Thursday, April 29, 2010

Website Updates

Yesterday (yes, I should have been writing), I added a couple of pages to my website. One is a page with contemporary quotes about Margaret of Anjou (I'll be adding to it), and the other is a gallery of images of Margaret of Anjou as well as samples of her signatures. If you've visited Margaret's Facebook page, you've seen the images, but for those who aren't on Facebook, now you can see them on my website!

Incidentally, while Margaret is delighted that her fellow maligned monarch, Edward II, has so many friends on Facebook, she is quite appalled that Edward IV's younger brother, Richard III, has over six times as many Facebook friends as Margaret! Do make Margaret feel better by befriending her on Facebook. (At least the gregarious Edward IV doesn't have a Facebook page at all. Yet.)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Margaret of Anjou's Will

Margaret of Anjou's starkly simple will, executed on August 2, 1482, is a vivid testament to her reduced fortunes at the end of her life. Here's an excerpt from it, as translated into English by J. J. Bagley in his biography Margaret of Anjou, Queen of England:

I, Margaret of Anjou, . . . sound of mind, reason and thought, however weak and feeble of body, make and declare this my last will and testament in the manner following. First I give and recommend my soul to God . . . my body also I give to God . . . and it is my will and desire that it be buried and interred in holy ground according to the good will and pleasure of the King [i.e., King Louis XI of France], and, if it pleases him, I elect and choose to be buried in the Cathedral Church of Saint Maurice d'Angers with Monseigneur, my late father, and Madame, my mother. . . . Item, my will is . . . that the few goods which God and he [Louis] have given and lent to me be used for this purpose and for the paying of my debts as much to my poor servants . . . as to other creditors to whom I am indebted. . . . And should my few goods be insufficient to do this, as I believe they are . . . I implore the said lord, the King, to meet and pay the outstanding debts as the sole heir of the wealtth which I inherited through my father and my mother and my other relations and ancestors. . . .

Margaret's will was witnessed by, among others, Katherine Vaux, who had been one of Margaret's ladies since at least 1452-53 and whose husband had fallen at Tewkesbury. Katherine returned to England and was still alive at the time of Henry VIII's coronation; her two children became pillars of Tudor society.

The French version of the will is given by Lecoy de la Marche in the second volume of his 1875 work entitled Le roi Rene. It's on the Internet Archive, but in the spirit of one-stop blogging, here's the entire will as it appears in Lecoy de la Marche. Note that Margaret refers to herself as "Queen of England."


2 août 1482.

Je, Marguerite d'Anjou, fille du feu roy de Sicille, reyne d'Angleterre, seyne d'entendement, raison et pensée, combien que débille et inferme de corps, faitz et ordonne mon testament et dernière voulenté et ordonnance en la manière qui s'ensuit. Premièrement, je donne et recommande mon âme à Dieu, mon créateur, à la glorieuse vierge Marye et à tous les benoitz sainctz et sainctes, par espécial à monseigneur saint Michel, prince des anges, et à mon bon ange depputé à ma garde, afin que, à l'eure de mon trespassement, il leur plaise la recevoir en leur compagnye et la garder et deffendre des assaulx et invasions de tous mauvaiz esperiz et ennemys de humain lignage, et qui leur plaise la conduire et recevoir en paradis. Mon corps aussi je donne à Dieu et ausdits saincts, et est mon vouloir et désir qu'il soit enterré et ensevely en sépulture ecclésiastique, selon le bon vouloir et plaisir du Roy; et, si lui plaist, je esliz et choisiz pour ce estre mise et ensevelye en l'esglise cathédralle de Saint-Maurice d'Angers, avecques feu monseigneur mon père et madame ma mère et mes autres parens et antécesseurs, en telle manière qu'il plaira au Roy ordonner, ou en autre tel lieu qu'il plaira au Roy. Item, mon vouloir est, si plaist audit seigneur Roy, que le petit de biens que Dieu et luy m'ont donnez et prestez soient pour ce faire employez, et aussi pour payer mes dettes, tant à mes pouvres serviteurs, lesquelz je recommande très humblement et affectueusement à la bonne grâce et charyté dudit seigneur Roy, que aussi aux autres crédicteurs à qui je suis tenue, soit pour vitaille, denrées ou services et autres nécessitez qu'ilz m'ont faictes et administrées, comme raison est. Et ou cas que mesdits petitz biens ne souffiroient pour ce faire, comme je croy que ne font ilz, en ce cas je supplye audit seigneur le Roy qui luy plaise de sa grâce, pour la descharge de son âme et de la myenne, faire satisfaire et payer le surplus comme mon seul héritier des biens qui m'appartiennent â cause de succession de père et de mère et de mes autres parens et antécesseurs, comme en luy en est mon espoir et fiance ; car despieça j'ay esleu ledit seigneur Roy mon héritier seul et principal, et maintenant le choisiz et esliz mon principal héritier et exécuteur, et telz autres exécuteurs qu'il luy plaira ordonner pour parfaire mondit exécucion de ce présent testament et dernière voulenté, en luy suppliant très humblement qui luy plaise y ordonner et entendre. Laquelle ordonnance de ladite dame soit faicte en nostre présence, le deuxiesme jour d'aoust, en l'an de grâce mil cccc quatre vingts et deux, en la présence de Jehan Lespinay, escuier, et Macé de Lespinay, escuier, Jehan Whithil, escuier, et Jehan, eschançon, et madame Catherine de Vaulx, Perrecte de la Rivière, Blanche Alorretc et autres, et signé à sa requeste de noz sings manuelz.

