Possible portrait of Elizabeth Talbot, Viscountess Lisle c1468 Petrus Christus of Bruge Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.  Note the gleam of the pearls, the pattern of the brocade gown and the little gold pin used for pinning the fine lawn partlet onto the bodice.  How delicious!

Could this charming portrait  be of Elizabeth Talbot, Viscountess Lisle –  Lady Eleanor Butler/Boteler nee Talbot’s niece –  as  suggested by the late historian John Ashdown-Hill?  Elizabeth was born about 1451 and would have been around 16 when she sat for this portrait if this is indeed her.  John,  a historian who delved deep,  based his suggestion upon the  fact that there was once an inscription on the now lost original frame identifying the sitter as a member of the Talbot family.  This is also been confirmed by a letter dated 1824 written by Gustav Waagen,  Director of the Berlin Museums who gave his interpretation of a lost Latin inscription identifying  the sitter as “a niece of the famous Talbots” (eine Nichte des berühmten Talbots).   It is known that Elizabeth Mowbray, nee Talbot, Duchess of Norfolk,  took some of the Talbot family children with her when she travelled to Flanders for the marriage of Margaret of York to Charles the Bold in 1468. 



Close up of the effigy.  Photo Kate Keens


There are clearly similarities between the portrait and effigy.   Effigy photo from John Ashdown-Hill’s book Eleanor the Secret Queen.

It’s interesting to compare the portrait with Elizabeth’s monument in St Mary’s Church, Astley,  where she was buried with her husband Edward Grey who was created Viscount Lisle by Richard III in 1483.  This is where it gets interesting because Edward Grey was the brother of Sir John Grey,  first husband of Elizabeth Wydeville,  bigamous wife to Edward IV.   As our Elizabeth was the niece of Lady Eleanor Butler (Elizabeth Wydeville’s very own personal nemesis) who was true wife of Edward IV, things get very intertwiney.  Elizabeth  would have still been a child when Sir John Grey met his death for Lancaster at St Albans 1461  and it’s highly unlikely she met him.  However  her other aunt Elizabeth Talbot, Mowbray Duchess of Norfolk, would surely have recalled the time when Elizabeth Wydeville had been Lady Grey but she unfortunately left no indications of her thoughts on the bigamous Wydeville marriage and its disastrous results although she must have had them aplenty.  


Elizabeth Talbot Duchess of Norfolk.  Described as ‘a very beautiful English lady’  by a bystander who saw her in Flanders.  Edward IV treated her appallingly in her widowhood. Stained glassed window Long Melford church (1)

Elizabeth, dying in 1487,  predeceased her husband who died in 1492 who requested in his will to be buried next to her in St Mary’s  Church,  Astley :  My body to be buried in the new tomb in the new chapel of our Lady, by me began,  in the College of Astley where the body of Elizabeth lieth (2).    His monument has been destroyed while Elizabeth’s has been moved and now lies inexplicably betwixt the monuments of Cecilia Bonville, Marchioness  of Dorset and Edward Grey, Lord Ferrers of Groby d.1457, father to John and Edward Grey (3)


The monuments of Cecilia Bonville Marchioness of Dorset, Elizabeth Talbot Viscountess Lisle and Elizabeth’s father in law Edward Grey Lord Ferrers of Groby  St Mary’s Astley.     Photo Caroline Irvine.

Viscount Lisle was treated well by Richard after the failure of the Wydvilles to gain control of the young Edward V.   Bore the Rod with the Dove Richard’s Coronation.   May have withdrawn from Richard prior to Bosworth.  He was well received by Henry Tudor (4).


St Mary’s Church Astley, Warwickshire.   Mausoleum to the Grey Family.


  1. 1. Olivier de la Marche described Elizabeth as  ‘duchesse de Norfolk, une moult belle dame d’Angleterre’.  Eleanor the Secret Queen p.236 .  John Ashdown-Hill.
  2. Testamenta Vetusta p.410
  3. There is some confusion as to whether the third monument/effigy is that of  Edward Grey Lord Ferrers of Groby,  Elizabeth’s father-in-law or her husband Edward Grey Viscount Lisle.   According to W E Hampton it is the former and that Viscount Lisle’s monument has been destroyed.   See his Monuments of the Wars of the Roses p.314.  John Ashdown-Hill has attributed the monument to be that of his son Edward Viscount Lisle.
  4. Memorials of the Wars of the Roses p.314.  W E Hampton. 



The two QCs prepare to do battle
Following on from my earlier post.  The day had dawned – the trial commenced.  Because of the length of the trial I only give snippets here which stand out and which I think are the most pertinent/funny/excruciating.

The judge addressed the jury as to whether  Richard III was  responsible for the alleged murder of his brother, Edward IV’s sons,  Edward and Richard known as the ‘Princes in the Tower’.   The judge pointed out that Richard, killed at the battle of Bosworth ‘is beyond the power and jurisdiction of this or indeed any other human court.  What you are invited to do today in these proceedings is to pass a historical judgement upon him. He stands in a sense indicted at the bar of history.  The charge against him as you’ve just heard is one of the greatest charges in the calendar of crime –  murder’.  Mr Dillon had,  in the absence of the defendant had already entered in a firm voice the plea  My Lord, the plea is one of Not Guilty‘.  

Mr Russell for the  prosecution set the historical scene, the ‘unpopular’ Wydeville marriage, the death of King Edward, the taking of his heir into Richard’s care, the Wydvilles ‘disarray’,  the eventual disappearance of both Edward’s sons and the discovery of bones at the Tower in the 17th century, which is so well known I need not go into it here.

The first witness for the Prosecution was Jeffrey Richards, lecturer in history at Lancaster.      Questioned by Mr Russell, Mr Richards enlarged further on the circumstances of the times i.e  the building up of the now all powerful Wydevilles ‘ who were in control of the court, the council, the late kings treasure, the fleet and what is the most important of all the two princes who through they hoped to rule England’ .  Mention was made of the famous letter to York in which Richard asked for aid against the queen and her adherents.  Mr Richards perception of this was the troops from York were needed to cow and threaten London.  The upcoming Coronation was used as a ‘pretext’ to prise Richard of Shrewsbury, the youngest prince,  out of Sanctuary.   Now Richard could secure his position.  Only he didn’t.  This was on account the princes represented a focus for rebellion.  However moving on – in the interim Margaret Beaufort plotted with the boys mother for a marriage between their offspring which in Mr Richards view  Elizabeth would not have done unless she ‘knew her sons were dead’.
Mr Dillon questioned Mr Richards asking him his opinion of More and what would he say to the statement that ‘More  is full of probable false facts and is too discredited to build on

Mr Richards: No I don’t think that is so.

Mr Dillon: You do not accept that statement?

Mr Richards: No not entirely .

Mr Dillon: I take it from the statement served which you have provided for my learned friend for the prosecution.  These are your very own words that I have in typing before me.

Mr Richards: Can you repeat them?….(I know… me neither!) 

Mr Dillon then went on to repeat them..

Mr Richards: Yes…..  well I wrote that in the early stages in my research, since then I have re-read More  and I don’t stand in entirely by that…. Ouch!

Asked  why he thought Elizabeth would surrender her children to Richard if she  believed  he had murdered her two sons he responded ‘Because she was a canny political old bird and she knew she needed to survive’.


To be fair Mr Richards has never been A Mother – but would it be so onerous to at least try to imagine?

Next to be called was Dr Jean Ross senior lecturer in anatomy at the Charing Cross hospital medical school. Dr Ross had seen and examined Professor Wright’s 1933  report on the bones.  Concluded  ages of the bones at the time of death were consistent with 12 and 10 years old and some evidence they were ‘possibly’  blood related.  Inconclusive as per usual.

 Then came the turn of Dr Tony Pollard

Dr Pollard asserted the precontract was a ‘tissue of lies’ quoting Croyland who described it as ‘the colour for this act of usurpation’.  Everyone knew this was the case – ‘except for Stillington!’ interjected the Judge.

Dr Pollard : This bad wicked Bishop as Commynes  called him

Mr Dillon – I respectfully suggest that he is not a bad or wicked Bishop at all…

frighred rabbit


looks to heaven for assistNCE
Dr Pollard : You have thrown in so many different things it’s very difficult to know where to start.

Mr Dillon then touched upon the issue of all the chroniclers were southerners or like Mancini reporting southerners perceptions.  

Mr Dillon:  There is not a single northern chronicler. One of the things that marks the whole of this period is the fear of the south of the barbarians or aliens from the north and the distrust from those of the north for those of the south.   One of the things that one finds is a substantial prejudice running through Croyland…..Henry VII was visiting York and there was an uprising there.  The Chronicler reported ‘Although by these means peace was graciously restored still the rage of some of the malignants was not averted but immediately after Easter sedition was set on foot by these ingrates in the north whence every evil takes its rise’.

Dr Pollard:   Splendid stuff isn’t it..

Mr Dillon:  Isn’t it and this is even although the king was staying in those parts I mean the impertinent northerners when the king is  there,  daring to rise!’

Dr Pollard: That’s very fair.

Then the pièce de résistance of the Prosecution was called – Dr David Robert Starkey – drum roll …

Dr Starkey begun as he meant to go on…

Mr Russell: Did you hear what Dr Pollard said about the precontract?

Dr Starkey:   Yes I agree with everything that he said.   It is clearly a concatenation of lies, rumour and absurdity.   But we can go very much further. It is not merely a   concatenation of absurdity it was a red herring and was known to be.

Questioned on Thomas More Dr Starkey will brook no criticism – 

Dr Starkey :  The criticisms of More on the whole are very small minds attacking a very big one.  

He then goes on to relate the ludicrous More story of  the page advising Richard while he is sitting on the toilet (really Sir Thomas!)  of whom he could rely  to do the dirty deed…’out  there beyond the lavatory door there is lying on a pallet mattress the man  James Tyrell who will do the deed for you’.   This is dear reader, despite the fact that Richard had known Tyrell for many years.  Tyrell had been in Richard’s service since 1471 after he was knighted by Edward IV  after the Battle of Tewkesbury.  Dr Starkey attempted to twist the story asserting that either the page or Tyrell was a  gentlemen of the stole.  However Rosemary Horrox has written Thomas More’s elaborately circumstantial account which is, however, demonstrably inaccurate in detail, notably in the lowly status assigned to Tyrell before the murder  I know! You couldnt make it up! however onwards...

Referring to these Tudor stories the defence questioned Dr Starkey who suggested they would now be called Tudor Propaganda

Mr Dillon:   I thought I might say Tudor legend

Dr Starkey I’m sure you would sir yes

Mr Dylan does that sound better to you

Dr Starkey:  It won’t be the first time you’ve misused a word

Mr Dylan:  I dare say

Dr Starkey : Nor the last

Mr Dillon: I see – then if this small lawyer’s mind may ask you some questions about the topics on which you have given evidence

Mr Dillon, brave man, then points out some problems with More’s account…

Dr Starkey :  And I think you would be wrong

Mr Dillon: May I finish the question

Dr Starkey: No sir…… The statement has gone on so long I am now entirely unclear as to the question.


