Archive for the ‘Medieval People’ Category


Richard III: Elected Monarch or Usurper?

   Posted by: Barbara Gaskell Denvil Tags:

We thank our branch member Barbara Gaskell Denvil for her kind permission to use this article here.  It was first published on 30 August 2014 on her own website.

richard smlVery little reliable documentary evidence survives from the Middle Ages. The life and times of Richard III therefore remain a period of frustration and fascination for historians, scholars and interested amateurs alike. So why is it – when one very clear contemporary document survives from that period – that so many people choose either to ignore it, or disbelieve it?

This one original and incontrovertible document dates from 1484. It sets forth in plain language (of the time) the entitlement to the throne of the man crowned Richard III, and states that, after certain facts were brought to light which made it clear that King Edward IV’s sons were now considered illegitimate and young Warwick, Clarence’s son, was debarred by his father’s attainder, Richard, at that time Duke of Gloucester, stood next in line.

After lengthy investigation and consideration of the newly disclosed situation by the Royal Council and the members of Parliament originally called to London for the expected coronation of the young prince, (most of whom were present) the agreed conclusion was that the crown should be offered to Richard, who was already ratified as Protector of the Realm. He was petitioned by the three estates, being the Lords Temporal, the Lords Spiritual, and representatives of the Commons who included a good many leading citizens of London. He was officially and legally asked to take the throne. It could actually be said that he was elected. Indeed, the wording of Titulus Regius includes the words ‘this Eleccion of us the Three Estates’, And yet he is consistently accused of being a usurper, and of having ‘seized’ the throne.

The accepted modern meaning of the verb ‘to usurp’ according to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, is simply: “To take a position of power illegally or by force.” Using this definition alone, it is perfectly clear that a man who was asked after due deliberation by England’s government to accept the throne, a right which was then ratified by the full parliament, did not in any manner usurp that position.

However, the modern definition of usurpation does not always sit easily in history. After the initial tyranny of kings was firmly established in 1066 with the unarguable usurpation of William I, over subsequent reigns England gradually began to modify and moderate her attitude to the royal rights of inheritance and the power of both kings and lords of the realm. Unlike the French model which continued doggedly with absolute power resting in the hands of royalty, England changed, adapted, and finally adopted a system of government by which an alternative administration could substitute for the rule of her monarch in certain matters when he was considered incapacitated either by age or health.

The Plantagenet line continued to uphold the right of kings to pass down the crown to their sons or grandsons, but clearly this was not always possible and under such circumstances, suitable but less direct heirs were necessarily sought within the bloodline. With this in mind, accusations of usurpation have been levelled against the first Lancastrian king, Henry IV who took the throne in 1399 and even against King Edward IV (1461). This went to the heart of the Wars of the Roses, but it is important to remember that in both cases, i.e. the enforced abdication of Richard II and the crowning of Henry IV as monarch in his place, and later the official acceptance of Edward IV’s father Richard, Duke of York, as the heir to Henry VI, these were actions carried out in circumstances where the monarch of the day had forfeited confidence and support by showing himself to be dangerously unfit to rule. And, of course, both these irregular successions were enacted and confirmed by Parliament. The term ‘usurpation’, therefore, now depends on whose side the speaker is on. Clearly the succession rights of kings were not inviolate and the later opinion (of Tudors and Stuarts, for instance) that an anointed monarch held an unarguable God-given right to absolute power, did not at all apply in the 15th century.

In 1483 following the death of Edward IV, it was expected that his eldest son would inherit the throne as Edward V. Yet shortly before his coronation, Robert Stillington (Bishop of Bath and Wells) announced that Edward IV’s marriage to the mother of the heir to the throne had been, to state it simply, bigamous, and that therefore all his children were illegitimate. Stillington was an important and respected ecclesiastical figure, and a previous Lord Chancellor of Edward IV, so his word would have been taken very seriously indeed. It is hard to see what possible benefit he would have gained from lying. Indeed, a good deal of detriment was the far more likely result had his story been false. His announcement, however, would never have been accepted without enormous investigation. Whatever proofs he offered we can no longer know. There is no surviving record of his exact report, nor of any witnesses called or other evidence shown at the time. But the lady who was named as Edward IV’s first wife was the Lady Eleanor Talbot, daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury and sister to the Duchess of Norfolk, a widow and member of a noble and highly important family. Not someone to make the subject of ludicrous and improper rumours. The Lady Eleanor was now deceased, but she had been very much alive when Edward married Elizabeth Woodville, the mother of his children. Many close and high-powered members of Lady Eleanor’s family were still alive and would certainly not have stood silent if they knew the lady was being wrongfully slandered.

Some now choose simply to disbelieve Stillington’s claim. Yet they have not one shred of evidence to support this, nor one hint that this first marriage never took place. Certainly direct proofs that it did take place are also lacking. A few bewildered souls ask where’s the marriage certificate? But no such thing existed in 15th century and you could, for instance, take a lady’s hand, vow to wed her, and if she accepted, you then tumbled her into bed to consummate the match – and lo and behold – you were legally man and wife. The church was naturally not happy with this sort of clandestine affair without banns being called and often without witnesses – but it happened all the time and it was legally binding.

That King Edward IV favoured this type of thing was blatantly obvious, because that’s also exactly what happened the second time around. He wed Elizabeth Woodville in secret, in exactly that same manner. Indeed, he is often said to have ‘married for love’ – an unusual thing for a king in those days. But it was a very strange sort of love – for he made no mention of his secret wedding for 5 whole months. During those months the lady was never invited to the palace, she was entirely unacknowledged, her existing sons (she was a widow), instead of being taken in and elevated by the king, were given elsewhere as wards, and the king even sent his courtiers off abroad to start negotiating for a foreign princess to become his wife. But then, quite suddenly after those long silent months, to the bewilderment of almost the entire country and the dismay of most of the lords. King Edward announced the marriage. He brought his suddenly admitted queen to court, and that was that. A clandestine wedding led to a new queen and eventually a parcel of royal children.

So had he done this on other occasions in the past, yet never acknowledged it? Certainly Lady Eleanor Talbot came into some unusual bequests for which there is no known explanation, nor clear manner in which they could have been acquired. She then retired into permanent religious seclusion.

It does seem strange to many that this wronged and misused lady did not complain, did not announce her legal status as queen, nor denounce her legal husband, even when he took another wife. I have no answer to this beyond pointing out the logic of the situation. This was a high-born lady, and ladies, especially of a religious nature, did not whine or openly humiliate themselves by publicising the fact that they had been used, bedded, ravished, and then abandoned. Nor did they try to cause rebellion and unease (in a land so recently returning to peace) by accusing the king of dishonesty and immorality. She also ran the risk, if she made public announcements, that the king might deny the marriage and thus humiliate her further. Instead she accepted his apology and his gifts (my assumption), though continued to act (as in the manner of making her last will and testament) as a married woman with a living husband. And after all, while the king lived, it was a personal matter anyway and did not yet affect government or the people. It was not until he died and his eldest son’s legitimacy was in question, that the truth of this situation became politically imperative.

