The Mysterious Disappearance of Henry Pole the Younger in the Tower of London

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Picture this…a young lad of about thirteen or thereabouts.   Royal Plantagenet blood coursing through his veins.  His father is dead and no longer able to neither protect nor  save him.  His mother is also no longer around to help or comfort him.    Life has changed for him overnight and will never be the same again.  The servants who tended to his every need are gone.  Alone, perhaps frozen with fear and full of dread he is taken into the inner bowels of the Tower of London – I’m not talking about the ghastly cell known as Little Ease but I’m not talking the  royal apartments either  – after which hair or hide of him is never seen again. Poor little blighter.  Ring any bells? Gadzooks!  ‘Oh god not that old chestnut again!’ I hear some of you groan – but wait – read the heading – this is not about one of the sons of Edward IV but of another lad of noble lineage, Henry Pole the Younger,  who also disappeared mysteriously from the Tower.   

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Old photo of the cell known as Little Ease.  I’m not suggesting young Henry ended up here but the knowledge that such places were deep in the labyrinth that was the Tower must have struck terror in even the stoutest of prisoners.  

This young Henry was the grandson of Margaret Pole,  Countess of Salisbury, daughter of George Duke of Clarence who was executed by his brother, King Edward IV in 1478 and Isobel Neville, daughter of the famous Richard Neville later known as The Kingmaker.      Aspects of the story mirror that of  the sons of Edward IV who also disappeared while staying at the Tower  but whereas gallons of ink have been expended on the subject of these two royal lads Henry remains something of an after thought in the pages of history.  It has been suggested that he may have been starved to death.  A cruel death but one that would avoid the shedding his blood.  Neat eh?  If we were to  follow the same trains of thought of those that believe the sons of Edward were murdered in the Tower because they  were last seen alive in the Tower, ergo they must have died in the Tower,  and thus  a heinous child murder had taken place then the same conclusion must be arrived at for Henry.   However if poor Henry was not one of  Richard III’s ‘victims’ it seems as if his possible murder doesn’t count so what’s the problem?  But seriously,  where is the outcry?  Where is the denunciation?  There is none.   Whereas Richard III – held responsible for his nephews deaths by many for over 500 years  – has been vilified up to this very day and particularly by a cohort of modern historians who really should know better.   While the ‘murders’ of his nephews has been surely the absolute worst lump of mud to be chucked at Richard, the possible murder or death brought on by  the wilful and cruel neglect of an equally young and innocent Henry Pole  ne’re evokes hardly a mention.  How strange.    Rather than having the charge of child murderer hurled at him, Henry VIII is  better known, in the main,  for having been the husband of  the unfortunate Anne Boleyn –  as well as  five others,  two of whom were executed –   and  to a somewhat lesser degree the cause of the  Dissolution of the Monasteries.  This seems unfair to me.  But could it be that in actual fact Richard – which even his haters have to admit or stoutly ignore –  prior to the death of his brother, Edward IV and the legal disinheriting of his nephews led, on the whole,  a pretty honourable life for your average 15th century nobleman.  This is difficult for those that try to defend the usurpation of Henry Tudor.  What to do?  Well go down the propaganda route I’d say.   For who can admire someone –  who enables the murder of young defenceless children?  However the most sensible route to go down if  one is a cheerleader of a dynasty that has gone down that cruel route would be to  do all in one’s power to Shut It Down And Make It Go Away or as a last resort Fake Amnesia.   And so we can see why the fate of the young Henry Pole has remained to all intents and purposes muted.  

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While several artworks have been created showing the two little sons of Edward IV awaiting their ‘imminent deaths’ in the Tower no artist has thought to do the same depicting the equally young Henry Pole the Younger.  King Edward V and the Duke of York in the Tower, Paul Delaroche 1831.Wallace Collection.

But I’ve gone off on a tangent somewhat and to return to Henry Pole jnr.  Such is the dearth of information about Henry it can hardly fill a paragraph.  Even his age is a mystery and its been suggested he could have been aged anywhere between 13 to 18.    But the fact that he was not executed along with his father, Henry Pole,  Lord Montague,  suggests that he was in the lower age range.  When Henry jnr’s  uncle Reginald wrote about the ‘tyranny‘ that had  now extended from priests to nobles he described how it had also  ‘come to women and innocent children’.    Reginald, rather wistfully,  would also go on to describe Henry as ‘the remaining hope of our race’. Charles de Marillac, the French ambassador described him as ‘the little nephew of Cardinal Pole’(1). These remarks would indicate Henry was still quite a young child at the time of his arrest and incarceration.   

It is known that Margaret had been sent from confinement  at Cowdray to the Tower by November 1539.  She would have found her grandson already languishing there as he had been sent to the Tower along with his father at the time of the latter’s arrest in November 1538.  Were the pair able to meet, sit and converse, perhaps even embrace?  One would hope so.   In 1540 both Henry and Margaret were refused pardons.   However Henry VIII continued to provide £13 6s.8d a month food allowance for Margaret, Henry and another child detainee,  Edward Courtney.    Margaret was executed at the Tower on the 27th May 1541, the same location where both her father and young brother had been put to their deaths.   A terrible pattern was forming.  In 1542 the last payment for his food was made and Henry is heard of no more. But why would he have been treated so harshly?  It has been suggested that in a plot hatched by his uncle, Reginald Pole,  Henry was put forward as a possible spouse for Henry VIII’s Catholic daughter, Princess Mary.  Chapuys did indeed report that Mary would never marry an Englishman save maybe Reginald Pole or Henry Pole Jnr (2).  As it would have been pretty pointless to marry Reggie seeing as he had taken a vow of celibacy it would seem that Henry indeed was certainly up there at the  top of the list of marital candidates for Mary although  I suppose no problem would have been insurmountable in those times if you had the clout.  Reggie Pole would go on to wear a  cardinal’s Biretta instead of St Edward’s Crown –  but still – what’s not to like?  However the fact that Henry’s name was mooted as a possible spouse for Mary may have sounded the death knell for him or certainly put paid to him being released.   Certainly he was not as lucky, if lucky is the right word, as Edward Courtney, son of Henry Marquis of Exeter, who managed to survive being  imprisoned for 15 years until being released in 1553 after Mary took the throne.  Perhaps Courtney’s survival may be put down to the fact that his imprisonment was less onerous than that of Henry’s.  Marillac wrote to the French king, Francis 1st, in July 1540 that Courtney ‘is more at large than he was, and had a preceptor to teach him lessons, a thing which is not done towards the little nephew of Cardinal Pole, who is poorly and strictly kept and not desired to know anything’ (3).  Courtney’s later life and shenanigans is quite interesting and his story can be found elsewhere.  

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No depiction has come down to us of Henry Pole the Younger but here is the portrait of his grandmother, Margaret Pole, now at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Of course, being a strong believer in the theory that the young sons of Edward IV were unharmed and sent to places of safety it’s only fair that  I should explore the idea could it be possible that this is what happened to Henry?  Even though I would like to think so I think in this case  it’s highly likely yes, a child of noble blood did die in the Tower perhaps if not actually murdered then at the very least suffering a high level of neglect which very likely contributed to his early death.   

I would like to recommend Hazel Pierce’s biography Margaret Pole Countess of Salisbury 1473-1541 Loyalty Lineage and Leadership from which I have drawn on heavily for this post.

  1. Margaret Pole Countess of Salisbury 1473-1541 Loyalty, Lineage and Leadership p. 172. Hazel Pierce.
  2. Pole, Henry, Baron Montague (1492-1539) T F Meyer Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  3. Margaret Pole Countess of Salisbury  Loyalty, Lineage and Leadership 1473-1541 p. 173 Hazel Pierce.

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L’Erber – London Home to Warwick the Kingmaker and George Duke of Clarence

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London before the Great Fire and much as Richard Neville ‘The Kingmaker’ and his family would have known it…  L’Erber stood  slightly to the north west of Coldharbour which is the large house seen here in middle of the picture  facing the Thames.  No depiction of L’Erber has come down to us. Part of the The Visscher Panorama of London, 1616. Image Peter Harrington Rare Books.  

L’Erber numbered amongst the most important houses in Medieval London.  It gets regularly confused, even by one well known  historian,  with that other great house,  Coldharbour,  which confusingly was known for a while as Le Toure.  If searching old maps for these once magnificent houses it might be helpful to remember that L’Erber stood on the east side of Dowgate Hill which was situated to the north of Thames Street, while Coldharbour was to the south of Thames street  and fronted onto the River Thames.

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The oblong area within the red lines was the site of L’Erber.  Entrance was via the main gate which  was approached from Dowgate Hill.  Bordered to the south by Carter Lane later known as Chequers Yard/Lane and from  the east by Bush Lane where there was a back entrance.  Immediately to the north of  L’Erber was the church of St Mary Bothawe.  This church was destroyed in the Great fire and rebuilt.  Chequers Lane now gone but Bush Lane has survived the centuries. The area is now covered by Cannon Street Station.  From Strype’s edition of Stow’s Survey c.1720.

Both these houses have been covered in depth by C L Kingsford’s article ‘On Some London Houses of the Early Tudor Period’ (1)  This excellent article which gives the best and most accurate description of L’Erber available to us is now very difficult to get hold of but I was kindly sent a copy by someone from the Richard III Society.  Frustratingly no depictions  were ever made of L’Erber but we know exactly where it stood.    Basically it was massive covering just  slightly under three quarters of an acre.  Along with the house itself were two gardens, a large garden known as the Great garden and a smaller one known as the ‘Lytell’ garden.  There were also tenements, which were rented out, and a brew house known as the ‘Cheker’ (remembered in the name Checkers Yard),   stables and also an area for carts.   Situated immediately south of the church of St Mary Bothawe it was an irregular quadrilateral, having street frontages on three sides opening up on Dowgate, Carter Lane, later known as Chequer Lane/Checkers Yard,  and Bush Lane and having two large gates referred to in the houses accounts as simply the fore gate and back gate.  Built in the 14th century as a merchants house it would develop into one of the finest noblemans houses of London.

L’Erber’s most interesting period was during the Wars of the Roses when it was owned by Richard Neville, later known as Warwick the Kingmaker,  and later through his daughter, Isobel, passed into the possession of her husband,  George Duke of Clarence.  Stow tells us of Warwick’s largesse and that at his other house situated down nearby Warwick Lane   ‘were oftentimes six oxen eaten at a breakfast and every tavern was full of his meat; for he that had any acquaintance in that house might have there so much of sodden and roast meat as he could prick and carry upon a long dagger’  (2).   Perhaps the same generosity could be found at L’Erber.  In 1457 Richard the Earl of Salisbury , Warwick’s father, was housed at L’Erber along with 500 of his men while Warwick stayed at his house in Warwick Lane with his equally large entourage.   

Interesting shenanigans  took place at L’Erber – and oh,  to have been a fly on the wall -during the period following the Battle of Tewkesbury in May 1471 because it seems safe to surmise that  Clarence would have found it prudent to stay in his London house to  be at the epicentre of the robust arguments then taking place at Westminster Palace between the three royal brothers, Edward IV,  Clarence and Richard Duke of Gloucester regarding the inheritances of the Neville sisters, Isobel,  Clarence’s  wife and her sister Anne.  Following on from that it’s also safe to further surmise that it was probably from  L’Erber,  while Anne was in the care of her brother-in-law and sister,  that the young Duke of Gloucester sought her with marriage in mind.  I’ll let Croyland take up the story ‘This proposal did not suit the views of his brother, the Duke of Clarence, who had previously married the eldest daughter of the said earl.  Such being the case he caused the damsel to be concealed in order that it might not be known by his brother where she was, as he was afraid of a division of the earl’s property which he wished to come to himself alone in right of his wife and not to be obliged to share it with anyone other person.  Still however the craftiness of the Duke of Gloucester so far prevailed  that he discovered the young lady in the city of London disguised in the habit of a cook maid upon which he had her removed to the sanctuary of St Martin’s.   This charming story is so extraordinary and out of the common that I tend to believe it in the main although I am more inclined to think that it was probably Anne who took her fate into her own hands and slipped away into hiding rather than a dastardly George disguised and hid her in an attempt to thwart Richard’s marriage plans.   It’s quite easy to imagine an abundance of raised voices, door slamming and tears going on at L’Erber around that time.   In a very happy ending Richard found Anne and took her to the nearby sanctuary of St Martin le Grand until the arguments regarding the inheritance were concluded and resolved by King Edward himself. It was also likely that it was L’Erber where Clarence spent his last days of freedom before, having been summoned to appear before brother Edward at Westminster he was sent to the Tower and execution.

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George, Duke of Clarence.  Rous Roll.

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Possible portrait of George’s wife, Isobel Neville. Luton Gild Book.

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Possible portrait of Anne NevilleEton Wall portraits.

But how did the house first fall into the ownership of the great Neville family?   A lease dated 1371  with all the shops, cellars, sollars, gardens and rents was acquired by William Latimer, Lord Danby.   Latimers daughter, Elizabeth,  married John Neville, father of Ralph the first earl of Westmorland.   Westmorland was the father of  many children including Richard, Earl of Salisbury and Cicely Neville, mother to the three famous York brothers, Edward IV, Richard III and George Duke of Clarence.  It was Westmorland who ‘obtained a grant in fee from Henry IV‘  and who would leave L’Erber to his son Richard Earl of Salisbury,  who was father to the Richard Neville who would become known as  ‘The Kingmaker’.   After the Kingmaker’s death at Barnet in 1471, Edward IV would grant L’Erber to his brother Clarence, whose wife, Isobel, was the Kingmaker’s  eldest daughter. However after Clarence’s judicial murder L’Erber reverted to the crown once again and was later granted by a grateful Henry Tudor to the Earl of Oxford for life.  Following Oxford’s death in 1513 and in one of history’s funny old twists,  L’Erber was restored, in her own right,   to one of the  last of the Plantagenets, Clarence’s daughter, Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury,  by a benevolent Henry VIII.   Later Henry would revert to type and  she too was judicially murdered, basically because Henry had the raging hump with her son Reginald.