G. de la Barre, Poynet, prebstres et noctaires.

Margaret, born on March 23, 1430, died on August 25, 1482, less than a year before the death of her nemesis, Edward IV. She spent the last two years of her life in the chateau of Dampierre near Saumur, in Anjou. Having relinquished her rights in her Angevin inheritance to Louis XI, she died as the guest of Francois de la Vignolles, a servant of her late father. Famously, Louis promptly wrote to a Madame de Montsereau, "I am sending to you my equerry, Jean de Chasteaudreux, to bring me all the dogs you have had from the late queen of England. You know she had made me her heir, and that this is all I shall get; also it is what I love best. I pray you not to keep any back, for you would cause me a terribly great displeasure." (Quoted in Cora Scofield, The Life and Reign of Edward the Fourth.)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Speaking of Margaret of Anjou's Marriage . . .

My husband found this print in a rare bookstore when we were visiting Richmond, Virginia, last weekend. There were a whole bunch of prints of English royalty in this vein, but, alas, I could only get this one!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Happy Anniversary to Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou

On April 22, 1445, fifteen-year-old Margaret of Anjou married twenty-three-year-old Henry VI at Titchfield Abbey.

Margaret and Henry had been formally betrothed a year before, on May 24, 1444, at Tours, with William de la Pole, then the Earl of Suffolk, standing proxy for the king. Suffolk had arranged the marriage in exchange for a truce with France; modern historians have discredited the story that as part of the negotiations, he secretly promised to cede Maine to the French. Nonetheless, when disaster overtook the English in France a few years later, the popular backlash against those deemed responsible for the debacle would cost Suffolk his life in 1450.

Following her betrothal, Margaret was brought back to her father’s castle at Angers, where she remained until February 1445, when she went to Nancy to attend her older sister’s wedding. (Margaret is often said to have married Henry by proxy at Nancy at this time, but B.M. Cron has cast serious doubts on these accounts.) After her sister’s wedding festivities were concluded, Margaret began her journey into English-occupied Normandy. At Pontoise on March 18, 1445, the task of greeting Margaret fell, ironically enough, to Richard, Duke of York, who was Henry VI’s lieutenant in Normandy and France. York escorted Margaret to Rouen, where she turned 15 on March 23.

Henry VI had arranged for his young bride to enter Rouen in style. He had sent her a chariot covered in cloth of gold, drawn by six white horses, in which to make her entrance. Unfortunately, Margaret, who was dogged by illness throughout these proceedings, was too sick to ride in her fine new chariot: Alice de la Pole, the Marchioness of Suffolk (her husband had been made marquis by a grateful Henry VI) took her place. Probably at Rouen the ailing Margaret had the opportunity to meet Cecily, Duchess of York, and the four children she and York had at the time: Anne, Edward, Edmund, and Elizabeth.

Margaret sailed to England from Harfleur on the Cokke John of Cherbourg, whose master, Thomas Adam, was later rewarded by Henry VI with a grant of 20 marks annually. Margaret landed at April 9 at Portsmouth. The next day, she traveled by water to Southampton, and was serenaded on the way by seven trumpeters, playing on two Genoese galleys.

The Victorian writers, and modern writers who have picked up on their accounts, go into great detail about the horrors of Margaret’s voyage to England. They add the touching story that poor Margaret was so prostrated by her journey that she had to be carried ashore by Suffolk, but after a day of trying I haven’t been able to trace this story past Agnes Strickland. It is known, however, that Margaret was sick after her arrival in England, for Henry VI was unable to attend the St. George’s Day Garter festivities because of her illness. On April 16, he wrote from Southwick, "Oure moost dere and best beloved wyf the Quene is yet seke of the labour and indisposicion of the sea, by occasion of which the pokkes been broken out upon hir, for which cause we may not in oure own personne holde the feste of Saint George at oure castel of Wyndesore."

Margaret’s illness was probably relatively mild, for a Margarta Chamberleyne, “tyremakere,” was sent from London to attend to her wardrobe while the queen was in Southampton. She might have received another visitor as well: In 1458, an Italian correspondent to the Duchess of Milan claimed that Henry had disguised himself as a squire and handed the queen a letter so that he could observe her while he was reading it, on the theory that a woman could be “seen over well when she reads a letter.” Whether Henry, who as a squire was kept on his knees by the queen as she read the letter, liked what he saw is unrecorded.