So with Edward V no longer considered of legitimate royal descent, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, stood as the one direct and legally legitimate heir.

The document itself (Titulus Regius) states clearly that incontrovertible evidence existed and could be forthcoming if and when required. It was later stated that proofs had already been brought before the Council “authentic doctors, proctors and notaries of the law, with depositions from divers witnesses.” Lady Eleanor Talbot’s powerful family surely stood witness. Certainly none of these relatives came forward to deny the claim, or to defend the lady’s honour by refuting the existence of this clandestine marriage. So why doubt such proofs existed? People were no more stupid at that time than they are now and it is highly ridiculous to presume that they would have accepted such a dramatic and inconvenient fact on the eve of the new young king’s coronation, unless they were well and truly convinced.

The frequent modern assumption that Stillington’s claim of bigamy was not only untrue but a clear manipulation by the evil and ambitious Richard III to usurp and seize the throne, is not only a leap of huge unproven prejudice, but it completely and naïvely overlooks the known power and position of the Royal Council and Parliament of the day. Ignoring the delightful genius of Shakespeare’s dramatic fiction, and the less delightful fiction of Tudor chroniclers who supplied the stories he told, we should at least respect the experience and intelligence of the lords, remembering also the obvious precedent of parliamentary decision regarding Richard II and Henry VI as mentioned above.

Stillington’s announcement must have been made during the latter half of May 1483. It is clear that in the following weeks the Royal Council and those representatives of Parliament present in London met in discussion many times.

The supposition that Richard of Gloucester had the power to threaten and bully all those poor cringing medieval lords is frankly laughable. For a start, Richard’s troops were miles away in Yorkshire, whereas most of the lords had their own armed retinues, not to mention huge private armies on which they could call. Many held particular powers and all were men of substance. These were not lords to be easily bullied, nor convinced without very good reason. A figure of 32 lords temporal, 66 knights, 44 lords spiritual with access to the Pope should they feel obliged to call on him, and 30 members of the Commons have been recorded during meetings of four hours or more, although the Royal Council itself was smaller in number.

Are we now arrogant enough to suppose that these were all corrupt fools to be duped or bribed, incompetent cowards to be frightened into compliance, or men without the slightest interest in the future of the land in which they lived and which supported them and their families and property? It appears that many of us completely underestimate the power of the lords, council and parliament during the 15th century and are happy to ignore the legal precedent for the lords and parliament to debate and determine the situation when the king’s rule was, for whatever reason, in question.

Some now argue that even if proved illegitimate, Edward V could still, with parliamentary agreement, have been accepted as king. But it is clear that parliament rejected any such compromise, since the lords logically and clearly preferred the proven competency of a grown man already ratified as Protector of the Realm and known for his leadership quality.

We also need to remember that King Edward IV had several illegitimate children by various mistresses. Making one illegitimate child legally able to inherit the throne, could even possibly have opened a chain of claims by others. Besides, bastardy called into question not only the capability of the bastard himself to inherit, but looking ahead down the generations, even if overlooked in Edward V himself, it invited later questions as to his dynasty.

The often repeated cries of “Bigamy? A pre-contract? No. It couldn’t be true. It was too convenient,” or “Too much of a coincidence,” can come only from those who already assume Richard guilty of ambitious connivance and malicious manipulation. Only by assuming his guilt and duplicity before the fact, can these accusations be made. This is why we cannot take at face value the handful of hostile narratives from those times, because their preconceptions are evident to even the most cursory scrutiny. And significantly, there are no surviving records from the governing council that supported Richard.

Once you set aside any existing bias, it is clear that this was highly inconvenient, and there was no coincidence at all. It threw everybody into chaos. We cannot even be sure if Richard wanted the throne. Perhaps he didn’t. Perhaps he did. It doesn’t matter. He was the remaining heir and he was asked to accept the throne. Thant’s on record. The matter was put to the three estates of English government who decided that Richard of Gloucester had a clear duty to take the throne. Richard accepted. Actually he had little choice.

Conflicting loyalties and self-interest produced protestors as always, but no one at the time actually refuted the accusation of bigamy posthumously directed against Edward IV. Even Elizabeth Woodville, the mother of the ‘princes’ now declared illegitimate, apparently placed no objection. She was now living within the precincts of Westminster sanctuary, comfortably in the Abbot’s house, where she had direct access to the considerable higher authority of ecclesiastical power (her own brother was Bishop Lionel Woodville) and could easily have made a direct plea to the Pope for a church ruling and intervention. She did none of these things. She accepted the ruling, just as if she had already known the truth of the matter.

Therefore whether you like the sound of King Richard or not – one thing is entirely clear. He was officially and legally petitioned to accept the throne of England, and contemporary legal documentation proves this. He did not usurp nor seize anything. He could be said to have been legally elected by Parliament. He was fully acknowledged and anointed as monarch when his coronation was duly attended by virtually every peer in England, even those whose families supported the Lancastrian dynasty.

So those, including those claiming to be ‘open-minded,’ but who begin their articles by calling Richard III a usurper, or stating that he ‘seized’ the throne, are either proclaiming their secret bias, or they should enlarge their area of research.

With thanks to many, and to various sources, but with particular gratitude to Annette Carson and her books “A Small Guide to the Great Debate,” and “Richard III: The Maligned King.”

This is the first part of the talk Bruce MacCarthy gave at the general meeting of the New South Wales Branch on 8 February 2014.


Today, some historians divide the Plantagenets into four distinct Royal Houses: Angevins, Plantagenets, Lancaster and York but, collectively, the Plantagenet family as they are now known formed the longest-running dynasty in British history, with 14 kings over more than 330 years from 1154 to 1485.  Even if we similarly group together the Hanoverians and their successors, from George I onwards, they have so far provided only 11 kings and queens and are only in their 300th year in 2014.

In my two journeys to Europe, I have always tried to visit places with Plantagenet connections.  For example, I have been to the ruins of Dürnstein Castle, where Richard I was held captive by Duke Leopold of Austria in 1192-3.  In May 2008, my wife and I toured King John’s castle in Limerick.  This castle was built on the orders of King John, and was completed around 1200.  It is well worth a visit for the excellent historical displays.  Of course, we also visited the Richard III Museum in York, when we were there in 2010, and I recall an article on this museum in your 2011 journal.

Read the rest of this entry »



   Posted by: Barbara Gaskell Denvil Tags: ,

The drama, the tragedy and the thrill of a good colourful story obviously attracts. Villainy can seem far more interesting than honest hard working decency. So can we ever be convinced to relinquish our attraction to myth and propaganda?

The recent discovery of King Richard III’s burial site has renewed so much public interest that many of the old controversies are once again being discussed. Some articles and FB posts are astonishingly antagonistic, even when the writer clearly has never researched the subject at all, let alone seriously studied the few known facts. So why do people still feel so strongly about a historical figure who died more than 500 years ago?

