Thursday, December 6, 2007

That Doggone Richard III

Here's Shakespeare's Richard III as performed by cartoon dachshunds. (It'd be even better, my buddy Boswell thinks, if it were performed by cartoon cairn terriers, but beggars can't be choosers.) I suppose there should be a revisionist version of this too--perhaps Sharon Penman's The Sunne in Splendour performed by Jack Russell terriers?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Where's Buckingham Buried? And Does He Carry Visa?

Though the unfortunate Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, found himself short of friends when the rebellion that bears his name collapsed, at least three different places have laid claim to his body.

Buckingham was executed in Salisbury on November 2, 1483, after his repeated requests to see Richard III failed. He may well have made a will before his execution, for both Thomas Catesby in his pre-execution will and an act of Henry VII's Parliament restoring his widow her jointure make reference to a will by Buckingham. Probably, like Catesby and Anthony Woodville, he requested a final resting place. Unfortunately, Buckingham's will, if he had one, does not appear to have survived.

The first candidate put forth as a resting place for Buckingham was the Church of St. Peter in Britford, just outside of Salisbury. In 1836 in The Gentleman's Magazine, R. Colt Hoare wrote that the tomb bore the shield of Stafford and Rivers. He added,

I am inclined to suppose that the figures on the base of the tomb allude to a melancholy event which took place at Salisbury. There are six niches, five of which contain male and female figures; the first is vacant, which I think was designed for the unfortunate Duke. I consider the female figure in the second niche, having a crown on her head, as representing the Duchess, his wife. The next figure is evidently an ecclesiastic or bishop deploring the unfortunate fate of the Duke; and at this period Widvile, brother of the Duchess, was bishop of the see. The fourth figure represents a female crowned like the second, holding a sword in one hand, and in the other a cap or bonnet, probably that of the Duke.

The fifth figure represents the executioner with the sword in his hand.

The last figure represent [sic] a female holding up her hand in apparent grief, and with a child in her arms, as alluding to one of the unfortunate Duke's offspring.

One D.H., however, also writing in The Gentleman's Magazine, would have none of this. Dissenting in a gentlemanly manner (as one might expect), he wrote that the figures probably represented saints, not family members of Buckingham, and he doubted that the shields represented the House of Stafford. Later writers have suggested that the Britford tomb might have been erected in Buckingham's memory, but does not contain his remains.

The picture grew murkier in 1838, when according to a report in the Salopian Journal, during renovations at Salisbury's Saracen's Head Inn, a skeleton was found beneath the flooring, missing its head and right arm. The skeleton underwent an extremely unscientific examination by the locals, with the landlord measuring a rib against his own and a maidservant "laying irreverent hands upon the neck-bones." Under the assumption that the skeleton belonged to a long-ago murder victim, the workers knocked the fragile bones about so that they merged into the surrounding clay. A few 19th-century antiquarians suggested that this was Buckingham's skeleton; they noted that the Saracen's Head Inn stood on the site of the Blue Boar Inn, the yard of which is given by some sources as the site for Buckingham's execution. It's possible that Richard III, furious at Buckingham's betrayal, might have ordered that his erstwhile ally be buried ignominiously instead of in consecrated ground, but how to explain the missing right arm?

Finally, the Chronicle of the Grey Friars of London states, "Thys yere the duke of Buckyngham was be-heddyd at Salsbery, and is burryd at the Gray freres [in Salisbury]." As noted in a footnote by J.G. Nichols, this is probably the most logical resting place for Buckingham. It was nearby, and as Richard III had afforded other executed opponents of his, notably William Hastings, honorable burial, he probably did so with Buckingham as well.

Wherever the duke lies, he does not seem to be doing it quietly. Buckingham's ghost is said to haunt Debenhams department store in Salisbury, where he has been known to enter the women's dressing room and hiss, "It makes you look fat, darling." (OK, I made up the last line. But not the haunting Debenhams part.) The site of his execution is marked by a plaque on the store.

So if you're shopping at Debenhams and encounter the ghostly Duke, why not gently ask him to clarify the matter of his burial? Oh, and ask him about the Princes too while you're at it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Katherine Woodville: Cradle-Robber?

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been working on a novel about Katherine Woodville, wife of Henry Stafford, the Duke of Buckingham who was Richard III’s ally and then his enemy. I do most of my research in the library, but I do a fair amount of Googling also to see if any leads turn up online.

In doing so, I was perturbed to find this Wikipedia entry about the Duke of Buckingham, in which it’s confidently stated that the young duke was forced to marry Katherine when he was 12 and she was 24, thereby causing Buckingham to resent the entire Woodville clan. Wikipedia, fortunately, can be corrected, but several Ricardian sites and publications, like this one (scroll down to the sentence past the reference to note 25), repeat the same story. It brings to mind a rather unpleasant picture of Katherine, no doubt with the grinning approval of Nasty Elizabeth, sending her little husband to bed without his supper if he refused to let her have her way with him.