The ‘Daggers’ look….takes a lot of practice…yikes!


After returning to his seat Dr Starkey gets an attack of thirst.  “Water, water gasped Dr Starkey..this Death Stare look is hard work..”

starky getting thiursty

Dr Starkey requested a glass of water although a custard pie would have been more appropriate  but was unfortunately not available.

DRINK“Ah thats better…being so petulant always leaves me with a dry mouth…”

Next to be called was Lady Wedgwood – and for the defence.  Medieval Art historian and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. Responsible for mounting the exhibition on Richard III at the National Portrait Gallery in 1973 and for gathering together almost all  known portraits of Richard, mounting to nearly 30, most of them duplicates and not originals.  

Mr Dillon questioned Lady Wedgwood on the Thomas More description of Richard quoting ‘ill featured limbs, crook backed, his left shoulder much higher than his right…also a withered limb’.  

Lady Wedgwood:  That is I claim was an exaggeration.  The first record of that is a written one where it is accepted that there was some disparity in the shoulders. 

Lady Wedgwood held up a portrait from the Royal Collection at Windsor which under X ray  can be seen the shoulder line has been tampered with including the links in the collar –


The mouth has also been altered as well as the face more lined and narrowed eyes  c.1530

Numerous portraits were also discussed including an infra red photograph of  the ‘Broken Sword’ portrait with alterations including a ‘hump’ back as well as a withered hand.  


Lady Wedgwood and the Broken Sword Portrait from the Society of Antiquaries

Next to be called was Anne Sutton, archivist,  fellow of  Society of Antiquities, editor of the Ricardian and co-editor of the Coronation Records of Richard III.  Called for, among other things, her knowledge and understanding of the pre-contract.


Anne Sutton. 

Mr Dillon:  it’s been described – this question of the pre-contract  – as being simply a pretext used by Richard to seize the throne for himself.   Do you agree with that assessment?

Miss Sutton:  No. 

Mr Dillon:  It has been described by one of the witnesses and I hope I have the language right as a red herring, do you agree with that assessment?

Miss Sutton: No.  It’s the crux of the matter .

Mr Dillon : Referring to the pre-contract as reported in Croyland….  could this  private, clandestine marriage,  not celebrated in church,  with no publication of banns  have been a valid ground for objecting to the validity of the marriage between  Edward and Elizabeth subsequently and leading to the bastardisation of their children?

Miss Sutton:  yes the two things together

Mr Dillon:  Was adultery taken very seriously in fact in mediaeval times.  

Miss Sutton:  Oh yes it was a heinous crime

Mr Dillon when there was a question of succession raised

Miss Sutton:  yes undoubtedly .  

Following further discussion on the legalities of the pre-contract Mr Dillon played a blinder.

Mr Dillon:  It is said by Dr Starkey that once proclamation had been made of Edward as King Edward V then all questions of illegitimacy would have been wiped out.  Do you agree with that?

Miss Sutton I think it’s true of Dr Starkey’s period but he is forgetting the reign of Henry VIII and the great increase of the theory of the absolute king so the situation was entirely different in 1483…


Cue soundtrack from Jaws….

Miss Sutton pointed out only the act of the annointing and the coronation could have wiped out the illegitimacy.  Then followed some robust questioning by Mr Russell which led to Autumn Rebellion 

Mr Russell : A lot of the south of England and Wales supported that rebellion to free the princes whether or not they were bastards

Miss Sutton:  There were a lot of people involved in that rebellion who had their own personal axes to grind … touché!

The last witness to be called, Mr Jeremy Potter, Chairman of the Richard III Society and as seen earlier to be among those who first suggested the Trial of Richard III.  Mr Potter made many a good point: 


Mr Potter:  Richard behaved impeccably. The reason why he has a bad reputation is that the Tudors had to say that he was being hypocritical and deceitful.  If he behaved badly they would have said look how badly he behaved.   Since he behaved very well they said he must be a hypocrite…. The real peculiarity of Richard is that he is the only king of England who has came from the north with northern support, his northern affinity to claim the throne. This naturally upset southerners,  men of Edwards household who lost their jobs to these intruding northerners, savages from places like Yorkshire….when the Woodvilles  made a pre-emptive strike for power this naturally put Richard on his mettle.  It become clear that the sensible thing was that Richard should become king.  A boy king would have been a disaster.  Nobody wanted a boy king.   It would’ve started the Civil War over again.   If Richard had been made  Protector he was open in two or three years time to the vengeance of the Woodvilles and not only Richard himself but everyone who has supported him.

Mr Potter touching on the pre-contract pointed out that:

Stillington  was probably right. Stillington was a man of considerable importance, had been Chancellor of England for seven years under Edward IV which was the number one job equivalent to the Prime Minister today and so Stillington was very far from being a nobody.  He had fallen out with Edward IV and been imprisoned at the time of Clarence’s disgrace.   Some historians assume the reason for this was that Stillington told Clarence some years earlier of this pre-contract which would’ve made Clarence heir to the throne and not the boys and was the reason for Clarence’s execution.

Mr Potter also pointed out that Clarence’s heir, Edward of Warwick, was alive at the time and as attainders could be reversed was in much the same position as the ‘princes’.  

Mr Potter:  And what happened to Edward of Warwick?   We  know he was well treated by Richard , kept in Yorkshire in a royal nursery with Edward IVs daughters ,even made Richard’s heir at one time.   He survived Richard’s reign quite happily but immediately after Bosworth put in the Tower of London by Henry Tudor and judicially murdered some years later.   So we do know what happened to one nephew who had a very good claim to the throne, as good as the two princes once they’ve been declared illegitimate.

Further debate followed with Mr Russell questioning Mr Potter on the Hastings execution possibly without a trial.  

 Mr Russell: … but very much a barrack room trial over a very short space of time if it took place at all  yes?

Judge:  Killing without trial was not an unusual event in these days I gather

Mr Potter: No it become commoner when the Tudors were on the throne

Judge : That’s a good tu quoque if I may say so!

There then followed summaries by both QCs and also the Judge.  The Jury were then invited to retire to consider their verdicts.  Which they did.  Of course they reached the right and fair verdict which was Not Guilty.  Brief notes were given as to how they reached the not guilty vote including –

 MR RICHARDS  Traditional historical  statement of events but without strong expression of belief  in Richard guilt.
DR POLLARD noted Mancini could not make categorical statement re Richard’s guilt.   Mancini an Italian without much knowledge of English was considered unreliable.  Pre N|contract  seen as decisive area debate.  Little  doubt cast upon marriage of Edward IV and Eleanor

DR STARKEY encouraged to shoot from the hip by defence barrister.  Dynamics of confrontation overshadowed his evidence.  

MISS SUTTON undermined contention that Richard III had motive for killing princes. Satisfied  jury on marriage of Eleanor Butler and Edward IV.   Richard’s consequent legal and moral justification in taking throne and his lack of motive for murder on grounds that the princes were bastards.

MR POTTER Established favourable impression of Richards character.  General conduct appeared reasonably decent and honest.   Impressive loyalty to brother,  quality of rule.  Elizabeth Woodville’s apparent reconciliation with Richard suggested she believed him innocent.  

LADY WEDGEWOOD Compelling evidence that Richard’s portraits have been purposefully tampered with and altered over the ages to show him in a malignant light.  

Factors in favour of the prosecution.   Throne gave Richard strong motive to dispose of Princes.   Execution of  Hastings showed preparedness to be ruthless.   Impossible for anyone who was not a close associate of Richard to have killed the princes while they were kept in the tower.

Factors in favour of the defence  Princes might easily have been killed without Richard’s knowledge or approval. Lack of direct accusation. Richard’s general conduct. Edwards pre-contract of marriage to Eleanor Butler. General feeling that information about Richard was distorted or biased.

So there we have it.  The common sense of a mixed jury from all walks of life came through and thank goodness for that.  

I have to give immense thanks to Richard Drewett and Mark Redhead for their book The Trial of Richard III from which I have drawn heavily for my two posts.  

Loyaulté me Lie

For those who would like to view the trial for themselves it is available on Utube

For those who have enjoyed these posts you might be interested in my post on William Lord Hastings









The statue of Justice, Old Bailey, London.

Way back in  1980 the late Jeremy Potter,  Chairman of the Richard III Society,  and producer Richard Drewitt discussed King Richard III at length and an idea was born.    That was to put Richard  on trial for a heinous murder he had been  held responsible for over the centuries,  that of the murder of his brother Edward IVs young sons.   I’ve always found this strange as is it not the responsibilty for the accusers to prove the guilt of someone and not the other way around?  Anyway, this ‘germ‘ of an idea took root and after numerous obstacles the trial finally took place and was recorded on the 21 February 1984.

The judge was Lord Elwyn Jones of Llanelli and Newham, who had served as Lord Chancellor in 1974-79 and had acted as a prosecutor at the war crimes trial at Nuremberg.  Lord Elwyn Jones made the comment ‘As the great historian Lord Acton wrote history is a judgement seat and Richard III is to be tried before the bar of history’.  jusdge

Lord Elwyn Jones of Llanelli and Newham

The services of two Queen’s Council  of the highest calibre were secured who received permission from the  Bar Council to appear with the instructions they were to remain anonymous and not to wear their wigs although permission was granted for them to be able to wear their black gowns. To preserve their anonymity the council for the prosecution used his mother’s maiden name of Russell and the defence counsel chose Dillon ‘a treasured family name’.  The researchers met frequently with Mr Russell, not so much with Mr Dillon,  partly because he was ‘busy with cases in distant parts of the country and partly because he preferred to play his cards close to his chest. So much so that during the trial he made at least one telling point that had not emerged in discussions with any of the witnesses, the production team or even from the literature of the period‘.  Both barristers were supplied with copies of all relevant contemporary documents such as the Second Continuation of the  Croyland Chronicle and Mancini’s De Occupatione Regni Anglie per Riccardum Tercium, The  Usurpation of King Richard III with assessments of their value and significance.  


Mr Dillon QC Defence Barrister.  

They also received background dossiers on the leading characters in the drama.   As the  barristers begun to develop their cases they requested briefs on questions that were puzzling them such as the taking of sanctuary in the 15th century, the power of Parliament at the time, the consequences of attainder and the autumn rebellion of 1483.  The stage was beginning to get set…


Mr Russell QC the Prosecution Barrister..

What of the witnesses?   Academic historians were approached although first attempts proved discouraging.   The first Tudor expert they approached, Professor Geoffrey Elton,  refused to have anything to do with the programme on the grounds that ‘as far as he and most historians were concerned Richard III  was a gangster who had killed the princes‘ and thus further debate was pointless.  Not all historians were so unhelpful with many taking the time and trouble to cooperate with the researchers.  Among these were Dr A L Rouse, Dr Rosemary Horrox, Dr C A J Armstrong (Mancini’s editor), although Professor Ross was unwell at the time so he was asked to prepare a statement.   However one of Ross’ former students,  Dr Tony Pollard, author of The Tyranny of Richard III stepped up to the plate and was one of the first recruits to the team of witnesses for the prosecution team. Dr David Starkey followed – oh the joy! – as did historian .Jeffrey Richards.


