Cecily Neville, Duchess of York

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

Laynesmith, J.L. Cecily Duchess of York

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

Joan Beaufort’s descendants – Anne Mowbray, Countess of Norfolk.

Joan BeaufortI’ve been working on the family tree of Joan Beaufort’s second family with Ralph Neville Earl of Westmorland this afternoon – and just let’s say its not straightforward!  I may be reverting to quill pen and parchment at my current rate of progress.

The family comprised five daughters and nine sons. John, Cuthbert, Thomas and Henry are straight forward as sadly in an era of high infant mortality they all died young.  Continuing the de Roet tradition of service to the Church one of Joan Beaufort’s daughters  also called Joan became a nun. Robert who was born in 1404 became the Bishop of Salisbury and Durham.

After that it becomes more complex.  Katherine Neville who lived until 1484 was married four times.  Her first marriage when she was Joan’s eldest daughter.  When she was about twelve she was married to John Mowbray, the 2nd Duke of Norfolk.  There appears to have been one child from the union, another John who became the third duke aged seventeen upon his father’s death in 1432.  Katherine’s husband was a younger brother but his elder sibling, Thomas, revolted against Henry IV and paid the ultimate price.  The 2nd duke kept his head down across the Channel fighting in the Hundred Years War for both Henry V and Henry VI.  It was an expensive business for the duke though.

As Katherine’s son was still a minor he became Henry VI’s ward and initially appeared set to follow in his father’s footsteps as a warrior in France.  However, the 3rd duke  also became involved with the thorny problem of  more local politics – History books tend to linger on his feud with fellow East Anglian peer, the earl (to become duke) of Suffolk, William de la Pole (de la Pole was Henry VI’s key adviser and guardian to Margaret Beaufort). It was unfortunate that de la Pole was such a powerful man that that Mowbray felt unable to get the better of his nemesis.  The local arguments sent him in the direction of Richard of York’s faction at court.  During the 1450s Katherine’s son seems to have been able to defend Henry VI during times of trouble despite his increasing sympathies for the claims of Richard of York.

Easter 1461, however, John Mowbray arrived at the Battle of Towton to take the side of Richard of York’s son Edward. His late arrival with reinforcements was one of the factors that ultimately swung one of England’s bloodiest battles in favour of the Yorkists.

The 3rd duke died in November 1461 so really had only six months in which to enjoy the position of favour in which he found himself.  Katherine’s grandson – another John now assumed the mantle of duke of Norfolk.  He had been known as the Earl of Surrey since 1451.  It is this particular Duke of Norfolk who features in the Paston Letters as their opposition over the inheritance of Caistor Castle.

When the  the fourth duke died unexpectedly in January 1476 there was only a three year-old-girl called Anne to inherit – The Paston Letters contain references to her birth at Framlingham as well as her baptism. As a result of the existence of just one girl child the title fell extinct. Although Anne was known as the Countess of Norfolk she could not hold the dukedom.  Anne was a rich prize and it was less than a fortnight after her father’s death that Edward IV selected the little girl, who was now a ward of the Crown, to become his younger son’s bride.  Richard Duke of York acquired the title to the dukedom through his wife but the dukedom of York took precedence over the Norfolk title. Anne was married aged five to Richard Duke of York who was four at the time.  The marriage agreement included a clause that meant that Anne’s mother had to hand over her dower lands and that they along with the Norfolk estates would remain with the young groom if the bride died before they arrived at an age for the marriage to become a physical reality.

 

And that might have been that except for the fact that Anne Mowbray died on the 19th November 1481.  She was just eight years-old. By rights as the marriage was a child marriage and there were no heirs to inherit the title and estates of the dukes of Norfolk should have been deposited elsewhere up the family tree along with the title.  In this instance with Anne’s cousins – John Lord Howard being the elder of the potential claimants.  Unfortunately Edward IV had no intention of allowing so rich a prize to escape his second son so in January 1483 parliament allowed Prince Richard to keep his wife’s titles and estates.

This must have annoyed the Howard family very much indeed because rather than supporting Edward IV’s children when Edward died the same year Lord Howard supported their uncle the duke of Gloucester in his bid to become Richard III. Howard was created Duke of Norfolk shortly after Richard III’s coronation and gained half the estate.  The other half went to his cousin (William Berkeley)

Prince Richard, Duke of York ended up known to history as the younger of the vanishing Princes in the Tower. In yet another twist and turn of fate Anne Mowbray’s mother was Elizabeth Talbot – one of the daughters of the Earl of Shrewsbury.  Anne Mowbray’s maternal aunt was Eleanor Butler who has her own infamy as the alleged legitimate spouse of Edward IV making Richard, Duke of York and all his siblings illegitimate.

