Monday, August 27, 2007

So What Did Buckingham Want to Say?

We know that before his execution, Henry Stafford, Richard III's ally suddenly turned rebel, asked for an audience with Richard, but was denied. Sadly, we now have no idea of what Buckingham meant to say. So what was it? Here are a few possibilities:

Sorry sorry sorry!

You know, don't you think we should just chalk this one up to experience?

I know this looks bad, but I can explain everything.

I just wanted to express my high sense of esteem for you. I don't think I've ever had the chance to do so.

I've still got lots of great ideas in my head. Let's do supper, shall we?

Just kidding!

Shouldn't you sleep on this?

I know I shouldn't speak ill of a lady, but it's really that Margaret Beaufort dame whose head you should be going after.

Remember how much fun we had stealing the crown? Doesn't that count for anything?

If you spare my life, I'll dish some real dirt about my wife's sister Elizabeth Woodville.

Remember, if you kill me, someday some guy will write me a speech in which I get to talk about it being All Souls' Day and act very repentant and noble, and you'll just be yelling for a horse.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Tale From Bosworth: John de Vere, Earl of Oxford

The Battle of Bosworth, which occurred on August 22, 1485, can certainly be considered to have had a tragic result. Even if one's not a fan of Richard III, it was an inglorious end to the Plantagenet dynasty, albeit (if one believes, as Unromantic Blogger does, that the story about the pre-contract was a fabrication) one brought about by Richard III himself.

But Richard III's story is not the only one at Bosworth. At the battle where one king lost his throne and an obscure exile gained it, another man, long loyal to what at times must have seemed a hopeless cause, finally triumphed. The man? John de Vere, Thirteenth Earl of Oxford.

John de Vere gained his earldom through a family disaster: the executions of his father, John de Vere, and his eldest brother, Aubrey, in February 1462, supposedly for conspiring with Margaret of Anjou. The Earl of Worcester, John Tiptoft, a cultivated sort who nonetheless later gained the sobriquet "the butcher of England" because of some of his more inventive execution methods, seems to have restrained himself on this occasion, merely beheading father and son a few days apart.

The new head of the family was about twenty when his father and brother were executed. Edward IV treated him kindly, allowing him to enter upon his father's estates in 1464 and to succeed to his earldom. In 1465, he officiated as Elizabeth Woodville's chamberlain at her coronation and was made a Knight of the Bath at the same occasion. In officiating as chamberlain, Oxford poured water into a bowl held by the Duke of Clarence--not the first time the pair was to work together. About this time, Oxford made another fateful connection as well, marrying Margaret Neville, whose brother was the Richard Neville known as Warwick the Kingmaker.

For several years, Oxford went about his business on his estates, occasionally hunting and dining with his mother's cousin, John Howard, who would later become the Duke of Norfolk. In November 1468, however, Oxford was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower for treason. Perhaps he had always secretly harbored Lancastrian sentiments on behalf of his father and brother, or perhaps his new brother-in-law had used his charisma to convert him to the cause. Supposedly he made a confession, saving his own head but resulting in the executions of two other men. If Oxford did betray his co-conspirators, it was the last time he would do so, for after this he was unshakably loyal to the Lancastrian cause.

Oxford was released from the Tower, where he is said to have been kept in irons, by January 1469, and received a royal pardon that April. But Edward could have spared himself the ink. In June, Oxford joined the Earl of Warwick and the Duke of Clarence, and he was present in Calais where the earl's daughter Isabel married Clarence. After a brief spell where Edward IV was Warwick's prisoner, there was a surface reconciliation, which ended abruptly with the flight of Warwick and Clarence to France in April 1470. Oxford soon joined them there. That July, he was present when the Earl of Warwick spent fifteen minutes on his knees begging for Margaret of Anjou's forgiveness. Oxford himself received a gracious welcome from the queen, who said that he had "suffered much thing for King Henry."