Little is known about the marriage ceremony that finally took place at Titchfield Abbey. Margaret’s wedding ring was made from a ring of gold “garnished with a fair ruby” that had been given to Henry VI by Cardinal Beaufort when Henry was crowned at Paris. The marriage was performed by William Aiscough, bishop of Salisbury, the king’s confessor. Like Suffolk, the bishop was to suffer a tragic fate: he was murdered in 1450. The bride received an unusual wedding present, from a sadly unrecorded donor: a lion, which was duly conveyed to the menagerie at the Tower.

Whether the couple consummated their marriage on their wedding night is, as one would expect, unknown. Margaret would be crowned on May 30, 1445, but she would have to wait until October 13, 1453, before she finally bore an heir.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Stolen Crown Giveaway!

Dropping by to let you know that Jess over at Confessions of a Book Hoarder is giving away a copy of The Stolen Crown. Stop by her blog and leave a comment to enter, and good luck! (You have until May 2 to enter.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Married to the Enemy: A Guest Post by Christy English

I'm delighted to welcome Christy English, author of the newly released The Queen's Pawn, a novel about Eleanor of Aquitaine and Alais, Princess of France. Take it away, Christy!

Married to the Enemy: Medieval Marriage and Political Alliance

In my novel, Alais, Princess of France, is sent away from her father, King Louis VII at the age of nine to marry among her father’s enemies, one of the sons of King Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine. This arrangement was typical for medieval princesses in the 12th century. French princesses endured a long tradition of being sent away as a child to their husbands’ court.

Our modern concept of true love leading to marriage is something that greeting card companies began to sell as a commodity in the nineteenth century. In 1169, when Alais was first betrothed to Richard, Prince of England, no such concept existed.

The Art of Courtly Love had already begun in the South, in Aquitaine and Poitou, and its ideas had begun to spread to other courts in Europe, but Courtly Love was the love of a knight for his lady, or in Eleanor of Aquitaine’s case, a knight for his Duchess. Courtly Love had nothing to do with marriage, almost always involving a young knight trying to make his way at court, writing songs to the wife of the man to whom he owed fealty. While bawdy and sometimes adulterous, the Court of Love did not preside over marriage in the 12th century. Marriage was a business arrangement, and a political one. Princess Alais, for example, was shipped off to her father’s enemies at the age of nine after Louis VII and Henry II signed a peace treaty that also stated other, more important things, such as that Richard, Prince of England, would one day be confirmed as Duke in Aquitaine. Though that treaty ruled Alais’ experiences for the rest of her life, the marriage of Alais to Richard was a sidebar to the treaty itself. At best, that betrothal might be seen as the glue for a treaty that everyone knew would fall apart in two years’ time, if not sooner.

A medieval princess knew that her life, and the lives of her children, would be given over to her father’s enemies in an attempt to maintain a fragile peace. This peace was often broken, and in extreme cases as with Princess Alais, after living among her betrothed’s kin for years, a princess’ marriage still might not come to fruition. Political marriages and the treaties they were written on were constantly in flux. Whether Richard rejected Alais because of her affair with his father, or for some other reason altogether, Alais spent all of her youth, from the time she was nine until the time she was thirty-five, in the hands of first her father’s and then her brother’s enemies.

Princess Alais had a particularly difficult time, though no medieval princess lived in a rose covered bower. Alais was shuttled from one part of Henry II’s realm to another, until upon his death in 1189, Richard sent her to Rouen, where she stayed for almost six years. Her brother, King Philippe Auguste, lobbied constantly to get her back, going so far as to besiege Rouen’s city gates, but Richard would not allow Alais to return to her brother until the spring of 1195. Meanwhile, Richard rode on Crusade in an attempt to free Jerusalem, marrying Berengaria of Navarre on his way to the Holy Land. Berengaria was Richard’s queen for years before he finally sent Alais home. Once Alais was allowed to return to Paris, her brother wasted no time in marrying her off to an obscure nobleman, the Count of Ponthieu. Alais falls off the political chessboard at that point, and there is very little written about her after that. No longer a sacrifice to her father’s or her brother’s political strategies, Alais escaped into private life. Once she was free of politics, I hope Alais was happy.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Letter to Margaret of Anjou

Since some of you found the letter from the Earl of Oxford of interest, here's one of my favorite letters from the Paston collection. It's written to Margaret of Anjou on August 30, 1461, by two of her and Henry VI's most faithful followers: Robert Hungerford and Robert Whittingham.

Following the defeat at Towton, Margaret and Henry had gone into exile in Scotland. Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, accompanied by Hungerford and Whittingham, went to France to meet with King Charles VII, only to find when they arrived that Charles had died and that they would have to deal with his son, Louis XI, who promptly imprisoned the three Englishmen. All three were freed eventually, but the last line of the letter is made poignant by the ill fates of all three men: Somerset and Hungerford were among the 30 men captured and executed by John Neville, Lord Montagu, after the battle of Hexham in 1464; Whittingham died at the battle of Tewkesbury in 1471.