Joan Beaufort – a family divided

Joan Beaufort.jpg

Joan Beaufort (pictured above with her daughters from her second marriage), the only daughter of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford was married twice.  Her first marriage to Robert Ferrers, 2nd Baron Ferrers of Wem in 1391 reflects an affiliation within the Lancaster affinity and was a suitable match for the illegitimate daughter of a duke.  The pair had two daughters as shown on the family tree below.  The name of the second daughter is Margaret, Mary or Maud depending upon the source that you read – Burke’s Peerage gives it as Mary.

Joan Beaufort family tree1Ferrers died at the beginning of 1396 as John of Gaunt was clearing the way to marry  Katherine Swynford. It meant that Joan soon became engaged to Sir Ralph Neville of Raby, the first Earl of Westmorland and a suitable match for the legitimate daughter of a duke.

As Joan and Ferrers only had daughters the Wem title went back up the family tree, in this case to his mother’s third husband whilst the daughters of the marriage became co-heiresses.

Elizabeth, the elder of the siblings, married John, the fourth Baron Greystoke at Greystoke Church in Cumberland in 1407.  Again sources vary but it appears that they had eleven or twelve children – they are not all identified on the family tree for obvious reasons.  Elizabeth’s eldest son Ralph succeeded his father as Fifth Baron Greystoke in 1436. He served in Henry VI’s parliaments from that time onwards as well as serving on commissions to deal with the relations between England and Scotland. Given the northern nature of Greystoke’s power base the family were adherents of the Percy family however it is also true to say that he came under the patronage of his mother’s half-brother the Earl of Salisbury with the passage of time – which ultimately must have led to a conflict of interests from the Greystoke family as Henry VI’s reign deteriorated into conflict between various cousins with royal blood somewhere in their veins allied either to Henry and Lancaster or Richard and York.

Elizabeth Ferrer’s only Greystoke grandson, Sir Robert, married another Elizabeth, daughter of Edmund Grey of Ruthyn who was Lord High Treasurer and elevated to the Earldom of Kent during the Yorkist period. Robert predeceased his father so Ralph was succeeded by his grand-daughter Elizabeth – who does not appear on the family tree. She married Thomas Dacre of Gilsland.

In the context of the Wars of the Roses this information can be seen as follows – the Greystokes were a family with Lancastrian affinities in terms of ancestry and loyalty. Ralph Greystoke, Elizabeth Ferrer’s son, was part of the entourage that accompanied Margaret of Anjou to England for her wedding to Henry VI. To all intents and purposes Greystoke married his son into another Lancastrian family – the Greys of Ruthyn. This was complicated by local rater than national politics and blood ties to Richard Earl of Salisbury who supported the claims of his brother-in-law Richard of York – another member of the extended Greystoke family,  both Salisbury and York being Ralph Greystoke’s uncles and Robert Greystoke’s great-uncles – the first by blood and the second by marriage to Cecily Neville (there’s another family tree coming any day now).

Meanwhile Edmund Grey, Robert Greystoke’s father-in-law, had served in France during the 1430s and was seen as supporting Henry VI during the 1450s. He even declared himself as the king’s man during the Coventry Parliament of 1459 – this was the parliament that attainted Richard of York of treason along with the Nevilles (to whom of course the Greystokes were related and had been affiliated locally since the 1430s).

 

On the 10th July 1460, Edmund Grey commanded the right flank of the Lancastrian King’s army at the Battle of Northampton. He and his men changed sides as the battle got under way. Grey’s men permitted the Yorkists through their lines into the heart of King Henry VI’s camp. It turns out that this wasn’t a spur of the moment action as the Yorkist Earl of Warwick had forewarned his men to spare anyone wearing Grey’s symbol of the black ragged staff.  Edmund Grey was rewarded with the Earldom of Kent, became England’s treasurer under the Yorkist regime, was at Richard III’s coronation and continued to hold his titles even when Henry VII claimed the throne.

 

Without wishing to send anyone cross-eyed with the complication of relationships and disparate loyalties it is also interesting to note that the Greystokes were related through marriage to the Welles family meaning that they also had links to Margaret Beaufort through her mother’s third marriage to Lionel the 6th Lord Welles.  Lionel’s mother was Maud Greystoke – the sister-in-law of Elizabeth Ferrers, who was, just in case you’d forgotten, the daughter of Joan Beaufort by her first husband.