By October 1470, Henry VI was nominally, and briefly, back on the throne. Oxford was made steward of the household and Constable of England, and he carried the sword of state when Henry was recrowned. Just two days later he ordered the execution of the Earl of Worcester, the man who had ordered the execution of his own father and brother. John Tiptoft's execution methods of some of Warwick's supporters--he had their bodies impaled after hanging them--had repulsed even his contemporaries, so his own execution was well attended and well applauded.

Soon, however, Oxford was busy raising troops against Edward IV. The forces of Oxford's younger brother Thomas discouraged the ex-king from landing on the Norfolk coast, but Edward managed to disembark at Ravenspur. The end result on April 14, 1471, was the Battle of Barnet, where Oxford commanded the right division. His troops were initially successful, chasing their opponents as far as London and causing rumors of a Lancastrian victory to spread. They were soon caught up in the satisfaction of pillaging, but Oxford managed to round them up and return to the field. There, disaster ensued as John Neville's troops, mistaking Oxford's men in the fog for troops of Edward IV, began to fire on them. Oxford's troops, raising a cry of treason, fled the field, and shortly thereafter the Earl of Warwick lay dead.

Oxford fled to Scotland, finding time on the way to write a letter to his wife, whom he would not see again until 1485. He asked her to send him money, men, and horses and, rather optimistically, advised her to "be of good cheer and take no thought."

For the next couple of years, Oxford managed to make trouble for the restored Edward IV. He carried out raids on Calais and may have been plotting with his surviving brother-in-law, George Neville, Archbishop of York, and perhaps the perpetually discontent Duke of Clarence as well. In May 1473, he attempted to land in Essex but was repelled. Thereafter he took to piracy, the time-honored resort of those down on their luck.

Oxford's buccaneering summer came to an end on September 30, 1473, when he and about eighty other men, including his three brothers, seized St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall. Perhaps he still had plans involving the Duke of Clarence. Such plans never materialized, however, and Edward IV's troops were ultimately able to lure the earl's supporters away with promises of royal pardons. With his situation becoming a hopeless one, Oxford finally accepted a pardon of his life in February 1474 and was sent as a prisoner to Hammes Castle near Calais.

The nadir of Oxford's existence came in the spring or summer of 1478, when he leapt the walls of the castle into chin-deep water. As John Paston wrote, "Some say to steal away, and some think he would have drowned himself." Cora Scofield, best known for her biography of Edward IV, suggests that Oxford may have been in despair brought about by the execution of the Earl of Clarence, probably then his last hope.

Oxford's wife Margaret, meanwhile, had been reduced to penury. One source even states that she was forced to make her living from her needle. John Howard, her neighbor, seems to have assisted her, however, and perhaps her sisters and nieces helped her as well. In 1482 Edward IV granted her an annuity of 100 pounds, which Richard III renewed.

It was the reign of Richard III that spelled salvation for the Earl of Oxford. After what must have been hopeless years following his abortive jump, Oxford succeeded in making a friend of his jailer, James Blount. Perhaps Blount, a former retainer of William Hastings, harbored a grudge regarding the summary execution of his master, whose widow and Oxford's wife were sisters, or perhaps he, like many others, was horrified at the disappearance and probable deaths of the princes who had been placed into Richard's care. In any event, in October 1484, Oxford walked out of prison, accompanied by Blount and the gentleman porter of Calais, James Fortescue. The trio made their way to Montargis, where Henry Tudor and a growing band of English exiles had congregated. Henry was well pleased to welcome the militarily experienced Oxford into his somewhat motley crew.