Of course the main accusation against Richard III has always been the assumption that he murdered his nephews, and the discovery of the skeletons of two children under a Tower staircase in the 17th century has often been quoted as virtual proof of this dastardly act.

I should like to try and put a few of these assumptions into perspective.

In 1674  at the Tower of London a group of workmen were employed to demolish a stone staircase attached to the White Tower, and over several days had dug a full ten feet down to the level of the Tower foundations, when they came upon two human skeletons. Seeing little of interest in this discovery, they threw the bones, along with the surrounding rubble, onto the rubbish dump.

When they related these facts afterwards, others realised that this find could be of some importance. Since the skeletons appeared to be of two young people, being neither of fully grown adults nor of small children, someone began to wonder if these could be the remains of the so-called ‘princes in the Tower’ – i.e. the two sons of the late King Edward IV who had seemingly disappeared during the subsequent reign of King Richard III. Sometime later the bones were therefore recovered from the dump. The reigning monarch at the time (Charles II) subsequently ordered the bones entombment in an urn, to be kept in Westminster Abbey. The assumption, given that forensic examination was unknown at that time, was to accept the bones as those of the allegedly murdered ‘princes’.

This was certainly not the first time that human bones had been discovered in and around the Tower. However, not only did these particular skeletons seemingly, judging by size alone, match the ages of the king’s lost boys, but they were discovered under a staircase, and this rang bells with the unfinished story written long before by Sir Thomas More and entitled “The History of King Richard III.”

So those are the simple facts. But a considerable number of myths, misinterpretations and assumptions have gathered around these facts ever since, and the principal one concerns that same unfinished story left by Sir Thomas More.

Neither at the time, nor during the Tudor age following, did anyone else conjecture as to such precise details concerning the boys’ fates – though assumption continued and increased as the blackening of Richard III’s reputation became a political tool of the Tudors. The only reliable account of when they were last sighted (at least by anyone who cared to write of it) appears in a monkish chronicle which indicates they were still resident in the Tower in late August or early September 1483. Yet surprisingly the actual contemporary evidence appears to indicate that little interest was aroused in the vicinity at the time of this disappearance, and Londoners went about their business as usual. Whether the sons of Edward IV then died, were murdered, or were simply smuggled safely away, was guessed at but never proved.

It was not until around 1515 (30 years after the death of Richard III) that Sir Thomas More started to write his ‘history’. Over the years he wrote several versions of this but neither finished nor published any of them. They have survived however, and many researchers have chosen to take them seriously in spite of the anomalies, excessive number of mistakes, and insistence on recording discussions word for word even when the possibility of knowing what had been said was completely non-existent.

Within his pages, More initially records that the fate of the boys remained in doubt. Then later and quite suddenly he offers a detailed scenario of their heinous slaughter. He gives no explanation of how he could possibly know the exact details which he relates, however the story appears to be partially inspired by Polydore Vergil, the man recently employed by Henry VII to write a history of England. More, however, elaborates hugely on Vergil’s account, adding no end of specific extra colour. How (more than 30 years after the fact) he suddenly came by this wealth of gossip is difficult to imagine. Did More chat afterwards with the murderers? Did he talk with the priest, yet decide to confide in no one else even though he then wrote it down for anyone to read? Did he receive information from some other nameless soul, who also chose to disclose these essential facts to no one else? More, however, now confidently tells us that after their violent deaths the two sons of Edward IV were secretly buried at the foot of a staircase in the Tower of London. He then goes on to explain that Richard III (who had ordered the murders) objected to such an improper burial and ordered a priest to dig up the corpses and rebury them in another more suitable (but unnamed) place, and that this was promptly done.

So the burial under a stairwell is certainly mentioned. Yet according to More, (the only one ever to mention burial under a staircase at all) that is NOT where the two bodies were finally left. He specifically says they were moved to a secret place more appropriate to their station. And here the secret supposedly remained – no longer under a staircase at all.

Yet the actual ‘bones in the urn’ were originally found under a stone stair attached to the exterior of the White Tower (known as the Keep). Apart from the contradiction within More’s story, such a rigorous endeavour is difficult to accept as this area was the access point to the only entrance, and would certainly have been one of the busiest parts of the Tower. Anyone digging there would have been clearly visible. So we are asked to accept that a couple of amazingly determined murderers managed between them to dig 10 foot under solid stone, avoiding all passing gentry including the guards, and to deposit there two suspicious bundles – all while the ‘princes’’ staff raised no alarm nor even blinked in curiosity. And the subsequent solitary priest somehow dug them up again? As the night quickly passed, was he, in absolute secrecy, able to dig 10 foot under stone to rebury the boys’ remains? And if so, in accordance with More’s little book – why were they still found under the staircase?

At that time hundreds of busy people, many with their entire families, lived and worked in the Tower. This was no dreadful place of isolated dungeons and cold haunted corners. It was a royal palace with grand apartments and a number of council chambers, beautiful gardens complete with gardeners, clerks and administrators, a menagerie and its keepers, the Royal Mint and all its wealth of workers, a whole garrison of guards, kitchens, cooks, scullions and cleaners. How a pair of strange and suspicious ruffians could have dug such a deep secret grave in one night completely unnoticed by anyone is frankly an impossible situation. Even at night the Tower really was a hive of industry and activity, and the ‘princes’ themselves had servants day and night. They were not under arrest and nor were they locked in the dungeons – they lived together in a comfortable apartment and more than 14 personal staff were paid to look after them. Yet we are asked to believe that their murder was magically accomplished without anyone at all knowing how, who, or even exactly when.

But let us leave that puzzle and return to the urn. It rested undisturbed in the Abbey for many years, but in 1933 it was decided to open it and discover just what was inside.

The complete description of the contents is on record of course, and the boy’s remains were immediately examined by experts of the time.

Apart from the human remains, there were a number of animal bones – clearly all collected together from the rubbish pit. There were, however, no textiles of any kind. So please – let’s forget that other silly myth of the scraps of expensive velvet. Yes – hundreds of years ago an anonymous scribble in a margin evidently mentioned velvet – but no such thing is mentioned elsewhere, no such thing has survived in any form, and the anonymous scribble has also disappeared – if it ever existed in the first place. So no velvet. Another red herring.

I have also read that a dark stain which ‘could’ be blood, was found on one skull. After 200 years underground we are asked to accept an anonymous stain as an indication of violent murder??? And when this same skull had been left for some time rolling around with fresh animal remains from the butchers? Indeed, those who mentioned the possibility of the stain being blood, later entirely retracted their statement, although this important development is often overlooked. So please! Another ludicrous exaggerated myth.

