Sunday, January 31, 2010

Margaret of Anjou Does Facebook

You'll be glad to know that as I'm snowed in, I've taken advantage of the occasion to create a Facebook page for Margaret of Anjou. Do stop by and become a fan. Margaret loves fans, even when they're not guys with the last name of Beaufort.

A few search terms:

the duke did not discuss his feelings with the duchess because he

Some men just can't get in touch with themselves, no matter how many self-help books we make them read.

what she done elizabeth woodville

Nothin'! She ain't done nothin'!

corpus christi coronation how to be a duchess

Possibly getting out of Texas would help.

when the woodvilles die

Patience, dude. Patience.

her body count

Some things are better off just not being known.

jean plaidy let me know what you think about my page.

You might be waiting a while for her to e-mail you back.

buckingham motive suggesting that the prince be brought to london with some little train

It's a little-known fact that Buckingham was a train buff. All he ever wanted to do was to sit by the track with his engineer's cap and make "choo-choo" noises. Really.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Harry Buckingham Gets Arrested: 1471

It's generally known that Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, was arrested and executed in 1483 after joining the failed rebellion against Richard III, and it's often hypothesized that Harry was impelled to rebel in part because he was a closet Lancastrian. But did you know that in 1471, Harry was arrested--as a Yorkist sympathizer?

Harry, whose father had died in 1458 and whose grandfather the first duke had died in 1460, was a ward of the crown. He was first placed by Edward IV with Edward's sister the Duchess of Exeter; after the king's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, Henry was transferred to the custody of Elizabeth, though the actual wardship remained in the king's hands. In 1465, Elizabeth was granted 500 marks per year for the maintenance of Harry and his younger brother. Woodville bashers like Annette Carson, who depicts Harry as being “kept at court tied to the queen’s skirts while she enjoyed the income from his estates,” have suggested that Elizabeth somehow deprived Harry of a normal knightly upbringing, but there's no evidence whatsoever of this. Elizabeth's household records are not extant after 1467 to give us any idea of how Harry was being raised; we know only that in 1466-67 he and his brother had a grammar master, John Giles, who was distinguished enough at his task to later teach Edward IV's own sons. We do know, however, that in 1470-71, probably after May 1471, Harry had a minstrel, who was traveling in company with the Duke of Gloucester's minstrel. The fact that Harry had his own minstrel at this time suggests that far from being deprived, Harry (who was born on September 4, 1455) had been given a household suitable in size for a teenage duke.

Harry's life took a turn in 1470 during Henry VI's brief restoration to power. He did not accompany Edward IV into exile or Elizabeth Woodville into sanctuary; instead, he was given into the custody of his grandmother Anne, the dowager Duchess of Buckingham, and her second husband, Walter Blount, Lord Mountjoy, who had to pay for his "support and finding," i.e., his expenses. On October 28, 1470, Harry went to supper with his paternal uncle Henry Stafford, who was married to Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond. Margaret Beaufort's only son, Henry Tudor, was also visiting his mother and Henry Stafford during this time, so it's quite possible that Harry encountered the future Henry VII during this visit.

During Lent of 1471, Henry VI's government, or, to put it more accurately, the government of the Earl of Warwick, imprisoned suspected Yorkist sympathizers, housing some of them in the Tower. The list of arrestees included Harry's stepgrandfather, Walter Blount, his Bourchier relations, his uncle John Stafford, and "Lord Harry Buckingham"--that is, 15-year-old Harry himself. Harry is sometimes confused in the records with his uncle Henry Stafford, but Henry the uncle can safely be ruled out as the arrestee in this instance. Uncle Henry's movements during this time have been traced by Michael K. Jones and Malcolm Underwood, who note that he was being courted by the Lancastrians, through Margaret Beaufort's kinsman Edmund Beaufort, and chose at the very last moment to fight for Edward IV. Young Harry's own political sympathies during this time are unrecorded; as Hannes Kleineke notes, it appears that he was arrested simply because his guardian Walter Blount was.

The captives overpowered their guards on April 9 or 10, 1471, and escaped in time to meet Edward IV, who was returning from exile, and to accompany him to the battle of Barnet on April 14. What if any role Harry played in the Yorkist breakout and whether he accompanied the king to Barnet are, sadly, unrecorded, although we know that he was in the king's triumphant procession into London following the Yorkist victory at Tewkesbury. In the battles at Barnet and Tewkesbury that had preceded that procession, Harry's two Stafford uncles had fought for Edward IV; his two Beaufort uncles had fought (and died for) Henry VI. One wonders what young Harry, first in his prison cell and later in the king's entourage coming from Tewkesbury, thought about all of this.


Michael Hicks, False, Fleeting, Perjur'd Clarence: George, Duke of Clarence, 1449-78. Gloucester: Alan Sutton, 1980.

Michael K. Jones and Malcolm G. Underwood, The King’s Mother: Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Hannes Kleineke, “Gerhard von Wesel’s Newsletter from England, 17 April 1471.” The Ricardian, 2006.

