The Tournament Tapestry of Frederick the Wise c.1490.  South Netherlandish.  Silk, silver and gold threads.  Musée des Beaux-Arts de Valenciennes, France. Photo Nicholas Roger

My attention was first drawn to this sumptuous tapestry by an article written by Nathalie Nijman‐Bliekendaal in the Ricardian Bulletin, the magazine of the Richard III Society in 2019.  Not only is it breathtakingly beautiful but also of great interest to those interested in 15th century English History because it may depict the portraits of two people who strongly featured in the those turbulent times.  They are Margaret Plantagenet, Duchess of Burgundy, sister to Edward IV and Richard III and possibly her nephew,  Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York then known as Perkin Warbeck.  I say ‘may’ but I am 100% certain it is these two people.  I’ll return to this later.  Described ‘the most spectacular representation of a tournament of that time’ it depicts a mock combat of knights before an audience in a loggia which includes Margaret of Austria and Philip, daughter and son of  Maximilian of Hapsburg, Holy Roman Emperor (1).  The tapestry had become very grimy, fragile and structurally degraded over the centuries but thank goodness was saved in Aubusson, France,  at a cost of over £100,000.  Now the tapestry is restored to all its former glory.  

In the loggia and at the forefront can be seen Margaret standing beside the future Charles VIII of France proudly displaying her engagement ring.  Charles would later renege on this engagement, oh the scoundrel, and marry Anne Duchess of Brittany in 1491. To compound the insult, Anne had already been married by proxy to Maximilian, his abandoned fiancée’s dad.  Yikes (2).   This of course helps to date the tapestry to c.1490 when Margaret and Charles were still betrothed.   Fortunately as the tapestry had probably been commissioned by Frederick the Wise, the tapestry, now somewhat awkward for those portrayed in it,  stayed intact and was not destroyed in a hissy fit.  What is amazing is how accurate and recognisable the facial features of those featured are and were without doubt based upon individual contemporary portraits because in actual fact Margaret, Philip and Charles were never in the same place leave alone same room at any one time.  Which probably was best for all concerned seeing as how the situation panned out.  However and moving on,  some of the characters still have to be officially identified which brings us to the two that are of most interest to those interested in the period now known as the Wars of the Roses – Margaret Duchess of Burgundy and Perkin Warbeck.


Philip, Charles and Margaret.  Margaret proudly displays her engagement ring .. 


Philip Ist of Castile. Also known as Philip the Handsome (frustratingly it’s not known if the appendage to his name was apt  or an unknown person’s attempt at sarcasm).  His mother was the tragic Mary Duchess of Burgundy. 


Margaret of Austria.  Artist Pieter von Coninxloo.  Royal Collection.


Charles VIII of France.  Slightly older than portrayed in the tapestry.  Perhaps  painted on the morning he woke up, and aged rapidly, as he realised he had just married the proxy wife of his abandoned fiancée’s father!  ‘Where am I, who am I?’ you can hear him mutter.  I joke of course… 

So you can see from the above portraits the extraordinary talent of the weavers of this tapestry in capturing the portraits of the above so accurately.  Now we turn to the two figures on the left of the tapestry.  A beautiful, elegant lady stands next to a handsome young man.  This must be Margaret Plantagenet, Duchess of Burgundy and she has in her hand a gillyflower, known nowadays as a pink or carnation, which she holds close to the young man’s heart.  Surely the young  man must be Perkin Warbeck who claimed to be Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York.  The gillyflower was full of symbolism in the middle ages and was the device of,  if he were Richard, his mother,  Elizabeth Woodville. It’s unknown why Elizabeth chose this flower as her device but it has been suggested it may have symbolised virtuous love and marriage particularly marriage (3).   Was this an attempt to send a message to the onlooker that his parents had indeed been truly and legally married?    If so you may believe it or not as you will.  However moving on he does have  some kind of blemish or birthmark above his left eye as we view the portrait full on.   Where have we seen this before?  I believe, as does the author of the  article,  that this is indeed the young man known as Perkin Warbeck but who later revealed that he was none other than Richard, the youngest  ‘missing’ son of King Edward IV,  who had disappeared off the radar around 1483.  Compare the portrait from the tapestry to the famous pencil sketch of Warbeck.


Warbeck/Richard from the tapestry.  Compare the blemish above the eye as well as the similar mouth to the pencil portrait below..


Perkin Warbeck/Richard Plantagenet. Sanguine on paper.  Arras, Bibliothèque municipale, Bridgeman Art Library.


The well known portrait of a young Margaret Plantagenet, Duchess of Burgundy.  She was stepmother to Maximillan’s wife, the tragic Mary of Burgundy who had died after falling from her horse in 1482. Artist unknown. 


Margaret’s portrait from the tapestry.  Slightly older but still recognisable as the sitter in the painting. 

So besides the sheet beauty of this tapestry what can be gleaned from it?  The fact that as well as Margaret Plantagenet, Duchess of Burgundy some of the crowned heads of Europe recognised Warbeck as the missing son of Edward IV.   Although things did not pan out well for Warbeck,  it should not be assumed that because of his failure he was nothing more than a pretender.  The uncomfortable question must remain – was the young man with the battered face who was executed at Tyburn on November 23rd, 1499 in actual fact Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, the son of King Edward IV?

  1. Pierre Terjanian, curator in charge of the arms and armour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
  2. Ibid. 
  3. The Device of Queen Elizabeth Woodville: A Gillyflower or Pink Anne F Sutton and Livia Vissher-Fuchs.  Ricardian Article.

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Edward’s parents Isobel Neville and George Plantagenet, Duke and Duchess of Clarence.  From the Latin Version of the Rous Roll.  With thanks to the Heraldry Society.

Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick was born at Warwick Castle on the 25 February 1475. Among his godparents were Edward IV, who created him Earl of Warwick,  and John Strensham,  Abbot of Tewkesbury (1).  His father was George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, his mother Isobel Neville, daughter of Richard Neville, the great Earl of Warwick who would become known as the Kingmaker.  Kings he had for uncles – Edward IV, Richard III and his aunt was Queen Anne Neville. This noble lineage would not prevent him from being among those numbered as the saddest victims of the Wars of the Roses and was indeed the catalyst for it.   

edward 1

Edward Earl of Warwick.  His feet rest on the bear of Warwick unmuzzled and the Clarence black bull (described elsewhere in Glover’s transcript as the Dun Cow of Warwick).   From the Rous Roll.  No contemporary portrait exists of Edward and this drawing is from Rous’ imagination as he would not have seen him as the older boy depicted here.  

Edward’s tragic destiny was to be beheaded in 1499 aged just 24 after many years of imprisonment.  Alas his sister Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury was to also to share the same fate in 1541 another victim of the Plantagenet blood that coursed through her veins.  Margaret’s life is told elsewhere and whereas she did live long enough to marry and raise children,  Edward was to have no semblance of a normal life once he reached the age of 10 years old. This was when, now an orphan and his uncle, Richard III,  having fallen at Bosworth in August 1485  he was brought down to London with his cousin Elizabeth of York from what appears to have been a royal nursery at Sheriff Hutton Castle, Yorkshire. To begin with he  stayed with Elizabeth at Margaret Beaufort’s London home,  Coldharbour,  where she had recently had renovation work carried out, including new wardrobes,  in readiness for her son’s future bride’s stay there (2).    However in 1486 on the order of Henry VII,  Edward now aged 11,  was sent to the Tower of London where he would live out the remainder of his life although not held in an actual cell, one would hope,  certainly in even stricter confinement,  a prisoner with no freedom of movement.   Perhaps once there his education was so  poor, even non existant or just merely a lack of companions and stimulation that  it was said  “out of all company of men, and sight of beasts, in so much that he could not discern a goose from a  capon’.  Thus wrote Tudor Chronicler Edward Hall although we do not know whether this meant that Edward was mentally deficient in some way or just merely naive and childlike.

But I have galloped too far ahead here and to return to Edward’s younger years when his life would have been one of luxury and indulgence.  There are reasons to believe  that his parents marriage was a happy one based upon, as far as we know , George did not have any illegitimate children, something rare for a 15th century nobleman and his distress and agitation on Isobel’s death.   A further indication of George’s enduring love ‘and sense of loss’ for Isobel may be that when he and his surviving children were admitted to the guild of the Holy Cross at Stratford upon Avon six months after her death, Isobel was enrolled posthumously (3). Thus his very  early years would probably  have been cheerful as he grew up in the bosom of  a loving family although of necessity one or both of his parents may have not always been around.   Tragedy was to strike on the 22nd December 1476   when his mother was to die at Warwick Castle, aged 25  a few weeks after giving birth in the new infirmary at Tewkesbury Abbey.   The baby, a boy who had been named Richard,  was  to follow his mother to her grave soon after on the Ist January 1477.  Here the plot thickens.  George believed that Isobel and  baby Richard had been poisoned.  He accused one of her servants, Ankarette Twynho of the murder of  Isobel by giving her poisoned ale on the 10 October 1476.   This  a story that still remains shrouded in mystery and is deserving of fuller investigation.   Ankarette,  who was not arrested until four months after the death of Isobel, which is puzzling in itself,  was hanged for Isobel’s murder on the 15 April 1477.   But prior to Ankarette’s arrest and  execution and in the immediate  aftermath of his wife’s death,  George had attempted to get his small son out of the country.  Indeed it is suggested by the late historian John Ashdown-Hill that George spent some time in Ireland.  He had requested help from amongst others,  John Strensham,  the Abbot of Tewkesbury, to get Edward abroad to perhaps Flanders or Ireland.  The intention was, it is said,  to replace the not yet two year old  Edward with a changeling child (which would not have been too difficult with such a young child and one that would not have been recognisable by many other than those who lived and worked in Warwick Castle).     This request, it was said,  was refused. This plot would be one of the charges listed in the Act of Attainder against George.  Edward IV obviously thought it quite unacceptable and not on that George should seek to get his small son out of England to safety even though he had genuinely believed, which seems the case, that his wife and baby son had both  been murdered.  The Act contains the following wording :

   ‘And also, the same Duke purposyng to accomplisse his said false and untrue entent, and to inquiete and trouble the Kynge, oure said Sovereigne Lorde, his Leige People and this his Royaulme, nowe of late willed and desired the Abbot of Tweybury, Mayster John Tapton, Clerk, and Roger Harewell Esquier, to cause a straunge childe to have be brought into his Castell of Warwyk, and there to have beputte and kept in likelinesse of his Sonne and Heire, and that they shulde have conveyed and sent his said Sonne and Heire into Ireland, or into Flaundres, oute of this Lande, whereby he myght have goten hym assistaunce and favoure agaynst oure said Sovereigne Lorde; and for the execucion of the same, sent oon John Taylour, his Servaunte, to have had delyveraunce of his said Sonne and Heire, for to have conveyed hym; the whiche Mayster John Tapton and Roger Harewell denyed the delyveraunce of the said Childe, and soo by Goddes grace his said false and untrue entent was lette and undoon.

John Ashdown-Hill has given us a brief summary in modern English…

    ‘Clarence had requested the Abbot of Tewkesbury, John Tapton and Roger Harewell to bring a child to Warwick Castle, to impersonate his son the Earl of Warwick, while sending the real Earl of Warwick to Ireland or the Low Countries, to provide a focus for rebellion against Edward IV. Clarence’s servant John Taylour was sent to take the earl abroad, but Tapton and Harewell refused to hand the boy over’.  

 The Act of Attainder can be found on John Ashdown-Hill’s website along with a full appraisal.

The general consensus that  has come down in history is that George failed in his task to get his son to safety and thus at the time of his execution on the 18th February 1478, the three year old Edward was still in England at Warwick Castle.   Following on from his father’s execution the small boy  was given into the guardianship of Thomas Grey, Marquis of Dorset, Elizabeth Wydeville’s son which was perhaps unfortunate as the Wydevilles and Edward’s father had hated each other.  Why does my blood run cold at the thought of this?   However it was not all bad as Edward IV’s household accounts include entries for several pairs of expensive shoes and boots for his young nephew which I would have thought was the least he could do considering he had executed the boy’s father, his own brother… 

To th’Erle off Warrewyk to have for his were and use, iiij peire of shoon double soled and a peire of shoon of Spaynyssh leder single soled ….2 june 1480.

