Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Cross-Dressing Young Buckingham

It's generally known among Ricardians, and cited as an instance of his benevolence, that following Buckingham's rebellion against Richard III, the king bestowed an annuity of 200 marks upon Buckingham's widow Katherine, sister of Elizabeth Woodville. What's not so well known is that before that, Richard had placed a price on the heads of Buckingham's two small sons and that Katherine was kept prisoner by him for a time.

Barbara J. Harris recounts the story in her biography of Edward Stafford: the aptly titled Edward Stafford: Third Duke of Buckingham, 1478-1521. (Tudor fans will recall that Edward was eventually executed on orders of Henry VIII; How to Keep Your King Happy was evidently not on the Stafford family bookshelves.) The story appears in a manuscript in the Stafford Public Record Office and according to Harris is reprinted in Owen and Blakeway's 1825 work, A History of Shrewsbury. (The latter is available on Google, but a large chunk of pages is missing from the Google text. An excerpt can be found here.)

At the time Henry Stafford, the second duke, mounted his ill-fated rebellion, he had sent his wife and sons to Weobley, where Sir Richard Delabeare, who had close ties to the Staffords, took six-year-old Edward Stafford to Kinnersley. There he was entrusted to Elizabeth Mors, a servant of Richard's, and William ap Symon. (Whether Edward's four-year-old brother stayed behind at Weobley is unclear.) Harris notes that the Stafford daughters may have remained at the main family residence of Brecon Castle, where they were found and moved to Tretower after the Vaughan family sacked the castle.

Richard III, meanwhile, had placed a reward of 1,000 pounds on little Edward's head and of 500 pounds on his younger brother's head. (One hopes the "head" language wasn't to be taken literally and that Richard III's purpose was to take the little boys into custody, not to kill them.) With this reward in mind, search parties came twice to Kinnersley in search of Edward, who had been dressed like a girl and his forehead shaven accordingly in keeping with the female fashion of the time. Edward having been taken off the premises, the searchers failed to find him, but Richard Delabeare was arrested. Back at Weobley, Katherine Stafford had also been arrested. She was conveyed to London as a prisoner. One wonders if her prison was the Tower and, if so, whether she looked around there for signs of her nephews, Edward V and his brother.

Not long after Katherine's arrest, searchers again arrived at Kinnersley. Elizabeth fled to the park with her charge, waiting there four hours until she was told the danger was past. After that, Elizabeth and William decided to take Edward, again dressed as a girl, to Hereford. As Harris reports it, Edward "rode seated sideways on a pillow behind William ap Symon in the style of a proper young lady." Elizabeth, telling the story later, added sweetly that Edward was "the fairest gentlewoman and the best that ever she hadd in her Daies."

Edward's whereabouts after this are obscure. As Richard III released Katherine Stafford from prison and gave her an annuity, it seems likely that he had lost interest by that point in taking her sons captive. In any case, Edward isn't heard of until after the Battle of Bosworth, after which he was made a Knight of the Bath. He also acquired a stepfather, Jasper Tudor. In 1486, he and his brother were put into the care of Margaret Beaufort, who had been married to the boys' great-uncle.

A nice twist to this story is that Elizabeth Mors, Richard Delabeare's resourceful servant, subsequently married her master. Hey, it's not all unromance here.

1 comment:

Alianore said...

Interesting post! I'd never heard that story before. (And I've just been to Weobley, and seen a few buildings that young Edward probably saw, too. Excellent!)