In August 1485, Henry Tudor and his followers landed near Milford Haven and made their way toward their fateful encounter with Richard III. There is a dispute about exactly where the Battle of Bosworth took place, but wherever it occurred, Oxford led the vanguard of Richard III's troops. His former friend John Howard, now the Duke of Norfolk, led Richard III's vanguard. As reported by Polydor Vergil:

In the meane tyme therle of Oxfoord, fearing lest hys men in fyghting might be envyronyd of the multitude, commandyd in every rang that no soldiers should go above tenfoote from the standerds; which charge being knowen, whan all men had throng thik togethers, and stayd a whyle from fighting, thadversaryes wer therwith aferd, supposing soome fraude, and so they all forbore the fight a certane space, and that veryly dyd many with right goodwill, who rather covetyd the king dead than alyve, and therfor fowght fayntly. Than therle of Oxforth in one part, and others in an other part, with the bandes of men closse one to an other, gave freshe charge uppon thenemy, and in array tryangle vehemently renewyd the conflict. Whyle the battayll contynewyd thus hote on both sydes betwixt the vanwardes, king Richard understood, first by espyalls wher erle Henry was a farre of with smaule force of soldiers abowt him; than after drawing nerer he knew yt perfytely by evydent signes and tokens that yt was Henry; wherfor, all inflamyd with ire, he strick his horse with the spurres, and runneth owt of thone syde withowt the vanwardes agaynst him. Henry perceavyd king Richerd coome uppon him, and because all his hope was than in valyancy of armes, he receavyd him with great corage. King Richerd at the first brunt killyd certane, overthrew Henryes standerd, toygther with William Brandon the standerd bearer, and matchyd also with John Cheney a man of muche fortytude, far exceeding the common sort, who encountered with him as he cam, but the king with great force drove him to the ground, making way with weapon on every syde. But yeat Henry abode the brunt longer than ever his owne soldiers wold have wenyd, who wer now almost owt of hope of victory, whan as loe William Stanley with thre thowsand men came to the reskew: than trewly in a very moment the resydew all fled, and king Richerd alone was killyd fyghting manfully in the thickkest presse of his enemyes. In the mean time also the erle of Oxfoord after a lyttle bickering put to flight them that fowght in the forward, wherof a great company wer killed in the chase.

One legend has it that the 60-year-old Duke of Norfolk died by Oxford's own hand, after which Oxford supposedly made the comment, "A better knight could not die, but he might die in a better cause."

With Henry Tudor the new king, Oxford reaped rewards, becoming the Lord High Admiral of England, Constable of the Tower, and a Knight of the Garter. He was recognized as the hereditary Great Chamberlain of England, a role that took him to three coronations: those of Henry VI, Elizabeth of York, and Henry VIII. He again commanded the king's vanguard at the Battle of Stoke. As Lord High Steward, he presided over the trial of the unfortunate young Earl of Warwick, accused and executed on what were probably manufactured charges of plotting with Perkin Warbeck. On a happier note, the Countess of Surrey, wife of the imprisoned Earl of Surrey and daughter-in-law of the late Duke of Norfolk, wrote a letter to John Paston in which she praised Oxford's kindness to her. Oxford also was faithful to an old friend and comrade, William Beaumont, who went mad in 1487. The earl took Beaumont and his wife to live in his household, where Beaumont died in 1507. Oxford's own wife having died in 1506, he married Beaumont's widow, Elizabeth Scrope.

Oxford died in 1513, childless, at the ripe old age of seventy-one, in his own castle at Hedingham. Had Richard III not taken his nephew's throne, but served as his protector and counselor until he came of age, Oxford might well have died a prisoner at Hammes Castle. It was Richard's own disloyalty to his brother's son that had allowed this diehard Lancastrian to at last emerge triumphant.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Reign of Richard III as Told by the King

(King Elvis)

"Any Day Now"

"Without Him"

"You'll Be Gone"

"Gods Gonna Cut 'Em Down"

"What She's Really Like"


"Who's Sorry Now"

"Let It Be Me"

"I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here"

"King Of The Whole Wide World"

"Out Of Sight Out Of Mind"

"He'll Have To Go"

"Patch It Up"

"Stay Away"


"Stand By Me"

"It's Over"

"Roses Are Red"

Richard the Guardian

When Richard III's defenders sing the king's praises, lauding him as a brave knight, a devoted brother, and an all-around great guy, they never fail to point to his kindly treatment of young George Neville, the dispossessed Duke of Bedford. As Paul Murray Kendall puts it, "When [Neville] was stripped of his dukedom . . ., Richard secured his wardship and brought the boy into his household" (130). Following Kendall's lead, Ricardian novelists have happily painted a picture of Richard III as sort of a medieval John Jarndyce, taking this boy and other poor relations under his benevolent wing.