To th’Erle off Warrewyk to have of the yifte of oure said Souverain Lorde the Kyng for his use and were, a peire of shoon single soled of blue leder, a paire of shoon of Spaynyssh leder, a paire of botews of tawny Spaynyssh leder; and ij paire shoon single soled…24 july 1480

 In 1483 following the death of Edward IV,  Edward was present at the coronation of the new king, Richard III,  and knighted at the investiture of Richard’s son as Prince of Wales at York.  Life would have seemed to have suddenly become rather brighter for the young Edward who according to Mancini was placed for a time in the care of his maternal aunt, now Queen Anne Neville, prior to being sent to join the other royal children at Sheriff Hutton.   Anne was to die on the 16th March 1485 and as touched upon above, Edward’s paternal uncle, Richard III, was to die at the battle of Bosworth 22 August 1485.  Edward was utterly alone.  Those who had a genuine care in the welfare of Edward were now practically all gone.  The few who still lived such as his grandmother Cicely Neville, his sister Margaret or his cousin Elizabeth of York would have been powerless to intercede on behalf of the parentless boy.   Immediately in the aftermath of Bosworth Henry Tudor had despatched Robert Willoughby to bring the Plantagenet royal children to London. As mentioned above  Edward,  Elizabeth of York as well as the young Edward Stafford,  were taken to Margaret Beaufort’s London home, Coldharbour.     He was now in the hands of the new Tudor king’s mother, who ‘acted as a jailer on behalf of her son (5)’.   Blood running cold again! Sometime in 1486 on the order of Henry VII,  Edward, now aged 11,  was sent to the more secure Tower of London where he would live out the remainder of his life.  


Coldharbour.  Stood in Upper Thames Street.  Removed from the College of Heralds by Henry Tudor and given to his mother Margaret Beaufort.  It was to here that some of the Plantagenet children were taken in the aftermath of Bosworth. 

Much ink has been expended on whether George did somehow manage successfully  to spirit Edward away to safety,  only for him to reappear in 1487 to be crowned king Edward VI at a coronation held in Dublin.   The young lad who was to all intents and purposes Edward Earl of Warwick languishing in the Tower was paraded through the streets of London to St Paul’s Cathedral in an attempt to quash this story.  As  John Ashdown-Hill points out in his book about Edward and Lambert Simnel ‘The Dublin King’  there were among those that attended the Dublin Coronation many who believed that the boy they were crowning was indeed Edward Earl of Warwick including Gerald, the Earl of Kildare.  To muddy already muddy waters further in an act,  which up to the present time has never been clarified fully,  John de la Pole,  Earl of Lincoln, Richard III’s adult and capable nephew who it is believed Richard may have  nominated as his heir should he die at Bosworth – which he did –  inexplicably backed the Dublin king, i.e. Edward Earl of Warwick’s  claim to the throne as opposed to himself making a claim to the throne.  This is quite extraordinary, given that his claim to the throne could be looked upon as superior to Edward’s, as well as he was an adult and better placed to take the throne and actually be able to hang on to it.    Unfortunately Lincoln did not leave a diary explaining his actions and if he had a Plan B neither did Richard III leave a will that has survived.      Of course an explanation could be that Richard on the eve of Bosworth, named Edward as his heir should the battle go badly.  This would mean that a loyal Lincoln was obeying Richard’s wishes honourably instead of making a sneaky try for the throne himself. We will never know.  But what is clear is that after Richard’s death, the new king Henry VII viewed Edward Earl of Warwick as someone who posed a dangerous threat and  could possibly be used as a future figurehead for dissident Yorkists or  had even heard that Richard had named him as his heir on the eve of Bosworth.  Edward’s fate, tragically,  was sealed.  

In 1499 Edward was accused of plotting with Perkin Warbeck, who claimed to be Richard of Shrewsbury, one of the ‘missing princes’.  Warbeck was also housed, conveniently,  in the Tower of London and apparently able to communicate, again conveniently,  with Edward whereupon they planned their escape.  To be honest this sounds rather too good to be true if viewed from Henry VII’s perception being a win win situation for him.   Two birds with one stone as they say!   It is possible, and a thought hard to brook, that a guileless  Edward was purposefully ensnared in a plot with a more foolhardy and desperate Warbeck that would lead to both their trials and executions.   In other words they, especially Edward,  were stitched up like kippers  If Edward was indeed a little backward this would make it even more crueler and even today causes a little shiver at the sheer cold bloodedness of it.   It has been suggested that Katherine of Aragon’s parents, the Spanish king and queen demanded that Edward was put out of the way before they agreed the marriage of their daughter to Henry Tudor’s heir, Arthur.  Whether this is true or not Edward was beheaded on Tower Hill on the 28th November 1499.  His remains would be taken to Bisham Priory to be interred near to where so many illustrious Nevilles, including his grandfather, the Kingmaker, lay at rest. So passed the son of George, Duke of Clarence or did he? George’s  daughter Margaret was shockingly  to suffer the same fate 40 years later.  Thus perished  the last scions of the House of Plantagenet.   


Margaret Pole née Plantagenet – Edward’s sister who shared the same fate as he did.  Margaret was beheaded at the Tower of London on the 27 May 1541.  The little barrel on her bracelet symbolises the butt of malmsey legend says her father was drowned in.

To those who wish to delve further into this intriguing but somewhat confusing story I would recommend reading John Ashdown-Hill’s The Dublin King where it is discussed and examined at length.  

1. False, Fleeting Perjur’d Clarence p.126 M A Hicks

2.  On some London Houses of the early Tudor Period.  C I Kingsford.  Archaeologia 1920-1.

3. False, Fleeting, Perjur’d Clarence p.128.  M A Hicks

4. Ibid p.166.M A Hicks

5. The King’s Mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort p.67 James and Underwood. Cambridge 1992.

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Thomas Cromwell c.1532.  Minature attibuted to  Hans Holbein the Younger. Oil on panel. Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Following on from my earlier post on Perkin Warbeck and his burial at Austin Friars where I touched upon Thomas Cromwell’s house in the Austin Friars precinct I was happy to come across this excellent article covering the in-depth history of that house by Dr Nick Holder at the University of Exeter.

I won’t attempt to  go into the somewhat complex history of Cromwell in this post as it can be found well covered elsewhere.  Suffice it to say that Cromwell was yet another man of wealth and great power once held in high esteem by Henry VIII,  only to fall out of favour, destroyed and his sumptuous property passed on to the crown.  

The Augustinian friary owned 10 tenements in or around the south west corner of their precinct.  Three of these tenements were built around 1510 by Prior Edmund Bellard and a draper,  William Calley.  The idea was to generate rental income for the friary and for Calley, who contributed £40, to receive commemorative masses after his death.  A win win situation for both.  Cromwell begun renting one of these tenements around 1523 and it is known he sent a letter to his wife Elizabeth there in 1525.    In the diagram below you can see the three tenements marked 1, 2 and 3 with number 3 being the Cromwell residence marked with a red circle.


So far so good.  The rent for this nearly new built house was about £4 per annum.  It was built to high specifications with the luxury of fireplaces in nearly every room, a kitchen and buttery wing with a separate larder,  (and perhaps a cellar below) yards with a privy and woodshed …… well lit with large windows with stone and brick mullions’.  Furthermore  the house had 14 rooms arranged over three stories with in addition at least one cellar and some garret rooms in the roof.   The house was arranged in three wings with the main wing and the kitchen wing separated by a narrow entrance hall and a hall set further back behind the main yard. The ground floor parlour was an impressive room carpeted with a long table and a screen.


Thomas Cromwell’s first house in Austin Friars based upon a 17th century survey. This was the house Cromwell lived in with his wife Elizabeth, daughters Anne and Grace and son Gregory.

So far still good.  In 1532 his status had risen rapidly and with it obviously his wealth.   He had plan, big plans and  begun to ‘expand’ his ownership of further properties on the precinct obtaining a 99 year lease in June of that year for the property he was renting eventually purchasing it from the friary for £200 in 1534.   He also  begun to consolidate and enlarge his portfolio, purchasing another property called The Swanne that fronted onto Throgmorton Street that had also been owned by the friary but lay just outside the precinct.  Further plots were duly purchased that added to the street frontage.  Cromwell then turned his attention to the garden buying out a George Eglyffeld’s lease on a large property.  Sometimes his methods to gain more land were far from ethical.  We know this because one of the people he rode roughshod over was none other than the father of John Stow who wrote ‘A Survey of London 1598′.  We can still feel the rising of Stow’s hackles over the centuries  as in writing his description of the Friary he added “On the south side and at the west end of this church many fair houses are built namely in  Throgmorton Street, one very large and spacious built,  in the place of old and small tenements by Thomas Cromwell.    This house being finished and having some  reasonable plot of ground left for a garden, he caused the pales of the gardens adjoining to the north part there off on a sudden to be taken down;  twenty-two feet to be measured fourth right into the north of every man’s ground,  a line there to be drawn, a trench to be cast,   a foundation laid and a high brick wall to be built. My father had a garden there and a house standing close to his south  pale; this house they loosed from the ground and bare upon rollers into my fathers garden twenty-two feet,  ere  my father herd thereof.  No warning was given him, nor other answer when he spake to the surveyors of that  work but that their master Sir Thomas commanded them to do so, no man durst go to argue the matter but each man lost his land and my father paid his whole rent which was  six shillings and sixpence for the year for that half which was left.   Thus much of my own knowledge have I thought good to note, that the sudden rising of some men causes them in some matters to forget themselves’.  Really Sir Thomas!   

From the diagram below we can see how Cromwell’s portfolio of properties had now expanded – including the theft of Stow Snr’s land.  The house Cromwell had first lived in is  again indicated by the little red circle.  


Cromwell had now shelled out about £550 for the plots thus purchased.  This now made him the owner of ‘one of the largest pre-Dissolution private properties in London owning 2 & 1/3 acres of land which included a greater garden (marjorem ortum) and  a lesser gardeyn’. 

Now in the happy position of being the owner of a 188 foot strip of land fronting onto Throgmorton Street,  Cromwell was able to embark upon building one of the grandest private residences in London.  Money was spent like rice with a least £1000 being spent on the new build project.  Then, as now,  delays could occur, and did, when Cromwell’s nephew Richard took the whole site team of eighty workers to Yorkshire to help Thomas Howard against the rebels of the Pilgrimage of Grace.  The whole project would take four years.  


Artists impression of the completed mansion c.1539. Peter Urmston.


Reconstruction of the mansion as it would have appeared from Throgmorton Street.



Ground, first and second floor plans.


Austin Friars, Throgmorton Street and the mansion from the Copperplate map.c.1550.  Museum of London.

The interior of this wonderful mansion can only be wondered at.  It must have been a glorious sight with grand staircases,  oriel windows and a series of long galleries looking down on the courtyards below which may have had Italianate decoration.    Cromwell’s private rooms were probably situated on the first floor of the west block and included chambers with views of the garden to the north and lockable cupboards (two ammeres with durres of waynscott).  The family apartment even included a separate bathroom with a plaster ceiling,  a chamber that ‘hath a closet and a Stew therin the Stew being syled’. 

There was more than one kitchen, the main one, a pastry kitchen with large ovens and a smaller kitchen in the western block where Cromwell’s private rooms were located.  Very handy if one wanted to order a quick snack..or two.  There was also a private chapel…of course.  

The bedrooms must have been the height of luxury for in an inventory of Henry VIII’s possessions drawn up after his death there are listed bedroom items removed from Cromwell’s mansion after his arrest in 1540.  These include a bed, three bedsteads, nine sets of bed linen, nearly all of them with a canopy, head cloth and valances, two quilts and four other bed canopies.  Each item is in luxury cloth such as cloth of gold, damask or velvet.  

The garden too was splendid with space enough for  a diceing house and a bouling alley as well as of course stables.   We know this because  ‘Sir,’ one of his servants wrote to him ‘ther you maye have a fayer stabell mayd and ther you maye have mayd a fayer tennys playe and a close Bowlyng alle with a gallewre over it.  The garden also contained hedged knot gardens, arbours and fruit trees  and needed two male gardeners and six female gardeners to tend to it. 

Sadly all this glory and beauty were not to be enjoyed for long by their owner.  Cromwell was arrested in June 1540  and executed in a botched beheading on the 28 July at the Tower of London.  Immediately following his arrest members of the king’s household took over  possession of the house.  Some of the furniture would be removed from the house, so much that it could not all be taken in one day,  to be given, ironically, as a divorce present to Anne of Cleves.  Later in 1543 the house would be purchased by the Draper’s Company from Henry VIII and was one of the properties lost in the Great Fire of London 1666.  It was rebuilt but once again destroyed by fire in 1772, rebuilt and still stands today.