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Portrait of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury.  L’Erber was the London home of Margaret. National Portrait Gallery.  

As both her parents were dead by the time Margaret was five years old its doubtful she would have had any memories of staying at L’Erber with them.  However no doubt she felt a feeling of fulfilment as what had once been one of the  homes of her parents, and several Nevilles before them,  was returned to her.  We do know that her son, Montague, had his own room there as a receipt for repairs to a dore bytwyne my Lord of Mountagewes Chamber and the hey house‘ is still extant.  This also lets us know that Montague’s chamber would have been to the south-east corner of the house since that was near where the hay house was situated. Other repairs noted were: ‘a groundcell for my Lady’s Chamber’, ‘a somer pese under the gystes in the Lowe Chamber under the Great Chamber’, ‘bord spent in the back syde of my lady’s Great Chamber for weder bordyng and pentyses’,  ‘mendying a wall in the bak syde of my lady’s place in the Lytell Garden’,  ‘work in my lady’s Great Chamber on the great garden syde and the bak syde of the hey house’.  We can glean from this that Margaret’s Chamber i.e. bedroom,  was on the east side of the house overlooking the great garden. There was in January 1521  a payment of 7d. (7 pence)   made for cutting the Vine and in 1524 16d. was spent on four roots of vine and for cutting the vine.  On the 3rd July 1520 13s.4d. was paid to a William Kellam ‘by my Lady of Salusbury’s commaundement, the which he had for a tabernacle wherein (an image) of our Lady was enclosed, the which was paynted in the Erber’.  Also 3s.4d.  ‘which my Lady gave of her pity to the man who made the old tabernacle and gave him the old tabernacle and the said money’.  Payments were also made for the paving in the street in front of the gates, 19s.8d., plus 2s. for planks for the gutter beneath the paving (3). It’s also on record Margaret presenting St Mary Bothawe – whose priest she employed at L’Erber –  with tapers of wax which were to be ‘renued twyse a yere’.

However as is well known, the ending was tragic for the last scion of the Neville owners of L’Erber.  Margaret and other members of her family, including Montague, were arrested in November 1538 and placed in the Tower.  The rest is history which I won’t go into here. L’Erber was taken back yet again by the Crown.  It was purchased by the Drapers Company who let it to Sir Thomas Pullison, a lord mayor,  who according to Stowe ‘rebuilt’ it.  Pullison transferred the lease to none other than Sir Francis Drake who used it as his London residence until 1593.  The ending for L’Erber was in sight…

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The Great Fire of London. The devastating conflagration that consumed so much of medieval London including L’Erber.  Artist  Lieve Verschuier

This  ending for L’Erber arrived by midnight of the  first evening of the awful conflagration known as the Great Fire of London which begun in the early hours of the morning of Sunday 2nd September 1666 and which would  burn for three days.  On that evening along with L’Erber went Dowgate, Elbow Lane, Skinners Hall and St Mary Bothawe Church and much, much more.  As no illustrations have come down to us we have no way of knowing how much of the original medieval house still survived in 1666.  But I would like to think that had the shades of Warwick, his son-in-law, two daughters and granddaughter wandered through the those grand old rooms they would have been able to recognise the wonderful old house they had known so well.

  1.  On some London House of the Early Tudor Period C L Kingsford Esq 14th April 1921.  Published by the Society of Antiquaries
  2. A Survey of London Written in the year 1598 p.92.  John Stow.
  3.  On some London House of the Early Tudor Period C L Kingsford Esq 14th April 1921.  Published by the Society of Antiquaries

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SIR HENRY BODRUGAN – A LINK TO RICHARD III, EDWARD V, COLDRIDGE AND THE DUBLIN KING

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Bodrugan Leap – a traditional Cornish story tells of how Sir Henry Bodrugan leaped from this cliff top to a waiting boat and made his escape first to France and later to Ireland. 

If you are reading this then it is also likely that you have read my other various posts relating to the Coldridge theory including :  A Portrait of Edward V and Even a Resting Place?

A PORTRAIT OF EDWARD V AND THE MYSTERY OF COLDRIDGE CHURCH  

 THE MYSTERIOUS DUBLIN KING AND THE BATTLE OF STOKE

WAS LAMBERT SIMNEL A TUDOR HOAX?

If reading any of these posts you have ever wondered who was it who could have taken the young Edward V alias John Evans over the sea to Dublin may I suggest – drum roll – step forward Sir Henry Bodrugan.   Sir Henry, also known as Henry Trenowith,  was one of those larger than life characters who litter history and who had done exceedingly well during both the reigns of  Edward IV and Richard III.  He was a knight of the body of Richard and according to old Cornish tradition he may have been present at Bosworth for Richard before making his escape after the battle to Cornwall (1).    Knighted by Edward on the creation of Prince Edward as Prince of Wales.  he was one of the most powerful men in Cornwall during those interesting times (2).

Moving on to 1484 It has already been noted in some of the articles mentioned above that on the 3rd March two days following Elizabeth Woodville emerging from sanctuary,  Richard III sent one of his loyal followers, Sir Robert Markynfield from Yorkshire to Coldridge, an isolated village in Devon, granting him the position of Parker there  – Robert Markyngfeld/the keping of the park of Holrig in Devonshire during the kinges pleasure… (3).  This was a rather puzzling move by Richard which became even more intriguing  when in April Coldridge was among the slew of properties that Richard granted Sir Henry the lordship of including the manors of Trelawne and Tywardreath (4) Thus we have Coldridge, an isolated  backwater, becoming quite a hotbed of activity.  If the Coldridge theory is correct and we are barking up the correct tree this activity was due to Edward V being sent to live there incognito by Richard III in 1484 to what had once been the property of  Thomas Grey,  Marquis of Dorset, Edward’s half brother.   Further to this is speculation  that Edward V, who had been living under the alias of John Evans,  was the King Edward who was later crowned in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin on the 24 May 1487.  But if the Coldridge theory is correct who would have accompanied the young Edward to Dublin?  Certainly not fellow Yorkist rebels, Lincoln and Lovell for they arrived in Dublin after the arrival of the young lad who was about to be crowned and his supporters.    And here is yet another vitally important  link – for we know that none other than Sir Henry,  owner of Coldridge,  and his son John ‘Beaumont’,  were both present at the coronation in Dublin (5). I think we need look no further for the chaperone of Edward.  It is not known whether Sir Henry also accompanied the newly crowned Edward back to England and then on to Stoke but his name being left off the list of those who fought for the Yorkist cause that day we must assume he did not.  However both Henry and John Beaumont would be included in the Act of Attainder against the Yorkist rebels in November 1487.     We must backtrack a little to the 8 February 1487 when  Sir Richard Edgecombe, who had his own axe to grind, had been sent to arrest Sir Henry and John Beaumont on the grounds that they had ‘withdrawn themselves into private places in the counties of Devon and Cornwall and stir up sedition’ (6).    It should be noted that this coincided with the time the news of the ‘Lambert Simnel’ plot reached the ears of Henry VII, the ‘retirement’ of Elizabeth Woodville to Bermondsey Abbey and the arrests of  Thomas Grey,  Marquis of Dorset  and Bishop Stillington.    But our medieval version of Errol Flynn made his escape, and if a traditional  story is to be believed, in a most spectacular way, leaping off a cliff and landing in the sea below where a boat awaited him.    We will pause here to repeat the story which is too good to miss:

 “… Bodrugan slipped away out of his house to the cliffs nearby, where there was a boat waiting for him.   As soon therefore as he came to the cliff above an hundred feet high, he lept down into the sea upon a little grassy island there without much hurt or damage, where instantly a boat which he had prepared in the cove attended him there, which transported  him to a ship that carried him into France.  Which astonishing fact and place is to this day well known and remembered by the name of Harry Bodrugan’s leap’ (7).

He would make his way to Ireland where on the 24 May 1487 he attended in Dublin the coronation  of the young lad who was crowned King Edward.   Was this Edward in fact the true Edward V who had been living incognito at Sir Henry’s property of Coldridge under the name of John Evans?  Had Sir Henry some time between his escape from arrest and the Dublin Coronation journeyed  to Coldridge to escort the young Edward V/John Evans over the sea to Ireland?     Did Sir Henry ever return to England or did he live out his last days in exile in Ireland?   Let us hope it was not too onerous.

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15th century stained glass image of Edward V in the Evans chapel at Coldridge Church.  This image has been verified as being of Edward V by stained glass experts Brooks and Cherry as well as the Keeper of  Ceramics at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Photo  Photo Dale Cherry

 Later in 1503,  Sir Henry’s  heirs, John Reskymer and Richard Antron, made a somewhat cheeky attempt to have the Act of Attainder reversed.  They claimed that Sir Henry had departed into Ireland to (visit) a kinsman of his when he soon afterwards there deceased’  and furthermore he ‘was never in the company with the said Earl (Lincoln) nor never spake with him nor never sent him message by writing, nor none otherwise, nor never committed treason’(8)  

Predictably this attempt failed but nice try.  It does beg the question though was Sir Henry  ill, perhaps even mortally, around time of the coronation and too unwell to make it back to England with the other Yorkist rebels and the newly crowned King Edward.  Bodrugan Barton, from where Sir Henry made his escape,  would be amongst the clutch of Bodrugan manors  later granted to Sir Henry’s arch enemy,  Sir Richard Edgecombe on the 26 April 1488 although Coldridge would be returned to Thomas Grey Marquis of Dorset.

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The choir Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.  Here Sir Henry Bodrugan and his son John Beaumont attended the coronation of the ‘Dublin King’.  Photo with thanks to Diliff @ Flikr.
What else is known about the indomitable Sir Henry?  He came from an ancient Cornish family of high status.  His father, another formidable figure,  was Sir William Bodrugan of Newham, Cornwall (c.1398-1441) and his mother was Philippa, daughter of Sir John Arundel of Lanherne, Cornwall.  He married in 1454 Joan Beaumont nee Courtney, widow of William Beaumont.  Her son, John Beaumont, would later prove to be not the son of William but indeed the son of our Sir Henry and conceived before the death of William who at the time was estranged from Joan (9)    This young man would be brought up at Bodrugan, nr Mevagissey and would  become a partner in his father’s later misdeeds’ (10).   His father who died in 1441 when Henry was 15 left his son a sizeable inheritance including 21 manors.   He became the ward of Thomas Courtenay,  Earl of Devon,  until 1447.   Courtenay would pay the Earl of Suffolk for this privilege.
Sir Henry who can be safely described as having led rather a chequered career has been described by historian David Baldwin as a ‘lawless and rumbustious individual who was pardoned on at least four occasions between 1467 and 1480.  He and his associates seem to have terrorised Cornwall, breaking and entering, engaging in piracy, extracting and misappropriating money under cover of the King’s commission and corrupting wills.  His victims complained they could obtain no common law remedy against him ‘for if any person would sue the law against the said Henry  … or against any of his servants, anon they would should be murdered, slain and utterly robbed and despoiled of all their goods…’ (11). 
This was not all.  1472 found him doing a stint in the Fleet Prison for debt.   On Ist May 1476 he was  yet again in trouble for not paying his tailor, Nicolas Mills to whom he owed the enormous amount of £150 18s 7d.  Really Sir Henry!  But this pales into insignificance when compared to attacks, piracy,  threats to burn houses down – with the occupants still at home –  forcibly entries into houses and taking away goods, chattels, horses, cattle, even featherbeds and bedding etc., etc.,  The list goes on.  What’s not to like?  But still, it should be remembered, as the historian A L Rowse pointed out,  Sir Henry left behind him ‘a popular memory  in Cornish tradition’ and Charles Ross’ statement that half the gentry of Cornwall’ petitioned against him in the 1473 Parliament can be dismissed as a rather generous over egging of the pudding (12).
But stop! Enough of the negativity for surely he must have had some worthy attributes to gain the trust of the two aforementioned kings?  His name can be found on numerous commissions to investigate acts of piracy on ships,  commissions of array,  he was sent to arrest notable Lancastrians who were involved in acts of insurrection, playing an every growing part in the affairs of the country.  He played an active role in supporting Richard III during the Buckingham Rebellion which led to him seeking and hunting down Sir Richard Edgecombe who only just managed to  escape by the skin of his teeth,  who then made his way to Brittany and the court of Henry Tudor.   After Bosworth Sir Henry’s previous staunch loyalty to the Yorkist kings would make for an uncomfortable time for him within the new Tudor regime and a target for his former enemies such as Sir Richard Edgecombe, who in the reign of the new Tudor king,  found himself in the ascendancy.   In a reversal of roles it was Richard Edgecombe who once Sir Henry had hunted now became the hunter arriving at Bodrugan Barton to arrest him and John Beaumont on the orders of Henry VII.    As told above, Sir Henry, expecting no mercy made his daring escape and the rest is history.
Bodrugan Barton, home to the Bodrugan family is long gone with a just few grassy knolls where once it stood.  It has been erroneously described as a castle but was actually a manor house although it’s possible it could been fortified and probably had a park attached to it.  Borlais who visited the site in the 18th century when some of the ruinous walls still stood left us an interesting description  –
As you come from Mevagissey to the house on the right hand lies the largest barn I have ever seen. You pass through a large gate way into the stable yard where that which remains of the stables is vastly larger than any I have seen in Cornwall. The chapel lyes on the left hand but is now converted into a very large barn and having been often alter’d one should scarce know what it had been but for a nich us’d for holy water which is been of the same stile as the remains of the ancient house I there copy’d as well as I could in a darksome place.  The house you enter by a small porch on this side which makes me conclude that the great front must be to the south and that this was the back inferior entrance. The ancient hall makes a pretty large hall,  a dining room over and a very large kitchen but when formerly in one room must have been very magnificent. In the kitchen the timbering of the roof work appears and is very great and curiously carved and disposed in parabolick curves above and supported by pillars of oak which descend visibly thro’ the wall to the bottom of the room. No remains in the County come near what Bodrugan can show…'(13). 
In 1786 the last remains of Bodrugan Barton  were demolished.   An ancient wall, which includes a 14th century doorway of Pentewan stone,  that  may have been  either part of the main house or chapel  is  incorporated into a  property now known as The Chapel.   So sadly the back entrance that Sir Henry made his escape from that day in 1487 now no longer exists.  There is no way of knowing whether the story of Harry Bodrugan’s Leap is true however we do know that Sir Henry did indeed make his escape to end up in Dublin for the coronation of the ‘Dublin King’.   Nothing is heard of him after that and it’s possible he may have died soon after that event or  perhaps lived out the last few years of his life in Ireland perhaps on the  land that was once owned by a 13th century Bodrugan ancestor.     But he had survived into his 60s, a good age for those turbulent times, long enough for one last shout and what may have been a bold albeit futile attempt at returning Edward IV’s son to his throne.  After the battle the young lad who had been crowned ‘King Edward’ was discovered.  The  heralds recorded that although the young King Edward was taken,  his real name was ‘John’   : ‘And there was taken the lade that his rebelles called King Edwarde (whoos name was in dede John) – by a vaylent and a gentil esquire of the kings howse called Robert Bellingham’ (14).    If the theory is correct, perhaps Sir Henry gained some comfort in the knowledge that Edward V survived the carnage of Stoke and was returned to Coldridge where he lived out his life quietly as  John Evans.
1. The Parochial History of Cornwall, 4 Vols. Gilbert Davies. London: J B Nichols and Son, 1838 
2.  Ross p.411.
3.  Harleian Manuscript 433. Vol.1.
4.  Ibid.
5.  Oxford DNB. Philippa Maddern 23 September 2004.
6.  Cal.Pat.Rolls 1485-94
7.  The Parochial History of Cornwall, 4 Vols. Gilbert Davies. London: J B Nichols and Son, 1838
8.   Star Chamber Proceedings.  Henry VIII  vol 23 folio 305.
9.   Cal.Pat.Rolls, 1461-1467, p.539.
10. The Turbulent Career of Sir Henry de Bodrugen.  A L Rowse 1944.
11. Stoke Field, The last Battle of the Wars of the Roses p.p.25.26. David Baldwin.
12. ODNB Bodrugan (Trenowith), Sir Henry. Philippa C Maddern 23 September 2004.
13. The Bodrugans: A Study of a Cornish Medieval Knightly Family  p..p 50.51  1995. From the Borlaise MXX in Gorran. Records of Early English Drama (REED).
14. Chroniques de Jean Molinet ed. G Doutrepont and O Jordogne Brussells 1935.  Translation taken from Michael Bennett’s Lambert Simnel and the Battle of Stoke. See also Heralds’Memoir  1486-1490 pp.116-17 E. Cavell.
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The Summer of 1483: Who Was Doing What, Where, With Whom and Why.