But is this the whole story? Is this blog named "The Romantic Richard III"?

George Neville's rather sad story begins with that of his father, John Neville, younger brother to Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick known as "Warwick the Kingmaker." As a reward for his loyalty, Edward IV had made John Neville Earl of Northumberland, a heady prize for a younger son. The Northumberland earldom, however, was a Percy holding, and in 1470, Edward IV, evidently seeing a need for a continued Percy presence in the North to counterbalance that of the Earl of Warwick, restored the Percy heir to the family earldom, thus taking the Northumberland title and lands from John Neville. John Neville in recompense was granted some lands formerly held by the late Earl of Devon and was created the Marquis of Montagu. His son, George, was made the Duke of Bedford and betrothed to Edward IV's eldest daughter, Elizabeth.

One Ricardian novel paints a pitiful scene of John Neville being reduced to penury by the loss of his earldom. This was hardly the case; he had some lands of his own and the Devon lands he had been granted, and he was married to a heiress, Isobel Ingoldsthorpe. But the lands associated with the Northumberland earldom had been far more desirable. As Charles Ross suggests, Edward IV may have planned to augment John's landholdings later, but if he did, he failed to communicate his intentions to John, who eventually showed his resentment over being fobbed off with what he termed a "pie's nest" by joining forces with his brother to push Edward IV off his throne.

Richard Neville and John Neville were to meet their deaths fighting at the Battle of Barnet. A staple of numerous Ricardian novels is the episode where John, having been slain, is found to have been wearing Yorkist colors under his armor--a proof of his painfully conflicting loyalties and of his undying devotion to the brothers of York (especially Richard). In fact, the episode, as described by Warkworth, puts John in a less flattering light: "The Lorde Markes Montagu was agreyde and apoyntede [agreed and appointed] with Kynge Edwarde, and put uppone hym Kynge Edwardes lyvery; and a manne of the Erles of Warwyke sawe that, and felle uppone hyme, and kyllede hym."

Other reports, however, simply have John dying in battle, with no mention of betrayal. The latter seem more likely, for certainly Edward IV was not inclined to treat John's surviving son indulgently, as he might have if John had died trying to fight for the Yorkist cause.

George Neville, born in 1465, was a small boy at the death of his father in 1471. He had been sent for safe keeping to Calais, from which he was fetched after the Battle of Barnet. In 1472, he was put into the custody of his mother. (Needless to say, his engagement to little Elizabeth of York was broken along the way.)

The estates of George's dead uncle, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, had been entailed in the male line, meaning that in the normal course of affairs, the Warwick lands, including Middleham and Sheriff Hutton, would have gone to George rather than to Richard Neville's daughters. Just as the Earl of Warwick's widow, Anne Beauchamp, would be deprived of her own estates, however, George would be deprived of his Warwick lands. These were given by Edward IV to his brother Richard and would be the basis for the great influence that Richard was to enjoy in the North.

