Recently I picked up a collection of essays titled Much Heaving and Shoving: Late-Medieval Gentry and Their Concerns, Essays for Colin Richmond, edited by Margaret Aston and Rosemary Horrox. It contains a good deal of interest in relation to Richard III, and I found one article, "The Smethon Letter, St Penket and the Tablet of Gold" by Tony Pollard, to be of particular interest.
In the article, Pollard quotes a letter by William Smethon, a chaplain in the service of Richard Clervaux, a landowner near Middleham. The letter, which Pollard dates between February and the summer of 1478, was found behind a grant of free warren from Edward IV on February 26, 1478, that had been framed and kept at Croft Hall. Smethon not only mentions the death of George, the Duke of Clarence ("dead in a vat for hys bathying") but also refers to Anne Beauchamp, Countess of Warwick, Richard III's mother-in-law. Having informed Clervaux that the lord of Gloucester (i.e., Richard III) had told him that the free warren matter was making "good spede," Smethon adds that the countess has made a great table of gold of St. Pen, Our Lady, and the Holy Trinity, "with which it is seid my lord is not plesed withahll." He adds, "And yit my lady shall be at rob' ho' this seson."
This letter is fascinating for several reasons. For one, as Pollard points out, it seems to confirm that Anne Beauchamp was indeed residing at Middleham in Richard III's household at the time, as opposed to some other residence. For another, it suggests that Anne enjoyed a certain freedom of movement and action while at Middleham, contradicting Rous's claim that Richard III shut her up for life. It also indicates that Anne, though she had been stripped of her lands by her sons-in-law, had enough spending money to commission this gold tablet.
What was this tablet? Pollard suggests that it might be none other than the Middleham Jewel, a gold tablet that does indeed depict Our Lady and the Trinity. As for "St. Pen," Pollard notes that the Middleham Jewel frames the Nativity scene on its back with 15 saints, one of whom he suggests may be St. Penket, "an obscure whirling, or ecstatic dancing, saint."
So what was Gloucester not pleased about? Had the Countess of Warwick been overspending her allowance in having this tablet made? Or, as Pollard suggests, had she become a devotee of the cult of St. Penket, thereby incurring the disapproval of her more religiously orthodox son-in-law?
What was this mysterious "rob' ho'"? Sadly, its meaning is obscure, but Pollard suggests that it might refer to a building on the Middleham High Moor known as the Rubbing House, in which St. Penket followers might have held dances.
As is often the case with Richard III, this letter raises many more questions than it answers. But they're interesting questions, and I'll be searching out Colin Richmond's The Penket Papers to read more for myself about this obscure saint.