Note the reference to the "Earl of March": though Edward IV was the ruling king at the time, Hungerford and Whittingham refused to call him by his royal title.


To the Queen of England, in Scotland.

Madam, please it your good God, we have since our coming hither written to your highness thrice; the first we sent by Bruges, to be sent to you by the first vessel that went into Scotland; the other two letters were sent from Dieppe, the one, by the carvel in the which we came; and the other, in another vessel; but, madam, all was one thing in substance, of putting you in knowledge of the kings your uncle's death, whom God assoyl, and how we stood arrested, and do yet. But on Tuesdey next we trust and understand we shall up to the king your cousin germain. His commissaries, at the first of our tarrying, took all our letters and writings, and bear them up to the king; leaving my Lord of Somerset in keeping at the castle of Arques; and my fellow Whityngham and me (for we had safe conduct) in the town of Dieppe, where we are yet. But on Tuesday next we understand that it pleaseth the said king's highness that we shall come to his presence: and are charged to bring us up Monsieur de Cressell, now bailiff of Canse and Monsieur de la Mot.

Madam, ferth you not, but be of good comfort, and beware that ye adventure not your person, nor my lord the Prince, by the sea, till ye have other word from us; in less than your person cannot be sure there as ye are, and that extreme necessity drive you thence. And for God's sake the king's highness be advised the same; for as we be informed the Earl of March is into Wales by land, and hath sent his navy thither by sea. And madam, think verily, we shall not sooner be delivered but that we will come straight to you, without death take us by the way; the which we trust he will not, till we see the king and you peaceable again in your realm; the which we beseech God soon to see, and to send you that your highness desireth.

Written at Dieppe, the 30th day of August.

Your true subjects and liege men,


[taken from John Fenn's edition of the Paston Letters)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Letter of John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, to His Wife

On the anniversary of the battle of Barnet, which was fought on April 14, 1471, I thought I'd share this letter from the Paston collection (from John Fenn's edition). It was written by John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, shortly after the Lancastrian defeat at the battle. Oxford probably did not see his wife again until 1485, when after years of exile and imprisonment, he returned to England with Henry Tudor's forces and joined in the victory at Bosworth.

To the right reverend and worshipful Lady:

Right reverend and worshipful lady, I recommend me to you, letting you weet that I am in great heaviness at the making of this letter; but thanked be God I am escaped myself, and suddenly departed from my men; for I understand my chaplain would have defrayed [betrayed] me: and if he come into the country let him be made sure, &c.

Also ye shall give credence to the bringer of this letter, and I beseech you to reward him to his costs; for I was not in power at the making of this letter to give him, but as I was put in trust by favour of strange people, &c.

Also ye shall send me in all haste all the ready money that ye can make; and as many of my men as can come well horsed, and that they come in divers parcels.

Also that my horses be sent with my steel saddles, and bid the yeoman of the horse cover them with leather.

Also ye shall send to my mother, and let her weet of this letter and pray her of her blessing, and bid her send me my casket by this token; that she hath the key thereof, but it is broken.

Also ye shall send to the Prior of Thetford, and bid him send me the sum of gold that he said that I should have; also say to him by this token; that I showed him the first privy seal, &c.

Also let Paston, Felbrig, and Brews, come to me.

Also ye shall deliver the bringer of this letter an horse, saddle, and bridle.

Also ye shall be of good cheer, and take no thought, for I shall bring my purpose about now by the grace of God who have you in keeping.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Edward of Lancaster

(First, after I began writing this, Karen Clark posted an excellent piece on the marriage of Anne Neville and Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Do check it out.)

One of the set pieces in almost every novel set during the Wars of the Roses--or at least every novel sympathetic to Richard III, which very nearly amounts to the same thing--is the scene where the hapless little Anne Neville is forced by her ambitious father to marry Edward of Lancaster, the vicious son of Margaret of Anjou. (In nine out of ten such novels, he's not the son of Henry VI.) Depending on the novel, the marriage will be consummated in circumstances that are little distinguishable from rape or will be unconsummated in accordance with the Lancastrian goal of casting off Anne as a bride at the first opportunity.

There is, of course, a reason for painting Anne's marriage to Edward in such a dismal light: Anne is pining for her childhood sweetheart, Richard, Duke of Gloucester. So that her trials before she finally enters into marital bliss with Richard can be all the more heart-rending, she cannot be even mildly satisfied in her marriage to Edward. (The possibility that Anne might look forward to becoming Edward's queen cannot be entertained; ambition in these novels is only for evil female characters, like Elizabeth Woodville and Margaret Beaufort.)