Annette word-cloud 1

Today a guest post from Annette Carson, author of many excellent books about Richard III and his times including The Maligned King,  Richard III: A Small Guide to a Great Debate, Richard Duke of Gloucester as Lord Protector & Constable of England and a new translation of Mancini. Annette was also a member of the Looking for Richard Project.   Thank you Annette: 

The summer of 1483 was a hotbed of activity for those people who had a political interest in the disposal of the throne of England.  Richard III had been offered the crown in June and had enjoyed a splendid coronation on 6 July. He had effectively disposed of opposition, and had set off to display himself to his people on a royal progress which proceeded westward from Westminster and then northward to culminate in September with the investiture of his son as Prince of Wales at York. We are fortunate in that his whereabouts at every stage have been traced by Rhoda Edwards in The Itinerary of Richard III (1). 

15th cwntury map crop 2

Southern England and Wales in the 15th century.

So we know where Richard was at any given time. More interesting is where his opponents were, and what they were up to. For although they had been defeated, they were not eliminated; and in his absence they were busily finding ways to overthrow his rule.

Those whose activities will be traced in this article fall into four main strands: the Woodville family; the Duke of Buckingham; Henry Tudor; and his mother Margaret Beaufort. All four came to be woven together by the month of September.

First there was the Woodville family, whose power-base had been removed with the deposition of the young Edward V. Edward, the 12-year-old son of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, had been brought up among Woodvilles who expected him to be their passport to power on the death of his father in April 1483. Misguidedly, they had attempted to bypass Richard’s protectorship as willed by the late king, but were over-ruled by the King’s Council. Rather than reconcile with the new government, they scattered. Elizabeth, together with several family members including her daughters, fled into sanctuary at Westminster Abbey in May. By mid-June the deposed Edward V, together with his brother Richard of York, Elizabeth’s younger son by Edward IV (known to history as ‘the princes in the Tower’) were lodged in the royal apartments of the Tower of London where they soon became a focus for dissidents who wished to see Edward restored to the throne.

One of Elizabeth’s brothers was to play an important role in subsequent events, although Tudor ‘histories’ ensured that no credit would attach to his name. This was Sir Edward Woodville, who as early as April had set himself up with a force of ships at sea, in a foolhardy move to counteract French privateering in the Channel. At the same time Thomas Grey, Elizabeth’s elder son by her previous marriage, had spent several thousand pounds raising men at arms for the venture. When Richard took charge as Protector and Defender of the Realm, most of the fleet was brought safely back to England. Edward Woodville escaped with two ships and large quantities of treasure, including a haul of £10,250 in gold coin audaciously taken from a carrack lying in Southampton Water(2). Woodville and his fortune fetched up eventually in Brittany with Henry Tudor, of which more below. Meanwhile Thomas Grey absconded, and history tells us nothing more of his expensively equipped soldiery; we may guess that he and his family made good use of them in the events that followed.

The second strand we will follow is the career of Harry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, who was Richard’s chief lieutenant in 1483 and a principal architect of the constitutional settlement whereby the representatives of England’s Parliament set aside Edward V and petitioned Richard to assume the throne. Buckingham’s status in life had been transformed by his new association with Richard III. So it is hard to understand why, in view of his new prominence on the royal stage, together with all its material rewards and financial gains, within weeks of Richard’s coronation he would rebel against his generous benefactor.

Third we come to Henry Tudor, Richard’s contemporary who had been raised a supporter of the Lancastrian dynasty, and had thus been on the losing side in England’s civil strife commonly known as the Wars of the Roses. Henry and his uncle Jasper Tudor had fled into exile and by 1483 were enjoying the hospitality and financial support of Francis II, Duke of Brittany. During Edward IV’s glory years of consolidating his throne, Henry had been little more than a minor irritant. But evidently he harboured ambitions that prevented him from reconciling to the rule of York, for although terms had been discussed for his return to England to access certain inheritances if he swore allegiance to Edward, so far Henry had refused to budge (3).  Towards the end of Edward’s reign, when he was virtually isolated from his erstwhile European allies, Duke Francis was using Tudor in an attempt to pressurize Edward into complying with his demands for support. As the duke’s grip on reality became more frail, he was persuaded to side with the Tudor camp against England.

Our fourth strand deals with the partnership between Henry’s mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, and the man who emerged as her politically astute counsellor, John Morton, Bishop of Ely. As our curtain goes up, Morton is under arrest for participating in a plot (led by William Hastings) to assassinate Richard, and has been sent to be held in custody at Buckingham’s seat of Brecon in south-east Wales. Buckingham himself has left London heading for his estates in the west, parting from Richard as the king’s progress leaves Gloucester (on 2 August according to The Itinerary).4 Allowing time for Buckingham to visit others of his estates on the way, he probably reached Brecon about the middle of August.5 Morton was clever enough to suborn him to treason, and secret letters were soon flying between Brecon and Margaret Beaufort, whose great wealth would help to finance their plans.

Meanwhile we must look at events in London that summer, where certain followers of the Woodvilles made a precipitate and ill-fated attempt to remove the sons of Edward IV from the Tower of London which seems to have occurred in July. Its date can only be estimated, but the actual report of the circumstances, by the 16th/17th-century antiquary John Stow, appears to receive independent support in the writings of Thomas Basin, Bishop of Lisieux (6).  For reasons explained in my new book, Richard III: The Maligned King, chapter 8, a likely date for the attempt is the third week of July, which ties in with a letter dated 29 July from Richard III to his Chancellor ordering action to be taken against the perpetrators, now apprehended, of just such a foiled plot.

Stow, who apparently took his information from the original indictment, says that the conspirators were in correspondence with the Tudor camp in Brittany. This is confirmation that the Woodville strand has become enmeshed with the Tudors. The reason becomes clear when we recall that Sir Edward Woodville has been cooling his heels in Brittany for the past two months, with two ships at anchor and coffers overflowing with gold, desperately wishing he could find a way to restore Edward V (and the Woodville family) to power.

The ill-conceived plan in July is followed by another in August, which draws three of our four strands into the mix: on 13 August John Welles, Margaret Beaufort’s half-brother, is arrested for plotting rebellion.7 Margaret’s biographers, Michael K. Jones and Malcolm G. Underwood, believe that Margaret was up to her eyes in this intrigue, and probably was involved in the July plot also; Louise Gill and Rosemary Horrox agree (8).

The only possible conclusion is that these were attempts to restore Edward V (still safely residing at the Tower) to sovereignty. At this date there is no indication that any harm has come to the ‘princes’, certainly not on account of Welles’s plot because the latter, after forfeiting his lands, was allowed to go free. The last reference to their whereabouts on any particular date comes from the Crowland chronicler, who informs us that at the time of the Prince of Wales’s investiture in the first week of September they were still being guarded closely in the Tower of London (9).

We must now return to the Woodville strand and consider their options. By refusing to reconcile they were now condemned as reprobate by the King’s Council, as shown by the Chancellor’s draft speech to the 1483 Parliament.10 The only active member of the clan was Sir Edward in Brittany, who by August had evidently recruited the Tudors to support (as he supposed) the restoration of Edward V. The Tudors, however, were small fry in themselves since they were dependent on the whim of their Breton hosts. The real prize for the Woodvilles was Henry’s mother in England, Margaret Beaufort, wealthy in her own right, ambitious for her son, and currently married to a hugely influential husband, Thomas, Lord Stanley.

Margaret had evidently seen a vista of golden opportunities opened up by such a liaison, and was keen to exploit it. Otherwise there was no earthly reason why she and her half-brother John Welles would risk being involved in rebellious plots which served their family’s interests not one whit.

The most golden of all opportunities for Margaret in the summer of 1483 was the potential hand in marriage, for her exiled son, of Elizabeth Woodville’s eldest daughter, since this would transform him at a stroke into a major player on the world stage. Accordingly she sent intermediaries to Elizabeth in sanctuary to commence negotiations. Historians have been quick to assume, in line with the story peddled by Henry Tudor’s later historian Polydore Vergil, that Elizabeth subscribed to the glorious destiny proposed for her daughter of uniting York with Lancaster; and that, because this action was against the interests of the ‘princes’ if alive, Elizabeth must have believed them dead. Such conclusions, however, are over-credulous. You simply have to work out the chronology.

When the marriage was mooted, it had to be at a time in July/August when the Beaufort side of the bargain was required to demonstrate its bona fides by being willing to commit treason in the Woodville cause. Both mothers were in an equivocal position. Margaret Beaufort had long hoped for a royal bride for her son, but knew there was a price to pay. Elizabeth Woodville had no need to hand over her most senior daughter without gaining something of enormous substance in return. Yet with her son deposed, she was powerless until he could be restored. Therefore we may safely assume that Elizabeth’s price for her daughter’s hand was active assistance in his restoration. The person the Beauforts must help to place on the throne was not Henry Tudor, but Edward V.

At this point we must return to our second strand, represented by the Duke of Buckingham in Brecon. From around mid-August his strand is entwined with that of his prisoner Bishop John Morton, who belongs to Lady Margaret Beaufort’s faction. Morton must have spotted some telltale signs of envy or resentment in the duke’s attitude to the newly crowned Richard, for within a short space of time he was able to persuade Buckingham to align himself with the pockets of rebellion already brewing in protest at the deposition of Edward V.

As a seasoned politician, ‘a man of many designs and much boldness, versed in party intrigue since the time of King Henry [VI]’,11 it was not difficult for Morton to link together in Buckingham’s mind a grand coalition of the disaffected. I.e. the disgruntled Tudor and his mother as the ‘last of the Lancasters’; bringing with them Lancastrian money and backing as well as Duke Francis with his men and ships; plus those of no particular faction in England who sought the restoration of Edward V; topped off with evidence that the Woodvilles could count on continued support from beneficiaries of their 20 years of power and patronage.

Polydore Vergil in his Anglica Historia is the best source of information about the Buckingham- Morton-Beaufort-Tudor conspiracy, thanks to his contacts at Henry Tudor’s court. We may be confident that, although massaged to present a spin complimentary to Tudor self-aggrandization, his account came virtually from the horse’s mouth.

