Edward of Middleham from the Beauchamp Pageant. Described as ‘Edward Plantagenet, son to Kyng Richard’
Its often been written that, along with so many children of the times he lived in, even those of the nobility, not a lot is known about Richard III and Anne Neville’s small son Edward. There is even confusion about both his date of birth and death, although some very plausible suggestions have been made, as well as his place of burial which is what I would like to focus on here.
King Richard and Queen Anne, The Beauchamp Pageant
The fullest account of Edward’s short life, as afar as I am aware , can be found in Peter Hammond’s book The Children of Richard III while Professor Pollard devoted a chapter with the the poignant title of Last Summer at Middleham in his book The Worlds of Richard III. Both give details of expenditures covering the last months of Edward’s life some of which are quite charming including ’12d for Martyn the fole’.
Returning to Edward’s unknown place of burial, various locations have been suggested including Coverham , Jervaulx, Sheriff Hutton, York and Middleham. I personally would plump on Middleham. Rous, who would have been in a position to know states quite clearly Edward was buried at Middleham which would make perfect sense. In his Latin version of his Roll, Rous states
‘ Edward, illustrious Prince of Wales, only son and heir to King Richard the third and his honourable consort Anne , Queen of England, but in fact heir to Heaven; his sacred soul was never infected by the blemish of guilt and he died a child before his parents and was taken with honour to a grave at Middleham’ (1)
If this were the case Edward would be lying at rest undisturbed in the church of St Mary and St Akelda, Middleham. Lets hope it stays that way,
Church of St Mary and St Akelda, Middleham. Could Richard and Anne’s son have been laid to rest here? Photo @Docbrown
Turning to the belief that Edward was buried at Sheriff Hutton and an alabaster tomb in poor condition being his. Despite informative articles now being available a quick online search will still turn up numerous articles and photographs unequivocally identifying the monument in the church of St Helen and the Holy Cross Sheriff Hutton, Yorkshire as that of Edward of Middleham. Although in poor condition the damage has now been stabilised by conservation work. Jane Crease in her article on the monument notes that it was first suggested in 1904 it was Edward’s tomb was even though it was not mentioned before 1623 when Dodsworth visited the church (2) Peter Hammond mentions that a George Hardcastle in a letter in Notes and Queries Dated 1870 ‘surmised’ that Richard may have buried his son at Sherriff Hutton and thus legends are born (3). Tellingly the monument was not mentioned in 1584 when the church was visited by Robert Glove Somerset Herald (4). Other than the 1904 reference there does not appear to be much beyond that as to why a parish church at Sheriff Hutton would have been chosen as Edward Prince of Wales’ burial place. It is also strange that Richard, no doubt accompanied by Anne, after hearing about his son’s death, left Nottingham where the tragic news had been brought to him, travelled to Middleham via York and Nappa, failed to visit Sheriff Hutton(5). The King and his Queen as according to the customs of the times may not have attended the funeral of their son but would surely have wished to visit his grave.
The monument itself, which is a cenotaph, that is its empty, is not in its original position being placed where part of a chantry chapel c1447 which would have been standing at the time of Edward death and burial. So where could the monument have been prior to its removal to St Helens Church? Dr Jane Crease suggests the weathering it has sustained indicates it may have been outside at one time and open to the elements. Prior to this she suggests it may have been inside Sheriff Hutton Castle in a chapel. If this is the case its possible the monument become open to the elements after the castle became ruinous, which is how it is described in 1618, and prior to being transferred to the church. No other tombs in the church have suffered from the same damage as this particular one.
The Sheriff Hutton Monument
This manuscript dates from 1447 and depicts a young boy who can be seen with a pudding basin hair style as well as wearing costume – note the stiff pleats, sleeves, cuffs and collar – almost identical to that of the Sheriff Hutton monument. @Chronicles of Hainault Rogier Van der Weyden.
With the costume etc of the effigy dating from approx 50 year earlier two possibilities have been suggested as to whom the monument was made for which make far more sense than Edward of Middleham.