Needless to say, Anne's feelings at her husband's death at Tewkesbury at age seventeen generally range from indifference to outright relief. Only Margaret of Anjou is allowed to grieve for her son, and the typical novel will usually manage to temper any sympathy the reader might feel for her with a jibe about her being responsible for her son's death and so many others. (Because, of course, any sensible medieval queen would have simply sat back and let her son be disinherited in favor of the noble Duke of York.)

So what was the real Edward of Lancaster like? The most famous description of him is that written on February 14, 1467, by Giovanni Pietro Panicharolla, Milanese Ambassador in France, to the Duchess and Duke of Milan. In recounting a dinner conversation between King Louis of France and Duke John of Calabria (Margaret of Anjou's brother), the ambassador wrote:

As the king persisted in his praise of the Earl of Warwick, the duke said that as he was so fond of him he ought to try and restore his sister in that kingdom, when he would make sure of it as much as he was sure at present and even more so.

The king asked what security they would give or if they would offer the queen's son as a hostage. This boy, though only thirteen years of age, already talks of nothing but of cutting off heads or making war, as if he had everything in his hands or was the god of battle or the peaceful occupant of that throne (quale essendo in la eta di tredece anni gia, non parla cha di fare tagliare teste o far guerra, como se tuto havesse in mano o fosse dio de la bataglia o pacifico posessor di quello regno). . . .

After some further discussion the duke began to complain about his Majesty without any respect, saying he had never loved their house; to which the king retorted that the House of Anjou had given him reason for this. Thus, half joking, they said very sharp things to each other during the dinner.

There are a couple of things that should give us pause before taking this "cutting off heads" statement as the sum total of young Edward's character. First, as Margaret Kekewich notes in her biography of Rene of Anjou, Panicharolla (Panigarola) "detested the Angevins," so his description of young Edward should be viewed in that context. Second, if Edward did indeed talk constantly of cutting off heads and making war, it doesn't seem all that unreasonable under the circumstances: Edward's father was a prisoner in the Tower, after all, and the Lancastrian cause was at its most hopeless at the time. Third, Edward was thirteen when this description of him was written. How many of us, even at seventeen, would like to be judged upon what we said and did at thirteen?

This is not to say that Edward was not a militarily-minded youth: Chief Justice John Fortescue, who shared exile with Edward and his mother, wrote in his legal treatise De Laudibus Legum Angliae, which largely takes the form of a dialogue between him and the prince:

The prince, as soon as he became grown up, gave himself over entirely to martial exercises; and, seated on fierce and half-tamed steeds urged on by his spurs, he often delighted in attacking and assaulting the young companions attending him, sometimes with a lance, sometimes with a sword, sometimes with other weapons, in a warlike manner and in accordance with the rules of military discipline.

Urging Edward in his dialogue that he wished that Edward would be "devoted to the study of the laws with the same zeal as you are to that of arms, since, as battles are determined by arms, so judgements are by laws," Fortescue nonetheless adds that it is fitting for young Edward to take delight in military exercises "not merely because you are a knight but all the more because you are going to be king. For the office of the king is to fight the battles of his people and to judge them rightfully."

Aside from these two descriptions of Edward, one from a hostile source and one from a friendly one, we don't have any glimmerings of Edward's character. Even if he was the bloodthirsty youth depicted by Panicharolla, however, this wouldn't necessarily preclude him from being a loving husband or from having other good qualities: the example of the fierce Edward I's great affection for Eleanor of Castile comes to mind.

When the time came at last for Edward to put his military training into use, he did not shy from the reality of battle: he fought and died at Tewkesbury at age seventeen. Like Edmund, Earl of Rutland, who had died at Wakefield at the same age, he probably was killed in the rout.

It's interesting to speculate what type of king Prince Edward would have made had the Lancastrians instead of Edward IV won the battle of Tewkesbury. The circumstances of his youth--growing up in an impoverished exile, dogged by rumors of bastardy, fathered by a man who was insane at his son's birth and who even after his recovery seems to have been fragile mentally--might have made him into a bitter, cold man, or they might have made him into an attractive figure like Charles II, who grew up in not entirely dissimilar circumstances. We shall never know, but surely that's no excuse for novelists to keep churning out the same stereotypical picture of a young man whose life was cut tragically short.

Friday, April 09, 2010

English History in One Syllable

Four years ago at a flea market, I found an 1898 book entitled History of England in Words of One Syllable, which was part of an entire series entitled "Burt's One Syllable Histories." And except for proper nouns (which are broken up syllabically), the author, Mrs. Helen W. Pierson, accomplishes her task according to her publisher's specifications.

Here's how Mrs. Pierson deals with some of our favorite folks:

Now this young man, Pier Gav-es-ton, was wild and bad, and led the king into all sorts of vice.

Needless to say, Mrs. Pierson does not elaborate here, either out of propriety or out of a lack of suitable one-syllable words, I can't say.

