Birthday of Richard III

On this day in 1452 Richard III was born at Fotheringhay Castle in Richard_III_earliest_surviving_portraitNorthamptonshire.

It is safe to say that no other medieval king has stirred such emotions over the centuries as Richard, first known as the black king who killed his nephews and over the last few years, the tide has turned drastically in Richard´s favour.

The truth of who the man was can most likely be found somewhere between the “black” Richard and the “white” Richard. The fact is, however, that he all through his brother´s, Edward IV, reign was a trusted and loyal Lord of the North and known as an excellent soldier.

The events about which opinions will most likely differ forever took place after Edward´s death:  the arrests of the lords Rivers and Grey at Stoney Stratford and their subsequent executions, the confinement of young king Edward V and his brother Richard at the Tower, the alleged pre-contract and the following Titulus Regius which made all children of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville illegitimate, the very dubious execution of lord Hastings and finally the disappearance of the princes from the Tower.

These are the things we know happened, even if we may never fully find out the answers to why and how. What kind of king Richard would have made in the long run is almost impossible to say as he only held the throne for two years before being killed at the Battle of Bosworth where he met Henry Tudor, the future Henry VII in 1485.

As we all know, the remains of Richard was found under a carpark in Leicester in September 2012, on the site where the Grey Friars church once stood. He was put to his final rest in Leicester Cathedral earlier this year.

Today we wish him a happy birthday!

William Hastings

William Hastings was undoubtedly the closest and most loyal friend, councillor and advisor of Edward IV, whose LordWilliam_Hastings,_1st_Baron_Hastings Chamberlain he also was. He fought beside Edward in the battles that constituted the Wars of the Roses and also married the sister of Warwick the Kingmaker. Even so, when Warwick forced Edward to leave the country and go into exile in the Low Countries, Hastings followed him

When the king died in April 1483 he agreed to protect the young king, Edward V. He was not, however, a friend of the queen and her Woodville kinsmen, most particularly her son Thomas Grey, with whom he had had a couple of lengthy feuds.

After the death of Edward it seems that Hastings was worried about the actions of the queen who is said to have tried to consolidate the power of her family and appointing members of the same for key positions around the young king, who after all was her son, as well as pushing for the coronation of young Edward.

Coat_of_Arms_of_Sir_William_Hastings,_1st_Baron_Hastings,_KGIt seems that Hastings wrote to Richard who at this point was in Yorkshire and asked him to come to London at the earliest possible moment. This was the prelude to the events at Stony Stratford which saw Anthony Woodville and Richard Grey arrested while young Edward was brought to the Tower to never emerge from there again.

Hastings supported Richard´s installation as Lord Protector, but by all accounts he did not support that actions taken to bar the young king from the throne. There has been much speculations over the centuries what it was that led up to the events on June 13, 1483. It has been suggested that Hastings had been part of a plot where his mistress Jane Shore, formally the mistress of Edward IV had acted as go-between between Hastings and Elizabeth Woodville at her sanctuary at Westminster Abbey.

Other theories and speculations relate for example to the possibility that Hastings had known that Edward had been married to Eleanor Butler which was the foundation of Richard´s proclamation of all his nieces and nephews as illegitimate, and that Hastings was arrested and executed for not having come forward with what he knew.

A probably more plausible theory is that Hastings instead knew that no pre-contract or marriage to Eleanor had ever existed and that the proclamation of the young king as illegitimate was absolutely unlawful.

In any event, during a council meeting that took place on this day, events changed very rapidly. After leaving the meeting for a short while, Richard returned in a fury, ordering the arrest of several council members such as the archbishop of York and the bishop of Ely among others. But there was only one man who was dragged out of the council meeting which was held at the Tower, and exected on Tower Green, and that was William Hastings..





Richard III: a study of service – Rosemary Horrox

Murder in the Tower – Peter A Hancock

Coat of Arms – Rs-nourse


The Battle of Tewkesbury

MS_Ghent_-_Battle_of_TewkesburyAfter having been defeated at the Battle of Barnet with the death of Warwick the Kingmaker as a result, the forces of Margaret of Anjou faced the army of Edward IV for the last time on May 4th 1471

She had landed at Weymouth on the very same day as the battle of Barnet and was trying to make her way to Wales by crossing the River Severn. The nearest crossing was at the city of Gloucester, but after receiving a message from Edward IV, the Governor Sir Richard Beauchamp refused to open the city gates to her and her forces. This made them embark on a continued march for another 16 kilometres and they eventually made camp outside Tewkesbury where the Yorkist army finally caught up with them.

