Posts Tagged ‘Edward IV’


Mistress to the Crown

   Posted by: Felicity Pulman    in Bookworm

Mistress to the Crown

Book Review:  Mistress to the Crown

Isolde Martyn, Mistress to the Crown.  Harlequin Mira, Chatswood, Australia, 2013. ISBN 9781743560211

It’s wonderful to see a new book from Isolde Martyn, and Mistress to the Crown more than lives up to the reputation of Martyn’s award-winning The Lady and the Unicorn and Knight and the Rose. The author’s knowledge and love of medieval history is evident as she deftly weaves fact and fiction together to flesh out the character of Edward IV’s mistress, the hitherto much maligned ‘Jane Shore’.

Jane’s plight (a young girl trapped in a loveless marriage to an older, impotent man) is sympathetically portrayed as is her motivation to change the odds stacked against her by becoming the mistress of a nobleman. She doesn’t just ‘sleep’ her way to success, however; feisty and independent, she forges her own destiny while at the same time keeping her door (and her heart) open to the poor, the needy and the misjudged who petition her for help – with a fitting reward for her kindness just when she most needs it. Historical details flesh out the scenes without intruding on these ‘affairs of the heart’ that make Jane such an appealing and memorable character.

Readers will enjoy this witty and page-turning glimpse into a past that is now so very much in the public eye with the unearthing of the remains of Edward IV’s brother, Richard III, from beneath the council carpark in Leicester.

Note:  This review has been previously published on Goodreads.  I meant every word, I think it’s important to those members who write books about this period that we get behind them and let people know about and enjoy their work.

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   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Bookworm

Dr John Ashdown-Hill’s research was instrumental in finding Richard III’s remains and confirming that the skeleton was really his.  This lead earlier this year to a new edition of his book The Last Days of Richard III, originally published in 2010.  The title of the new edition The Last Days of Richard III and the Fate of His DNA: The Book That Inspired the Dig tells us where it has been updated.

In July he has a new book coming out – Royal Marriage Secrets.  It covers quite a wide time-scale – ending up with the little known case involving the present Queen’s grandfather.  But it contains quite a bit of Ricardian interest.  Edward IV Eleanor and Elizabeth, of course, but also when is a Tudor not a Tudor, and samples of medieval love spells and potions in case anyone should want to try them!  I have pre-ordered my copy and am waiting for it with eager anticipation.

Meanwhile John has been spending time underground in the burial vault of the Duke and Duchess of Clarence.  Are they still there?  How did George – and Isabel – really die?  Why did George turn out the way he did?  And what did he really look like?  He is trying to answer these and other questions in a new book called The Third Plantagenet.  According to the Book Depository it should be out on 3 March 2014.

The picture on the left shows John Ashdown-Hill’s suggestion for the cover design. (Picture supplied by John Ashdown Hill)

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   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Bookworm, News, NSW Branch News

Thursday, 31 January 2013, sees the official launch of Isolde Martyn’s much anticipated new novel Mistress to the Crown, about Edward IV’s mistress “Jane Shore”.

‘What joy to find a novel that blends sound research with a love story that, on its own would attract a wealth of romance readers. Isolde Martyn links her skill as an award-winning novelist with her depth of historical knowledge to reveal the life and loves of Elizabeth Lambard (Mistress Shore), and presents her as one of the strongest, most accomplished, lovely and lovable women of the 15th century. It’s fact and fiction at its best, a must-have for your bookshelves.’

Julia Redlich, Former Fiction Editor of Woman’s Day; Secretary of the New South Wales Branch of the Richard III Society

We all remember Isolde’s previous novels The Lady and the Unicorn (1996) and The Silver Bride (2002), both of which also play during the Wars of the Roses.  Isolde is a member and former chairperson of our branch.  Incidentally it was The Silver Bride, which brought me to the NSW branch of the Richard III Society.

If you can make it to Sydney, all members of the Richard III Society are very welcome to attend the launch, but please let Isolde know if you are attending.