The purchase of Cromwell’s mansion by the Drapers Company has ensured that a wealth of information has survived over the centuries, including inventories, that has enabled Dr  Holder to write in such rich detail about Cromwell’s house.  These inventories range from high quality items to the basics such as the tools in the wood house.  Listed here are just  a few –

Ground Floor Parlour

A pair of playing tables, a table of my lorde Cardynalles armes paynted and gylted, a long table, a screen and the arms of the King and Queen. 

Old Parlour

Tables, chests,  old hangings and four javelins


A greate cesterne of leade for water with a cocke of brasse, good collection of pewter, pottery,  pottery tableware, brass pots, fireplace equipment and pots for wine and ale. 

First Floor Chamber of Cromwell’s mother-in-law Mercy Prior –

40 sets of sheets, six chests, six coffers, a relyque closyd in crystall, various cloths, shirts,  linens, altar cloths, rosary beads, mirror and a chamber pot.

New Chamber

Bed and bedding, men’s gowns, Jackets, caps, four swords and some daggers, an alter of the natyvitye of oure lorde, painted cloth of the battle of Pavia and two paintings of Cromwell.  

Chamber adjoining the new chamber –

A bed, bedding,  several women’s gowns, swords and carved gilt altar.

Is it just me or does it  feel a little intrusive to peruse these rooms and lists of belongings of a man, who left his mansion one morning never to walk through its doors again.  Or perhaps others may see it  simply as a visit from Karma….?

image.pngThe site of Thomas Cromwell’s house in Throgmorton Street, London today.

To read Dr Nick Holder’s article in full click here.

1.  A Survey of London 1537 p.   John Stow.

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  1. A Survey of London Written in the year 1598 John Stow p163

Margaret Pole Countess of Salisbury 1473-1541 Loyalty Lineage and Leadership by Hazel Pierce.



Those looking for an in-depth assessment of the life of Margaret Pole need look no further.  Hazel Pierce has more than adequately supplied it in her biography of Margaret – Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury 1473-1541 Loyalty Lineage and Leadership.  Covering Margaret’s life from early childhood – orphaned at five years old,  Margaret’s earlier needs were catered for by her uncle Edward who supplied her with the necessities – well –  it was the very least he could do under the circumstances – her marriage to Sir Richard Pole – Pierce opines this was a happy one – her widowhood  – the restoration to her  of her brother Edward’s Earldom of Salisbury  by Henry VIII and finally, her violent death at the hands of an inept axeman aged 67.


George Duke of Clarence – Margaret’s father ‘a myghty prince semley of person and ryght witty and wel visaged’.  At her birth in 1473 he stood third in line of succession to the crown of England.

I must confess that on reaching the end of the book my view of Margaret had changed slightly.  I was left slightly  confused – was she merely obstinate, stubborn and hardheaded,  foolishly pressing Henry’s buttons to the limits – unwisely as it transpired – or was she driven by the remembrance of her noble lineage, indeed more noble than Henry’s,  the present occupier of the throne?   Did she feel honour bound , even duty bound,  after the judicial murder of her brother, Edward the Earl of Warwick, to fight Henry tooth and nail over property matters, a fight that raged for 10 years?  Did this lead to Henry nurturing a dislike for her which would later influence the decision to execute her?  Undoubtedly she infuriated Henry when she encouraged his daughter, the rebellious  Mary,  aiding and abbeting her in her refusal to return her jewels when her father needed them for his new wife, Anne Boleyn.  Margaret seems to have suffered from a nervous breakdown when she and Mary were forcibly parted but later regained her strength and resolve when standing up to the most strenuous of interrogations ,  her courage shining  through in the comments made by one of these interrogators,  Sir William Fitzwilliam, Earl of Southampton, who according to Pierce was sympathetic to Margaret’s younger son Geoffrey, but disliked Margaret.  He later wrote ‘we have dealid with such a one as men have not dealid with to fore us,  Wee may call hyr rather a strong and custaunt man than a woman


William Fitzwilliam, Earl of Southampton by Hans Holbein.  The face of the man who interrogated Margaret over 2 days.


Warblington Castle, Hampshire,   Margaret’s principal residence where she was interrogated by  Sir William Fitzwilliam and Thomas Goodrich Bishop of Ely.

Fortunately for Pierce – and for us – plentiful records have survived that cover Margaret and her sons’ lives ( had the human shredders from the reign of Henry VII long since departed this mortal coil?)  that have enabled Pierce to write a cracking good book and her meticulous attention to detail must be applauded.  I found it difficult at times to put this well researched and balanced book down.

Margaret’s eldest son, Henry Montague seems the most sensible of the lot although prone to letting his mouth run dangerously away with him from time to time.

Geoffrey, the youngest,  is perhaps the one that took after his maternal grandfather, the mercurial George Duke of Clarence, a loose cannon, but at the same time likeable and charming , with friends  that tried to save him, but perhaps lacking the courage of George. He tried to suffocate himself with a cushion, which,  not surprisingly failed, and his wife was terrified that he might reveal too much if interrogated –  indeed he feared this very thing himself.

Reginald – ah Reginald! – he was the fly in the ointment, safely on the Continent, he managed to survive assassination attempts on his life and was complicit, via his writings, in the downfall of the Pole family.  Reginald survived to become a Cardinal and later Archbishop of Canterbury under Mary Tudor.  For me a further question arises over Reginald’s rather cavalier attitude to his family back in England.  Opposed to Henry’s religious changes in 1537 he sent a message warning that if his mother supported these opinions  ‘mother as she is myne, i wolde treade appon her with my feete”    Reginald seems not to have  give a flying fig over the survival and fates of his family.  If so why?  Perhaps a grudge of some sort, an axe to grind?  Pierce added that Reginald’s actions are so well known that they do not need including in her book.  So that is another story.


Margaret’s son, Reginald Pole, consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1556.

And so around spun the fickle wheel of fortune, until they, with the exception of Reggie, were totally undone,  disaster and tragedy overtaking them all , with even Montgue’s young son, Henry Pole the Younger, disappearing from sight forever once he entered the Tower of London with his father and grandmother.  Poor little blighter.

Although this book does answer many question about Margaret and her family it does leave me with one – did the Poles contribute to their own demise, all in some way stretching Henry’s patience to the limit OR was it always inevitable that Henry would in the end,  annihilate the last of those who had the royal and noble Plantagenent blood coursing through their veins?


The Salisbury Chantry, Christchurch Priory, Dorset.  Margaret’s intended resting place.  Margaret was eventually buried in the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London alongside Henry VIII’s other victims.  Photo website.

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St Andrew’s Church, Wingfield and the Tombs of the de la Poles


St Andrew’s Church, Wingfield, Suffolk.  Mausoleum of the de la Poles.  

You know when the great Sir Nikolaus Pevsner was ‘impressed’ with a church then it must indeed be rather special (1).   And St Andrew’s with its soaring clerestories, nave roof with  arched braces resting on figures of winged angels,  charming ‘Decorated’ window tracery of flower petals  and the rood loft reached by two stairways does not disappoint.   Combine all that with some of the finest 15th century medieval monuments in England and it takes some beating.

Founded by Sir John Wingfield d.1361 improvements to the church was carried out by  both his son in law Michael de la Pole First Earl of Suffolk d.1389 and in his turn by his son, Michael de la Pole, Second Earl of Suffolk d.1415.  The improvements made by the second Earl are described by Pevsner as the ‘real glory‘ of the church  and the monuments of the Earl and Katherine Stafford his wife lie today between the chancel and the chapel which he built.

Sir John Wingfield c. 1307- d. 1361.  

Sir John’s monument lies in the north side of the chancel.  Held in high esteem by Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales known as the Black Prince,  who in 1356 appointed him Chief Administrator of the Prince of Wales and in  October 1359  Master of the Household and Prince’s Councillor.   The Black Prince would later pay £57 13 4d for his funeral (2).  He left much of his wealth for the rebuilding of St. Andrew’s Church as well as the foundation of a chantry college and to make Wingfield a collegiate church.  These wishes his widow, Eleanor/Alianore, would help to arrange.   Sir John’s monument is much worn now but the etchings by Charles A Stothard in the early 19th century have captured what it once would have looked like.  


Sir John Wingfield’s effigy Wingfield Church.  Etching by Charles A Stothard.


Although not buried at Wingfield,  Sir Michael de la Pole’s story should be touched upon to better understand the link of the de la Poles to Wingfield.  Sir Michael  was the eldest son of Sir William de la Pole d. 1366, a financier, successful wool merchant and entrepreneur  from Kingston upon Hull. In 1361, the year of her father’s death, the 30 year old Sir Michael  married Sir John Wingfield’s 13 year old daughter and heiress, Katherine (b.c1349 d.1385).    Her father’s death shortly before the marriage brought a ‘dowry of substantial estates‘ (3).  Sir Michael also had links with Edward ‘the Black Prince’ and it may be that it was the Black Prince’s patronage helped with the Wingfield marriage.   Sir Michael had come a long way.  As historian Anthony Emery points out,  the de la Poles story is a classic example of how a rapid rise in social advancement was possible from a wool merchant to an earldom in two generations to even a heir presumptive four generations later.   In 1362 following his father in law’s death and under the terms of his will, Sir Michael and his young wife would establish the  college of priests at Wingfield  and rebuild much of the church  ‘sumptuoso’.  After a busy career with some ups and some downs,  and which I do not have space to go into here,  Sir Michael  was convicted of treason by the Merciless Parliament in 1388.  Being a favourite of Richard II had made him a scapegoat for the king’s enemies.   Escaping to France he was out of reach of those who wanted him dead but  was to die shortly after in Paris on the 5 September 1389.  He would be brought home to England to be buried alongside his wife, who had died around the onset of his downfall in 1385, in the Carthusian Priory, Kingston upon Hull.   


It is Michael de la Pole,  second Earl of Suffolk,  who lies at rest in Wingfield Church along with his wife, Katherine Stafford, for after his father’s death he regained possession of the entailed land of his family which had only been confiscated during Sir Michael Snr’s lifetime.  Thus he was able to return home to Wingfield.  He completed his father’s unfinished building works including the enlargening and beautifying of Wingfield Church.  He and his wife made their home at Wingfield, building Wingfield castle and gaining a licence to crenellate in 1384.   He lived out a respectable life, managing to avoid the many pitfalls of the times that had resulted in  his father’s fall  and earned the accolade of being a ‘knight of excellent and most gracious name.  By his studied respectability he sucessfully removed from his family’s reputation the taint of scandal that had hitherto hung about it (4).   Sir Michael would travel to France to serve Henry V in 1415 taking with him a force of 40 men at arms and 120 mounted archers.  Sadly on the 17th September he succumbed to dysentery at the  siege of Harfleur.  He had requested in his will to be buried at Wingfield in the church that he had added to and enhanced.  This requested was carried out and to this day he rests there with his wife Katherine Stafford.  


Michael de la Pole and his wife Katherine Stafford.  Effigy in St Andrew’s church, Wingfield.  


Michael de la Pole, 2nd Earl of Suffolk and Katherine Stafford.  An etching by C A Stothard.


Also resting here with a wonderful tomb, the gem of Wingfield,   are John de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk b.1442 d.1492 and his wife Elizabeth Plantagenet, sister to Edward IV and Richard III.  John was Michael de la Pole’s grandson.  His father William de la Pole’s story can be found elsewhere.  It is tragic and it would appear that John de la Pole perhaps learning from his father’s fate and with some degree of luck avoided the dangerous events of 1485 which culminated in the final and total ruin of his wife’s family as well as the rebellion led by his son John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln which resulted in Lincoln’s death at Stoke Field in 1487.  As Michael Hicks wrote ‘He was a loyal member of the Yorkist house and shared in several of its victories that were far from predetermined for success. Luck, rather than studied calculation, explains his escape from the consequences of any major defeats and disasters. He avoided supporting causes that were lost, quickly acquiescing in the successions of Richard III and Henry VII’ (5).   The face on the effigy, perhaps based on a death mask has been described as careworn.  No doubt, no doubt…. although dying in 1492 he was spared the violent deaths of his other sons Richard and Edmund.


