Tag Archives: Elizabeth of York

The Much-Maligned King

Saint RichardWith the great historical discoveries we’ve had over recent years, there has been some major re-thinking on the history and reputation of one of England’s most hated and maligned kings – and rightly so.

While his mortal remains are now at rest this king’s legacy of evil and wickedness is still debated by eye-rolling, loony historians, fan-girls and sane history buffs on every Facebook page you come across (yes, I’ve checked, he even gets into groups dedicated to historical women *groan*).

He has, throughout, history, been demonised and vilified by historians and non-historians alike. Words such as “tyrant”, “monster” and “murderer” have been slung at this king for more years than I’d like to count.

The main beef for many is the propaganda levelled against this king by subsequent dynasties; the misrepresentation of his actions and the accusations of murder which just refuse to go away.

And mud sticks.

So it’s about time he was given the rights that all Englishmen have – the right to the “assumption of innocence until proven guilty”.

No, of course I’m not talking about Richard III! The man killed his nephews, why on earth should he be allowed to be presumed innocent?holbein henry

I’m referring to that great man of the Renaissance, the Hercules of England, Europe’s very own Alexander; Henry VIII, of course.

With this in mind I thought I would take a new look at the main accusations, strip away the propaganda and look at the deaths involved in their proper light; one at a time, rather than as one great killing spree.

Does responsibility lay at the king’s door?

Were the deaths justified for the good of the realm? Should I leave Cairo and move to more bridal climes? (Oops, sorry, that last was a personal question, not relevant – much – to this essay.)

The first person I looked into was Catherine of Aragon. Of course, Henry is not accused of killing her; but he is accused of treating her shamefully. Catherine married Henry having sworn that she’d never slept with her first husband Prince Arthur, Henry’s older brother. Catherine made thiCatherine_aragons declaration only after Arthur was safely dead – and therefore could not dispute it.

What was her motivation?

Well, Henry was a young, handsome – ok, gorgeous – 18-year-old Adonis who also happened to be king of one of the most powerful kingdoms of Europe, whereas she was a penniless Spanish princess who had been more-or-less abandoned by her own family. So, of course, she only said this out of her love for Henry, rather than any selfish reasons.

There was one problem with Catherine’s declaration; Prince Arthur had once sworn otherwise, declaring one morning, after leaving Catherine’s chamber, that he had “spent the night in Spain” (something no one bothered to tell Henry until many years later). Quite an unequivocal statement from a Prince who had no ulterior motive.

Poor Henry was a devout Catholic and knew that marrying his brother’s wife was a mortal sin and when he finally discovered the truth, what choice did he have but to divorce? And why would he do it with such vehemence and hatred? Surely it’s hard to be kind to someone who has endangered your immortal soul by making you commit such a heinous sin? Henry would have had to be a saint to be able to forgive. And it’s certainly not his fault that Catherine of Aragon stuck to this fib – through thick and thin – but neither is it Henry’s fault that he stuck to his own guns and fought to the very end to obtain a divorce.

So, now, we come to Henry’s “victims”.

Anneboleyn2Let’s look at Anne Boleyn first.

If Anne Boleyn was innocent of the crimes she was accused of – of sleeping with other men, including her brother and of planning the king’s death – then she is a true martyr and Henry is a monster worse than Darth Vader. However, thanks to the Daily Mail, we now know beyond any doubt that Anne did have an affair with her brother, George Boleyn. A French poem, written a few days after Anne’s execution by a Frenchman living in England, proves unequivocally that Anne slept with her brother.

And if one of the charges is true, then surely they all are?

And if Anne was sleeping around, what else could he do but execute her? Imprison her? Maybe, but an example from French history suggests the dangers in doing that. In 1314 the wives of France’s 3 princes were accused of adultery and imprisoned. However, the princes found obtaining divorces difficult (to cut a long story short) and all 3 ruled successively as kings of France, but were unable to  produce the much-desired legitimate male heir and the Capetian line died out.

With such an example from just a couple of hundred years ago, can Henry really be blamed for wanting a swift conclusion to his marriage?

And, to be honest, this same argument stands for Henry’s execution of Catherine Howard the poor chap is proof of the adage that lightning CAN strike twice in the same place).

One of the most heinous crimes that Henry is accused of is, of course, Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury. And well, to be honest, I’ll give his accusers that one. Poor Margaret. But, then, every king is allowed one over-reaction; Richard III has Lord Hastings, Henry gets Margaret Pole.

thomas moreAnd then there’s Thomas More…

Well, I have a theory…..