Now the more important evidence – the scientific examination. Oh – but, wait a moment. This was 1933 and science has moved a long, long way since then. No DNA examination was possible back then. Carbon dating was not employed – too suspect, especially with bones that had been so contaminated for so long. Their antiquity could not therefore be established, so simple assumptions were made – which have been seriously questioned since. The age of the children when they died is also extremely open to opinion. There is absolutely no possibility of sexing these bones. They could have been girls and this remains perfectly likely. At the time a conclusion was made that the two children had been related (this from an examination of the teeth and not from DNA) which has now been shown as probably erroneous. Historians and orthopaedic experts are divided. Some still maintain that these remains ‘could’ be the sons of Edward IV, while others point out the inconsistencies and inaccuracies. There really is no consensus of specialist opinion. The arguments have occasionally become quite heated and no confirmed or complete conclusion has been reached. And there are other anomalies.

For instance, it has been shown that the lower jaw bone of the elder child indicates the presence of a serious bone disease. This would have been both painful and visible. Yet the young Edward V is documented as having been fit, active, prepared for coronation, and described as ‘good looking’. No record is shown of any such existing disease which would have seriously undermined his future life and reign.

There’s another red herring here. Doctor Argentine, the elder prince’s long-standing physician, related that, “the young king, like a victim prepared for sacrifice, sought remission of his sins by daily confession and penance, because he believed death was facing him.”

But Dr. Argentine did not visit his charge because of ailing health. All junior royalty were under the permanent care of doctors who were responsible for their day to day health. A doctor’s appearance here was a consistent matter of course, and would have been ever since birth. And the prince’s recorded statement, apart from being second-hand hearsay, is extremely ambiguous. I doubt he was cheerful at the time, poor boy – with his status in doubt, and his expected coronation suddenly delayed. He may well have expected (and been warned by his dour and pessimistic Lancastrian and Woodville guardians) a bitter end. This does not mean it actually occurred.

So these are the basic facts, and as anyone can see, they do not point specifically in any direction. They prove nothing, not even circumstantially, and any assumption that the bones in the urn are almost certainly those of the two lost boys of Edward IV is absolutely unjustified. Until permission is finally given (many have asked and always been denied) for the urn to be opened once more and the contents subjected to up-to-date forensic examination, we cannot know anything at all. So far the very sketchy facts seem to point towards the bones dating from Norman, or even from Roman times, and at least some experts strongly suggest that the elder is female.

Those interested authors of articles claiming these bones are definitely those of the lost boys, are either fooling themselves or attempting to fool their readers.

Should the bones eventually be examined and proved by DNA matching to be the ‘princes’ after all – we may with our present level of technology discover roughly when they died (to the nearest 50 years). We may perhaps also ascertain the causes of their deaths, but unless there are signs of injury it is unlikely we will learn whether they were killed – still less who killed them.

If, on the other hand, as seems most likely, they are proved NOT to be the ‘princes’ it will settle a long-standing controversy, and provide some very interesting material for archaeological study. In particular it will silence some of the more exaggerated and erroneous myths.

There remains the bigger question – WHAT exactly happened to Edward IV’s sons, and on whose orders? Well that is quite another problem – and there is as yet no answer to that either.

Note: Barbara Gaskell-Denvil is a historical novelist and member of the NSW branch of the Richard III Society.  Her new book, Sumerford’s Autumn, which deals with – possibly – one of the princes, is has hit the shelves during the past week.  It is published by Simon & Schuster Australia, ISBN 9781922052582.

This article appeared first on Barbara’s website and is reposted here with her permission.



   Posted by: Dorothea Preis Tags: , ,

This article is by Stephen Lark, a Ricardian friends from Ipswich, Suffolk.  We thank Stephen for making it available to us.  It was first published in the Journal of the American Branch of the Richard III Society, Ricardian Register, Vol.43, No.2 (June 2012).

Thomas Stafford was executed on this day in 1557.


This is the story of Richard’s controversial and, consequently, short-lived great great nephew. Genealogical tables can be included, showing his Clarence and Stafford descent, also his relationships with the Hastings family (William, Lord Hastings, and the Earls of Huntingdon).

He is of particular interest as the first proven legitimate Yorkist to initiate a rebellion against the Tudor regime and I feel passionately that he does not deserve his present relative obscurity. I shall attempt to answer some of the mysteries surrounding his life and actions.


Thomas Stafford was born between 1530 and 1533, in about 1531, according to the original DNB, or 1533 in the new edition. At this time, four of Henry VIII’s key advisers (Cromwell, More, Cranmer and the recently deceased Wolsey) all bore the forename Thomas, which may explain his parents’ choice.

His father was Henry Stafford, only son of Edward, 3rd Duke of Buckingham and Eleanor Percy. His mother was Ursula Pole, only daughter of Sir Richard Pole and Lady Margaret Plantagenet (daughter of George, Duke of Clarence). Thomas’ parents married in February 1519, expecting to succeed to the Duchy but this did not happen because Edward was executed in 1521 for “treasonable utterances”.

He is supposed to have said that, were the King to die childless, he would seek the throne and to have consulted a fortune-teller about this. Burke’s says that he was executed “for his vanity and loquacity”. Shakespeare, in Henry VIII portrays him as a plotter, as did the recent ITV film.

His attainder was reversed soon afterwards and Henry was recreated Baron Stafford in 1548.

Thomas was the ninth of fourteen children born to Henry and Ursula Stafford during a 44-year marriage. Many of these, as was usual, died in infancy, including Henry, the eldest. Another Henry was, the eldest surviving son and became the 2nd Baron; Edward became the 3rd Baron and progenitor of the senior branch ever since; Richard was the father of Roger (Froyde) Stafford (an old man deprived of the title under Charles I, for his poverty, after it had passed to him on the initial failure of Edward’s male line).

Dorothy married Sir William Stafford of Grafton (a very distant cousin whose grandfather Sir Humphrey Stafford had been executed in 1486), becoming the mother of William Stafford (1554-1612), a later rebel. For further Stafford genealogy, see Robinson or the author’s Stafford Line (Mid-Anglia Group, 2004). The Buckingham and Grafton lines separated some time in the thirteenth century but Sir William and Dorothy’s marriage partially reunited them.

During Thomas’ childhood, his paternal aunt, Margaret Stafford (Lady Bulmer), was executed with her husband (1537) for their part in the “Pilgrimage of Grace”, his maternal grandmother and uncle (Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury (1541) and Henry Pole, Baron Montagu (1539)) both beheaded.

He grew up knowing that his father’s family was one of the oldest in England, his earliest known ancestors being born in the tenth century and, also being of Beaufort stock, were closely related to the Tudor monarchs. His mother’s father was of Lancastrian stock and her mother, as daughter of the Duke of Clarence, was of the Yorkist royal line.

He would also have become aware how dangerous this combination of ancestry could be.


Little is known of his education but Thomas toured Europe in the early fifties, including Paris (1550), Rome (where he was to visit his uncle, Cardinal Reginald Pole), Venice (where he stayed until summer 1553) and Poland, where King Sigismund Augustus received him, writing to Queen Mary to suggest that the young man be restored to his grandfather’s Duchy, although his brother, Henry, was alive and was knighted in 1553.