Fortunately for Katherine (and the Duke), the story, at least as far as Katherine’s age goes, is, like so many other anti-Woodville stories, utter nonsense. Katherine’s marriage to Buckingham was indeed arranged when Buckingham was a royal ward, and Buckingham, like any other royal ward, didn’t have a say in the matter. But Katherine, far from being in her 20’s at the time, was younger than her husband when the couple married, sometime between September 1464, when Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville’s secret marriage was disclosed, and May 1465, when Henry Stafford and Katherine attended the queen’s coronation, where they are named as the Duke and the younger Duchess of Buckingham. (The elder Duchess, Henry Stafford’s grandmother, was also present at the coronation.)

Katherine’s age is given in a 1492 post-mortem inquisition of her brother, Richard, where she is described as “aged 34 or more.” This puts Katherine’s birthdate at around 1458, making her a child of around seven at the time of her marriage. Henry Stafford, born on September 4, 1455, would have been only nine at the time of the coronation. (Brad Verity, who kindly brought the IPM and other Woodville genealogical information to my attention, has posted about this and other Woodville genealogical matters here.)

Of course, IPMs are not infallible. Katherine’s youth at her marriage, however, is attested by two other primary sources. First, a detailed account of Elizabeth Woodville’s coronation exists, in which the major participants and the roles they played are listed. As mentioned earlier, both the Duke of Buckingham and his Duchess were present, and both are mentioned as being carried upon squires’ shoulders. No other duke or duchess was given similar treatment, so it’s safe to assume (in the absence of evidence that either or both parties sprained their ankles immediately before the coronation) that the Buckinghams were carried because they were children, presumably so they could see and be seen and/or so they wouldn’t tire out during the lengthy ceremony, dressed as they were in heavy ceremonial robes. (No mention is made of how the squires fared; one hopes for their sakes that the duke and duchess weren’t hefty youngsters.)

Katherine also appears in her sister Elizabeth’s household records for 1466-67, where payments were given to three people for attending upon her. Similar payments were made for the Duke of Buckingham and his younger brother, Humphrey, who were in Elizabeth’s care at the time. It seems apparent that Katherine, like her young husband and brother-in-law, was being brought up in her sister’s household.

So while it’s possible that Henry may have come to resent his marriage because he was his wife’s social superior (though it’s far more likely that his resentment arose because he was never given an active role to play in Edward IV’s reign), it’s certainly not the case that his wife was an older woman scheming with her sister the queen to exploit her wealthy little husband. She was a mere child, with no more control over her marriage than her young husband had over his.

Katherine’s second and third marriages, however, did involve large age gaps; perhaps it is the third marriage that has led to the misinformation about her first. Katherine's second husband was none other than Jasper Tudor, uncle to Henry VII; the match was made by November 7, 1485. Tudor was 55, over twice the age of the 27-year-old Katherine. The benefit to both parties seems to have been purely material: Katherine got the jointure and dower she had been denied in Richard III’s reign due to Buckingham’s treason and execution; Jasper got a wealthy, landed bride.

Jasper died on December 21, 1495. Just over eight weeks later, Katherine remarried without a license, thereby following the grand tradition of runaway matches made by her mother and her sister Elizabeth. Her third husband, Richard Wingfield, was twelve years younger than Katherine; he was the eleventh son out of twelve and presumably had very limited material assets, so it was likely his personal charms that appealed to the newly widowed Katherine. A mere squire at the time, Richard may have been a member of Katherine’s household. (After coming into his inheritance, Katherine’s eldest son by Buckingham, Edward Stafford, eventually ended up having to pay the fine for his mother’s unsanctioned third marriage, much to his disgust.)

Katherine and Richard’s short-lived marriage—Katherine died in 1497—-probably paved the way to Richard’s eventual success in Henry VIII’s court. Wingfield remarried and had children by his second wife, but did not forget Katherine, directing in his will that prayers be said for her soul. Dying on an embassy to Toledo in 1525, he was undoubtedly fortunate to miss the later downfall of Cardinal Wolsey, to whom he attributed his own success at court.