Sir Thomas More was Henry’s friend. What if he committed an unforgivable betrayal. I’m not referring to his refusal to swear allegiance to the Act of Succession, rather I’m referring to his abominable, slanderous book about Richard III.

We all know Henry loved his mother dearly, and spent most of his childhood sat on her lap, listening to her stories about her childhood, her father and her wonderful uncle, Richard. We always think of the Tudors hating Richard III, but in Henry’s time the slanderous, legend blackening work of Shakespeare is still decades in the future. What if Henry knew of the gentler side of Uncle Dickon? What if he saw him as the loving uncle of a fatherless teenage girl, who gave her gifts and danced with her at Christmas.

EoY portraitThis is the intimate picture of Richard III that Henry grew up with, knowing him and loving him as a favourite great-uncle. And then his friend presents him with a manuscript saying “I’ve put together some ideas, have a look at it, just let me know what you think.”

Of course, Henry reads it and goes ballistic. How dare More write such hateful things about this great king, this hero, this Son of York, this man who saved the kingdom from the disasters that would, almost-definitely, have befallen the land had a child-king been allowed to live …. er, I mean, to reign?

Henry had no choice, More brought it on himself. Henry had to have him executed in order to prevent More’s slanderous work from reaching a wider audience. It was the only way to prevent publication.

It’s not Henry’s fault the “facts” still got out…

By Jeff R Sun

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Jeff R Sun has been supporting the Richards for years – I’m thinking of changing my allegiance to the Henrys. All advice appreciated.

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Photos: Wiki

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Sources: Measly Middle Ages; Terrible Tudors; Slimy Stuarts; Wiki; Daily Mail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Howard and the Fall of the Monarchy

800px-Panorama_of_the_outer_curtain_wall_of_the_Tower_of_London,_2006
The Tower of London
Recently I had the honour and pleasure of attending the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London. It takes place every night at the Tower, and has done since the 14th century.
Detroit_Publishing_Co._-_A_Yeoman_of_the_Guard_(N.B._actually_a_Yeoman_Warder),_full_restoration
Yeoman of the Guard
At exactly 9.53pm the Chief Yeoman Warder, dressed in Tudor uniform meets the TOwer of London Guard. Together, the Chief Yeoman Warder and the Yeoman Warder ‘Watchman’ secure the main gates of the Tower. On their return down Water Lane, they are challenged by the sentry:
Sentry: “Halt! Who comes there?”
Chief Warder: “The keys.”
Sentry: “Whose keys?”
Chief Warder: “Queen Elizabeth’s keys.” (identifying the keys as being those of Queen Elizabeth II, the current monarch)
Sentry: “Pass Queen Elizabeth’s Keys. All is well.”
The party then makes its way through the Bloody Tower Archway into the fortress, where they halt at the bottom of the Broadwalk Steps. On the top of the Stairs, under the command of their officer, the Tower Guard present arms and the Chief Warder raises his hat, proclaiming:
 

Chief Warder: “God preserve Queen Elizabeth.”
Sentry: “Amen!”

The keys are then taken to Queen’s House for safekeeping, and the Last Post is sounded.

The ceremony is an amazing spectacle, but I digress.

The reason I mention it is the chat I had afterwards, with one of the Yeoman Warders. We were talking about the ravens and I mentioned the legend attached to them, which says that the monarchy will fall if the six resident ravens ever leave the Tower of London.

The Yeoman Warder laughed and said ‘yes, everyone falls for that one’. Intrigued – and not a little miffed at him laughing at me – I asked him to explain himself.

III
King Richard III

He told me a very interesting story that begins in the reign of Richard III.

We all know of the wise woman who saw Richard on his way to Battle at Bosworth, saying that his head would soon strike the bridge where his spur had just struck. Well, apparently there was a little bit extra to that story that the Tudor propagandists decided not to share with the little people.

The wise lady said something that confused Richard immensely – she shouted to Richard that “the monarchy will fall if the Howards ever leave the Tower of London.”

Now, Richard, as we know, took no notice of this warning and John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk was one of the men who fell fighting for Richard at Bosworth – and Richard lost his crown.

henry7bust
Henry VII

After the battle, the same wise woman sought out Henry VII and managed to shout the same warning – minus the comment about heads and bridges – to the king, before she was bundled away and unceremoniously thrown on a dung heap.

