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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Centuries of Lies? Part 2

So, when we left off Richard III had named himself King of England.  His son and heir was named Prince of Wales and everyone seemed to be happy, more or less.  However, plots to dethrone Richard and put the young Edward V on the throne began to develop.  Elizabeth Woodville, conniving queen that she was, plotted with Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry Tudor to bring Henry back into England from France with an army he would raise on the continent and together with the Duke of Buckingham and his forces and those raised by other lords Henry would take the throne of England and marry Elizabeth of York, the eldest daughter of Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV.  This would not make Elizabeth Woodville's son king, but it would make her daughter queen.  This plot was discovered, however, and the discovery, in addition to rain which flooded much of the north of England prevented Henry Tudor's forces from moving south towards London.  Buckingham was arrested and inevitably executed.  Everyone else seems to have been granted clemency, including Margaret Beaufort, who was married to Lord Stanley, a powerful lord who owned so much land in England that his eventual abandonment of Richard on the battlefield at Bosworth would lead to his downfall.  Such powerful landowners commanded legions of troops and their allegiance could make or break a king. 

Time passed and later that year Richard's only son died followed by his wife, Anne Neville.  Anne and Richard were cousins who grew up together and he most likely mourned the loss of a wife he truly loved.  More time passes and a second rebellion against Richard is raised by Woodville and Beaufort.  Henry Tudor came into Wales with his uncle Jasper Tudor, who himself was a great lord in Wales.  The Tudors marched down through England collecting troops as they went.  They met Richard's army at Bosworth where the king himself was leading his army.  At the last minute Lord Stanley ordered his troops to switch sides and start fighting against Richard and his men and Richard, who had been unhorsed, was killed.  It is said he went down fighting and yelling for a horse.  Henry Tudor rode into London in triumph after being crowned king Henry VII on the battlefield.  Five months later he married Elizabeth of York and united the red and white roses of England, or the houses of York and Lancaster, Tudor and Plantagenent. 

Henry quickly moved to have the act of Titulus Regius destroyed, not repealed, but destroyed.  If the act were left in existence it would draw into question the legitimacy of his wife, and if it was repealed it would declare Edward V to be the rightful king of England.  It was a double edged sword for Henry.  So he did the only thing he could do and obliterated the memory of such a law.  He passed a bill of attainder against Richard III accusing him of tyranny and cruelty but supposedly not of killing the two princes.  I have not been able to verify this fact, but if it is true and the princes were in fact missing and had been killed by Richard why would Henry not charge him with the crime?  It would be his biggest smoking gun and would make people loathe Richard and gladly accept their new king, whose claim to the throne was tenuous.  Anyhow, Henry's queen Elizabeth gave birth to Prince Arthur after they had been married for about a year and the succession was safe.

In 1489 Henry suddenly had Elizabeth Woodville put away in a nunnery, perhaps she started asking too many questions about her sons.  Prior to this he had granted her a hefty annual income and all of the rights and privileges of a dowager queen.  Around this time, in 1502, a man named Sir James Tyrell was arrested for treason and executed.  After his death a "confession" was published saying that he had been sent by Richard III to the tower with two other men to kill the young princes.  He relieved the constable of the tower, one sir Robert Brackenbury of the keys to the fortress for one night and the two hired thugs killed the young princes.  He supposedly buried them under a set of stairs.  The skeletons of two children were found in the 1700s and they were believed to be those of the princes.  It has never been proven however, but they are interred in state in Westminster Abbey.  They were not the only two skeletons found in the tower though, there is a tale from the time of Elizabeth I of the skeletons of two children being found laid out on a table in a walled up room.  What became of them is not known however.

So, was Richard guilty of the murder of his nephews or not?  Did only one of them die?  In the time of Henry VII a young man named Perkin Warbeck appeared on the international scene claiming to be the younger prince, Richard, Duke of York.  He was believed by many people in high places, but his claim remains unsubstantiated one way or the other.  All accounts of Richard as a murderer were written under the Tudor regime, the regime that usurped Richard's throne.  So who was the real killer?  Richard?  Henry Tudor?  Neither one?  I don't know that we will ever know but it makes for a really great mystery!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Centuries of Lies? Part 1

The subject of today's post is the guilt, or lack thereof, of Richard III.  Perhaps you are familiar with the story of Richard III from Shakespeare's play or from your world history books.  Perhaps you have seen one of the various movies about him.  He is generally portrayed as a murderous, hunch-backed fiend who killed his nephews in order to become king.  However, in reading a book this week I have discovered that this may be all propaganda brought about to discredit the Yorkist claim to the throne by Henry VII.  But back to the beginning and where it all started.