But the weak king took a new friend, and did not seem to mind it at all. This new friend was a brave, fine young man by the name of Hugh De-spen-ser. He might have won the love of all if he had not been the friend of the king, but this made men hate him.

The Victorians, by the way, seemed to almost approve of Hugh le Despenser the younger. Maybe it was all that time he spent writing letters? Or that energy he demonstrated as a pirate?

The Queen Is-a-bel-la had a vile friend by the name of Mor-ti-mer, and the two took the rule of the land in their own hands. The young King Ed-ward III was a boy of twelve, but as soon as he grew to knew what vile acts had been done, he had some of the queen's worst friends put to death.

"Vile" gets a real workout in this book.

Hen-ry the Sixth, of Wind-sor, grew to be a weak man who had no strength of will. His wife, Mar-ga-ret of An-jou, who was fierce and bold, had things for the most part her own way. The king was good and mild,and would read and pray and praise God all the time, while his queen rode rough shod, as it were, through his realm.

Was Mrs. Pierson cheating just a little, mayhap, by turning "roughshod" into two words?

The king [Edward IV] did not live long to taste the joys of peace. There is not much good to be said of him, save that he had a fine face and form and was brave.

Watch out! Guess who's coming!

Now Rich-ard, Duke of Glou-ces-ter, of whom you have heard, who was known as Crook-back, from his odd form, had a wish to have the crown. . . . As he knew he had no right to the throne, he did not feel at ease till he had made way with the real heirs in the Tow-er.

But don't despair, Ricardians, because Mrs. Pierson isn't fond of Henry VII either:

Hen-ry the Sev-enth was a stiff, cold man, who, though fond of show, was mean in his ways.

But there was an upside to this:

There was peace in En-gland for years, and the young men had time to read books, which were by that time in print, and learn things of use to them.

I believe that my favorite section is that on Charles II, however:

He spent the last Sun-day of his life at play with his gay friends at cards.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Was Edward, Earl of Warwick Locked in the Tower?

Some time back, I wrote a post about the claim that Thomas Grey, Marquis of Dorset, had mistreated his ward, Edward, Earl of Warwick, causing him to become mentally retarded. The upshot of the post was that there's no evidence that any of Warwick's guardians mistreated him before he had the misfortune to be imprisoned by Henry VII in the Tower, where he spent the rest of his life before being executed in 1499 at age 24.

Warwick's story--his father, George, Duke of Clarence, was executed at Edward IV's orders in 1478--is undoubtedly a tragic one. Yet as I was reminded on an Amazon forum the other day, some modern admirers of Richard III have not only claimed, without any supporting evidence, that Dorset mistreated his ward, but have also alleged, again without any evidence, that Warwick was imprisoned by Dorset (the eldest son of Elizabeth Woodville by her first marriage) before being liberated by Richard III.

Audrey Williamson in The Mystery of the Princes, for instance, writes that Dorset kept "the boy in safe custody, in the Tower" and later that it was "Dorset . . . who kept the ill-starred Warwick immured in the Tower." Though Williamson's book does contain references, she doesn't cite any for her claim that Dorset (whose conduct, naturally, is contrasted with that of the saintly Richard) locked Warwick in the Tower.

Bertram Fields in Royal Blood also repeats the story of Warwick's imprisonment: "Clarence's son, Warwick, had also lived in the Tower after his father's attainder in 1478, having been ordered by Edward IV to remain there in the custody of the marquess of Dorset" (p. 123). Though the publisher of Royal Blood omitted the references the author supplied, they can be found at the Richard III Society's American branch website. The notes for the page on which this statement appears, however, contain no citation to support Fields' statement about Warwick.

Williamson's and Fields' unsourced statements about Dorset locking Warwick in the Tower likely originate with Clements Markham, who wrote a book in defense of Richard III in 1906. Markham writes that Richard "liberated [Warwick] from durance in the Tower, where he had been kept by the Marquis of Dorset as his ward, ever since the death of his father Clarence." Markham cites no evidence for his statement. (In Markham's favor, by the way, he writes rather chivalrously of Margaret of Anjou, which is rare among Ricardian writers.)

Modern academic historians, by contrast, offer no support for the notion that Dorset imprisoned Warwick in the Tower. Christine Carpenter in her Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry on Warwick makes no reference to Warwick's being imprisoned in the Tower prior to Henry VII's reign. Cora Scofield, whose biography of Edward IV is unsurpassed in its detail, makes no mention of Warwick's being in the Tower, either as a prisoner or as a resident, although she did find a reference to one of the boy's attendants, Agnes Stanley. Charles Ross in his biography of Edward IV mentions only that Dorset was given the wardship and marriage of Warwick. Hazel Pierce in her biography of Warwick's sister, Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, likewise does not state that Dorset imprisoned either Warwick or his sister. Paul Murray Kendall, who was not at all inclined to miss an opportunity at taking a swipe at the Woodvilles, does not claim they incarcerated Warwick. He simply writes that the boy was brought "up from the country" to join Richard's household when he took power.