At first Henry dismissed the wise woman’s words as “fantasy and delusion”, but the events of 1487 (the Battle of Stoke Field) and the arrival of Perkin Warbeck made him think again. Being spiteful and nasty, Henry VII believed that the wise woman had meant a Howard had to be imprisoned in the Tower – and he started looking around for a suitable candidate.

Of course, his only problem was that Thomas Howard 2nd Duke of Norfolk, was annoyingly loyal and he could find no reason to send him to the Tower. He did manage to make him Lord High Treasurer, which meant he had offices in the Tower, and hoped that would be enough. Of course, shortly after this Henry’s son and heir, Arthur, died followed by his beloved wife, Elizabeth of York.

Henry started panicking.

However, not wanting to send the Howards into hiding, he bought 6 ravens, clipped their wings and had the rumour spread that if they ever left the Tower, the monarchy would fall.

He then warned his new heir, the magnificent Henry – soon to be the VIII of that name – that he should do everything in his power to keep a Howard in the Tower as often as he possibly could.

200px-Henry_Howard_Earl_of_Surrey_1546
Henry Howard Earl of Surrey

As we all know, Henry took his father’s words to heart. He tried to find a permanent solution, by lopping off the head of his 2nd wife, Anne Boleyn (whose mother was a Howard), and burying her in the Church of St Peter ad Vincular in the Tower, hoping that was an end to it.

But then there was the Pilgrimage of Grace…..

So he tried again with wife no.5, Catherine Howard, and this seemed to work. But then Henry got ill and even more paranoid, and started worrying about his son and the succession. In order to ensure the smooth accession of Edward VI, Henry made certain by imprisoning Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk AND Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey – then died content.

Unfortunately Edward VI’s regents released Norfolk – and Edward’s reign was cut short. Edward did manage to pass on the secret to his sisters, Mary and Elizabeth.

But she didn’t believe him – Howard was, after all, a Catholic. And as a result, Mary’s reign was short.

240px-ThomasHoward4HerzogvonNorfolk
Thomas Howard, Elizabeth I’s prisoner

Elizabeth, on the other hand, took the legend to heart and regularly threw a Howard in the Tower. Everyone thought that it was ‘just because she felt like it’, but she was just being extra cautious.

At this stage of the story the Beefeater started laughing uncontrollably. “Of course,” he said “they went to all that murderous trouble for nothing”.

Perplexed, I asked “what do you mean”

“The legend had nothing to do with the Norfolk Howards – in fact it was not so specific as to even mean a surname. During the Gunpowder Plot we discovered, that so long as someone in the Tower had Howard somewhere in their name, all was good.”

So, now, it’s just part of the recruitment process for Yeoman Warders, they have to be ex-military – and have ‘Howard’ somewhere in their name.

300px-London_tower_ravens
Raven Howard and a friend

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to be extra cautious – one of the Tower Ravens is also named ‘Howard’ – just to be sure.

 

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Jeff R Sun got locked in the Tower of London after a quick trip to the loo follow the Ceremony of the Keys. Can someone please let me out?
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All pictures taken from Wikipedia
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Sources: Ceremony of the Keys taken from Wikipedia; http://www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/stories/theravens; Horrible Histories; 1066 and All That; Yeoman Warder Howard Carter of the Tower of London.

The Bald Truth Behind the Execution of Clarence

George, Duke of Clarence, trying a bit too hard to compensate
George, Duke of Clarence, still alive at this point.

I have spent several years, now, musing on the reasons for the execution of George, Duke of Clarence. What that final act made Edward IV take the drastic, permanent action of executing his own brother?

He was convicted of treason.

Yes.

What did he do? What was the piece of straw that finally broke the camel’s back? What was that final, totally unforgivable crime that George committed? What was that one step too far?

  • Was it the fact George took the law into his own hands with the execution of Ankarette Twynho?
  • Was it the murder and witchcraft accusations that he levelled against Edward’s queen, Elizabeth Wydevile, following the death of his wife, Isabel?
  • Was it the rumours of Edward’s illegitimacy?
  • Was it George’s discovery of Edward’s previous secret marriages – to Eleanor Butler and Eleanor Talbot?

Or was it a deeper, more dangerous secret? Something that, if discovered, could have toppled the monarchy itself – nay England, even?

Sitting in a cafe this morning, quietly drinking my cappuccino, eating a toasted tea cake and playing an addictive, well-known game (involving sweets) on my phone, I overheard a little boy having a joke with his dad.

candle
15th Century light bulb

And I had a light bulb moment.