The Starkey Death Stare….


The witnesses for the prosecution.

 However in a perfect balance the defence had that redoubtable, stalwart of Ricardians, Jeremy Potter, Chairman of the Richard III Society and  author of Good King Richard? Authors spoken to included Dr Arthur Kincaid, Audrey Williamson and Elizabeth Jenkins.  Many experts were consulted including Professor Charles Wood, Dorothy Mitchell,  the Rev Barrie Williams, Isolde Wigram and Carolyn Hammond.  Keith Dockray agreed to speak in Richard’s defence although ‘on balance he felt the weight of historical evidence pointed towards Richard guilt‘.   He emphasised that Richard after 10 years in the north was regarded with extreme hostility by southerners such as the Croyland Chronicler and the nobility of the south who were ‘inspired by fear of an invasion of northerners and not through a deep concern for the welfare of the princes’.  Mr Dillon decided the night prior to the trial not to call Mr Dockray explaining that  although he had much useful information in the event of the prosecution asking him directly did he believe Richard had murdered the princes, he could not be expected to lie which could have proved a tad awkward.  This was greeted with good grace by Mr Dockray but happily at the end of the day all was not lost as much of the information he had supplied would go on to be used by the defence in their cross examining.  Anne Sutton editor of the Ricardian and co-editor of the Coronation of Richard III the Extant Documents was thought the best suited to handle the technical questions regarding the  precontract and although at first reluctant finally rallied to the cause which must have been a massive relief – well for the defence that is.   Art historian Dr Pamela Tudor Craig,  later Lady Wedgewood,  was asked to tackle the question of Richard’s image over the centuries. Peter Hammond, co-editor of the Coronation of Richard III the Extant Documents and The Children of Richard III was asked to join the defence team because of his ‘encyclopaedic knowledge’ of the subject.  

The Setting.  A replica of Court Four at the Old Bailey was built in a studio  at London Weekend’s Southbank Television Centre which had the added advantage of making the lawyers feel at home.

The Jury.  Twelve  members of the public without any specialist interest in or knowledge of mediaeval history were required. However it was realised that a jury member who might become bored because of  a lack of interest in history  might possibly lose  interest and thus ‘fail to absorb information’.  Also it was realised   an attempt to minimise any ‘geographical bias’ would be needed as it was feared that a wholly London based jury might be unsympathetic to an alleged murderer from the north of Trent.  Love it!  A balance was also needed between young and old,  social classes as well as the sexes as it was pointed out that Richard III had a particular appeal for women.  Therefore a questionnaire was devised by London Weekend’s market research department which was hoped would weed out those wholly  unsuitable and a telephone research company made calls to all parts of the country and a short list was made of around 30 potential jurors.  This list was whittled down by such reasoning as a solicitor with his professionalism might dominate the jury room, no more than one teacher should be allowed and, wait for it, a travel agent was rejected because he was very well informed about the Tudors and it was thought this might prejudice him against a Plantagenet.

The final members of the jury was selected :

1. An Indian born hospital doctor from Wales 

2. An estate agent from South London.

3. A farmer from Nottinghamshire

4. A bookseller from Stroud Gloucestershire

5. A builder from Sussex

6. A company director from Sheffield

7. A student from Leicester

8. A Health Survey administrator from Bristol

9. A housewife from Nottinghamshire

10. A teacher from Lancashire

11.  A typist from Gloucester,  and finally

12. A housewife from Lancashire

All the jury were in the dark as to what the trial was about only that it had historical interest although one of their number  was let in on the secret by one of ‘those founts of uncanny though not necessarily reliable information –  a London taxi driver’….

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The twelve members of the jury…

Finally the trial began at 2:30 pm and  seven and a half hours later the jury had reached its verdict.  The resulting 4 hour programme was shown on Channel Four on Sunday 4 November 1984.


The Clerk to the Court : The court will rise. The charges are that King Richard III  did in or about the month of August 1483, in the Tower of London, murder Prince Edward, Prince of Wales, and Prince Richard, Duke of York.

The judge addressed Mr Dillon – “I understand that you represent King Richard III  in these proceedings?“.   Mr Dillon replied ‘My Lord I do’.  The judge  replied ‘In view of his inescapable absence what is your plea on his behalf?’.   Mr Dillon responded ‘My Lord, the plea is one of not guilty‘.  And thus the trial of King Richard commenced and,  if a  long dead king was  unable to defend himself ,  there were others who would be more than willing to  take up the cudgel on his behalf. 





THE ANCIENT OAK TREE KNOWN AS THE ‘ELIZABETH’ OAK.  With thanks to Spitalfieldlife for this photo.  

In the words of Sir John Howard,  Duke of Norfolk, Richard III’s loyal friend, I get  as wode as a Wilde bullok‘  when I read yet another tedious reference to Henry VIII stayed here, Elizabeth I stayed there,  blah blah blah,  especially in places that predate  the Tudors and already had a history before their unfortunate arrival on the scene.    So what if Henry,  that hateful, monstrous cruel tyrant and medieval Pol Pot stayed there with his gammy leg?   I care not.  What about the Magnificent Plantagenets!?  Tell me they stayed anywhere and you have my attention.   This daft belief  of thinking the World and his Wife are only interested in somewhere as long as Henry danced there with the unfortunate Anne Boleyn,  you know,  the wife he had judicially murdered,  or kipped there for a couple of nights along with his gammy leg –  well la di dah di dah –  is tiresome and leaves me cold.  Even the ancient trees that were part of the hunting grounds of Greenwich Palace, favourite residence of  Lancastrian nobility and Yorkists queens, that have survived over the centuries and were there well before Fat Henry have been been hijacked.  Duh!  Whats wrong with mentioning  King Richard III may have danced with his Queen, Anne Neville,  below a tree that was ancient in his time or rested in its shade as he enjoyed a day’s hunting…hmmmm?  


One particular tree,  now known as the Elizabeth Oakstanding in a dell in the midst of the hunting park,  would definitely  have been there in 1483 as it is said to date from the 12th century.  Anyway rant over and back to the wonderful old oaks and sweet chestnuts of Greenwich Park.


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

The beautiful Palace of Greenwich is long gone.  In 1433, Henry V’s younger brother Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, built a glorious palace there and was also granted a licence to  ’empark 200 acres of land, pasture, weed, heath and furze’ part of which was used for hunting. It was also became known as  Placentia or the manor of Plesaunce , and was popular with our medieval kings and queens with many memorable events taking place there. Richard III visited there with his queen, Anne Neville immediately after his Coronation in 1483 spending several days there. He would have remembered how he had spent part of his childhood there with his siblings, Margaret and George. Edward IV granted it to his queen Elizabeth Wydeville, who seems to have used it as a kind of royal nursery and it was there their daughter Mary died at the age of 15 in May 1482. Anne Mowbray, child bride of Richard of Shrewsbury and Elizabeth Wydvilles’ daughter in law, had predeceased Mary in that very same place in November 1481 aged 8.

 Cicely Plantagenet one of the daughters of Edward IV who lived at Greenwich Palace.

It was demolished in the days of Charles II who probably tired of it medievalness and wanted to build something brand spanking new. He made a start but never quite finished it but it is thanks to Charles for the number of ancient trees, mostly Sweet Chestnuts, which have survived to this day in the park. However lurking among those 17th century trees are some much older including the one known as the Elizabeth Oak‘ because Elizabeth I was supposed to have sat beneath its shade. Her father, Henry VIII, despot extraordinaire, is said to have danced beneath it with Anne Boleyn but I suppose the ‘Henry Oak‘ does not have the same ring about it. Hmmmm – a great deal of pain and suffering would have been avoided if only a large branch had snapped off and landed on his pate launching him off this mortal coil then and there. Unfortunately it did not happen and we are where we are.

For an interesting post with numerous photos of the old Sweet Chestnut trees click here. The stunning photos below as well as the photo of the Elizabeth Oak are all from this article, Old Trees in Greenwich Park.




This is thought to be a portrait of Isobel from the Luton Guild Book.  See  The Dragonhound’s  interesting post here

After the death of Isobel Duchess of Clarence on the 22 December 1476 aged 25, her coffin lay in repose on a hearse for 35 days in the midst of the  choir of Tewkesbury Abbey while a vault was constructed, ‘artificialiter’, behind the high altar facing the entrance to the eastern Lady Chapel (1).  Hicks, George’s biographer wrote how the widower  ‘… took  great pains over her exequies’  and Isobel was finally laid to rest on the 8 February 1477.  Just over a year later  following his execution on the 18 February 1478, her husband, aged 28, was to join her in their tomb.image-3

George Duke Clarence.  Rous Roll. Motto ex Honore de Clare.

Untitled Could this be a portrait of George, in blue, and Richard the figure in green?  Luton Guild Book.  See here for the Dragonhounds interesting theory.  

Much has been written on George and his life and death, not quite so much about Isobel. Isobel daughter of Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick who became  known as  the Kingmaker and Anne Beauchamp, sister to Anne, then Duchess of Gloucester, later Queen to Richard III,  never recovered after  giving birth to a son at the infirmary of Tewkesbury Abbey on the 5 October 1476.  Puzzlingly its not known why Isobel would have given birth in the Abbey infirmary.   Could this indicate that she was ill prior to going into labour?  The next day the  baby, a boy named Richard, was baptised in the nave  of the Abbey.  Whether or no Isobel was ill prior to giving  birth, she never recovered fully afterwards and was taken home to Warwick Castle on November 12th where she died on the 22nd December, her baby son dying around the same time. It has been presumed that her death was brought about by childbirth and/or consumption.  There are indications that George loved and mourned Isobel and Hicks suggests it may be taken as a ‘sign of his continuing sense of loss’  that six months later Isobel was enrolled posthumously when George and their two surviving children were admitted to the Guild of the Holy Cross at Stratford on Avon (2 ). Unusually for the times there  is no evidence he was ever unfaithful to Isobel with no known mistresses or illegitimate children.  This was rare for a man of the nobility in the 15th century.  George was adamant that  both she and their son had both died of poisoning.  So convinced was George that he attempted to send his surviving son, Edward, out of the country to somewhere he would be safe.   Whether he was successful or not is a moot point.  Some theorise he did but it is generally accepted that it was his son who was placed in the Tower of London  after Bosworth and stayed there until his execution on the 28 November 1499.     The rest is history, and George was laid to rest beside his Isobel.  


Isobel and George Duke and Duchess of Clarence.  The Rous Roll.  British Library.


Isobel Neville, Duchess of Clarence.  Rous Roll.  The British Library.

