Thursday, March 18, 2010

Richard the Mourner?

(First, thanks to Joan for discussing this with me over at the Richard III Society's private Yahoo group.)

On a number of places on the Internet, including both the Richard III Society and the Richard III Foundation websites, it's stated as a fact that Richard wept openly at his queen's funeral. The Richard III Foundation adds the touch that he shut himself up for three days afterward. None of these accounts cite a source for their information.

So did Richard weep at Anne's funeral and shut himself up for three days afterward? Nothing I have found supports either statement. The Crowland Chronicler simply states, "Queen Anne died and was buried at Westminster with honours no less than befitted the burial of a queen." No list of those who attended the funeral is given, and Crowland says nothing of Richard shutting himself away.

Richard himself did not make such a statement. In denying rumors that he had poisoned his queen so that he could marry his niece, Richard said that he was not "willyng or glad of the dethe of his quene but as sorye & in hert as hevye as man myght be." Nowhere in his expression of grief does he mention his attendance at Anne's funeral or three days of private mourning.

As for modern sources, Richard's biographer Paul Murray Kendall, who deeply admired his subject and who would surely would have gotten the maximum pathos out of Richard's weeping at Anne's funeral or isolating himself, doesn't mention him doing either. Joanna Laynesmith in The Last Medieval Queens, which discusses the funeral rites of Anne and other queens, mentions only Crowland's one-sentence account of Anne's funeral.

Caroline Halsted, who wrote a nineteenth-century biography of Richard III, does mention "the tears which [Anne's] husband is allowed to have shed when personally attending her remains to St. Peter's, Westminster." Alas, when one follows the reference Halsted gives, it leads to Richard Baker's Chronicle of the Kings of England (1670). Baker, however, has Richard shedding only "formal tears," not tears of sorrow: "for within few dayes after, whether by poyson, or by what other means, it is not certainly known, she departed this life; and with all solemnity, not without some formal tears of King Richard, was interred in St.* Peter's Church at Westminster."

George Buck, a seventeenth-century apologist for Richard, writes (in the edition of his book prepared by Arthur Kincaid) simply that Richard "was rather taken to be uxorious than otherwise, and at her death expressed it in his heavy mourning, causing very magnificent exequies to be prepared for her, interring her non cum minore honore quam reginat decuit, as the Prior of Croyland testifieth." No funeral tears, no shutting himself up.

Finally, I checked Clements Markham's 1906 Richard III: His Life and Character, and found that Markham does indeed state that Anne "was buried in Westminster Abbey; her sorrowing husband shedding tears over her grave." But Markham cites Buck as his source--and Buck doesn't say that Richard was present at the funeral or was seen to shed tears there. Thinking that the original edition of Buck, the text of which is notoriously corrupt, might bear out Markham's claim, I checked a facsimile of the 1647 edition of Buck cited by Markham and found only this: "he was rather thought uxorious than otherwise; which appeared unfeignedly at her death, in the expression of sorrow and magnificent Exequies for her." Again, this neither places Richard at Anne's funeral nor has him isolating himself; it simply has him grieving and arranging a magnificent funeral.

So, no contemporary source places Richard at Anne's funeral shedding tears of sorrow; this seems to be Halsted's and Markham's embellishment, unsupported by the seventeenth-century sources they cite. And where the story that Richard III shut himself up for three days came from, I still haven't a clue.

Would Richard have even attended Anne's funeral, for that matter? Edward I and Richard II attended their queens' funerals (I haven't figured out whether Edward III was present at Queen Philippa's), but Henry VII, who's known to have grieved after Elizabeth of York died, didn't attend her funeral, and Henry VIII didn't attend Jane Seymour's funeral even after she presented him with his long-sought-after son. It depends, I guess, on whether Richard III followed what seems to have been the earlier custom of presence or the later custom of absence.

The fact that there's no contemporary evidence that Richard attended Anne's funeral, wept for her there, and shut himself up for three days doesn't, of course, mean that he didn't mourn her, though it does leave us only with his word that he did. Nor should it be taken as evidence that he hastened her death, which I've never believed. It does show, however, how unsupported assertions gradually acquire the status of historical fact and, thanks to the Internet, gain vigorous new life.

10 comments:

Miss Moppet said...

Couldn't agree more - as much as I love the Internet, this is a huge problem.

Very interesting that English kings did not always attend their queens' funerals. In France the king didn't attend anyone's funeral, and in fact never went to the royal mausoleum of St Denis until he died himself. Nor did French Queens usually attend funerals - Louis XIV's Queen Marie-Therese attended the funeral of Henriette d'Angleterre, but it was incognito.

Caroline said...

Thank you again, Susan, for helping to strip away some more sentimentality surrounding RIII. I've read several historical novels written from a Ricardian viewpoint, and with the exception of Reay Tannahill's The Seventh Son, I found myself rolling my eyes at passages where RIII is just the most perfect husband evah- sweet, patient, faithful, and of course, awesome in bed as well!
I also think the fact that RIII had no known mistresses/illegitimate children during his marriage is an enormous turn-on for some women.
I finished The Stolen Crown in three days. Thank you for writing such a wonderful book. I can't wait to read your novel about MOA.