Once the waitress had changed the bulb – and I was no longer in the dark – I started writing, fleshing out my theory.

And I now know – beyond any unreasonable doubt – why George, Duke of Clarence, brother of the king and Richard, Duke of Gloucester (perfection personified), was executed.

We all know Edward was the golden child of the York family. He was the most courageous and dashing personification of manhood that ever walked the earth. He was the most glorious of the ‘3 Sons of York’ (forget Edmund, for the moment – otherwise the argument doesn’t work and Mortimer’s Cross was fought for all the wrong reasons).

And Edward’s wife, Elizabeth Wydevile, was the most beautiful woman in the realm – nay, Europe – nay, the known world.

4550226
The Perfect Princes

Their family was full of golden children; blonde-haired, blue-eyed angels who would not have looked out of place among the Gods of Olympus.

In short, the family was perfect.

Except.

As Edward grew older, one fatal, irreversible flaw appeared. No, it wasn’t his weight – that could have been easily solved with a sensible diet and exercise. And besides, kings had been overweight in the past – take Louis the Fat, for instance.

No, this was something that had never happened to a king – to God’s anointed – ever before.

It was at this point, on Facebook (the fount of all knowledge) that I saw a picture which totally convinced me of my theory.

11059657_1554665671470436_4651097333560421926_n
Richard, the true Golden Son of York

It was a sign that I was on the right track.

Edward wasn’t York’s Golden Boy.

He didn’t have the luscious locks.

And this is what Clarence had discovered.

One morning, walking in on Edward early and surprising him at his toilette, George was taken aback by what he saw.

A reflection of the sun shining from Edward’s head.

And George couldn’t resist the same joke I had heard the child say to his father this very morning:

‘Oh look! There’s a hair on your head. Fooled you!’

Edward’s Groom of the Stool was combing over the bald spot – and George’s fate was sealed.

Edward called the guard and George’s feet didn’t touch the ground – until he was safely locked in his prison cell.

This also explains an obscure comment I once found whilst perusing ‘The Children’s Guide to the Croydon Chronicle’. This stated that Edward’s residences were ‘sparsely thatched’. I have spent many a year trying to decipher the exact meaning of this phrase, but now I know.

comb
Edward’s comb-over would have looked something like this.

Edward was going bald and George discovering that truth was the final straw.

What else could Edward do? No king in history had ever gone bald.

Think on it. Name one – you can’t can you?

That’s because it has NEVER happened. It’s unheard of – and Edward had to protect his secret at all costs.

For England!

 

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Sources:

Ellison Weird, The Children’s Guide to the Croydon Chronicle; Steve Cole, Cows in Action – the Pirate Mootiny; HP Spicy BBQ Sauce; Ivy Hair Issues, Washing Instructions for Wigs.

Photos courtesy of Wikipedia and Google Images.

After writing this post, Jeff R Sun has realised how grateful he is for his full head of luscious locks.

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10 Ways to Identify a Saint or a Sinner in the 15th Century

Religion was very important to people of the 15th Century. In many ways, it controlled their lives; told them what to eat and when they could eat it, who they could marry and when, who could get into heaven and who couldn’t.

Okay, perhaps religion should have a big say on that last one, at least.

Religious piety was given great prominence as a way of deciding who was ‘good’ and who was ‘bad’, especially on the stage that was the Wars of the Roses. So here are 10 ways to identify which is which.

220px-Cecily_neville1. You may have been involved in the highest level of politics in your younger years; such as being married to the country’s Lord Protector, being mother of 2 kings, and related to most of the protagonists in the Wars of the Roses, but following strict religious observance in your later years, will make you saintly. Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, springs to mind.

2. Being a Yorkist, of course, makes it easier to be saintly.  You could be mistaken for thinking that this is because, for the majority of the Wars of the Roses, they were on the winning side. However they were, eventually, the losers and yet still are considered highly pious, which highlights how incredibly remarkable a family they must have been.

3. You would have thought that being young and ‘disappeared’ may automatically make you saintly. However, Edward V and Richard Duke of York have a lot to overcome in order to make the saintly list. Yes, they were only children, imprisoned in the Tower of London and declared bastards by their uncle. However, they were a threat to that wonderful Uncle, who they would have had killed as soon as they reached adulthood. I have also heard say that they were ‘snivelling brprincessats’. And the fact we don’t actually know, for certain, that they are, as yet, in fact, well, DEAD makes it difficult to conclusively declare them saints. Plus, they were part of the despicable Woodville – or Wydeville – clan, which, unfortunately, is an instant disbarment from sainthood.