 I will not go into the rows, accusations, counter accusations and shenanigans that led to the great falling out between the royal brothers.  Its documented elsewhere and I would recommend Hicks’  False, Fleeting, Perjur’d Clarence 1449-78 for anyone who would like to delve  deeper into George’s story.  The end came when George bravely but rashly had Thomas Burdett’s declaration of innocence, which had been made on the scaffold before his execution,  read out to the royal council.  John Stacey, Burdett’s co-defendant also proclaimed his innocence on the scaffold, his voice weaker  probably because of the torture that he had endured.   Is it likely that a medieval man in those pious times would have been prepared to go to meet his Maker with a lie upon his lips?   I think not. Thomas  Penn in his book The Brothers York notes a similar case in 1441 when two astrologers, Bolingbroke and Southwell had been arrested on much the same charges, that  time  predicting Henry VIs death.  Pen suggests this case could have been the blue print for the Burdett and Stacey case.   George’s goose was cooked and an enraged King Edward summoned George and before  a parliament ‘stage-managed’ and  thronged with sycophants and a trial ‘very carefully prepared apparently by the  Wydevilles’ with witnesses doubling as prosecutors it was ensured George stood not a  cat’s chance in Hell.  His prediction that Edward ‘entended to consume hym in like wyse as a Candell consumeth in brennyng’  proved corect.    The most reliable narrative, that of the Croyland Chronicler, who appears to have been an eyewitness at the trial and was clearly shocked, indicates that it  was not ‘conducted in a manner conducive to justice’  and that George was offered inadequate opportunity for defence(3). Hick writes that the Act of Attainder ‘although long is insubstantial and imprecise and it is questionable whether many of the charges were treasonable, some were covered by earlier pardons, some seem improbable, none is substantiated and certainly no accomplishes were named or tried’.  The sentence was of course that of  death and a vacillating Edward was finally  pushed into proceeding with his brother’s execution.    After the deed was accomplished Edward  ‘provided for an expensive funeral, monument, and Chantry foundation at Tewkesbury Abbey’ and ‘is alleged to have bewailed Clarences death’ …  well it was the least he could do under the circumstances.      There are indications that Edward regretted his brother’s death.  As well as Sir Thomas More and Holinshed’s Chronicle remarking on it  Virgil also wrote ‘yt ys very lykly that king Edward right soone repentyd that dede; for, as men say, whan so ever any sewyd for saving a mans lyfe, he was woont to cry owt in a rage ‘O infortunate broother, for whose lyfe no man in this world wold once make request’ (4).  Edward, presumably filled with guilt floundered around blaming everyone else for what was the judicial murder of his brother except those truly responsible, himself and his Wydeville wife,   One can only imagine the pain of their mother, Cicely Neville.  The third brother, Richard Duke of Gloucester, later King Richard III was said by Mancini to be so. ‘overcome with grief that he could not dissimulate so well, but that he was overheard to say that he would one day avenge his brother’s death’ (5).

 After the burial of George, the vault was sealed and a large blue flat stone was laid over the entrance with an  inlaid funerary brass which, no doubt, would have depicted George and Isobel. This blue stone was still in place in 1826 although the brass itself had long since disappeared.  Besides the vault  there was also once a magnificent monument incorporating their effigies which completed the ring of Despenser tombs around the abbey choir (6).  Nothing remains of that monument today.


The entrance to the Clarence Vault, Tewkesbury Abbey.  Photo with thanks to the Wars of the Roses Catalogue.

A glass box in the Tewkesbury Abbey was long thought to have contained the remaining bones of George and Isobel but does it?    Confusingly the vault had been  opened, desecrated and pillaged several times over the centuries perhaps  at the Dissolution and in 1509 when the Lady Chapel was demolished but  definitely three times in the 18th century when in 1709, in the most contemptible outrage,   the royal remains were displaced to make room for the coffin of a “periwig-pated alderman” by name of Samuel Hawling  and later on, in 1729 and 1753, his wife and son who were also interred there ( 7). This situation was belatedly put right in 1829 when the Hawlings were in their turn ejected from the vault and rightfully so.    On that occasion some bones unconnected to the Hawlings that remained in the vault were presumed to be those of the Clarences and placed in a small ancient stone coffin that had been discovered elsewhere in the Abbey.   


The Glass Box containing the bones from the Clarence Vault. Photo The Wars of the Roses Catalogue 

In 1876 the vault was opened again to enable the laying of a new pavement in the  ambulatory.  The stone coffin in which the bones that had been supposed to be those of the Clarences had been placed  was found to be filled with water, Tewkesbury being prone to flooding.  It seems the bones were cleaned and then placed in a  glass box.  It is unclear if this is the same box where they remain to this day.     The opening to the vault was then fitted with iron gates, and in the pavement over the vault a brass inserted engraved with two suns in splendour, the badge of the House of York. with the inscription, composed by a Mr. J.T.D. Niblett:

 Dominus Georgius Plantagenet dux Clarencius et Domina Isabelle Neville, uxor ejus qui obierunt haec 12 Decembris, A.D. 1476, ille 18 Feb., 1477.

    Macte veni sicut sol in splendore, Mox subito mersus in cruore.

Which translates thus..

 ‘Lord George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, and Lady Isabelle Neville, his wife, who died, she on Dec. 12, 1476, he on Feb. 18, 1477.

I came in my might like a sun in splendour, Soon suddenly bathed in my own blood’

 ….. a fitting epitaph for a man I always think lived his life like a dazzling firework, zooming through the air before finally falling  to the earth spent and dying.  His ‘comeliness’  Virgil wrote alarmed an angst ridden Elizabeth Wydeville who feared it made him appear worthy of the  crown. Another reason George had to go! Its both annoying and frustrating George is too often seen as a one dimensional character,  almost bordering on a pantomime villain, accused of being a traitor, drunkard, turncoat etc etc. even a lunatic.    In fiction he has regularly been depicted as a nasty piece of work and even in one very popular novel bashing his young sister in law  Anne Neville and giving her a cut lip.    But I digress.  Certainly the Ankarette Twynhoe affair is  a blot on his copy book, a strange story lacking clarity and which so far has never been explained satisfactorily.    No historian has ever come up with  a plausible reason why George acted in the way he did preferring in the main to go down the well trodden route  that he was a bad man and not wired up right.  Give Me Strength!  Could it be possible that Isobel and her baby were indeed poisoned which would explain something which otherwise makes little sense, totally irrational plus making George’s rage understandable.  If a link between Ankarette, the Twynhoes and  Elizabeth Wydeville could be discovered the whole scenario would then fall nicely into place.   It would also  be an explanation as to why Isobel was in the Infirmary at Tewkesbury prior to going into labour when surely the most comfortable place for her to have given birth would have been at home at Warwick?  Clearly she was ailing from something but what?    I think we should at the very least keep an open mind on what is a very puzzling episode rather than leaving it that George threw simply threw a wobbly,  arrested an innocent, elderly lady and had her executed just to prove he could and to wind Edward up. Yeah right..as they say in South London.  

Another thing I find baffling is the umbrage and ill feeling that  George and  Warwick’s rebellion has invoked particularly  in Warwick’s case  who was clearly provoked beyond endurance by the rise and rise of the grasping, popinjay Wydevilles coupled with Edward’s rather foolish cavalier attitude towards him.   Indeed I cannot blame them for it and I think their actions to rid the world of these odious people should be praised.    The Wydeville marriage was after all  the rock that the House of York foundered upon.   Regarding the drunkenness charge,  the late historian John Ashdown Hill pointed out there is nothing in contemporary records that suggest George was a drunk and it’s merely a silly myth on the same lines as Richard IIIs hump and withered arm.    Bravo John!  Unfortunately the winner gets to write history.  

But back to the vault.  in 1982 the bones were give the first modern examination by Dr Michael Donmall. They consisted, it would seem,  of parts of two skulls, an assortment of long bones, pelvic and shoulder fragments , parts of a spinal column and some foot bones.  The age of the skull deemed to be that of  a male was estimated to be in the range of 40-60 years and the female 50-70 years.  Both individuals were described by Dr Donmall  as showing age related arthritic changes.  This would, alas,  rule out they were the remains of George and Isobel.

In 2013 the bones were re-examined by Doctor Joyce Filyer who muddied the waters further by suggesting that the bones were those of more than two individuals.   Doctor Filyer however agreed with the 1982 findings that the two individuals were too old to be the Clarences.   However Dr John Ashdown Hill suggested that the damaged skull may  not not have belonged to the male’s bones  and it is just possible this may be what remains of George’s skull.  John bases this on the fact that some years prior to death the individual had suffered a cut to the front of the skull which had healed.  This would be consistent with the ‘report that George suffered an injury at the Battle of Barnet six years prior to his death’.   However it should be remembered that the nature of George’s injury is unknown.  Dr Ashdown-Hill goes on to mention that there are also some very fragmentary bones included  which are the remains of a ‘very slender woman who appears to have died in her twenties and that these may comprise surviving fragments of the body of Isobel Neville, Duchess of Clarence’. So does the glass box indeed hold at least some of the remains of the Clarences or is it just wishful thinking?  


A further view of the Clarence Vault.  Photo @ The Wars of the Roses catalogue.

Like his brother Richard, George has suffered from the brilliant pen of  William Shakespeare, who described him as ‘False, Fleeting, Perjur’d‘.  Shakespeare also lay the responsibility of George’s death at the door of his brother Richard, then Duke of Gloucester.  Perhaps he had not read Mancini’s comments although it probably would not have made any difference.  It should be remembered that  George was a man of his times,  who had flaws but his good points are regularly overlooked.  As Hicks wrote the Croyland Chronicler paid tribute to his ability and dangerous popularity, ‘an idol of the multitude‘.   The Salisbury Cathedral chapter act book observed ‘Thanks be to God who has given such a benevolent and devout prince into the tutelage of the church’.  Lets leave the final word with John Rous who would have met him and described him thus..‘…a myghty prince, femly of perfon and ryght witty and wel visaged.  a gret almys geuer and a grete bylder as showis at tutbure (Tutbury) warrewik (Warwick) and odre placis and there was he purposed to have doone many grete thinges as wallyng the town..and at Gypclyf (Guy’s Cliffe) to have performyd the wil and purpos of hys fadre in law (Richard Neville Earl of Warwick) and to have gete privilages to his burges of Warrewik but froward forteon maligned foor a geyn him and leyd al a parte’. 

  1. The Abbey Church of Tewkesbury H J L J Massé
  2. False, Fleeting, Perjur’d Clarence M A Hicks
  3. Ibid p141
  4. Virgil 168
  5. The Usurpation og Richard III p.63 Dominic Mancini
  6. The Third Plantagent John Ashdown-Hill
  7. The Abbey Church of Tewkesbury H J L J Massé

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Joan Neville and her husband William Fitzalan Earl of Arundel lie together to this day in their beautiful tomb in the chapel at Arundel Castle.

Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury (d. 1460) and his wife Alice Montacute had 10 children, including two sons, Richard Earl of Warwick and John Marquis of Montague whose stories have become very familiar to us through the roles they played in the madness that was to become known as the Wars of the Roses.  These brothers had six sisters who are slightly less well known but in some cases who went on to marry men that played significant parts in the wars and thus created a complicated tangle of allegiances.  Whether the sisters  would have had any input in matters can only be speculated upon.  The sisters lives spanned a period of an amazing 80 years – and was an extraordinary mix of splendour, wealth, indulgence, ceremony, hopefully some love, extreme anxiety and tragedy.  