Additionally, it appears Bishop Morton was so impressed with his own prowess that he set out the entire entrapment of Buckingham in an anti-Richard tract which survived for at least a century, although it has since disappeared. The existence of this tract was recorded around the turn of the 1500s/1600s by (among others) Sir George Buc(k), Master of the King’s Revels to King James I: he produced a History of King Richard III in which he stated categorically that Morton’s tract had come into the possession of Sir Thomas More. Sure enough, More’s History of King Richard III included a scene recounting the very words that Bishop Morton was supposed to have used to incite Buckingham to treason. The consensus among those who saw the tract seems to be that the duke was persuaded that he, rather than Richard, was more fit to wear the crown.

Vergil filled in the blank spaces by recounting how Morton, once Buckingham had taken the bait, sent messengers speeding between himself and Margaret Beaufort, reporting the good news that the duke was ready to betray his friend Richard (this exchange of messengers can be traced to the middle two weeks of August) (12).  Lady Margaret, recognizing the importance of having split Buckingham from the king, was so thrilled that she immediately sent large amounts of cash to Henry Tudor in Brittany. Vergil, of course, was given a different gloss on Buckingham’s motivation to rebel: not that Buckingham sought the crown for himself, but that he postulated a glorious vision of Henry Tudor on the throne of England with a daughter of Edward IV as his queen (13).

Before we can continue with Buckingham’s strand, we first have to cross to Brittany to see who is doing what there. After years spent sitting on his hands as a pensioner of Francis II, Henry Tudor has leapt into action with his new (soon-to-be-forgotten) friend Sir Edward Woodville. Duke Francis, persuaded by the latter’s two stolen vessels and five-figure sums of treasure, as well as by new funding recently arrived from Henry’s mother, agrees to prepare and provision a flotilla of ships which is already being equipped in the first weeks of September (14).

Annette Carson map showing English coast and Brittany 2The French Coast in the 15th Century..

Since these preparations precede the September date on which not only the Crowland chronicler but also Polydore Vergil15 claim that the ‘princes’ were still alive in the Tower of London, we have to conclude that Francis II was duped into thinking he was supporting the Woodvilles’ attempts to restore the throne to Edward V.

This was also the rallying-cry of the rebels in England as Buckingham, a pillar of Richard’s establishment as his High Constable of England, offered himself to them as their unlikely leader in overthrowing the rule of his benefactor. At the end of August he had received a commission from a trusting Richard requiring him to investigate reports of uprisings that had broken out in London and the southern counties. Instead of bringing the rebels to justice, Buckingham toured the seats of rebellion in early September presenting his credentials as their brand new captain-in-chief – and, incredibly, they accepted him in that role. As the Crowland chronicler tells us, he now issued his public proclamation against Richard.16 Since we know that the king was still happily ordering monies to be paid over to Buckingham as late as 16 September,17 this proclamation cannot have been issued before about 10-12 September.

Continuing with the Crowland narrative, we now have a sudden change in circumstances. A rumour spreads like wildfire among the rebels that the boy-king they want to restore, along with his brother, has met an unspecified but violent end. Now bereft of a candidate for the throne, they are thrown into confusion. But one thing is certain in the subsequent hiatus: they are not prepared to vote in Harry of Buckingham for that role (18).

There is, of course, no way that the rebels can confirm the fate or even the whereabouts of the boys. A decision must urgently be taken to cover the eventuality that the rumours may be correct, and at this point someone – probably the ever-helpful Morton – steps in to mention that Lady Margaret Beaufort happens to be negotiating a marriage contract between Henry Tudor and the eldest female heir of the ‘princes’. The rebels accordingly make Tudor their champion on the promise of this marriage.

The promise seems to have been offered and accepted without demur, even though it can have been made only by proxy, given that the principals in the matter were unavailable to confirm it. This leaves it open that the rebels may have regarded Tudor as a stopgap candidate, and were not necessarily convinced Edward V was actually dead.

So at this point all our four strands have come together. Buckingham has joined Morton and Margaret Beaufort in a rebellion that now has Henry Tudor catapulted to prominence as leader rather than supporter. Sir Edward Woodville, having sought Tudor backing, now has rather more involvement from Henry and his mother than he bargained for. And Elizabeth Woodville finds her daughter promised away to Henry Tudor without the quid pro quo that lay at the heart of her original deal.

Let us end by considering Elizabeth Woodville, tucked away in sanctuary, with a question-mark over the fate of her sons and the prospect of their claims being swept aside by Tudor. Just how happy was she to have her boys written off in the space of a few days, while the restoration movement was hijacked by this adventurer from Brittany who clearly intended to use her daughter to set himself up in their place?

I have indicated that the marriage discussions began as a deal that would bring in the weight of the Beaufort-Tudor faction in favour of Edward V. The negotiating process would have been a protracted one, with each side jockeying for the best terms: what was the maximum Elizabeth could demand in return for her daughter, and what was the minimum to which Margaret Beaufort would commit while being able to secure a promise of marriage? It is reasonable to suppose that an agreement was close by the time Margaret sent money to Henry at about the end of August.

But then came the devastating news that Elizabeth’s sons were rumoured to be dead. I would argue that a frantic mother would never voluntarily accept any such rumour as true without instituting the most strenuous enquiries and searches. We know that Elizabeth took money and possessions with her into sanctuary, and had the wherewithal to hire agents to carry out her instructions. Even had she been told to her face that the boys were dead, would she not keep hoping it was just a ploy? Short of seeing their bodies for herself, what could possibly serve to convince her?

Yet too many people are still ready to accept the Tudor story that Elizabeth straightaway betrothed her daughter to the very man who posed the greatest threat to her sons while they remained alive. I say ‘straightaway’ because for this story to be true, she must have done so in the space of no more than a few days after the rumour broke.

This timeline is found by reckoning backwards from the latest date by which planning for the rebellion had resumed (so far as records show) after the hiatus caused by the rumour. This must have been by about 20 September, as indicated by the fact that Robert Morton, keeper of the rolls in chancery, was caught plotting, investigated, and replaced in his post by 22 September. On the following day action was taken against Bishop Lionel Woodville who also had become embroiled in the resumption of the rebellion (19).

As mentioned above, Buckingham’s leadership proclamation could not have been issued before about 10-12 September. Therefore the rumour that ousted him from that position must have been spread after this point and before 20 September. That leaves a total of just seven to ten days in which (as is commonly – and erroneously – assumed) Elizabeth Woodville heard the rumour of the death of her sons, investigated and believed it, then abandoned their cause so that Henry Tudor could claim the throne in right of his betrothal to her daughter. This is simply beyond credulity.

Very soon afterwards, on 24 September, Buckingham sent letters to Henry Tudor urging him to invade England.20 By then the rebellion was in full swing, Henry had been accepted as the rebels’ new champion and the initial panic at the rumours was over. For Elizabeth, however, I would argue it had only just begun.

NOTES

  1. Rhoda Edwards, The Itinerary of King Richard III, 1483-1485 (London, 1983).
  2. Rosemary Horrox, Richard III: A Study of Service (Cambridge, 1989), pp.102-3.
  3. Michael K Jones and Malcolm G.Underwood, The King’s Mother: Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby (Cambridge, 1992), pp.60, 61.
  1. Polydore Vergil, Anglica Historia (J.B. Nichols, 1846), book 25, p.194.
  2. Bill Hampton, in ‘“Our trusty and wellbeloved servant and squire for our body”, Nicholas Baker alias Spicer’, The Ricardian, 2003, and Louise Gill, in Richard III and Buckingham’s Rebellion (Stroud, 1999, 2000) agree on Buckingham’s probable route to Brecon. He was certainly there on 23 August when an order passed under his personal signet: Gill, p.64.

6. John Stow, The Annales or Generall Chronicle of England (London, 1615), p.460; Thomas Basin, Histoire de Louis XI, ed. C. Samaran, vol 3, Les Classiques de l’histoire de France, vols 26, 29, 30 (Paris, 1972), p.234.

  1. Horrox, A Study of Service, p.150; Gill, op cit, p.63.
  2. Jones & Underwood, op cit, p.125; Gill, op cit, pp.63-4; Horrox, A Study of Service, p150.
  3. The Crowland Chronicle Continuations 1459-1486, ed. Nicholas Pronay and John Cox (London,1986), p.163.

10. Published in full in Carson, Richard Duke of Gloucester as Lord Protector and High Constable of England (Horstead, 2015), Appendix X.

  1. Carson, Domenico Mancini: de occupatione regni Anglie (Horstead, 2021), p. 63.
  2. Carson, Richard III: The Maligned King (Stroud: 2008 edn p.138; 2013 edn p.162).
  3. Vergil, Anglica Historia, book 25, pp.194-5.
  4. Ralph A. Griffiths and Roger S. Thomas, The Making of the Tudor Dynasty (Stroud, 1993), p.102.
  5. Vergil, Anglica Historia, book 25, p.188.
  6. Crowland Chronicle, p.163.
  7. British Library Harleian MS 433, ed. R.E. Horrox and P.W. Hammond (Upminster and London, 1979-83), vol. I, pp.3-4.
  1. Crowland Chronicle, p.163.
  2. Horrox, A Study of Service, pp.151-2, citing BL Harleian MS 433 vol. II, pp.23-4; Gill, op cit, p.64.
  3. Rolls of Parliament, vol. 6, pp.244-9.

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WAS ‘LAMBERT SIMNEL’ A TUDOR HOAX?

‘So rude a matter and so strange a thinge, 

As a boy in Dublin to be made a kinge..’ *

Untitled copy 6

Old St Paul’s where the tragic Edward Earl of Warwick was displayed in February 1487 and with ‘Lambert Simnel’  on the 8 July 1487.  ‘Old St Paul’s Cathedral Seen from the East 1656-58’ Wenceslaus Hollar.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

I have gathered much of the information to be found here from the excellent  books written by Michael Barrett (very helpful having all the key sources in chronological order in an appendix), David Baldwin (very useful for the battle of Stoke ) and John Ashdown-Hill for candidates for the ‘Dublin King’.  Articles by Gordon Smith, Barrie Williams and Randolph Jones were also invaluable.

Main key sources include  Molinet, André, Vergil and the Heralds Memoir.

So who was the Dublin King and following on from that who was Lambert Simnel?  For the Dublin King we can safely say there were four candidates –

Edward V b. February  November 1470,  16 years old in June 1487,

Richard of Shrewsbury b.August 1473, 14 years old in June 1487.

Edward Earl of Warwick b. February 1475,  12 years old in June 1487.

Lambert Simnel described as 10 years old in Lincoln’s Act of Attainder November 1487.

Richard of Shrewsbury was very soon passed over (Perkin Warbeck anyone?) which leaves us with Edward V,  Edward Earl of Warwick and Lambert Simnel.

I’ve tried to work out logically who the Dublin King was and not factually as that is of course  impossible.

Let us look at Lambert Simnel:

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‘Lambert Simnel’  as a scullion in the kitchen of Henry VII.   Artist unknown.  Getty images.

Despite historian A F Pollard opining that No serious historian has doubted that Lambert Simnel was an imposter’ historians have still doggedly expended large quantities of ink on the probability of whether or not  the ten(ish) year old boy known as Lambert Simnel  was the young lad who was  crowned in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin on the 24 May 1487.   The next favourite seems to be the Edward the young Earl of Warwick although he was, to all intents and purposes, firmly lodged in the Tower of London at the time.   For same strange reason the chances of the young Dublin king being Edward V have been, on the whole,  overlooked which is exactly what the Tudor regime had hoped would happen.   It should be remembered that Edward V and his siblings, including Henry’s queen had all been declared legitimate by Henry’s Parliament in January 1486  and if it got out that a young lad claiming to be Edward V had been crowned in Dublin it was going to open a very unpleasant can of worms for Henry.   This fact may also have focussed Lincoln’s mind on the fact that as Edward V was now legitimised he would have been the rightful king and in the event of the rebellion proving successful it would have proven difficult for him to make a try for the throne.  Perhaps loyalty and decency never allowed the thought to creep into his mind anway.   To muddy already muddy waters further it is unclear whether the boy king was crowned Edward V or Edward VI.    This is despite it being totally illogical that Lincoln would  have thought it a sensible plan to have a blatantly fake Edward of Warwick or even the genuine  article crowned.     This is baffling and has never been  convincingly explained.  Although  evidence is lacking  that Richard III either made Lincoln his heir or intended to do so,  the fact is that  after the death of his son, Edward of Middleham,  he appointed Lincoln Lieutenant of Ireland,  a post that had been held by Edward and this  may  indicate the likelihood that he did indeed intend to make Lincoln his heir rather than the much younger Edward Earl of Warwick.  Richard may have stated his wishes on the eve of  Bosworth should things go wrong, which they did.   But  there is another option which I will return to later.  Obviously the truth of the matter went to the grave with Lincoln, which annoyed Henry VII no end,  but as way of explanation it has been suggested Lincoln may have believed  he would have been unable to attract enough followers –  so to follow that logic through –  the suggestion is,  that he believed the 12 year old son of the attainted George Duke of Clarence would? This is absurd.  This is put forward despite the fact that he, as a competent  adult of the Yorkist royal family with unquestionable and untainted  lineage would surely have been preferable to the young son of Clarence whereas for him to stand aside for a true son of Edward IV makes perfect sense.    Suggestions have also been mooted that he may have wanted to rule through a puppet king i.e. young Warwick,  or even take the throne from himself in the event the rebellion was successful.  Only wait, wouldn’t he have had a problem with then turfing the young Warwick, now the newly crowned king,  off the throne?  Why not just go for it himself?  However perhaps the most difficult sticking point  with Warwick being nominated as Richard’s heir would be that he had no legal claim to the throne because the issue of his father, George Duke Clarence had been barred in an Act of Attainder which was  reiterated later in Titulus Regius (The Royal Title) :

 ‘Moreover we consider howe that aftreward, by the thre estates of this reame assembled in a parliament holden at Westminster the xvijth yere of the regne of the said King Edward the iiijth, he then being in possession of coroune and roiall estate, by an acte made in the same parliament, George Duc of Clarence, brother to the same King Edward now decessed, was convicted and attainted of high treason; and in the same acte is conteigned more at large. Because and by reason whereof all the issue of the said George was and is disabled and barred of all right and clayme that in any wise they might have or challenge by enheritence to the crowne and roiall dignitie of this reame, by the auncien lawe and custome of this same reame …’   

To be fair it’s possible Richard could have overturned this just prior to Bosworth and the evidence lost,  but how likely would it have been that he would have passed over the adult Lincoln in favour of a small boy 10 year old boy.  It makes no sense.   Surely if the worst came to worst, which it did,  he would want a strong hand at the helm to take the House of York safely forward? 

