Friday, December 19, 2008

A Christmas Newsletter From Richard III and Anne

Another year almost over! Who could have guessed that 1483 could have passed so quickly? Well, time flies when you’re having fun, they say!

First, the big news. Richard got a new job! It involves a lot more prestige and rewards, but also a lot more responsibility, so he wasn’t really sure whether he wanted to take it or not. But after talking it over with family and friends, he decided to go for it, and so he did! There were a couple of minor obstacles in the way, but they weren’t as hard to get around as he thought they would be at first. Anyway, he’s been in his new position since July, and though he’s not one to brag, we think he’s doing a pretty good job in it. Some of the old staff didn’t care for him taking over, it’s true, but some people just don’t like change, even when it’s good for them. We know they’ll adjust.

The only bad thing about the new job is that it requires Anne to do a lot of entertaining, so she had to move to London with Richard and leave little Ned up north with Anne’s mum. We really miss them both, but Ned is doing well. Now that it looks as if he’ll be going into the new “family business,” he’s got a lot of learning to do anyway.

Anne’s mum is such a card, by the way! When she heard about Richard’s new job, she said, “Well, maybe now you can spare me an acre or two, the pair of you!” She’s so funny, she makes the north seem a little warmer just by being there.

Richard’s mum is doing well too. There was a bit of a dust-up when she heard of some foolish gossip about her just before Richard got his new job, which some very silly people blamed on Richard himself! But everything’s been smoothed over now, and she’s back to praying at Berkhamsted just as if nothing ever happened at all. She tells Richard that she prays for him more than ever now, and we certainly do appreciate that.

Anyway, we’re adjusting pretty well to Richard’s new job and to our new digs in London. Anne wants a little company there, so we’re trying to get Richard’s niece Elizabeth—you remember that pretty girl whose father was always trying to pinch someone’s arse—to come join us there. It’s a delicate situation because her mother is VERY overprotective and has her nose out of joint for some reason too. But Richard says that he thinks he can sweeten her up for the right price. We certainly hope so, because if he doesn’t, Elizabeth just might get fed up and marry this dreadful man named Henry who’s been after her hand. His mother (the Henry creature’s, that is) used to be positively underfoot here in London, trying to get her precious Henry a position, and to hear her talk her darling boy could do Richard’s job just as well as he could. The very nerve! We don’t envy her husband one bit—how many times can you say, “Yes, dear,” in an evening? But she’s back at home where she belongs now, and it doesn’t look as if we’ll be hearing anything from her and her precious son any time soon—which is just another Christmas blessing!

The best to you and yours this Christmastide.

Richard and Anne

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Richard III and Bail

Aside from Titulus Regius and the attainder of around 100 people for their participation in the rebellion of 1483, Richard III’s only Parliament is notable for some of the progressive legislation it enacted, including the popular abolition of benevolences and the enactment of certain trade and legal reforms. Among the enactments is one pertaining to bail:

Because various people are arrested and imprisoned daily on suspicion of felony, sometimes out of malice and sometimes on vague suspicion, and thus kept in prison without bail or mainprise to their great vexation and trouble; be it therefore ordained and decreed, by authority of this present parliament, that every justice of the peace in every county, city or town shall have authority and power to grant bail or mainprise at his or their discretion to such prisoners and people thus arrested, in the same form as if the same prisoners or people were indicted for the same on record before the same justices in their session; and that justices of the peace shall have authority to inquire in their sessions into all manner of escapes of every person arrested and imprisoned for felony; and that no sheriff or escheator, bailiff of a franchise or any other person shall take or seize the goods of any person arrested on suspicion of felony before the person thus arrested and imprisoned has been convicted or attainted of the felony according to the law, or else the same goods have been otherwise lawfully forfeited, upon pain of forfeiting double the value of the goods thus taken to the person harmed in that respect, by action of debt to be sued in that matter by the same process, judgment and execution as is usually used in other actions of debt sued at the common law; and no essoin or protection shall be allowed in any such action, and the defendant in any such action shall not be admitted to wage or do his law. [The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, C. Given-Wilson et al., eds.]



While Richard III should be given due credit for this provision, which may have been the product of his own initiative and certainly would have required his approval, some of the more enthusiastic of his supporters have gone so far as to credit Richard with actually originating the right to bail. This extravagant claim crops up fairly frequently on the Internet, and has even made it to print. One example can be found in Richard III: The Maligned King, where author Annette Carson writes: “To Richard’s Parliament . . . we owe our right to be judged fairly by our peers, to enjoy bail, and not to have our possessions seized when arrested on suspicion of felony” (p. 232).

We’ll talk about the right to jury trial, which Carson appears to be crediting to Richard III as well, at some other time. (What Richard actually did was require jurors to meet certain property-owning qualifications, as an attempt to reduce jury tampering.) For now, though, let’s move on to bail.

Contrary to what Carson and like-minded Ricardians would have us believe, bail and its kissing cousin, mainprise, were around hundreds of years before Richard III’s Parliament. Indeed, a form of bail existed in Anglo-Saxon times as “bohr.” (If Ricardians really want, I suppose it won't hurt anything if they regard this as a prophetic reference to Richard III’s white boar insignia.)

Bail developed further after the Norman invasion. For a time, any offense was bailable, but this changed in 1166 when certain offenses, including homicide and forest offenses, were designated in writing as nonbailable. As to the bailable offenses, sheriffs had a great deal of discretion, which not surprisingly was abused by men eager to line their coffers. The result was the First Statute of Westminster in 1275, a product of Edward I’s reign. This was meant to reduce the discretionary power of the sheriffs, but proved less than effective, even as both Edward II and Edward III enacted laws to try to curb abuses. Eventually, in the 1400’s, the sheriffs were given less power, and in 1461, justices of the peace were allowed to grant bail. They could do so, however, only for those who were indicted before them. Thus, as noted by William F. Duker (whose 1977 article, “The Right to Bail: A Historical Inquiry,” in the Albany Law Review forms the basis of this blog post), the measure was a “half-way” one.

In 1467, the commons made the following request:

The commons assembled in this present parliament pray, that where several of your faithful, true liegemen throughout this your realm, through malice and ill will, have been arrested daily on suspicion of felony, of which they are not guilty, and thereupon have been taken to various of your gaols, where by law they must remain in prison until the coming of your commissioners for gaol delivery, whereby your said faithful, true liegemen have been greatly impoverished and harmed daily.

Wherefore may it please your highness, of your most abundant grace, having sympathetically considered the foregoing, to ordain and decree, by the assent of the lords spiritual and temporal assembled in this your present parliament, and by authority of the same, that each of your justices of the peace in every county of this your realm, and elsewhere where they are commissioners, shall have full power and authority to grant bail to all your liegemen who are committed to any of your gaols on suspicion of felony, as described above, until the next coming of your said commissioners for gaol delivery; and that the said justices of the peace who take such bail as described above shall put their bills of the same bail before the said commissioners for gaol delivery at their next coming into the area where such bails shall happen to be taken, and the same commissioners shall act upon the same bills of bail in the same manner and form as if the bail had been taken by themselves. [Parliament Rolls]



Edward IV merely responded, “The king will consider this further.”

The 1484 statute enacted by Richard III’s Parliament strongly resembles this 1467 petition. It has been a matter of much debate whether Richard III’s legislation was motivated by his own concern for justice or by a need to curry favor with a populace that had yet to fully accept him as king, and whether the legislation was the product of Richard III’s own initiative or that of others. Even if one gives Richard the benefit of the doubt, the commons of 1467 should surely be given some credit in inspiring the 1484 legislation. It should also be seen in context, as part of a series of bail reforms that had been ongoing since the thirteenth century.

In any event, Richard’s legislation, though a valiant attempt, did not eradicate the problems associated with bail. In 1487, Henry VII’s Parliament complained:

Where in the parliament lately held at Westminster in the first year of Richard III, late in deed and not by right king of England [1484], it was ordained and enacted, among various other acts, that every justice of the peace in every county, city or town should have authority and power at his or their discretion to grant bail or mainprise to prisoners and persons arrested on slight suspicion of felony; on the strength of which various people who were not mainpernable were subsequently often granted bail and mainprise by justices of the peace, against the proper form of the law, whereby many murderers and felons escaped, to the great displeasure of the king and the annoyance of his liege people. [Parliament Rolls]



Henry VII’s Parliament, therefore, ordered that “the said justices of the peace, or one of them, so taking any such bail or mainprise shall certify it at the next general sessions of the peace, or at the next general gaol delivery of any such gaol in every such county, city or town, following the taking of any such bail or mainprise; upon pain of forfeiting £10 to the king for every recorded failure.” This also proved unsatisfactory, though, for the justices of the peace were proving no less eager to profit from their offices than the sheriffs.

This blog isn’t entitled “Bail Through the Ages,” so suffice it to say that reforms continued and that future generations, particularly in the seventeenth century, would wrestle over the questions surrounding bail. In sum, though, if you find yourself in difficulty and have to utilize the services of a bail bondsman, you can indeed give Richard III some thanks—but you also have to thank the Anglo-Saxons, Edward I, the commons of 1467, and many others as well. Let freedom ring!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Real William Hastings

As anyone who’s read a lot of historical fiction set during the Wars of the Roses, there are certain inviolable rules as to how certain characters must be portrayed. George, Duke of Clarence, must be a heavy drinker. George’s son, Edward, must be a simpleton (usually, in Ricardian novels, due to his neglect by his greedy Woodville guardians). Anne Neville, Richard III’s queen, must be meek and frail. William, Lord Hastings, must be a dissipated, badly aging playboy.