Friday, November 16, 2007

And You Thought the Bard Did Enough With Richard

I've been reading a lot about Richard III lately, and I've been writing a lot about Richard III lately (in my novel in progress, actually about Katherine Woodville, wife to Buckingham), but I haven't been blogging a lot about Richard III lately. To compensate somewhat, here's a fun game, courtesy of Gabriele and Alianore and The Shakespeare Quote Generator:

Suggested new motto of the Richard III Society:

Follow your spirit, and, upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, Richard III and Saint George! (England)

Why Richard III was so soft on Margaret Beaufort:

Banish plump Margaret, and banish all the world. (Jack)

William Colyngbourne takes pride in his verse:

Not marble, nor the gilded Richard III
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme. (monuments)

Fatherly advice from Henry Tudor:

Neither a borrower, nor a Richard III be. (lender)

A Ricardian novel in a nutshell:

Never was a story of more woe
Than this of Anne, and her Richard III. (Juliet, Romeo)

Not only did Richard III have bad dreams the night before Bosworth, he snored too.

We have heard the Richard III at midnight (chimes)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A Belated Buckingham Blog Post, With Help From the Bard

November 2, 1483:

SCENE I. Salisbury. An open place.

Enter the Sheriff, and BUCKINGHAM, with halberds, led to execution


Will not King Richard let me speak with him?


No, my good lord; therefore be patient.


Hastings, and Edward's children, Rivers, Grey,
Holy King Henry, and thy fair son Edward,
Vaughan, and all that have miscarried
By underhand corrupted foul injustice,
If that your moody discontented souls
Do through the clouds behold this present hour,
Even for revenge mock my destruction!
This is All-Souls' day, fellows, is it not?


It is, my lord.


Why, then All-Souls' day is my body's doomsday.
This is the day that, in King Edward's time,
I wish't might fall on me, when I was found
False to his children or his wife's allies
This is the day wherein I wish'd to fall
By the false faith of him I trusted most;
This, this All-Souls' day to my fearful soul
Is the determined respite of my wrongs:
That high All-Seer that I dallied with
Hath turn'd my feigned prayer on my head
And given in earnest what I begg'd in jest.
Thus doth he force the swords of wicked men
To turn their own points on their masters' bosoms:
Now Margaret's curse is fallen upon my head;
'When he,' quoth she, 'shall split thy heart with sorrow,
Remember Margaret was a prophetess.'
Come, sirs, convey me to the block of shame;
Wrong hath but wrong, and blame the due of blame.


(Shakespeare extract courtesy of MIT's Shakespeare site.)

As recent historians, especially Louise Gill, have pointed out, "Buckingham's Rebellion" is a misnomer, because Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham was a latecomer to the uprising that bears his name. It began as a plan by southerners, many with close ties to the court of Edward IV, to restore Edward V to the throne and changed to a conspiracy to place Henry Tudor on the throne after rumors began that Edward V and his younger brother were dead. Two of the more highly placed conspirators, Bishop Morton and Margaret Beaufort, were in a position to influence Buckingham, Morton being his prisoner at Brecon and Margaret Beaufort being his aunt by marriage. Indeed, it is Morton who is supposed to have converted Buckingham to the rebel cause.

One of the great mysteries of Richard III's reign is why Buckingham, who had so famously helped Richard III gain the throne just months before and who had reaped huge rewards as a result, suddenly turned against his king. Was he simply doing what he had intended to do from the start? Was he angry because Richard III had denied him some request? Was he horrified at the supposed deaths of the Princes in the Tower? Was he trying to cover up his own guilt? Had he decided to aim at the crown for himself? Was he switching sides in the belief that Richard III was bound to fall and that it would behoove him to be on the winning side? Was he mentally unstable? No one knows. Buckingham begged for an audience with Richard III before his execution, but Richard refused the request. That's a pity, because Buckingham might have revealed his motives. (Then again, maybe not.) Buckingham's son later claimed that his father had been carrying a knife with which he planned to kill the king, but Buckingham's son was a young boy and nowhere near his father at the time, so any information he had would be secondhand at best.

Whatever Buckingham's motivations, his intervention may have doomed the rising, for Buckingham was unable to command the loyalty of his own Welsh tenants, one of whom betrayed him to the king. Indeed, his participation may have scared off some potential allies, given his former close ties to Richard III and his lack of popularity in the region.

Ill-fated as it was for Buckingham, however, the rebellion was not the end of Richard III's troubles, but only the beginning. On October 30, 1485, just short of two years after Buckingham's death at Salisbury, the survivors of the rebellion would gather for Henry VII's coronation.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Elizabeth Woodville, Non-Bearer of Bad Tidings?

If you've read any Ricardian novel worthy of its genre, you've come across the following scene: in April 1483, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and Anne, his childhood sweetheart, blissfully married, are enjoying a carefree moment in their beloved Yorkshire when a messenger rides up, bringing ill tidings: Edward IV is dead. As Richard absorbs this devastating news, the narrator, if he's at all reliable, will inform us sternly that the messenger was from William Hastings and not from Elizabeth Woodville. The latter, we'll be told, failed to tell Richard herself either (a) because of her mean-spirited character and/or (b) because of a Nasty Woodville plot to keep Richard in the dark about his brother's death for as long as possible. The latter gives rise to visions of the following scenario:

August 1483. Richard is frolicking in the moors with Anne when a messenger shuffles up.

