighting his brother joined with him against the earl of Warwick.

Sir Henry’s next letter is from King Edward IV who wrote from Tewkesbury:

Margaret late called Queene is in our handes, her son Edward slayn Edmund called Duc of Somerset, John Erl of Devonshire with all the other lords knightes and noblemen that were in their company taken or slayn, yet we now understand that commones of divers partes of this our royaume make murmurs and commocions entending the distruccion of the churche, of us our lords and all noblemen, and to subvert the public of our said royome which we in our persone with Goddes helpe and assistance of you and other trewe subgettes shall mightly defend the same and we woll that ye be with us.

Clearly Sir Henry had avoided the various battlefields and kept his head down, though it would appear that he had made a list of his valuables which he pledged to Edward’s support.

Once Edward had won the Battle of Tewksbury and Prince Edward was killed the end of Henry VI, a prisoner in the Tower, was inevitable. Sir Henry Vernon along with the rest of the country would reasonably have expected Edward to reign for a good long while and then to have been succeeded by his sons – Elizabeth Woodville having produced the first male heir, another Prince Edward, whilst she was in sanctuary in Westminster. Vernon’s loyalty to the house of York is made apparent in a letter from Edward IV of 1481:

we bee enformed that ye have taken distresse for us and in oure name for thomage due unto us in that behalve for the which we thanke vou.

He was also appointed Bailiff of the High Peak by the York regime.

Then, in 1483, it was all change again.  Edward IV died unexpectedly whilst his eldest son Edward was still too young to inherit in his own right. Enter Richard III and yet another commission of array for Sir Henry Vernon to meet the king on the field against Henry Tudor.  Vernon appears to have avoided Bosworth.

It is thus somewhat surprising that Sir Henry thrived under the rule of Henry Tudor.  Having said that Vernon married Anne Talbot, daughter of the earl of Shrewsbury in 1466 so the Talbot Lancastrian links and the fact that the earl of Shrewsbury joined with Henry Tudor prior to the Battle of Bosworth may go rather a long way to explaining how Sir Henry Vernon survived the change from white rose to red. He became Governor and Treasurer to Prince Arthur and was also made a Knight of the Bath. He was in attendance when Arthur married Katherine of Aragon.  Local legend states that Arthur stayed at Vernon’s home in Derbyshire – Haddon Hall- on more than one occasion.

There is a letter from Henry VII dated 1485.  It describes Vernon as “trusty and well beloved” and it describes in some detail the problem of a Yorkist insurrection led by the anonymous Robin of Redesdale requesting that Vernon place himself at Henry’s disposal.  In fact the first attempt on Henry VII’s life was made in York when he first visited it. A later letter identifies the trust that Henry placed in Vernon in the care of his eldest son:

 

Henry VII to Sir Henry Vernon.
1492, Aug 31. Windsor. Trusti and welbeloved we grete you wele. And inasmoche as we have appointed you tobe Comptroller of household with our derrest son the Prince and that we depart in all hast on our voyage over the see, we therefor desire and praye you that ye will give your personell attendaunce upon our said derrest son for the tyme we shalbe out of this our realme, and that ye faile not hereof as we truste you’ Geven under our signet at our Castel of Windesor the last day of August viii of our reyne. Sign Manual

Later still Vernon would go with Margaret Tudor to Scotland and pay a forced loan of £100 to the notoriously parsimonious Tudor monarch.

Sir Henry survived into the reign of Henry VII which ended in 1509.  He would now serve the second Tudor monarch.  In 1512/13 Henry VIII wrote to Sir Henry Vernon ordering him to send “a hundred tal men hable for the warre sufficiently harnessed to Greenwich.” This must have been for Henry’s war against the french.  The letter also advises Vernon that money would be expected for the men’s upkeep.

Sir Henry Vernon, who had lived through so many tumultuous events died on April 15th 1515 and was buried in Tong Church where his wife Anne Talbot is also buried.  His effigy wears the double ss livery collar of the House of Lancaster and there is a Tudor rose to be seen – just so that everyone is quite clear about where his loyalties lay…

Kirke, H. (1920) ‘Sir Henry Vernon of Haddon.’ Derbyshire Archeological Journal:42. (pp. 001-017).