Cherished as they are by historical novelists, the evidence for these portrayals is rather lacking. The only thing that points toward George’s drinking habits is the supposed manner of his death, being drowned in a barrel of sweet wine. Little Edward’s simple-mindedness is derived from a single remark made about him in later life that he could not “tell a goose from a capon,” which could mean that he was mentally slow, but could just as easily mean that he was na├»ve, unworldly, or lacking in common sense. (Having at that time spent most of his life as a prisoner in the Tower, it’s not surprising if he was deficient in some respects, like the long-imprisoned Edward Courtenay would prove to be decades later.) The only evidence for Anne’s frail health is her early death, but up until a few months before her final illness, she seems to have been active enough, accompanying her husband in his kingly travels. As for her meekness, almost nothing is known of her personality.

And Lord Hastings, the main subject of this post? While the little the sources have to say on the subject of his sex life suggest that he was a bit of a womanizer, this is hardly the sum total of his personality. There’s certainly nothing to support his portrayal by one historical novelist as a sexual predator with a fondness for raping virgin peasant girls. The one contemporary account of his sexual predilections comes from Mancini:

Hastings was not only the author of the sovereign’s public policy, as being one that had shared every peril with the king, but was also the accomplice and partner of his privy pleasures. He maintained a deadly feud with the queen’s son, whom we said was called the marquess, and that because of the mistresses whom they had abducted, or attempted to entice from one another. [The Latin here reads “idque propter amores alteri ab altero ablatos, aut sollicitatos.”]



Elsewhere, Mancini writes of Edward IV himself, “He pursued with no discrimination the married and unmarried the noble and lowly: however he took none by force.”

Assuming Mancini’s informants were correct, the description of Hastings and the Marquis of Dorset’s abducting each other’s mistresses, while not showing either in a particularly favorable light, certainly does not support a characterization of Hastings as a rapist, especially since his partner in pleasure, Edward IV, is emphatically described as not being one. Interestingly, the Crowland Chronicler, who unlike Mancini appears to have been well connected at court and probably knew Hastings personally, mentions nothing of Hastings’ sexual behavior at all, but states without explanation that much ill-will existed between Hastings and the queen’s relations.

That’s it, as far as I can tell, of contemporary or near-contemporary accounts of Hastings’ sexual appetites. Thomas More writes that Elizabeth Woodville “thought [Hastings] secretly familiar with the king in wanton company,” but gives jealousy of Hastings’ offices and gifts from the king, not sexual rivalry, as the reason he was disliked by the queen’s relations. As for his character, More described him as “a good knight and a gentle, of great authority with his prince, of living somewhat desolate [dissolute].” This rather vague last descriptor could mean a lot of things, but certainly doesn’t support a portrayal of Hastings as a sexual predator. Neither does More’s statement that Hastings kept Jane Shore as his mistress after the king’s death and that although Hastings was enamored of her during the king’s life, he “forbare her of reverence to the king, or else of a certain kind of fidelity to his friend.” (Other than Thomas More, only The Great Chronicle of London links Hastings and Jane Shore.)

Philip de Commines, who had dealings with Hastings over the pension paid to him by the King of France, described him as “a man of honour and prudence, and of great authority with his master, and deservedly, upon account of the faithful service he had done him.”

Hastings seems to have been devoted to his family as well. Having been hustled off to execution without trial by the future Richard III on June 13, 1483, Hastings had no time to settle his affairs on that day, but he did leave behind a will, made in 1481. An abstract of this lengthy document can be found here (p. 368), and it shows a man who, whatever his appetites, was conventionally pious and concerned about the welfare of his loved ones. Hastings makes careful provision for his wife and for his children, and Katherine heads the list of his executors, where she is described as “my entirely beloved wife.” Hastings concludes with a request to Edward IV:

whose good grace, in the most humble wise, I beseche to be good and tender and gracyous Lord to my sowle, to be good and gracyous Soverayne Lord to my wyfe, my son, and myn eyre, and to all my children, whom I charge upon my blessyng to be true sogetts and servants to you my Soverayne Lord under God, and to your eyre, and to all your issue


As this passage and his years of unwavering allegiance to Edward IV suggest, Hastings’ defining quality was not debauchery, but loyalty.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Edward V, Born on November 2, 1470

On November 2, 1470, Elizabeth Woodville delivered her first royal son: Edward. Born in the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey while his father, Edward IV, was in exile abroad, Edward’s inauspicious birth was, sadly, a harbinger of his fate. Sometime in the late summer of 1483, Edward and his younger brother Richard, confined to the Tower, vanished from sight. Most likely, in my opinion, they were murdered at the orders of their uncle, Richard III. Even if Richard did not murder them, he can hardly be found guiltless. If his nephews died at someone else’s hands, Richard never named the culprit or expressed any public outrage at their deaths. If they died natural deaths, Richard never saw fit to announce the fact or to give them the sort of funeral a king’s sons should have received. If they survived Richard’s reign, their identities and whereabouts had been so thoroughly obliterated by the time of its end that their fate will probably never be known. In short, even if Richard did not kill the boys, he nonetheless succeeded in turning these two princes, once the pride and joy of their royal father, into nonpersons.

Unfortunately, just as some of Richard’s defenders have chosen to purify his name by blackening those of his enemies, notably the Woodvilles and William Hastings, others have chosen to minimize his acts by dismissing the lives of his nephews as being of little or no importance. Those Ricardians who tear up at the thought of little Richard of Gloucester and little Anne Neville gamboling together as children in Yorkshire, or at the thought of the untimely death of Richard’s own young son, can be remarkably cold-blooded when it comes to the sons of Edward IV.

One can browse through the Internet and find a certain breed of Ricardian expressing open contempt and disdain for these boys, aged twelve and ten at the time of their last sighting. Others, however, demean the brothers in more subtle ways. One common means is to imply that because of his upbringing at Ludlow amongst his Woodville kin, Edward V was not a true Plantagenet, but a Woodville, and therefore apparently not worthy of his uncle Richard’s regard, or ours. As Paul Murray Kendall writes, in his chapter where he imagines Richard’s thoughts in deciding to take the throne, “When Richard tried to find a nephew, he met only a Woodville. The boy’s rearing had drained out of him the blood of his father.” Kendall’s statements have been most recently echoed by Annette Carson, who writes blithely, “Edward had been brought up as a Woodville, surrounded by Woodville handlers.” (The term “handlers” in itself neatly objectifies the boy, making him sound like a prize show dog or a package.) Historical novels that are sympathetic to Richard III generally take some variation on this tack, portraying the boys, or at least Edward, as having been so thoroughly brainwashed by their Woodville relations that they are unable to establish any rapport with their worthy uncle, or with the reader.

Another group is the pragmatic Ricardians, who point out that having been exposed as bastards, the boys therefore lost all importance, to which they were never entitled to in the first place, and were naturally destined to sink into obscurity. Those who have some sympathy for their plight are portrayed as bleeding hearts with a poor knowledge of the realities of fifteenth-century England. But assuming that the boys were in fact bastards, which is by no means proven, one is left with the fact that bastardy, at least royal bastardy, did not necessarily equate to low status or obscurity. Richard III made a countess of his bastard daughter Katherine, marrying her to the Earl of Huntingdon, and he created his bastard son, John, Captain of Calais, with more honors likely to have come had Richard reigned past 1485. If researcher Barrie Williams is correct, the supposed bastardy of Edward IV’s offspring by Elizabeth Woodville didn’t stop Richard III from trying to marry Elizabeth of York to Manuel, Duke of Beja, who eventually became King of Portugal. Richard might have even considered marrying Elizabeth himself; certainly, he had to deny such an intention publicly. In short, the boys didn’t have to be cast out into outer darkness once they were proclaimed to be bastards: Richard pushed them there.

Distasteful as it might be to some of Richard III’s defenders, the boys’ contemporaries do not seem to have regarded them as inconveniences to be casually tossed aside. Dominic Mancini wrote of young Edward:

He had such dignity in his whole person, and in his face such charm, that however much they might gaze he never wearied the eyes of beholders. I have seen many men burst forth into tears and lamentations when mention was made of him after his removal from men’s sight; and already there was a suspicion that he had been done away with.


Annette Carson, who is quite ready to give credence to Mancini when it suits her purpose, less so when it does not, pours scorn on this account. Accusing Mancini of “over-egg[ing] his pudding,” she writes, “Such outbursts are thoroughly unlikely on the part of sober medieval English townsfolk, of whom no more than a handful outside of Court circles could even have clapped eyes on the boy. Any tearful men observed by Mancini were perhaps not entirely sober.” It’s notable that while Carson is inclined to be flippant about Edward V (one explanation that she gives for Edward’s reported statement to John Argentine that he believed he was facing death is that he was “indulging in the dramatics of a typical twelve-year-old”), no such tendency occurs when she speaks of the fates of Richard III’s short-lived son or of the young Earl of Warwick, imprisoned and eventually executed by Henry VII.

Carson’s sallies at the expense of Edward V aside, at least four men showed their regard for Edward and his brother in the most convincing manner possible: they risked—and lost—their lives for them. Robert Russe, a sergeant of London, William Davy, pardoner of Hounslow, John Smith, a groom of Edward IV’s stirrup, and Stephen Ireland, wardrober of the Tower, “with many others” entered into a plot to set fires throughout London, with the intent of using the attendant distraction to free the princes from the Tower. According to the antiquary John Stow, the four were beheaded. The existence of such a plot (which was followed by others that would eventually grow into the uprising of October 1483 known as Buckingham’s Rebellion) is confirmed by a contemporary account of Thomas Basin, a Frenchman who reported, in the words of historian Michael Hicks, “a plot by fifty Londoners on the princes’ behalf which failed to attract support and led to the execution of four of them.” As both Hicks and Rosemary Horrox point out, this plot may be the unnamed “enterprise” to which Richard III alluded in a letter to his chancellor on July 29, 1483.