Richard: Have you news, man?

Messenger: Oh, I suppose so. Your brother the king is dead.

Richard: No! NO! Anne, we must get to London as soon as possible to save the country from the evil Woodvilles!

Messenger: Don't bother. He died back in April. His son is already crowned and there's not a thing you can do about it. Us Woodvilles are in charge. (Cackles gleefully for a few minutes, then abruptly stops) Oh, but there is one thing you can do.

Richard (miserably): What?

Messenger: The Queen Mum will let you keep all of your castles, but she wants you to rename them. Got that? So from now, this will be known as Middlewood. Sheriff Hutton will be known as Sheriff Bessie.

Richard: NOOOOOO! (Runs off into moors and disappears forever, thereby depriving future generations of perfectly good subjects to blog about).

But seriously, is there truth to this story that Elizabeth Woodville and her family deliberately failed to let Richard know of his brother's death? I haven't found a contemporary source for it. The Croyland Chronicler, who most historians agree was a person highly placed at court, reports the controversy over the size of the escort the new king and his relations were to have, notes that Richard wrote cordial, reassuring letters to the queen after he learned of Edward's death, and states that Richard traveled to York to publicly mourn his brother. In all of this, he doesn't indicate who told Richard of his brother's death, but he doesn't suggest that anyone had been derelict in giving Gloucester the news or that it had come from an unexpected quarter. Mancini, whose account is by no means favorable to the Woodvilles, reports that there were conflicting opinions among the king's councilors as to what role Gloucester was to play in the minority government, and he writes that Hastings reported these deliberations to Richard and urged him to come to London quickly. As with Croyland, however, nothing in Mancini's account gives the impression that there had been any delay in notifying Richard of his brother's death or any impropriety in the way he was notified.

Based on these sources, the logical conclusion is that whether or not Elizabeth Woodville personally sent Richard the news (and it's not at all clear to me why she, as opposed to someone from the king's household like William Hastings, the king's chamberlain, would have been expected to do so), Richard learned of his brother's death via conventional means and within a reasonable time. Indeed, in their chronology of events in The Coronation of Richard III: The Extant Documents, Anne F. Sutton and P. W. Hammond--both associated with the Richard III Society--indicate, based on Mancinci, Croyland, and other contemporary sources, that Richard in Yorkshire probably received the news of Edward IV's death at about the same time--April 14--that the future Edward V and his household, which of course included Elizabeth's brother Anthony Woodville, received the news in Wales.

None of this would be of much importance in the grand scheme of things, perhaps, except that the unfounded notion that Elizabeth & Co. tried to conceal the king's death from Richard has made it into nonfiction as well as fiction, giving it a certain respectability and staying power. Elizabeth Jenkins in The Princes in the Tower twice states that no one told Richard of the king's death until Hastings broke the news, and Paul Murray Kendall, in whose eyes Elizabeth Woodville combines all of the worst qualifies of Imelda Marcos, Cruella de Vil, and Britney Spears, also writes that no official word ever came from Westminster to Richard. Bertram Fields in his book Royal Blood likewise accuses the queen and her kin of delay, and a quick surf on the Internet produces several Ricardian sites that make similar allegations. Especially with regard to the latter, it's disheartening to note how some--by no means all or even most--of those dedicated to reassessing Richard's reputation should be so cavalier about besmirching those of his contemporaries.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Anne Beauchamp's Gold Tablet

Recently I picked up a collection of essays titled Much Heaving and Shoving: Late-Medieval Gentry and Their Concerns, Essays for Colin Richmond, edited by Margaret Aston and Rosemary Horrox. It contains a good deal of interest in relation to Richard III, and I found one article, "The Smethon Letter, St Penket and the Tablet of Gold" by Tony Pollard, to be of particular interest.

In the article, Pollard quotes a letter by William Smethon, a chaplain in the service of Richard Clervaux, a landowner near Middleham. The letter, which Pollard dates between February and the summer of 1478, was found behind a grant of free warren from Edward IV on February 26, 1478, that had been framed and kept at Croft Hall. Smethon not only mentions the death of George, the Duke of Clarence ("dead in a vat for hys bathying") but also refers to Anne Beauchamp, Countess of Warwick, Richard III's mother-in-law. Having informed Clervaux that the lord of Gloucester (i.e., Richard III) had told him that the free warren matter was making "good spede," Smethon adds that the countess has made a great table of gold of St. Pen, Our Lady, and the Holy Trinity, "with which it is seid my lord is not plesed withahll." He adds, "And yit my lady shall be at rob' ho' this seson."