Oh and while I’m thinking about it Lady Elizabeth Greystoke who inherited the barony of Greystoke from her grandfather Ralph Greystoke and  who married Thomas Dacre of Gilsland is my husband’s fourteen times great grandmother, meaning rather unfortunately, that his sixteen times great grandfather was a bit of a turncoat. In turn it means that he is also descended from Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt as well as King John… I don’t know about you but I think I’m in need of a lay down in a darkened room or a strong drink after all of that!

Wagner, John A. (2001). Encyclopaedia of the Wards of the Roses.  Oxford: ABC Clio

Ralph Cromwell, Lord Treasurer…Mr Moneybags.

brass of cromwell.jpgRalph Cromwell, Lord Treasurer to Henry VI, built a castle from brick in Lincolnshire complete with turrets, winding stair cases and baronial fireplaces. So who was he and what was so special about his castle and his other estates?

He was born sometime in the region of 1394 in Nottinghamshire at Lambley. He went to France as part of the duke of Clarence’s retinue in 1412. He was knighted by Henry V after Agincourt which took place on the 25th October 1415 – St Crispin’s Day for fans of Shakespeare. By 1417 Cromwell was on the rise in English Normandy.  He was one of the men who helped King Henry V to agree the Treaty of Troyes in 1420 which married Henry V off to Katherine of Valois and which would have made Henry king of France as well as England had he survived the rigours of the campaign. Later Cromwell would be sent to France to witness the execution of Joan of Arc.

By 1422 Cromwell had become sufficiently influential to gain a place on Henry VI’s regency council.  He appears to have been part of Cardinal Beaufort’s faction.  This is best demonstrated by the fact that from 1431-32 he served as Henry VI’s chamberlain.  The duke of Gloucester (or Good Duke Humphrey who I have posted about before) was overseas at the time.  As soon as Gloucester returned, Cromwell was issued with the medieval equivalent of his P45.

Henry VI’s other uncle, the duke of Bedford, appointed him treasurer of England in 1433.  He would go on to be the longest serving treasurer for almost a century. Of course, nothing is straight forward and the political factions of the time made life interesting on occasion.  The first thing he did was to tell Parliament about the king’s finances. The Crown was in debt to a tune of £168,000 and there was an annual hole of  £22,000 to also take into consideration.  Essentially Cromwell knew that Parliament needed to vote the Crown taxes but the problem was that Parliament voted taxes in times of warfare.  At other times the monarch was supposed to “live of his own.” In 1443 he retired on health grounds – but continued behaving has Lord Treasurer.  As the 1440s drew on he was increasingly hostile to William de la Pole, the duke of Suffolk and royal favourite.

In 1449 one of the duke’s henchmen attempted to assassinate him at Westminster.  William Tailbois escaped justice because the duke protected him. Ultimately the duke of Suffolk fell from power, was incarcerated in the Tower before being banished and then murdered. Worcester claims that it was Cromwell who instigated the impeachment against De la Pole. Tailbois was then briefly imprisoned for his role in trying to kill Cromwell and also fined. Just as an aside for those of you who like to know these things Tailbois can be spelled Tailboys or Talboys. Tailbois was a loyal Lancastrian and he would end up fleeing to Scotland in 1461 with Margaret of Anjou in the aftermath of Towton.  He would be a thorn in the Yorkist side until 1464 when he fought at Hexham, survived the battle only to be found and taken to newcastle where he was executed.

But back to the main thread of this post. It should  be mentioned that by 1449 the Crown debt had risen to a whopping £372,000.  Cromwell resigned.  This did not stop him, according to William of Worcester, travelling with a retinue of a hundred men. He was also appointed to a new job – Constable of Nottingham Castle.

As the 1450s dawned, Cromwell found himself charged with causing the problems which led to the first Battle of St Albans in May 1455. To be fair, his accusers had a point. William of Worcester recounts the fact that Cromwell’s niece was married to Thomas Neville in 1453.  Thomas Neville was a younger son of Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury (Thomas, if you want further clarification was the Kingmaker’s little brother).  The bride was Maud Stanhope, Lady Willoughby. The incident appears in almost every publication about the events that led to the outbreak of fighting. Neville and Thomas Percy (Lord Egremont) were in mid feud at the time and it didn’t help that Cromwell had possession of rather a lot of Percy land.  The land had been forfeited because of the Percies involvement in rebellions against Henry IV – but they had long memories with regard to what they owned. The marriage between Maud and Thomas meant that the confiscated Percy land was ultimately going to end up in Neville hands. It went down like a lead balloon with Egremont who didn’t much like the groom in any event.  The wedding was set for the 24th August 1453.  The bridal party had to cross he worth Moor to reach Sherif Hutton.  Percy, his brother Richard and John Clifford (heir of Lord Clifford) made their plans.  In excess of a 1000 men attacked the wedding party on the moor. It wasn’t much more than a skirmish as no one was actually killed but it didn’t help relieve the tension.  It was, in fact, one of the sparks that led to war with the Duke of York taking sides with Neville, the Duke of Exeter with Percy.