What did these four men have to gain from their plot? Royal favor, of course, if they succeeded in freeing the brothers and restoring Edward V to the throne, but the rewards these men could have hoped to receive seem far outweighed by the risks they ran: imprisonment at best, execution at worst. Had these men been motivated by selfish concerns, it would have been much easier, surely, and much less risky, simply to concentrate their energies on currying favor with Richard III and his cronies. Instead, they risked all, and lost all, for the cause of two young boys. They did not regard them as the mere collateral damage of Richard III’s ascent to the throne or as creatures of no worth. Neither should we.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville's Wedding Date

(A twin post to one on my main blog)

It’s generally stated that Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville were secretly married on May 1, 1464. But is this their actual wedding date?

It’s been noted by several authors that as late as April 13, 1464, Elizabeth and William, Lord Hastings, Edward IV’s close friend and chamberlain, entered into an agreement whereby one of William’s as-yet-unborn daughters would marry Elizabeth’s eldest son, Thomas. William and Elizabeth were to share in the profits of Elizabeth’s Grey lands, which she had apparently enlisted William’s help in recovering. Because Elizabeth would have hardly needed to enter into such an agreement if she knew she was shortly to be the wife of Edward IV, it’s generally assumed that at this point, neither Elizabeth nor Hastings knew that a royal marriage for Elizabeth was in the works.

Less well known, however, is the sequel to this agreement: a grant dated August 10, 1464, in which Edward IV gives William Hastings the wardship and marriage of Thomas Grey. As far as I know, only Michael Hicks in his book Edward V notes the existence of this grant, which can be found in the National Archives at DL 37/33, entry no. 28. (I have a translation of it at hand.) As Hicks points out, if Elizabeth had married Edward IV in May, why would Edward IV subsequently grant her eldest son’s wardship and marriage to Hastings? Indeed, after Edward IV’s marriage was made public, a marriage for Thomas was arranged that was far more lucrative than the planned Hastings match the August grant appears to have been made to further. One could argue that Edward IV made the grant as part of a ruse to hide his marriage from even his closest friend, but it seems rather more likely that he at this point had not yet married Thomas Grey’s mother. Hicks notes another piece of evidence of a later marriage date: on August 30, 1464, Edward IV granted the lordship of Chester, traditionally reserved for the heir to the throne, to his younger brother Clarence. Would Edward had made such a grant had he been already married to a woman who could be hoped to give him an heir?

Neither of these grants prove that a May 1, 1464, wedding didn’t take place, and it could be argued that there had been a wedding on May 1 but that Edward IV as of August had not yet decided to come clean about it. Still, they do serve as a reminder that as with so many things about this period in history, the May 1 date (described by Ricardian writer Annette Carson as “beyond dispute”) is open to question; moreover, as David Baldwin notes in his biography of Elizabeth Woodville, the idea of the May wedding might have been “borrowed from romantic tradition,” or it might have arisen due to confusion with Elizabeth’s May coronation the following year.

Even if the May 1 date is a romantic fiction, it doesn’t make much difference in the grand scheme of things. Still, a wedding date after August 30, 1464, does give rise to two considerations. First, since Edward IV revealed the wedding to his council in September 1464 and presented his new bride to his council on September 29, 1464, a marriage date after August 30 means that the wedding was kept secret for less than a month, which undermines the argument that Edward had dishonorable intentions of never making his marriage public.

Second, those who have accepted the claim of Richard III that the marriage was procured by sorcery on the part of Elizabeth and/or her mother have gleefully pointed out that May 1 was the day after Walpurgisnacht, a Grand Sabbath of the witching year and thus an apt night for Elizabeth, Jacquetta, and their witchy ilk to cast spells upon the hapless Edward IV. One Ricardian, W. E. Hampton, in “Witchcraft and the Sons of York” (The Ricardian, March 1980) posits that Edward IV’s fatigue at Stony Stratford after the wedding, as described by the chronicler Fabian, can be attributed to “the orgiastic nature of the rites to which he may have been introduced” at a wild Walpurgisnacht in the forest of Grafton. While a September wedding could still have been procured by witchcraft, of course, the accusation loses a bit of its punch without Walpurgisnacht to lean upon. If the couple did marry after August 30, they could have at least done Richard the courtesy of waiting until All Hallows’ Eve.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

More Maligning, but Not of Richard III

Having seen some posts here and there praising Annette Carson's new nonfiction book about Richard III as unbiased, I can't resist the opportunity to discuss it a bit more here.

First, having mentioned some of the inaccuracies in my last post, I should note that Carson has the Battle of Stoke taking place in 1490, instead of 1487 (p. 165). Giving the benefit of the doubt to Carson, I'll assume that this was a slip of the keyboard, but it sure shows some sloppy fact-checking on the publisher's part and, of course, hers.

Giving the benefit of the doubt is not something Carson does when Richard's enemies are involved. As I mentioned in the last post, Carson suggests that Elizabeth Woodville and/or Anthony Woodville poisoned Edward IV. She goes on to add a third suspect: William Hastings. What motives might these people, all of whom had thrived under Edward IV, have for killing the king, one might ask? Elizabeth, we're told, was no longer attractive to Edward IV and believed that she could more easily manipulate her son than her husband, who was bored with her; Anthony was planning to take over the government; Hastings had fallen out with Edward IV and thought he could manipulate Richard as protector. For evidence that the marriage with Edward IV was becoming strained, Carson cites as proof only that Elizabeth was "not even mentioned on the list of executors who met to prove the king's will," despite the fact that Elizabeth was in sanctuary at the time and thus couldn't have attended the meeting. Anthony's unguarded behavior at Northampton, which is most inconsistent with Carson's theory that he was plotting a coup, is ignored. As for Hastings' supposed motives, Richard (by Carson's own description a seasoned military commander) had not shown himself particularly manipulable, so there's no good reason to suppose that Hastings would have thought him to be so; indeed, the licentious Hastings might have had some difficulty getting on with the puritanical Richard. Also ignored by Carson are the petty facts that neither the Woodvilles nor Hastings was accused by Richard III or other contemporaries of poisoning or otherwise murdering Edward IV, that any poisoning by Anthony would have to be done by an agent since Anthony himself was in Wales, and that there is no evidence that Hastings and Edward IV were on poor terms in 1483. One wonders why Carson, having accused Richard's principal enemies of murder on such flimsy grounds, didn't add Buckingham to the list of poisoners for good measure.

Of course, if one believes that Edward IV was poisoned, another suspect should come to mind: the man who deposed Edward's heir and took the throne himself--Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Needless to say, Carson doesn't count Richard among the suspects, though his motives were far stronger than those of Hastings or the Woodvilles and his behavior after Edward IV's death far more suspicious. Like Anthony, he would have to had acted through an agent, but since this doesn't pose an obstacle to Carson in accusing Anthony, it shouldn't be one in Richard's case either. To clarify: personally, I don't believe that Richard or anyone else murdered Edward IV, but if Carson is going to make a case for it, it behooves her to examine all of the possible suspects, not just those who suit her purposes.

(Incidentally, much of Carson's poisoning theory, as she notes, derives from a book by one R.E. Collins, Secret History: The Truth About Richard III and the Princes. What Carson omits to mention is that Collins's co-author, John Dening, based his portion of the book upon his supposed conversations, via a medium, with the deceased Richard III.)

Not surprisingly, Edward V doesn't get much sympathy from Carson. We're told that he had been "brought up as a Woodville," whatever that means, and that he was "surrounded by Woodville handlers," which makes the poor lad sound like a show dog. Had he remained king and come of age under said "handlers," we're informed, "then once he assumed full power the career of Richard of Gloucester would be ended--and probably also his life." Why? Because that's what happened to protectors, silly. As Carson puts it, previous protectors, namely, Thomas of Woodstock and Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, "had seen the effects of untrammeled power wielded by the dangerous combination of an unreliable child-king and a faction-ridden council, and had paid the price when they tried to control the situation." In fact, Richard II was 30 when Thomas of Woodstock was murdered, and Henry VI was 25 when Humphrey died while under arrest, so it's stretching things a tad to attribute their deaths to child kings.

Needless to say, Carson takes the allegations of witchcraft against Elizabeth Woodville seriously, though Richard III never proved them. Having surmised that Elizabeth fed Edward IV a love potion that led him into matrimony, Carson argues that he failed to repudiate the marriage when he came to his senses because he didn't have enough evidence against Elizabeth to prove his case, a fact that certainly doesn't stop Carson from accusing Elizabeth. Why a man who believed that he had been duped into marriage would subsequently announce the marriage himself to his council, formally present his bride to the council amid great ceremony, and then give his wife a grand coronation, is not considered by Carson. (Perhaps it was a really long-lasting potion?)

Carson suggests that Eleanor Talbot didn't come forth to prove her precontract with Edward IV because she was afraid of Edward IV and the Woodvilles. Fair enough, at least as far as Edward IV is concerned--who would want to tangle with a king? Later, however, we're told that Edward IV, having been lured by witchcraft into wedlock with Elizabeth Woodville, didn't publicly repudiate the Woodville marriage once he sobered up from his love-potion in part because he was worried about Eleanor Talbot and her family coming forward to bring up the precontract. So one moment, Eleanor's scared of Edward, and at the other, Edward's scared of Eleanor, depending on who Carson needs to be scared at the appropriate time.