As the day broke, Margaret of Anjou sought shelter at a religious house. The Lancastrian armyTewkesbury_abbey numbered 6 000 soldiers and the Yorkist 5 000. Edward IV:s vanguard was led by his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester. As it became obvious that the Lancastrians wasn´t able to put up the resistance required, both soldiers and commanders began to flee, many being cut down from behind as they ran, while knights and nobles sought sanctuary at Tewkesbury Abbey.

The_Prince_of_Wales_Brought_Before_Edward_IV_After_The_Battle_of_Tewkesbury_(1811)It was a decisive victory which effectively eradicated any hope the Lancastrians had held of recovering the throne for Henry VI and not least for the Prince of Wales; Edward of Westminster, not least because when the battle was over, the latter was dead.
It is not absolutely clear at which point during the battle the Prince of Wales was killed, some sources claim he was killed in the battle itself, others that he tried to run and was killed during the flight, others still that he was caught and brought to Edward IV, only to be executed.

After the battle, Edward decided to breakBeheading_duke_somerset sanctuary, dragging the hiding men out and executing the commanders, one of which was Edmund Beaufort, and with him the House of Beaufort was basically exterminated, with the exception of Margaret Beaufort and her son Henry. Jasper Tudor, Henry´s uncle and guardian had been present at Tewkesbury but fled to Wales, bringing young Henry with him.

A few days after the battle, Margaret of Anjou surrendered to Edward IV, most likely distraught by the death of her son and in effect, the death of the House of Lancaster. She was brought to London as a prisoner of war and imprisoned in the Tower where her husband Henry VI was already held. The same night Henry VI died in the Tower, most likely murdered either on the orders of Edward himself or his brother Richard of Gloucester.


Sources: Bosworth Field & the Wars of the Roses – A.L. Rowse
The Wars of the Roses – Alison Weir
The Road to Bosworth Field – Trevor Royle
Images: Tewkesbury Abbey Interior – David Merrett
The murder of Edward of Westminster – James William Edmund Doyle, 1822-2892
(Engraver: Edmund Evans, 1826-1905)

Events at Stony Stratford


GOLDSMITH(1800)_p2_084_EDWARD_VIt was today, 532 years ago. What, you may wonder. It was on this day that Richard, Duke of Gloucester took control of his 12 year old nephew, the new king Edward V.

After finding out about his death April 14th, Edward, who had his household in Ludlow, under the charge of his maternal uncle, Anthony Woodville, Earl of Rivers, assembled the King´s escort on April 23rd and the following days started the journey towards London.

Apart from the King himself, Rivers, the King´s tutor, Bishop Alcock, his servant Vaughan and Sir RichardRichard_III_earliest_surviving_portrait Haute, there was 2 000 men travelling along Watling Street, the old Roman (originally Briton) road which stretches from the borders between Wales and England down towards Canterbury and Dover. By then the King´s older half-brother, Richard Grey, had arrived from London, bearing the urgent request from their Mutual mother, the former Queen Elizabeth Woodville – now in sanctuary in Westminster Abbey – to press on towards London.

After the arrival of Grey, he and Rivers rode on to the neighbouring village of Stony Stratford which is located fourteen miles further south. According to legend, Rivers commandeered the inn the Rose and Crown for his young master, and house that still stand and most likely would have stories to tell, could it speak. Having the King settled for the night, The Rose and CrownRivers returned to Northampton while Grey stayed with the King. By now the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Buckingham was waiting in Northampton, most likely angered by the fact that the King was gone, but keeping up appearances. There, on April 29th, they spent what has been passed down through history as a pleasant dinner and evening together.

What did they talk about? Someone once said in relation to history that reading it, studying it and researching it is like watching people through a thick pane of glass. You can see them talking, but you will rarely ever know, or find out, what they were actually saying. Much of the sources existing suggests that there already existed a conflict between Richard and Anthony Woodville, the former having been named Lord Protector during the King´s minority, and Anthony Woodville, having been able to form the King´s mind and affection since Edward set up his own household.

But at the same time, Richard of Gloucester and Anthony Woodville had a history together. Not least had they been exiled together during the rebellions of Warwick and George of Clarence. I would say that being privy to the conversations, and the thoughts of the men present would be a dream to many. Because it would soon start, the initial phase of what would lead to one of the great mysteries in English history – the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower – and the ground stone of the reputation of Richard III, this evening still Richard, Duke of Gloucester, would be laid.