In Rome, Cardinal Pole tried to re-convert Stafford to Catholicism. In Venice, Stafford was permitted to view the jewels of St. Mark and the armoury halls; furthermore he and two servants were permitted to carry arms.

Thomas returned to join the Wyatt conspiracy (probably under Henry of Suffolk in the Midlands), being briefly imprisoned in the Fleet – at the same time, Stafford’s cousin, Francis of Huntingdon, and his son, Lord Henry Hastings, were detained in the Tower. He then developed a violent objection to Mary’s Spanish marriage although it is not known whether, like Edward Courtenay (12th Earl of Devon), he considered himself as an alternative suitor.

He declared that she had forfeited the throne, thereby ignoring the claims of Princess Elizabeth, Mary Stuart as a descendant of Margaret Tudor, any remaining descendants of Henry VII’s daughter Mary (i.e. Lady Catherine Grey) and his own brother, Sir Henry.

On his release, Thomas travelled to Fontainebleau, residence of Cardinal Pole, who refused to meet him again, embarrassed at his objection to Mary’s choice of husband, moving on to the Low Countries to mix in extreme Protestant circles, which emphasised his belief that he was destined for greater things.

He had a seal made, consisting of the undifferenced royal arms, tantamount to claiming the throne and, therefore, a treasonable act. Thomas fell out with many of his fellow exiles, such as his brother-in-law Sir William Stafford (Hicks calls him Sir Robert), attempting to assassinate Sir William Pickering (April 1554) and, after further imprisonment in Rouen (1556), left for Dieppe.

Scarborough Castle

After his restoration, Edward IV granted Scarborough Castle to the Duke of Gloucester who visited it in 1484. Perkin Warbeck promised it to his “aunt”, Margaret of Burgundy. Robert Aske led a siege during the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536 but troops led by Sir Ralph Evers withstood it. The castle was located in the Catholic north-east of England, accessible by sea but easily defensible.

Thomas Stafford and his band of thirty-five men sailed in two ships from Dieppe on 18 April (Easter Sunday), landed on the Yorkshire coast, sailed up to the undefended Scarborough Castle on 25 April and took the garrison completely by surprise. He warned that the Spanish marriage would enslave the English people, that Scarborough and other castles would be ceded to the Spanish, proclaimed himself Lord Protector and announced his intention to reclaim his grandfather’s title (a pretext employed by Henry of Bolingbroke in 1399, Richard of York in 1460 and Edmund of Suffolk in 1502).

The keep of Scarborough Castle (photograph by Stephen Montgomery, obtained through Wikimedia Commons)

However, the rebellion failed to gather momentum and the local militia acted swiftly. Under Henry Neville, Earl of Westmorland (Thomas’ uncle), they retook the castle. Many of the rebels (who included four Scots) were summarily hanged (hence the phrase “Scarborough warning”, meaning none at all) and others were executed across Yorkshire. Thomas was taken to London and tried for treason, beheaded at Tower Hill on 28 May and buried at St. Peter ad Vincula. With the other executed rebels, he was attainted. Two of his party were pardoned.

The DNB (both editions) says that he was drawn, hanged and quartered but, his father having been restored to the Barony nine years earlier, this seems unlikely. John Strype (1643-1737) confirms that Stafford was beheaded, his work being re-published in 1822, names many of the co-conspirators and includes both Stafford’s and Mary’s proclamations: “May 28: Stafford was beheaded on Tower Hill”.

As a consequence of the rebellion, Queen Mary declared war on France, during which the French took Calais, England’s last possession on the continent.

Five years later, Elizabeth almost died from smallpox.  Lord Henry Hastings (now the 3rd Earl of Huntingdon), together with Lady Catherine Grey, was on the shortlist of successors considered by Parliament – a Yorkist heir who would have inherited the throne peaceably and went on to serve Elizabeth at the highest level for twenty-three years.


Early sources claimed that the Scarborough raid had official French backing because Thomas was a continental Protestant and England’s Catholic Queen was married to a Spaniard. According to Hicks, this is unlikely, as Henri II would have wished to avoid provoking an Anglo-Spanish alliance. Other theories, such as Thomas as a “stalking horse” or victim of Tudor provocation, are also rejected; indeed the reports you may read can be taken at face value.

Both DNB editions, Burke’s and the Complete Peerage all claim that Thomas had a surviving elder brother. His parents’ first son, Henry, died very young and Thomas’ other brother by that name (later the second Baron) seems to have been born by 1527 and Edward (3rd Baron) in 1536. These three “standard sources” do not correspond perfectly and interpretation is important.

There is a little scope for confusion but, having exchanged e-mail with Professor Hicks during which he summarised one of his sources (1534 pedigree: British Library MS 6672 f.193), Thomas’ position in the family has probably been finalised. However, he claimed on several occasions to have been born before Sir Henry. This seems to be analogous to the Lancastrian fantasy (of Henry III’s sons) that formed the basis to their claim.


Dictionary of National Biography (Entry by A.F. Pollard, 1897).
New Dictionary of National Biography (Entry by Michael Hicks, 2004).
The Staffords (J.M. Robinson, 2002).
The Earlier Tudors (J.D. Mackie, 1952).
The Tower of London: The Official Illustrated History (Edward Impey & Geoffrey Parnell).
Elizabeth I: A Study of Power and Intellect (Paul Johnson, 1974)
Ecclesiastica Memoria (John Strype, volume 3 part 2, 67-9, 513-9, 1721-33).


Duchess Anne of Exeter

   Posted by: Judy Howard Tags: , , ,

It is a tradition in the NSW branch that at the August general meeting we have “Scrabble Talks”.  Once a year, members draw Scrabble tiles out of a bag and then prepare a short talk on a topic starting with their letter.  The following is Judy’s talk on ‘Duchess Anne of Exeter’.  This was a particularly fitting, as the day before our meeting was Duchess Anne’s birthday.

Duchess Anne of Exeter

I’ve been allocated the letter ‘A’ for my talk at the August general meeting of the NSW branch, so I would like to tell you about Princess Anne Plantagenet, better known as Duchess Anne of Exeter, who was the eldest sister of Edward IV and Richard III and apparently Edward’s favourite sibling.  You will be familiar with this memorial brass to Anne and her second husband, which I think is the only likeness of her to survive.

Anne’s story is a very good example of a high born woman who became a pawn in the political manoeuvres of her male relatives.  But we can presume she found happiness towards the end of her life.

Anne was born in 1439 and was the eldest surviving child of the Duke of York and Cecily Neville.  She was betrothed in 1445 at the age of 6 years to Henry Holland, who was 15 years old and the son of the Duke of Exeter.  York paid a huge dowry of 4,500 marks, the largest known in late medieval England. Within five years of this, you will recall, was around the time that the King, Henry VI, began showing signs of his illness and the Wars of the Roses was beginning to seriously foment.  It is believed York’s motive in securing the betrothal was partly political and he was hoping for Exeter’s alliance in his attempt to return to France.  It was also a dynastic move as Exeter was the next closest male relative of Henry VI and descended from John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster.  York took the opportunity to combine two great dynasties but in fact, in both personal and political terms, it was a disaster.