But might Elizabeth Woodville's failure to challenge the precontract be explained by her own fear of Richard III, who had executed her son Richard Grey and her brother Anthony Woodville and had her two royal sons in his custody? Nope. According to Carson, Elizabeth and her children were "free to raise strenuous objections" and to demand that the case be tried before an ecclesiastical court, and their failure to do so proves that the allegations about the precontract were true. No mention at all of the possibility that challenging a man who had killed two of Elizabeth's close family members and had two more in his custody might be a bit daunting, especially after that man became king. Or that it might be a wee bit hard to find a proctor who would take her case.

Unbiased, this book? I think not.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

New Richard III Book

I gave into my irresistible impulse and bought Annette Carson's Richard the Third: The Maligned King, a nonfiction book. On skimming it, I can report that it's pretty much what I expected, which is not a Good Thing. First on the plate, of course, is the usual Woodville-bashing. Not only does Carson suggest that Elizabeth Woodville and/or Anthony Woodville poisoned Edward IV, she then goes on to insinuate that the Woodvilles might have had something to do with the 1483 deaths of the elderly Earl of Essex and George Neville, John Neville's son. (Carson is evidently unaware that at the time of the latter's death in May 1483, he was living at Middleham Castle in the care of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, which begs the question of why if the Woodvilles were able to jaunt over to Middleham to murder George Neville, they didn't also murder Gloucester's son, who was also living at Middleham at the time.)

Just on skimming, I spotted a number of irritating factual errors. Carson states, erroneously, that Katherine Woodville was 20 when she married the 11-year-old Buckingham (she was about 7, and he was 9 at the time of the marriage, which took place before Elizabeth Woodville's coronation). She also has Buckingham receiving the "solitary ceremonial honour of Knight of the Bath," though he was made a Knight of the Garter in 1474. Later, we're told that we owe the right "to be judged fairly by our peers" and "to enjoy bail" to Richard III's Parliament (p.232). Richard III's parliament did indeed enact bail and jury reforms, but Richard III hardly invented the concept of bail or jury trial. We're told that following her marriage to Edward IV, Elizabeth Woodville managed "three dukedoms" for her relations, although only one of her sisters married a duke and none of her male relations was raised to that status.

As is often the case, Carson follows Mancini and Croyland when it's convenient for her argument and derides them when it's not. For instance, Mancini's claim that Buckingham scorned his wife's humble origins is taken at face value, despite the fact that Mancini in 1483 was not particularly well placed to know what was in young Buckingham's mind in the 1460's, but Mancini's eyewitness report that he saw men crying about the mention of the Princes is dismissed as the exaggeration of an overemotional Italian.

Language is often tortured to bring about the meaning that Carson wants. Just as Richard III's vague reference to the fact that he has experienced the deaths of "nigh kinsmen and great friends" is used to support Carson's claim that the Woodvilles poisoned Edward IV and that Elizabeth procured the execution of the Earl of Desmond, Croyland's imprecise statement that "In the meantime and while these things were happening, the two sons of King Edward remained in the Tower of London" is taken as a "clear indication" that the boys were still alive in the Tower in September 1483. In fact, the reference comes after two paragraphs that describe events from Richard's coronation in July onward, so it's hardly safe to say that the "in the meantime" language can be read to refer only to events in September.

Some of the writing here is plain sloppy. Carson states on p. 242 that Richard "made no move to find a safe husband for Elizabeth of York." On p. 259, however, she notes that Richard was negotiating a Portugese marriage for Elizabeth.

These comments are based just on a skim of the book, but so far I can recommend it only to those who require in their reading material that Richard III do no wrong.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Why Did Elizabeth Woodville Leave Sanctuary?

On March 1, 1484, Richard III swore an extraordinary oath. In front of “lords spiritual and temporal” and the mayor and aldermen of London, he promised that if Elizabeth Woodville and her daughters came out of sanctuary at Westminster, he would see that they were in surety of their lives, that they would not be imprisoned in the Tower of London or elsewhere, that the girls would be married to “gentlemen born” and given marriage portions, and that Elizabeth would be given an annuity of seven hundred marks a year. Elizabeth would be attended by John Nesfield, one of Richard’s squires.

Elizabeth accepted the offer, much to the shock of some historians. Paul Murray Kendall, for instance, writing from the comfort of his study in mid-twentieth-century America, thunders, “That she came to terms with the man who had bastardized and deposed the Princes, driven her son the Marquess into exile, and executed her other son Grey and her brother Rivers is difficult enough to understand; but that she came to terms knowing also that he had murdered the Princes well-nigh passes belief, or is at least incomprehensible.”

But is it?

There were several options open for Elizabeth in March 1484. The first, and safest, would have been for her and her daughters to each take the veil. But that would foreclose any other alternatives if the political situation in England later changed, and it would have likely been anathema to Elizabeth’s older daughters, who had grown up expecting to make grand matches, not to immure themselves in convents. Probably, too, it would have been an admission of total defeat for Elizabeth.

The second option was to remain in sanctuary. This was an option, however, that was growing more unpalatable each day. Westminster was heavily guarded, a situation that must have been extremely irritating to the monks there, who may have also been tiring of providing sustenance for Elizabeth and her brood. Undoubtedly the abbot and his flock were eager to get back to normal and to get their relations with the crown back on a good footing. Add to that the fact that six females, two of them adolescents, were cooped up together in a small space, with little to keep them occupied, and the situation must have been a bleak one indeed. With the king a healthy man in his early thirties, and the rebellion of 1483 having failed, the women could be facing a stay of decades in sanctuary.

Nor was sanctuary a guarantee of security. Elizabeth knew well that sanctuary could be broken: her husband had done just that with the Duke of Exeter and with the Lancastrians who sought shelter after the battle of Tewkesbury in the abbey there. Had Richard chosen to violate sanctuary, Elizabeth and her daughters could have found themselves prisoners of the crown.

The third option was to accept Richard’s offer of a pension and good marriages for the girls, with guarantees, sworn under oath in front of numerous witnesses, that Richard would not harm the women or imprison them. This option, the one that Elizabeth ultimately chose, was not without risk. Whatever the fate of the Princes in the Tower, it was beyond question that Richard had executed Elizabeth’s son Richard Grey and her brother Anthony Woodville, and oaths could be broken. But the chances of the girls coming to harm were slim. Elizabeth knew that Margaret Beaufort, who was deeply involved in the 1483 rebellion, had been treated leniently, and she must have also realized that Richard was simply not in a position where he could risk the consequences of harming or being suspected of harming five innocent girls of royal blood, an act far beyond the pale of what was tolerated in his society. Even a popular king would have had the utmost difficulty in getting away with such an act, and Richard was not a popular king, save in the North. Moreover, the girls, unlike their brothers, did not pose much of a threat to Richard. Though nothing in England barred a woman from taking the throne, the idea of a female ruler had little appeal at the time. Only if they were married to the wrong man would the girls be a genuine threat—and through his compact with Elizabeth Woodville, Richard ensured that they would be married to men of his own choosing.

Richard, in fact, had every incentive to keep his part of the bargain. Having achieved the crown, he seems to have genuinely wished to rule well, and at a time when he was trying to reconcile his subjects to his reign, his conduct toward his nieces and the former queen was a display of generosity that could only improve his reputation. In the persons of Edward IV’s daughters, he also gained an opportunity to bind followers to him through marriage—a boon for a man who had only one legitimate child and two bastards of his own to offer. A king’s daughter, even a supposedly bastard daughter, was no mean catch, and Richard suddenly had five such royal offspring at his disposal. He arranged for the marriage of one daughter, Cecily, to Ralph Scrope and entered into negotiations with Portugal for the marriage of Elizabeth of York to Manuel, Duke of Beja. Had Richard survived Bosworth Field, it is likely that he would have married the younger daughters to his advantage as well.

Elizabeth’s arrangement with Richard has been cited as proof that she did not believe that he had killed her sons by Edward IV and/or as evidence that she was callously indifferent to her children’s fate. No normal mother, the argument goes, could have made such a bargain with her sons’ killer. This argument, however, fails to take account of the starkness of the choice facing Elizabeth. Barring a successful rebellion against Richard III, the chances of which must have seemed slender in March 1484 after the debacle of the previous year, she and her young daughters could spend the rest of their lives in some sort of confinement, or they could take their chances with the freedom offered to them. One wonders how many of Elizabeth’s critics would, put in her place, choose the former instead of the latter.

Others in medieval England, fighting for their political lives, had made choices not dissimilar to Elizabeth’s. Edward II had reconciled with the killers of his beloved favorite, Piers Gaveston. In the more recent past, Edward IV reconciled with Richard, Earl of Warwick, after Warwick had imprisoned him and killed two of his in-laws. Warwick in turn reconciled with his bitter enemy, Margaret of Anjou, and entrusted his adolescent daughter into her care by marrying her to Margaret’s son. Margaret, for her part, forgave a man who had cast slurs on her son’s legitimacy. Like her predecessors, Elizabeth did not have the luxury of nursing her grief and outrage. She had to look to the future, not to the past.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

William Hastings, Richard III's First Victim

On Friday, June 13, 1483, William Hastings walked into what he thought was a routine council meeting called by Richard, Duke of Gloucester. When Hastings left the chamber a few hours later, it was as a prisoner being hustled out to execution.

No trial was given to Hastings, whose death on Tower Green was such a hasty affair that no scaffold had been erected. He was the first of the four men who would die violently before Gloucester, who had been serving as protector of England during the minority of Edward V, took the throne as Richard III.