Thomas, Lord Stanley

thomas stanley.jpgThomas Stanley is known either as a politically adroit magnate who successfully navigated the stormy seas of the Wars of the Roses or a treacherous little so-and-so – depending upon your historical view point. Stanley is the bloke married to Margaret Beaufort who is best known for being a tad tardy at Bosworth whilst his brother, Sir William, turned coat and attacked Richard III. Stanley wasn’t the only one whose behaviour during the various battles of the wars seems lacking in the essential codes of knightly behaviour but he certainly seems to have been the most successful at avoiding actually coming to blows with anyone unless there was something in it for him – and no this post is not unbiased.
Thomas was born in 1433 , meaning he was some eight years older than Margaret Beaufort.  The Stanley family held estates and office in Lancashire and Cheshire into the Peak District as well as being the titular kings of the Isle of Man.
Thomas turns up in 1454 as one of Henry VI’s squires. By the end of the decade he was married to Eleanor Neville, the daughter of the Earl of Salisbury; making the Kingmaker his brother-in-law.
When the peace between the Lancastrians and Yorkists ground to a sticky halt in 1459 Margaret of Anjou ordered Stanley to assemble men to confront Richard of York. This was a tad tricky as Stanley’s brother-in-law, the Earl of Warwick, was with Richard at Ludlow as indeed was his own brother William Stanley.  Apparently the earl of Salisbury  also corresponded with Stanley at this time – consequentially although Stanley raised a force of 2000 men they sat and twiddled their fingers whilst the Lancastrians and Yorkists expressed their differences of opinion at Bloreheath in August of that year. Parliament was not amused but everyone decided that the best course of action would be to pretend that it never happened.
Richard of York and the Earl of Warwick scarpered to Ireland and Calais respectively in the aftermath of the battle of Ludford Bridge but their return in 1460 saw Stanley trying to sit on the fence and please both sides. It’s quite tricky to spot where he was during the Battle of Towton – but possibly not in Yorkshire. In any event it helped having a powerful brother-in-law on hand to make the new regime more accessible.
Stanley spent the next few years concreting and pacifying his regional power base.  He is recorded as going north to take on the Lancastrians during the first part of the 1460s and he was at court when Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was made public. He became the Justice for Chester – so was one of the magnates that Edward used to rule the regions on his behalf.
Unfortunately Stanley’s brother-in-law was feeling aggrieved. The Kingmaker had not expected Edward IV to get married to a widow with a large family or to start ignoring his advice. In 1470 after the relationship had finally gone sour Warwick took himself and his son-in-law George duke of Clarence off to France to patch things up with Margaret of Anjou and whilst he was at it he arranged the marriage of his youngest daughter Ann Neville to Margaret’s son Prince Edward. Stanley was once again on a sticky wicket.  Did he remain loyal to Edward or did he support his brother-in-law?