John de la Pole, second Duke of Suffolk and his wife Elizabeth Plantagenet. Alabaster effigies Wingfield Church


Elizabeth Plantagenet – sister to kings.  Dying in 1503 and depicted here in her widow’s ‘barbe’.


John de la Pole, second Duke of Suffolk.  Alabaster effigy Wingfield Church.


The merry little lion at the feet of John de la Pole gazes around at him in perpetuity..  Photo Simon Knott @ Flickr

At the end of the day the de la Poles that chose Wingfield as their burial place were more fortunate  than the other family members who opted for the Carthusian Priory of Kingston upon Hull.  For their remains were lost when the priory was dissolved 1539 and later demolished.   The bones mentioned by Leyland in his Itiniary ‘dyverse trowehes of Leade with bones in a Volte under the high Altare ther….. ‘ were probably the remains of the de la Poles that were discovered sadly only to be lost forever.  

 1. The Buildings of England : SUFFOLK p.490. 2nd Edition revised by Enid Radcliffe.

2.  Wingfield Family Society Online Website

3.  Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales VoI II.  p.160.  Anthony Emery. 

4.   Pole, Michael de la, 2nd Earl of Suffolk. 1367-1415.  Simon Walker.  Oxford Dictionary of    National Biography.

5. Pole, John de la, Second Duke of Suffolk (1442-1492).  Michael Hicks.  Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 17 September 2015.

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Effigies of Ralph Neville 2nd Earl of Westmorland d.1491 and one of his wives.  Branchepeth Church, Durham.  These effigies, which were wooden, are now lost to us having since been destroyed by a disastrous fire in 1998.  Made in very dark oak it was difficult to get good photos of them thus we are indebted to Charles Stothard for this wonderful etching.  Photo British Museum.

Having seen a copy of Monumental Effigies on sale for £750 I quickly grasped it would be forever beyond my reach.   But wait! I found a very nice facsimile copy at an affordable price and very pleased am I….

The artist whose work this books covers ,Charles Alfred Stothard (1786-1821),  was a remarkably gifted antiquarian draughtsman.  Born in London, his father was an artist , Thomas Stothard R.A., and following in his footsteps Charles who as a child developed a ‘genius’ for drawing,  begun his career as a painter, his first work being The Death of Richard II at Pomfret Castle.  Charles based his depiction of Richard on his effigy in Westminster Abbey.  Was it then that first the idea took root to make etchings of the medieval effigies throughout England  to give other historical artists detailed and accurate descriptions of medieval costumes, armour and jewellery etc.,?   Whatever triggered the idea, in 1811 the first part of Monumental Effigies was published with others to follow periodically.  After his death his widow, Anna, re-issued the plates as a full volume in 1832.  

Sometimes the life of a 19th century engraver of medieval monuments was far from easy.  But our Stothard was nothing more than resolute and once he had made his mind up, his mind up he had made! When confronted with difficulties in gaining a good vantage point for his drawing of Aveline Countess of Lancaster   whose monument in Westminster Abbey had been cut off from all daylight by a ‘lofty‘ and ornate 18th century cenotaph to Lord Ligonier (me: why, why why?),  our intrepid artist was undeterred. ‘ Never daunted by any difficulties which offered themselves to an antiquarian  pursuit, Mr Stothard  furnished his pockets with wax candles,  clay and a percussion tube (a German invention for producing fire).   Thus prepared he watched his opportunity,  scaled the monument of Lord Ligonier,  lit and fixed his candles and in the situation above described, smothered with dust,  actually completed the drawing of the beautiful monument which embellishes  his series of Effigies,  without the knowledge of any of the attendants  in the abbey’ (1).    


The resultant  etching of Aveline de Forz, Countess of Lancaster.  Westminster Abbey. 

Tragedy was to strike in 1821 when on a working trip to St Andrew’s Church, Bere Ferrers,  Devon, while tracing a picture of a face from a stained glassed window, Charles fell from a ladder and was fatally injured.   He was, poignantly,  buried in the churchyard of St Andrews and a brass plaque dedicated to his memory can be found inside the church.   His intrepid widow would look after much of his work and on her death in 1883 she bequeathed his etchings to the British Museum.  Here below is just a small selection:


Ralph Neville Earl of Westmorland and his two wives.  Staindrop Church Durham.  Ralph Neville by his wife Joan Beaufort,  was the father of Cicely Neville, mother of two kings – Edward IV and Richard III.  


Two children of Edward III : William of Windsor and Blanche of the Tower.  Westminster Abbey.


 Some of the engravings would also show details of headdresses, or jewellery in closer detail often hand coloured.   This is a close up of Blanche’s headdress.


Edward Prince of Wales d.1376.   Known as The Black Prince.  Canterbury Cathedral.


Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales ‘the Black Prince’.  Canterbury Cathedral. Photo Royal Collection.


Detail of the sword of Edward of Woodstock, known as the Black Prince.  From his effigy in Canterbury Cathedral.  From the original engraving @ British Museum


Henry IV and his Queen, Joan of Navarre.  Canterbury Cathedral.  Photo @ British Museum Collection.


Close up of Joan of Navarre’s exquisitely drawn crown.  When Charles Stothard created his engraving the effigies often had traces of their enamel work and paint still on them


Aveline’s de Forz’s husband, Edmund ‘Crouchback’, Earl of Lancaster.  Westminster Abbey.


Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick.  Monument in St Mary’s Church, Warwick.  Father in law to ‘Warwick the Kingmaker’.


Robert, 2nd Baron Hungerford.  Salisbury Cathedral d.1459.  Fought in the Hundred Years War.


William Fitzalan Earl of Arundel  d.1487 and his wife Joan Neville.  Joan was sister to Richard Neville ‘The Kingmaker’.  Fitzalan Chapel, Arundel Castle.  Photo British Museum.

IMG_8154Unknown warrior.   Identified elsewhere as Sir John Wingfield.  Wingfield Church, Suffolk.


Etching of a brass.  Miles Stapleton and his wife.  Ingham Church Norfolk.


John de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk d.1491 and his wife Elizabeth Plantagenet.   Elizabeth was sister to Edward IV and Richard III. Wingfield Church, Suffolk.


Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford d.1221.  Effigy in St Mary’s Church, Hatfield Broad Oak. One of the barons who forced King John in signing the Magna Carta.


Michael de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk and his wife Catherine.  Wingfield Church, Suffolk. The Earl died during the seige of Harfleur 1415


John of Eltham,  Earl of Cornwall d.1336.    Son to Edward II.  Westminster Abbey…

All these and many, many more copies of his etchings are to be found in this beautiful book.    It’s sad that Charles Stothard died in a cruel accident before he had completed all his work but 142 are to be found in this book.  So his achievement was outstanding.   No doubt he would be pleasantly surprised that nearly 200 years after the publication of Monumental Effigies in 1832 his etchings are still pored over and enjoyed by lovers and scholars of all things medieval.  Thank you and Bravo Mr Stothard.


Charles Alfred Stothard born 5 July 1786 died 28 May 1821.


Memorial brass plaque in St Andrew’s Church, Bere Ferrers, Devon.

  1. The Monumental Effigies of Great Britain p.20.  C A Stothard.  Introduction by A J Kemp F.S.A. 1832. Publisher Ken Trotman.  

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Does anyone else like me get irritated by misidentified portraits of historical characters?  Is it that difficult to get correct? It’s quite sloppy to be honest as just a quick glance at them tells you something ain’t quite right here!  It’s particularly common around  16th century portraiture when in actual fact that type of art reached its zenith with wonderful artists like Holbein the Younger.

One of the most irksome for me, and from an earlier period,  is the portrait that is frequently used to depict Richard Neville 16th Earl of Warwick, known as The Kingmaker.  Lets take a look..

This is a prime example of a wrongly, really wrongly identified portrait.  I don’t know who it is  but this is definitely NOT Richard Neville,  16th Earl of Warwick known as the ‘Kingmaker’.

I ask you, does this resemble someone who fought in the Wars of the Roses and was dead by 1471?  Give Me Strength! There is no known contemporary portraits of Richard Neville other than the drawings of him in the Rous Roll and  a weeper on his father-in-law’s tomb, Richard Beauchamp,  13th Earl of Warwick, St Mary’s Warwick,  said to depict him.  None of these depict him with a beard which was not fashionable in the 15th century.  Nor did he wear anything like the costume in the offending portrait.  Warwick would not  have been seen dead in those late 16th knickerbockers.   However still this portrait is used regularly and captioned with his name. Please make it stop! groan.  And kudos to those that get it right.


Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, known as the Kingmaker.  Drawing by Rous – who would have actually known him by sight.  Not a knickerbocker – or beard –  in sight…

Misidentified portraiture is not just limited to paintings.  It can also occur in stained glass.  Take a look at the wonderful early 16th century stained glass windows in St Mary’s Church, Fairford, Gloucestershire.   In these windows are figures of the Tudor Royal family.  These include Henry VII, his wife Elizabeth of York and his mother Margaret Beaufort. All these figures closely resemble their paintings and busts .There is one included of a chubby child identified as Henry VIII as a toddler.      


Drawing of a cherub like Henry VIII as a child.  Ah..what’s not to like. Holbein.
Jesus in the temple henry Vlll.png

Chancel, north chapel, Lady Chapel, North window, Fairford Church.  Jesus as a small boy in the temple modelled on a young angelic Henry VIII.    A good likeness between the sketch and the glass – all ok here.

However there is also a figure of an elderly churchman.  This has been identified by an ‘expert’ as being that of Cardinal Wosley.  This is despite the fact that when these windows were made c.1500,  Wolsey, being born in 1473 would have been  young man and not the older man portrayed.    A closer look combined with a bit of research and it can be seen ‘Wosley’ is in fact Cardinal Morton portrayed as the elderly man he would have been when the windows were made.  Morton was held in high regard  with the Tudors, particularly Margaret Beaufort and Henry Tudor for whom he had tirelessly laboured/plotted to enable Henry’s usurpation of Richard III’s throne.   I base my conclusion on comparing the face in the window to the wooden boss of Morton in Bere Regius church, Dorset.

See for yourself and decide…image

Stain glass portrait in Fairford Church identified as Cardinal Wolsey.  I believe the churchman looking benignly down on the Tudor family is actually Cardinal Morton whose plotting helped get Henry VII to the throne.  

FullSizeRender 3.jpg

 Carved wooden boss of Morton in Bere Regius Church.  

Moving on to the Tudor Queens…teeth gritted…

The portrait below of Queen Katherine Parr is, at this very moment as you read this, being erroneously identified regularly in books and online article/searches as Lady Jane Grey or even Mary Tudor.


Katherine Parr, attributed to Master John, circa 1545.  Regularly misidentified as Lady Jane Grey. © National Portrait Gallery, London 

Casting aside the obvious and glaring fact that this is a lady who is considerably more older than Lady Jane Grey who was dead at 17,  but don’t let common sense get in the way of choosing illustrations for one’s book/article.    A bit of research would uncover, for comparison,  another portrait of Katherine Parr where its clear to see they are one and the same lady.   


Katherine Parr.  Unknown Artist.  National Portrait Gallery

Quite recently, thank goodness, another long held  misidentification of a Tudor queen has been rectified – this time Anne of Cleves.  A minature by Hans Holbein has  long been identified as Queen Catherine Howard despite being in the Queen’s Collection, and thus you would think some investigation going into who it is supposed to represent.  It has now  been identified by art historian Franny Moyle as actually Anne of Cleves which if you compare the minature to the well known portrait of Anne is quite apparent.  Yes the minIature is of a slightly older version of Anne in English dress but still the similarities cannot be denied.  As Franny Moyles says ‘The sitter’s heavy eyelids and thick eyebrows bear distinct similarities to Holbein’s 1539 portrait of Anne. They’re the same woman.  She has this soporific expression in both paintings’ .  To read this interesting article click  here. 


Portrait of Anne of Cleves by Hans Holbein.  


The Miniature long described as being a portrait of Catherine Howard but now reidentified as being a slightly older Anne of Cleves.

The sitter in this portrait below has also been named as being Queen Catherine Howard.  Now it has been renamed an unknown lady possibly from the Cromwell family.  


Portrait of an unknown lady, possibly from the Cromwell Family frequently misidentified as Catherine Howard.  Artist Hans Holbein.  Toledo Museum of Art.