They were

JOAN c.1424-1462

Joan married William Fitzalan d.1487 Earl of Arundel about 1438 when she would have been about 14.  Marriages would not have been consummated until the bride reached maturity and thus their first child was not born until 1450.   The marriage produced five children one of whom, Thomas married Margaret sister to Queen Elizabeth Wydeville/Woodville.  Fitzalan fought  for Warwick his brother in law at the 2nd Battle of St Albans in 1461.      Joan predeceased him dying about 9 September 1462 after a marriage that had endured for 24 years.   We have no way of knowing whether it was happy or otherwise but it is a fact that William never married again and seems thereafter  to have steered well clear of politics.  This ensured he attained the age of  70 years, a good age for the times.


Joan Neville Duchess of Norfolk’s effigy,  Arundel Castle chapel.

CICELY died 28 July 1450.  Born sometime between the births of Joan and Richard and without a doubt named after her aunt,  Cicely Neville Duchess of York,  mother to Edward IV and Richard III.   Married 1436, when they were both children, Henry Beauchamp, duke of Warwick  who died in 1446 aged 21 years old.  A daughter from this marriage  predeceased Cicely.      Second marriage  April 1449 to John Tiptoft,  Earl of Worcester (1427–1470), a marriage which lasted only 15 months.   Tiptoft was  known as the Butcher of England.    This charmer  was known for his brutality  including in 1470 the impaling of 20 of Warwick’s men,  an execution mode unknown in England.  This created an enraged outcry even in those brutal times (1).  However he has been described as a ‘humanist’ and a great reader of books so thats alright then.

There is also good reason to believe that Tiptoft was among those responsible for the judicial murder of the Earl of Desmond and his two small sons.   Of course it does not follow that Tiptoft was cruel or harsh to his wives.   In fact he very much loved his second wife, a widow Elizabeth Baynham who he married soon after Cicely’s death and  who herself died before 4 April 1452    We know this because in a letter following Elizabeth’s death written to Henry Cranebroke, monk of Christ Church,  Canterbury, Tiptoft asked for prayers,with special remembraunce of her soule whom I loved best‘ (2). However this  seems quite callous and  disrespectful to the memory of Cicely    Whether Tiptoft had behaved coldly towards Cicely or not, he fell into her  brother’s, the Kingmaker’s,  hands who without further ado  executed his former brother in law on 18 October 1470.   Cicely seems to me the saddest of the sisters, a young widow, who lost a child, married to a man known for his harsh nature and dying sometime in her 20s.    Cicely was laid to rest near to where her first husband was buried in the  choir  of  Tewkesbury Abbey, the Despenser family’s mausoleum ( 3 )


The beautiful floor of the Choir, Tewkesbury Abbey.  Somewhere in this area Cicely and her Ist husband, Henry Beauchamp lie buried.  

ELEANOR/ALIANOR d.c1472.  Married Thomas Stanley c.17th December 1454, who soon after her death married Margaret Beaufort,  despite the fact she looked as if she had been weaned on a lemon, after all she was stinking rich,  mother to Henry Tudor.  Her marriage to Stanley proved fruitful producing a large brood of children.     Because of the survival of two letters written by Eleanor we can glean a little of her nature in that she was caring and resourceful, intervening to resolve disputes and in the case of a Geoffrey Harper, when an annuity he was entitled to was being kept from him,   writing a polite but stern letter to a Piers Werberton,  to get the matter  and …. grete hurte of the seid Geffrey  resolved (4).  Ending her letter that his assistance in the matter ‘ …. shall cause me to be your gode lady’ which was medieval speak for ‘Get It Sorted Now !’ and no doubt Werberton did just that, fast. Bravo Eleanor.  

Eleanor must have died in London as she was laid to rest in the Church of St James Garlickhythe, the parish church of the Stanleys.  Stowe noted her burial there in his Survey of London 1598.  Tudor herald Thomas Benolt on his visit there while recording funerary monuments in London in 1500-05,  noted that Eleanor  Lady Stanley, was ‘wtout a stone ..really Thomas! shame on you. Also buried there were two of her sons, John, who had died young and George , Lord Strange – it is said that George died of being poisoned at a banquet – but I digress – as well as her sister in law ,  William Stanley’s widow, Elizabeth Tiptoft Countess of Worcester d.1498, yes the widow of the very Tiptoft, widower of Cicely Neville…. please keep up at the back dear reader!  Sadly all these tombs were lost when the church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London 1666.  

ALICE/ALESIA died c.1503.  A lady who endured truely worrying times.  Married Henry Lord Fitzhugh of Ravensworth d. 8 June 1472, ‘a long standing ally of the Neville Family’ (5).  A  daughter, Anne, married Francis Lord Lovell, Richard III’s loyal friend.  After Henry’s involvement with the Warwick rebellion, he, Alice, their five surviving sons and their daughters were pardoned by Edward IV.  Fitzhugh seems to have stayed out of trouble after that, not taking part in the battle of Barnet 14 April 1471, where his two brother in laws were to fall.  Perhaps he was already ill at that time?  Alice was later to attend, with her daughter in law, Anne Lovell, Richard III’s Coronation wearing ‘long gownes made of vij yerdes of blue velvet and purfiled with v yerdes and a quarter of crymsyn satyn and vij yerdes of crymysy velvet and purfiled with v yerdes and a quarter of white damask’  which were gifts from the new king and queen, her niece Anne Neville, daugher of the Kingmaker (6).  Had a long widowhood of over 30 years dying at nearly 70 years old.   Lived at Tanfield Castle.

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Gatehouse of Tanfield Castle.  Home to Alice Fitzhugh nee Neville.  Photo English Heritage.

KATHERINE  d.1504  Married first William Bonville Lord Harrington d.1460, secondly William Lord Hastings executed 1483. Harrington died at Wakefield, leaving a daughter, Cicely only a babe, perhaps even born posthumously, a very rich heiress.  In 1474 Cicely was to marry Elizabeth Wydeville’s son, Thomas Grey Marquis of Dorset.  To return to Katherine much has been written elsewhere of her second husband’s life, and death and I won’t go into it here.  Mention though should be made of Katherine’s epic but ultimately unsuccessful struggle to finish the building of Kirby Muxloe Castle, begun by Hastings prior to his death.    In her will Katherine asked to be buried in the church of St Helen’s at Ashby de la Zouch close to the castle of that name also built by her husband.    Lord Hastings himself, was buried where he had requested in St George’s Chapel, Windsor,  close to the tomb of his bosom friend  Edward IV by a forgiving Richard III.  


 St Helens Church Ashby de la Zouch.  Enlargened by William Hastings and where Eleanor Hastings nee Neville requested to be buried. Photo Kim@Flikr

Margaret d.1506.  Buried at Colne Priory, Essex.  Married John de Vere Earl of Oxford in 1465.  Oxford led a full and varied career which is well documented and I will not go into here but needless to say his adventures caused many trials and tribulations to Margaret.  He died at Castle Hedingham on 10 March 1513 and was buried on 24 April with his ancestors at Colne Priory, alongside Margaret Neville his first wife as requested in his will ‘my body to be buried before the high altar of Our Lady chapel in the priory of Colne in the county of Essex in a tomb which I have made and ordained for me and Margaret, my late wife, where she now lieth buried’.…the last surviving sister of The Kingmaker.  


The Great Hall at Hedingham Castle, Essex.   Belonging to the de Vere family, Hedingham Castle was home to Margaret and her husband, John de Vere, the 13th Earl.  

For those interested in finding out more about the sisters I can recommend The Kingmaker’s Sisters by David Baldwin.  

  1. Oxford DNB Tiptoft [Tibetot], John, first earl of Worcester Benjamin G Kohl.
  2. Canterbury College, Oxford. Two letters by Tiptoft to Henry Cranbrook (9th January 1452, 4 April 145
  3. The Abbey Church of Tewkesbury  1901 H J L J Massé. M.A 4
  4. The Kingmaker’s Sisters p153.  David Baldwin.  Letter dated 27 August 146? to Piers Werburton. 5
  5. Ibid.p.77 
  6. The Coronation of Richard III, the Extant Documents pp.169.170.  Edited by Anne F Sutton and P W Hammond.

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William Stanley, Turncoat or Loyalist

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Being of somewhat a silly old romantic I was pleasantly surprised to read in the blurb of Kingsford’s Stonor Letter and Papers 1290-1483 that there were love letters to be found among them. And what could possibly be nicer than a medieval love letter? And there they were, letters from the three wives of Sir William Stoner c.1449-1494. I wonder if having kept these letters indicated that Sir William was of a romantic bent himself although to be fair all Stonor correspondence was kept so that would be pushing it a bit.

Sir William has an interesting history and was the recipient of some well known letters written by Simon Stallworth during the period just after Edward IV’s death and Richard III taking the throne describing the turmoil that was going on in London (1). Sir William did eventually choose to go over to the ‘dark side’ joining the Buckingham rebellion (why Sir William, why, why WHY?) but more of that later as I want to focus here on his wives letter to him. I should mention he couldn’t have been all bad as he managed to annoy Queen Elizabeth Wydeville who wrote a stiff letter of reprimand to him.

Sir William married three times, and although all three marriages would have been typical of the times, made to improve status and finances, these letters show that these marriages could often lead, happily, to love for the participants.

ELIZABETH RYCHE nee Croke d.1479

Elizabeth was Sir William’s first wife marrying him in the summer of 1475.  A rich widow, her husband Thomas Ryche was the son of Richard Ryche, a wealthy London mercer, her father John Croke was a London alderman.  Elizabeth had three daughters from her first marriage but no children with Sir William.  

The 12 September 1476 found a worried Elizabeth writing to her husband ‘gentyll Cosyn …I understonde that my brother and yowris is sore seke of the poxes. wherfore I am right hevy and sory of your beyng there, ffor the eyre of the poxe is fful contageous and namely to them than ben nye of blode.  Wherfore I woulde praye you, gentyll Cosyn, that you wolde come hedyr, yif hit wolde plese you so to doo &c.  And yif that hit lyke you not so to doo, lettith me have hedyr some horsis I pray you that I may come to you..ffor in good faith I can fynde hit in my herte to put my self in jupardy there as ye be, and shall do whilst my lyffe endurith.. For in good faith I thought never so long sith I saw you…         By your ovne Elysabeth Stonore.

Frustratingly the outcome of this situation has been lost to us.  Did William go to Elizabeth or did he send for his  ‘ovne Elysabeth’  to be with him? 

Nearly all of  Elizabeth’s letters touch upon her longing to see her husband such as one dated 22 October 1476, where she also mentions a ring he had sent her..

‘Sir, I pray you send me no more ryngis with stonys; ffore the ryng that you sent me be Hery Blackhall; the stone is ffallyn owght be the way and loste; wherffore I ame sory.  Good sire, let it not be long or I may se you; for truely me thynke right long syth I se you…’

At the end of the letter Elizabeth adds “My owne Cosyn, I sene you a bladyr with powdyr to drynke when ye go to bede, ffor hit is holsome ffor you…    Be your ovne to my powre Elysabeth Stonor.’  