Cromwell by this time had joined forces with the Duke of York although the Paston letters state that Cromwell did not arrive in time to take part in the first Battle of St. Albans.  As a result he was regarded with suspicion and even accused of treason by Warwick.

On a personal level the year was further clouded by the fact that Margaret died in the autumn of 1455 without any children.  There was no one other than his nieces, who now became co-heiresses, to leave his vast estates and wealth.

Tattershall CastleCromwell’s finances were in rather better shape than the monarch’s.  He made a good marriage (unlike Henry VI who married in return for peace but lost Maine and gained no dowry in the process much to the average Englishman’s disgust.  Henry VI even had to pawn the crown jewels to pay for the wedding.)  Cromwell’s wife was Margaret, Lady Deincourt – conveniently a wealthy co-heiress in her own right.  Tattershall Castle was his main residence which he inherited in 1419 but he owned the manor of South Wingfield in Derbyshire; Collyweston in Northamptonshire; Wymondham in Norfolk (hence the Paston interest) and had a quarrel with the duke of Exeter over the lordship of Ampthill in Bedfordshire and was involved as patron of the Foljambes of Walton near Chesterfield in a dispute about the Heriz inheritance that led to the murder of  Sir Henry Pierpoint’s brother-in-law in the church at Chesterfield. Cromwell, it should be noted, had a number of property disputes on the boil during his lengthy career.

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One of particular note is that between Cromwell and Sir John Gra of North Ingleby (Lincolnshire). Essentially Gra had borrowed money from a range of people and had difficulty paying them back.  As was standard practise in return for a loan Gra effectively mortgaged his land. If the money was not all paid back by a specified day the land became the property of the lender. Cromwell, it should be added had a bit of a reputation for taking property on mortgage, or buying out a mortgage so that the debtor owed him the money rather than the original lender. He also had a reputation  for  not returning land when the loan was repaid even if it was repaid on time.   Anyway, in 1430 Gra had mortgaged Multon Hall in Lincolnshire to Thomas Morstead for a period of ten years.  In 1434 Cromwell purchased the debt from Morstead and took possession of Multon Hall.  Basically, as Richmond comments the Lord Treasurer of England was a loan shark.  Somehow or other Sir John Gra paid the money back in 1347 at St Paul’s Cathedral – so there could be no doubting that the debt had been repaid but the terms had changed with the change of lender.  Cromwell did not return the hall.  He noted that other promises had been made and they had not been fulfilled. The case went to the courts and completely unsurprisingly the important Lord Cromwell received judgement in his favour.  As though that weren’t bad enough Gra’s wife Margaret was not only estranged from her husband but had over time turned into an heiress. If she had children her inheritance would pass to them, if not the inheritance would revert in part down the family line – to none other than Ralph Cromwell.

Part of Margaret Gra’s inheritance was South Wingfield.  Gra was awarded a life interest in this property amongst others including the manors of nearby Tibshelf and Crich. He was also ordered to treat his wife with respect. Just before Gra’s wife died they appear to have been reconciled or at least to have reached an understanding. She made a will that left everything outright to her husband unfortunately for Gra it wasn’t legal.   The person he would have to contest ownership with was none other than Lord Ralph Cromwell.  The case went to court. The case is known as the Bellars Inheritance. Gra did not have the money for a protracted legal battle, nor was the law on his side, so settled out of court for forty marks a year.

Cromwell remodelled South Wingfield, turning it from a castle into a manor house surrounding a courtyard. There is an extensive account about its construction in the Archeological Journal (1985) by Emery. The rebuild was just a small part of an extensive building programme.  In 1439 Cromwell was given permission to create a collegiate church for the training of priests in Tattershall and to remodel the castle. The keep and moat of Tattershall is all that is left today along with a gatehouse and the footprint of a jousting ground. The fireplaces boast the Cromwell arms – of a well stuffed money bag.  His motto in French translates as “Have I not the right?” William of Worcester noted  “that the household consisted of a hundred persons.”  The cost of such a large household was about £5000 a year. The tower dominated the landscape and once inside the building petitioners would have to climb a winding stair case before walking the length of a corridor with an impressive vaulted ceiling before gaining admittance to the Great Hall.