Carole Rawcliffe, The Staffords, Earls of Stafford and Dukes of Buckingham 1394–1521. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

This and That

Margaret of Anjou and company have been demanding this week, so this is going to be a short and miscellaneous post.

First, as the owner of three cats and a dog, I know well that my chief duty in life is to keep the pantry stocked with food, and Brandy Purdy (who shares an agent with me) has similar responsibilities. So make her very ample cat happy and pick up a copy of her novel, The Boleyn Wife! It's a lively read about a perennially fascinating subject, Henry VIII and his wives, told from the perspective of Jane Boleyn.

Speaking of the Boleyns, I recently finished reading Alison Weir's The Lady in the Tower, a nonfictional account of the last days of Anne Boleyn. (Thanks, Sarah, for passing the ARC onto me!) I enjoyed this one thoroughly, although I did think that Weir relied too heavily on accounts by George Boleyn's enemies in concluding that he might have been sexually promiscuous or even sexually predatory. Historian John Guy has taken issue with Weir's use of certain sources, but her use of them didn't seem to me to be so extensive as to damage the book as a whole. For me as a general reader with an adequate but not exhaustive knowledge of the period, the book was a gripping read.

I also made one of my rare excursions to the movies the other day to see The Young Victoria, about Victoria and Albert's courtship and early married life. I enjoyed it thoroughly, though there were a couple of scenes where I would have been quite lost as to what was going on if I hadn't read Jean Plaidy's novel, Victoria Victorious. (Thank you, Jean Plaidy.) The acting is good and the costumes and scenery are sumptuous; I'll have to get the DVD when it appears.

If you'll be in the Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina area on Tuesday, March 23, please note I'll be signing The Stolen Crown at the Barnes and Noble in Cary at 7:00 p.m. I'll be doing a blog tour for my new book also. It'll be in stores just a little over a month from now!

Finally, I was browsing through the Calendar of Patent Rolls yesterday and enjoyed reading this job description in an entry dated April 25, 1458:

Commission to Robert Whityngham, keeper of the great wardrobe of queen Margaret, appointing him and his deputies to purvey linen and woollen clothes, silk, cloth of gold, peluries (pelluras) and furs and all other necessary stuffs concerning the said wardrobe and the queen's use in London and the suburbs and port thereof and all other ports, cities, boroughs, towns, and places in the realm, and to arrest broiderers, tailors, skinners, goldsmiths, saddlers, painters, linen-drapers, tapicers, stonemasons, carpenters, masons and other workmen, artificers and labourers, horses, carts and carriage necessary for the works of the wardrobe, and to commit to prison all contrary herein, in London and the suburbs thereof and elsewhere.

This fills me with happy visions of walking into my favorite clothing store and ordering the arrests of all the clerks if they can't find anything I want in my size.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Another Eleanor: The Duchess of Somerset and Her Sons

Born in 1408, Eleanor Beauchamp was the second of three daughters of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, and his countess, Elizabeth Berkeley. (Despenser tidbit: through her mother, Eleanor Beauchamp was a descendant of Hugh le Despenser and Eleanor de Clare through their youngest daughter, Elizabeth, who married into the Berkeley family.) She married Thomas, Lord Ros, after 1423. Ros was killed in France on August 18, 1430, leaving behind a son, Thomas, who was born on September 9, 1427. Eleanor’s second husband was Edmund Beaufort, who later became the Duke of Somerset. The couple had three sons, Henry (born in 1436), Edmund (born circa 1438), and John, and five daughters.

Among Eleanor’s connections were her niece Eleanor Talbot, claimed by Richard III to have been precontracted to Edward IV, and her grandson by her daughter Margaret, Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. Eleanor’s father, Richard Beauchamp, governor to the young Henry VI, is the subject of the famous Beauchamp Pageant.

Eleanor’s most unfortunate connection, however, was her brother-in-law Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who married Anne, Eleanor’s younger half-sister by her father’s second marriage. Warwick allied himself with the Duke of York against Somerset, who had become hugely unpopular following the loss of Normandy and Gascony. When Henry VI became insane in 1453, York took advantage of his office as protector to imprison Somerset, who remained in the Tower for over a year without ever being brought to trial. When Henry VI regained his sanity, he ordered Somerset’s release in 1455 and restored him to his offices, much to the disgust of York and his ally Warwick. Eventually, the king’s forces confronted York’s forces at St. Albans on May 22, 1455. Henry’s quite reasonable refusal to hand over Somerset to York led to a short, fierce fight in the streets of St. Albans. Trapped by York’s forces in the Castle Inn, Somerset chose to die fighting and emerged, reportedly killing four men before being felled by an axe and hacked to death, most likely having been specifically targeted for elimination by York’s men.