A cursory look into Lambert’s story will immediately throw up contradiction after contradiction.     For example even the  name of the priest who ‘mentored’  Lambert, and is therefore a person of importance,  is completely muddled being either  William Simonds or Richard Simons depending on what version of events you are reading.   For example on 17th February 1487 the proceedings of a convocation of Canterbury,  held at St Paul’s,  were noted by a clerk to John Morton Archbishop of Canterbury.  To whit a priest William Simonds, 28 yrs old, confessed to the big wigs gathered there that he had abducted and taken across to places in Ireland the son of a certain organ maker, of the university of Oxford, and that this boy was there reputed to be the earl of Warwick and that afterwards, Simons himself, was with Lovell in Furness Falls to reconnoitre a suitable place for the Yorkists to land.  Honestly you couldn’t make it up… but still …onwards!  Simonds was then taken to the Tower of London as Morton was already holding a  prisoner, being held for the same offence,  at Lambeth and lacked the room for another.   Note that neither the boy or his father at this stage had been named.

However according to Vergil, who on the whole is judged to be a good egg, but nevertheless was writing nearly 20 years after the event,   ‘Lambert the false boy-king’ was captured along with  his mentor, a priest, who had now morphed into  Richard Simons,  after the battle of Stoke Field.   To get over this awkward anomaly it’s been suggested  that William and Richard may have been brothers.   As Barrie Williams points out  it should be taken into account Vergil would only have been about 17 when these events were taking place and probably still living in Italy.  Therefore his version of events came from ‘ Tudor strong partisans including Morton – yes him again – More, Foxe, Bray and Urswick.  It does not need spelling out yet again the importance  for the Tudor regime, that it  be believed that the Dublin King was a 10 yr old Lambert Simnel,  impersonating  the 12 year old Earl of Warwick who could be proven to be, beyond doubt,  at that moment in time incarcerated in the Tower of London.   And indeed in the aftermath of Stoke, Lambert Simnel, according to  London Chronicle, recently discovered at the College of Arms,  and the hapless young Earl of Warwick were shown openly together at St Paul’s on the 8 July 1487 (1). 

It may be worthwhile to remember that Vergil made an interesting blunder with Edward, Earl of Warwick’s age, stating that he was 15 years old  when he was removed from Sheriff Hutton in 1485  when in fact it would have been Edward, son of Edward IV,  who was then aged 15.   Interestingly Vergil did say that the Irish and Germans said that they had come to ‘restore’  the young Edward crowned in Dublin to the kingdom – Restituere means to restore, put back, reinstate etc.,  As Gordon Smith points out this would rule out young Warwick, who had never been king and thus did not require restoring,  but strongly indicates that the Dublin King was indeed Edward V.

In a story found in the Book of Howth some years later, Henry VII invited Irish nobles to a banquet in England where the servant serving them wine was none other than the young Lambert, who had been despatched to the kitchens.  The very nobles who would have been present at the coronation in Dublin failed to recognise the young boy.  This is when Henry, who enjoyed a joke as well as the next man, made his famous  comment ‘My masters of Ireland you will be crowning apes at length’.  Now this is rather confusing.  Because if Henry had set out to to demonstrate that the young lad crowned in Dublin was the servant serving  them,  then all he had to do was to sit back and wait for them to recognise him.  Which is exactly what did not happen.  Shot in the foot much springs to mind.  So who was he and from whence did he come, this young Lambert?

The Council Meeting at Sheen and its Aftermath

This meeting held at Sheen, now known as Richmond, in February 1487 concluded with three decisions being made (as well as Lincoln making an immediate exit closely followed  by a  swift sprint to Flanders) :

  1. The proclamation of a general pardon.
  2. The exhibition of Warwick
  3. The removal of Elizabeth Wydeville’s recently won back status, loss of her properties and ‘retirement’ to Bermondsey Abbey.  It has been argued by some historians, unconvincingly,  that she chose to remove herself there of her own free will.  This is despite the fact that she had just taken out a 40 year lease on Cheyneygates,  the luxurious Abbot’s house at Westminster Abbey  where she had spent time in comfortable sanctuary before sallying out in March 1484 with her daughters in tow  having made her peace with Richard III.  This  event had coincided with Robert Markenfield, a loyal follower of Richard being sent by the king two days later from Yorkshire to Coldridge, Devon, a property that had recently been removed from Elizabeth’s son, Thomas Grey,  Marquess of Dorset.  I will return to that later.   Oh! but  she was ill some say in explanation.  The  medieval illness that was serious enough to make someone so  poorly as to opt to give up all their worldly possessions and  move into closeted Abbey life  but where you survived five years has never been specified. IMG_7401 Old and atmospheric photo of the Archway in Abbots’s Court leading out into the cloisters and the outside world.  It was through this ancient archway Elizabeth would have led  her daughters when they departed the sanctuary of the Abbot’s house at Westminster  Abbey.                                                                            Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset was also at this time removed to the Tower for the duration of the rebellion all the while expressing his hurt and disbelief that he, of all people,  should be held in suspicion!  Robert Stillington, Bishop of Bath and Wells,  was not so lucky and after his arrest in March 1487, roughly around the time of the council at Sheen, remained in prison for the rest of his life.  These facts, taken as a whole,  serve to strengthen the belief that Elizabeth et al knew that one or perhaps even both her sons had survived the reign of Richard III.   For would she have jeopardised her daughter’s and heirs futures for the son of Clarence, a man who she had loathed and with good reason to believe was behind his execution and who on reaching adulthood may possibly seek to take revenge for his father’s murder?  Interestingly Thomas Grey – who had Coldridge restored to him after Bosworth –    would forever more have a close  eye kept on him  by Henry VII.  T B Pugh, who described Dorset as ‘’shifty’ mentions that in June 1492  measures were taken to put the Marquis under restraint through an indenture intended to ensure that he did not commit treason or conceal acts of treason of which others were guilty (2) 

When was the name Lambert Simnel first bandied about as being the name of the Dublin King? Lambert Simnel was first named in John de la Pole’s Act of Attainder in parliament in November 1487:

On the 24th day of May last past at the city of Dublin contrary to his homage and faith, truth and allegiance, traitorously renounced, revoked and disclaimed his own said most natural sovereign liege lord the king,  and caused one Lambert Simnel a child of 10 years of age, son to Thomas Simnel, late of Oxford, joiner, to be proclaimed, erected and reputed as king of this realm and to him did faith and homage, to the great dishonour and despite of all this realm’.

This lapse in time between Stoke and Lincoln’s Act of Attainder gave  the Tudor regime time to cook up a story to explain away the true, and awkward,  identity of the Dublin King.

Prior to the Dublin coronation Henry heard of the rumblings of what was going on in Ireland  and according to André he sent a herald to Ireland in an attempt to discover the true identify of the young boy.  This herald has been identified as John Yonge, Falcon Pursuivant, by historian Randolph Jones.  Yonge was paid £8 with an additional £5 on his return.  The trip proved fruitless but it was said that the herald was impressed with ‘Lambert’s’ ability to answer all his probing questions about the court of Edward IV (3).         However despite this  André still insisted that the young lad was an imposter,  although, as  Gordon Smith has pointed out, he failed to explain who in Ireland would have had the detailed knowledge of English court life necessary to deceive a herald. The failure of the herald’s trap suggests that the pretender may have been genuine and a detailed knowledge of the times of Edward IV might suggest he was an older boy or young man’ (4) .

LAMBERT SIMNEL’S AGE

This is when it gets really sticky.  As Gordon Smith mentions:

If the imposter survived the battle of Stoke, a consistent story would need to be told to fill  the silence left by the death or disappearance of the conspirators and by the lack of any public investigation. However ‘the narratives of Molinet, André and Vergil  suggest there was no such consistency and indeed the new facts about imposter’s name, age and parentage in the Act of Attainder add to the confusion’.

However in light of the fact that both André, who was tutor to Prince Arthur,  and Vergil  had access to Henry VII’s court where Lambert Simnel had been resident this seems  odd.  To be fair though André may have been mostly based at Ludlow and not quite  in the loop.     It seems suspect that there is  only one source,  Lincoln’s Act of Attainder,  where Lambert’s age is given as 10 years old while chroniclers of the time all seem to reach the conclusion he was older and an adolescent.

The late historian John Ashdown-Hill devoted a whole book to the subject – the Dublin King – in which he concluded that it was unlikely that Edward V was he.  Loathe as I am to disagree with the findings of such a respected historian who delved far and wide into his research but needs must.  Dr Ashdown-Hill, who though of course, as we all are, was unable to ‘prove’ who the Dublin King was he seems to have veered towards it being the Duke of Clarence’s son, Edward.  This is on the grounds that Clarence was accused in the Act of Attainder against him, of plotting to get Edward, his then two year old son,  out of England and away to safety and it’s possible of course, that he succeeded in this.  His book makes many interesting points such as it was written in the Annals of Ulster that a great fleet of Saxons came to Ireland this year (1487) to meet the son (sic grandson) of the Duke of York who was exiled at this time with the Earl of Kildare.  And there lived not of the race of the blood royal that time but that son of the Duke and he was proclaimed king on the Sunday of the Holy Ghost (third of June) in the town of Ath Cliath (Dublin).  Alas Dr Ashdown-Hill did not make a connection to the possibility of this grandson being the oldest grandson of the Duke of York.  

So  in summary Lambert Simnel  being the young boy that was crowned in Dublin and  who was then taken after Stoke is so extremely unlikely as to be non existent as well as daft.   After looking at it as far as I can go,  I now believe  that Lambert Simnel  was never at Dublin leave alone crowned king in Christ Church Cathedral.     I think he was substituted in the aftermath of Stoke with the ‘lad that his rebels called King Edward whose name was indeed John’ (5).   As Gordon Smith puts so succulently ‘ The changes between Simons confession in February and Lincoln’s Attainder of November 1487  tend to  confirm that the character of Lambert Simnel emerged at the end of an ad hoc story invented by the English government in response to the events of the 1487 rebellion.   Virgil’s narrative transposed Lambert back to the start of the conspiracy and to this transposition can be attributed Virgil’s mistakes (e.g. Warwick’s age … and the capture of Simons)  and the implausibility of the pseudo-Warwick plot.  …  the conclusion that the king from Dublin was Edward V not only fits the events of the so-called Simnel rebellion of 1487 but also explains the differences in the narratives of Molinet, André and Virgil    There are reasons to believe that the  John who was captured after Stoke was John Evans who indeed was Edward V and who had been living incognito in Coldridge, Devon, the property of his half brother, the Marquess of Dorset with the knowledge of Richard III.  It should be remembered that on the 3rd March Richard had despatched one of his trusted followers, Robert Markynfield –  ‘Robert Markyngfeld/the keping of the park of Holrig in Devoneshire during the kinges pleasure..’  –  to Coldridge two days after Elizabeth Wydeville left sanctuary on the 1st March 1484, where he would remain until after Bosworth (6).    Furthermore is it possible that Richard on the eve of Bosworth had asked Lincoln, in the event of the battle going badly, to aid his younger cousin when the time was right to regain his throne?  Richard would have known this would have appealed to the dissident Yorkists who had never quite accepted the removal of Edward IV’s son from the throne.  Did Richard reason that if he were to lose his life in the ensuing battle that an illigitimate son of Edward IV would be very much preferable to the alternative.   With guidance from Lincoln perhaps all would be well and the white rose of York bloom once more.   This could be an explanation of why Lincoln gave the Dublin King, who I believe was Edward V,  his complete support in the venture to try to regain his throne.  Tragically Lincoln was to die in the attempt and as ‘John’ disappeared after Stoke there is good reason to believe that he may have been returned to Coldridge to live out his life incognito.  

The adults who arranged the switch and presented the 10 year old boy who had been hastily renamed Lambert Simnel would have known, one would like to believe, that under the circumstances,  the young and innocent  boy would not be severely punished even if at all.  In fact Lambert was given a safe if unexciting job in the kitchens although later he would rise to the giddy heights of falconer. I wonder could he have been the son or a young family member of an accommodating servant who could have been bribed and convinced that if the young boy went along with the story and new identify  he would be found a safe position in the  kitchens and perhaps even get promotion.  Which he did.   What’s not to like?  Is there any record of what became of Lambert.  Vergil wrote that he was still alive ‘to this very day’ when writing c.1513.  Michael Bennett wrote that he was issued with robes for the funeral of Sir Thomas Lovell, a courtier and counsellor of Henry VII in 1525.  After that he fades away into the mists of time.  