Finally a puzzling comment from Elizabeth to her husband in a letter dated 7 November 1476, added at the end of the letter and in her own hand,  which I have yet to work out the meaning of…‘My owne good husbond I se well ye remembre the puttying at (……….) out of the bed when you and I lay last togedyr.    By your owne powre Elysabeth Stonor…


Agnes second wife to  Sir William,  widow of John Wydeslade, the son of a Devonshire squire and a great heiress in her own right.   Her letter to Sir William,  written sometime after the death of Elizabeth at the end of 1479, and  prior to their marriage in about May 1480.  Agnes was obviously already ill before their marriage and sadly died 4th May 1481.  Marriage childless.  

Regarding her illness Agnes explained ‘The ffesisicion wolle do his cunnyng uppon me, but undertake me he wol not, never did noon in his liff.  Cumfort in hym I fynde, and in my mydne y thinke he wolle do me gode…..’  She goes on to say that she hopes that the ‘tyme of yhoure comyng, which y trust wolle not be longe.  Me thinkith a M. (month?) yere gon that y hurd any tidinges fro you’ .  She hopes that William has not thought her ‘own-kynde’ that she has not written to him since he was last at Wydeslade for ‘myn excuse is y have be in helle, where y had litel cumfort, but as sone as y cam to Exeter then y yn heven, and be cause that y am now in joy y do send you this letter….’  Agnes ends the letter ffrom your tru lover Annys Wydeslade.  


Unlike William’s first two wives, rich widows, Anne  was younger than William.  Oldest daughter of that great Neville lord,  John Marquis of Montague who died alongside his brother, Richard Neville known as The Kingmaker at the Battle of Barnet 1471.  After the death of her brother George in 1483, Anne became a great heiress.   The only wife to give him children, a son John born August 1482 and a daughter, Anne. It may have been this marriage that led to the connection that Sir William had with Thomas Grey, Marquis of Dorset, one of the voracious, parvenu Wydevilles,  being son to Queen Elizabeth Wydeville/Woodville.  This was despite the fact that Anne had at one time been the ward of Richard duke of Gloucester later Richard III, whose coronation Sir William attended.  No doubt  Dorset had some part to play in the decision of William to rebel against Richard –  ‘his eventual attitude was probably determined by association with Dorset‘ –  an act which led to his attainment in 1483 leading to the temporary loss of his lands (2)   Ironically the last letter in the papers is from Sir Francis Lovell, written on the 11th October 1483 who endeavoured to ‘secure’ William’s support for Richard (3).  Sir William ignored the summons and foolishly joined the Buckingham rebellion.   However Ive gone off on a tangent here and so back to the letters…

The following extract is from a letter written approximately in 1482 shortly after their marriage when Anne was staying  with Cicely Bonville wife to Marquis of Dorset at Taunton Castle.

‘Syr, I recomaund me unto you in my most hertly wise, right joyfull to here of yowre helthe: liketh you to knowe, at the writyng of this bill I was in good helthe, thynkyng long sith I saw you, and if I had knowen that I shold hav ben this long tyme from you I wold have be moche lother then I was to have comyn in this ferre Countrey.  But I trust it shall not be long or I shall see you here, and else I wold be sorye on good feth….. And I beseche oure blessed lord preserve you’  Your new wyf Anne Stonor

Anne saw her husband attainted in 1483 but lived long enough to see him restored to his estates in 1485.


Stonor Park.  Chapel to the right.  Although very much added to and altered since the 15th century Sir William Stonor would still be able to recognise certain parts of the interior dating from the 13th century.

Sir William was buried in the old Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey.   Only a  decade later his grave was lost when  the old chapel was demolished and  Henry Tudor’s  lavish Chapel built in it place.  Could his remains have been returned to his family at Stonor for reburial much as the remains of Anne Mowbray (another one turfed  from their grave at Westminster) had been returned to her mother at the Minories?  If so could he have been reburied in St Mary’s Church Pyrton where his father Thomas had been laid to rest in 1474?  I have been unable to find out where Williams wives were buried.  


St Mary’s Church Pyrton.  Sir William’s father was buried here 1474. Photo@Martin Beek

(1) See letters from Simon Stallworth to Sir William  dated 9 and 21 June detailing the turmoil taking place in London pp.159.160. Stonor Letter and Papers 1290-1483 Kingsford ed Christine Carpenter

( 2) Stonor Letter and Papers 1290-1483 p.61 Kingsford ed Christine Carpenter

( 3) Ibid p.418 

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Old London Map c1572.  Franz Hogenberg

And so Dear Reader, we are going to take a break from murderous queens, scheming duchesses,  bad kings, good kings, missing royal children and silly bishops.  We are going to take a look at London’s Old Gates.  Where were they positioned, how many were there, and what become of them?  Part of the old Roman and Medieval London Wall they were once the only exits and entrances into old London, unless of course you were leaving or arriving via old London Bridge although there were smaller posterns here and there for pedestrians.  How did they they manage to survive and contain what would appear was  an unstoppable ever growing population? Well up until the late 16th century as can be seen by the map above late medieval London was still pretty much contained by its old walls but by the mid 18th century the Gates were destroyed in order to facilitate the widening of roads etc.,  Ah …. I understand it had to be but still, it makes the heart weep a little to think of these grand old Gates totally and utterly destroyed.  

There were seven gates – in no particular order….


Moor Gate.  Medieval.    Originally a small postern gate.    This was demolished in 1415 and Thomas Falconer, mayor,   caused London Wall to be breached near Coleman Street and a new postern to be  built to allow pedestrians to ‘walk by causeways out to the hamlets of Isledon (Islington) and Hoxteth (1).  Repaired in 1472 by William Hampton,  fishmonger and mayor,  the postern  was enlarged,  and  made higher so that the trained bands could march through with their pikes upright (2).  This was  after there were a couple of instances of eyes getting poked out – I made this last bit up but you never know!.     In June 1483  Richard of Gloucester, later Richard III  probably went through the Moor Gate to review his northern troops after their arrival and when they were encamped in the open fields between Moorfields and Holywell Priory (3).   After it was demolished in 1762 the stones were used to prevent London Bridge been washed away by the tide.

Stood approximately near the junction of Coleman Street and London Wall.

scan 2

Moorgate c1483.  From the Copperplate map.  Drawn by Julian Rowe.  Illustration from Richard III The Road to Bosworth.  P W Hammond & Anne F Sutton


ALDERSGATE – Roman.   Probably linked with Watling Street.  In 1335 it was resolved that the gate should be covered with lead and, thoughtfully,  a small house made under it for the gatekeeper (4).  Stow explains how the gate was named NOT after the Eldarne (Elder?) trees ‘growing there abundantly‘  but for the very  ‘antiquity of the gate itself, as being one of the first four gates of the city, and serving for the northern parts,  as Aldgate for the east, which two gates, being both old gates, are for difference sake called the one Aldgate, and the other Aldersgate’.! (5). However its suggested elsewhere the name is Saxon and means Gate of Ealdred (6).  You can make your own mind up about that one.   In Stow’s time Aldersgate was one of the largest gates containing divers large rooms and lodgings‘ with one floor being paved with ‘stone or tile‘.   John Day a famous  stationer and printer from Stow’s  time had living accommodation within the gate.

Situated opposite No.62 Aldersgate Street. 


ALDGATE – Roman.  Not to be confused with Aldersgate above – keep up Dear Reader, keep up! – known as Ealdgate by the Saxons for it was ancient even in their day.  It had two pairs of gates and two portcullis, which would later prove to come in handy (see below).  Geoffrey Chaucer leased the room above the Gate between 1374 and 1385.  In Stow’s time only one of these two gates survived although the hooks still remained.   This grand old lady came into play during the Wars of the Roses and no doubt probably got a bit bashed about.  I will here have to divert  briefly a little from the actual gate….  In 1471 Thomas the Bastard of Falconbridge aka Thomas Neville advanced upon London.  Reaching Southwark he demanded to be allowed to bring his men into the city.  This was refused (obviously).  In response Neville put Southwark to the torch.  He then begun a three pronged attack on London including one on our Aldgate.  I’ll let Stow tell the rest of the story – he does it so well…

‘…the rebels being denied passage through the city that way set upon Aldgate,  Bishopsgate,  Cripplegate,  Aldersgate,  London Bridge and along the river of Thames, shooting arrows and guns into the city, fired the suburbs and burnt more than three score houses. And further on Sunday the 11th of May,  5000 of them assaulting Aldgate, won the bulwarks, and entered the city but the portcullis being let down,  such as had entered were slain and Robert Bassett alderman of Aldgate ward, with the Recorder, commanded in the name of God to draw up the portcullis which being done,  they issued out and with sharp shot and fierce fight put back the enemy so far as Saint Botolph’s church by which time the Earl Rivers and Lieutenant of the Tower was come with a fresh company which joining together discomfited the  rebels and put them to flight …. Thus much for Aldgate’ (7). Phew!  

After demolition this doughty old gate was re-erected at Bethnal Green for a while.  

Stood approximately at  the corner of Aldgate and  Duke’s Place.


CRIPPLEGATE – Roman.  Possibly begun life as a postern.   Origin of name unknown.  Maybe from a regular meeting place of ‘cripples’ begging there or perhaps from the Anglo Saxon word crepel meaning an underground passage.   Stow wrote he had read that after the body of King Edmund the Martyr being brought to London in 1010,  and entering  through the gate,  ‘miracles were wrought as some of the lame to go upright,  praising God‘.   In 14th century room over gate used as a prison.  During the Wars of the RosesHenry the six and Margaret of Anjou arrived at Cripplegate after their victory over Warwick the Kingmaker at Saint Albans in 1461. Pro Yorkist citizens promised him food as long as they kept out of the city but just as the wagons were rolling through the news came that Warwick and Edward,  later Edward IV were about to re-enter London. The wagons were called back and the Lancastrians had to retire hungry to the north’ (8)

Rebuilt in 1491. After being demolished in 1760 the materials were sold to a Mr Blagden, a carpenter of Coleman Street for £91..

Stood approximately at the junction of Wood Street and St. Alphage Gardens


NEWGATE.  As its name implies not one of the oldest gates but even so possibly in existence since 857 although Stow stated built in the time of Henry Ist c.1068-1135.   First mentioned as a prison in 1188.  In 1218 in ruinous condition.   Henry III wrote to his  Sheriffs of London demanding they rebuild the gate ‘for the safekeeping of his prisoners’.  Rebuilt again in the 15th century.  Rebuilt  after being destroyed by fire in 1555, 1628 and the Great Fire of London.  What a dolorous place – forever linked with Newgate Prison.  

Stood approximately at the junction of Newgate and the Old Bailey.