Anne and Henry married soon after their betrothal and Henry inherited his father’s titles and land in 1450 and as the Duke of Exeter and became admiral of England, Ireland & Aquitaine and Constable of the Tower of London.  Their first and only child, also called Anne, was born in 1455, and she went on to marry Elizabeth Woodville’s son, Thomas Grey in 1467.  The young Duke of Exeter, Henry, was described as an unappealing character, violent, cruel and lacking in any real experience and was unintelligent – not the makings of a great husband or political ally!!

During York’s Protectorate in 1453 – 54, young Exeter (York’s son-in-law) played a prominent role in the serious breakdown of local law and order and the uncontrollable violence, particularly in Yorkshire which was York’s biggest challenge during his protectorate, seems to have been perpetrated by Exeter himself.  Exeter planned a major uprising in the north and may have even plotted to murder York by luring him to Yorkshire.

It was unlikely that Duchess Anne was able to escape the animosity Exeter felt towards his wife’s father, given his character.  In addition, York defaulted on the later instalments to her dowry, which is understandable but would not have helped the relationships.  Anne did have a child with Exeter in 1455 but we can presume that the marriage broke down soon after.

Exeter was a staunch Lancastrian during the descent into Civil War and he became a very bitter enemy of York and the Nevilles.  Exeter thought, as the King’s closest relative, he was entitled to a prominent role in government and he was not happy when York began to advance his own claims as King Henry’s heir presumptive. As a committed Lancastrian, Exeter joined forces with Somerset, Northumberland and others in opposition, which culminated in the death of York, his son Edmund and brother-in-law Salisbury at Wakefield in 1460.

In 1461 Exeter fought for the Lancastrians at the battles of Blore Heath, Northampton, St Albans and Towton and even though defeated, he continued to be aligned with the Somerset and the other hard-core Lancastrians.  This caused further and continuing difficulties for the new King Edward in his attempts to establish his rule and find a collegiate solution to the regional turmoil caused by the civil war.  Exeter escaped overseas and was attainted by parliament and his estates were granted to his wife – one advantage of being the new King’s sister.  Exeter lived in poverty during his exile until the Duke of Burgundy gave him a modest pension.  But remember that the Duke of Burgundy was soon to become Edward’s brother-in-law when he married Princess Margaret of York.

Anne at this stage was still married to Exeter and was herself the second lady in the land after the King’s mother, Cecily.

Anne, around this time, began a relationship with Sir Thomas St Ledger who became her lover (who could blame her!!).  Thomas was made an esquire of the body to Edward IV and was granted eight manors in Buckinghamshire and Cambridgeshire, including a royal manor, and received a number of other wardships and grants.  Here, and in the granting of Exeter’s estates to her, Anne benefited considerably from being the King’s sister.

Thomas proved to be a loyal member of the King’s household, he resisted Clarence and Warwick in 1469 – 1470 and he even joined Edward in exile in 1470.

But, not to be forgotten, that flea Exeter returned to England and commanded the left wing of Warwick’s army at Barnet in April 1471 and in doing so opposed his 3 brothers-in-law, Edward, Richard & Clarence.  He was seriously wounded on the battlefield but eventually recovered to be imprisoned in the Tower of London.  Anne finally got her divorce from Exeter and she married her lover Thomas St Ledger the next year.

But Exeter was not to be put down so easily, he was released from custody in 1475 to join Edward’s French expedition but on the return journey he drowned in the English Channel, reputedly thrown overboard with the King’s knowledge.  A fitting end for such a despicable character.  I wonder what Anne thought??

Tragically for Anne, though, her daughter with Exeter died the same year.

The next year in 1476, Anne gave birth to a second daughter also called Anne, but unfortunately Duchess Anne herself died, probably in childbirth.  The infant Anne, whose father was Thomas St Ledger, was to marry George Manners and become the Baroness Ros and have two children, one of whom became the 1st Earl of Rutland. This title has remained in their family until today – Duchess Anne and her lover Thomas had established a very successful and long lasting dynasty.

But to continue the story of the people in Duchess Anne’s life:  after Edward’s death in 1483, Anne’s second husband Thomas St Ledger attended Richard III’s coronation but in July of that year he was dismissed from all posts.  He became closely aligned with Thomas Grey, Marquis of Dorset, and a leader in the Buckingham Revolt around Exeter and held out against the royal forces at Bodmin Castle until mid-November.  Thomas St Ledger was executed a few days after.  How sad for Anne, but we do not truly understand the circumstances of this period and cannot understand the extremes of emotion that Edward’s old household felt given the events which followed Edward’s death and Richard’s subsequent coronation.

We also do not know much about Duchess Anne as a person, which is not unusual for women of this period.  However in 1491 her daughter by her second husband Thomas, founded in her honour the Rutland Chapel, as it is now called, in the north transept of St George’s Chapel at Windsor, just down the aisle from Edward IV’s vault.  The memorial brass to Anne and Thomas is on the east wall of this chantry chapel.

The Chantry, although established for her parents, also contains a fine tomb chest and alabaster effigies of Anne junior and her husband George Manners, the 12th Baron Ros.  These effigies are very fine examples of the period. (You can find photographs of these here)

The Rutland Chantry is a beautiful place to visit and is still used regularly for services at St George’s Chapel.  It has some very beautiful new tapestries hanging within, along with some new furniture and today remains a very peaceful place of worship and contemplation.  A fine memorial to Duchess Anne.


Was Edward V Sick?

   Posted by: Annette Carson Tags: , ,

The following article by Annette Carson, author of Richard III – The Maligned King, was originally published in the March 2012 issue of Ricardian Register, the journal of the American Branch of the Richard III Society.  We are very grateful to Annette for making it available to our branch as well.

In the course of researching and writing my book about Richard III,1 I was struck by an apparently widespread assumption that the boy Edward V was sickly and, if not despatched by nefarious means, probably died of some kind of illness.

Leaving aside storytelling and wild speculation, there are very few respectable sources to which this misapprehension might be traced. Of these, only one was writing at the time of the events he described, and this was the Italian cleric Dominic Mancini, who reported that ‘like a victim prepared for sacrifice … [Edward] believed that death was facing him’.2

It is generally accepted that Mancini had come to England at the behest of his patron Archbishop Angelo Cato, a key figure in the intelligence-gathering circle of Louis XI of France. His visit coincided with a catastrophic breach in Anglo-French relations, on which Cato was doubtless looking for a first-hand report; instead of which Mancini found himself present during a far more interesting series of events: the death of Edward IV, the accession of his son, Edward V, and the latter’s replacement by Richard III.