4. A way to become saintly is to die young in battle. Edmund Earl of Rutland was only 17 and killed by Clifford at – or after – the Battle of Wakefield and his head put on a spike above Micklegate Bar in York. Apparently Clifford justified this ‘murder’ as Edmund’s father – the Duke of York – had, apparently, killed Clifford’s father at the 1st Battle of St Albans. Of course it helps if you’re also a member of the York family as

5. Dying young is no defence against you being a sinner. Edward, Prince of Wales was only 17 when he was killed in battle at Tewkesbury. Of course, it doesn’t help that he was a Lancastrian, that his father was catatonic when he was born, that – at 7 years old – he ordered the beheadings of 2 of Warwick’s men after the 2nd Battle of St Albans, that he was married to Anne Neville first, nor that he fought to reclaim his father’s crown from the Yorkists.

III6. Founding religious houses and colleges almost automatically make you a saint. Richard III funded religious colleges at Middleham, and was in the process of setting one up at York Minster on his death. He was noted for his piety, so much so that his usurping of his nephew’s throne, the execution-without-trial of his brother’s friend, William Hastings, the subsequent disappearance – and possible murder – of his 2 nephews and the summary executions of his brother’s stepson and brother-in-law after a sham trial, doesn’t even put a dent in his piety. Of course, it does help if you are killed in an all-or-nothing battle for your life and crown.

DH17. Founding religious houses and colleges is not nearly enough to make you a saint if you are the Lancastrian mother of Henry VII. Margaret Beaufort had the gall to call herself ‘My Lady the King’s Mother’ when she was in fact – well – the king’s mother. She founded Christ’s College Cambridge and funded the restoration of churches. However, she helped to organise the royal household, supported her daughter-in-law’s sister when she fell out of favour with the king and supported her daughter-in-law, Elizabeth of York, in arguing against sending her granddaughter to a marriage in Scotland whilst still a child. Of course, it doesn’t help that Margaret Beaufort was a woman, a Lancastrian, adored by her son, the miserly Henry VII and loved by her grandson – the monstrous Henry VIII.

8. Of course, being a Lancastrian who married into the Yorkist, or a Yorkist who joined the Lancastrians, automatically prevents you from ever becoming a saint. To betray the Yorkists and fight for the Lancastrians in the last battle makes you the greatest traitor in history and a sinner beyond redemption – just ask the Stanleys. Conversely, having being married to a Lancastrian – who was killed in battle against the Yorkists – and then marrying the Yorkist king, and providing a male heir, automatically makes you the greatest traitor in history and a sinner beyond redemption – just ask Elizabeth Wydeville or Elizabeth Woodville (either should be able to confirm my point).

henry7bust9. Being an adult king murdered by your ‘replacement’ king automatically makes you saintly. Henry VI, alone, defies the rules. He failed at everything except being highly religious. His piety was so impressive that calls for his canonisation were made as soon as he was dead. And yet he was a Lancastrian.

10.  The final, most irredeemable example of a sinner in the 15th Century is, of course, Henry VII. That he was exiled from your home, and separated from his mother, from an early age. That he was Lancastrian heir following the deaths of – well – everyone else. That he was an able king who brought stability to a war-ravaged country. That he was a family man who loved his wife dearly and grieved for her deeply. All this is nothing compared to the fact he defeated Richard III and won the Wars of the Roses for the Lancastrians. What bigger sinner could there be in the 15th Century?

Jeff R Sun is continuously attempting to give clarity to the confusing parts of the Wars of the Roses. If you are still in doubt, please follow this basic premise: York, good; Lancaster, bad. Sticking with this simple rule, you won’t go far wrong, nor get shouted at, or be accused of trolling, on Facebook.

Sources: Wikipedia; Facebook groups galore; the Nile, which I live near; The Sunne in Splendour; The White Queen; The Red Queen; Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody; the Queen of Hearts; The Daughter of Time; Kind Hearts and Coronets.

The Lost Love-Child of Richard III and Elizabeth of York.