The sad fact is that probably no portraits existed or have survived due to the fact Catherine was queen for such a short time it’s doubtful she had time to sit for any portraits.   It’s more than likely Henry VIII found portraits of his deceased/beheaded queens hanging around to remind him a tad irksome,  combined with Catherine having suffered the same fate as Anne Boleyn,  anyone owning a portrait of her may have thought it prudent to destroy it.  Why do not biographers and the like just admit to there are, as far as we know, no known portraits of Catherine.  You may as well insert a photo of Minnie Mouse….

Speaking of Anne Boleyn.  Here is the crème de la crème of misidentified portraits.  Among Holbein’s beautiful drawings of members of Henry’s court there is one, to be fair, labelled  Anna Bollein Queen  However, just a quick perusal and a comparison to his beautiful portrait of Queen Jane Seymour and you will see that this is one and the same lady.  


Hans Holbein’s portrait of Queen Jane Seymour.  Note the weak chin..


Hans Holbein drawing said to be of Queen Anne Boleyn but clearly the same sitter as the lady in the portrait of Queen Jane Seymour.   Check out the eyes, small mouth, weak and slightly double chin. The double chin is accentuated by  both the ribbon that is tying her cap to her head and that the sitter is  looking down.

It is said that Sir John Cheke, the gentleman who years later identified the drawing as being of Anne,  also wrongly identified other portraits.  Not only did Sir John Cheke get it wrong so did ‘expert’ on everything Tudor, David Starkey, and John Rowlands who wrote a joint article An Old Tradition Reasserted: Holbein’s Portrait of Queen Anne Boleyn.  According to Starkey the double chin in the drawing is a ‘goitre’ ..  yes me neither.  Perhaps he is convinced by a Nicolas Sanders, who wrote in 1586, fifty years after Anne’s death, that Anne had a ‘sallow complexion as if troubled by jaundice’ as well as ‘projecting tooth under the upper lip…six fingers..and a large wen under her chin and therefore to hide its ugliness she wore a high dress covering her throat'(1).  

Lastly there are many portraits of Anne Boleyn most of them copies of a copy of a copy of a lost original.  This one below is perhaps the one that comes to mind, I think, for most people when they think of a portrait of Anne.

668,Anne Boleyn,by Unknown artist
Unknown artist
Portrait said to be of Anne Boleyn by an unknown artist.  National Portrait Gallery, London.

Yet wait!  Although I am less certain that I am of the portraits I have named about as being misidentified I always wonder if this portrait is not of Anne but of Henry VIII’s sister, Mary.  Compare to the portrait of her with her second husband Henry Brandon.  Was the ‘B’ on the portrait said to be of Anne representing ‘Boleyn” actually “B” for Brandon?

Mary Brandon nee Tudor with her husband Charles Brandon.  Could Mary actually be the sitter for the portrait of Anne?  

Anyway that is my take on it.  You may agree or disagree with me but I do hope that it does lead to some taking an extra careful look at historic portraits in future and not taking ‘experts’ words for it.  Because there really is no point to using a misidentified portrait in place of the actual real thing or even because a portrait of a certain person does not actually exist.  

1) Anne Boleyn regains her head. Art History News.  John Rowlands



The Eton Wall Paintings – A Portrait of Queen Anne Neville

Canterbury Cathedral and the Royal Window

Cardinal John Morton’s Tomb Canterbury Cathedral

Those Mysterious Childrens Coffins in Edward IVs Vault

The English Medieval Cathedral

Royal Peculiars and their Peculiarities



Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.  Their effigies in Westminster Abbey.  Artist Pietro Torrigiano. Photo

I was recently reading an excellent article in the Ricardian discussing Henry Tudor’s enthusiasm, or lack of it, for his marriage to Elizabeth of York by David Johnson entitled Ardent Suitor or Reluctant Groom?  It’s pretty much an eye opener and is in two parts – part 1 Ardent Suitor covers the positives, if you can call them that  – that is to try to understand why Henry, who in Rennes Cathedral on Christmas Day 1483 had vowed to marry Elizabeth of York,  seemingly developed a serious case of cold feet in 1485 after his success at Bosworth.  This seems a major volte-face from a man who was reported by Vergil as being ‘pinched by the very stomach’ when rumours had reached him that Richard III was ‘amynded’,  having been recently widowed,  to  marry Elizabeth himself.  Love was not of course the issue to Henry at the time, Elizabeth was but a stepping stone to cement his usurpation of the throne and to gain the loyalty of dissatisfied Yorkists that had joined him in Brittany.   The rumour, as it turned out, was false.  Richard was negotiating a double foreign marriage for himself and for Elizabeth to members of the Portuguese royal family.  However it is a helpful indication of Henry’s mindset at that time that  he or someone close to him suggested a Plan B – that was if a Plantagenet bride was not available, he would marry Maud, the daughter of William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke.    To add to his angst some time later came the collapse of the ‘Beaufort/Woodville alliance’ after Elizabeth Woodville’s rapprochement with Richard and her older daughters attending Richard’s court.  Henry’s carefully laid plans were in tatters.  Was it at this point he was changing his mind about marrying Elizabeth should he be successful in taking the throne?  David Johnson points out a change in strategy and  instead of ‘emphasising the political necessity of marriage with Elizabeth of York, as he had in 1483, Henry according to the Burgundian chronicler Jean Molinet was urged by the Earl of Oxford, and from England, by the Lord Stanley to use the title of king’  which he did henceforth, beginning his letters with the customary royal salutation ‘By the King.  Right trusty and well beloved, we greet you well’ and signing off his letters as HR (Henricus Rex).  David Johnson points out that  Rosemary Horrox has noted that ‘None of Henry’s predecessors who seized the throne by force made such an early and explicit declaration of their sovereignity (1).   

This ‘bold’ change in strategy  ‘conveniently dispensed with Elizabeth of York and instead promoted his royal title as heir of Lancaster(2)’. Richard’s response was swift and a proclamation was issued in December 1484 condemning Henry and his brass necked gall.  Describing Henry’s ‘ambitious and insatiable covetousness …. encroacheth upon him the name and title of Royal estate of this Realm of England, whereunto he hat no manner interest, right or colour…’ 

What Elizabeth Snr or Elizabeth Jnr made of all this is unfortunately lost to us.    Perhaps Elizabeth Woodville,  who was about to dump Margaret Beaufort basically, and cast her lot in with Richard, felt some foreboding?   On the other hand perhaps she felt confident all would be well.  Indeed she did send word to her son, Thomas Grey,  Marquis of Dorset,  who was with  with Tudor at that time, to come home  and he would be treated well.    Maybe, ever pragmatic,  she had concluded it was better to be in tune with the King at the moment and not a mere faux king over in Brittany.  However this reneging on her deal with Margaret Beaufort would cast a long shadow over her future.

Part two: Reluctant Groom covers the period commencing from the beginning of Henry’s reign after  the decisive day of Bosworth.  Henry won, much to everyone’s surprise, including probably his own.  The battle was decided by treachery and the betrayal of the Stanleys. Much has been written about Bosworth and I won’t go into it here.  After the battle the ugly subject of Henry keeping to his word and marrying Elizabeth of York reared its head.  Initially, according to Bacon, Henry, perhaps carried away by the  euphoria  of having survived Richard knocking his block off at Bosworth ‘renewed his promise’ to take Elizabeth for his wife.  David Johnson describes how October came, and instead of the double coronation the dissenting Yorkists were expecting and hoping for  ‘Henry attended his Coronation as a bachelor king conspicuously devoid of a queen consort.    He was crowned God’s anointed in a ceremony that made no reference to Elizabeth of York or his promised marriage.   While many believed the matrimonial union of Lancaster and York provided whatever appeared to be missing in the kings title,  Henry’s coronation effectively repudiated any such claim. He was determined to establish his title in its own right irrespective of the proposed union with Elizabeth.  This did not of course accord with his earlier pronouncements or the wishes of many of his adherents’.  Not a man easily abashed,  on the 7 November, Henry in an address to  his first Parliament failed to mention any marriage to Elizabeth and instead asserted his Lancastrian right of inheritance which had been upheld in battle by verdict of the Almighty (3).  As far as Henry was concerned he was king and he was going to do what he wanted to do including, in an act described as transparent chicanery,  predate his reign to the 21 August, the day before Bosworth –  thus anyone fighting for Richard III at Bosworth would now be traitors (4).   Even Crowland Chronicler,  that old misery guts who had been rather hostile to the late and rightful king,   thought this unwise and that the remedy lay in the long promised marriage with Elizabeth of York.  

However on Saturday 10 December 1485 the commons of the realm of England put their foot down. Feeling safety in number Speaker Thomas Lovell came swiftly to the point reminding Henry that Parliament ‘had decreed and enacted’ his royal title in the expectation that he should take to himself that illustrous Lady Elizabeth,  daughter of King Edward IV as his wife and consort’.    As Lovell completed his address ‘the lords spiritual and temporal  being in the same Parliament,  rising from their seats and standing before the king sitting on the royal throne, bowing their heads voiced the same request’.  Henry’s bachelor days were over.  He had no choice other than to accede to his Parliament.  However Henry was not going to roll over completely at this stage and take this lying down.  Absolutely not.  What did he do?  The couple had already acquired a dispensation of marriage from the Roman Curia as far back as March 1484.  In one last desperate roll of the dice Henry inexplicably applied for a second dispensation.   Was he hoping that an impediment might rise in the nick of time permitting a legitimate escape from the marital committement he had given to Parliament? Alas, for Henry, this second one was also granted and moreover repeating the terms of the first one.  Henry’s last hope was dashed.  Henry and Elizabeth were married on 18th January 1486.  

What was behind Henry’s clear attempts to wriggle out of marrying Elizabeth will never be known.  Perhaps it was not a dislike of the idea of marrying Elizabeth who could hardly have been repugnant to him but more down to the fact that Henry knew that in overturning  Titulus Regius, the act that legitimised his bride,  a whole and nasty can of worms would be opened.  For not only would Elizabeth be legitimised but so would her missing brothers.   No doubt the very thought of it  caused many a sleepless night to Henry.   Annoyingly it was suggested that Bishop Stillington be cross examined further on the act.  This was the last thing Henry wanted and he remained adamant that he had ‘pardoned him and therefore didn’t want any more to put it to him’.   After the passage of over 500 years you can still hear the grinding of Henry’s teeth!  Clearly the last thing Henry wanted was Titulus Regius being scrutinised and resurrecting the new Queen’s bastardy, Richard III’s legitimacy and Henry’s tenuous hold on power.  David Johnson sums things up very succinctly:  ‘Despite Polydor Virgil’s nostalgic panegyric recalling a marriage made in heaven,  it is clear that the dynastic union of Lancaster and York owed more to the intervention of Parliament then the intervention of the Almighty. The ardent suitor truly become the reluctant groom’.  




Elizabeth Woodville/Wydeville.  Royal Window Canterbury Cathedral.

And so the nest of vipers spawned from the madness that was the Wars of the Roses, and that Elizabeth Woodville herself was a part of, chewed her up, regurgitated her and spat her out…poof!  It would hardly be surprising if neither Henry or his mother would have forgiven Elizabeth after she reneged on her deal with them and put all her eggs into Richard’s basket.   The time between Henry taking the throne and marrying her daughter must have been a worrying period for her although of course we are not privy to all the minutiae that was going on behind the scenes.  Indeed she may even have not been able to communicate with her daughter who was living in the custody –  ooooops – care of Margaret Beaufort at her London home,  Coldharbour,  since she had been taken there, with her young cousin, Warwick, after Bosworth (Warwick was later moved to the Tower where he would live out his sad life).     If Elizabeth Woodville breathed a sigh of relief when at last her daughter was married and crowned, it was to prove short lived.  On 12 February 1487 Elizabeth Woodville was sent,  for what would be the remainder of her life, to live in  Bermondsey Abbey and her son Thomas Grey arrested and not to be released until after the Battle of Stoke.   This is despite the fact that Elizabeth had only just taken out a 40 year lease on  Cheyneygates, Westminster Abbey.   Shortly after a council meeting at Sheen on the Ist May 1487, important decisions were made including on ‘thadvise of the lords and other nobles of our counsaill’  that Henry have  Elizabeth’s jointure lands transferred to  her daughter, the new queen consort  It is surely no mere coincidence that these events coincided with the Lambert Simnel  rebellion nicely bubbling away in the background at that time,  so that it is reasonable to deduce that  Elizabeth and Thomas were implicated in that plot.  For those that question why Elizabeth Woodville would get involved in a rebellion that would have turfed her daughter off the throne it’s well to remember that the quashing of Titulus Regius had legitimised both her missing sons, arguably the eldest one being once again the legal king.     There are intriguingly clues that suggest that Edward V was all the while living incognito under the name of John Evans  at Thomas Grey’s manor at Coldridge, Devon.  Had Elizabeth and Grey actually managed to hoodwink Henry?  Did she die knowing that at least one of her sons had survived and was living in safe obscurity in a backwater in Devon?   However, casting that aside, it would appear Elizabeth’s involvement in the rebellion was the last straw for her son-in-law and no doubt he breathed a sigh of relief as his mother in law was trundled off to Bermondsey.  Finally Elizabeth’s scheming chickens had come home to roost.   For Elizabeth it was not to be as it was for other aristocratic ladies who opted to retire to religious houses such  the Abbey of the Minoresses of St Clare without Aldgate known as the Minories. These ladies had all sustained devastating losses  and,  oh the irony, had been dealt a harsh hand by Elizabeth’s husband Edward IV but shared a camaraderie that would have strengthened and sustained them.  Elizabeth on the other hand,  although her apartments at the abbey would have been very comfortable,  was left to live in what can only described as,  if not penury,  definitely straitened circumstances.   Her funeral as we know was frugal and even her coffin was made of wood without the usual lead liner so that when Edward’s tomb was explored in the 18th century all that remained of the ex queen was a skull and a small pile of bones.