Eleanor’s son by her first husband, Thomas Ros, was probably at St. Albans fighting with Somerset; her eldest son by Somerset, Henry, was injured so badly at St. Albans that he had to be carried off in a cart. The nineteen-year-old Henry, who might well have incurred his severe injuries attempting to save his father, spent the next few years spoiling for a fight against Warwick and York and had to be prevented on several occasions from attacking them in the streets. Eventually, he got his revenge against York at the battle of Wakefield. His pleasure, however, was short-lived, as York’s son was soon to take the throne as Edward IV.

Edward IV made great efforts to reconcile Henry (who inherited his father’s dukedom), holding a tournament in his honor and even allowing him to share the royal bed. He also granted Henry and his widowed mother, Eleanor, annuities—a necessity as the Beauforts were relatively land-poor and had relied heavily upon royal largesse. Somerset, however, proved unable to stomach an alliance with York and deserted the king for Henry VI in November 1463.

With her son’s desertion of Edward IV, Eleanor’s pension dried up, and she was placed under arrest by the king. As a result, in March 1464, Eleanor presented this plaintive bill to the king, published by Cora Scofield:

Signed Bills (Chancery), series I. tile 1494, no. 3953.
To the kynge oure liege lorde.

Memorandum quod xxvij die marcij anno &c. quarto ista billa liberata fuit domino Cancellario Anglie apud Westmonasterium exequend'
[Sign manual]

Right humbly bisecheth and sheweth vnto youre highnesse your true liegewoman pore prisoner and contynuell Oratrice Alianore Duchesse of Somerset whiche longe tyme by youre high commaundment hath been and is vnder arrest and in warde giltles god knoweth and many tymes by persones not wele disposed to her vnknowen hath been in ieopartie of her lyf robbed and spoyled in suche wise as she was like to haue perisshed for lakke of sustenance had not dyuers persones of their verray pite and tendernesse releued and comforted her wherfore it hath liked youre seid highnesse of your habundant and speciall grace to graunte to youre seid Oratrice by youre Ires patentes ccxxij li. iiij s. vj d. for terme of her lyf to be had and taken yerly of youre pety custume in London and at your receyt wherof she hath receyued no peny nor can as yet but xx li. Also that the value of suche lifelode as she within iiij yeres last passed and afore had for her sustenance and nowe therof receyueth no profites atteyned to the somme of Diiij li. and more yerly and the value of suche lifelode as remayneth in her handes for her sustenance excedeth litill the somme of xlviij li. yerly the ffermours tenantes and occupiours wherof take the seid arrest notwithstondynge youre goode grace to her shewed for an emprisonment wherfore they deny and be not willynge to contente their dutees to her seiynge that they woll knowe who shall be their lorde or lady first And also that vitaillers and crafty men be not willynge eny thinge to sell leue or forbere her beynge vnder arrest So that youre same Oratrice is like to perisshe for lakke of sustenance without your especiall grace be shewed to her in this behalf. Please it youre seid highnesse the premisses tenderly to considre and that thought dolour and hevynes of and for the premisses hath grevously augmented her sikenesse and caused her to haue bodely innrrnytees not likly to be recouered, in so nioche that she hathe be and nyghtly without right goode and speciall attendaunce is like to be in parell of deth, Of youre grete pite benigne grace and blissed disposicion for the loue of her whiche is moder and merour of pite and mercy to enlarge your seid Oratrice of the seid arrest and warde and of youre more ample grace to graunte to her that your Chaunceller of Englonde by this bill may haue auctorite to do make a writ patent direct to the Sherreffes of Yorkshire, Wiltshire, Essex, Norfolk, Oxenford, Berkshire, and Sufr orelles seueral writtes commaundynge them and euery of them vpon your behalfe to charge the Officers ffermours tenauntes and dettours of your seid Oratrice to be obedient and content her of her dutees as right and conscience requyreth So that youre same Oratrice perisshe not for lak of sustenaunce and she shall pray to god for your most royall and prosperous estate.

Forlorn as Eleanor’s circumstances had become in March 1464, they were about to get a lot worse, for on May 15, 1464, John Neville, Warwick’s younger brother, defeated Somerset’s men at Hexham. Somerset was captured and executed. His older half-brother, Thomas Ros, who had never swerved from Henry VI’s cause, also fought at Hexham; he fled following the battle but was caught and executed on May 17. Thus, in the space of two days, Eleanor lost her son by her first husband and her eldest son by her second husband. Her younger two sons, Edmund and John, joined the exiled Margaret of Anjou abroad.

Despite the fact that Eleanor’s younger sons were still at large and plotting, Edward IV does seem to taken pity upon Eleanor Beauchamp, for on May 12, 1465, he granted her an annuity of 100 pounds, presumably to replace the one of 222 pounds granted her in 1463. (Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1461-67, pp. 263, 472). I have not found any indication as to whether she regained her freedom. She died on March 6, 1467 (Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1467-77, p. 100, though a 1505 inquisition post mortem gives the date as March 4, 1467). Her surviving sons, Edmund and John, continued to support the Lancastrian cause and died for it at Tewkesbury: John was killed in battle there on May 4, 1471, and Edmund, who had been in command there, was executed on May 6, 1471, after being forced out of sanctuary at Tewkesbury Abbey.