 

He died on the 4th January 1456 probably at Collyweston, though South Wingfield  does get a mention but is buried at Tattershall in the collegiate church of Holy Trinity opposite the alms houses that he had built. He and his wife were childless so Cromwell’s estates ultimately reverted to the Crown.  Amongst his other works of family or piety depending upon your viewpoint was having the church at Lambley rebuilt along with a chantry chapel for his parents and grandparents.

Cromwell’s brass, pictured at the start of the post,  is difficult to see as it has to be  protected from the bats which in inhabit the church.

 

Hicks, Michael. (1991) Who’s Who in Late Medieval England. London: Shepherd-Walwyn.

Richmond, Colin. John Hopton: A Fifteenth Century Suffolk Gentleman

 

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 Robert Brackenbury’s daughter

Princes in towerSir Robert Brackenbury died at Bosworth in August 1485 fighting for Richard III. He’s best known as the Constable of the Tower who refused to kill the princes in the Tower i.e. Edward V and Richard duke of York on his master’s orders- Sir Thomas More’s version- but felt able to hand the keys over to Sir James Tyrell with a view to dispatching the aforementioned.

At the risk of being contentious, or merely stating the obvious -it was either Richard III or the Duke of Buckingham according to rumour at the time. Frankly whilst Buckingham could have done it thus framing Richard and getting him a step closer to the throne it does seem rather a huge leap  of ambition as there were plenty of people in line before Buckingham for the crown (though stranger things have happened historically speaking).  In terms of means, motive and opportunity  as well as available sources the finger of blame points heavily at the wicked uncle in the contemporary and Tudor sources…and yes I know that the Tudor sources weren’t ever going to paint Richard in a warm and friendly light.  I don’t suppose that Lord Hastings or Earl Rivers would paint Richard in a warm and friendly light either. Plantagenet kings did brutal things to gain and then to keep power – getting rid of unwanted nephews was hardly an innovation; though unlikely to win friends and influence posterity.

 

Sir Thomas More is not without his critics. The man was only five years old when the story kicked off. He was Cardinal Morton’s page, but he was a lawyer and unafraid, or so it seems, of irritating monarchs. He talked to people who had been alive at the time of the princes’ disappearance- to people who may have speculated and remembered and gossiped – none of which is evidence but is useful if you’re Thomas More writing a history – something which incidentally he never finished, never corrected for errors and which may have had allegorical tendencies…which is a lot of ifs, whats and maybes but its the best you’re going to get from this post.

 

Anyway back to Brackenbury who was apparently prepared to die rather than do as Richard ordered despite the lucrative rewords he was receiving at the time. He’d been made constable of the Tower for life as well as master of the mint. Juicy little estates seemed to fall into his pocket at a click of Richard’s fingers  along with posts such as Sheriff of Kent- and as we all know ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune.’  In the next breath Brackenbury, without any apparent sense of irony, happily hands over the keys to the princes’ prison – which seems somewhat disingenuous. It was also claimed that James Tyrell, who is generally accepted as the murderer by those sources that identify the doer of the deed, couldn’t find the bodies after the event because for reasons best known to himself Sir Robert had shifted them – not that he felt inclined to raise hue and cry or point any fingers at anyone…making him an accessory to the deed whether he wanted to be or not. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t do well at the hands of Shakespeare who drew hugely on More’s history as well as the writings of Polydore Vergil.

Robert, aside from refusing to kill Plantagenet sprigs but looking the other way whilst someone else did, remained loyal to Richard III. Plain old Robert Brackenbury became Sir Robert during Christmas 1484. He took part in Richard’s final charge at Bosworth dying alongside him. His name features on an attainder for raising troops at Leicester. Four years later the attainder was reversed so that family lands in Durham which had been in the family since the twelfth century could be drawn on by his daughters Anne and Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Brackenbury, Robert’s daughter, found herself in the Minories with the Duchess of Norfolk.  When she died she asked her executors to reimburse the duchess for her kindness. And that is where Sir Thomas More comes back into the story – More was in the habit of visiting the Minories to see a nun called Joyeuce Lee who was the sister of a friend of his. One finds oneself wondering what More heard during his visits – as well as Elizabeth Mowbray (duchess of Norfolk) the mother of Anne Mowbray – Richard of York’s little bride there was Elizabeth Brackenbury, Mary Tyrell who was according to Weir (no fan of Richard’s) the sister or cousin of Sir James, Mary’s aunt – Anne Montgomery whose husband was the executor of Edward IV’s will and a loyalist of Richard’s (Weir:170). One can’t help wondering what the ladies knew, what they talked about and how much of it Joyeuce relayed to the young lawyer who visited her. Of course, that’s not evidence….but…

The story from behind the convent walls was further corroborated  by an anonymous source that had a hand in the murders and who lived in fear of his life – according to More at any rate.

