Historian and author David Baldwin has been kind enough to answer some questions of mine, for which I´m very grateful. As well as having written several interesting books, among those the book Lost Prince – the survival of Richard of York – of which I have written in an earlier post – he has spent many years as a lecturer at Leicester. David Baldwin is also a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society
Back in 1986 you wrote that Richard III was most likely buried in Grey Friars, and that we might see him found during the 21st century. What were your thoughts when his remains were discovered?
Surprise actually. I had supposed that an excavation would only be possible when a major redevelopment of the Grey Friars site was undertaken – to find Richard in the one small area in which it was possible to dig (the Social Services car park) was incredibly lucky. My main argument my 1986 article was that his ‘slight remains’ had not been exhumed and lost at the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and could, therefore still be discovered ‘at some time in the twenty-first century’.
Would you say that the work around the discovery of Richard III has in any way changed the way we view history, or how it will be dealt with in the future?
I don’t think there will be any fundamental change. We have learned much about Richard’s appearance, his medical conditions, and how he died, but no more about his character and intentions or what made him ‘tick’, as the expression has it. We must hope that new discoveries in archives will bring us closer to answering these questions in due course.
One of the biggest mysteries in English history – which you yourself has written about – is of course the princes Edward and Richard. Do you think anything would be put to rest if the bone fragments in Westminster Abbey were to be tested?
If the Plantagenet Y-chromosome could be extracted from remains preserved in Westminster Abbey there would be little doubt that they were the bones of the missing Princes. But we would still not know precisely when they died or by whose hand.
In your very fascinating book The Lost Prince: The survival of Richard of York you suggest that the youngest of Edward IV’s sons was brought to Colchester and lived out his life as a bricklayer; while you yourself say in the book that you´re not sure if it´s fact or fiction – do you personally think that is what might have happened?
I’ve continued my research into this subject in the years since The Lost Prince was published, and have discovered other pieces of corroborative evidence. But it is unlikely that we will ever find definitive proof of what would have been a closely guarded secret even then.
What person would you really like to write about that you haven´t already, and why?
I’ve considered and abandoned a number of projects when it became apparent that not enough was known about them. Francis, Viscount Lovell, Richard III’s friend and chamberlain, has always been a particular interest of mine, but details of his life are thin on the ground.
Last but not least; your latest book ‘Henry VIII’s Last Love’ is about Katherine Willoughby. Would you like to say something about it?
Katherine is a fascinating character, but one who has been little noticed until now. At the age of 14 she was married to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, Henry VIII’s closest friend, and after Brandon died in 1545 it was rumoured that Henry meant to wed her himself.
A committed Protestant, she spent four years ‘on the run’ in Europe during Queen Mary’s reign, and after returning to England had an uneasy relationship with Queen Elizabeth whose attitude towards religion was more tolerant than her own. At one point she feared that Elizabeth was about to have her executed, but she survived to die in her bed. Her many letters to William Cecil reveal a feisty character, outspoken and opinionated, often complaining, sometimes having to apologise for her intemperate words or for being slow to answer, and imbued by the single-minded conviction that her version of religion was the only one acceptable to God.
Books and other productions:
King Richard´s Grave in Leicester – Transactions of the Leicester Archaeological and Historical Society: 1986
Elizabeth Woodville, The History Press: 2004
The Kingmaker´s Sisters: Six Powerful Women in the Wars of the Roses, The History Press: 2006
Stoke Field: The Last Battle of the Wars of the Roses, Pen and Sword Books: 2006
The Lost Prince: The Survival of Richard of York, The History Press: 2007
Robin Hood: The English Outlaw Unmasked, Amberly Publishing: 2010
Richard III, Amberly Publishing: 2012
The Women of the Cousin´s War – with Philippa Gregory and Michael Jones, Simon & Schuster: 2012
The White Queen – What happened to the Princes in the Tower, BBC History, 9 August 2013
Richard III. The Leicester Connection. Pitkin 2013/2015
Henry VIII’s Last Love. The Extraordinary Life of Katherine Willoughby. Amberly Publishing: 2015