Eleanor’s grandson by Thomas Ros, Edmund, succeeded in having the attainder on the Ros family reversed when Henry VII came to power. Edmund was restored to the Ros estates but did not have long to enjoy them, for he apparently went insane by 1492. He and his lands were put into the custody of his brother-in-law, Thomas Lovel. Ros died in 1505.

None of Eleanor’s three Beaufort sons married or left legitimate offspring, but in around 1460, Henry Beaufort had sired an out-of-wedlock son, Charles, by a mistress, Joan Hill. Charles Beaufort, who changed his name to Charles Somerset, had a rather happier fate than his father and uncles. Having grown up in exile, he returned to England to fight for his relation Henry Tudor at the battle of Bosworth. His abilities served him well with both Henry VII and Henry VIII; the latter made him Earl of Worcester in 1514. The magnificence of the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1420 owed much to Worcester’s organizational skills. Having sired an heir by his first wife, Elizabeth Herbert (daughter of William Herbert, Earl of Huntingdon, and Mary Woodville, a sister of Queen Elizabeth Woodville), Somerset died on April 25, 1526, and was buried in St George's Chapel, Windsor—a happy fate for a man whose future at age four, when he was the bastard son of an attainted and dead traitor, must have seemed bleak indeed.


Calendar of Patent Rolls.

The Complete Peerage.

Keith Dockray, ‘Ros, Thomas, ninth Baron Ros (1427–1464)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, May 2006 [, accessed 18 Jan 2010]

Jonathan Hughes, ‘Somerset , Charles, first earl of Worcester (c.1460–1526)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2007 [, accessed 18 Jan 2010]

Michael K. Jones, ‘Beaufort, Edmund, styled third duke of Somerset (c.1438–1471)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, May 2009 [, accessed 18 Jan 2010]

Michael K. Jones, ‘Beaufort, Henry, second duke of Somerset (1436–1464)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [, accessed 18 Jan 2010]

Colin Richmond, ‘Beaufort, Edmund, first duke of Somerset (c.1406–1455)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Oct 2008 [, accessed 18 Jan 2010]

Cora Scofield, “Henry, Duke of Somerset, and Edward IV,” English Historical Review, April 1906. (available on Google Books).

Jennifer C. Ward, ‘Berkeley, Elizabeth, countess of Warwick (c.1386–1422)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [, accessed 18 Jan 2010]

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Your Favorite Henrys

Of the 39 people who voted for their favorite King Henry, Henry II won, with 15 votes. Henry VIII and Henry V each got 7. Henry VII managed 4 votes, Henry III 3, Henry VI 2, and Henry I 1. Poor Henry IV got no votes. Ian Mortimer, where are you?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Richard III: Friend of Womankind?

In a particularly hagiographic passage in Richard the Third, Paul Murray Kendall writes, "[O]ften Richard scattered small gifts like a benevolent agent of Providence . . . to Anne Caux, 'once the nurse of Edward IV,' he gave £20 yearly 'in consideration of her poverty'; Katherine Vaux, the faithful lady in waiting to his old enemy Queen Margaret, received an annuity of 20 marks. He relieved the distress of wives of rebels whose property had been forfeited: he granted an annuity to the Duchess of Buckingham, ordered Lady Rivers' tenants to pay her their dues, gave the Countess of Oxford a pension. 'For her good and virtuous disposition' he took Florence, wife of the rebel Alexander Cheney, into his protection and granted her the custody of her husband's lands. For his times, Richard reveals a surprising sense of women as people in their own right." Earlier in his biography, Kendall notes that following the execution without trial of William, Lord Hastings, Richard swore to take his widow, Katherine, under his protection and to defend her against "any attempt by intimidation or fraud to deprive her of her rights."

Following Kendall's lead, modern-day admirers of Richard have continued to praise his chivalry toward women. But is this reputation really deserved?

First, grants like the ones to Anne Caux and Katherine Vaux, though certainly praiseworthy, are hardly unique to Richard: other medieval kings--and even, horrors, the Tudors!--can be found making them. Edward II, for instance, gave his old nurse (who had cared for him only briefly) five pounds a year and 73 acres of land for life, as Alianore notes. Henry VII gave an annuity of 10 marks to Joan Hill, the mother of his bastard relation Charles Somerset. Katherine Vaux lived into Henry VIII's reign and received an annuity of 20 marks from the new king.

As for the wives of rebels, Richard III did indeed give the Countess of Oxford, Margaret Neville, £100, but this was a continuation of a grant from Edward IV, who is not given any particular credit for generosity. In any case, as David Baldwin notes, Richard had been given the Earl of Oxford's estates following the Battle of Barnet and could presumably afford to part with £100. (Back in the 1470's, the young Richard had bullied Margaret Neville's mother-in-law, Elizabeth de Vere, the dowager Countess of Oxford, into giving him her own estates for an inadequate consideration, but this inglorious episode doesn't find its way into Kendall's biography.)