As with so much involving Richard III, there are conflicting theories as to why William Hastings, probably the most loyal friend Edward IV ever had, met his death at the hands of Richard, Edward IV’s supposedly devoted brother. Richard himself claimed that Hastings had been plotting against him, though he never produced any proof to substantiate his claims. Those defenders of Richard who have taken him at his word suggest that Hastings was driven into conspiracy by concerns that under the protectorate, he would lose the power and prestige he had enjoyed during Edward IV’s reign or by his suspicion that Richard meant to take the throne for himself.

The alternative explanation is that there was no plot at all and that Richard, having planned to seize the crown, ruthlessly eliminated Lord Hastings as the man most likely to stand in his way. This theory was propounded by those writing under the Tudors, but it was also that of Dominic Mancini, writing shortly after the events in question at a time when Henry Tudor was still an obscure exile:

After this execution had been done in the citadel, the townsmen, who had heard the uproar but were uncertain of the cause, became panic-stricken, and each one seized his weapons. But, to calm the multitude, the duke instantly sent a herald to proclaim that a plot had been detected in the citadel, and Hastings, the originator of the plot, had paid the penalty. . . . At first the ignorant crowed believed, although the real truth was on the lips of many, namely that the plot had been feigned by the duke so as to escape the odium of such a crime. [Richard III: A Source Book, by Keith Dockray]


It’s probably not a big surprise to readers of this blog that I lean toward the second theory: that of there being no plot by Hastings at all. Richard had recently had three of the men closest to Edward V—his uncle Anthony Woodville, his half-brother Richard Grey, and his chamberlain, Thomas Vaughan—arrested on equally vague charges of conspiracy, which would never be proven. They too would be executed without trial. In just a few days, Richard and his followers would spread the story that Edward IV had been precontracted to Eleanor Butler before his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, making the latter marriage invalid and the resulting children bastards. These allegations would never see the inside of an ecclesiastical court, where they belonged. In each case—Hastings, Woodville, Grey, Vaughan, and the precontract—Richard would accuse, but never prove. None of those involved were allowed to defend themselves against Richard’s allegations.

No one, however, was inclined to press the point: The sudden, shocking execution of Hastings, the arrests of others on June 13 and on June 14 (including the Archbishop of York, the Bishop of Ely, Oliver King, secretary to Edward V, and John Forster, an official of the queen), the previous arrests of Edward V’s associates and their executions on June 25, the large number of armed men sent to Westminster Abbey to aid in persuading Elizabeth Woodville to giving up the Duke of York to Richard on June 16, and the rumors of massive numbers of troops headed from the north to London were powerful incentives for those who valued their heads to be docile, for the time being at least. What must have made Hastings’ execution all the more terrifying was that he was no unpopular royal favorite, but a well liked, competent, and respected man who had been associated with the Yorkist cause for decades.

In his treatment of Hastings’ widow and children, Richard did act commendably, allowing Lady Hastings to retain her husband’s land and goods, though Rosemary Horrox notes that Hastings’ royal grants were seized. This can and has been treated as an instance of Richard’s chivalrous behavior toward widows, though one might counter that it would have been rather more chivalrous of Richard not to have made Lady Hastings a widow in the first place.

Richard did do Hastings one service: he allowed his family to bury him in the Chapel of St. George at Windsor beside his friend Edward IV, as Hastings had requested in his will (made in 1481). His tomb can be seen there today. Other relicts of Hastings survive in the Hastings Hours, an illuminated manuscript owned by Hastings that today is in the British Library; in the ruins of Ashby de la Zouche Castle, which Edward IV granted to Hastings, and in Kirby Muxloe Castle, which Hastings was improving until the last days of his life.

A Note From The Sponsor

Since people are still stopping by this blog, I've decided to post here from time to time--mostly material that's also been posted on my main blog. So for the time being, I'm back!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Enough Already!

For a while, I've been pondering the fact that I have three blogs (and am associated with a fourth) and have been neglecting all of them. The days aren't getting any longer, and my workload isn't decreasing. So at last, an epiphany came to me:

STOP TRYING TO KEEP UP THREE BLOGS, STUPID!

I always believe in obeying epiphanies, particularly when they come in all caps. And I hate it when bloggers let their blogs languish. So I'll still be posting about Richard III and related topics, but I'll be doing it on my main blog instead. I'll keep the old posts on this one viewable, though. (And don't worry--I haven't gone soft on Richard III!)

See y'all at the main blog!

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Condensed Richard III

Saw this condensed version of Shakespeare's Richard III over at Book-A-Minute Classics. (Check them all out--my favorite was the Virginia Woolf.)

And here's my humble addition for this blog:

The Condensed Ricardian Novel:

Richard: I loved my brother Edward. It's all the Woodvilles' fault that I have to execute his best friend and his relatives, declare his children bastards, and take the throne myself. (Sighs nobly.) But I'm going to do it anyway, for the good of England.

Buckingham: How unselfish of you. Look, gotta run now.

Henry Tudor: England is just too happy with Richard on the throne. I must invade immediately and put an end to all of this nonsense. Uncle Jasper, can we do it cheaply?

Elizabeth of York: I must marry mean Henry, but my heart will always be with Richard. Mother, isn't it time you took a little rest in a nunnery?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

History Meme: Seven Things You Thought You Knew About Elizabeth Woodville

I was tagged for this meme a while back by Gabriele, but I was slow to respond because of my last post. So here goes!

I'm having a difficult time thinking of seven things for Richard III, so I'll spite the ol' boy and instead do a slight variation, using instead seven "facts" about Elizabeth Woodville that have been disproven or called seriously into doubt, but which nonetheless still occupy a special place in Ricardian fiction (and, sadly, in some nonfiction as well). I was reminded depressingly of this Sunday at the gym, when I tried to read a new historical novel (which shall remain nameless) that not only regurgitated every known myth about Elizabeth, but added a few of its very own. (I would have happily banged this one against the wall, except that that doing so might have caused some distress to the person walking the treadmill in front of mine.) So without further ado, here goes:

1. Elizabeth Woodville, enraged when the Earl of Desmond, visiting England, told Edward IV that he thought he had been unwise to marry her, secretly signed a death warrant for the hapless Desmond and transmitted it to Ireland, resulting in the execution of Desmond and his two young sons.

Desmond was indeed executed in 1468 on charges of treason, which may well have been unjustified. (There's considerable question about whether his sons were executed with him.) His death, however, probably had everything to do with the brutal Irish politics of the time and nothing to do with Edward IV's choice of a wife. The story connecting Elizabeth with his death doesn't appear until the mid-sixteenth century in a letter by Desmond's grandson, which tells a rather unlikely tale of Edward pressing Desmond for the latest gossip about him, Edward reacting good-naturedly when told by Desmond that his marriage was "agreeable to your lusts, yet not so much to the security of your realm and subjects," and Edward proceeding to tell Elizabeth this after a tiff between the royal couple. No contemporary source associates Elizabeth with the earl's death, which occurred four years after his visit to England; the closest is a note of instruction to an envoy by Richard III in 1484, when Richard tells the envoy to tell Desmond's son that Richard believes the execution to have been unlawful, expresses fellow feeling in that he has suffered the loss of his brother Clarence and other relations, and authorizes the younger Desmond to take proceedings against those responsible for the elder Desmond's execution. Only if one assumes, as do writers like Paul Murray Kendall, that Elizabeth was also responsible for Clarence's death can this be taken as an accusation of Elizabeth, and even then it's a stretch. The younger Desmond never did proceed against Elizabeth for his father's death, although there was nothing stopping him from doing so during Richard III's reign had he believed her to be the responsible party. Most importantly, Richard III, who wasn't given to mincing words when it came to Elizabeth, never accused her of murder.

2. Elizabeth's siblings were all greedy vipers who reaped huge financial rewards from their sister's reign.

Elizabeth's unmarried sisters made very good marriages after she became queen, in one case to a duke, in the other cases to boys or young men who were expected to inherit earldoms. But other than these marriages (which were reasonable given the sisters' new status as royal in-laws), the sisters were not showered with gifts or unduly favored. One scarcely hears of them during Edward IV's reign except for their marriages.

As for Elizabeth's brothers, Anthony did gain some offices and lands thanks to his sister's marriage, but his rewards were hardly outlandish, and he gave valuable service to the crown in return, both as a soldier and as the guardian of the Prince of Wales. (By contrast, the king's brother Clarence enjoyed great financial benefits from being the king's brother, and caused Edward IV nothing but trouble.) Twenty-year-old John married the Duchess of Norfolk, who was rich and three times his age, but nothing indicates that the elderly duchess, Edward IV's aunt, was forced into the marriage--she had been married three times before, once without license, and may have relished the annoyance of her heirs, who seem to have been waiting with ill-concealed impatience for her to die. John served as Elizabeth's Master of Horse, hardly a position of great power or one offering the opportunity to acquire great wealth. Lionel, the third brother, became Bishop of Salisbury. He presumably gained his office because of his royal connections, but he had been educated appropriately for it, and there is no indication that he was incompetent or otherwise unworthy of his office. Richard and Edward, the youngest of the queen's brothers, never married. Richard played no important part in Edward IV's reign, and Edward, probably the youngest of Elizabeth's brothers, served Edward IV militarily toward the end of the reign, participating in the Scottish campaign led by Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Neither brother was a wealthy man.