IMG_7664 Portrait of Edward V,  Coldridge Church, Devon.  Clues in the church suggest that John Evans buried in the church, may have been Edward V incognito.



Elizabeth’s wooden effigy that would have been placed regally dressed and crowned upon her coffin.  Very possibly modelled from Elizabeth’s desk mask.

So Elizabeth found herself finally Queen.  I wonder if she ever remembered her uncle, King Richard III and Queen Anne, his kind wife who had swapped outfits with her one Christmas not so long ago?   What were her feelings when it became abundantly clear that Henry was trying his best to abandon their nuptials?    However whatever the reasons were for  her delayed marriage there are clear signs in their privy purse accounts that affection, if not romantic love,  did grow between the couple.  We can also deduce from Elizabeth’s accounts she was kind, generous and  loved by the commons.  She did not make much of a wave but was successful in that she fulfilled her duties as a king’s wife to provide heirs.  


Henry VII and his children in mourning for Elizabeth of York.  An idealised presentation of Henry, his children, Margaret and Mary  sitting in front of the fire while a young Henry jnr weeps into his mother’s empty bed.  From the Vaux Passional,  a 15th century manuscript.



Henry VII on his deathbed – Wriothesley’s Heraldic Collection Vol I Book of Funerals

Henry died in 21 April 1509,  pleading that if it would ‘please God to send him life they should find him a very changed man (6). Too late!  According to Holinshed Chronicle

“….he was so wasted with his long malady that nature could no longer  sustain his life and so he departed out of this world the two and 20th of April’.

No one, except his mother,  appeared much saddened by his death but joyful they had a new, young, vibrant and handsome king.  What’s not to like! Yes well…. the least said about Henry Jnr the better and another story altogether.

For those who might like to read David Johnson’s articles here are  link 1.

and link 2.

1. Henry Tudor’s letters p.156. Horrox.

2. Tudor Dynasty p.139 Griffiths and Thomas

3. Henry VII: November 1485. Presentation of the Speaker: Parliament Rolls of Medieval England ed Chris-Given Wilson et al (Woodbridge 2005).

4. The Reign of Henry VII p.59 R L Storey

5. The Winter King p.339 Thomas Penn

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Stained glass portrait of Cicely.  Formerly in Canterbury Cathedral now in the Burrell Collection, Glasgow.

Cicely Plantagenet (b.1469 d.1507) daughter and niece to kings, and a prime example of a medieval noblewoman who endured and in this case survived the turmoil of the Wars of the Roses.    Oh how that fickle wheel of fortune spun for Cicely – like a human yoyo – up, down, up again and then a levelling off as she married for the third time .  It’s no wonder Sir Thomas More would describe her as Not so fortunate as fair although this may be over egging the pudding a bit as she seems to have fared much better than some other aristocratic ladies from those times as two of her marriages appear to have been happy plus she didn’t die in penury.   After her third marriage she left England to live on the Isle of Wight, dying on the 24 August 1507.    This last marriage is said to have made Henry Tudor, her brother-in-law,  very, very annoyed.  But more on  that later.

Cicely’s early life was one of  privilege most of her contemporaries would only ever have dreamed of.  She lived the majority of her younger years with her siblings in Greenwich Palace,  a favourite home for her mother, Elizabeth Wydeville,  and which seems to have been used as a royal nursery for the brood of children she had borne Edward IV.  Indeed it was while living at Greenwich on the 23 May 1482, Cicely’s 14 year old sister Mary died.  This was the second death of a royal child in a matter of months at  Greenwich for just six months earlier her even younger sister-in-law.  the 8 year old Anne Mowbray, had died on 9th November 1481.   Other times were spent at Westminster Palace when both parents were staying there.  


A print by an unknown artist now in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich depicting the Palace c 1487.


The Old Palace of Westminster.  Westminster Abbey and Cheyneygates can be seen at the top of the picture.  


Cicely’s father Edward IV  motto, ‘confort et lyesse’, 1442-1483 Society of Antiquaries of London

Tragedy, and disaster,  struck in April 1483 when her father died rather unexpectedly at Westminster.   This led to a flurry of feverish activity from her mother and her Wydeville relations in a mad and unseemly scramble to get hold of the person of her brother Edward, now Edward V and living in Ludlow on the Welsh Marches.  This was to  enable them to get control of the kingdom before her uncle, Richard Duke of Gloucester took his rightful place as Lord Protector.   When these plans went swiftly awry,  the 14 year old Cicely and  her siblings led by their mother rushed off to sanctuary in Cheyneygates, the Abbots House, Westminster Abbey where they would spend the next ten months.  The Abbey and Cheyneygates was literally just across the road from the palace and, according to Sir Thomas More in an attempt by the soon to be ex-queen to take as much treasure and goods as possible with her, a hole was made in the wall of the Abbey.


A  view of the ancient passage way leading to Abbot’s Court and Cheyneygates.  The family would have reached Cheyneygates via this passageway and trod these very flagstones..

What went through the minds of Cicely we can only speculate.  But it must have been disconcerting at the very least,  this immediate and drastic change in lifestyle,  and no doubt she would have picked up on her mother’s mood, who was said by Sir Thomas More to have been found by Bishop Rotherham sitting  alone, low down on the rushes, all desolate and dismayed’  – hardly  a reassuring sight for her children.


Jerico Parlour and Cheyneygates c1910.   Jerico Parlour has hardly altered but the Abbots House known as Cheyneygates, to the right,  where the Cicely and her family stayed has much changed over the centuries.   Cheyneygates also suffered from bomb damage during the Blitz.   Illustration by Herbert Railton.  


Cicely’s mother Elizabeth Wydeville, in her glory days before it all went pear shaped.  This is the earliest known version of the many copies of a now lost original portrait of Elizabeth which was possibly from a likeness of her taken when she was alive.  The Royal Collection

The long months in sanctuary must have seemed quite dour even though the great hall, known as College Hall,  had a minstrel gallery – they probably were not in the mood for music.   Although undoubtedly the Abbots house would have been sumptuous,  lack of space would have proven to be a problem for the royal, soon to be ex- royal,  party.  Was Cicely resilient and did she look forward to the day when she could leave that place and hopefully continue her former lifestyle?  Or did she fear they were all going to die?  Did the siblings bicker?  Surely they must have picked up on the mood of their mother which could not have been inspiring if Sir Thomas More’s description of her is accurate.  However Cicely’s mother’s state of mind must have reached an all time low on the morning of the 6th July 1483 when the loud clamouring of bells told them that Richard and his wife,  Anne,  were being crowned just yards away in the abbey.  


Old, atmospheric photo of the Archway in Abbots’s Court leading out and into the cloisters as well as the exit to the outside world.    Cicely and her family would have gone through this ancient archway which has remained unchanged throughout the centuries to enter and leave Cheyneygates.,

Finally the day arrived when her mother, now known as Dame Grey,  reached agreement with Richard, now King Richard III, and she and her sisters emerged into what must have been a much changed world.  On the first day of Marche the first yere of my Reigne (1484) Richard had sworn an oath on holy relics that he would do no harm to  her daughters, and seek good marriages for them with gentlemen and this is exactly what he was to do for  both Cicely and Elizabeth.

Memorandum that I Richard by the grace of God King of England and of Fraunce and Lord of Irland in the presens of you my Lordes spirituelle and temporelle and you Maire and Aldermen of my  Cite of London promitte  and swere verbo Regio and upon these holy evengelies of God by me personelly touched that if the doughters of Dam Elizabeth Gray late calling herself Queen of England that is to wit Elizabeth Cecille Anne Kateryn and Briggette wolle come unto me out of the Saintwarie of Westminster and be guyded  Ruled and demeaned after me then I shalle see that they shalbe in suertie of their lyffes and also not suffre any manner hurt by any manner persone or persones to theim or any of theim in their bodies and persones to be done by wey of Ravisshement or defouling contrarie their willes nor theim or any of theim emprisone within the Toure of London or any other prisone..

I’ll stop here just to say that I do feel that these promises were rather unnecessary and overdramatic as Richard most certainly did not have a reputation for cruelty,  ravishing or allowing ravishment of young ladies and throwing them  into the Tower.  There was more – 

but that I shalle put theim in honest places of good name and fame.  And that I shalle do marie suche of theim as now bene mariable to gentilmen borne …… when they come to lawfulle age of marriage if they lyff and suche gentilmen as shalle happe to marie  with theim I shall straitly charge from tyme to tyme loyingly and to love and entreat them as thir wiffes and my kynneswomen As they wolle advoid and eschue my displeasure.

This rapprochement between Richard and Elizabeth Wydville would be viewed by the Tudor party as a reneging on the earlier deal made between Elizabeth and Margaret Beaufort –  that Elizabeth of York would marry Henry Tudor – and would later come back to bite Elizabeth on the bum casting a long shadow on her relationship with her son-in-law.  Vergil would accuse Elizabeth Wydeville of ‘forgetting her faith and promise given to Margaret, Henry’s mother‘ (1).  Her involvement in the Lambert Simnel rebellion was the last straw and Elizabeth was sent into ‘retirement’ in Bermondsey Abbey in 1487.  On this occasion Margaret Beaufort would not be casting oil on troubled water as shall be seen she was to do  later on the occasion of Cicely’s third and final marriage.

True to his word sometime in 1484 Richard arranged what was now, considering Cicely’s loss of status. a suitable marriage between Cicely (who had once been intended to marry the future king of Scotland) and Ralph Scrope of Masham, 3rd son of Thomas Scrope, 5th Lord Scrope of Masham d.1475 and brother of Thomas Lord Scrope of Upsall.   This bridegroom would be erronously described by Vergil as an obscure man of no importance and even worse as a man’s son of the land far underneath her degree by Sir Thomas More.     Later in 1485  Richard would begin negotiations for a marriage between Elizabeth and Manuel, duke of Beja, a member of the Portuguese Royal family.  However as it is said man makes plans and the Gods laugh for before this marriage could be brought about Richard had been betrayed and met his death at Bosworth.  

After her emergence from sanctuary the whereabouts of Lady Grey remain a complete mystery.  There is some reason to believe that she headed to Gipping Hall, Suffolk, home to Sir James Tyrell.  There is a story that has come down in the Tyrell family that her two sons stayed with  her at Gipping for a short time and although where the younger sisters were living is a mystery it is known the two older sisters, Elizabeth and Cicely,  were welcomed at the court of the new king.  The Christmas of 1484 was a particular joyful time.   Queen Anne,  must have formed a friendship with Cicely’s sister Elizabeth, because it was noted, rather tetchily by the misery that was the Croyland Chronicler, that vain exchanges of dresses were made between the Queen and Elizabeth.  This was vain, vain, vain and outrageous and the old Chronicler, whoever he was could not have been more mortified. 