There was the small problem that neither Neville brother had ever been actually attainted, so the lands should have passed to George. This was solved in 1475 by having Parliament bypass the laws of inheritance. It declared that the Warwick lands would be vested in Richard, Duke of Gloucester, as long as there was any male heir of John Neville alive:

The king our sovereign lord, considering the great and heinous treasons and other offences committed against his highness by John Neville, late Marquis Montagu, intended by authority of this present parliament to have attainted and disabled the said late marquis and his heirs forever, as he deserved, but our sovereign lord, at the humble request and prayer of his most dear brother Richard, duke of Gloucester, and other lords of his blood, as well as of his other lords, now refrains from so doing and intends to proceed no further in that matter: nevertheless our same sovereign lord, recalling the great and laudable service that his said most dear brother Richard, duke of Gloucester, has done on various occasions to his highness, by the advice and assent of the lords spiritual and temporal and the commons assembled in this present parliament, and by authority of the same, ordains, decrees and enacts on this present 23 February that his said brother shall have, hold, possess and enjoy to him and his heirs lawfully begotten of his body, as long as there is any male heir begotten of the body of the said marquis, the honours, castles, lordships and manors of Middleham and Sheriff Hutton, with all their members and appurtenances, the lordships and manors of East Lilling, Elvington, Skirpenbeck, Easthorpe, Raskelf, Hook, Scoreby, Wilberfoss, Stamford Bridge, Humburton, Knapton, Rise in Holderness, Sutton upon Derwent, Sherburn in Hertfordlythe, Appleton in Ryedale, Sutton on the Forest and Tholthorpe, Carleton with Coverdale in Coverdale, West Witton, Woodhall, Kettlewell in Craven, Newbegin, Thoralby with Bishopdale, [West] Burton, Bainbridge with the vale of Wensleydale, Braithwaite, Aysgarth, Crakehall, Busby, Faceby, Carleton in Cleveland, Little Crakehall, Bowes, New Forest, Arkengarthdale, Hope otherwise called Easthope, Westhope, Moulton, Forcett, Gilling, Salkeld, Sowerby, Langwathby, Scotby and Carleton, with all the appurtenances; the barony of Worton, free chase in Wensleydale, £10 of rent issuing each year from the castle and manor of Wilton, the toll of Bowes, Leeming, Dishforth and Smeaton; the wapentakes or bailiwicks of Langbargh, Hang, Halikeld and Gilling; the advowsons of the churches of Moor Monkton, Walkington and Elvington, and of a chantry in Appleton church, a mill in Richmond, and the issues and profits of a farm called Litfarm, half of the land and wood of Snape, called the West Wood, all homages, rents called castleward, knights' fees, the rents and services of the free tenants belonging, pertaining or which ought to pertain to the castle, honour and lordship of Richmond, or to any part of it; which honours, castles, lordships, manors, lands, tenements and all the other things stated were formerly of Richard Neville, late earl of Warwick, or of any other persons or person to the use of the same earl. [Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, ed. by C. Given-Wilson, P. Brand, A. Curry, R. E. Horrox, G. Martin, W. M. Omrod, and J. R. S. Phillips]

But Edward IV (and his brother Richard, the chief beneficiary of George's fleecing) were not finished. In 1478, George was stripped of his ducal title as well:

Where previously the king our sovereign lord, for the great zeal and love he bore to John Neville, the late Marquis Montague, and for other considerations influencing him, elevated and made George Neville, the eldest son of the said marquis, duke of Bedford; and at that time, for the great love his said highness bore to the said John Neville, planned and intended to have given the said George adequate livelihood to support the same dignity: but for the great offences, wickedness and misbehaviour that the said John Neville did and committed against his said highness, as is commonly known, he had no reason to grant any livelihood to the said George. And because it is public knowledge that the same George does not have and may not have by inheritance any livelihood to support the said name, estate and dignity, or any name of estate; and it is frequently seen that when a lord is called to high estate and does not have adequate livelihood to support the same dignity it leads to great poverty and indigence, and often causes resort to great extortion, corruption and maintenance, to the great trouble of all the areas where such a figure happens to live. Wherefore the king, by the advice and assent of his lords spiritual and temporal and the commons assembled in this present parliament, and by authority of the same, ordains, decrees and enacts that the same elevation and making of duke, and all the dignities given to the said George or to the said John Neville, his father, shall henceforth be void and of no effect: and that henceforth the same George and his heirs shall not be dukes or marquesses, earls or barons, or be held or taken for dukes or marquesses, earls or barons because of any previous elevation or creation; but that name of duke and marquess, earl and baron shall cease in him and his heirs and be void and of no effect; notwithstanding the said elevation or creation. [Parliament Rolls]