Richard III did give Katherine Woodville, Duchess of Buckingham, an annuity of 200 marks in 1484, but as Katherine points out rather testily in The Stolen Crown, Buckingham had assigned her a jointure of 1,000 marks, and as both J.R. Lander and Anne Crawford have noted, a wife's jointure was exempt from a husband's attainder. Thus, by ignoring Katherine's right to jointure from Buckingham's confiscated lands, Richard with his gift of 200 marks was saving himself 800 marks.

Florence Cheney, as the wife of an attainted but living rebel, had no right to her husband's lands, so here Richard can be credited with genuine generosity. But Lady Rivers (Mary FitzLewis, widow of Anthony Woodville)? The order in question, found in British Library Harleian Manuscript 433, Vol. 2, commands that the occupiers of "the lyvehood belonging unto the Lady Riviers by reasone of hure joynture" pay what they owed to Lady Rivers. In other words, by ordering that Lady Rivers' tenants pay to her what she was owed by virtue of her jointure, Richard III was merely enforcing the law. It seems rather extravagant to praise Richard simply for doing his duty as king. In any case, Mary FitzLewis remarried George Neville, a natural son of the Earl of Westmorland. George was favored by Richard III, so Richard III might have had George Neville's interests in mind when he was enforcing Mary's rights.

Richard gets a great deal of credit for his generous treatment of Katherine Hastings (who as a Neville was a close relation of both Richard and his queen), which in the eyes of some of his admirers has more than compensated for what some might term his less generous treatment of beheading Hastings without a trial. (Whether Katherine would share this roseate view is doubtful.) Unfortunately, although Richard kept his promise not to attaint Hastings, he proved less than diligent in his role as Katherine's protector and defender. As David Baldwin has pointed out, Richard took Katherine's most valuable property, the manor of Loughborough, for himself at the same time he made his promise to her, and more troubles were to follow. Francis Lovell, Richard III's close associate, soon set about claiming Katherine's manors of Ashby and Bagworth, along with other properties, for himself. Lovell, in fact, had quitclaimed his interest to Ashby three years before, and his father had sold Bagworth to the Hastings family. To retain Ashby and Bagworth and the residue of the Beaumont inheritance claimed by Lovell (of which Lovell's family had been deprived through an act of attainder of Viscount Beaumont during Edward IV's reign), Katherine was obliged to give Lovell 200 marks in cash, plus Beaumont lands totaling a maximum 200 marks per annum. The settlement, reached through the mediation of unspecified friends, came with the caveat that it could not be final during the minority of Katherine's eldest son, Edward Hastings. Lovell, as Baldwin points out, was probably planning to force an even more lopsided deal once Edward came of age. As it was, Lovell's plans were upset by the Battle of Bosworth. In this transaction, there's no evidence that Richard did anything to protect Katherine Hastings' rights, despite his promise to her to do exactly that.

Finally, back in the 1470's, Anne Beauchamp, widow of Warwick the Kingmaker, had been treated as if naturally dead so that her lands could be divided between her daughters, Isabel, Duchess of Clarence, and Anne, Duchess of Gloucester. The chief beneficiaries, of course, were the duchesses' husbands, George, Duke of Clarence, and Richard himself. The countess's protests at being stripped of her inheritance went unheeded. When Richard became king, putting him into a position to treat his queen's mother more generously, he gave the countess a whopping £80 per year. By contrast, Henry VII gave Anne Beauchamp 500 marks per year, granted her life estates in over two dozen manors and lordships, made her principal keeper of the forest of Wychwode, and appointed her principal keeper of the forest of Wychwood.

So all in all, while Richard certainly was capable of generosity toward women, his treatment of them hardly seems exceptional, and in the cases of the dowager Countess of Oxford, Katherine Woodvile, Lady Hastings, and his own mother-in-law hardly qualifies him as a paragon of chivalry.


Ian Arthurson, The Perkin Warbeck Conspiracy 1491–1499. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Alan Sutton, 1994.

David Baldwin, The Kingmaker's Sisters: Six Powerful Women in the Wars of the Roses. Gloucestershire: The History Press, 2009.

Anne Crawford, "Victims of Attainder: The Howard and de Vere Women in the Late Fifteenth Century," Reading Medieval Studies, 1989.

C. Given-Wilson et al., eds., The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England. CD-ROM. Scholarly Digital Editions, Leicester: 2005.

Michael Hicks, Anne Neville, Queen to Richard III. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Tempus, 2006.

Rosemary Horrox, Richard III: A Study in Service. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Rosemary Horrox and P.W. Hammond, eds., British Library Harleian Manuscript 433. Richard III Society, 1979-83.

Michael K. Jones and Malcolm G. Underwood, The King’s Mother: Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

J. R. Lander, Crown and Nobility 1450–1509. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1976.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Age of Henry Stafford, Second Duke of Buckingham

Although Henry Stafford, second Duke of Buckingham, hasn't suffered the same fate as his wife, whose actual age at the time of the couple's marriage in 1465 or possibly 1466 is often tripled by modern writers who are either superficial in their research and/or eager to depict the Woodvilles in the worst possible light, his own date of birth has often been a matter for confusion. So what is it?