LUDGATE.  Traditionally said to have been built by King Lud, described as a Briton, in 66bc… maybe, maybe.     Roman connections and  led to a Roman burial ground in the area now known as Fleet Street.  Rebuilt 1215 using the stones from the Jewish peoples houses that were destroyed by the barons who were in opposition to King John.   Yet another gate used as a prison.  Stephen Forster, fishmonger and later Lord Mayor of London in 1454 was imprisoned there as a boy for debt.  In 1463 with the input of  Stephen’s widow, Dame Agnes,  improvements were made to enlarge and improve the prison including having lodgings and water ‘free without charge’.  Stow writes of a plaque that was once fixed there inscribed ‘graven in copper‘  –

Devout souls that pass this way

For Stephen Forster, late mayor, heartily pray

And Dame Agnes his spouse to God consecrate,

That of pity this house made for Londoners in Ludgate

So that for lodging and water prisoners nought here pay,

As their keepers shall all answer at dreadful doomsday.’

Amen to that..and Bravo to Stephen Forster and his good wife Agnes! 

Rebuilt once more in 1586 and repaired after the Great Fire of London 1661.

This gate stood opposite St Martin’s Church.  


Bishops’s Mitre at the junction between Bishopsgate and Wormwood Street

BISHOPS GATE – Stow speculated built by a Bishop of London.  If this is so, this Bishop’s name so long dead is now forgotten.  Its a great shame for his name should ever be remembered for the ease he generously gave to Londoners in enabling them from making what was a very long and winding journey for those wishing to travel north east.    Prior to this the intrepid traveller’s journey would have entailed passing out through Aldgate, turning east towards Mile’s End, then turning left to Bethenhall Green (Bethnal Green), Cambridge Heath and then north or east depending upon the destination.  The alternative was torturous and convoluted via Aldersgate street towards Isledon (Islington) signposted ‘ by a cross of stone on the right hand, set up for a mark by the north end of Golding Lane, to turn Eastwood through a long street, and till this day called Alder Street to another cross standing, where now a Smith’s Forge is placed,  by Sewers-ditch (Shoreditch?) church, and then to turn again north towards Tottenham, Enfield, Waltham etc’…what happened if the Smith had upped and left taking his Forge with him is anyones guess.  

Edward V, one of the ‘Princes in the Tower’ would have entered London through Bishops Gate escorted by the Duke of Gloucester, after King Richard III May 1483.  

Stood opposite Camomile Street.


Bishopsgate.  c1483.  From the Copperplate map.  Drawn by Julian Rowe.  Illustration from Richard III The Road to Bosworth.  P W Hammond & Anne F Sutton

And here endeth our brief trip around the Old Gates of London.  Much more can be found online for those that wish to find out more.  

1) A History of London p.128.  Stephen Inwood.

2)  The London Encyclopaedia  p.542.Edited by Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert 

3) Richard III The Road to Bosworth p.117 P W Hammond and Anne F Sutton

4) The London Encyclopaedia  p.13.Edited by Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert 

5) A Survey of London 1598 p50.  John Stowe

6) Ibid p.48

7) The London Encyclopaedia  p.13.Edited by Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert 

8) Ibid p.217

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


A tantalising glimpse of  an ancient passage leading to Abbot’s Court and the steps leading up to Jerico Parlour.  The Abbots House and Cheyneygates, later known as The Deanery, was situated to the right of the steps.  Photo Dr John Crook Country Life Picture Library.

This updated post was written with the help and input of my friend Sandra Heath Wilson… 

 Its known well how that old fickle wheel of fortune dealt with Elizabeth Wydville, taking her down. taking her up, whirling her around a couple of times and then dumping her, finally, in Bermondsey Abbey, where  she died, impoverished mother in law to the King, Henry Tudor.

What I would like to focus on here is her last stay in Cheneygates, part of the Abbots House complex in Westminster Abbey.   It seemed she liked it there,  after all it was very convenient  being just over the road from Westminster Palace where her daughter Elizabeth of York , now Queen, would sometimes stay, because she took out a  40 years lease which has survived. However as they say man makes plans and the gods laugh because her son-in-law,  and his advisers sagely decided to call time on her sojourn there and with another and final spin of that old wheel of fortune off she went to Bermondsey which is yet another story.

How did Elizabeth come to rent Cheyneygates?  When Edward IV died suddenly in April 1483,   Elizabeth, his bigamous wife and her rapacious family,  attempted to take control of her eldest son, the new king, Edward V, in order to maintain their hold on power.  This was completely riding roughshod over her very recent deceased husband’s will and with hob nail boots to be precise.  The Wydevilles  endeavoured, foolishly and unsuccessfully, to outmanoeuvre Richard, Duke of Gloucester, her husband’s only remaining brother, who had been named in Edward’s will  as Lord Protector ( 1 ) The Woodvilles would not fare well under Richard, so I imagine their aim was to be rid of him entirely and there is good reason to believe that there was a plot to assassinate him  while on his journey to London possibly near the Wydeville stronghold at Grafton Regis.  However he confounded her, and on 30 April 1483  took Edward V under his wing besides arresting Elizabeth’s brother, Earl Rivers and her son, Sir Richard Grey.  When tidings of this event reach London ‘the following night’ Elizabeth panicked (2 ).   For reasons at the time best known to herself, Elizabeth skedaddled over the road  to sanctuary at Westminster Abbey, taking her remaining and no doubt confused children  with her. In her scramble to take as much  stuff  her as she could,  a hole had to be  knocked in the wall separating the abbey from Westminster palace to accommodate all the treasure and other loot she’d grabbed. Not very dignified, but then dignity was not uppermost in her mind at that point.  According to More,  the Chancellor, Bishop Rotherham also in a rush to take the Great Seal to Elizabeth found ‘much heaviness,  rumble, haste and business, carriage and conveyance of her stuff into Sanctuary; chests, coffers, packers, fardels trussed all on mens backs; no man unoccupied, some lading, some going, some discharging, some coming for more, some breaking down the walls to bring in the nearest way, and some yet drew to them that helped to carry a wrong way (I think this means there was a bit of  looting going on here..oh the irony!) (3).

And so ensconced there she remained for the foreseeable future.  How that played out is well known now but back to Cheyneygates…..  On the 10 July 1486 the following lease was drawn up  – 


This eindenture made bitwene John by the sufferaunce of god Abbot 
of the Monastery of seint Peter of Westm' the Priour and covent of the 
same of the one partie And the most high and excellent Princesse 
Elizabeth by the grace of god Quene of England late wyf to the moost 
mighty Prince of famous memore Edward the iiij th late Kyng of Englond 
and of Fraunce and lord of Irelond on the other partie Witnesseth 
that the forsaid Abbot Priour and Covent consideryng and wele re- 
membryng that the forsaid excellent and noble pryncesse in the tyme 
of her said late husbond our alder liege lord was unto the said Monastery 
verry especiall good lord aswele in protectyng and defendyng the libertes 
& ffrauncheses of the same as in bountevous and largely departyng of 
her goods to the edifying and reparacions of the ffabrice of the said 
monastery by the hole assent concent & will of all the Captre have
graunted dimised and to ferme letyn unto the forsaid Quene a mansion with in the said Abbey called Cheynegatis Apperteynyng unto the Abbot of the said place for the tyme beyng with all the Howses Chambers Aisiaments and other Appertenaunces therunto belongyng To have and hold the forsaid mansion with Thappertenaunces and other premisses to the said Quene from the fest of Ester last passed before the date herof unto thende of the terme of xl yeres then next folowyng and fully to be complete Yeldyng therfor yerely to the same Abbot or his successor or theire Assignes x w of lawfull money of Englond duryng the said terme to be paid atte festis of Mighelmas and Ester by even porcions And the forsaid Quene at her propre costis and Charge shall sufficiently repaire uphold and mayntene the said mansion and voide dense repaire and make the gutter goyng from the kechen of the same as often as shall be necessary and behovefull And atte ende of her terme the said mansion with Thappertenaunces sufficiently repaired mayntened and upholden yeld up unto the forsaid Abbot Priour and Covent and theire Successours Also it is covenanted and agreed bitwne the parties abovesaid that the said Quene shall in no wise sell lete to ferme nor aliene her said yeres nor eny parte therof in the said mansion with Thappertenaunces to any other person or persones duryng the said terme And the Abbot Priour and Covent and their successours forsaid the said mansion with thappertenaunces to the said Quene in the manner and fourme aboverehersed shall warant ayenst all people by these presents Provided alwayes that yf it shall happen the same Quene to dye within the said terme of xl yeres as god defend that then this present graunt and lees immediately after her decesse be voide and of no strengthe And over this it is covenanted and agreed that yf it happen the said Rent to be behynd unpaid after any terme of the termes abovelymytted in party or in all that is to say the Rent of Mighelmasse terme at seint Martyns day in wynter then next folowyng and the Rent of Ester at Whitsontyde then next ensuyng that then it shalbe leefull to the said Abbot and his Successours in the forsaid mansion with the Appertenaunces to reentre And the said Quene therfrom to expelle and put out this lees and dimyssyon notwithstanding In Witnesse &c Yeven the x day of Juyll the yere of our lord god mcccclxxxvi And the first yere of the reigne ofkyng Henry the vii (4)

Despite scenes in the tv dramatisation, I use the word loosely,  of  Philippa Gregory’s  ‘White Queen’ which portrayed Elizabeth and her daughters languishing in what appeared to be a dank cellar with damp walls, Cheyneygates being part of the Abbots House complex would have been luxurious.  Tragically Cheyneygates/Abbots House, later known as the Deanery after the Reformation,  was destroyed during the Blitz in 1941.  I have been unable to find any illustrations of what Cheyneygates would have appeared like in the 15th century.  


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.    Elizabeth and her family would have gone through this ancient archway which has remained unchanged throughout the centuries to enter and leave Cheyneygates.


Jerico Parlour and Cheyneygates c1910.  Illustration by Herbert Railton.  It can be seen that even before the bomb destruction the Abbots House and Cheyneygates exterior facade were much altered since the 15th century.  However one of the upstairs rooms was still known as My Lady’s Bedchamber in the 18thc.  Could this ‘Lady’ have been Elizabeth Wydeville?


This photo shows the Jerico Parlour as it is today, middle of the picture with steps.   Cheyneygates would have stood where the  modern white building stands on the right.    College Hall to the left.  No doubt Elizabeth would be able to recognise the scene today although Cheyneygates is sadly much altered.  


A different view of the ancient passage way leading to Abbot’s Court.  Elizabeth and her entourage, daughters, brother Lionel and small son would have approached Cheyneygates via this passageway and trod these very flagstones..


‘The Abbey of St Peter and Palace of Westminster about the year 1532’.  Illustration by A E Henderson F.S.A 1938.  The Abbot’s House complex circled in red.  College  Hall stands to the left, Jerico Parlour at the back and Cheyneygates to the right.  Cheyneygates overlooked the Great Cloister.


An old plan of Westminster Abbey showing Abbot’s Court.  The Abbot’s House/ Cheyneygates , is here called the Deanery which it became known as after the Reformation.  Note the site of the Refectory where Margaret’s Beaufort’s body was taken from Cheyneygates to lie in repose before her burial.


 College Hall.  Built by by Abbot Litlyngton along with the Jerusalem Chamber c1376.  The roof is  original.  There was a dais at the far end where the Abbot and his guests would be seated.  The gallery dates from the 17th century.

