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.