Mancini gives a very full description of the twelve-year-old Edward V, his graces and accomplishments, physical appearance, whereabouts and general state of mind. This knowledge is attributed to his access to Dr John Argentine, the physician who attended Edward at his lodgings in the Tower of London after his deposition in the summer of 1483. With such a valuable and free-speaking source of information at hand, Mancini’s report would have been a poor effort indeed if he had not winkled out from the boy’s doctor all possible information about his health – a matter of great interest to the French court in those turbulent times, especially if he was ailing or even quite sick.

Yet Mancini’s comment about Edward’s daily confession ‘like a victim prepared for sacrifice’ is conspicuously devoid of reference to any issue of medical health, on which Argentine would have been the prevailing authority. Rather than suggesting that he was physically ill, it sounds like one of those hints Mancini likes to drop that young Edward was set to meet a sticky end.

Some 25 years later, the French chronicler Jean Molinet also wrote briefly of Edward V, describing him as ‘unsophisticated and very melancholy, aware only of the ill-will of his uncle’, a boy who believed that he and his brother were marked for death. Obviously coloured by the then-current assumption that they had been murdered by Richard III, Molinet’s retrospective account depicts Edward as a pathetic figure but undermines its own credibility with the adjective ‘unsophisticated’, which scarcely chimes with the admiring words of Dominic Mancini, who wrote (presumably quoting the physician Argentine): ‘In word and deed he gave so many proofs of his liberal education, of polite, nay scholarly attainments far beyond his age … his special knowledge of literature, which enabled him to discourse elegantly, to understand fully and to declaim most excellently from any work whether in verse or prose that came into his hands, unless it were from among the more abstruse authors’.3

While mentioning John Argentine, by the way, it need not be taken as significant that Edward’s doctor looked after him during his stay in London, as did also a number of other personal attendants, some of whose names are officially recorded. Rather it may be viewed as a sign of the appropriate care and respect given to his royal person. Indeed, since there is no contemporaneous account of his health, we should probably never have heard of his physician had not Mancini enjoyed Argentine’s confidences.

If Mancini’s observations are deficient in crucial specifics, our next source has even less factual evidence to offer. This is Sir George Buck in his History of King Richard the Third written in 1619, over 130 years later. Buck was Master of the Revels at the court of James I, and one of those seventeenth-century antiquaries who made it their business to delve into ancient papers in order to find documentary evidence about times past. Buck was a firm believer that the pretender known as ‘Perkin Warbeck’ was in fact Edward V’s younger brother, Richard. Of Edward he admitted knowing almost nothing, assuming that he must have fallen ill and died while still residing in the Tower of London: ‘[I think the elder] brother Edward died [of sick]ness and of infirmity (for he was weak and very sickly …)’.4

The best argument Sir George could find to support his theory was that Edward’s siblings did not live to make old bones: ‘their sisters also were but of a weak constitution, as their short lives showed.’ It is difficult to construe what kind of lifespan Buck termed ‘short’ for a woman, when death in childbirth was a constant hazard. Certainly some of the sisters lived into their late thirties, and Catherine, Countess of Devon, is said to have died in 1527, in her late forties. Their half-brother, Edward IV’s illegitimate son Lord Lisle, apparently lived to be nearly eighty.

Another basis for Buck’s theory was that no pretender came forward to represent himself as Edward V. This may be so, but very little is known about what lay behind the pretender later dubbed ‘Lambert Simnel’, crowned in Dublin in May of 1487, and supported by the Earl of Lincoln and Edward’s aunt Margaret of Burgundy (and even, perhaps, by his mother Elizabeth Woodville and half-brother Thomas, Marquess of Dorset). Buck may have fallen into the same error as have historians throughout the ages, i.e. the assumption that what he knew then was all there was to know.

Buck’s is the first recorded suggestion in so many words that Edward fell sick and died. But his book about Richard III cannot be said to have been widely read. Indeed for 350 years the only printed version was one in such a bowdlerized form that, until a scholarly edition of the original was produced by Arthur Kincaid in 1979, it was virtually dismissed by historians.

So, I wondered, could it be that the common supposition about Edward V’s ill-health dates from a source that is much more recent? I am referring to something that attracts considerable scepticism nowadays, and that is Lawrence Tanner and William Wright’s 1933 examination of those skeletal remains currently in Westminster Abbey which Charles II decided, in 1674, on no evidence whatsoever, were those of Edward V and his brother.5

The anatomist Professor Wright, and his dental adviser Dr George Northcroft – both of whom agreed enthusiastically with Charles II – identified evidence of a disease of the lower jaw in the elder of the two skulls present, which is visible in their published photographs. Thirty years later another anatomist, Dr Richard Lyne-Pirkis, gave a talk to the Richard III Society in which he stated it as his opinion, on the basis of those photographs, that it was probably ‘a condition known as osteomyelitis or chronic inflammation of the bone, which was quite a common condition in those days’.6 Osteomyelitis would have been extremely painful and increasingly disfiguring, and was very likely to have proved fatal in those centuries before antibiotics.

Other experts in a variety of disciplines have offered alternative diagnoses, the most popular being osteitis, an unpleasant and painful inflammatory disease, though not necessarily fatal in itself; unless, of course, it deteriorated into osteomyelitis.

The Tanner and Wright report concluded that the child whose skull they named ‘Edward V’ suffered from an extensive, chronic condition which had persisted for some years and had spread so far as to affect the temporo-mandibular joints. From the photographic evidence it can be seen to have produced destruction and malformation of areas of the affected bone. The owner of that jawbone would have suffered from inflamed, swollen and septic gums, as well as constant pain and discomfort. However, the problem remained that the Tanner and Wright examination, using the limited means at their disposal in 1933, failed to establish scientifically whether this owner was prince or pauper, boy or girl.7

It seemed to me that the vague assumptions I had encountered about Edward V’s illness must have been assimilated by a kind of reverse-engineering process: in other words, extrapolating backwards from the Tanner and Wright conclusions and superimposing them on to the remarks of writers like Mancini and Buck.

I have always favoured holding assumption up to the cold light of logic, so I decided to make the question of Edward V’s health, and the apparent link with the bones, one of a number of lines of original research that would be unique to my book.8 My starting point was to look at the phenomenon from the viewpoint of his contemporaries. Had a royal child suffered chronically in this way, it must have given rise to comment and concern. Doubtless he would have needed specially prepared food as the illness progressed and teeth were lost or removed. And he would have endured the never-ending attentions of not one but a team of physicians whose ministrations were probably quite as unpleasant as the disease itself.