Jeff book

 

As if there are not beguiling mysteries enough out there, I must press upon your patience once more to relate a little adventure of mine, which has uncovered yet another unexpected truth at the heart of Yorkist family politics. On awakening one morning, I decided to take a stroll and set out from Piccadilly after breakfast with little more than a potted-meat sandwich tucked away in my inside pocket. By teatime I found I had wandered across several county borders into Norfolk, and I came to my senses amid the bulrushes of the Fens with a pair of curlews engaged in some ritual mating dance at my feet. Seeking a bed for the night, I was fortunate enough to find the Biggerump Inn, standing alone in the falling darkness, where I was offered the corner of a stable. Dining on braised lamb in the Inn’s delightful parlour, my fancy was taken by a shelf of old-looking books, which I fell to perusing once my meal was finished. One of the smallest, and most battered, was a little book in a leather binding (see above); a funny little foible, but I have a taste for funny little foibles and, as I turned its pages, it was clear that the content pre-dated the cover by some centuries.

I flicked through the pages. It seemed to be some sort of prayer book, written in a fifteenth century secretary hand, with the occasional illuminated initial letter in red and gold. I have seen many similar books before. The first page bore many inscriptions, dating through from the 1400s to the seventeenth century, and one name in particular caught my eye. I had heard of Severus Larke on a previous occasion: the Larkes were a well-known Suffolk family, connected with Wolsey and the court of Henry VIII. Yet this individual’s hand was quite distinct; he had made a few notes in the margins beside prayers, initialling them with an elongated “S” and a small bird with distinctive stubby wings. And as I traced his comments, most of which were amendments to prayers or names of individuals to pray for, I recalled where I had heard his name before. Severus Larke had, for a brief period during the autumn of 1483, acted as confessor to Elizabeth Woodville, the wife of Edward IV.

By this point, Elizabeth was a widow. She had fled into sanctuary with her children following the death of her husband. Her sons had been taken and Richard III had been crowned, so her future looked very uncertain. Larke was working in the service of one of the Pastons, I believe, which had taken him to London for a few months on legal business and, somehow, he ended up lodging in Westminster. As I yawned before the roaring fire, I passed the hours in trying to decipher something of his hand, and form an impression of his character. It was but fancy, and I met with little success, until I reached the end pages, which he had used to record his thoughts. Mostly they took the form of prayers and lists, payments owing and in one case, the number of his master’s dogs that needed feeding. And then, there was a strange line. Strange in that it was dated, very specifically to September 29, 1483. The line read “Prayers to be said for the Princess for the safe arrival of her child.” The word “Princess” was scored through in ink of a lighter colour.

This threw me into a state of bafflement. I could not recall a Princess that might have been pregnant in the autumn of 1483. Elizabeth Woodville was too old, having borne her last child three years earlier. Richard III’s Queen, Anne Neville, had borne a single son, who was then somewhere between the ages of seven and ten and there were never any reports of a second pregnancy. Equally, she would have been referred to in the text as “Queen” or “widow” or “dowager,” but not Princess. The only Princesses I could think of were the daughters of Edward IV, then in sanctuary with their mother. The eldest, Elizabeth of York would have been seventeen. Within months, Richard would pass an act of Parliament, Titulus Regis, declaring them illegitimate. This might account for the word being scored through, as Elizabeth’s royal status was retracted. Could it have been possible that it was she to whom Larke’s prayers referred?

So I twiddled with my pipe and thought about the dates. Elizabeth and her daughters had entered sanctuary in June 1483 and left it on March 1, 1484. This was a period of nine months but it couldn’t have corresponded exactly with a pregnancy, as Elizabeth of York must have been well enough, recovered and churched, to emerge on March 1. Nor is it likely that she conceived in the cramped confines of sanctuary, under the watchful eye of her mother. Therefore, she must have been pregnant when she entered sanctuary and given birth late in 1483 or early in 1484. And I began to wonder who the father of this child might be, this hypothetical child, whose absence from the records suggests it did not survive. The only man in London to whom Elizabeth’s name was attached prior to her marriage to Henry VII was her uncle Richard, the future Richard III. Tracing back his movements, I discovered that Richard was present in the city early in 1483 to attend a session of Parliament, leaving for the north in February. If he had impregnated Elizabeth of York that month, he would then have departed without being aware of her condition. We know that he had two acknowledged bastards; the scarcity of records about them suggests there may have been more, about whom we do not know. Yet perhaps not even Richard ever knew about this other child.