This letter is fascinating for several reasons. For one, as Pollard points out, it seems to confirm that Anne Beauchamp was indeed residing at Middleham in Richard III's household at the time, as opposed to some other residence. For another, it suggests that Anne enjoyed a certain freedom of movement and action while at Middleham, contradicting Rous's claim that Richard III shut her up for life. It also indicates that Anne, though she had been stripped of her lands by her sons-in-law, had enough spending money to commission this gold tablet.

What was this tablet? Pollard suggests that it might be none other than the Middleham Jewel, a gold tablet that does indeed depict Our Lady and the Trinity. As for "St. Pen," Pollard notes that the Middleham Jewel frames the Nativity scene on its back with 15 saints, one of whom he suggests may be St. Penket, "an obscure whirling, or ecstatic dancing, saint."

So what was Gloucester not pleased about? Had the Countess of Warwick been overspending her allowance in having this tablet made? Or, as Pollard suggests, had she become a devotee of the cult of St. Penket, thereby incurring the disapproval of her more religiously orthodox son-in-law?

What was this mysterious "rob' ho'"? Sadly, its meaning is obscure, but Pollard suggests that it might refer to a building on the Middleham High Moor known as the Rubbing House, in which St. Penket followers might have held dances.

As is often the case with Richard III, this letter raises many more questions than it answers. But they're interesting questions, and I'll be searching out Colin Richmond's The Penket Papers to read more for myself about this obscure saint.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Happy Belated Birthday to Richard III, Loyal Brother to Edward IV

Born on October 2, 1452.

Speaking of birthdays, the act enrolled in the 1484 Parliament outlining Richard III's claim to the crown, Titulus Regius, having set out the supposed illegitmacy of Edward IV's sons, goes on to list Richard III's qualifications to hold the throne. Interestingly, it contains a couple of subtle allusions to earlier rumors, spread by the Earl of Warwick and his associates previously and briefly resurrected by Richard III (or his supporters) when he seized the throne in 1483, that Edward IV himself was illegitimate. Richard is described as the "undoubted" son of Richard, Duke of York, and (unlike that sneaky Edward IV, born in Rouen), it's noted that Richard was "born within this land."

Over this we cofidre, howe that Ye be the undoubted Son and Heire of Richard late Duke of Yorke, verray enheritour to the feid Crowne and Dignite Roiall, and as in right Kyng of Englond, by wey of Enheritaunce; and that at ths tyme, the premiffes duely confidered, there is noon other perfoune lyvyng but Ye only, that by Right may clayme the faid Coroune and Dignite Royall, by way of Enheritaunce, and howe that Ye be born withyn this Lande; by reafon wherof, as we deme in oure myndes, Ye be more naturally enclyned to the profperite and comen wele of the fame; and all the thre Eftatis of the Lande have, and may have, more certayn knowlage of youre Byrth and Filiation abovefeid. Wee confidre alfo, the greate Wytte, Prudence, Juftice, Princely Courage, and the memorable and laudable Acts in diverfe Batalls, whiche as we by experience knowe Ye heretofore have done, for the falvacion and defence of this fame Reame; and alfo the greate nobleffe and excellence of your Byrth and Blode, as of hym that is defcended of the thre mooft Royall houfes in Criftendom, that is to fay, England, Fraunce, and Hifpanic.

Strangely, Richard III is widely admired for his loyalty to his brother, though after Edward IV's death, Richard III proclaimed his brother's children illegitimate, summarily executed his closest friend, his in-laws, and his eldest son's chamberlain, and (at the very least) imprisoned his sons. Titulus Regius, indeed, devotes considerable space to outlining Edward IV's supposed failures as a king, which, you won't be surprised to hear, were all caused by divine displeasure with his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville:

Which premiffes being true, as in veray trouth they been true, it appearreth and foloweth evidently, that the faid King Edward duryng his lif, and the feid Elizabeth, lived together finfully and dampnably in adultery, againft the Lawe of God and of his Church; and therfore noo marivaile that the Souverain Lord and the head of this Land, being of fuch ungoldy difpoficion, and provokyng the ire and indinacion of oure Lord God, fuch haynous mifchieffs and inconvenients, as is above remembred, were ufed and comitted in the Reame amongs the Subjects.