To answer the question of what Stanley would do it is important to take a step back to 1469 and before that even to 1461. Richard of Gloucester  needed someone else to fulfil the role of steward of Penrith Castle and warden of the west march.  He chose a man named John Huddleston. Huddleston looked to the Harrington family for patronage. The Harringtons  were one of two families who dominated Lancashire and Cheshire – you already know who the other bunch were.  The Stanley  family – not noted for it front line approach to war-  took advantage of the death of Thomas Harrington’s death at the Battle of Wakefield in 1461 fighting for Richard of York, and also that of his son, John, leaving John’s two daughters to inherit.  There was a messy court case, some fisticuffs and rather a lot of fudging by Edward IV and Richard of Gloucester who both recognised the loyalty of the Harrington family and the, er, how can I put this – oh yes- shiftiness of the Stanley. Edward IV  rather astutely recognised that he couldn’t do without Stanley so he gave the wardship of the two girls to Stanley who intended to marry the little girls to his own son and nephew and thus take control of the estate.
However, the Harrington family argued that the girls were only heiresses if their father -John- had been killed after their grandfather at Wakefield. If Harrington junior had been killed before Harrington senior then there was no case at all because the girls would not be heiresses, their uncle James ( younger brother of John) would automatically inherit.  The Harringtons clenched their teeth and retreated to Hornby Castle where they prepared for a siege. Richard by selecting John Huddleston for the important role of warden signposted a downturn in Stanley fortunes and power because he was effectively saying that the Harringtons had a good case for not handing everything over to Thomas Stanley.
Stanley, keen to lay hold of Hornby Castle in Lancashire, sided with Warwick and Henry VI not because of any great loyalty to his brother-in-law or the Lancastrian king but because he was busy having his own baron-on-baron war.  Hornby remained Yorkist and the Harrington family who owned it were supported by Richard of Gloucester. It was thanks to this connection that Stanley hadn’t already got his chubby paws on the property. High minded ideals about kingship aside, Stanley besieged the castle because he wanted it he could claim he was doing so in support of Henry VI and with Edward IV on the back foot his irritating little brother couldn’t put his oar in and ruin Stanley’s plans.  In short whilst armies were marching around the country slaughtering one another at Barnet and Tewkesbury Stanley was sorting out a property dispute and siding with the colour rose most likely to  benefit him.
When Edward IV arrived back in London having dispatched the Lancastrians the Stanley boys  removed their red roses and were brandishing white ones with enthusiasm – Thomas from a safe distance. He was swiftly re-admitted to the political fold with a place on the privy council.
By this time Stanley was a widower so had no dodgy Neville extended family.  In June 1472, eight months after the death of Sir Henry Stafford, Margaret Beaufort took Stanley as husband number four. The two were, naturally related, in this instance via Sir Henry Stafford (husband number three).  Stanley’s marriage to the last Beaufort standing didn’t seem to do Stanley any harm.  He became Lord Steward of the Royal Household and turned up in 1482 in Scotland when he was part of the force that captured Berwick-upon-Tweed back from the Scots.Margaret Beaufort probably chose her fourth husband based on the idea of needing someone who could protect her interests and Stanley had already demonstrated advanced skills in self-interest as well as being, somewhat bizarrely, well-in with Edward IV.  Whilst Margaret worked on re-establishing her son, Stanley  continued to work on dominating vast tracts of Lancashire and Cheshire.  For a man not keen to wield a sword on the battle field rather a lot of his opponents soon found themselves on the wrong end of Stanley’s weaponry.  Sir John Butler of Warrington was murdered by Stanley’s servants – it was a reminder about who was in charge in the region. Stanley got away with it – he doesn’t even appear to have got his wrist slapped.