 It was in College Hall  that Dean Stanley writing in the 19th century suggests that Elizabeth and her group would have been met by Abbot Esteney  on their hasty retreat from the palace (5).  And there she was sat, according to More,  when Bishop Rotherham found her ‘ alone, low down on the rushes, all desolate and dismayed'( 6).  And who could blame her to be honest as reality kicked in and she realised the game was well and truly up.  Rotherham apparently tried to reassure her that all would be well, in fact he left the Great Seal with her.  Unfortunately the very next day realising he had done something really silly he sent someone to get it back.  Ah – why fools achieve such high status is one of life’s mysteries.  

Pretty soon Richard uncovered the depth of Elizabeth’s plotting.  The 10 June found him writing in haste to York for extra troops to  ‘eide and assiste us ayanst the Quiene, hir blode adherentts and affinitie, which have entended and daily doith intend, to murder and utterly destroye us and our cousyn, the duc of Bukkyngham and the old royall blode of this realme…’ (7).   And so begun Elizabeth’s second stay in the Abbot’s house.  In time and pragmatically she reconciled with Richard and sent her daughters out of Cheyneygates into Richard’s care, whereupon probably the older ones breathed a massive sigh of relief.  The rest is history and after Bosworth having taken out a 40 year lease on Cheyneygates  she returned to live there, perhaps she had never left.   However the lease came to nothing as a short while later she was sent to live out her days at Bermondsey Abbey by her son in law, a canny Henry Tudor,  no doubt comfortable but according to her will impoverished –   Sic transit gloria mundi.  But wait!  She was not the last lady of the nobility to be a tenant at Cheyneygates  – Margaret Beaufort, Henry Tudor’s  mother, decided she wanted to live at Cheyneygates too and indeed it was where she died on the 29 June 1509 (8 ).  How strange, the richest woman in England with numerous properties had to have the very property where Elizabeth Wydeville resided if only for a short while.  Was it that Margaret, Elizabeth’s one time fellow conspirator,  just had to have  something that the ex-queen once had as she also  had to have the prayer book of Richard III or indeed his crown for her own son – or – am I being a tad cynical…? Hmmmm!.


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.

For those who wish to delve deeper into the history of the Abbots House and Cheyneygates a link to an interesting book The Abbots House at Westminster; J Armitage Robinson 1911 can be found here.

(1). This is complex.  For the best and fullest explanation of this situation I would recommend Annette Carson’s Richard Duke of Gloucester as Lord Protector and High Constable.

(2) Richard III The Road to Bosworth p.99 P W Hammond and Anne E Sutton
(3)  Richard III The Great Debate p.47 Thomas More.  

 (4) The Abbot’s House at Westminster.  1911 J Armitage Robinson 

(5) Westminster Abbey p411 1869 Dean Stanley 

(6) History of King Richard III Thomas More

(7) Richard III The Road to Bosworth p.103 P W Hammond and Anne E Sutton

(8) The King’s Mother p.237.  Jones and Underwood.

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Anne Herbert Countess of Pembroke, Yorkist widow & mother in law to Katherine Plantagenet


Ann Devereux, John Lydgate’s Troy Book and Siege of Thebes @British Library

Well that old wheel of fortune could certainly whizz around and no more so than in the lives of the noble women from the turbulent times we now know as the Wars of the Roses.  An example of one of these ladies  is Ann Herbert nee Devereux Countess of Pembroke.  Ann was the daughter of Sir Walter Devereux and born about c1433.   In 1449 Ann was married to William Herbert Earl of Pembroke c.1423-1469 and  with whom she had at least 10 children including William jnr and Maud.  William jnr would go on to marry Elizabeth Wydeville’s sister Mary and after her death, Richard III’s illegitimate  daughter Katherine –  I will get back to William jnr and Katherine later – while her father left instructions in his will that Maud was to marry, ‘Lord Henry of Richmond’ ie Henry Tudor. (1 ) As we know this marriage never came about, Henry marrying Elizabeth of York and Maud, Henry Percy Earl of Northumberland.  William had received the custody and marriage of Henry Tudor on the  12 February 1461 when Henry was 4 years old and had been sent to be brought up in Ann’s household at Raglan Castle with the rest of the Herbert children.  Ann must have been a kind and loving guardian as when Henry Tudor usurped the throne as a result of the  tragic outcome at Bosworth one of his first actions  was to send for Ann.  But we gallop away here and should return to Ann’s earlier life.  Both Anne  and her husband, although from staunch Yorkist families (both Herbert, and his  father  served in France, his father in Richard Duke of York’s retinue) had once supported Henry VI but as the tricky situation between the king, who was mentally unstable, and York developed and grew ever more turbulent, Herbert his ‘loyalties strained’ threw in his lot with York – and to be perfectly honest who can blame him – but I digress.  Herbert assured York in May 1454 that he was noo monis mon but only youres (2)  It must have been a worrying time for Ann as she sat in Raglan castle with her brood of children and of course young Henry, as well as other ladies of the nobility, as their menfolk thundered about the countryside, sometimes losing, sometimes winning and sometimes off into exile only to return, envigorated and ready for more.  In her case, at that moment in time, her husband was victorious and although York was to lose his life at Sandal Castle his son Edward would go on to win a decisive victory at the Tewkesbury  and finally claim the crown as his own.  This led to the glory years for Ann and her husband.  He was to become a cherished and well rewarded follower to the young king.  Rewards were showered upon him including Privy councillor to the new king,  Chief Justice of North Wales for life,  Knight of the Garter,  custody of the Stafford lands during the Duke of Buckingham’s minority and Lordship of Pembroke.  Created Baron Herbert he became  ‘massive wealthy’ his income amounting to £3200-3300 per annum.  Heady days indeed for  both William, who had became known as Edward’s ‘master-lock’ and Ann.


Ann Devereux and her husband Sir William Herbert kneel before an unknown king, probably Henry VI judging by William’s ‘basin’ haircut.  John Lydgate’s Troy Book and Siege of Thebes c.1457 with later additions.  @British Library

However around the wheel spun and things took a dangerous and downward turn when the Earl of Warwick and the King’s brother George of Clarence, increasingly  alienated from Edward, enraged by the rise and rise of the voracious,  parvenu Wydevilles,  and who can blame them, rebelled.  Unfortunately for Ann, her husband was now as heartily hated by Warwick as much as the Wydevilles, but perhaps for somewhat different reasons, and his  luck had begun to run out.  William’s history with Warwick went back a long way and indeed he had once been Warwick’s Steward and Sheriff of Glamorgan in 1449-53. (3)   No doubt one of the reasons for Warwick’s hostility towards his erstwhile friend was when Edward made the decision In 1461 to make William chief Justice and Chamberlain of South Wales as well as transfer to him the offices and custody of the estate all previously granted to Warwick.  And so friends that had once rode together,  fought together and perhaps even laughed  together become mortal enemies with devastating results.  This was the tragedy that was the  Wars of the Roses.   The  wheel was spinning and after a skirmish at Banbury in  1469   an argument ensued about billeting between William and Humphrey Stafford Earl of Devonshire.   Some have said the argument was about a woman, but come on, is it likely a woman would be a priority for them with the battle of Edgcote about to take place the next day!    However after Devonshire stormed off in a fit of pique taking his archers with him, William  was left in a vulnerable position.  Although stories of how courageously he and his brother, Sir Richard of Colebrook, both fought wielding poleaxes, the fight was lost.  Sir Richard is said to have twice passed through the ‘battail of his adversaries’ armed with a poleaxe and ‘without any mortal wound returned’ (4).  Both were taken prisoner and executed the next day.   With  his impending death staring him in the face, William wrote out his last will,  tender, poignant, almost a love letter to his clearly beloved wife.

..And wyfe, thwt ye remember your promise to me, to take the ordre of wydowhood, as ye may be the better mayster of your owne, to performe my wylle, and to help my children, as I love and trust you, &c…. Wife pray for me, and take the said ordre that ye promised me as ye had in my lyfe, my heart and love….’

’’Item, I to be buried in the Priory of Bergavenny under charge; bytwene my fader’s toumbe and the chancell, and the cost that should have be at Tynterne to be set upon the chancell, as my confessor &c. shall say; and you my wife and brother Thomas Herbert, &c.’

It can only be imagined how Ann’s tears fell when she read this.  She adhered to her late husband’s wishes and never married again.  William’s wishes in regard to his place of burial were not carried out because  for some reason lost to us now, he was buried at Tintern Abbey and not the Herbert Chapel, Priory of Bergavenny (Abergavenny) close to his parents as well as his brother Sir Richard Herbert of Colebrook and his wife Margaret.     A large chest tomb near the high altar at Tintern  destroyed during the Dissolution is said to be that of William and Ann although William Hampton in his book Memorials of the Wars of the Roses goes with Abergavenny  being the place of burial as nominated in the will.  It must be said that there is no sign of a tomb for William and Anne in the Herbert Chapel at Abergavenny.  


William’s parents, Sir William ap Thomas d.1445 and  Gwladus/Gladys Gam d.1454, effigies on top of their tomb in the Herbert Chapel, Priory of Abergavenny, where William requested to be buried. Sir Richard of Colebrook, William’s brother and executed with him also lies buried here with his wife Margaret.  Gladys Gam was the daughter of ‘Davy’ Gam made famous by Shakepeare’s mention of his name being among the English dead at Agincourt in his play ‘Henry V’. Photo @Rex Harris


William Herbert’s paternal grandmother Gwladys/Gladys Gam was a celebrated beauty in her time and known as the Star of Abergavenny.  A Welsh poet described her as ‘like the sun – the pavilion of light’.  Photo @ Rex Harris

After her husband’s death, followed by the death of his nemesis Warwick, little is known about Ann in her widowhood.  However on the death of King Edward and Richard III’s arrival on the throne, her son William jnr, now a widower was honoured by Richard when he was given the hand of the kings daughter, Katherine in marriage.  This marriage was of short duration as it appears Katherine died young and without issue.  What would have become of Ann’s daughter-in-law after Richard’s death at Bosworth is anyone’s guess.  At the very least she may have been an embarrassment to the Herberts.  Indeed William Hampton posed the question was Katherine Plantagenet the reason why Ann was summoned by Henry Tudor in the aftermath of Bosworth?  We  know now that Katherine was laid to rest at St Jamesgarlickhythe close to the London home of the Herberts, William was laid to rest in 1491 besides his first wife Mary Wydeville at Tintern Abbey where, it is said, both his parents lay buried together.


Raglan Castle.  Where Anne would have spent most of her time raising her children and the young Henry Tudor.  Note the resident cat!

(1) Testamenta Vetusta p.304

(2) Herbert, William, first Earl of Pembroke ODNB R A Griffiths.  Quoting Pugh, The Magnates p92
(3) Warwick the Kingmaker A J Pollard p94

(4) Herbert, Sir William, Earl of Pembroke ODNB.  Sidney Lee.  Published 1891.

If you enjoyed this post you might like my post on Katherine Plantagenet found here

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