Kathryn said...

Great post, especially the last line. Like Miss Moppet, I love the Internet, but the sheer number of historical misapprehensions repeated here as 'fact' is mind-boggling.

Ragged Staff said...

It's part of the dialectic that's still working it's way through the Richard III story. What we're coming to now is a more even view. We got the monster stories for centuries, then we got the pure white knight stuff in an attempt to counterbalance. We might actually be coming to a time of real balance. Looking forward to that. There's more need to be taken down that road. I'm in the process at the moment (thankless as I know it will probably be) of rehabilitating the Nevills. There was far more to them (collectively and individually) than the cardboard cutouts in most WOR fiction leads people to believe.

Susan Higginbotham said...

Moppet, that's fascinating about the French royals!

Caroline, thanks! I enjoyed the Reay Tannahill book too.

Kathryn, that's for sure! (I noticed that the guy on Amazon who has Richard III liberating poor little Warwick from the Tower now has "Bishop Stillwell" revealing the precontract. Since Stillwell Avenue is the main drag in New York's Coney Island, I now have a mental image of Stillington standing outside of Nathan's Famous munching on their hot dogs.)

Ragged Staff, looking forward to your work on the Nevilles! I think you have a point about the balanced view of Richard III beginning to take hold. One can only hope!

Jenny Girl said...

I just assumed it wouldn't do for a strong King to show his possible weakness by crying for a wife he truly loved (in some cases). Maybe there were some superstitious reasons too. Interesting information.

trish wilson said...

Good grief Sue. You don’t suppose the RGs would have it any other way than he sat weeping throughout the ceremony using an entire box of Kleenex in the process!

As for the historical or should that be hysterical misapprehensions pardon me for saying so and no pun intended but when one discovers in the Calendar of Patent Rolls that this shining example of fraternal loyalty received a royal pardon as did his wife ‘of all offences committed by them’ it doesn’t half send that halo flying and doesn’t do much for Anne’s goody-goody gooey-eyed image either.

As the end of the day it all comes down to Buck and whether he was telling the truth or not Having looked into Buck’s own history and what it says on Pages 67-69 - what a giveaway – the conclusion is that he was a front man not a lone operator and that his book was written for political motives, the 17th century equivalent of ‘Mein Kampf’ – similar whinge, similar tactics - and even his claims of provenance are beginning to look decidedly bogus. As it is I don’t think the Francis Bacon Society is going to be too happy either.

Carla said...

Checking the facsimile of a 1647 document - now that is attention to detail. I do wish historians would be more rigorous about what's fact, what's inference and what's speculation. You need all three sometimes to make sense of events, but it's only fair to the reader to be clear about which is which. More power to your elbow in chasing down internet factoids!

trish wilson said...

Carla has got it right on the button. I do wish historians would pay more attention to detail. And how about this glorious example of failure to pick up on errors that's been in print for over 200 years, now replicated on the Internet, and yet it seems I'm the first to pick up on it 'In 1485 King Richard II..... Ouch! As it it is I'm getting tired of continually tripping over one historical faux pas after another.

As for that royal pardon I must have checked up on every book and article on R3 EIV and EV the British Library has in its collection yet not one mention not even from the detractors or the royal pardon on the opposite page granted some eight months later at the request of R3 'to the king's subjects in the counties of York, Cumberland, Northumberland and Westmoreland and the city of York and the precint of the same and town of Kyngeston(Kingston) on Hull' I find both entries highly signifiant since at the very least they suggest that in the intervening period there had been a significant shift in the balance of the power and what on earth was happening up North to neccesitate the second pardon?

Other grouses include lack of curiosity partiucarly in the matter of anomalies and inconsistencies such as the dog not barking in the night - one dog not barking that's curious, when so many fail to do so that's downright suspicious - lack of logic - if all those dogs failed to bark at the same time isn't the most likely explanation that they had no need to do so - and lack of date awareness events happening at the same time which I've been able to connect to each other and consequently been able to see matters in a new light such as in the case of Jacquette who by keeping the Lancastrian army away from London after the second battle of St Albans obviously did the same for her future son-in-law Edward IV giving him much needed breathing space and possibly changing the course of history at the same time.

Apropos MoA I can't help wondering what her reaction would have been once she'd realised that she had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. From that moment on it was downhill all they way.

Commiserations to Ragged Staff. The Nevilles are also on the hit list and do I mean hit list. As it is nobody has come out smelling of roses so far least of all them so perhaps we should drop the Victorian shmaltz of WOTR and rename it 'War of the Egos' instead. I'm not sure whether that's a more balanced view but perhaps more enlightened?

f3a2d508-4fe6-11e0-9f27-000f20980440 said...

Great post! It's so amazing how many "folk tales" get distributed via the internet. Given how many unsubstantiated stories there are in my own genealogical background (we're related to Robert Burns - not, my grandmother's mother was a native american - not, grandpa was born in Connecticut - not, the gateway ancestor was irish - not), it's not surprising that these exist for historical figures as well. Although you would think the research more rigorous apparently "not." :-)