Elizabeth’s pregnancy would have become apparent by late March or early April. In the light of this, Edward’s early death can be interpreted in a different way entirely. I never accepted the theories that the robust Edward, even with all his feasting and whoring, had succumbed to a chill caught whilst out fishing. The possibility now arises that Edward was informed by his wife of his favourite daughter’s condition and the shock broke his health. Such a scandal was unprecedented and must be covered up. After Edward’s death, Richard began to travel south. Aware that he was the father of the child, Elizabeth Woodville could not allow him to know about the pregnancy, so before he was even half way, she fled to sanctuary, which she knew would offer the cover she needed until the child was born. If it was conceived in February, the delivery date would have been in November 1483. If it had been a boy, the child would have been an important Yorkist heir, a replacement for the lost Princes in the Tower. It also meant that the potential match being proposed between the Princess and the exiled Tudor was not anticipated to become a reality in the immediate future, suggesting that Elizabeth Woodville had no faith in Henry’s planned invasion of the autumn of 1483. Either that, or Henry had been informed of her condition and was coming to avenge her honour, in the style of his favourite French Romances. But he failed to live up to these legends. The weather drove his ships back and the next thing we know is that Elizabeth Woodville and her daughters emerged at the start of March. If Elizabeth of York carried her child to term, in this world where still births, miscarriages and infant mortality, were common, it seems most likely that it did not survive. Only one or two servants would have known of its existence, including confessor Severus Larke.

This theory also makes sense of the oath Elizabeth Woodville required Richard to swear in 1484. Before she set foot outside the safety of Westminster, she required him to make a public promise to protect her daughters and arrange suitable marriages for them. Of course she did, given that she knew Richard had already seduced her eldest girl. Richard was probably unaware of the pregnancy but had his deflowering of his niece on his conscience. This also makes sense of the rumours that date from Christmas 1484 about a potential flirtation between Richard and his niece. Except this was not a new flirtation, it was the tail end of a dangerous affair from early 1483, which the oath had firmly put an end to. To Richard, Elizabeth of York was but a conquest from his days as the Duke of Gloucester. Now that he was King, he had his own reign and wife to concern him, and Elizabeth was relegated to the status of an old flame, whose future he must arrange, to a Prince of Portugal. No doubt Elizabeth felt used and rejected. It is no surprise then, that she was eager to go along with her mother’s plan to wed her to Henry Tudor. She had borne her uncle’s child in secrecy and, but for the prayer of the royal confessor, jotted indiscreetly into his book, the matter would never have come to light.

It was that very indiscretion that led to the dismissal of Severus Larke from the royal profession. The emergence of the women in March 1484 coincided with Larke’s return home; first to Ipswich, then on to a position of confessor in a noble Norfolk household. No efforts were made by the royal family to retain his services and, ten years later, he appears in the Assize court records as living a profligate life, keeping a mistress who bore him a bastard. He was in danger of losing his position, in addition to the payment of a large fine but the case was never concluded. Only two weeks later, in October 1495, he was granted a royal pension by none other than the new Queen, Elizabeth of York, and retired to Bungay in Norfolk, just two miles east of the Biggerump Inn. He retained this pension and the queen’s favour until his death in 1498.  Perhaps it was in recognition of his services in the past, or perhaps it was made to ensure his silence. With this thought, I strolled out into the deep Norfolk night and smoked a particularly good pipe of woody tobacco, musing on the inconsistencies of history and the eternal frailties of woman.

 

Sources

Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, Arthur Conan Doyle, Geoffrey Willans, Shakespeare, Tobias Smollett, Jonathan Swift, George Orwell.

 

Jeff R Vescent is now accepting marriage proposals.

Henry Tudor’s Forgotten Bride

There have been many debates about the legitimacy of the Beauforts, and their claim to the throne. However slim his claim undoubtedly was, Henry VII took the throne of England through conquest. His marriage to Elizabeth of York added weight to the Tudor’s right to rule, and their children indeed had royal blood. Henry VII repealed Titulus Regius, and all was well,  the Tudor claim upright and solid. However, recent discoveries prove that all of the children of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York were, themselves, illegitimate.

henry7bust

Henry Tudor lived in exile with his uncle Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke from 1471 to 1485. A strong young man, with a young man’s appetites, he was not idle in these years. While his mother, the redoubtable Margaret Beaufort, worked tirelessly to return Henry to England, bargaining and negotiating with Edward IV to guarantee the safety of her son, Henry was pursuing interests of his own.