What do contemporary sources say about Warwick's whereabouts? Mancini writes that about the same time Richard, Duke of Gloucester, took Richard, Duke of York, out of sanctuary, he "gave orders that the son of the duke of Clarence, his other brother, then a boy of ten years old, should come to the city: and commanded that the lad should be kept in confinement in the household of his wife." If Edward was already a prisoner in the Tower before this time, it's odd that Mancini would write that he was brought to the city.

In fact, Edward IV's wardrobe accounts for 1480 suggest that far from being immured in the Tower, Warwick was being handsomely outfitted, at least as far as his feet were concerned:

To th'Erle of Warrewyk to have for his were and use, iiij peire of shoon double soled and a peire of shoon of Spaynyssh leder sengle soled, by vertue of a warrant undre the Kinges signe manuelle and signet bering date the second day of Juyn in the xx{ti} yere of the moost noble reigne of our said Souverain Lorde the King,
Shoon: iiij paire double soled; a pair of Spaynyssh leder sengle soled.

To th'Erle of Warrewyk to have of the yifte of oure said Souverain Lorde the Kyng for his use and were, a peire of shoon sengle soled of blue leder; a paire of shoon of Spaynyssh leder; a paire of botews of tawny Spaynyssh leder; and ij paire shoon sengle soled; and to Sir William A Parre Knyght to have of the yift of oure said Souverain Lorde the King for covering of his brygandyns, iij yerdes and iij quarters of crymysyn cloth of gold uppon satin grounde; and to the Maister of the Kinges Barge ayenst the commyng of the righte high and right noble Princesse Lady Margarete the Duchesse of Bourgoingne suster unto our saide Souverain Lorde the Kyng, a gowne of blac chamelet, by vertue of a warrant undre the Kynges signet and signe manuelle bering date the xxiiij{ti} day of Juylle in the xx{ti} yere of the moost noble reigne of oure said Souverain Lord the Kyng unto the saide Piers Courteys for deliveree of the said stuff directe, Cremysyn clothe of gold the grounde satyn, iij yerdes iij quarters; chamelet, ix yerdes di'; Shoon: j paire sengle of blue leder; a paire of Spaynyssh leder sengle soled; ij paire blac; Botews, j paire of tawny Spaynyssh leder.

Indeed, the latter entry suggests that little Warwick was being dressed up to see his aunt Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, who was soon to visit England.

Finally, contrary to the notion that Warwick was in Dorset's custody immediately after the death of Clarence, Dorset was not granted Warwick's wardship and marriage until September 16, 1480, more than two years after Clarence's execution. You can find the grant on page 212 of the Calendar of the Patent Rolls, 1476-1485, which is on the Internet Archive and Google Books. (Note also that Dorset paid for the wardship.)

Grant to the king's kinsman Thomas, marquess of Dorset, for the sum of 2,000£. paid by him to the king, of the custody of the lordship or manor of Ryngwood, co. Southampton, the lordship or manor of Canford with its members, co. Dorset, the lordship or manor of Dunyate with Dunpole with its members and the lordship or manor of Yarlyngton and Shipton, co. Somerset, the lordship or manor of Ambresbury and the hundred of Ambresbury, Wynterbourne and Alleworthbury, co. Wilts, the borough, town, hundred and liberty of Teukesbury, the lordship, manor or hundred of King's Barton by Bristol alias Barton Bristol and the great court of Bristol alias the great court of the honour of Gloucester by Bristol called Earles Court, co Gloucester, and the lordship or manor of Busheley, co. Worcester, with knights' fees, advowsons, wards, marriages, reliefs, escheats, courts, leets, views of frank-pledge, fairs, markets, parks, forests, launds, chaces, warrens, waters, fisheries, liberties, franchises, profits and other commodities from Easter last during the minority of Edward son and heir of Isabel late the wife of George, duke of Clarence, and the custody and marriage of the latter without disparagement, and so from heir to heir, without rendering anything to the king until he shall be fully satisfied of the said sum, finding a competent sustenance for the said Edward. By p.s.

Nothing I've found indicates where Dorset lodged his ward after obtaining his custody in 1480, but guardians often raised wards in their own households, and it's quite likely that Dorset followed this practice. It's also likely that Dorset planned to marry Warwick to one of his own daughters (he eventually had eight daughters by his second wife, Cecily Bonville).

So for the story that Dorset imprisoned his ward, we have only the statements of three twentieth-century writers, none of whom cite a supporting source and all of whom are biased heavily in favor of Richard III and against the Woodvilles. Not, I think, the most reliable accounts--but, sadly, those modern writers who are hostile to the Woodvilles have seldom been held by Richard III's admirers to the same standard of accountability and accuracy as those who are hostile to Richard III.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Illegitimacy Project?