Richard III was the youngest brother of King Edward IV of England.  He was known for his loyalty to his brother the king and his great valor in battle.  George and Edward had another brother, George, Duke of Clarence, who was executed by Edward's order due to the fact that he raised multiple rebellions against his brother the king, making his own bid for the throne.  George and his heirs were disinherited before his death and were not re-instated for some time.  Edward IV died unexpectedly in 1483 leaving behind a wife, two sons, and five daughters.  The older son and heir to the throne, Edward V was in Wales at the time.  The queen, Elizabeth Woodville, fearing an uprising, took her younger son and daughters into Westminster Abbey and took sanctuary there.  She ordered her brother, Earl Rivers, who was the boy's guardian, and her son by her first marriage, the Marquise of Dorset, to bring the new boy king back to London.  The party was supposed to meet up with Richard III and his men somewhere in the north of England and proceed to London.  Richard had been named the Lord Protector of the young prince until he reached manhood.  This gave him full rights to the body of the prince, in today's terms he had legal custody of the child.

Rivers and his men did not meet up with Richard's party, who was coming down into England after fighting the Scots, instead forging ahead and leaving a messenger for Richard.  Richard promptly caught up to the Prince's party and arrested Rivers and Dorset for not handing over the young king.  He proceeded with him into London where he housed him at a bishop's palace while he himself stayed at his mother's family home at Baynard's castle.  He began to plan a coronation for the young king and asked that his younger brother Richard, Duke of York be brought out of sanctuary to keep the young king company.  The two boys were moved to the Tower of London, still a royal residence at the time, for safekeeping.  It was traditional for monarchs to sleep there before their coronation.

The coronation, however, never took place.  During a council meeting in June of that year Stillington, a priest in the Plantagenent household told Richard that he could not in good conscience allow Edward V to inherit the throne because he was in fact illegitimate due to the fact that the late King, Edward IV, had been secretly married to a lady named Eleanor Butler, who at this time was in a nunnery or possibly dead, (that is unknown) and therefore his marriage to the queen was bigamous.  The next in line to the throne was Richard's other nephew, the Earl of Warwick, his brother George's son.  Since the child had been disinherited Richard overlooked him and named himself heir to the throne.  Instead of his nephew being crowned he himself was crowned.   He quickly sent for a large force of soldiers to hold the city of London because he feared the boy's mother, the dowager queen, would encourage her many relatives at court to stage an uprising in favor of her son, which, in all likelihood she would have.  She was hated by many in power for bringing her relatives to court when she became queen and having titles bestowed upon them.

Anyhow, Richard is crowned, his wife and son are brought to court, and Elizabeth Woodville and her daughters come out of sanctuary.  The family, by all contemporary accounts seems to be getting along well, at times living in the palace and the princesses attended many palace functions.  No mention is made however, of the boys who are still locked in the tower one supposes.  Surely if they were missing scandal would have broken out, especially with a mother like Elizabeth Woodville on the loose.  There are no contemporary accusations, however, that the boys have disappeared or that Richard has done anything to them.  If I was a mother I would not keep quiet about my children having disappeared.  I would not come out of sanctuary with my daughters, I would sail quietly away to France in the middle of the night and raise an army on the continent.  None of this happened.   Everything went along normally.  The only rumors at the time seem to have appeared on the continent, where many of Richard's enemies fled upon his accession to the throne.  Most notably John Morton, the man who provided the information to Thomas More, who wrote a history of Richard III.  It is important to note that More himself, though a great man and a great mind, was a child in 1483, so he is not a contemporary historian and he was writing under a Tudor regime, a regime that usurped the Plantagenent one.

More tomorrow, more evidence, more treachery, more lies?

Sources: Richard III Society