Booklaunch for Mistress to the Crown

When: Thursday, 31 January 2013; 18h00 for 18h30 start
Where: Shearer’s Bookshop (beneath Palace Cinema), Norton Street, Leichhardt
RSVP: (by 21 January 2013)

Looking forward to seeing you there!  And of course making the acquaintance of the Mistress to the Crown.

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The Princes in the Tower?

   Posted by: Judy Howard    in News

While perusing the website of St. George’s Chapel at Windsor, UK, I found on their Archives Blog, an article which is yet another angle on the fate of the Princes in the Tower. I found this particularly intriguing at a time when another skeleton is under scrutiny by a team of archaeologists at the University of Leicester which may prove to be the remains of Richard III.

Apparently in 1789 when the paving was being repaired in the North Quire Aisle of St. George’s Chapel, the entrance to the burial vault of Edward IV was identified.  When they entered the vault they found a lead coffin with the remains of a wooden coffin on top – which were the coffins of Edward IV and his consort, Elizabeth Woodville.  Two further coffins were also found and they were believed to have contained the bodies of George, 3rd son of Edward IV who died in 1479 aged 2 years, and his sister Mary, 5th daughter of Edward IV who died in 1482 aged 14 years.  Both George and Mary were known to have been buried at Windsor.  The vault was not investigated any further and the vault was closed with new a slab.

Then in 1810, two more coffins were found in what is now the Albert Memorial Chapel and the inscription on one of these suggests it is the coffin of George and not the one in the vault near Edward IV.  It is known that when George was buried at Windsor on 22 March 1479, the Quire at St George’s Chapel was still under construction and therefore he could not have been interred in Edward IV’s vault. The written account of Mary’s funeral states that she was buried near her brother George.

In 1813 both of these coffins were moved to the vault near Edward IV.

The question remains however – who did the two coffins found in Edward IV’s vault in 1789 belong to??  They were important because they were buried in a place of honour near Edward IV. There is no evidence to suggest who these two coffins belonged to.

The choir of St George’s Chapel, Windsor (photograph by Josep Renalias, obtained through Wikimedia Commons)

The Assistant Archivist at the College of St George has asked the question whether these two coffins could contain the remains of Edward’s other sons, Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, the “Princes in the Tower”?

In light of the momentous discovery of skeletal remains which could possibly be those of Richard III, how marvellous it would be to take this investigation further and attempt to obtain genetic material to determine:

1.    The identification of the bones in the urn at Westminster Abbey, purportedly those of the two “Princes in the Tower”; and
2.    Identification of the bodies in the two coffins discovered in Edward IV’s vault in 1789.

After more than 500 years surely this is not too much to ask, given the sophisticated technology currently at our disposal.

A mystery would be solved, if only.

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Digging up dirt in Leicestershire

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News

No, I’m not talking about the dig in Leicester at the moment, but rather about the Time Team episode on ‘Groby Old Hall’, which will have a repeat broadcast on ABC1 next week.

The announcement on the ABC website says that “The team visit Groby Old Hall in Leicestershire, once home to the legendary White Queen Elizabeth, the wife of Edward IV.”    The description of Elizabeth Woodville as “White Queen” has strong resonances of Philippa Gregory’s novels, but let’s hope that the research Time Team has done is more in-depth than that of a novelist.

Groby Hall was the property of the family of Elizabeth Woodville’s first husband, John Grey.  Later, it passed to their son Thomas Grey.

In spite of any misgivings about the description, the programme should be interesting to watch.  It is on at 18h00 on 18 September 2012 on ABC1.

The above photograph of Groby Old Hall is © Copyright Mat Fascione and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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Duchess Anne of Exeter

   Posted by: Judy Howard    in Medieval Miscellany, Medieval People

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.

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Palm Sunday Event

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News

Just a reminder that this coming Sunday (1 April) is Palm Sunday and thus the day to commemorate the Battle of Towton, fought in a snow storm on Palm Sunday 1461 (29 March).  As every year the Towton Battlefield Society is hosting an event to “commemorate those men from the House of York and the House of Lancaster who fell on that fateful day’.