The "haynous mifchieffs and inconvenients, as is above remembred" are spelled out thusly:

Furft, we confidre how that heretofore in tyme paffed, this Lande many years ftode in great profperite, honoure and tranquillite; which was caufed, forfomoch as the Kings than reignyng, ufed and followed the advice and counfaill of certaine Lords Spuelx and Temporelx, and othre perfonnes of approved fadneffe, prudence, policie and experience, dreding God, and havying tendre zele and affection to indifferent miniftration of Juftice, and to the comon and politique wele of the Land; than oure Lord God was dred, luffed and honoured; than within the Land was peas and tranquillite, and among Neghbours concorde and charite; than the malice of outward Enemyes was myghtily refifted and repreffed, and the Land honorably defended with many grete and glorious victories; than the entrecourfe of Merchandizes was largely ufed and exercifed: by which things above remembred, the Land was greatly enriched, foo that as wele the Merchants and Artificers, as other poure people, laborying for their livyng in diverfe occupations, had competent gayne, to the fuftentation of thaym and their houfeholds, livyng without miferable and intollerable povertie. But afterward, whan that fuch as had the rule and governaunce of this Land, delityng in adulation and flattery, and lede by fenfuality and concupifcence, folowed the counfaill of perfonnes, infolent, vicious, and of inordinate avarice, defpifyng the coungaill of good, vertuoufe and prudent perfonnes, fuch as above be remembred; the profperite of this Land daily decreafed, foo that felicite was turned into miferie, and profperite into adverfite, and the ordre of polecye, and of the Lawe of God and Man, confounded; whereby it is likely this Reame to falle into extreme miferie and defolation, which God defende, without due provifion of couvenable remedie bee had in this behalfe in all goodly haft.

Ah, the good old days of Henry VI, where peas and tranquility reigned throughout the land, except for those pesky battles that kept spoiling everyone's fun. Richard III is also conveniently omitting to mention that the last years of Edward IV's reign, far from being a time of misery and desolation, were marked by domestic peace. But Richard is just getting warmed up:

Over this, amonges other things, more fpecially wee confider, howe that, the tyme of the Reigne of Kyng Edward the IIIIth , late deceffed, after the ungracious pretenfed Marriage, as all England hath caufe foo to fay, made betwixt the faid King Edward, and Elizabeth, fometyme Wife to Sir John Grey Knight, late nameing herfelf and many years heretofore Quene of Englond, the ordre of all poletique Rule was perverted, the Lawes of God and of Gods Church, and alfo the Lawes of Nature and of Englond, and alfo the laudable Cuftomes and Liberties of the fame, wherein every Englifhman in Inheritor, broken, fubverted and contempned, againft all reafon and juftice, foo that this Land was ruled by felfewill and pleafure, feare and drede, all manner of Equite and Lawes layd apart and defpifed, whereof enfued many inconvenients and mifchiefs, as Murdres, Extorfions and Oppreffions, namely of poore and impotent people, foo that no Man was fure of his Lif, Land ne Lyvelode, ne of his Wif, Doughter ne Servaunt, every good Maiden and Woman ftanding in drede to be ravifhed and defouled. And befides this, what Difcords, inwarde Battailles, etfufion of Chriftian Mens Blode, and namely, by the deftruction of the Blode of this Londe, was had and comitted within the fame, it is evident and notarie thourough all this Reame, unto the great forowe and hevyneffe of all true Englifhmen.

That's Edward IV for you: mass murderer of poor people, serial rapist of good women, and (having been born in France) not even a true Englishman.

As the saying goes, if you want loyalty, get yourself a dog.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Cross-Dressing Young Buckingham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Novel About Margaret Beaufort

Ouch! Has it been so long since I last posted? Sorry, Richard--I've had deadlines.

Having read so many Wars of the Roses-related novels featuring Richard, I was intrigued when I ran across one about Margaret Beaufort, who in a few recent Ricardian novels has had the dubious honor of being named the killer or would-be killer of the Princes. Leaving aside this theory, which I find far-fetched (to put it mildly), Margaret Beaufort had a fascinating life, so I was looking forward to reading this novel--Destiny's Child by Iris Gower, a 1999 reprint of a novel originally published in 1975 as Bride of the Thirteenth Summer by Iris Davies.

Unfortunately, I found Destiny's Child to be disappointing. Margaret and her husbands are portrayed attractively, but Gower makes little effort to put Margaret's story in its historical context or even to explain to the poor reader what is going on outside Margaret's great hall. For instance, when Buckingham joins with Margaret in a rebellion against Richard III, we're never told that Buckingham had been instrumental in bringing Richard III to power. Earlier, Thomas Stanley is described as standing by Lord Hastings, but we're never told who Hastings is or that Hastings has been executed. Perhaps Gower assumed that a reader interested in Margaret Beaufort would know all of these things, but it strikes me as a somewhat unlikely assumption.

Historically, there are some right peculiar goings-on here. When Elizabeth of York comes out of sanctuary, she goes not to Richard III's household, but to Thomas and Margaret's. Gower also has Stanley agree to bring Margaret to the battlefield where Richard III's troops are preparing to meet Henry Tudor's so that Margaret can watch the battle, a rather unlikely plot device since Stanley is depicted as being unsure which side to support.