There was no love lost between Richard of Gloucester and Stanley. There was the Hornby Castle affair to consider as well as Stanley’s failure to relinquish key northern roles to Gloucester in 1469. It is perhaps not surprising that in 1483 when Richard was unsure who to trust in the run up to taking his nephew’s throne for himself that Stanley found himself briefly under arrest. Stanley who was at the privy council meeting in the Tower on the morning that Lord Hastings was summarily executed was perhaps lucky not to meet with a similar end.

 

So what did Thomas Stanley have that both Edward IV and Richard III needed that he was able to get away with murder and change sides without too much inconvenience? One gets the feeling it wasn’t his charm and sparkling personality. Stanley was effectively a “mini-king maker” although not as wealthy or influential as the earl of Warwick, Stanley ran the Northwest of England and the border with North Wales.  He was able to put a huge number of men in the field (even if they did just stand around). It seems to be that both Edward IV and Richard III felt that it was better to have Stanley on their side than against them.

Stanley played an important part at Richard III’s coronation and did rather well out of the duke of Buckingham’s rebellion in 1483, even though Margaret Beaufort found herself under house arrest and all her assets transferred to her husband.
He became Lord Constable of  England although there was the caveat that when Stanley left court to go to Lathom that Richard expected Stanley’s son Lord Strange to be on hand…not a hostage….an incentive for Stanley to return.  Of course, once Henry Tudor landed in 1485 Lord Strange was very definitely a hostage.  Richard III reminded Thomas that if he don’t tow the line there would be unpleasant consequences for Lord Strange.
At Bosworth on 22nd August 1485 Thomas Lord Stanley did what he did best – he sat around and twiddled his fingers. Lord Strange survived the battle despite the fact that his father’s forces sat between the two opposing armies and did absolutely nothing.  Meanwhile Sir James Harrington (you remember the Harringtons and Hornby Castle) rocked up loyal as you please to Richard III. The Harringtons had been loyal to the white rose from start to finish.  Sir James may well have been carrying the king’s banner when he died at Richard’s side.

On the 27 October 1485 his step-son, now Henry VII of England, made his earl of Derby and naturally Thomas found himself taking on lots of other jobs as well although Henry VII did execute brother William Stanley in 1495 for his part in the Perkin Warbeck affair.

Thomas Stanley died on the 29 July 1504 – in his bed at Lathom. I’m not actually sure why I object to the man so much. He’s no better and no worse than many other magnates of the period. He was singularly successful at not being present on any battlefield ( which shows a modicum of common sense singularly lacking at the time).  He was undoubtedly intelligent and was able to excel politically during a time of instability – more able in some respects than the various Plantagenet scions that hacked one another to pieces on the battle fields of England; definitely more savvie than the honourable Harringtons. However, the Harrington affair, the murder of Sir John Butler and Stanley’s ability to sit on the fence, irrelevant of the plight of his son, combine in my mind at least to make him an unpleasant little weasel who definitely didn’t get what he deserved …which means, as Mr Spock would say, that my logic is defective as this is History and not a story book where honourable loyal people live happily ever after.

Norton, Elizabeth. (2011).  Margaret Beaufort: Mother of Dynasty.  Stroud: Amberley Press

Wagner, John A. (2001) Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses.

 

 

John de la Pole, 2nd duke of Suffolk, the trimming duke and father of “white roses.”

john de la pole + elizabeth of york.jpgJohn de la Pole born in 1442 was the only son of William de la Pole, earl and then duke of Norfolk and Alice Chaucer, granddaughter of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer. William de la Pole was Henry VI’s key adviser during the 1440s. It was he who arranged the marriage between Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou in a bid to bring the Hundred Years War to an end, on Henry’s orders it should be added – it didn’t end the war with the French and it didn’t make William popular with the English who blamed him for a French bride who had no dowry but who had cost England large areas of France: Maine and Anjou. It probably didn’t help that he was descended from a Hull wool merchant rather than being tied by blood to the ruling families.

 

John de la Pole is technically Margaret Beaufort’s first husband, though it is doubtfully that she recognised that she’d ever been married to him. John’s part in Margaret Beaufort’s story starts with Margaret’s father John Beaufort duke of Somerset. In 1443 an army was sent to Gascony, at that time in English hands, to defend it against the French. The person in charge was John Beaufort. It was a bit of an odd choice given Beaufort’s lack of experience and certainly Richard of York who was a proven commander wasn’t best pleased. John was probably selected because he wasn’t Richard of York and because he was part of the Lancastrian royal family. There was also the fact that after seventeen years as a hostage in France following the disastrous Battle of Bauge that Beaufort, although not entirely at ease with the idea of being in charge of the whole affair, was quite keen on garnering some loot so that he could do something about his fortune which had suffered due to the ransom that had been paid for his release.

Suffice it to say things didn’t go very well. For a start Somerset ravaged parts of Brittany. This was not good. The Duke of Brittany was an ally of the English so didn’t appreciate having to pay a hefty tribute to Somerset. Ultimately Somerset was ordered home where he died less than a year after the birth of his only legitimate child Margaret Beaufort. The causes of his death on 27 May 1444 are a bit vague but popular history identifies him as a suicide.