Make of it what you will! It is English History’s favourite topic for conspiracy theories after all – though from this angle it seems like a wicked uncle is involved in there somewhere.

Harris, Barbara J (2002) English Aristocratic Women, 1450-1550: Marriage and Family, Property and Careers.

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

 

Duke of Exeter -was he murdered or did he slip?

holland-armsHenry Holland, Third Duke of Exeter was yet another descendent of John of Gaunt. His grandmother Elizabeth was John’s daughter. He had a claim to the throne after the death of Henry VI, something which Edward IV may have been all too aware of being the aforementioned earl’s brother-in-law.

Henry had been Richard of York’s ward.  Richard married his eldest daughter off to Holland in order to secure the dynastic links and power base.  Unfortunately for both Holland and the Duke of York it would appear that the Exeter lands weren’t terribly productive.  Consequentially Holland was always in finical difficulties which didn’t help his disposition overly.

He developed an unsavoury reputation early in his career when he seized Lord Cromwell’s estate at Ampthill and had him falsely accused of treason.  He also extended his land holding through the convenient method of fraud. This was all dragged through the law courts and resulted in no one wanting to be sheriff of Bedfordshire on account of Holland’s bullying tactics. In the end he aligned himself to one of Cromwell’s enemies in order to further his cause – thus demonstrating beautifully the fact that the Wars of the Roses could be said to be a bunch of local disputes that got seriously out of hand.

There wasn’t any great love between the Yorks and Holland so it probably didn’t unduly bother Holland that his alliance with Lord Egremont was one of the causal factors in him being in the Lancastrian army chasing Richard of York around the countryside in December 1460.  Henry Holland was a commander at the Battle of Wakefield on December 30 1460.  Presumably he hadn’t enjoyed being imprisoned in Wallingford Castle in 1455 after Richard assumed the title of Protector when Henry VI was incapacitated on his father-in-law’s orders.  In reality, Richard’s descent from two sons of Edward III gave him a better claim to be protector than Holland who thought he ought to have the job. He was descended from John of Gaunt and the First Duke of Exeter had been Richard II’s half-brother.  York’s claim came from the fact that he was descended from the second surviving son, Lionel of Antwerp via the Mortimer line.  The Mortimers had been Richard II’s heirs.  As if that wasn’t bad enough Holland wasn’t given a role of any importance. Holland threw his toys out of his pram, fermented rebellion in the north and consorted with the Scots – he was lucky that a year in Wallingford was all that he got.

He was, at least, consistent in his support for the Lancastrian cause being present not only at Wakefield but also at the Second Battle of St Albans and Towton.  He scarpered from the latter and managed to escape to France where he joined Margaret of Anjou.

Unsurprisingly family relations were at an all time low by this point. Not only was his attainted of treason but his wife Anne who had been married off to him when she was eight-years-old sought a legal separation from a man who’d gained a reputation for being deeply unpleasant one way or another. They had one child, Anne Holland who would be married off to one of Elizabeth Woodville’s sons from her first marriage, and pre-decease her unfortunate father.

In 1471 he returned to England with the Earl of Warwick who had stopped being Yorkist and become a Lancastrian in what can only be described as a giant strop when Edward IV stopped listening to his advice.  Warwick died at Barnet. Henry Holland though badly wounded managed to reach sanctuary in London. Edward had him rounded up and sent to the Tower.  He had for a time been the Constable of the Tower so at least he was familiar with his accommodation.

By the following year Anne was able to have the marriage annulled, she went on to marry Thomas St Leger but Edward IV seems to have welcomed Henry back into the fold as he was part of the military expedition that set off to make war on the French. It wasn’t a roaring success from the wider population’s point of view as they’d been heavily taxed and expected a decent battle at the very least. What they got was a treaty whilst Edward IV received money to go away and an annual pension.