In fact, as Michael Hicks points out in "What Might Have Been: George Neville, Duke of Bedford 1465-83--His Identity and Significance" (Ricardian, December 1986), George was not entirely without means. His mother had died in 1476, and he was entitled to both her inheritance and his parents' jointure, giving him a income estimated by Hicks as being about 400 pounds a year.

Just as Richard had been the beneficiary of the 1475 act vesting George's inheritance in him, Richard was also the beneficiary of the 1478 act degrading George. Had George remained a peer, as an adult he could have used his standing to persuade Parliament to reverse the 1475 act--especially since George was far too young to have been involved in his father's treason.

In 1480, in the act so dear to Ricardian hearts, Richard obtained George's wardship and marriage. It is important to remember, however, that wardships were hot commodities in medieval times: a person who obtained one could profit handsomely from the revenues of the ward's estate. George, even without his Warwick lands, still had a handsome income, enough to make him a desirable ward.

Even more important, obtaining George's marriage gave Richard the right to choose a bride for George. Here Richard was in a delicate situation. For Richard and his heirs to keep George's Warwick land, George needed to have a male heir of his body, which meant that George needed a fertile wife of good son-producing stock. She couldn't be too well connected, however, as her family might therefore be able to press for George's restoration to his Warwick lands.

This was a problem Richard never solved, for George died in May 1483, unmarried and childless, and was buried at what should have been his own castle at Sheriff Hutton. Richard's interest in the Warwick lands was thus reduced to a life estate. Why Richard never married George off is unknown. Perhaps George was sickly and could not attract a likely wife, or perhaps the teenage George may have balked at marrying and breeding male heirs for the benefit of Richard. Perhaps--probably the most likely scenario--Richard had been hoping to have Parliament pass an act more advantageous to Richard himself and had his plans frustrated by Edward IV's sudden death in April 1483.

What several historians have pointed out is that with the death of George Neville, Richard's hold on his northern estates was loosened. With Edward IV no longer alive to shower land upon his youngest brother, Richard needed to find a solution, and he did. As A. J. Pollard puts it in Richard III and the Princes in the Tower, "By going all the way and making himself king, even if he did not initially set out with this goal in mind, Richard resolved the question of his title to his northern estates once and for all."

Friday, August 10, 2007

Love and Marriage

Enshrined in the pages of historical fiction is a familiar story: young Richard, Duke of Gloucester, comes to Middleham Castle in Yorkshire to be reared in the home of the Earl of Warwick, where he and the earl's youngest daughter, Anne, become childhood sweethearts before entering into a grander passion for each other. Then the earl turns against Edward IV, Gloucester's brother, and Gloucester nobly chooses to side with his brother in the ensuing conflict. When Warwick forms an unholy alliance with the exiled Margaret of Anjou, Anne, herself in love with Richard, is forced to marry nasty Prince Edward, Margaret of Anjou's son, despite her protests. Their marriage is consummated with the utmost reluctance on Anne's part and the utmost brutality on Edward's, but soon justice, truth, and the Yorkist Way prevail. Anne, husbandless, fatherless, frail, and forlorn, is forced into a cookshop by her greedy brother-in-law George, Duke of Clarence. There she is worked to the point of collapse until gallant Richard rides up on a white horse, rescues her, restores her to health, marries her, and sweeps her off to the moors of Yorkshire, where they live a blissful existence until Those Nasty Woodvilles ruin everything by forcing Richard to take the crown to save England.