According to the Complete Peerage and the current Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Henry Stafford (we'll call him Harry from now on) was born on September 4, 1455, making him about thirty-five months younger than Richard, Duke of Gloucester, born on October 2, 1452. Henry's birthdate in September 1455 is consistent with this 1475 Act of Parliament, which refers to an annuity of 40 pounds granted by Henry VI to Henry's grandfather, the first Duke of Buckingham:

The king our sovereign lord, for certain considerations influencing him and because his cousin Henry, the present duke of Buckingham, cousin and male heir of the said late duke, that is to say, son of Humphrey, son of the said late duke, was very young at the time of the death of the said late duke [at the battle of Northampton on July 10, 1460], that is to say, only four years of age, and was lawfully taken into the wardship of our said sovereign lord . . .

A number of sources, however, age Harry by a year by giving him a birth date of 1454. This confusion (which runs rampant on the Internet) appears to have arisen originally because of another mistake: the report by some chroniclers that Harry's father, Humphrey Stafford, the Earl of Stafford, was killed or mortally wounded at the first battle of St. Albans in May 1455. Since Harry is known to have had a younger brother, who was made a Knight of the Bath along with Harry and who was raised in Elizabeth Woodville's household with him, historians, like C.A.J. Armstrong in a note to his 1936 edition of Mancini, moved Harry's birth date back a year in order to avoid the impossible situation of the Earl of Stafford posthumously begetting Harry's younger brother.

But the Earl of Stafford did not in fact die at St. Albans, though he was wounded there. Armstrong himself had realized this by 1960, when he published his seminal article "Politics and the Battle of St. Albans, 1455." Instead, as Armstrong noted, the earl died in late 1458 of plague, according to a manuscript, Rawlinson B 355, cited by Armstrong in note 5 to his article. (Footnotes are a researcher's best friend.) Indeed, although some writers have depicted the Earl of Stafford as having been permanently prostrated by his wounds at St. Albans, he continued to take an active part in affairs following the 1455 battle: he was appointed to a commission of oyer and terminer in 1456 and to Edward of Lancaster's council and to other commissions in 1457. At some point in between sitting on commissions, the earl fathered Harry's younger brother.

So with the Earl of Stafford having survived St. Albans and lived long enough to father both Harry and his younger brother, the difficulty with Harry's birth date of 1455 disappears. Might we someday hear the sweet music of all of those erroneous online statements of "1454" being corrected? Probably not, but at least I've done my part.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Another Woodville Myth

While updating my website this morning, I added the myth that Elizabeth Woodville concealed Edward IV's death from Richard, Duke of Gloucester to the Myths About Elizabeth Woodville page. It's a revised version of a blog post I did some time ago, but as some new readers have come to my blog since then (and since the myth keeps popping up), I thought I'd add it here as well.

Among the modern myths that have grown up around Elizabeth Woodville, one of the most pervasive is that when Edward IV died, the queen either attempted to conceal the news from his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, or deliberately delayed in notifying him. This myth has made it into nonfiction as well as fiction, giving it a certain respectability and staying power. Elizabeth Jenkins in The Princes in the Tower twice states that no one told Richard of the king's death until William, Lord Hastings broke the news, and Paul Murray Kendall (naturally) writes that no official word ever came from Westminster to Richard. Bertram Fields in his book Royal Blood likewise accuses the queen and her kin of intentional delay, and a quick surf on the Internet produces several Ricardian sites that make similar allegations.

But is there truth to the story that Elizabeth Woodville and her family deliberately failed to let Richard know of his brother's death? No contemporary chronicler makes this claim. The Crowland Chronicler, who most historians agree was a person highly placed at court, reports the controversy that arose after the king's death over the size of the escort that Edward V was to take to London, notes that Richard wrote cordial, reassuring letters to the queen after he learned of Edward's death, and states that Richard traveled to York to publicly mourn his brother. In all of this, he doesn't indicate who told Richard of his brother's death or when he learned of it. At no time, however, does he suggest that anyone had been derelict in giving Gloucester the news or that it had come from an unexpected quarter. Dominic Mancini reports that there were conflicting opinions among the new king's councilors as to what role Gloucester was to play in the minority government, and he writes that Hastings reported these deliberations to Richard via letters and messengers and urged him to come to London quickly to assert his right to control the government. As with Crowland, however, nothing in Mancini's account gives the impression that there had been any delay in notifying Richard of his brother's death or any impropriety in the way he was notified.

Based on these sources, the logical conclusion is that whether or not Elizabeth Woodville personally sent Richard the news (and it's not at all clear that she, as opposed to someone from the late king's household like Hastings, the king's chamberlain, would have been expected to do so), Richard learned of his brother's death via conventional means and within a reasonable time. Indeed, in their chronology of events in The Coronation of Richard III: The Extant Documents, Anne F. Sutton and P. W. Hammond estimate, based on Mancinci, Crowland, and other contemporary sources, that Richard in Yorkshire probably received the news of Edward IV's death at about the same time—April 14—that Edward V and his household, which of course included Elizabeth's brother Anthony Woodville, received the news in Wales.