Aside from depicting Margaret's love for her first husband and for her son, there's very little effort made to show Margaret's inner workings. In the chapter where Margaret agrees to marry Thomas Stanley, she's suddenly shown as worldly-wise and rather cynical, a contrast to the way she's previously been depicted. Such a development isn't implausible, but in the context of the novel, it isn't well prepared for.

Richard himself doesn't appear at all, except as someone who's mentioned by the other characters. Margaret says she can't imagine that he would kill the Princes, and she doesn't appear to bear him any grudge, but she plots to have her son supplant him anyway. His death at Bosworth isn't even depicted.

All in all, Margaret could have been served much better. On the positive side, reading this historical novel did make me want to learn more about Margaret, so I ordered The King's Mother by Michael K. Jones and Malcolm Underwood, the standard biography of Margaret Beaufort, which just arrived in my mailbox today. Having read only bits and pieces of it before, I'm looking forward to reading it from cover to cover.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Ten Rules for Writing Ricardian Historical Fiction

Some time ago (I never was accused of being au courant), rules for writing various sorts of historical fiction were circulated in blogdom. Astonishingly, as far as I know, no one provided any for the aspiring Ricardian novelist. So here's my attempt to fill this gaping void:

1. Anne Beauchamp, Richard's mother-in-law, must be tearfully grateful when Richard III takes her to live with him and Anne, and must not under any circumstances allude to the fact that Richard and Clarence together have stripped her of all of her lands. The means by which Richard acquired the lands of George Neville and the Countess of Oxford should also be disregarded; if the matter of land must be mentioned at all, the reader should be allowed to assume that it came to Richard via the Land Fairy.

2. Anne Neville must be frail, in order to make Richard's love for her all the more noble and to get maximum pathos from her stay at the cookshop. The emotional power of a Ricardian novel can be measured roughly by the number of times Anne faints.

3. Anything bad that happens in England during the Wars of the Roses is the fault of either (a) Margaret of Anjou, (b) anyone named Woodville, (c) Margaret Beaufort, (d) the Stanleys, (e) Buckingham (except when he's allied with Richard III), or (f) Henry Tudor. Special points go to any Ricardian novelist who can make the Woodvilles responsible for global warming.

4. Anything good that happens in England during the Wars of the Roses is due to Richard, Duke of York, Edward IV (except when it's something Richard doesn't like), or Richard III.

5. Anne and Richard must have been childhood sweethearts whose lifelong wish to marry is thwarted by Warwick. The phrase "sold into marriage" should be used at least once when Anne marries Edward of Lancaster. Under no circumstances should Anne and Edward have even slightly positive feelings for each other.

6. Richard III's extramarital liaisons are the product of either his merry bachelor high jinks, a passionate premarital love affair with a woman of lower rank, or (preferably) his desperate need to find comfort in the absence of his childhood sweetheart Anne. Anyone else's extramarital liaisons are the product of lechery and depravity. Yes, that means you, William Hastings.

7. In the afterword, the conscientious Ricardian novelist will take a swipe at all accounts unfavorable to Richard, dismissing them as Tudor propaganda. The very same accounts, however, must be followed slavishly when they are unfavorable to Richard's enemies.

8. William Collingbourne's hanging, drawing, and quartering on Richard III's orders must not be depicted, as it would be a violation of the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which Richard would have followed to the letter if only it'd been written at the time.

9. Richard must not kill the Princes. Nor can he make a loaded remark such as, "Will no one rid me of those pesky Princes?" or "Sure would be a lot more to go around if we didn't have those two extra mouths in the Tower to feed." (But c'mon—you knew that rule.)

10. When in doubt, blame Elizabeth Woodville.

Monday, August 27, 2007

So What Did Buckingham Want to Say?

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

Sorry sorry sorry!

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

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

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

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

Just kidding!

Shouldn't you sleep on this?

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Reign of Richard III as Told by the King

(King Elvis)

"Any Day Now"

"Without Him"

"You'll Be Gone"

"Gods Gonna Cut 'Em Down"

"What She's Really Like"


"Who's Sorry Now"

"Let It Be Me"

"I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here"

"King Of The Whole Wide World"

"Out Of Sight Out Of Mind"

"He'll Have To Go"

"Patch It Up"

"Stay Away"


"Stand By Me"

"It's Over"

"Roses Are Red"

Richard the Guardian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 10, 2007

Love and Marriage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Some Nonfiction for Your Reading Pleasure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Oh, Those Nasty Victors

If you read a piece written by a partisan of Richard III, almost invariably you're going to happen across the phrase: "History is written by the victors." (Google "Richard III history written victors" and see for yourself.)