3. Elizabeth was an unbearably haughty woman who forced her own mother to kneel before her for three hours straight.

Elizabeth's post-churching banquet after the birth of her first child was indeed a grand, mostly silent affair during which Elizabeth's mother, Jacquetta, knelt before Elizabeth, being bidden at intervals by her daughter to rise, and during which other attendants of noble birth had to kneel before the queen as well. This, however, was a special occasion celebrating a once-in-a-lifetime event, the birth of Edward IV's first child, not a typical meal with the family. (Elizabeth of York at her coronation banquet was similarly served by kneeling noble ladies, and has never been accused of conceit.) Would Elizabeth's detractors be happier had Elizabeth propped her feet upon the table, leaned back in her chair, tossed her scraps to the dogs, quaffed ale by the cupful, and encouraged her ladies to do the same? (It does make for an interesting picture.)

4. Elizabeth was a real meanie to her sweet little brother-in-law, Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

One of the more imaginative passages in Paul Murray Kendall's biography Richard the Third is this one: "The Queen, beautiful and rapacious, would know how to show her haughtiness to the undersized lad from Yorkshire with the awkward torso and solemn face." In fact, there's not a shred of evidence that Elizabeth treated Richard with a lack of respect for his rank as the king's brother or as to what she thought of him before 1483. Unfortunately, historical novelists have seized upon this and similar fanciful passages from Kendall and treated them as Holy Writ.

5. Elizabeth Woodville was greedy and rapacious (see above).

Elizabeth's few household records show that she managed on less money and had fewer servants than her predecessor, Margaret of Anjou. While she certainly lived in a queenly style, nothing indicates that she was unusually lavish for a queen or that the public regarded her lifestyle as overly extravagant or flaunting. (Henry VI, of course, had been criticized for his lack of kingly style and bearing.) Ignored by her critics are her acts of piety and charity, which compare favorably to those of other English queens.

Elizabeth was quick to snap up an heiress, Anne Holland, for her oldest son by her first marriage; she paid Edward's sister the Duchess of Exeter 4,000 marks for the girl's marriage despite the fact that Anne had been promised to young George Neville, nephew to the Earl of Warwick. But given the fierce competition for rich wards, this sort of transaction was hardly unique to Elizabeth, and George was eventually promised in marriage to the king and queen's daughter Elizabeth of York, an arrangement that was broken when George's father turned against Edward IV and not by any act of Elizabeth Woodville's.

6. Elizabeth Woodville procured the death of George, Duke of Clarence.

Elizabeth had every reason to hate George, for he and his mentor the Earl of Warwick had caused the deaths of her father and of her brother John in 1469. She might well have thoroughly approved when Edward IV executed his brother, for reasons which were murky at the time and even more so now. She might well have encouraged him to order the execution. But nothing suggests that Edward IV was a henpecked husband or one who would order an execution just to humor his wife. Probably Edward believed that George's execution was justified by his increasingly erratic and dangerous behavior (such as his execution of his late wife's servant Ankarette Twynho), his possible continued involvement with Lancastrians like the Earl of Oxford, and his penchant for spreading rumors that Edward IV was not the son of the Duke of York.

7. Elizabeth Woodville was a witch.

The only evidence of this is that Richard III (not exactly a disinterested party) said so, which for some is quite good enough. It's not. (And where, pray tell, were Elizabeth's powers when she needed them most, in 1483?)

For those wanting to get a balanced picture of Elizabeth Woodville, four sources are particularly valuable: Anne Sutton's and Livia Visser-Fuchs' article in the 1995 Ricardian, "A 'Most Benevolent Queen': Queen Elizabeth Woodville's Reputation, her Piety and her Books," J. L. Laynesmith's The Last Medieval Queens, David Baldwin's Elizabeth Woodville: Mother of the Princes in the Tower, and Arlene Okerlund's Elizabeth: England's Slandered Queen. Anne Crawford's The Yorkists also contains good information on Elizabeth.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Second Duke and Duchess of Buckingham

It's been quiet here, hasn't it? Here's a nice long post to make up for it. This is a draft of a piece I plan to put on my website (with footnotes). It's long (and will give you some idea of what I've been up to lately), so stay a spell!

In the fall of 1483, Henry Stafford, second Duke of Buckingham, rebelled against Richard III, breaking faith with a monarch whom he had helped to bring to power just months before. Much has been written about Henry’s conduct during 1483, but comparatively little has been written about the rest of life—and about his duchess, Katherine Woodville, sister to Queen Elizabeth Woodville.

Born on September 4, 1455, Henry Stafford was the oldest son of Humphrey Stafford, the Earl of Stafford, and Margaret Beaufort (who is not to be confused with her first cousin of the same name, mother to Henry Tudor). Henry had royal connections, being a descendant of Edward III through both Thomas of Woodstock and John of Gaunt (through John's children by Katherine Swynford)

Henry's father Humphrey died in 1458, predeceasing his own father, the first Duke of Buckingham, also known as Humphrey Stafford. Henry inherited his grandfather’s dukedom when the latter was killed at Northampton on July 10, 1460, while guarding Henry VI’s tent. As Henry, not quite five, was a minor, he and his estates passed into the custody of his grandmother the Duchess of Buckingham. Anne Neville, the duchess, was a sister of Cecily Neville, Duchess of York and mother of the future Edward IV, and had had Cecily and her younger sons in her keeping for a time following her capture by Lancastrian troops in 1459.

In February 1464, Edward IV purchased Henry’s wardship and marriage from the Duchess of Buckingham. He then placed Henry in the custody of Anne, Duchess of Exeter, Edward IV’s older sister.

Later that year, Edward IV secretly married Elizabeth Woodville, a widowed daughter of Richard Woodville and Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Duchess of Bedford. The duchess’s marriage to a mere squire years before had produced a large brood of children, of which Katherine Woodville was probably the youngest. A post-mortem inquisition for her brother Richard in 1492 identifies her as “aged 34 and more,” placing her birth year at around 1458.

Edward IV announced his marriage to his council in September 1464, and Elizabeth Woodville was formally presented to the council and other worthies at Michaelmas (September 29). She was crowned on May 26, 1465.

Somewhere in this period, young Henry Stafford and Katherine Woodville were married. In 1483, Dominic Mancini, an observer of English affairs during this time, declared that Henry “had his own reasons for detesting the queen’s kin; for, when he was younger, he had been forced to wed the queen’s sister, whom he scorned to wed on account of her humble origin.” Recently, historians have been less inclined to take this comment at face value, given the anti-Woodville propaganda that was being circulated by the Duke of Gloucester, the future Richard III, at the time.

In fact, at nine years of age, Henry was likely to have taken his cue from his relations, who appear to have been on cordial terms with the Woodvilles. The dowager Duchess of Buckingham and the Duchess of Bedford were old acquaintances, who had often been in the receipt of gifts from Henry VI’s queen, Margaret of Anjou. They and their husbands attended Corpus Christi pageants in her company in 1457. In 1460, they and Lady Scales were delegated by the citizens of London to negotiate with Margaret of Anjou. The dowager Duchess of Buckingham played a prominent role at Elizabeth Woodville’s coronation, bearing the queen’s train. Her second husband, Walter Blount, Lord Mountjoy, later specified in his will that masses be said for the souls of Richard Woodville and his son John, killed by troops of the Earl of Warwick in 1469. Blount and his stepsons, the uncles of the second Duke of Buckingham, fought for Edward IV in 1471. Thus, if the nine-year-old duke did resent his marriage at the time, his feelings do not seem to have been shared by his elders. The person who probably was most upset about the marriage was Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, known as the “Kingmaker,” who with the duke’s marriage to Katherine lost an eminently suitable husband for one of his own two daughters.

In May 1465, the young duke and duchess participated in Elizabeth Woodville’s coronation, where both were carried on the shoulders of squires. At the banquet afterward, both Duchesses of Buckingham sat at the same table, near the newly created Knights of the Bath, among whom were Henry and his younger brother, Humphrey.

Edward IV transferred custody of the Duke of Buckingham from the Duchess of Exeter to Elizabeth Woodville in August 1465, but as payments to Elizabeth for the duke’s maintenance were later made retroactive to Easter, he had probably been living in her household at least since then. Elizabeth’s household accounts for 1466-67 show that three people were paid for their services to Katherine, while a tutor, John Giles was engaged to teach grammar to Henry and his brother, Humphrey. (Giles was evidently good at his task, for he later became a tutor to the Prince of Wales and his younger brother.) Humphrey passes out of the records after this time, apparently having died young.

Katherine Woodville’s life took a terrifying turn in 1469, when the Kingmaker, acting in concert with Edward IV’s younger brother, George, the Duke of Clarence, took advantage of unrest in the country to mount his own rebellion and to rid himself of his political enemies. Naming the Woodvilles and others as favorites who were corrupting the king, and reminding those who read his manifesto of the fates of Edward II, Richard II, and Henry VI, Warwick gathered troops and met the king’s forces at Edgecote on July 26, 1469, defeating them. After the battle, William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke and one of Warwick’s enemies, was beheaded. As John Gillingham points out, this execution was illegal, as Warwick still recognized Edward IV as king and Pembroke had merely been coming to his aid. Three days later, Edward IV himself was captured by Warwick’s brother, George Neville, and taken to Warwick Castle, then to Middleham. Meanwhile, Warwick’s men captured Katherine Woodville’s father, Richard, and one of her older brothers, John, on August 12, 1469. Like Pembroke, they were executed entirely illegally. (Paul Murray Kendall, who wrote popular biographies of Warwick and of Richard III and for whom the only good Woodville was a dead Woodville, wasted no words on the propriety of the execution, devoting only a sentence in his Warwick the Kingmaker to the executions of the Woodvilles.) To add to the misery of the Woodville family, one of Warwick’s followers accused Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford, of sorcery. (The Duchess, however, fought the charges and was acquitted in February 1470 by a committee that included Buckingham’s stepgrandfather.)