Yet there is no contemporaneous hint of anything of the kind relating to Edward’s appearance or behaviour. As Prince of Wales he was constantly visible to members of his household, his retainers and the public at large from the age of three when he was first given his own council at Ludlow. As he grew older he was seen regularly at court and was exhibited by his father, Edward IV, to the gaze of his subjects on numerous public occasions.9

Furthermore, Dominic Mancini’s description of Edward at the age of twelve (shortly before his alleged death) speaks of ‘dignity in his whole person, and in his face such charm, that … he never wearied the eyes of beholders.’.10 If Edward had really been the owner of an infected and disfigured jaw, Mancini would surely have made certain in his report, delivered in December 1483, to remark less on the charm of his face and more on the cruelty and heartlessness of Richard III’s treatment of an ailing boy. This would have been music to the ears of Archbishop Cato and the French court, always looking for vulnerabilities in the English regime, especially as England’s most recent Parliament (under Edward IV) had voted funds for renewed Anglo-French hostilities. Yet Dominic Mancini suggests nothing of the sort.

Written material from the fifteenth century is admittedly scanty, and its paucity cannot be held to prove that Edward V was hale and hearty. However, it is equally incumbent on anyone who speaks of his ill-health to back it up with evidence.

It would be fair to expect an exhaustive examination of Edward V’s life and person in a biographical work, of which the only one yet published was written by Michael Hicks. Yet Hicks mentioned nothing of illness or disfigurement, and instead described him as ‘a very good-looking boy’. He also avoided almost all reference to the bones in Westminster Abbey, and on the two isolated occasions where they were briefly mentioned, he showed no sign of being convinced of their identity.11

To conclude my investigation from the standpoint of logic, I turned my thoughts to consideration of how the chronic ill-health of the Prince of Wales would have influenced the way his own heir presumptive – his younger brother – was raised and trained.

Given that diseases of the jaw were not uncommon in Edward’s day, it would certainly have been known that such a chronic infection could worsen progressively and even lead to death. Emotion played no part where questions of inheritance were concerned, and this was a matter that involved succession to the crown of England. Their father the king would surely have stopped at nothing to secure his Yorkist dynasty.

Yet no provision whatsoever seems to have been made for the younger boy, Richard, to receive appropriate training in kingly responsibility. Instead he remained at his mother’s side, never taking charge of his own household, even after the appointment of his own council in 1477. Neither was he placed under the tutelage of a suitable nobleman to learn the arts of arms and chivalry. In May 1483, when his brother arrived in London as king, Richard lurked with his mother in sanctuary.

Such lack of interest in preparing the younger brother for the possibility of kingship seems to point fairly conclusively, I would suggest, to absence of any concern for the health of the elder.

Postscript: There is still considerable room for research into the findings of Tanner and Wright, including the possibility of facial reconstruction, with which I have found it difficult to make progress. I hope to pursue this further now that I have taken up residence again in England.


1. Annette Carson, Richard III: The Maligned King (Stroud, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011).

2. Dominic Mancini, De Occupatione Regni Anglie per Riccardum Tercium Libellus, ed. C.A.J. Armstrong (Gloucester, 1989) p.93.

3. Mancini, p.93.

4. Sir George Buck, The History of King Richard the Third (1619), ed. A.N. Kincaid (Gloucester, 1979) p.140.

5. Archaeologia LXXXIV, 1934.

6. Richard Lyne-Pirkis, Regarding the Bones Found in the Tower; speech given on 27 February 1963.

7. A survey of the principal academic commentaries devoted to the subject of the bones, whether by scientists or historians, can be found in Carson, pp.184-200, from which it will be seen that there is no consensus as to their identity, or sex, or age, or antiquity. What gives rise to most dubiety is that any attempt to calculate the age of the elder child is automatically stymied by the need to adjust computations to take account of retardation of development due to his or her chronic jaw disease, but nobody knows how much allowance to make.

8. For the record, examples of other matters explored in depth and generally overlooked by mainstream biographers include examination and reconstruction of the precise location at the Tower of London where the bones were found; a fresh look at the shifting allegiances which preceded the rebellion of October 1483; questions raised by the death of Edward IV; and Richard III’s proposed second marriage, particularly its implications as reflected in Elizabeth of York’s letter to the Duke of Norfolk.

9. Carson, p.190.

10. Mancini/Armstrong, p.93.

11. Michael Hicks, Edward V (Stroud, 2003) pp.176, 191.

© Annette Carson 2011


Lambert Simnel, Enigma and Anomaly

   Posted by: Barbara Gaskell Denvil Tags: ,

What exactly happened at the Battle of Stoke Field (1487) and who on earth was Lambert Simnel?

Tudor propaganda asks us to believe that a young boy of only 10 or 11 years, without traceable name, history, antecedents or any noticeable talent or position, was chosen by the still powerful Yorkist faction to be their leader and figurehead while trying to overthrow Henry Tudor. We are further asked to believe that the king’s mother-in-law risked everything (and indeed lost virtually everything) by backing this unknown child to take the throne in preference to accepting her own daughter as existing queen of England and her son-in-law as king. Furthermore, John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln – Richard III’s appointed heir and therefore the one truly entitled to claim the throne for himself – instead chose to fight for this young nobody to rule the country in his place. Indeed the entire Yorkist faction fought a great and terrible battle, suffering death, injury and eventual overthrow – for what? To put this little nobody up as king? The presumption is frankly ludicrous. Read the rest of this entry »

An abridged version of this article appeared in the September 2011 Ricardian Bulletin.  We are grateful to Annette Carson for making the full version available to us.

From time to time the exploits of Sir Henry Wyatt crop up in books, both fiction and non-fiction, for he was a fascinating character whose career encompassed espionage as well as military action and high office. Most writers, however, concern themselves mainly with grisly tales of imprisonment and torture in the cause of Henry VII, which grew to become Wyatt family legend. In recent years a flurry of interest was created by Hilary Mantel’s characterization of Wyatt in her novel Wolf Hall, and a biography by Nicola Schulman of his son, the poet Sir Thomas Wyatt, has again rehearsed the same old legends. The true facts of Henry Wyatt’s capture and incarceration may never be known, having been buried under an accretion of myths over the years, but this article addresses some versions of the story that we can certainly clarify, and some we can probably debunk.* Valuable background for all this can be found in Agnes Conway’s Henry VII’s Relations with Scotland and Ireland, 1485–1498.1

The different versions of Henry’s story are too numerous to catalogue in all their glorious variety, but the most popular tales may be summarized thus: Read the rest of this entry »

During Richard III’s short reign there were only three vacancies for bishops, and it is remarkable that two of these went to Thomas Langton.  Langton ticked all the right boxes with Richard:  Richard preferred Cambridge men to those from Oxford – Langton had studied at Pembroke Hall in Cambridge, though he also was provost of Queen’s College in Oxford; Langton had studied further in Italy, in Padua and Bologna, and shared Richard’s interest in learning and humanistic scholarship.

St David’s Cathedral (© Isolde Martyn)

In May 1483 the Bishop of St David’s, Richard Martin, died and Richard as protector suggested Thomas Langton for the vacancy.  He must have proved a very able man and, when in February 1485 the see of Salisbury fell vacant, it was again Thomas Langton who was promoted [1]. Read the rest of this entry »