The wheel of fortune had spun once more and  Cicely had  found herself married to Ralph Scrope.   This marriage has on the whole been ignored entirely by most historians for some reason or other despite the fact that  Polydore Vergil  reported the fact in his history of the reign of Richard III.  Vergil noted  that when rumours of Cicely’s marriage, as well as Richard was ‘amynded’ to marry  Cicely’s older sister Elizabeth , having been recently widowed reached Henry Tudor he was well and truly miffed and pinched by the very stomach.      Possibly  Henry had thought of Cicely as a possibly bride if Elizabeth were to become unobtainable in the future should his hopes of usurping Richard’s throne  be realised.   After all was this not the crux of the matter, to appease those Yorkists that had joined him in Brittany, that he should marry one of the daughters of the dead Edward IV?  However he had a Plan B (or should that be Plan C?) if neither of the two sisters were available in that he would then marry Maud, a daughter of William Herbert,  earl of Pembroke, the man who had once been his guardian and who had been executed by Warwick in 1469.    We do not know if the Scrope marriage  was happy or indifferent or even if the couple lived together, Cicely being only about 15,  although it would not have been unusual if they had.    Whatever it was it would prove to be short lived.  In 1485 Richard fell at Bosworth, betrayed by the Stanleys and in 1486 Cicely’s marriage to Ralph was dissolved.   Nothing is known of what Cicely and Ralph thought about the dissolution of their marriage.  It is cetainly beyond sad if they had become fond of each other.  

Second marriage.

Cicely’s marriage to John,  First Viscount Welles (d.1499) took place before December 1487 when she was addressed as Countesse de Wellys by the Heralds.  Lord Welles was of course a half brother to Henry Tudor’s mother Margaret Beaufort, they both sharing the same mother Margaret Beauchamp of Belso.   This of course made him an uncle to Henry Tudor – thus Cicely was Henry’s aunt by marriage as well as Margaret Beaufort’s sister-in-law.  To add to the confusion she was also Henry’s sister-in-law.   This is just one of the many tangled family links that occurred so regularly at that time.  This second marriage, casting aside the possibility of there being a sadness on Cicely’s part over her dissolved first marriage,  was an extremely good match for her.    John had proven his loyalty to his nephew and was probably one of the small number of people the wary Tudor could absolutely trust.   The  marriage would have been a win win situation for Henry as now both the eldest daughters of Edward IV were safely married off, one to himself and the other to the ever loyal Welles.  What’s not to like?!   Although the marriage was a political one there are indications from John’s mention of his wife in his will that,  thanks to a stroke of serendipity,  love had grown between the couple. They  would have two daughters, Elizabeth and Anne, both of whom sadly died young.  

John died in London, probably in the Welles’ town house, on the 9 February 1498.  In his will he left the place of his burial to the discretion of the kynge, the quene, my lady, his moder, and my lady, my wife.  Furthermore all his castelles, manors, landes and tenements were left to his dere beloved wife Cecill.  John was laid to rest in the Lady Chapel, Westminster Abbey.  When this was demolished to make room for Henry’s new Lady Chapel doubtless John’s remains would have been transferred to another suitable place as were Cecily’s young sister-in-law, Anne Mowbray’s.    Where that was is now lost to us.  


In 1502 Cicely married for a third time and without royal permission.  Henry went ballistic and Cicely and her new husband were banished from court.   The bridegroom was Thomas Kyme of Friskney, Lincolnshire, a mere esquire.   Jones and Underwood, in their book The King’s Mother describe how ‘ it was a disparaging match that had pre-empted Henry’s rights to the remarriage and thus insulted and angered the king. Cicely was banished from court and Henry took action to  occupy the entire Welles estate. Here Margaret intervened. She was very fond of Cecily who during a visit by John Lord Welles in the 1490s was remembered as sitting at Margarets board under the same canopy of estate. She now sheltered Cecily and Kyme at Colleyweston and attempted to negotiate a compromise that would retain at least some of the estates for Cecily and her new husband.   Lady Margaret’s accounts record a rush of activity between 1502 and 1503 with her servants riding to inspect the evidences of some of the manors concerned and agreements being drawn up between Margaret and Cecily.  1503 a settlement was achieved.  Certain of the Lincolnshire manners were to be surrounded by Cecily to the king. The remainder of the estates would be held by Cicely for life….. Finally Thomas Kyme was to be discharged from all actions or fines resulting from his occupation of the Welles estate.  In what the authors call a remarkable juggling act Margaret ‘had managed to appease the king,  safeguard the rights of the Welles coheirs and protect Cicely who avoided the fine for marrying without royal license and had a parcel of the property secured for her own use.

Cicely was now free to enjoy what was left of her life.  She and Thomas left England and lived on the Isle of Wight.  Cicely died 24 August 1507 aged 38, her funeral expenses paid for by Margaret Beaufort.   There is some uncertainty of whether  she died on the Isle of Wight or at Hatfield,  Hertfordshire and a question mark too of whether she was buried at Quarr Abbey, Isle of Wight or at Kings Langley, Hertfordshire.  Quarr Abbey, named from the quarry to the east of it,  was destroyed in 1536 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries brought about by her nephew, Henry VIII.  However the ruins of the old Abbey lie close to the modern Quarr Abbey and are now looked after.  How nice it would be to think that Cicely still lies there at rest, undisturbed not far from the place where she and her last husband lived out their lives in peace and tranquility.  



Ruins of the ancient Quarr Abbey, Isle of Wight.  Possible burial place of Cicely Plantagenet.  Photos

  1. Polydore Vergil’s History p.210.  Ed. H Ellis.
  2. Harleian MS 433 Vol 3 p.190
  3.  Cecily Plantagenet’s Ist Marriage Douglas Richardson
  4. History of King Richard III p.133 Richard III The Great Debate,.  Ed.Paul Kendall
  5. Polydore Vergil’s History p.215  ed.H Ellis.

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Brass of William Catesby,  Ashby St Ledgers Church.   Commissioned by William’s son in 1507.  Date of death 20th August is incorrect, predating Bosworth,  perhaps in an attempt to cover up his inglorious end.  Note the damage across the neck.  Photo Aidan McRae Thomas Flkir

As no doubt can be seen from the title of this post I have really not made my mind up about Catesby and the true essence of the man he was.  The best and fullest account of his life is that written by Professor J A Roskell –  William Catesby, Councillor to Richard III.

Mostly remembered for getting a mention in the infamous and nasty  little ditty –

‘The catt, the Ratt and Lovell owyn dogge, Rulyn  all England undyr an hogge’ 

which was found fastened to the door of St Paul’s 14th July 1484 (1).  It might be assumed from this that Catesby, along with Ratcliffe and Lovell had an enormous amount of input into how things were being run during Richard’s reign – but is this true or was it just the spiteful pen of a man who had recently been dismissed from his job to be replaced by  Lovell?  The rebellious William Collingbourne, author of the verse,  was later to be hung, drawn and quartered for treason.  He is said to have uttered, just as his entrails were being removed from his body ‘Oh lord yet more trouble’.    I seriously doubt someone who had been choked to within an inch of their life and in the course of being disembowelled would be able to say something quite so lucid and it just goes to show how you have to be very cautious with some of these quotes.  Perhaps it was meant as a 15th century joke? But  I digress, again, and back to our man Catesby.   Certainly it would seem that Catesby was indeed an influential member of Richard III’s Council for the Croyland Chronicler mentioned that he and Ratcliffe’s opinions were those that  the king hardly ever did offer any opposition to.  However it should be borne in mind that whoever the Chronicler was at the time, he tended to take a dim view of Richard, can always be expected to take a negative view of proceedings and was wont  to over egging the pudding.  

Catesby was born c.1446 and died 25 August 1485.  He was the son of Sir William Catesby Snr d.1478,  a man with strong Lancastrian leanings and Philippa Bishopston d.1476.   Sir William has been described as  a former retainer in the Household of Henry VI whose real sympathies had remained Lancastrian (2).  Catesby Snr became a trusted retainer of  William Lord Hastings , close friend to Edward IV,   who would  later become a powerful patron to Catesby Jnr who had entered the legal profession.    Sir William led an interesting life in his own right which is covered elsewhere.   In 147I our Catesby Jnr married Margaret Zouche,  daughter of William Lord Zouche of Harringworth –  an excellent match for him.  When his mother in law, Elizabeth St John,  was widowed she married John Lord Scrope of Bolton.  Through his natural aptitude and  these  ‘ties of kinship,  the very bedrock of 15th century society,  Catesby acquired numerous offices, stewardships and estates, to support his rising quasi-aristocratic status. He also began to acquire land and property through his own astute legal transactions (3). However I have to beg to differ here as it’s clear  not all his transactions were legal, because in his will made immediately prior to his execution his conscience pricked him and he requested that his wife ‘restore all londes that I have wrongfully purchasid’.  I will return to this later.

However Catesby,  during his golden years, as well as having Hastings as a patron, became ever successful, attracting the right sort of clients such as  Elizabeth,  Lady Latimer daughter and co-heir of Richard Beauchamp,  Earl  of Warwick and  the Duke of Buckingham as well as acting as a legal advisor to the Archbishop of Canterbury.  Catesby was clearly on a roll as they say.

When Edward IV died somewhat prematurely in 1483 a deadly struggle ensued between the Wydevilles and Richard, Duke of Gloucester as to who should have control of the heir to the throne, the 13 year old Edward V.   Catesby’s reputation had come to the attention of Gloucester,  who in May 1483 appointed him Chancellor of the Earldom of March and Justice of the Peace for Northamptonshire.   Catesby had now absolutely arrived!  Ever ambitious Catesby saw even more opportunities of advancement and wealth if he threw in his lot with Gloucester  entirely.  His old allegiance with Lord Hastings was cast aside when it is said,  he was asked to sound Hastings out regarding his feelings on Gloucester taking the throne in place of the young Edward V.  Now whilst  Hastings had no misgivings on removing the Wydeville family from power, he could not overcome his old loyalty to his friend, the deceased Edward IV.  For him this was a step too far and one he was not prepared to take it would seem.    Catesby reported this back.  Daniel Williams who seems a little hostile to the Duke of Gloucester, wrote in his article  The Hastily Drawn Up Will of William Catesby, Esquire,  25th August 1485 :  ‘What actually happened will always remain conjecture but according to More  who appears to be relying upon first-hand information,  Catesby sees the opportunity of betraying his master and indeed other members of the young king’s council to the Protector and his faction. The devious complexity of what Catesby reported or did not report, made him a conscious catalyst in the subsequent course leading to the summary execution of Lord Hastings.

Thomas More, definitely anti the Duke of Gloucester,  wrote,  ‘ It was the dissimulation of this one man that stirred up that whole plague of evils which followed. If Hastings had not trusted him so completely then Stanley and other nobles of their faction would have withdrawn at the first suspicion of deceit and with their departure they would have overthrown the secret and wicked plans of the Protector. But Hastings put too much trust in Catesby’s fidelity.

I will be returning to More’s witterings later…


  The White Tower, Tower of London.  It was here in the Council Chamber on the upper floor of the White Tower that the meeting of the Council took place on Friday 13th June 1483 where Hastings was accused of treason, arrested and promptly beheaded.

Whether More’s perception of the situation is correct or not,  it certainly transpired that Catesby would be very richly rewarded after his former patron’s death.  Posts that had once been Hastings now went to Catesby including Chamberlain of the Exchequer, Steward of the holdings of the Duchy of Lancaster in Northamptonshire, Chamberlain of Receipts,  Constable of Rockingham Castle and Master Forester of the Forest of Rockingham,  Steward of the Manors of Rockingham, Brigstock and Cliffe,   Chancellor of the Exchequer as well as a member of the Royal Council.   This is by no means an exhaustive list all of the posts and lands that were bestowed upon Catesby.  Peter A Hancock has devoted an appendix in his book Richard and the Murder in the Tower on this subject should anyone wish to delve more deeper.     Catesby continued his inexorable rise, rise and more rise.  Gathering up more estates, lands, manors, lordships in his wake, covering Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, and Warwickshire some  estates falling into his hands through dodgy conveyancing as well as the exertion of strong coercive pressure (4).