- Ralph b.approx 1440, son of Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury (1400-d1460) is known to have been buried at Sheriff Hutton Radulphus mortuus. apud Shirefhoton sepultus – Ralph died. buried at Sheriff Hutton(6). Peter Hammond and W E Hampton in their article Sherrif Hutton : Historic Doubts Reconsidered say that ‘one coat of arms indisputably on the tomb was that used by Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury, and could have been placed on the tomb to represent any of his descendants’ (7). However both the authors then go on to say that Ralph probably would have been too young when he died to have had such an elaborate monument. They both seemed determined, despite persuasive arguments from Pauline Routh and Richard Knowle, that this is the tomb of Edward – despite the costume, hairstyle and donor figure clearly being from the first half of the 15th century although Hammond does seem to have softened his stance on this in his later book The Children of Richard III.
2. John son of Ralph Neville Earl of Westmorland. Ralph was the father of the above Richard Neville as well father to Cicely Neville and thus John would have been Richard III’s uncle. Ralph had 23 children by his two wives. None of the sons by the first wife died young but 3 sons by the second wife ,Joan Beaufort , are known to have died young. John was born about 1413 and would have about 12 in 1425 (8) .These dates equate with the time frame of the making of the memorial given its design, the style of clothes and hair style of the donor as well as fit the age of the child portrayed in the effigy. Note the identical sleeves and cuffs of the effigy and those of Ralph’s sons.
Ralph Neville Earl of Westmorland with some of his enormous family – plus ‘pudding basin’ hair cuts galore.
An important and glaring clue is the small figure of the bare haired donor kneeling in prayer at the foot of the Trinity. No doubt this would have been the deceased child’s father but his closely cropped to the ears hair style or ‘pudding basin’ hair cut was not a style Richard would have worn. However both Westmorland and his son Salisbury would definitely have had their hair styled this way as can be seen here below. Think Henry V! Sadly the donor’s wife is very badly worn.
The Donor figure, facing east, in armour and ‘pudding basin’ hairstyle worshipping at the foot of the Trinity.
Richard Neville Earl of Salisbury’s effigy St Mary’s Church Burghfield. The effigy is much battered but his ‘pudding basin’ hair cut is still very evident. Could Salisbury be the donor?
Whereas we do know who would not have sported such a hair style and that is Richard III and his son.
Richard III @ Society of Antiquaries of London
As Dr Crease, who wrote the definitive article on the monument , puts so succinctly
‘The heraldry reliably recorded on the tomb links it with the Nevilles and, at the period of its manufacture, Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland held the castle and manor of Sheriff Hutton, so it may be one of his children. It may be some comfort to Ricardians to think that the tomb may be that of a kinsman of his Queen, even if it is not of her son.” (9)
Its often been speculated that Edward was a sickly child, due no doubt to his dying at such a young age. But I’m unconvinced. Its pointed out to add to the argument that he was frail that he travelled by litter from Middleham to Pontefract, a distance of 58 miles and from Pontefract to York 28 miles. This is absurd. It would have been much safer for a young child to travel distances like this in a litter rather than horseback. It may be that he was a perfectly healthy child until struck down with a sudden and fatal illness. Certainly his death, the news of which was carried to his parents while they were staying at Nottingham Castle, devastated them which may indicate they were unprepared for the awful shock. It does seem that Queen Anne’s health, sadly, took a downward spiral after that and she herself died the following year on March 16th 1485.
If you have enjoyed this post you might be interested in:
1)The Ricardian Vol XXX 2020. Of Lordys lyne and lyneage sche was. Anne F Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs. They make the comment that its ‘astonishing” this information given by Rous is ‘apparently never used’.
2) J W Clay first speculated this was Edward’s tomb in his Dodsworth Yorkshire Church Notes 1904. The Sherrif Hutton Monument Jane Crease
3) The children of Richard III p38 Peter Hammond
5) The Itinerary of King Richard III p18,19 Rhoda Edwards
6) Sheriff Hutton: The Great Debate Pauline Routh and Richard Knowles
7) The matter was debated at length by in 4 articles in the Ricardian in the 1980s: Sheriff Hutton: Historic Doubts September 1980 and Sheriff Hutton: The Great Debate June 1981 Pauline Routh and Richard Knowles and Historic Doubts Reconsidered P W Hammond and W E Hampton December 1980 and Sheriff Hutton: Further Debate P W Hammond & W E Hampton June 1981
8) The children of Richard III p74 Peter Hammond
9) Is this the Tomb of Richard III’s Son Church Monument Society Jane Crease.