Thought to have fathered at least one illegitimate child in Brittany, Roland De Veleville, it has been long accepted that Henry Tudor was of loose morals while living in exile, taking pleasure where he found it, and moving on.  One young woman, Louise Boulonga , captured Henry’s heart. From a letter recently discovered from Jasper Tudor to Margaret Beaufort, we now know that Henry was married to Louise in February, 1483.

When Edward IV died unexpectedly in April, 1483, things changed dramatically. The young prince Edward was declared illegitimate by his uncle, the morally upright Richard III. Many Yorkists fled to Brittany to join Jasper Tudor and his wayward nephew, while Elizabeth Woodville took her daughters, and the royal treasury, to sanctuary. One who joined the Tudor camp was Thomas Grey, Marquis of Dorset. Dorset was Elizabeth Woodville’s son, and carried with him a plan that had been schemed up between his mother and Margaret Beaufort. The women decided, in a hag’s agreement, that Henry Tudor would invade Richard’s peaceful England, and steal the throne. A marriage between Henry and Elizabeth of York was plotted, to ensure support from Yorkists who could be bought with promises of reward. But Henry was married already. What to do?

EoY portrait

As Jasper and Margaret plotted, schemed, bribed, and possibly even killed to ensure this plan would succeed, Dorset was finding out about Mrs. Tudor. Despite Jasper forcing Henry to announce a betrothal to Elizabeth of York  at Rennes Cathedral on Christmas morning, 1483, Dorset could not help but learn that Louise and Henry were man and wife. Horrified at the duplicity and lax morals of the man, Dorset notified his mother. Elizabeth Woodville came to an agreement with Richard, whom she knew was far too honest a man to have ever killed her son, and exited sanctuary. Her daughters became beautiful white roses to adorn Richard’s court, and Dorset attempted to leave Tudor’s camp. Jasper intercepted him before he could return to England and go running off at the mouth about all he had learned.

Margaret Beaufort was not to be deterred. Convinced that her son was destined by God to be king of the world, she continued nonplussed, as if all was still as had been agreed upon. No letters between Margaret and Elizabeth Woodville have ever been found, so it can be assumed that they simply did not discuss it. Her son was forced by Jasper to leave his beloved Louise, who was heavy with child, and  invaded England on Margaret’s orders in 1485. Despite a lackluster performance on the field of battle, Henry defied all odds, and emerged victorious at Bosworth Field, August 22, 1485. Treachery prearranged by Margaret, and Richard’s unflinching valor, led to the end of the true Plantagenet kings of England. It also sealed the fate of poor Louise.

margaret-beaufort-hever-castle

Margaret Beaufort knew that a foreign  queen would never do. The memory of Margaret of Anjou was still too fresh in the mind of England, and grief for their righteous king too strong.  She knew Elizabeth Woodville to be a grasping and greedy woman, and Dorset was still held in exile. So the hags once again struck a deal. Elizabeth of York would indeed marry Henry VII. Neither party was happy about it, and a more miserable match is hard to imagine. Although Henry Tudor applied for papal dispensation twice, careful examination of these papers shows no process for the annulment of Henry’s first marriage! On January 18, 1486 Elizabeth of York entered into a bigamous and invalid marriage, much as her mother had done years before, and Louise Tudor drifted into historical obscurity.

We do not know what happened to Louise, nor the child she carried. Although Professor S.B. Chrimes of Cardiff University asserted in a 1967 article that De Veleville was not Henry Tudor’s natural child, he and other biographers are silent about Louise and the child she carried. Dorset eventually returned to England, but Henry Tudor was too distrustful of his mother in law to believe she would keep the secret. She was imprisoned in Bermondsey Abbey in March of 1487, pronounced dead, and was never seen again. Margaret Beaufort accomplished her goal to be one of the most maligned women in history, and Henry Tudor’s son, Henry VIII, was a bastard.

henry portrait

Sources:

Chrimes S.B

Weir, Alison “Elizabeth of York”

Gregory, Phillipa “The Red Queen”, “The White Princess”

Some guy named Jeff

Wikipedia

2 historians who prefer not to have their names attached to this article

Thomas More, who came to me in a dream.

About the Author- My name is Jeff “the wiz” Berlin. I am an active agent in an international spy agency , and a pinball enthusiast. My family is directly descended from Anne Boleyn, and has had to change our name several times to avoid Tudor vengeance. We have long worked behind the scenes to dispel Tudor propaganda, but the program “The Tudors” has undone all of our good work. My cousin Jeff failed to kidnap Jonathan Rhys Meyers and force him into exile in 2006, so that is pretty much all his fault.