Moreover, even if the Woodvilles wanted to conceal the king's death from Richard (and again, there's no contemporary evidence that this was their desire), they would have been hard-pressed to manage such a feat. Though Richard spent most of his time in the North, away from Edward IV's court, he was an essential part of Edward IV's government and wielded great power. He would have had agents at court to transact his business with the king and to keep him informed of current events there; he would have also had attorneys in London to mind his legal affairs. As Edward IV's death on April 9, 1483, was made publicly known within hours—the late king's body was displayed at Westminster for the mayor and the leading citizens of London to view, and the news arrived at Calais via a servant of Hastings on April 10—any of Richard's connections at court and in London, not to mention his relations and his acquaintances, could have communicated with Richard about his brother's death, thereby thwarting any attempt to keep the news from him. The most likely scenario, however, is Richard didn't need to rely on such sources; rather, it's most logical to conclude that William Hastings, as part of his duties as chamberlain of the late king's household, sent an official messenger to Richard to inform him of his brother's death just as he sent a messenger to Calais. Later, when dissent arose on the council, Hastings sent private communications—those mentioned by Mancini—to Richard, but there is no reason to think that these confidential communications were the first news Richard had of his brother's death.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Did the Woodvilles Raid the Treasury?

Of all the stories that have circulated about the Woodville family, surely one of the most damning, and one of the most beloved by the Woodvilles’ modern-day detractors, is the story that Elizabeth Woodville, her son Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset, and her brother Edward helped themselves to the royal treasury after Edward IV died. But does the story stand up to scrutiny?

The story comes from a single contemporary source: The Usurpation of Richard the Third by Dominic Mancini. After discussing the French raids against English ships following the death of Edward IV, Mancini notes that on the day before Elizabeth Woodville went into sanctuary, Edward Woodville had put out to sea as captain of a fleet of twenty ships. As Mancini tells it, “in the face of threatening hostilities, a council, held in the absence of the duke of Gloucester, had appointed Edward: and it was commonly believed that the late king’s treasure, which had taken such years and such pains to gather, was divided between the queen, the marquess, and Edward.”

In looking at this statement, it should first be noted that Mancini is not giving an eyewitness account, but merely reporting that the story of the treasury raid was “commonly believed.” A common belief does not necessary mean that the thing believed is true; it could merely reflect the prevalence of gossip about the Woodvilles’ doings. Mancini himself gives no indication of whether he shared the common belief or whether he thought it to be well founded.

Even more important, Rosemary Horrox in her examination of the financial memoranda of Edward V’s reign has concluded that there was very little treasure to be divided. In Richard III: A Study in Service, she writes that the measures against the French, costing £3,670, had depleted the cash reserves left by Edward IV and that these expenditures likely were the source of Mancini’s tale of a Woodville treasury raid. Moreover, as Horrox notes in her article, “Financial Memoranda of the Reign of Edward V,” Edward IV’s cash reserves were low to begin with, thanks to two years of war with Scotland.

If there was any treasure to be divided up, there is no evidence that Elizabeth Woodville had any share of it; as Horrox points out, she was living in straitened circumstances in sanctuary. Moreover, Richard III took no steps, either as protector or as king, to recover any treasure from Elizabeth. Had there been any in her possession, he would have certainly required her to disgorge it either on May 7, when the Archbishop of Canterbury ordered the sequestration of Edward IV’s goods, jewels, and seals, on June 16, when Richard sent numerous armed men to Westminster Abbey to help persuade Elizabeth to surrender her youngest son to Richard’s custody, or no later than 1484, when Elizabeth agreed to leave sanctuary and was given a pension by Richard. It is hardly comprehensible that Richard, who was actively seizing Woodville lands as early as mid-May of 1483, would have sat back passively and allowed Elizabeth to keep treasure to which she had no legal right.

As for Edward Woodville, it’s important first to remember, as Mancini’s editor, C. A. J. Armstrong, points out, that there was a genuine French threat against England at the time Edward Woodville went out to sea, supposedly with his share of the treasure. “It seems that the men and moneys raised by the council, where the Woodvilles predominated, were genuinely intended for national defence and not for designs against Richard, as no sooner was Edward [IV] dead than the council ordered the embarkation of 300 men- at-arms for the defence of Calais” (Mancini, p. 145 n.58). Nothing indicates that when Edward went to sea on orders of the council, he had anything else in mind other than performing his appointed task of fighting the French raiders. (The council has been criticized for commissioning Edward for this task in the absence of Richard, but it would have surely been irresponsible, and quite stupid, to sit back and let the French prey on English shipping while waiting for Richard to arrive in London.)