As for Henry Holland?  He had an unfortunate accident on the way home.  Apparently he fell overboard.  The Milanese Ambassador suggested that the accident was caused by a couple of burly nautical  types picking him up and throwing him…

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

 

Sir Andrew Trollope

sir andrew trollope.pngWe know that Sir Andrew Trollope was a bit of a hero so far as the Hundred Years War is concerned.  He was probably part of Sir John Falstaff’s company in the 1430s.  We also know that he did a bit of nifty side changing at the Battle of Ludford Bridge in 1459 from the Yorkist to the Lancastrian side – nothing too surprising there; everybody seems to have swapped sides at some point in the proceedings.  It is actually a bit surprising he was on the Yorkist side in the first place as he had become associated with the Beauforts during his time in France.

It is explained by the fact that Trollope began the period of the Wars of the Roses in Calais  as Master Porter, a position he was appointed to in 1455, where the Earl of Warwick held the position of captain.  When Warwick returned from France, Trollope came with him to beef up the Yorkist position at Ludlow.  Unfortunately on the 12 October 1459 Trollope availed himself of the offer to swap sides and receive a pardon from Henry VI.  He duly took his men across the lines and spilled the beans about Richard of York’s plans.  York was forced to flee in the night and the people of Ludlow experienced first hand the problems of being on the losing side of a conflict .

We know that Trollope spent some time in France during the following year when the Lancastrians received a set back and we know that by December 1460 he was in Yorkshire. He and Somerset led the forces that defeated York at the Battle of Wakefield on the 30th December 1460.  We don’t know whether he tricked York into believing that he had more loyal men than he thought or whether he lured York out into open ground as the chronicler de Waurin recounts before revealing his true colours.

What we do know is that he fought at the second Battle of St Albans where he was knighted. An account of his role was given in Gregory’s Chronicle. He was injured by a caltrop (a spiky device left on the ground to injure animals and men) so stood and fought on the same spot killing fifteen men.  Six weeks later he was himself killed at the Battle of Towton in 1461 – Edward had specifically identified him as someone to be extinguished with the additional incentive of a reward of £100.

We also know that Trollope is an example of a man who benefitted from the Hundred Years War.  Historians think that he came from County Durham originally and that his background was the dying industry.  He rose because he distinguished himself on the battlefield, probably helped himself to any loot that was available and married well.  His wife was further up the social ladder than him being the sister of Osbert Mundeford one of his superior officers. Elizabeth and Sir Andrew had two children that we know of – one, David, was killed at Towton with  his father  (he’s sometimes identified as Andrew’s brother) whilst the other, Margaret, married Richard Calle was was the Pastons’ bailiff (as in the Paston Letters).

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

 

The Battle of Wakefield – perfidy, trickery and spin.

sandal1-300x199Yes, I know I’ve covered this before but it is the 30th December which is, of course, the anniversary of the battle which took place in 1460. Today’s post is as good a time as any to deal with some of the confusions of the battle resulting from lack of clear primary sources and underhanded trickery which, in all probability, the parties involved didn’t want widely advertised, not to mention confusion and misplaced optimism  on the part of Richard of York.

Richard of York arrived in Sandal with 5,000 to 6,000 men just before Christmas.  The castle wasn’t big enough for that number so a large number would have had to camped outside the castle walls (sounds like an invitation to pneumonia to me). Some historians point to this as evidence of a festive truce between York and the Lancastrian Duke of Somerset. If there was a Christmas Truce it would have lasted until the 6th January.

The Lancastrians kept Christmas at Pontefract Castle whilst the Yorkists ate through Sandal’s meagre supplies.  It is reasonable to assume that both sides sent out for their tenants and supporters in addition to scouring the land for additional supplies (bet that went down well with the locals).  Richard also sent out a commission of array.  This demonstrates that he saw himself as the king’s representative because this was what monarchs did when they wanted to raise an army. After all the Act of Accord had identified him as the heir to the throne.  Somewhat bizarrely  Lord  John Neville, brother of the Earl of Westmorland presented himself at Sandal in answer to the commission of array that had been served on him saying that he wanted  rebels against the king’s will to be suitably punished (according to a Yorkist chronicle). He is also said to have arrived with a substantial army at his back.

