Posts Tagged ‘George of Clarence’


21 OCTOBER 1449

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Events in History

Birth of George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, third of the four sons of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York,  and Cecily Neville who survived to adulthood.  He was born in Dublin, as his father was at that time lord lieutenant of Ireland.

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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 News

Thank you, Karen!

We know from our New Zealand friends that the interest in Richard III and his times is very much alive in their beautiful country.  However, there also seems to be a link between my favourite wine, Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region on New Zealand’s South island.  I just read an article explaining this link.

Vineyard in the Marlborough region of New Zealand (photo by Dorothea Preis)

The largest river in the Marlborough region was named Clarence River in the mid-19th century.  It was thought that it referred to Queen Victoria’s uncle and predecessor, William IV, who had been Duke of Clarence before his coronation.

This accepted version has been discredited by George Holmes, who has investigated many place names and had about 95 spellings on maps changed to reflect his findings.

He suggests that the river had been named after a much earlier Duke of Clarence, one that we all know very well:  Richard’s brother George.  One hint was a tributary, Gloster River, which is named after none other than Richard himself, who before his coronation was Duke of Gloucester.  Mr Holmes intends to petition the New Zealand Geographic Board to correct the spelling of this river to reflect the family relationship.  Another hint was a stream near the mouth of the Clarence River, the George Stream.

The article may create the impression that the names were made up by Shakespeare for his infamous play, but of course we know he used real people and made up a story about them (not very different from many present day movies and TV dramas).  Shakespeare’s drama is referred to in the name of another stream, Murderers Stream, and a nearby hill, Warder, which might originally have been Mt Warden, named after the warden in the Tower of London, where George was imprisoned before his execution.  However, there does not seem to be any reference to George’s supposed execution method, no Malmsey Stream or Mt. Malmsey.

It is thought that the Clarence River was named by Sir Frederick Weld, who established a sheep station with business partner Sir Charles Clifford in the 1840s.  He had also named Lake Tennyson after his favourite poet.

Whether the inspiration came from Shakespeare or the real people behind his misrepresentation, I’ll remember this the next time we have some Sauvignon Blanc and lift my glass to George, Duke of Clarence, and of course to Richard, too.

You can find the article about the Clarence River here:

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Them Bones. Them Bones – Guest Post by Pauline Pogmore

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Medieval Miscellany

Editor’s Comment: The following article is by Pauline Pogmore of the Yorkshire Branch of the Richard III Society.  We are most grateful to Pauline for making this interesting investigation available to us.

Tewkesbury Abbey (Photograph by Saffron Blaze, obtained through Wikimedia Commons)

Recent activities in Leicester have once again brought to our minds the question of how many members of the House of York have no known resting place. In April 2012 I had an article printed in Blanc Sanglier (magazine of the Yorkshire Branch of the Richard III Society) on the Clarence Bones, those of George, Duke of Clarence and his wife Isabel Neville. Most of the facts related in this article are based on those in an excellent book Tewkesbury Abbey. History Art and Architecture by Richard Morris and Ron Shoesmith first printed in 2003. The relevant pages dealing with the matter are Chapter 4, pages 31-40. This is a much simplified account of why these bones cannot be those of the Clarence’s.

There is no record of exactly how George was killed. He is said to have been drowned in a butt of Malmsey but in actual fact could just as easily have been beheaded, stabbed or poisoned.  Neither can we be certain as to Isabel’s cause of death. Isabel may have died of the aftereffects of childbirth or of consumption (tuberculosis), but poison is very unlikely except in George’s fertile imagination. As to the bones in the Clarence vault in Tewkesbury Abbeythere is no trace of violence on either set of bones.

Far from being undisturbed since George of Clarence’s interment the vault has been opened at the very least eight times and these are only the recorded occasions. To begin at the beginning the vault was first used in 1477 for the interment of Duchess Isabel. Whether or not it had been planned during Duke George’s lifetime it is the only underground vault in the Abbey and whether it was complete at this time is a matter of conjecture. What is known is that Isabel’s body lay in state in the choir of the Abbey for thirty five days before her interment. Was the vault hurriedly constructed during this period or had the couple already made arrangements for a final resting place. It is also unclear as to who finally paid for the vaults construction George or either of his brothers Edward and Richard or possibly all three met payments at various times. It was opened again the following year for the burial of George after his execution in February 1478.

The next recorded opening was in 1709 for the burial of Alderman Hawling one of Tewkesbury’s citizens. Just how a town Alderman managed to appropriate a royal vault for his burial place remains a mystery. The vault was opened again in 1729 for the burial of the Alderman’s wife Mary and again in 1753 for that of their son John.