Prior to going to France Somerset arranged with the king that should anything happen to him that his infant daughter should be given into the custody of his wife Margaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe. This had the two-fold advantage of keeping mother and child together and ensuring that Beaufort’s lands and revenue weren’t depleted during Margaret’s minority as was often the case when a child was handed over as a ward to another noble family. Unfortunately for John Beaufort, kings and politicians are prone to reneging on their word particularly when the chap they’ve made the agreement with in the first place has had a bit of a disastrous tenure of office.

 

Margaret, as a great heiress, automatically became a ward of the Crown upon her father’s death. She was also, whilst the king had no children of his own, a candidate for the throne. Whoever had possession of the child had possession of wealth which could be accrued permanently through marriage and of political power at a time when politics was essentially a family affair. Henry VI gave the matter some thought then promptly handed Margaret over to William de la Pole, earl then duke of Suffolk and Henry’s key adviser:

For asmoche as oure Cousin the Duc of Somerset is nowe late passed to Goddes mercy, the whiche hath a doughter and heir to succede after hym of ful tender age called Margarete, We, considering the notable services that oure Cousin therl of Suffolk hath doon unto us . . . have . . . graunted unto hym to have the warde and marriage of the said Margarete withouten enything therfore unto us or oure heires yelding.

 

It was normal for wards to be raised in the homes of their guardians but perhaps Henry VI didn’t entirely go back on his word in that Margaret was raised by her mother who remarried to Lionel, Lord Welles. Maraget’s childhood was spent in the company of her extended family of half-siblings the St Olivers.

 

Meanwhile, following the death of Cardinal Beaufort, Henry VI’s great uncle in 1447, Suffolk tightened his grip on the political affairs of the English court. The death of Cardinal Beaufort was followed by the arrest of Humphrey, duke of Gloucester (Good Duke Humphrey). Humphrey’s political ambitions had been firmly squashed when his wife Eleanor Cobham had been condemned as a witch but he remained popular with ordinary people and his death soon after his arrest was treated with suspicion – fingers pointing in the direction of Suffolk.

 

The wheel of fortune creaked on its circuit. Suffolk was incredibly powerful but heartily disliked not least by Richard, duke of York who believed that it should be he and not Suffolk who had the king’s ear. Matters didn’t improve as the conflict in France deteriorated still further. Edmund Beaufort (John Beaufort’s younger brother) managed to lose Normandy. Beaufort was one of Suffolk’s allies. Suffolk was once again tarred with the brush of English defeat in France.

 

Suffolk’s son John was eight by this time. Suffolk decided that the best thing that he could do to retrieve the situation would be to marry John to Margaret a.s.a.p. He would gain access to Beaufort support and shore up his position – so he thought. The marriage in itself wasn’t unusual, there are plenty of examples of babies, both royal and noble, being contracted in marriage during the medieval period and later. Because the two of them were related a papal dispensation was required. This arrived after the marriage had been celebrated. Unfortunately it was politically disastrous union for the duke.

 

Suffolk found himself under arrest on the 28 January 1450. Parliament attainted Suffolk of treason arguing that he’d only married his son to Margaret to steal the throne and that further more he was going to get the French to invade to make it happen all the sooner. Clearly this was nonsense but Henry VI was too weak to save his friend from the attainder of treason and its consequences. The best he could manage was to have the inevitable execution reduced to banishment.

 

Suffolk wrote a letter to John the night before he was due to be exiled, exhorting the boy to obey the king and his mother in all things:

 

My dear and only well-beloved son, I beseech our Lord in Heaven, the Maker of all the World, to bless you, and to send you ever grace to love him, and to dread him, to the which, as far as a father may charge his child, I both charge you, and pray you to set all your spirits and wits to do, and to know his holy laws and commandments, by the which ye shall, with his great mercy, pass all the great tempests and troubles of this wretched world.

And that also, weetingly, ye do nothing for love nor dread of any earthly creature that should displease him. And there as any frailty maketh you to fall, beseech his mercy soon to call you to him again with repentance, satisfaction, and contrition of your heart, never more in will to offend him.