Where the Buckinghams were during this period is unknown, though Elizabeth Woodville and her little daughters were in Norwich when her father and brother were killed, and Katherine may have accompanied the queen there. Things, however, were not working out for the Earl of Warwick as he had planned. His capture of the king had ushered in a period of lawlessness that Warwick could not contain with Edward IV in captivity. He was therefore forced to release the king, who entered London in grand state in October 1469. John Paston reported that “the Lordes Harry and John of Bokyngham” as well as Walter Blount were among his entourage. John would have been John Stafford, a younger son of the first Duke of Buckingham. “Harry” may refer to the fourteen-year-old Duke of Buckingham, who signed himself “Harry,” though it could also refer to his uncle Henry Stafford, brother of John Stafford.

The freed Edward IV and Warwick patched things up, but only temporarily. In September 1470, Edward IV fled the country, and Henry VI was nominally on the throne, controlled by Warwick. With Elizabeth Woodville and her children in sanctuary, custody of the Duke of Buckingham was transferred to his grandmother and to his stepgrandfather, Walter Blount, Lord Mountjoy.

During Lent of 1471, Warwick took the precaution of arresting a number of suspected Yorkist sympathizers, including, apparently, the Duke of Buckingham, whose stepgrandfather and uncle were also arrested. Some of these men were kept in the Tower; when Edward IV arrived in London on April 11, they overpowered their captors and went out to join his forces. Three days later, Edward IV defeated Warwick’s army at the Battle of Barnet, where Warwick was killed.

Nothing indicates whether the Duke of Buckingham, not yet sixteen, fought at Barnet or at the battle at Tewkesbury that followed. He certainly must have been with the king’s army, however, for when the victorious Edward IV returned to London on May 21, 1471, the duke was among those who accompanied him. Not surprisingly, due to her age and gender, Katherine Woodville’s whereabouts during this time are unrecorded. She may have stayed with her sister the queen or with her husband’s grandmother during this time.

In January 1473, Henry, only seventeen, was allowed to come into his inheritance. Most of his land was in Wales, as his grandmother, who lived until 1480, held many of his English estates in dower; other lands had been set aside to pay the dower of his aunt, a debt owing from Henry’s grandfather’s day.

For the next ten years, the role Henry would play in Edward IV’s court would be almost entirely ceremonial. He and his wife were present at the grand events of Edward IV’s reign, such as the welcoming of Louis of Gruuthuyse to England in 1472 and the marriage of Edward IV’s younger son, the Duke of York, to little Anne Mowbray in 1478. He enjoyed no influence at court, however, and served on commissions of the peace only in Staffordshire. He accompanied Edward to France in 1475, when the anticlimactic Treaty of Picquigny was signed, but is recorded as having gone home prematurely, for unknown reasons. Michael Jones has speculated that he may have shared the Duke of Gloucester’s distaste for the treaty and that he remonstrated with Edward IV about it, thereby consigning himself to oblivion for the rest of that king’s reign.

Other explanations for Edward IV’s behavior toward Buckingham abound. Some argue that he was squeezed out by the Woodvilles, while others suggest that Edward IV disliked him personally, regarded him as unstable, or feared that he might have designs on the crown. For his own part, Buckingham must have bitterly resented Edward IV’s refusal to hand over his share of the Bohun inheritance, to which Buckingham had a claim after the deaths of Henry VI and Edward of Lancaster in 1471. As Carole Rawcliffe points out, doing so would have not only cost Edward IV over a thousand pounds per year in lost income but would have emphasized Buckingham’s claim to the throne through the house of Lancaster. It probably did not help that Buckingham in 1474 had received permission to use the arms of Thomas of Woodstock.

In 1478, Buckingham’s relations with the crown took a brief upswing. Buckingham was made high steward of England for the purpose of pronouncing a death sentence upon Edward IV’s troublesome brother, George, Duke of Clarence. That same year, Edward IV granted him the manor of Ebbw and the lordship of Cantref Mawr.

Both the duke and the duchess had taken part in the wedding of Richard, Duke of York, to Anne Mowbray in January 1478. Katherine was heavily pregnant at the time, for on February 3, 1478, she gave birth to the couple’s first son, Edward—just a few days before the Duke of Buckingham sentenced Clarence to death. Edward IV served as godfather to Edward and gave a gold cup for the occasion. The couple had two daughters, Elizabeth and Anne, and two other sons, Henry and Humphrey. Edward, the third Duke of Buckingham, would eventually be executed by Henry VIII, while Humphrey apparently died in early childhood. Henry died of natural causes in 1523, having survived a couple of close calls with Henry VIII.

In August 1478, William Paston reported that the Duke of Buckingham was making a pilgrimage to Walsingham and would be visiting his “sister” Lady Knyvet at Bokenham (actually his aunt, who had married William Knyvet after her first marriage was dissolved). Walsingham had strong associations with childbearing; perhaps Buckingham was giving thanks for the birth of his son.

Buckingham dropped back into obscurity after that, not to emerge until 1483 and the death of Edward IV, when he and Richard, Duke of Gloucester banded together at Northampton to seize Anthony Rivers, Earl Rivers, to whose care Edward IV had entrusted the Prince of Wales. Buckingham’s motives for joining together with Richard are unknown. As noted earlier, Buckingham was said by Mancini to have detested the Woodvilles because of his “forced” marriage to one, but Mancini is demonstrably wrong on other points (for instance, his claim that Richard shunned the court after the death of George) and may well be wrong on this one, perhaps influenced by the anti-Woodville propaganda being circulated at the time. D. E. Lowe has noted that Buckingham served as a feoffee of Anthony Woodville, and Buckingham conveyed estates in 1481 to feoffees with strong ties to Anthony. Certainly Anthony, not known to be credulous or reckless, did not take any precautions when he met with his two brothers-in-law, as he surely would have had he regarded either man as being hostile toward him. It seems more likely that Buckingham, seeing at last the chance to gain power and the Bohun inheritance, sprang at the opportunity offered him by Richard. Whether Richard’s subsequent actions were at the urging of Buckingham, or whether Buckingham followed Richard’s lead, is unknown.

The succeeding events are too well known to require recounting in detail. Anthony Woodville, Richard Grey, the queen’s second son by her first husband, and Thomas Vaughn, Edward V’s chamberlain since his infancy, were seized and arrested. Edward V was taken to London by his uncles Gloucester and Buckingham, who lodged him in suitably royal quarters in the Tower at Buckingham’s suggestion. On June 13, 1483, William Hastings, Edward IV’s closest friend, was seized at a council meeting and executed without trial on the pretext that he had been plotting against Richard. The Archbishop of York, the Bishop of Ely, and Oliver King, among others, were imprisoned. Elizabeth Woodville, who had fled to Westminster sanctuary upon hearing of the arrest of her brother and son, was persuaded on June 16 to hand over her youngest boy, Richard, Duke of York, to Gloucester. The arguments put to her were no doubt aided by the band of soldiers surrounding the sanctuary. Buckingham met the boy at Westminster Hall, after which he was greeted by Gloucester and escorted to join his brother in the Tower. The next day, it was announced that the coronation had been postponed until November.

Beginning June 22, sermons were preached to the effect that Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was invalid and their children therefore illegitimate based on a supposed precontract between Edward IV and one Eleanor Butler—both parties being conveniently dead. Buckingham and Richard were present at one such sermon, preached by Dr. Ralph Shaw.

Buckingham appeared at the Guildhall on June 24, where he made a speech, attended by the mayor and numerous other prominent citizens, urging that Richard be crowned king. Though the speech was “so well and eloquently uttered and with so angelic a countenance, and every pause and time was well ordered, that such as heard him marveled and said that never before that day had they heard any man, learned or unlearned, make such oration,” the response was not enthusiastic.

The next day, Rivers, Grey, and Vaughn were executed at Pontefract, an event Rivers had been expecting since June 23, when he made his will. Back in London, on June 26, a petition formally setting out Richard’s title to the throne was presented to Richard at Baynards Castle. Richard agreed to take the throne.

Buckingham had the main part in organizing the coronation, held on July 6. He bore Richard’s train in the procession to and from Westminster Abbey, gave the king a pall and a pound of gold at the altar, and helped him remove his ceremonial robes and replace them with purple robes. His stepfather, Richard Darell, his cousin Edward Stafford, Earl of Wiltshire, and his uncle by marriage, William Knyvet, also attended. One family member, however, was significantly absent: Katherine Woodville, whose brother and nephew had been executed at Richard’s orders and whose sister the queen was still in sanctuary. Whether Katherine was purposely excluded from the coronation, or chose herself to avoid it, is unknown.

Buckingham was richly rewarded by Richard III for his kingmaking services. Having held no position of importance during Edward IV’s reign, he now was created chief justice and chamberlain of north and south Wales for life. He was also made constable, a hereditary Bohun office, and chamberlain—and he was given the coveted Bohun estates, with a promise that the grant would be confirmed at the next Parliament.

Meanwhile, Richard III’s nephews had disappeared from public view, never to be seen again. Rumors quickly spread that they had been murdered, with both Richard III and Buckingham being named as the killers. Buckingham has become the favorite suspect of those who wish to exonerate Richard from any guilt in the matter, but the case against him can be proven no more than that against Richard.