This is one of these sayings that sounds sage on the surface, but doesn't really hold up all that well to close scrutiny. Should we assume, for example, that because the North won the American Civil War, all of the reports of the atrocities of slavery were the product of abolitionist propaganda? Or because the Allies won World War II, should we assume that reports of Nazi war crimes and genocide were grossly exaggerated? Of course, one can find people who claim that slavery was a benevolent system and that the Holocaust was faked, but such theories and their proponents are held in contempt by most responsible people.

Yet people who wouldn't give credence to either of the theories mentioned above will say, in all sincerity, that Richard III's poor reputation is due entirely to the Tudors. Had Henry Tudor lost at Bosworth, they tell us, Richard would have gone down in history as a benevolent, just king, and those pesky nephews would have been forgotten altogether. Instead, Henry VII, as that dreaded creature known as the Victor, set out to smear his rival's name.

Now the Tudors or their contemporaries can be blamed for some slurs upon Richard III. There's no evidence, for instance, that he was physically deformed, or that he poisoned his wife, or that he murdered his brother Clarence. It is historical fact, however, not Tudor fabrication, that before taking the throne in July 1483, Richard III ordered the summary executions of William Hastings, Thomas Vaughan, Richard Grey, and Anthony Woodville. Though Richard III justified their executions by accusing these men of plotting against him, nothing supports his bare allegations.

The most damning allegation against Richard, of course, is that he murdered his nephews. While it may never be proved who murdered the Princes, or even that they were murdered at all, the story itself cannot be blamed on the Tudors. Rumors that Richard III had killed the princes were current in his lifetime, and circulated both in England and abroad. Uprisings against Richard III in the south, led mainly by men who had been loyal to Edward IV, that began within weeks of Richard coronation were prompted by rumors that the princes were dead, and it was the belief that they were dead that led the conspirators to invite Henry Tudor to claim the crown, despite the fact that he was an obscure exile who had given no indication of his abilities as a ruler. What is certain is that Richard III could have quenched the rumors easily by producing the princes. He never did, not then or at any other time in his reign, and the princes were never seen again after the summer of 1483. This bare fact speaks very eloquently for itself without the help of Tudor embellishment. As Paul Murray Kendall, Richard III's most eloquent defender, wrote, "The most powerful indictment of Richard is the plain and massive fact that the Princes disappeared from view after he assumed the throne and were never again reported to have been seen alive."

Saturday, July 28, 2007

For Openers

I'm fascinated by Richard III and by the Wars of the Roses and have done a fair amount of reading on the subject, though I can't name all of the battles that occurred before Barnet in their proper order. As a novelist heading toward the end of her current project (yay! land!), I've been thinking of the next book, and it's likely that I'll set it during the Wars of the Roses. More than that I haven't decided; one of the reasons for this blog, in fact, is to sort out my own ideas.

But the main reason for this blog is that I'm an avid reader of historical fiction who chooses books mainly based on whether they're about people and places I'm particularly interested in (though lately I've been branching out a bit). Naturally, a lot of the novels I gravitate to concern the Wars of the Roses.

Lately, though, I've been noticing a distressing sameness to most of these novels: they all feature a Richard III who's little short of sainthood. He marries his wife solely for love, not paying the least bit of attention of all that family land. ("What? You mean you're an heiress too? Gollee!") He takes the throne only after days of agonized soul-searching. He's universally beloved by his subjects, except by a few churls who are motivated only by self-interest. All who oppose him, especially Those Nasty Woodvilles, are portrayed as having few if any redeeming qualities.

I have come across one recent exception, Reay Tannahill's The Seventh Son. Her Richard III is a sympathetic character, but not a saintly one. He's very much a man of his time, who's prepared to act ruthlessly when it suits his purpose.

The Internet isn't all that much better. The Richard III Society (incidentally, I'm a member; one of the many commendable things about the Society is that it doesn't impose a litmus test for membership) does have excellent websites with much objective information. Venture off those websites, however, and one either gets the saintly Richard or the monster of Shakespeare's play, with very little in between.

Fortunately, recent nonfiction, such as A. J. Pollard's Richard III and the Princes in the Tower, offers a much more balanced view of Richard. Unfortunately, this view isn't much reflected in recent fiction or the Internet. (Perhaps scholars need to blog a bit more.)

Hence this blog. It's a modest attempt to disseminate my own unromantic perspective on Richard III: that he was neither saintly nor satanic, but somewhere in between.

One more thing: in setting up this blog, I've probably been influenced a great deal by Alianore's excellent blog on Edward II, a troubled king who until her blog came along was getting almost universally bad (and often entirely inaccurate) press on the Internet.

So here's to objectivity!

Oh, and one more thing. We have some occasional fun on my main blog, so don't think for a minute we won't have some fun on this one too.