Yes, I'm a little teary-eyed too. And did I mention that Richard is an expert lover (his skills honed by the fathering of two bastard children, who were sired only because he missed Anne so much he sought comfort in another's bed) who through his sensitivity and savoir-faire helps poor Anne forget those wretched nights with Edward of Lancaster?

Now for the unromantic version. Anne and Richard did spend time together as children, but there's no evidence that they were "childhood sweethearts." They could have been, but childhood proximity hardly guarantees affection. They could have detested each other; they could have been quite indifferent to each other; they could have liked each other well enough, they could have had eyes for no one else. No one knows. They might well have thought of themselves as being future spouses. As Anne had no brothers, she could expect to inherit half of her parents' vast estates; she therefore was a most suitable match for a king's brother.

Whatever plans Richard and Anne had, if any, were thwarted when Warwick rebelled against Edward IV and arranged for Anne to marry Margaret of Anjou's son, Edward. Not much is known about Edward's personality. One observer did state that he was always talking about cutting off people's heads, but this was perhaps understandable in light of the fact that he had been dispossessed of his claim to the throne. Aside from this, there's nothing that indicates that he treated Anne badly--or that he treated her well, for that matter. It's not even known whether their marriage was consummated. Anne's feelings about it are also unknown. She might have disliked the idea; then again, she might have hoped that her father and Margaret would prevail and that she would end up as Edward's queen. Anne may well have shared the ambitions of her father; though nothing is known of her personality, there's nothing to support Paul Murray Kendall's picture of her as a retiring girl who longed for nothing but a quiet life in Yorkshire with Richard. Who knows? Maybe she was a Lady Macbeth type who egged Richard on to claim the crown. (Now that would make an interesting novel.)

Clarence may well have disguised Anne "in the habit of a cookmaid" (it's reported by the usually reliable Croyland Chronicler) but further details are, sadly, unknown.

And Anne's marriage to Richard? Ricardian novelists tend to overlook a minor detail here: Anne had land. Lots of land. Or, to be more precise, her parents had lots of land, and when the Earl of Warwick died, Clarence, his son-in-law, decided that he should have all of it. This didn't sit well with Richard, who unlike Clarence had never swerved from his loyalty to Edward IV and believed he should be suitably rewarded. The most effective way Richard could get his hands on the Warwick lands was to marry Anne, and that's precisely what he did. Far from sitting passively by and hoping that Edward tossed him a stray manor or two, he argued vigorously for his fair share. As the Croyland chronicler wrote:

In consequence of this, such violent discussion arose between the brothers, and so many arguments were, with the greatest acuteness, put forth on either side, in the king's presence, who sat in judgment in the council-chamber, that all present, and the lawyers even, were quite surprised that these princes should find arguments in such abundance by means of which to support their respective causes. In fact, these three brothers, the king and the two dukes, were possessed of such surpassing talents that, if they had been able to live without dissensions, such a threefold cord could never have been broken without the utmost difficulty. At last, their most loving brother, king Edward, agreed to act as mediator between them; and in order that the discord between princes of such high rank might not cause any hindrance to the carrying out of his royal intentions in relation to the affairs of France, the whole misunderstanding was at last set at rest, upon the following terms: the marriage of the duke of Gloucester with Anne before-named was to take place, and he was to have such and so much of the earl's lands as should be agreed upon between them through the mediation of arbitrators; while all the rest were to remain in the possession of the duke of Clarence.

The brothers were to fight for several years over the inheritance (much of which rightfully belonged to Anne's mother, the Countess of Warwick, whose rights were entirely ignored by the king and his brothers and were eventually extinguished by an obliging Parliament), but Richard came out of the dispute well in the long run. He also took care to secure his rights by having Parliament declare that if he and Anne were divorced (i.e., if their marriage was annulled), he would retain Anne's lands as long as he remained unmarried. That provision is simply not the product of a lovesick boy heedless of everything but his beloved. (Indeed, far from being lost in a romantic fog at the time he was wrangling with Clarence, Richard was further augmenting his landholdings by forcing the elderly Countess of Oxford to hand over her estates to him.)