All was going according to plan when even more rewards would fall into his hands with the doomed Duke of Buckingham revolt, during which Catesby, not surprisingly remained loyal to the former Duke of Gloucester,  now Richard III.  Was it during this time he perhaps incurred the displeasure or resentment of the Stanleys?  For on the 17th December 1483 we have Lord Stanley, ‘who by good luck rather than good management had survived the crisis of the summer’,  paying a lifetime annuity of five marks to Catesby  ‘for his goodwill and council past and to come’ (5).   Did Stanley perhaps object to being beholden to Catesby?  Or did Catesby,  erroneously as it turned out, think that he had forged some sort of allegiance between himself and Lord Stanley for was not Stanley uncle by marriage to Catesby’s wife,  her mother Elizabeth St John, having shared the same mother, Margaret Beauchamp of Bletso,  with Margaret Beaufort.     These not insignificant familial links meant that Henry Tudor, who was of course Stanley’s step-son, was alslo cousin to Catesby’s wife – please keep up at the back dear reader.    It’s also interesting that Catesby’s mother-in-law, Elizabeth St John,  Lady Scrope,  was a friend to none other than Elizabeth Wydeville and had been with the queen during her stay in sanctuary at Westminster in 1470 when the young Edward V was born, standing godmother to the child at his christening (6).  Roskell points out  this tangled web of family ties could have proved providential to Catesby once Tudor took the throne if he had not been such a strong supporter of Richard III (7). 


Margaret Beaufort – Catesby’s aunt by marriage.   Catesby’s wife’s mother, Elizabeth St John  and Margaret Beaufort shared the same mother,  Margaret Beaufort of Bletso.   These familial links failed to save Catesby at the end of the day.  St John’s College University of Cambridge.


There is also a further intriguing familial link – that to no other than Eleanor Butler, née Talbot.  As we know Eleanor was the catalyst for the demise of the Plantagenets for Edward IV  had married her in a secret ceremony thus invalidating his later marriage to Elizabeth Wydeville and bastardising their children.  Eleanor’s father, the famed John Talbot Earl of Shrewsbury,  had a younger sister, Alice.  Alice married Sir Thomas Barre of Burford. They had a daughter Joan/Jane who married Sir Kynard de la Bere.  After she was widowed,  Joan would marry the widowed Sir William Catesby Snr, thus becoming our Catesby’s stepmother.  How much interaction Joan had with her younger cousin, Eleanor, we will never know, although their homes were but a short distance from each other.  We do know that Joan’s husband, Sir William Catesby Snr,  had  certainly acted for Eleanor in a legal capacity having served as a witness to several documents pertaining to Eleanor including deeds of gift and had previously acted extensively on behalf of John Talbot  who was of course Eleanor’s father and Joan’s uncle (8).  This begs the question did Eleanor or other members of the Talbot family turn to one or both of the Catesbys for advice on her legal position regarding the pre contract of marriage?  With hindsight it’s clear that Eleanor, for reasons lost to us now, wished and agreed that her marriage to Edward continued to be kept,  as it was already, secret.    Did Catesby, ever the obedient lawyer, keep this secret including documentation, before revealing it to Richard in the aftermath of Edward’s death?  Might he also have made Richard aware of the fact that Hastings, Edward’s boon companion, had also been a party to this secret.  In doing so did he cover his own back but stab Hastings in his?


We do know that while much of More’s The History of Richard III is absurd,  fed to him by his patron John Morton,  Roskill believes some of it relating to minor characters and not Richard could perhaps be closer to reality.  So what does More have to say about Catesby in connection to the downfall and  death of Hastings  –

‘And of truth,  The Protector and the Duke of Buckingham made very good semblance unto the Lord Hastings and kept him much in company.  And undoubtedly the Protector  loved him well and loath was to have lost him,  saving for fear lest his  life should have quelled their purpose. For which cause he moved Catesby to test,  with some words cast out afar off,  whether he could think it possible to win the Lord Hastings  unto their party. But Catesby whether he essayed (assayed) him or essayed  him not,  reported unto them that he found him so steadfast and heard him speak so terrible words that he durst no further proceed. And of truth,  the Lord Chamberlain of very trust showed unto Catesby the mistrust  that others began to have in the matter.  And therefore Catesby,  fearing lest their warnings might with the Lord Hastings diminish his credit  – where unto only all the matter leaned –  procured the Protector hastily to be rid of him. And much the rather,  for that he trusted by his death to obtain much of the rule that the Lord Hastings bore in his country,  the only desire whereof was the enticement that induced him to be partner and one special contriver of all this horrible treason’

We have already touched upon the extent of gains made by Catesby on the death of his patron so that part of More’s tale can be vouched for as accurate.


We are lucky that Catesby’s will is extant and it tells us much.  Made on the 25th August 1485, with execution imminent, it had dawned on him that Stanley and his son Lord Strange, were not going to use their influence to get him a pardon.  The precise reasons why Catesby had been hoping for this are now lost to us.  Let’s look at what he said in the will:

‘My lordis Stanley, Strange, and all that blod, help and pray for my soule for ye have not for my body as I trusted in you…’

And there we have it I trusted in you.  It is these words that begs the question why or what had been said for Catesby to have placed his trust in the Stanleys?  What had Catesby actually done, if anything,  that led him to believe that the Stanleys would save him?  Further to this why would he have mentioned Lord Strange who was held prisoner prior to the commencement of the battle of Bosworth in an attempt to bring his father to heel and to bring his forces in to fight for the king?   Richard had left instructions Strange was to be executed if Stanley betrayed him, which he did, and yet Strange was very much alive and well after the battle despite his father’s treachery.     Did Catesby actually fight at Bosworth or was he left behind in the camp to perhaps oversee the execution of Strange?  Did he in fact save Strange and hope that this, along with familial ties,  would save him in turn?  Had he even been in contact with the Stanleys prior to Bosworth in an attempt to cover his back should the battle not go Richard’s way?  In the end ultimately, of course,  it was to no avail and he was executed for treason, made possible by Tudor predating his reign from the day before Bosworth.   I’ve often wondered if Henry Tudor, who was a canny man, baulked at putting any faith in a man who was so capable of turning his coat so readily.     Had he indeed been privy to the secret pre contract of marriage made between Eleanor and Edward IV which would have made Tudor’s future wife, Elizabeth of York illegitimate?  Dangerous knowledge indeed.   And how could Tudor have been sure that Catesby would not turn yet again in the future and reveal the secret to Yorkists who still might rally  and attempt to boot him off his newly gained throne?   Did Tudor take the view that once a man had turned his coat he could do so again.  Therefore Catesby had to go. 

Certainly his will leaves signs that he was a loving husband addressing Margaret as my dere and welbelovid wiff to whom I have ever be trewe of my body, putting my sole trust in heir… although the added and I hertly cry you mercy if I have delid uncurtesly with you ..  sounds a bit ominous.    He went on to ask her not to remarry and ever pray you to leve sole and all the dayes of your liff to do for my soule.  This the loyal Margaret did.  

The requests that :  Item that my lady of Bukingham have C li to help heir children and that she will se my lordes dettes paid and his will executed … sounds prima facie generous.  However here he was simply carrying out the instructions given to him by Richard III after Buckingham’s execution.   Richard Aware of the hardships of innocent creditors of the Duke of Buckingham had commissioned Sir William Husee, William Catesby and a few others to administer certain of the duke’s forfeited lands in order to pay his debts’ ( 9).    Am I being cynical here but I do wonder if my lady of Bukingham would have ever received the monies that were due to her had Catesby not been facing both imminent death and his Maker.  However, as mentioned above, he left specific instructions for land  to be restored that he had wrongfully purchased and money still owed for land he had purchased legally to be paid up as well as his sadeler Hartlyngton  to be paid so he couldn’t have been all bad.   But peruse any set of 15th century wills such as the Logge Register and it becomes apparent that all 15th century folk were at great pains to ensure that their debts would be paid on their deaths for the well bearing of their soul.  However the number of people mentioned in Catesby’s will that had their lands taken from them in unscrupulous deals, even in a time known for its avarice is quite extraordinary.  I wonder if Margaret was unaware of husband’s dishonesty?  Newly widowed she certainly would have had her work cut out to rectify these wrongs and return the lands and must have been overwhelmed by the task left to her by her husband although help from the Bishops of Worcester, Winchester and London was requested.    How Catesby must have fretted in those last few hours.   

His concern for his wife and children comes to the fore:  I doute not the King wilbe good and gracious Lord to them for he is callid a full gracious prince and I never offende hyme by my good and free will, for God I take to my juge I have ever lovid hym.

Lastly a few more words for Margaret : And I pray you in every place se clerenese in my soule and pray fast and I shall for you and Jhesu have mercy upon my soule Amen.

Here is the will in full:

Thys ys the Wille of William Catesby esquyer made the XXV day of August the first yere of King Henry the VIIth tobo executed by my dere and Welbelovid wiff to whom I have ever be trewe of my body putting my sole trust in herr for the executione thereof for the welthe of my soule the which I am undowted she will execute: as for my body, whan she may, [it is] tobe buried in the churche of Saynt legger in Aisby [Ashby St Ledgers, Northamptonshire] and to do suche memorialles for me as I have appoynted by for. And to restore all londes that I have wrongfully purchasid and to pay the residue of suche lond as I have boughte truly and to deviene yt among herr childrene and myne as she thinkithe good after herr discrecione. I doute not the King wilbe good and gracious Lord to them, for he is callid a full gracious prince. And I never offended hym by my good and Free Will; for god I take to my juge I have ever lovid hym.  Item: that the executours of Nicholas Cowley have the lond agayn in Evertoft withoute they have their  Item: in like wise Revell his lond in Bukby. Item: in like wise that the coopartioners have their part in Rodynhalle in Suff. [sic] if we have right thereto or els tobe restored to them that had yt befor.  Item: in like wise the londes in Brownstone if the parte have right that hadd yt befor. And the londes besides Kembaltone bye disposid for my soule and Evertons and so of all other londes that the parte hathe right Iue.  Item: that all my Fader dettes and bequestes be executed and paid as to the hous of Catesby and other.  Item: that my lady of Bukingham have to help herr children and that she will se my lordes dettes paid and his will executed. And In especialle in suche lond as shold be amortesid to the hous of Plasshe. Item: my Lady of Shaftisbury XL marke.  Item: that John Spenser have his LX li withe the olde money that I owe. Item: that Thomas Andrews have his XX Li.  And that all other bequestes in my other will be executed as my especialle trust is in you masteres Magarete And I hertly cry you mercy if I have delid uncurtesly withe you. And ever prey you leve sole and all the dayes of your liff to do for my soule.  And ther as I have, be executour I besech you se the Willes executed. And pray lorde bishop Wynchester,  my lord bishop of Worcetour,  my lord bishop of London to help you to execute this my will and they will do sume what for me. And that Richard Frebody may have his XX li. agayne and Badby X li. or the londes at Evertons and ye the X li. And I pray you in every place se cleiernese in my soule and pray fast and I shall for you and Jhesue have mercy uponne my soule Amen.

My lordis Stanley, Strange and all that blod help and pray for my soule for ye have not for my body as I trusted in you. And if my issue reioyce (sic) my londes I pray you lete maister Johnne Elton have the best benefice. And my lord lovell come to grace than that ye shew to hym that he pray for me. And uncle Johanne remembrer my soule as ye have done my body; and better. And I pray you se the Sadeler Hartlyngtone be paid in all other places.

Catesby’s  will can be found in full in  several books including The Logge Register of PCC Wills 1479 to 1486  and Excerpta Historica: Or,  Illustrations  of English History; Ed Samuel Bentley.

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Brass rubbing of the Catesby monument.  Ashby St Ledger Church.  

Why did Catesby have to die and so swiftly?  Men of higher rank than him who had been immensely loyal to the House of York were either pardoned or in the case of John Howard, Duke of Norfolk’s son,  Thomas Earl of Surrey,  were imprisoned for a while, released  and would go on to serve the Tudors.  No doubt Catesby would have done the same given the opportunity.  However he had to die and I believe he had to die because he simply knew too much.

Later Catesby’s body would be returned to his faithful Margaret and family.  To this day they lie together, with other family members  in Ashby St Ledgers Church. 


Ashby St Ledgers Church, Northamptonshire.  

  1. The Great Chronicle of London p.236.  Ed A H Thomas and I D Thornley (1938).
  2. The Hastily Drawn up  Will of William Catesby Esquire 1485 By Daniel Williams
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. William Catesby, Councillor to Richard III  J S  Roskell Professor of Medieval History Nottingham.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Richard III and the Murder in the Tower p.39. Peter A Hancock.   See also Eleanor the Secret Queen p.140 John Ashdown-Hill.
  9.  Richard III p.310. Paul Murrey Kendall.  See also British Library Harleian manuscript 433, Vol.1.

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