As you might know, I have Google set to send me an alert when certain phrases, like "Edward II," are mentioned. Today--rather to my irritation--I was notified of the following story from the Associated Press:


LONDON (AP)-- Taking its cue from the success of the Genome Project, a group of revisionist historians, genealogists, and history buffs has formed the Illegitimacy Project, with the goal of proving through DNA testing that historical figures rumored to be illegitimate are in fact so.

“We’ve allowed traditionalist historians too much leeway here,” explained Rick Tertius, the founder of the group, which already claims five hundred members. “They’ve been far too willing to discount these rumors as propaganda, or to attribute them to the fanciful imagination of modern filmmakers and novelists, without giving them the proper consideration they deserve. The Illegitimacy Project believes that we shouldn’t be so complacent.”

Because fund-raising is still in its embryonic stages, the directors of the project plan to start on a modest scale. Their first goal is to exhume the bodies of Henry VI and Edward of Lancaster for DNA testing, which Tertius is confident will prove that Henry VI could not have been the father of Edward. “It’s true that Henry was sane at the time Edward was conceived, that he gave his queen generous gifts during her pregnancy, that he expressed delight when he saw his son after regaining his sanity, and that he showed affection toward the boy,” acknowledged Tertius. “But we also have Yorkist claims that he was illegitimate, and we can’t attribute them to propaganda, because that was first invented by Henry Tudor. If a Yorkist said something, it’s almost a hundred percent certain that it was the truth.”

Tertius is also hoping that DNA testing will allow him to pinpoint the real father of Edward of Lancaster. “The most likely candidate is Edmund Beaufort, first Duke of Somerset, and he has descendants living, who might well be delighted to submit to testing,” Tertius mused. “After all, it would be something interesting to put in the family newsletter.”

Tracking down Edward of Lancaster’s real father, Tertius acknowledged, might be an uphill battle if the Somerset theory doesn’t hold. “There were lots of men at court in 1453, and Margaret was known by all accounts, or at least by all Yorkist accounts, or at least by the accounts of twenty-first-century historical novelists, to have been a promiscuous woman,” he warned. “Finding this young man’s real father could be like finding a needle in a haystack, or a sperm in a haystack, if you prefer.”

If the Lancaster project is successful, the group plans to prove next that Edward IV was not the legitimate son of Richard, Duke of York. “It’s true that Cecily was a pious woman in later life, but during her youth she was quite a looker,” said Tertius. “And if you consider Richard, Duke of York’s behavior after Edward was born, I think you’ll find an elaborate attempt to cover up his wife’s infidelity. Trying to marry Edward to a daughter of the King of France, making him Earl of March, describing Edward as his son in the Act of Parliament making York the heir apparent to the throne—it’s all part of a rather pathetic ruse to present Edward as his own legitimate son. But I don’t blame the Duke of York, mind you. The truth might have just been too painful to face for him.”

Tertius bristled when asked if disproving Edward IV’s legitimacy could cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Duke of York’s other children, such as Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, and Richard III. “Of course not. Cecily learned her lesson after Edward, we can safely say.”

The project is also hoping to find proof that Edward III was fathered by another man instead of by his titular father, Edward II. “It’s true that Edward III’s legitimacy wasn’t questioned until very recently, but just because medieval people thought inside the box doesn’t mean that we should also,” said Tertius. “How do we know that Queen Isabella didn’t take a quick trip to Ireland to get, say, Roger Mortimer to father her child? Was anyone videotaping her every move? Of course not. There’s a lot of things a clever woman like Isabella could have done. Besides, she was French, just like Margaret of Anjou. That should be enough right there to show that she was up for a bit on the side.”

If the Illegitimacy Project is successful, Tertius hopes that the money it brings in will allow him to pursue a cherished personal goal: proving that Richard III’s bastard children John and Katherine were in fact his legitimate offspring by Anne Neville. “It’s a known fact—every Ricardian tells us so--that Richard was madly in love with Anne from the age of nine upward and couldn’t bear to think of being with another woman, so why would he have fathered children out of wedlock? It simply makes no sense,” Tertius said. “I suspect that the Woodvilles, and later the Tudors, engaged in an elaborate ruse to cover up the fact that these were Richard and Anne’s legitimate children by faking or altering various documents. Of course, since we don’t have John or Katherine’s bodies, proving that they were Anne’s children might be difficult, but psychic methods of proof might be sufficiently developed in the future to allow for this, so there’s hope. But in the meantime, we’ll concentrate on the real bastards.”

As he showed his interviewer out of his book-lined study, Tertius acknowledged that the Illegitimacy Project might have far-reaching consequences. “If we keep on with it, it could turn out that just about every monarch’s paternity is called into question. Who knows? The real Queen of England might be Sarah Palin.”

Asked to comment, Palin’s spokesperson responded, “Sarah has watched ‘Masterpiece Theatre’ several times and feels quite confident that she could be Queen of England if called to the task.”

For more about the Illegitimacy Project, visit its website.