* From an old Irish song.  With thanks to Randolph Scott.

  1. Lambert Simnel’s Rebellion: How reliable is Polydore Vergil? Barrie Williams.
  2. Grey, Thomas, first marquess of Dorset c.1455-1501.  T.B. Pugh. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004.
  3. The Extraordinary Reign of ‘Edward VI’ in Ireland 1487-8.  Ricardian Bulletin March 2021
  4.  Lambert Simnel and the King from Dublin. Gordon Smith.
  5. Heralds Memoir.
  6. Harleian Manuscript 433 p.140 Vol One

If you have enjoyed this article you may also like

A Portrait of Edward V and Perhaps Even a Resting Place?- St Matthew’s Church Coldridge

A PORTRAIT OF EDWARD V AND THE MYSTERY OF COLDRIDGE CHURCH…Part II A Guest Post by John Dike.

Edward Earl of Warwick – His Life and Death.

The Mysterious Dublin King and Battle of Stoke

PERKIN WARBECK AND THE ASSAULTS ON THE GATES OF EXETER

Lady Katherine Gordon – Wife to Perkin Warbeck

AUSTIN FRIARS: LAST RESTING PLACE OF PERKIN WARBECK

Cheyneygates, Westminster Abbey, Elizabeth Woodville’s Pied-à-terre

Edward V, the Coldridge Mystery and the Telegraph article

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Stained glass image of Edward V in the Evans chapel at Coldridge Church.  Image has been verified as being of Edward V by stained glass experts Brooks and Cherry as well as the Keeper of  Ceramics at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Photo  Photo Dale Cherry

Here is a link to an interesting article in the Telegraph.   For those unable to access the article it’s also available on Yahoo News.  Following my posts –   A Portrait of Edward V and Perhaps Even a Resting Place – St Matthew’s Church Coldridge and a guest post  –  A PORTRAIT OF EDWARD V AND THE MYSTERY OF COLDRIDGE CHURCH Part II –  by John Dike  a Coldridge resident and who has been leading Philippa Langley’s The Missing Princes Project team in Devon,  I am very happy to see this very plausible theory getting  the publicity it deserves.     Bill Gardner is Deputy News Editor of the Telegraph, and whose interest first being piqued by the Missing Princes Project,  decided to have a catchup and recently travelled down to Coldridge to interview John Dike and to take a look around the church.  The resultant article was published in the  Telegraph on the 29 December 2021.     I think its  exciting and hopefully an indication that this theory –  which is up to now  one of the most plausible –  of what became of one of the sons of Edward IV  will become more widely known about  and a refreshing antidote to the relentless,  tedious  and monotonous stories  that the ‘Princes in the Tower’ were murdered.    

A reminder of some of the clues in Coldridge Church : TELEMMGLPICT000280247840_trans_NvBQzQNjv4Bq1zPfz5GIcOQjfqmZGh-d0XyUesFH2oVwqDbDxMdqBnM

Yorkist emblems.  Here a White Rose of York and a Sunne in Splendour..  Photo Dale Cherry

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Sunne in Splendour effigy.  Photo John Dike.

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The open crown above the image of Edward V but which originally would have been in a different window – possibly the Chantry over a royal coat of arms.  Note the deer in the ermine instead of the usual stoats tails.  Surely a nod to John Evans as Parker at Coldridge Deer Park?

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St Matthews Church, Coldridge beneath a glowering Devon sky.  Could this be the burial place of John Evans who possibly was Edward V, son of Edward IV who lived out his life incognito in Coldridge.

Footnote.  Another thought is that Edward V could have been present at the Battle of Stoke 16th June 1487.  A young lad had been crowned King Edward in Dublin on the 24th May 1487 by die hard Yorkists.  This  ‘King Edward’ was found after the battle but the heralds recorded that although the young King Edward was taken,  his real name was ‘John’  ‘And there was taken the lade that his rebelles called King Edwarde (whoos name was in dede John) – by a vaylent and a gentil esquire of the kings howse called Robert Bellingham’ (1)Is it possible that this ‘John’ was John Evans of Coldridge who in actual fact was Edward V.  Is it also possible that this young man was badly wounded especially around the face, or even had his face purposefully disfigured and then returned to live out his life in Coldridge?  This would explain why  the face of the older man in the window at Coldridge appears to be badly scarred?

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The face in the window of the mature man who appears to be scarred around the mouth and an opaque eye.  Carries a crown and wearing ermine.   Could this be John Evans – who in his life as Edward V was wounded at the Battle of Stoke?

  1. Chroniques de Jean Molinet ed. G Doutrepont and O Jordogne Brussells 1935.  Translation taken from Michael Bennett’s Lambert Simnel and the Battle of Stoke. See also Heralds’Memoir  1486-1490 pp.116-17 E. Cavell.

Links to other posts with links to Coldridge.

1. THE MYSTERIOUS DUBLIN KING AND THE BATTLE OF STOKE

2. MARKENFIELD HALL & THE MARKENFIELD BROTHERS, THOMAS AND ROBERT

3. A PORTRAIT OF EDWARD V AND THE MYSTERY OF COLDRIDGE CHURCH…Part II A Guest Post by John Dike.

4. A Portrait of Edward V and Perhaps Even a Resting Place?- St Matthew’s Church Coldridge

5. PERKIN WARBECK AND THE ASSAULTS ON THE GATES OF EXETER

6. Lady Katherine Gordon – Wife to Perkin Warbeck

 

The Augustinian Priory of St Mary Merton and its Destruction.

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One of Merton Priory’s gates.  Possibly entrance to the guest accommodation or hospitium thought to have been located to the west of the priory.   Rebuilt and resited in 1935 outside St Mary’s Church, Merton.  Photo thanks to Mr Joel’s Photography.

Merton Abbey, Colliers Wood, London, SW19 does not exactly conjure up ‘magnificent’ does it?  In fact it sounds like the headquarters of one of those clothing catalogues so popular in the 1970s.  And yet that is exactly what Merton Abbey  or Merton Priory  to give it its correct name was – magnificent.   Founded in 1117 by Gilbert le Norman, Sheriff of Surrey who would die at the priory in 1125.  Built on the banks of the River Wandle the priory was on a par with great abbeys such as that at Westminster and  until its total destruction in 1538 numbered amongst the largest and most important of the monastic houses covering an area of 60 acres.  Westminster would  survive, although no longer a monastery, no doubt aided by the fact that even Henry VIII could hardly destroy the burial place of his parents.    However the Augustinian Merton Priory along with  many others did not.  It was razed to the very ground it stood upon and practically no visible signs a prestigious priory once stood there remains.     Every part of it from stones to roof  slates was carted away to build Henry’s new palace, later known as Nonsuch Palace, which was built upon the site of the medieval village of Cuddington. Fifty carters were employed from Cheam, Clapham, Cuddington, Malden, Merton, Mitcham, Morden, Putney, Sutton, Tooting, Wandsworth and Wimbledon. Each received eightpence for a ton load for the four mile journey and by July 1538 2719 tons of stone had been conveyed from the priory to Cuddington (1).

The village, its  church and burials,  were demolished  to make way for Henry’s new extravaganza.  Nonsuch would in its  turn suffer the same fate and also be totally razed to the ground.   However remnants of the priory were recovered from the site of Nonsuch such as the beautiful ceiling boss below.

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Ceiling boss recovered from the site of Nonsuch Palace in 1959 but originally part of the Priory.  Museum of London. Photo Mike Peel.

The priory’s location was lost until the 1920s and later excavations in the 1970s revealed the foundations of the chapter house.   Further foundations were revealed in the 1980s.   Today a few remnants remain above ground such as a small  section of wall rebuilt using  materials from the original and a 12th century gateway that was also rebuilt in 1990 and moved to a different position.  A marker indicates its original site.   Much of the foundations of priory are now below Sainsbury’s Savacentre  but the remains of the chapter house  were left uncovered and can be seen today  in an enclosed area below Merantun Way, the road which was built in 1988.  This road was originally known as the A24, the straightness of which bear witness to its origins as a Roman road which later evolved into a medieval thoroughfare  known as Stane/Stone Street.  Such is progress although it pains me to say so.  

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Head with coronet discovered in 1797 on the site of the priory by Sir William Hamilton. The head would have originally been painted, and the coronet  around the head, gilded, with traces of the latter still visible. Hairstyle closely resembling the popular hairstyle dating from the early 15th century  – think of a young Henry V.  In fact is this Henry V?  See portrait below for comparison. Owned by the Society of Antiquaries of London now on loan to the British Museum.   

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Henry V, as Prince of Wales.  Artist Homas Hoccleve c.1411-1413.

Many important personages are associated with Merton Priory including:

Thomas a Becket (c.1118-1170) Educated at Merton from 1128 aged 10.    Thomas would later employ Robert, one of the priory’s canons as his chaplain and confessor.  

Nicholas Breakspeare In c.1120 the only Englishman to become pope as Adrian IV.

Henry Ist (1068-1135) Lay in repose at the priory in 1135.

King John (1166-1216) Said to have stopped off at Merton on his way to nearby Runnymede and it was from Merton that he issued letters of safe conduct to allow the barons to leave London.  

Henry III (1207-1272) A major patron and having stayed at the priory no less than 54 times had his own quarters there.  It was from Merton when he was nine years old he attended a peace conference between England and France. He would instruct his own mason to aid with major rebuilding work that was in progress between 1222 and the 1260s after a severe storm caused the spire to collapse.  Supplied a total of 16 oaks from Windsor forest towards the work.   Henry brought his bride Eleanor of Provence to the Priory 1236 after their wedding at Canterbury Cathedral for their honeymoon.  

Hubert de Burgh, Earl of Kent (1180-1243).  Henry III’s Justiciar.   Took himself to Merton  Priory to prepare his defence in 1232 after falling out of the king’s favour.  Things got a bit sticky for Hubert –  and the priory –  when he refused to leave and a very cross king ordered him to be seized dead or alive.    A mob of armed London citizens, who had their own axes to grind, Hubert having hanged the leader of a popular riot in 1222,  begun to wend their merry way to Merton (2).  Things were rapidly getting out of control  and the Bishop of Chichester pleaded with Henry to call a halt to these events while the Earl of Chester warned Henry about the danger of mob rule.   Henry wisely listened and aborted the lynching which no doubt would have taken place.  Hubert, who had spent the intervening period awaiting the mobs arrival prostrated in a state of undress  before the altar,  took the opportunity to leave the Priory, possibly by a back entrance if he had any sense, and enter sanctuary at Brentwood Chapel in Essex.  He would be removed from there and deposited in the Tower for a while until things blew over.   Surprisingly Hubert would survive until 12 May 1243 when he died ‘full of days’ at Banstead on  the 12th May 1243 and was buried at Blackfriars (3)  Today Hubert is remembered in a local road – De Burgh Road. 

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Hubert de Burgh at Merton.  Hubert is depicted kneeling, holding a cross, before the altar at Merton in 1232.  Image taken from Historia Anglorum.  Artist Matthew Paris. British Library. 

Walter de Merton (c.1205-1277).  Studied at the priory.  Founded Merton College in 1264 and set aside two manors in Surrey for the support of ‘scholars residing at Merton‘.   This Merton College would later be transferred to Oxford after Walter purchased two houses there and so was founded the collegiate systems at both Oxford and Cambridge.   

Henry VI (1421-1471).  On Ist November 1437 Henry held a crown wearing ceremony at the priory to mark the emergence from his minority (4).   

Mary Ist (1516-58). Visited while she was still a princess in 1532 having supper there on the 17th October and staying until dinner on the 19th.  

The initial major building work was not to be the last for in 1393 the Prior notified the Bishop of Winchester that the chapel was ‘in a truely decayed and ruinous state and that further repairs were needed (5). Tragically it would take a much, much shorter time to destroy  the glorious priory that had evolved and taken centuries to reach completion.  Strange as it may seem but gothic buildings were fairly easy to demolish.  As Lionel Green who has made an extensive study of the priory explains ‘Each arch depended on the support of a neighbour. A miner could dig under one of the crossing piers, shoring up with timber as worked progressed. A fire lit within the shoring would sink the pier, and all the arches above it would collapse. Adjoining arcades, deprived of their abutment, would fall, bringing down the heavy vaults they had safely carried for centuries’ (6).   To add to the tragedy the destruction of the Priory was not even to echo what happened to other  priories and abbeys such as Whitby, Rievaulx, Hailes, Glastonbury and so many others that left glorious and evocative ruins.   Merton’s destruction would be complete.   

In the 17th century the site became known as Merton Abbey, a name that has stuck ever since and used for various industries.  It has been excavated several times  between 1921 and 2004 and a wealth of artefacts found including pre medieval finds such as prehistoric pick axes and Roman building material.  Medieval finds from the priory include moulded stone fragments, window glass, roof tiles, decorative tiles, pottery, lead coffin, leather shoes, buckles, keys, knives, coins and much else including 738 burials.   One poignant find was  a gold ring inscribed ‘je ne weil aymer autre que vous’  which translates  I am not seeking to love anyone other than you’..

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Fragments of a glass window.  Museum of London.   Photo Mike Peel.

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Remnants of a traceried window.  Now in the Museum of London.  Photo Mike Peel.