The reason this is bizarre is that Lord Neville was the brother of the Earl of Westmorland. Ideally this should be nice and straight forward. Unfortunately he came from a branch of the family at loggerheads with the side of the family represented by the Earl of Salisbury  and the Earl of Warwick who were also Nevilles – or more correctly, the Nevilles of Middleham and key Yorkists.  There was a rift between the Nevilles dating back to the reign of Richard II.  The problem had arisen when Ralph Neville (the first Earl of Westmorland) married Joan Beaufort the daughter of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford.  It was a second marriage and a love match. The eldest son of Ralph’s first wife Margaret Stafford inherited the earldom of Westmorland but the vast majority of the money and estates were bequeathed to Joan Beaufort’s children leaving Ralph’s first family feeling somewhat aggrieved – just to add to the general confusion of the Wars of the Roses.  The Earl of Salisbury, the Earl of Warwick and, of course, Cecily Neville – Richard of York’s wife were all descended from Ralph’s second family (the ones what got the money) so there was no love lost between Lord John Neville  who now came knocking on Sandal’s doors (metaphorically speaking) and Richard of York’s extended family even though technically John Neville was the nephew of the Earl of Salisbury.  Inevitably a track back up various northern family trees reveals that the enmity between the two branches of the Neville family had its part to play in the sides that many of the aforementioned northern families chose to take in the conflict.

So – to get back to the matter in hand – keep Lord John Neville and his army in mind. They’re going to be important.

On the 28th December 1460 the Lancastrians- Somerset, Lord Clifford, the Earl of Wiltshire, the Earl of Devon, Lord Roos, Lord Dacre (who was related to the Earl of Westmorland Nevilles) and the Earl of Northumberland- left Pontefract and arrived on the outskirts of Wakefield the same day. Amongst their number was Sir Henry Holland the Duke of Exeter (York’s own son-in-law) .They didn’t have siege weapons which meant that had the Duke of York stayed inside Sandal then there would not have been a Lancastrian victory and it would have given York’s eldest son – Edward, the Earl of March time to journey from Wales to Yorkshire to provide reinforcements for his father.

It has often been suggested that Richard was rash in leaving the castle. Historians speculate that he supposed that his numbers were far superior to the Lancastrians or that he was taken by surprise when foraging for food believing that he was safe during a period of truce.  If there was a truce,  Richard of York should have been suspicious on account of the fact that that Act of Accord which identified him as the heir to the throne also stipulated an end to the warfare and that had been undermined on the road north when Somerset had accosted some of Richard’s men at Worksop.  Also why would you go foraging with every able bodied man?  In truth, Richard may have believed that he was about to inflict a crushing defeat upon the Lancastrians and simply couldn’t resist the opportunity.

Enter the skulduggery element of our tale.  Sir Andrew Trollope, a professional soldier who’d gained a reputation during the Hundred Years War agains the French,  is said to have arrived with more soldiers during the Christmas period  and it was given that this was the reason Richard may have thought that his force was superior. If this was the case Richard should have remembered that the previous year at Ludford Bridge after the Battle of Blore Heath Trollope had switched from his side to that of the Lancastrians.

The Yorkist commanders were Richard of York, the Earl of Salisbury and his son Sir Thomas Neville.  Sir David Hall, a long time servant of York’s was also there.  Hall’s Chronicle, a sixteenth century account, records that Davy counselled discretion but that York regarded this as a dishonour. It has also been suggested that the Lancastrians taunted Richard into leaving the safety of his castle.

In any event off he went to meet his foes on Wakefield Green – Lancastrians emerged from the woods on both sides of York’s men and Sir Andrew Trollope promptly changed sides as he had planned all along. A chronicle by Jean de Waurin gives a detailed account of Trollope’s perfidy. However, it’s not a straight forward case of dastardly behaviour – it could be a question of Yorkist spin. Haigh observes that de Waurin’s is the only chronicle with this account of events and that the man was a friend of the Earl of Warwick.  In short his evidence is unsubstantiated and not overly reliable. Another account suggests that Trollope’s men arrived wearing the Earl of Warwick’s colours to avoid raising York’s suspicions which again has issues of credibility and this part of his plan succeeding he then played an instrumental part in luring York out of the castle into the open.  Haigh hypothesises that what actually might have happened is that Trollope’s forces approached and York simply got the wrong end of the stick about whose men they were.

It is also plausible that Lord Neville wasn’t quite as underhand as I have just suggested.  It is possible that he arrived at Sandal  just when York considered taking on the Lancastrians. York seeing a Neville banner behind the Lancastrians simply thought he’d got them surrounded in his desire to do battle.  He didn’t stop to consider that some of the Nevilles didn’t feel very warmly to their Salisbury relations.

For an early History Jar account of the Battle of Wakefield, click here.

We’ll never know what prompted York to exit from the safety of Sandal castle or the real roles played by Sir Andrew Trollope and Lord John Neville (who incidentally, made no murmur about the execution of his uncle the Earl of Salisbury.)

Haigh, Philip, A. The Battle of Wakefield 1460. Sutton Publishing