As we have seen before, Helen Cox will be launching her new book Walk Towton 1461 at this event.  We are grateful to Adrian White and theTowton Battlefield Society for providing us with a link to their official programme.  What a pity that for us “down under” it’s just that little bit too far to go round – we can just be jealous of all our readers, who have the opportunity to visit the commemoration with its fascinating shows and walk the battlefield on one of the guided tours.

We all wish all those taking part in the commemoration, whether actively or as a visitor, an interesting day and hope that the weather will be better than on that fateful Palm Sunday 551 years ago.

To find out more and view the programme, visit the page of the Towton Battlefield Society.

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Can politicians be trusted?

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News

Well , at least where history is concerned it seems this is not always the case.

This is the latest example:  Last night – after returning from a long weekend in the nation’s capital – I watched  the ABC News.  There Christopher Pyne (for our readers in other parts of the globe:  an Australian opposition MP) declared that the Prime Minister’s stance on the gambling reform was “the most ruthless political act since Richard III disposed of his nephews in the Tower of London” (for a clip click here).

It is understandable that Richard III should come to Mr Pyne’s mind after the successful tour of the production of Shakespeare’s play with Kevin Spacey in Sydney last month, which got a lot of attention in the media.

However, given that Richard III was killed in 1485, it is most unlikely that the gambling reform (or lack thereof) is “the most ruthless political act’ in the last 500 odd years – I am sure most of us can think of much more serious instances.  In that respect Mr Pyne’s remark certainly is an “absurd example of hyperbole”.

However, much more seriously, it is also an instance of playing fast and furious with historical facts.  The fact is that we do not know happened to the sons of Edward IV.  Everything else is conjecture.

At least we have to assume that Mr Pyne refers to the sons of Edward IV, when he talks of Richard III’s nephews.  In fact Richard had  various other nephews, who are all accounted for and only met their end in Tudor times – with Edward, earl of Warwick (son of Richard III’s elder brother George, duke of Clarence), actually being executed in the Tower of London – in 1499, on the orders of Henry VII.

The sons of Edward IV were declared illegitimate by an act of Parliament, because of questions about the legality of their parents’ marriage.  This allowed Richard, duke of Gloucester, to become king as Richard III.  The boys were last seen playing in the royal residence of the Tower in the late summer of 1483, but nobody knows for sure what happened then.  We can’t say for sure that they were killed and – if they were – when or even less by whom, and they might just as well have outlived Richard III.  It is worth noting that two posthumous trials acquitted Richard of this crime.

Rather than blaming Richard for the demise of these nephews, he might very well have been instrumental in protecting their lives, as the appearance of the later pretenders shows.

It would be desirable if politicians of whichever hue were to ascertain their facts, before comparing their opponents with historical persons.  More often than not, these comparisons do not achieve the anticipated outcome, but rather backfire.

More info on the trials: – click on “Channel 4: The Trial of Richard III (1984)”
The Channel 4 programme can be viewed in a number of parts on YouTube

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Adopt St Georges Chapel, Windsor!

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News

Well, maybe not the whole chapel…

Like so many of the historic buildings in Britain – our branch just recently supported the Middleham Church Appeal with a donation – St Georges Chapel at Windsor is dependent on donations to raise the funds necessary for the conservation of the fabric of the chapel and associated buildings, as it is not the financial responsibility of the State, the Church or the Crown. Read the rest of this entry »

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Novel Approach

   Posted by: Julia Redlich    in Bookworm

Although, as a general rule, novels aren’t the ideal source for historical research, it is always heartening to find our particular branch of the Plantagenet family appearing in imaginative pages.  Happily, in this case, House of Echoes is by Barbara Erskine, who has a degree in medieval history, and her many novels have a commendable ring of authenticity.

In some of her books people of today are linked with characters and events in history and in this story (published by HarperCollins) the connection is with Edward IV (and Richard gets a mention).  Great reading for lazy afternoons, but the chilling mystery could make it a no-no for late-night reading.

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