The next recorded opening was in 1829 and was recorded in an article in the “Gentleman’s Magazine”, and records 2 skulls and other bones in the vault. The article also makes a valid point that between the burial of George of Clarence and Alderman Hawling there had been the Dissolution of the Monasteries. This point is well made. Henry VIII had every intention of stripping the Abbey of everything of value and then leaving it to fall into decay. This was averted when the townspeople bought the Abbey from the crown. However, before the purchase Henry’s henchmen would have stripped out anything of value and the article in the “Gentleman’s Magazine” states that at that time the vault had been ransacked. Could the coffins of George and Isabel, especially if they were decorated with gold or silver plates or handles, have been opened and the bodies removed. The vault was again opened in 1829 this time for the removal of the three Hawling’s who were buried in a new grave to the south of the vault. The bones assumed to be those of George and Isabel were at this time deposited in a stone coffin. In 1876 the vault was opened again. Although the vault was completely dry the stone coffin was full of water. This may have been a result of a great flood in 1852 which had reached the Abbey. There is no record of when the bones were actually deposited in a glass case but it was certainly prior to the 1830’s when a new glass case was made. At this time the vault also contained 6 coffin handles, part of a coffin plate, a nailand the bottom half of a medieval coffin lid. Of the stone coffin there was no trace.

The next opening of the vault in Tewkesbury was on 13th June 1982 in the presence of the vicar Michael Donmall. This time the bones were removed from their case for examination and cleaning.

The findings of this exercise are interesting to say the least. The bones were 2 separate partial skeletons in poor condition. The male skeleton consisted of most of the leg and hip bones, the upper left arm, left shoulder and the upper part of the skull. On examination it was discovered the man had what amounted to mild arthritic changes and a degree of cranial closure consistent with late middle age 40 to 60 years. His height was approximately 5feet 3inches. This therefore hardly matches George of Clarence. While not on the scale of his elder brother Edward’s height of 6feet 4inches George is thought to have been tall or at the very least average which for the time was 5feet 7inches. Evidence for this is that his brother Richard is always described as of much less height than Edward but the same remark is never made of George. If George had only stood 5feet 3inches it would surely have been remarked on. Added to this is the approximate age of the skeleton. George was born in 1449 and twenty nine when he died which doesn’t fit the age either.

The female skeleton is even more of a mystery. It consists of almost the entire legs minus feet, hips, upper and half of lower right arm and the upper skull. Examination found advanced localised osteo arthritis and a degree of suture obliteration of the skull which suggests an age between 50-70 years. The height was approximately 5ft 4ins. If there was doubt about the male being George it is impossible to believe this is Isabel. Born in 1451 Isabel died aged only twenty five on 22nd December 1476. As previously mentioned she lay in state in the Abbey for thirty five days before her burial in 1477. We have no idea of her appearance since the only known likeness is the stylised drawing in the Rous Roll but we do know that she would not have the skele3ton of a woman of 50-70 years of age. A further mystery is where was Isabel’s baby Richard whose birth could have been a cause of her death. He died in January 1477 and one would have expected him to be buried at the same time as his mother. The only conclusion on the evidence here is that these bones cannot possibly be those of George and Isabel. So who are they.


For the female there is at least a possible identification. Isabel’s mother Anne Beauchamp born in 1426 was, as the heiress of Isabella Despenser, Lord of Tewkesbury. Every Lord except one had been buried in the Abbey since its consecration.  Both Anne’s daughters and their husbands were dead by the date of her death, her nearest relations would have been her grandson Edward, Earl of Warwick a prisoner in the Tower of London aged 17 and his sister Margaret aged 19. They would very likely have had no say in Anne’s interment since neither was allowed to inherit from her. Almost every record says Anne was buried at Tewkesbury the others say Bisham Abbey where her husband Richard “Kingmaker” Neville was buried.Neither give a location for a tomb. It does not stretch the imagination too far that if the burial was at Tewkesbury It was in the vault of her daughter and son in law. Anne was 66 when she died which certainly fits the age of the female skeleton.

However, what of the male skeleton. Could this possibly be the Kingmaker. We know he was buried at Bisham in 1471 after his death at the battle of Barnet. During the Dissolution of the monasteries many remains disappeared. However a great many others were moved to other locations. The Mowbray and Howard dead were taken from Thetford Priory to Framlingham. The Earl andCountess of Essex were transferred from Beeleigh Abbey to Little Easton Church. By this time 1536 Anne’s aforementioned granddaughter Margaret was no longer an insignificant girl but Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury in her own right and a very pious lady. It does not stretch the imagination too far that she would have had her grandparents moved and reburied. However at this point were George and Isabel still in situ.

The question that remains is what happened to George and Isabel. It appears that they havejoined a long line of members of the house of York with no known resting place. The list is a long one.

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