By the middle of the month, Edward and his fleet were gathered at Southampton, where Edward did acquire treasure: on May 14, 1483, he seized ₤10,250 in English gold coins from a vessel there as forfeit to the crown. There was nothing secretive about this seizure; Edward gave an indenture in which he bound himself to repay the sum in English merchandise should the gold not be found to be forfeit; if the gold was found to be forfeit, he bound himself to answer to the king for this sum. At the time Edward made this indenture, he likely had no reason to believe that anything was amiss with Edward V or the rest of his family; he had put to sea on April 30, the same day his brother Anthony Woodville and his nephew Richard Grey were arrested by Richard. The news of the arrests did not get to London until that evening, and Edward might well have embarked from a location other than London anyway. Thus, there is no reason to believe that when he made the indenture he intended to appropriate the coins for any reason other than for the benefit of the crown.

On May 14, the same day Edward issued his indenture, however, Richard, who on May 10 had ordered men to "go to the Downs among Sir Edward and his company," instructed men to go to the sea with ships to arrest him. (Had Edward been in possession of treasure stolen from the Tower, it seems likely that the arrest order would have come a lot earlier.) Edward and two of his ships escaped. Presumably Edward took the gold coins with him upon his escape, for nothing more is heard of them. Once Edward learned of the orders for his own arrest, and probably learned also that his brother Anthony and his nephew Richard Grey were in custody, he must have feared for the safety of Edward V and the rest of his family and could hardly be expected to leave the coins behind to fall into the coffers of a government controlled by the man who had ordered the arrests.

That brings us to the third person said to have absconded with the royal treasure, Thomas Grey, the Marquess of Dorset. Simon Stallworth wrote a letter on June 9, 1483, stating, "wher so evyr kanne be founde any godyse of my lord Markues it is tayne. The Prior of Westminster wasse and yet is in a gret trobyll for certeyne godys delyvered to hyme by my Lord Markues." Armstrong has interpreted this letter to mean that Richard was attempting to recover Dorset’s share of the treasure, but it’s noteworthy that the reference is to the Marquess’s own goods, not to goods in his possession belonging to the crown. It seems more likely, then, that Richard’s agents were simply rounding up property belonging to the Marquess, as part of the seizure of Woodville property in which Richard was engaged. (Dorset was evidently believed to have taken to sea with Edward Woodville, for Richard in ordering Edward’s arrest had specifically excluded Dorset from those who could be received by Richard’s agents if they chose to make their peace with the regime.) The “certain goods” delivered to the Prior of Westminster could refer to stolen treasure, but it could also simply mean that Dorset was attempting to conceal or safeguard his own property by leaving it with the prior. Thus, all Stallworth’s letter tells us is that there was royal interest in Dorset’s goods, but it furnishes no clue as to their nature.

The other main contemporary source for the events of 1483, the Crowland chronicler, mentions no Woodville treasury raid; indeed, he writes that in 1484, Richard III was better prepared to resist his enemies “not only because of the treasure which he had in hand—since what King Edward had left behind had not yet all been consumed.” Thomas More, on the other hand, did pick up on the rumors about the treasury. He has Richard and the Duke of Buckingham telling Edward V “that the lord marquis had entered into the Tower of London, and thence taken out the king’s treasure, and sent men to the sea.” More makes it clear, however, that the dukes were misrepresenting Dorset’s intentions: “All which thing these dukes wist well were done for good purposes and necessary by the whole council at London.” The Great Chronicle of London, a source not particularly sympathetic to the Woodvilles, makes no mention of a treasury raid.

So that leaves us with the rumor reported by Mancini, to be set against Horrox’s evidence that there was very little in the treasury at the time the Woodvilles were supposedly robbing it. There’s no evidence that Elizabeth had any treasure with her, no evidence that Edward Woodville had any treasure other than the gold coins he seized on May 14, and no evidence as to what sort of goods of Dorset’s were being sought after or as to what goods Dorset had given to the Prior of Westminster. Since Richard III’s defenders are quite fond of noting that a murder case against him could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a modern court of law, perhaps they should also consider whether the charges of theft against the Woodvilles could be proven under such a standard. Personally, I doubt that such a flimsy case could even make it to a jury.


C. A. J. Armstrong, ed., The Usurpation of Richard III. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969 (2d. ed.).

Rosemary Horrox, ed., “Financial Memoranda of the Reign of Edward V.” Camden Miscellany, vol. xxix, 1987.

Rosemary Horrox, Richard III: A Study in Service. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991 (paperback edition).

Nicholas Pronay and John Cox, eds., The Crowland Chronicle Continuations, 1459–1486. London: Richard III and Yorkist History Trust, 1986.

Richard S. Sylvester, ed., The History of King Richard III and Selections from the English and Latin Poems. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1976.

A. H. Thomas and I. D. Thornley, eds., The Great Chronicle of London. London: Sutton Publishing, 1983 (reprint).

Christopher Wilkins, The Last Knight Errant: Sir Edward Woodville and the Age of Chivalry. London: I. B. Tauris, 2010.