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  Buried without coffins the remains of two adult males and child.  Tumbled together with obvious haste they were possibly plague victims. Photo Museum of London Archaeology Service 

But how did the demise of the Priory impact on the local population? These people would have always had the Priory in their lives, their parents and grandparents before them and its importance to them cannot be underestimated.  Throughout their lives it would have been a source of comfort to them, a hospital, a source of employment, somewhere they could get alms from should they fall on hard times and a safe haven for travellers.    It’s easy to imagine the despair which would have been felt by many as they saw it crashing down before their very eyes.   I will leave it to  Lionel Green  – whose in depth  and superbly researched articles on  the Priory can be found on the The Merton Historical Website  and who puts it so eloquently: 

‘Day after day, day after day, the smoke and dust must have pervaded the district, visible from the surrounding hills. Tears must have been shed as the villagers of Wimbledon, Morden, Mitcham and Tooting witnessed the collapse of the tower, so familiar as part of the view from the heights of Wimbledon and St Mary’s church, from the Ridgway, from Cannon Hill, from Morden and St Lawrence’s church, from Mitcham and its church of St Peter and St Paul and from Park Hill in Tooting. That which had dominated the view for centuries was no more’ (7).

  1. Destruction of a Monastery. Lionel Green. Merton Historical Society who quotes National Archives E 101/477/12 as his source.
  2.  Roger de Wendover Chronica vol.iv p.250
  3.  Seeking Sanctuary at Merton.  Lionel Green. Merton Historical Society.  Bulletin 134 June 2000 p.8
  4.  Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Henry VI. R.A Griffiths.
  5. historicengland.org.uk 
  6. The Destruction of a Priory.  Lionel Green.  Online article of the Merton Historical Society. Bulletin 148 p.11. December 2003
  7. Ibid.

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ANOTHER PRECIOUS FIND TO ADD TO THE MIDDLEHAM JEWEL AND RING..

 

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The Middleham Jewel, AD 1450-1500.  Photo Anthony  Chappel Ross, Courtesy York Museums Trust.

Two metal detectorists have recently had a sumptous litte find.  A tiny gold bible beautifully engraved.  Which is great.  But what makes their find super great is that it is yet another discovery made near the remains of castles that were once Neville strongholds.  For this new find was found close to  a footpath on farmland near Sheriff Hutton and the previous two finds, the jewel now known as the Middleham Jewel and a ring were both found near, of course,  Middleham Castle.  This has led to speculation they were both owned by members of the Neville family.

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The tiny gold bible.  The Yorkshire Museum had said that the figures depict St Leonard and St Margaret, both patron saints of childbirth.

Now – before I proceed any further I must give thanks to John Cherry, of the British Museum and his book The Middleham Jewel and Ring from which I have gleaned much of my information.   I recommend this book for anyone wanting to know all there is to know about the Jewel and the ring, especially the ring which sometimes gets overshadowed by the grandeur of the jewel.  

THE MIDDLEHAM JEWEL

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The Middleham Jewel.  Photo yorkshiremusem.org.uk

This jewel which is nothing short of spectacular  was found in September 1985 next to a path which led from  Jervaulx Abbey to  Middleham Castle and then to Coverham Abbey  by a Mr Ted Seaton and initially was sold at auction by Mr Seaton and the owners of the land for £1.3 million.  However when it was deemed by The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art to be ‘outstanding’ the Yorkshire Museum mounted a fund raising campaign and managed to raise £2.5 million.  The jewel was thus saved for the nation. There is, pleasingly, at the back of the book a list of the donors who enabled the jewel to be saved for the nation.  Thank you very much, each and everyone of you!

The jewel consists of a gold lozenge shaped pendant 64 mm high and 48 mm wide weighing 62.65 grammes engraved with religious scenes and figures.  To the front is a beautiful sapphire,  a latin inscription and an engraving of the Trinity.  The back has figures of 15 saints, the Lamb of God and an engraving of the Nativity. Experts have dated it to the third quarter of the 15th century and it would have been worn as a pendant on a very rich lady’s necklace or collar.  There are several examples of similar pendants to be found on various effigies and  brasses as well as the drawings of the Rous Roll which features ladies of the Neville family.

Where would such a jewel, very likely a ‘specific commission’, have been made? John Cherry suggests London where large congregations of goldsmith were located in Cheapside.  There was, of course also goldsmiths on London Bridge aplenty which was a kind of medieval Bond Street.  Hmmm – perhaps – however there would surely have been goldsmiths in York?   There are small holes around the edges which indicate that when it left the goldsmith’s shop,  all sparkly and new,  it had a metalwork frame to which were attached pearls.  It must have been amazingly beautiful and it’s easy to imagine the joy of the lady who received it.  Was it a gift from an indulgent husband to his wife or had the lady commissioned the piece herself?

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One of the illustrations from the book.  Detail from a border of a Flemish manuscript in the Bodleian Library, Oxford,  illustrating a similar jewel with its pearls intact.

The jewel was artfully designed so that by pressing against four of the saints the back slid open.  The sliding plate could be locked by means of the little key which turned a piece of gold inside the jewel.  This locking system no longer works.  Interestingly the jewel, which still retains remains of  enamelling in parts,  shows signs it was at sometime in its life repaired.  This would indicate it had been well worn and perhaps even passed on – perhaps mother to daughter?  

The sapphire probably was not the only precious stone that adorned the jewel.  Amazingly there are signs this sapphire did not begin its life on the jewel but had been recycled as it is pierced along its sides as if it was once worn strung perhaps on a necklace before it was placed on the jewel in a prominent position above the exquisitely engraved Trinity.   This stone  itself served a dual purpose – that of protection plus devotion.  

Around the edges of the front of the jewel is finely engraved Ecce agnus dei qui tollis peccata mundi (Behold the lamb of god who takes away the sins of the world). These words would have been recited by the priest in the Mass shortly before Communion and would have been very familiar to someone who lived in the 15th century  The first letter ‘E‘ still has remains of the original enamel.   The last two words of the inscription are Tetragrammaton, the four Hebrew letters used to indicate the name of God and Ananizapta, used as a magical word to protect against drunkenness or epilepsy.  These two words were believed to be  effective against illness and John Cherry believes that this would suggest the owner of the jewel was worried about health matters and would have looked upon the jewel as a protection against illness of even death.   

So who was the original owner of the Middleham jewel?   Well if the dating is correct the most obvious candidate for that would be Anne Beauchamp (1426-1492) Countess of Warwick and wife to Richard Neville later known as the ‘Kingmaker.’ They were married as children and later Middleham Castle would be one of their homes.   Anne was not greatly fecund only having  two children that made it to adulthood.  She was however known for her care and comforting of women in labour – ‘Glad to be at and with women that traueld of chyld’  – so it’s conceivable the jewel with its nod to protecting ladies in pregnancy and labour would have had a strong appeal to her (1).  It’s poignant to remember that Anne’s skill and empathy to women in labour would have been never more needed than  on the 16th April 1470 when her own daughter, Isobel,  had the misfortune to go into labour onboard a ship, outside Calais,  that had been denied permission to land.   A truly horrendous situation for all involved and with the tragic result that the baby was either born dead or lived only a very short time and was buried at sea.   

Could Anne have lost the jewel one day when she was travelling along that footpath close to her home?  Or bearing in mind that the jewel shows signs of wear and repair perhaps she gave it to her eldest daughter, Isobel who was to marry George Duke of Clarence and was to have, as far as is known, 4 children, two of whom died soon after birth including the little one born at sea.   When Isobel died on the 22 December 1476 aged 25 was the jewel returned to her mother who maybe then passed it to her youngest daughter Anne, then Duchess of Gloucester?  Middleham was the favourite home of the young duchess before she became queen.   Was Queen Anne the last owner and the one who lost the jewel?   Whoever it was it’s easy to imagine the distress its loss  would have caused the loser.  Perhaps it was  stolen and  lost by the thief making a hurried exit?   We will of course never know.  

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Anne Beauchamp.  Latin version of the Rous Roll.   Photo the Heraldry Society.

THE MIDDLEHAM RING

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Interior of the ring which has been engraved with the word ‘Sovereynly’ which translates to ‘In a regal or sovereign like manner’  Photo : York Museums Trust 

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The exterior of the ring decorated with twelve esses similar to those found in the  livery collars of the Kings and Dukes of Lancaster including John of Gaunt. 

The ring which is large, and designed to wear over a glove, was found in the East Park at Middleham, in September 1990.  Decorated with 12 esses,  the areas between the letters were originally enamelled black.  Thus the gold letters would have shone out.  The engraved  word ‘Sovereynly’  in the interior of the ring may be linked  to ‘Sovereyne’  which was the motto of Henry IV prior to him becoming king in 1399 and when he was the Earl of Derby and if so it would have been worn to indicate the wearer was a supporter of Henry or it may even have been a gift from him (2).  

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Splendid example of a Lancastrian collar of esses c.1447.  Lord Bardolph, church of St Mary, Dennington, Suffolk.  Photo mira66 @ flkr.

In the 1930s other objects were found when the moat was cleaned up including a  small copper alloy boar badge, which may have belonged to one of Richard IIIs retainers and which are now on loan to the Yorkshire Museum.  Let us hope these sublime and  important finds won’t be the last.  

  1. Rous Roll 
  2. The Middleham Jewel and Ring p.11. 

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THE MYSTERIOUS DUBLIN KING AND THE BATTLE OF STOKE

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The Last Stand of Martin Schwartz and his German Mercenaries at the Battle of Stoke Field 16th June 1487.  Unknown artist Cassell’s Century Edition History of England c.1901.

Dublin, Ireland, Ascension day, 24th May,  1487 (1).     A young lad is crowned King of England and France and Lord of Ireland in Christ Church Cathedral by the last remaining diehard Yorkist rebels and leading Irish nobles.  As the coronation regalia was out of reach at Westminster, London, they enterprisingly utilised a crown from a statue of the Virgin Mary.  From the very get go there is confusion as to whether he was crowned Edward V or Edward VI but the consensus of opinions lean towards the latter.   Who this young lad was has baffled historians ever since not helped by the fact that the very people that crowned him annoyingly changed their minds over who they were actually crowning – was it Richard of Shrewsbury or Edward Earl of Warwick?  Perhaps Richard can be ruled out swiftly because the heralds of the time addressed the Dublin King as Edward. However there is no confusion as to whom the actual  ‘suspects’ in the case were though being :

Richard of Shrewsbury, youngest son of Edward IV

Edward,  Earl of Warwick, George Duke of Clarence’s son

Edward eldest son of the late Edward IV, who had been for a short time Edward V.

 Lambert Simnel the young boy whom the rebellion became named after.  Let’s take a look at them one by one.  

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The choir Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin scene of the ‘Dublin King’s’ Coronation..Photo with thanks to Diliff – own work.  

RICHARD OF SHREWSBURY, DUKE OF YORK

It was Richard, born 17 August 1473,  who for a while was first named as the new king.  He was of course the youngest of Edward IV’s sons and had disappeared in 1483 with his brother, Edward V, from the Tower of London.  Their story has been told many times and is so well known I won’t  go into it here.  It being put forward that Richard was  the new king  was speedily abandoned and Warwick named in his stead.  Can we rule out for sure that Richard was not the newly crowned king?  Probably but nothing is entirely certain in this foggy story much of it written in the early reign of the first Tudor king.   Did Richard survive the cataclysmic outcome of Stoke  and make his way  to Burgundy to the safe haven that was the court of his aunt, the indomitable Margaret of Burgundy? Did he then go on to morph into Perkin Warbeck to try yet again to gain the throne that had been lost to the Tudors?  

Edward, Earl of Clarence.

 Edward b.25 February 1475, replaced Richard as being identified as the new king.  In the aftermath of the death of his mother, Isobel Neville,daughter of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick,  on the 22 December 1476, his father George,  Duke of Clarence,  may have taken off to Ireland for several weeks (2). He had put the death of his wife and their baby son squarely down to their having  been poisoned.   He was later accused, in the Act of Attainder against him,  of instructing friends and allies namely Abbot John Strensham of Tewkesbury, one of his son’s Godfathers,  John Tapton and Roger Harewell to aid him in getting the two year old out of England and to safety,  Ireland being one of the very places thought of as a possible haven.  This was to be achieved by the three men bringing a small boy to Warwick Castle to take the place of the true son of Clarence. Meanwhile another man, John Taylour was instructed to collect the real Edward in preparation of getting him out of England.    Tapton and Harewell under interrogation, whatever form that took, would deny that they had handed the child over.  Well they would wouldn’t they and their denials in the circumstances really don’t amount to much.  It is not known whether Taylour too denied whether he had carried out his part of the plan and indeed may have even been out of the country and not available for questioning (3).   Whether the plan was a success or a failure, on the execution of Clarence, the small boy,  genuine article or not, was firstly given into the guardianship his father’s enemy Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset and later on for a short time to his aunt, Queen Anne Neville.   He would eventually be placed with other royal children at Sheriff Hutton Castle, Yorkshire,  where following the deaths of both his aunt in March 1485 and his uncle King Richard III at Bosworth in August 1485 he would be given for a short while into the care of Margaret Beaufort at her London home of Coldharbour before being housed in the Tower of London until he was executed on the 28th November 1499.    It should be noted that none of his above guardians would have probably seen hide or hair of him prior to  their guardianship of him so it would be very possible indeed they would not have spotted a changeling boy had been brought to them.  It is rather disturbing to think that if this indeed happened a completely innocent young man  would have been executed, although indeed the true Earl was an innocent too.  

Interestingly a Burgundian  chronicler, Jean de Molinet, writing in about 1504 and free from the restraints of writing under a Tudor regime  wrote that ‘One little branch, engendered by a Royal tree, had been nurtured amongst the fruitful and lordly shrubs of Ireland…. this very noble  branch is Edward, son of the Duke of Clarence…’  As John Ashdown-Hill pointed out,  Molinet’s Burgundian background ‘makes him a very interesting source’ one of the ‘key supporters of the Dublin King’ being Margaret of York, Duchess of Burgundy.  Margaret was of course aunt to Edward of Warwick as she was to both the sons of Edward IV.  