Anne for her part was probably quite happy with her marriage to Richard. Marriage to Clarence's brother was the best chance she had of protecting her share of her inheritance. Had she not married Richard, she might well have found herself dumped into a convent or forced to marry someone of Clarence's choosing. She would likely have been stripped of her inheritance rights, as her mother was. Marriage to Richard gave her a powerful protector and allowed her to preserve her birthright.

Mind you, this is not to condemn Anne and Richard for making what was probably first and foremost a marriage of convenience. Most members of the nobility at the time made the same type of marriage, and they would have been trained from childhood to expect to make such a match. Anne and Richard would have been very unconventional people indeed, not to mention naive ones, if they had grown up expecting to marry for love.

Reay Tannahill, to her credit, is one of the few historical novelists who depicts the marriage of Richard and Anne as being motivated by practical considerations, with the couple growing to love each other as the marriage progresses. (To her added credit, Tannahill also resists the temptation of making the cookshop incident into the usual three-hanky melodrama; in her novel The Seventh Son, it's almost farcical.)

Of course, one very well known royal marriage was very likely based on love, or at least on lust: that of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. That match had all the ingredients of star-crossed romance: rich boy and poor girl, king and commoner, Yorkist family versus Lancastrian family, opposition from the elders (at least Edward IV's elders), a secret marriage--the works. All you need is a balcony, and you've got Romeo and Juliet. But mention the match of Edward and Elizabeth, and the same people who can't abide the notion of Richard and Anne marrying for material considerations will suddenly grow flinty-hearted and dry-eyed. They start muttering about witchcraft and trickery and all sorts of unpleasantness.

I guess love is a many-splendored thing. Unless you're the king and your wife is a Woodville.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Some Nonfiction for Your Reading Pleasure

The other day I tried to post some of my favorite Richard III-related reads in the sidebar, but Blogger was in a mood. So as I'm pressed for time but wanted to keep the blog active, I'll mention just a few of my favorite nonfiction books on Richard III here:

A. J. Pollard, Richard III and the Princes in the Tower. Beautifully illustrated and written in a lively style, this is a fair-minded assessment of the king and his actions.

Charles Ross, Richard III. A thorough biography of Richard III.

Louise Gill, Richard III and Buckingham's Rebellion. An account of the rebellion against Richard and those involved in it; covers the rest of Richard III's reign as well.

Rosemary Horrox, Richard III: A Study in Service. Richard III's reign is examined through a look at the men who served him--and those who turned against him.

Anne Crawford, The Yorkists. A brief but absorbing look at the dynasty from Richard, Duke of York to Elizabeth of York.

J. L. Laynesmith, The Last Medieval Queens. Lots of interesting tibits about the households of Margaret of Anjou, Elizabeth Woodville, Anne Neville, and Elizabeth of York.

John Gillingham, The Wars of the Roses. An excellent short history of the conflict.

Desmond Seward, The Wars of the Roses Through the Lives of Five Men and Women of the Fifteenth Century. Seward focuses on William Hastings, John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, Margaret Beaufort, John Morton, and Jane Shore--a fascinatingly mixed bag.

I haven't listed Paul Murray Kendall's biography of Richard III. It's compellingly written, but it's very romanticized and ignores or minimizes unsavory episodes in Richard III's life such as his treatment of the widowed, elderly Countess of Oxford. Some issues of genuine importance, such as whether the pre-contract story was true or a fabrication by Richard III and his supporters, are relegated to footnotes, and the mystery of the Princes is confined to an appendix, albeit a long and prominent one. It also makes no pretense of objectivity in dealing with Elizabeth Woodville, who's clearly the villain of the piece. Worth a read, but not as the only book one reads about Richard III.