Just weeks after Richard’s coronation, plans were made to rescue the Princes from the Tower by starting fires in the city of London. The plan failed, and four men were executed, but the country was at last emerging from the stupor into which it had been plunged by the events of June. Another scheme arose, this time to take Elizabeth Woodville’s daughters out of sanctuary and send them abroad. Richard thwarted it by posting an armed guard around Westminster Abbey. By August, however, the conspiracy—involving mostly gentry who had been loyal to Edward IV—was spreading through the south. As rumors began that the princes in the Tower were dead, Elizabeth Woodville, her sons Lionel and Richard, Margaret Beaufort, Buckingham’s prisoner Bishop Morton, and Buckingham himself became involved. Margaret’s son, Henry Tudor, living in exile abroad, was invited by Buckingham in October 1483 to come to England—to assume the throne, according to the Croyland Chronicler. (Richard’s act of attainder states only that the rebels planned to depose and kill Richard; it does not indicate that Tudor was the intended replacement—presumably a notion Richard did not wish to implant in his subjects’ heads.)

Buckingham’s motives for joining the rebellion remain a mystery. Some have suggested that he aimed at the crown himself (and killed the princes as a step toward that ultimate goal), others that he believed that Richard’s reign was doomed and wanted to shield himself from reprisals by the rebels by joining them. The notion that he was revulsed by Richard’s killing of the princes has been discounted by historians as of late, but it should not be rejected out of hand (assuming, of course, that Richard did indeed kill them). Buckingham may not have had difficulty condoning the death of grown men, but infanticide may have been an entirely different thing to him. Horror and the fear that he had imperiled his immortal soul by his complicity with the king could explain his willingness to risk all of his long-coveted gains for an uncertain future with an obscure and untried exile. The Croyland Chronicler’s statement that Buckingham “had repented of his former conduct” may well be an accurate statement.

Whatever Buckingham’s motives, his own part in the rebellion failed miserably, due to Richard’s swift response, Buckingham’s inability to inspire loyalty in his Welsh tenants, and horrendous rains and flooding that hampered his forces’ passage. Leaving his daughters at Brecon, he went with his wife and sons to Weobley, where Sir Walter Devereux, Lord Ferrers had a manor. Lord Ferrers’ role in this is a mystery. He was not named as being a rebel, and later fought and died for Richard III at Bosworth, but he had sheltered the young Henry Tudor in 1470 when the boy was in the care of Anne, Countess of Pembroke, Walter’s sister. Ferrers had also controlled Buckingham’s lordships of Brecon, Hay, and Huntington while Buckingham was a minor. It was presumably these connections that led Buckingham to him. Perhaps Ferrers was an unwilling or absent host; perhaps the presence of the duchess and the couple’s small sons allowed him to tell Richard that he had acted merely out of consideration for their plight.

After spending a week speaking to the local men, presumably in a fruitless attempt to gain support, Buckingham—now with a reward of a thousand pounds on his head-- disguised himself in workman’s clothes and fled, leaving what was left of his army behind. Before this, however, he entrusted his heir, five-year-old Edward Stafford, to Richard Delabeare to keep until he sent for the boy. With them to Kynardsley went William Knyvet, who was married to Buckingham’s aunt and who had also served as one of Buckingham’s councilors. Buckingham had taken the precaution of having a frieze coat—a coat of a coarse cloth that would not ordinarily have been suitable for a duke’s son—made for his son. While the duke and duchess and their remaining son, Henry, were still at Weobley, members of the Vaughan family (not to be confused with the Vaughan who had died at Pontefract) seized Brecon Castle, looting its contents and doing historians a great disservice by destroying many of the Stafford records. The Buckingham girls and their ladies were taken to Tretower, the Vaughans’ home.

The fleeing duke sought shelter at the home of a retainer, Ralph Bannister, in Wem. Either out of fear or out of greed for the reward, Bannister betrayed Buckingham and was rewarded by Richard III with a manor. A dramatic later account says that Buckingham, working in an orchard at the time of his apprehension, sank to his knees and cursed Ralph and his lineage.

Buckingham was taken to Shrewsbury, where on October 31 he was handed over to the ubiquitous James Tyrrell and to Christopher Wellesbourne, who took him to Salisbury. In Salisbury, his pleas for an audience with Richard III were refused. Buckingham’s son Edward would later claim that his father carried a dagger up his sleeve with which he would have stabbed Richard while kneeling down before him. Edward, of course, was nowhere near his father at the time, and his own sources for this information are unknown. Perhaps someone who was with Buckingham in his last hours told him the story.

On November 2, 1483, All Saints’ Day, Buckingham was beheaded in Salisbury marketplace. Several places have been suggested for his burial, but the most likely is that indicated by the Chronicle of the Grey Friars of London, Greyfriars in Salisbury. He apparently was allowed by his captors to make a will, as both a 1485 Act of Parliament and William Catesby’s will refer to a will by Buckingham.

A search then began for Buckingham’s wife and sons. Search parties failed to find Edward, whose caretakers moved him from place to place and dressed him as a little gentlewoman (complete with shaved forehead) to avoid detection. Katherine and her other son, Henry, were found at Weobley by Wellesbourne, who with the brother of John Huddleston, probably Richard Huddleston (married to Queen Anne’s half-sister, an out of wedlock child of the Earl of Warwick), took the duchess to the king in London.

Katherine’s status after she was brought to Richard III is unclear. Some historians have claimed that she was allowed to join her sister Elizabeth in sanctuary, but the records do not show this; as Richard III was trying to get Elizabeth out of sanctuary, it seems unlikely that he would have let yet another Woodville in. On December 19, 1483, however, Richard III did issue a letter allowing the duchess to convey her children and servants from Wales to “these parts,” meaning London, from where the order was issued. Whether Katherine was living on her own in London at the time or was living as a royal prisoner or under close supervision is unknown. Presumably the missing Edward Stafford was included in this order and was brought out of hiding to join his mother.

By April 1484, Richard III had granted Katherine an annuity of 200 marks to be paid to her out of the issues of Tonbridge. This has been often cited as an instance of Richard’s selfless generosity, but it should also be noted that a widow of an attainted traitor was legally entitled to receive any jointure that had been set for her. In an act passed during Henry VII’s first Parliament, it is indicated that Buckingham set Katherine’s jointure at 1,000 pounds. If this was the case, Richard III ignored Katherine’s rights to jointure, and his grant to her should be viewed in that light instead of an instance of benevolence.

Katherine now faced the problem of raising four children on her small annuity—small, at least, for the widow of one of the richest landholders in England who had hitherto wanted for nothing. She may have appealed to William Catesby, Richard III’s royal councilor and a man who had served Buckingham as well. Richard III had granted Catesby and others a number of manors out of which to pay the duke’s debts. Catesby seems to have been derelict in discharging his responsibility, however, for in his will, made as he was facing execution after Bosworth, he left Katherine 100 pounds “to help her children, and that she will see my Lords detts paied and his will executed, and in speciall for such land as shall be amortised to the house of Plashy.” Pleshey College had received gifts from Buckingham’s forbears; presumably Buckingham had remembered the institution in his will.

After Henry VII took the throne, he reversed Buckingham’s attainder and assigned Katherine jointure and dower. Probably the generous treatment accorded Katherine—she was given lands that exceeded the value of her jointure and dower—was due to Henry’s desire to benefit his uncle, Jasper Tudor. The latter, newly created Duke of Bedford, married Katherine before November 7, 1485. Before Henry VII’s coronation, seven-year-old Edward Stafford, now the third Duke of Buckingham, was made a Knight of the Bath. With Edward restored to his family’s estates, his wardship had become a very desirable one. It was given to Henry VII’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, and he and his brother grew up in her household.

Katherine was prominent in the ceremonies surrounding the coronation of her niece, Elizabeth of York, in 1487. She and several other ladies, carried in two chairs, followed the queen as she processed to Westminster the day before her coronation, and at breakfast the day after, Katherine sat on the left of the queen, with Margaret Beaufort on the right. At the christening of Henry and Elizabeth’s first daughter, Margaret, Katherine carried the train of the baby’s mantle, assisted by Lord Strange. She is not mentioned by name as attending her sister Elizabeth Woodville’s funeral, though one of Katherine’s daughters is mentioned as being present.

On December 21, 1495, Jasper Tudor died, aged about sixty-four. Katherine, still only about thirty-seven, very hastily married Richard Wingfield, without a royal license. Part of a prosperous but very large Suffolk gentry family, Richard, the eleventh of twelve sons, would go on to have a distinguished diplomatic career in Henry VIII’s service, but at the time he must have had few material resources. (Perhaps persuading the rich duchess to the marriage, which took place before February 24, 1496, was an early example of Richard’s diplomatic skills—or sex appeal.) Henry VII fined the couple two thousand pounds for their presumption, although it was ultimately Katherine’s son Edward who bore the burden of paying the fine. Katherine would have probably known Richard for some time, as there were already ties between the Wingfields and the Woodvilles: Katherine’s widowed sister Anne had married Edward Wingfield, a brother of Richard, while Richard’s mother was from the Fitzlewis family and thus was connected to Mary Fitzlewis, Anthony Woodville’s second wife. Two of Richard’s brothers, and perhaps Richard himself, had served in Katherine’s household, and the Wingfields had rebelled against Richard in 1483 and fought for Henry VII at Bosworth.

Katherine died on May 18, 1497, barely a year after her third marriage, having had no children by Wingfield. Richard Wingfield remarried, but in his will in 1525 requested that prayers be said for Katherine’s soul as well as for those of other deceased family members and friends.

Of the many children born to Richard Woodville and Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Katherine was the last surviving. Fortunately, she did not live long enough to witness the destruction of her eldest son by Henry VIII in 1521.