LAMBERT SIMNEL

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Lambert Simnel as a scullion in the kitchen of Henry VII.  Artist unknown.  Getty images.

Lambert born c. 1476/7 seems, to me,  the most unlikely candidate.  Why would they have crowned an imposter? It begs the question was Lambert truly Lambert the Imposter, a mere stalking horse,  or were there two Lamberts, one of them a true scion of the house of York or maybe even someone else?   Described by Virgil as a comely youth, and well favoured, not without some extraordinary dignity and grace of aspect’  his story is rather odd from the beginning with a name that screams ‘made up’  and  those not well read in history can be forgiven for confusing him with a character from panto or even a cake that you eat at Easter but in fact early documentation states his father’s name was Thomas Simnel who had connections to Oxford.    His metamorphosis from the son of a joiner or a baker, or organ maker  or a shoemaker, depending what version you are reading,  by a lone priest,  seems rather unlikely.  How would the priest, named either as Richard Simons or William Symonds, again depending on what version you are reading, have been able to coach him so successfully in the minutiae of the Yorkist court?   Certainly  the coaching was  successful for when Henry sent over a herald to Ireland to question him, the herald returned convinced he was someone who would have been at court having answered all his probing questions correctly. He had first appeared at the castle in Dublin in 1486 accompanied by Simons.   Gerald Fitzgerald, earl of Kildare welcomed him after Simons had explained that his young protégé was the young Earl of Warwick who had managed to escape his prison in the Tower of London.     But at the end of the day although we may not know who Lambert truly was, we do know where he was after the battle of Stoke for he was discovered and taken to Henry Tudor.  Henry had him placed to work in the kitchens as a scullion, it is said, although later he would achieve the giddy heights of a falconer and Simons was imprisoned for life.   At one point, Henry, who could be really mischievous at times, bless, had invited several Irish nobles who would have known Simnel by sight including the Earl of Kildare to dine.   The hapless Lambert was charged with pouring them their wine – ‘new King Lambarte Symenell brought them wine to drink…’    The Irish nobles failed to recognise the ‘servant’ attending on them.  Henry gave them a nudge – ‘Ah’ said Henry ‘here is the lad you lot crowned at Dublin – you’ll be crowning monkeys next’ or words to that effect (4).  The joke was somewhat on Henry when still they all failed to recognise Lambert.  Little is known about Lambert’s later life.  Let’s hope it was a good one.  

On Saturday 5 May 1487 John Earl of Lincoln, Francis Viscount Lovell and Martin Swartz, a highly experienced general,  arrived in Dublin along with  2000 veteran German troops supplied by the staunch Margaret of Burgundy.   Margaret   abhorred the mingling of the blood of York and Tudor and yearned to see it thrown down from the throne of England and that of York, pure and undivided, set up in its place’  besides which she liked nothing more than to wind Henry Tudor up.   Lincoln led the call for the young lad to be crowned.  Which he was – the Bishop of Meath performing the ceremony.  After the crowning he was ‘carried from the church to the castle by a chieftain of the name of Darcy’,  said to be man of great height (5). Swiftly following on from this, King Edward, Lincoln,  Lovell and the Irish lords, Thomas and Maurice Fitzgerald along with Swartz crossed the sea from Ireland to Lancashire arriving around the  5th June.   Kildare had recruited 4000 Gaelic kerne to augment their numbers.  Upon their arrival they were joined by Sir Thomas Broughton and his followers, their numbers now swollen to around 8,000.  Still hopelessly outnumbered – it has been suggested Tudor’s army amounted to as many as  36,000 – and expecting no mercy if they were taken the rebels fought bravely until they were almost exterminated to a man (6).  Among those fallen were Lincoln, the Fitzgeralds and the brave Swartz.  Lovell may have escaped and there is a story that he was given refuge in Scotland.  The rather lurid story that he escaped to his ancestral home of Minster Lovell and was there found, a skeleton,  walled up in a hidden room in the 18th century can be discounted as the manor and lands were at the time of Stoke owned by  a rabid follower of Henry, his uncle Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford who held them until his death in 1495.

Edward V  

After the battle, which was fought on the 16 June, the heralds recorded that the young King Edward was taken, only his real name was ‘John’  ‘And there was taken the lade that his rebelles called King Edwarde whoos name was in dede John – by a vaylent and a gentil esquire of the kings howse called Robert Bellingham’ (7).

 The inclusion of the name ‘John’ has been described by Gordon Smith as a perhaps a ‘spontaneous invention recorded shortly afterwards’.     Only wait!  It is perhaps more than a coincidence that there are reasons to believe that Edward V had been living since 1484 incognito under the name of John Evans (EVans…get it!) at Coldridge in Devon one of the properties owned by his half brother, Thomas Grey,  Marquess of Dorset.  After Stoke, if this theory is correct he would return there to live out the remainder of his life perhaps after being grieviously wounded during the battle.   To read more about this theory please read, if you have not already done so  A Portrait of Edward V and Perhaps Even a Resting Place?  and A PORTRAIT OF EDWARD V AND THE MYSTERY OF COLDRIDGE CHURCH…Part II.

And so the last terrible battle of the Wars of the Roses was over.  I’ll not linger upon it.  It is well recorded elsewhere.  But in very brief summary the Yorkist leaders, Thomas Fitzgerald and Martin Swartz lay among the slain but the majority were unnamed and would be  buried in mass graves far from their homes.   It is said only 200 of King Edward’s army survived.  The English and Irish who were captured after were executed while the foreign ones were dismissed.  

AFTERMATH

One of the most surprising victims of the rebellion was Edward V’s mother and mother-in- law to Henry VII, Elizabeth Wydeville.  Only having recently regained some of the status she had lost during the reign of Richard III she was now the dowager Queen Mother and it came as a bolt out of the blue when after a council meeting at Sheen in February 1487, held to discuss the revolt, her recently acquired gains were removed from her forthwith and she was sent to reside in Bermondsey Abbey while Dorset was sent to the Tower.  She lived out the last years of her life there and her will demonstrates that she was living, if not in penury,  in much straitened circumstances.  Yes, Elizabeth had been caught at it again.  She was involved in the Simnel Rebellion.  This was quite extraordinary as, if the rebellion had succeeded, her own daughter Elizabeth of York would have been ejected from the throne, her little  grandson Arthur disinherited.   No doubt her son-in-law would have got the chop too but every cloud has a silver lining as they say.   Why would she do this? Certainly not for the son of Clarence, a man she had hated,  to take the throne.  Let’s not beat about the bush.  Elizabeth knew that at least one of her sons survived but that is another story for another day.  

Recommended reading- Lambert Simnel and the King from Dublin GORDON SMITH

and The Dublin King by John Ashdown-Hill

  1.    The date of 24th May has  been accepted by some historians as this was the date given in the Earl of Lincoln’s attainder passed by the English Parliament in November 1487.  However historian Randolph Jones believes that the Coronation was actually held 3 days later on the 27th May, which was a Sunday and the usual day that Coronations were held.  See his article A Revised date for the Dublin Coronation of Edward VI.  Ricardian Bulletin June 2009 pp.42-44.2.
  2. John Ashdown-Hill The Third Plantagenet p.133.
  3. The Dublin King p.71 John Ashdown-Hill.

4.See the notes to Gordon Smith’s article ‘Lambert Simnel and King from Dublin, Ricardian:  Book of Howth p.190; Mackie p.74; Potter p.90. There is no firm date for the Irish visit with its jokes about apes and Lambert Simnel’s banquet, but it may be as early as February 1489, when Henry VII reaffIrmed the titles of the Irish lords at Greenwich, CP, vol.1, p.458. The banquet story has been charmingly told by Mackie, based on the Book of Howth. 

5. John Cassell Cassell’s Illustrated History of England p.83 1857.

6. Lambert Simnel and the Battle of Stoke p.131.  Michael Bennett. Chronicles of Jean Molinet.  See also John Ashdown-Hill’s The Dublin King p.100.  

7. Heralds Report.  c.1488-90.  Author: A herald or pursuivant at the court of Henry VII.  British Library, Cotton MS. 

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SIR JAMES TYRELL – CHILD KILLER OR PROVIDER OF A SAFE HOUSE ?

Those mysterious childrens coffins in Edward IV’s vault….

The Bones in the Urn again!…a 17th Century Hoax?

 

BUCKINGHAM’S MYSTERIOUS BURIAL.

I’m very pleased to share this intriguing guest post from Janet Reedman aka hoodedman1 @MurreyandBlue. Love him or loathe him, probably the latter, where was the git  – ooooops sorry  – Duke buried??  Thank you hoodedman.

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Henry Stafford Duke of Buckingham.  Engraving from a portrait at Magdalan College, Cambridge. Artists John and Paul Knapton, London, c.1747.

Where lies Harry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham?
No one can say for sure, his final resting place is as elusive and entwined with myth and legend as Richard III’s once was.
Stafford, leader of the October 1483 rebellion against Richard, was turned in by one of his own men while hiding in a cottage, apparently in peasant dress, after heavy rain and the flooding of the Severn caused his uprising to fail. He was taken to Salisbury, where on November 2, he was beheaded in the Market Square.
He supposedly begged to speak with Richard, who was staying either at the King’s House in the cathedral close or at the priory at nearby Wilton. Buckingham insisted he had important information for the King. Richard refused to see him, this man he had called ‘the most untrue creature living’ and the execution took place as planned. It was unusual, as it took place on a Sunday, and on All Souls…and it was also the birthday of Edward V (which just may be significant considering Buckingham was named in regards to the Princes’ murders, if murdered they were, in documents both in England and on the Continent.
But what happened to the remains of this great traitor, himself of royal descent, who had perhaps even dreamed of wearing the crown of England himself?
A near contemporary report says he was buried in the church of the Greyfriars in Salisbury. This Franciscan Friary has now completely vanished and stood near to St Anne’s street and Brown street; a commemorative plaque has been set into a building near the presumed spot. This is the only document that mentions his resting place, and there is always the vague possibility they are confusing him with his grandfather, who was buried in Greyfriars in Northampton.
However, a mile outside of the city centre, in the sleepy village of Britford, another tomb claims to be Buckingham’s. A Victorian plaque above it declares that it is his grave. It is the only large memorial in the church—comprising the top of a large canopied tomb, which stands above a smaller tomb-chest capped by Purbeck marble. The chest does in fact bear a shield bearing one of the devices of the Staffords.
But the top of the tomb is probably a hundred years too early, and the chest may be too early as well…although the lid has some features that suggest it was 15th century. Perhaps the tomb was reused for Buckingham’s burial?
Certainly both the canopy and chest came from elsewhere, probably from one of the ruined friaries after the Dissolution. They were not always situated in tiny Britford church. So it could have been taken from Greyfriars.
A good case for the chest actually being Buckingham’s last resting place can be made by one fact—his daughter Anne’s husband, George Earl of Huntingdon, actually owned the manor at Britford. It may well have been Anne who had the tomb removed from the friary at the Dissolution and transported for safety to the village church.
However, it appears to be empty…
So where are Buckingham’s bones?
If you go to Debenham’s, the site of the Blue Boar Inn where Buckingham spent his last night alive, you can have a nice cream tea whilst looked at Buckingham’s not-very-flattering portrait and read a little information the tea room has written on him. They claim that a skeleton was found many years ago under the kitchen flagstones, missing a head and a hand, and that these bones were thought to be the remains of Henry Stafford. They also claimed that the decapitated Duke’s head was sent to London to be placed on ‘Traitor’s Gate’ hence the skeleton found had no skull.
These two stories are problematic. It is highly unlikely even a traitor of the calibre of the Duke would be given a lowly burial in an inn’s kitchen…and goodness knows what the innkeeper would have said! Richard tended to give his slain enemies proper burials, and no doubt he did likewise with Buckingham. There is also no evidence that Buckingham’s head went anywhere other than into the grave with its owner, albeit separated from his shoulders. I believe Traitor’s Gate did not even have this name in Richard’s era. This skeleton, if it existed at all, was probably an Anglo-Saxon or even prehistoric resident of Salisbury.
Another distant possibility is that Stafford was buried in a chapel out at Old Sarum castle, a mile or so beyond Salisbury. This once mighty castle was already ruinous at the time of the execution, but there was one chapel still in use in the 15th century, mainly for wayfarers. In Victorian times the chapel was excavated and a skeleton found  either near the high altar or in the ambulatory–of a man who had been beheaded, but who was also wearing a prisoner’s manacles. His head lay between his knees. This unusual burial was never mentioned as a candidate for Buckingham but was rather mysteriously thought to be William of Eu, who lost a duel at Sarum in the reign of William Rufus. However, it is  is unlikely to be William, for it would be very hard to fight a duel wearing irons…and, besides that, William of Eu did NOT die at Sarum, but although hideously mutilated after losing the fight, retired somewhere near Hastings and lived on for some years….
So there was a mysterious medieval burial at Sarum, high status by its position in the church but decapitated and wearing criminals’ irons …which, sadly, has now gone missing (the bones, that is; the irons are still owned by Salisbury Museum.)
Maybe in a lab somewhere there is a battered box marked ‘Sarum’ that could contain the elusive Duke. Or maybe he is still under the floor of the destroyed Salisbury Greyfriars like Richard was in Leicester Greyfriars, with roads and buildings above him. Perhaps one day someone will open that dusty box or discover a likely burial, decide to take a closer look and do some tests.
Any Staffords out there who can donate some dna?

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