Secondly, next him above all earthly things, to be true liegeman in heart, in will, in thought, in deed, unto the king our aldermost high and dread sovereign lord, to whom both ye and I be so much bound to; charging you as father can and may, rather to die than to be the contrary, or to know anything that were against the welfare or prosperity of his most royal person, but that as far as your body and life may stretch ye live and die to defend it, and to let his highness have knowledge thereof in all the haste ye can.

Thirdly, in the same wise, I charge you, my dear son, alway as ye be bounden by the commandment of God to do, to love, to worship, your lady and mother; and also that ye obey alway her commandments, and to believe her counsels and advices in all your works, the which dread not but shall be best and truest to you. And if any other body would steer you to the contrary, to flee the counsel in any wise, for ye shall find it naught and evil.

Furthermore, as far as father may and can, I charge you in any wise to flee the company and counsel of proud men, of covetous men, and of flattering men, the more especially and mightily to withstand them, and not to draw nor to meddle with them, with all your might and power; and to draw to you and to your company good and virtuous men, and such as be of good conversation, and of truth, and by them shall ye never be deceived nor repent you of.

Moreover, never follow your own wit in nowise, but in all your works, of such folks as I write of above, ask your advice and counsel, and doing thus, with the mercy of God, ye shall do right well, and live in right much worship, and great heart’s rest and ease.

And I will be to you as good lord and father as my heart can think.

And last of all, as heartily and as lovingly as ever father blessed his child in earth, I give you the blessing of Our Lord and of me, which of his infinite mercy increase you in all virtue and good living; and that your blood may by his grace from kindred to kindred multiply in this earth to his service, in such wise as after the departing from this wretched world here, ye and they may glorify him eternally amongst his angels in heaven.

Written of mine hand,

The day of my departing fro this land.

Your true and loving father

 

Suffolk was duly placed on a ship and sent on his merry way. Unfortunately for him the Nicholas of the Tower halted his vessel mid-channel. The greeting Suffolk got when he was transferred boat was ominous – “Welcome traitor,” He was then beheaded with a rusty sword. It took six blows. His body was discovered, along with his head on a pole, on a Dover beach on the morning of 2nd May 1450.

 

John should now have become the second duke of Suffolk– except attainder specifically excluded the attainted man’s family from title or estate, the idea being that the traitor’s blood had corrupted his family, not to mention it being a huge disincentive for actually being treasonous.

 

John’s marriage to Margaret Beaufort was annulled in February 1453 so that Henry VI could marry Margaret off to his half brother Edmund Tudor who along with his brother had been drawn into the royal family and given a more prominent role. This was likely to have something to do with Henry’s lack of children- it could be interpreted as strengthening a Lancastrian claim- as well as a desire to ensure that his half brother’s had money to go alongside their status.

 

By 1458 John de la Pole was married to Elizabeth, the daughter of Richard of York – a fact that would plague the de la Pole family throughout the Tudor period. The marriage reflects John’s political affiliations. Although Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou continued to show favour to Suffolk’s family they were not in a position to establish his son as the second duke. It was Edward IV who re-established the title for the benefit of his brother-in-law through letters patent in 1463. Under the Yorkist dynasty John became Constable of Wallingford Castle and High Steward of Oxford University as well as a knight of the garter. John’s own eldest son, also John (first earl of Lincoln), was identified as Richard III’s heir.

 

In total John and Elizabeth had eleven children, several of whom died young.

 

John fought for his brother-in-law at Bosworth but in the aftermath of the battle submitted to Henry VII and continued to serve the Tudors loyally until his death in 1492 even though his son John rebelled against Henry and was killed at the Battle of Stoke in 1487 – John de la Pole, second duke of Suffolk had, after all, leant at a very early age that the consequences of irritating the people in power tends to be deeply unpleasant. As a consequence he is sometimes known as “The Trimming Duke.” The same can not be said of his own sons who would spend their lives as potential white rose heirs to the throne of England and die accordingly.

 

He and Elizabeth of York are buried at Wingfield Church in Suffolk. Wingfield Castle was one of the de la Pole possesisons.

Norton, Elizabeth. (2011) Margaret Beaufort. Stroud: Amberley Press

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

 

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.