Regardless of what was said in the evening, the next morning, April 30th, all joviality that may have existed the previous night was gone. According to Thomas More, who obviously wasn´t present and who had been born only five years before the actual events (but no doubt had access to credible sources when writing his chronicle), Gloucester, Buckingham and a ducal councillor from the north where Gloucester had his power base, Richard Ratcliff, had been up late the previous evening, long after Rivers had retired to bed, discussing more of what is now unknown to us.

The chronicler Polydore Vergil states that it was “commonly believed” that Richard´s plans to usurp the throne wasPontefract_Castle,_2010_(1) already well on the way by now, and that it had already taken form when the news of his brother´s death. This is also stated by both More and the Croyland chronicle.
When Anthony Rivers woke up, it was to find himself under arrest. The two Dukes had pressed on to Stony Stratford, where they fell on their knees for their King. The vail would soon fall, however, as also Richard Grey was arrested, and the King´s retinue was dismissed. And there he was, a 12 year old boy, deprived of those he knew well, in the hands of an uncle he hardly knew at all, as Richard had spent most of his time in the north.

The young King wouldn´t see his uncle or half-brother again. Both Rivers and Grey would be brought to the north for imprisonment and would during the following months have their lands redistributed to other nobles, more to Richard´s liking. They were both beheaded at Pontefract Castle on June 25th that same year, whether they received a trial is often debated.
Young King Edward V was brought to London to be crowned King, something that was never to happen. Like other Kings, he was taken to the Tower to await his coronation, but unlike them all, he was never to emerge from there again.



The Princes in the Tower – Alison Weir

The Croyland Chronicles

The History of King Richard III – Sir Thomas More


Pontefract Castle – Tim Green


The death of Edward IV, an observation or two

Today is the day which must be said to have been the starting point of a number of odd and inexplicable events. It was the start408px-Edward4 of a process that would lead to the arrest, sketchy trial and subsequent execution of Richard Grey and Anthony Woodville, the summary execution of Lord Hastings, the pronouncing of a number of children, among those the heir to the English crown, as illegitimate and not least, the disappearance of the princes in the Tower.

So, what was it that happened today that initiated this chain of events? Edward IV died.

After taking what is said to have been a fishing trip on the Thames, during Easter 1483 and was bedridden for a number of days, during which he added some codicils to his will, one of which named Richard, who at the time was in Yorkshire, as the Lord Protector during his son Edward´s minority.

Now, maybe more than ever, speculations are rife as to what would have happened if Richard had followed the wishes of his brother and seen to that his eldest nephew had been crowned. How would history have played out if there had actually been a king called Edward V who in his youth had been counselled by his two uncles, Richard, the Duke of Gloucester and Anthony Woodville, the Earl of Rivers. No amount of digging, DNA or search for lineage (referring to the search and research around the discovery of Richard´s remains) will of course tell us that. But it´s clear that it didn´t play out as King Edward IV had planned as he drew his last breath.


The Battle of Towton

Richard_Caton_Woodville's_The_Battle_of_Towton554 years ago, in 1461, Palm Sunday was on the 29th of March. Just like this year. Just like today.

And today, 554 years ago, Lancastrians and Yorkists met at the battlefield of Towton in Yorkshire. This is said to have been the bloodiest battle in English history and when the arrows stopped falling from the sky, the swords, axes and hill bards stopped crossing each other, approximately 28 000 men lay dead in the snow.

When the forces arrived at the battlefield to be, it was by no means a given that the Yorkist would win, fact is that it seemed likely that the outcome would be quite the opposite, as the Yorkist forces was heavily outnumbered by the Lancastrians, a fact underlined by the late arrival of John de Mobraw, 3rd Duke of Norfolk and his forces on the “scene”.

It was the sixth year of the Wars of the Roses, and in command of the Yorkist forces was Edward, Duke of York who had been proclaimed king in the beginning of March but not yet crowned, together with the Earl of Warwick, the future Kingmaker. Someone who wasn´t participating in this battle, however, was the recently reinterred Richard, who at this time hadn´t yet turned 9.

Francois_Gravelot's_Henry_VI_Act_2_Scene_5_(crop_2)Chronicler at the time claimed that both forces where huge, but recent historians has claimed that a total of 50 000, the majority Lancastrians, is more believable. The battle took place on a plateau between the two villages of Saxton and Towton, in a landscape that was, and still is, agricultural with open areas and small roads where the armies could be manoeuvred. Around the plateau flowed the stream Cock Beck from north to west, and the ground was also divided by the Towton Dale, running from west to the east and into the North Acres. At a bend of the beck, on the west side of the plateau, Castle Hill Wood grew, and it was the area north-east of this forest that after the battle was to become known under the name Bloody Meadow after the battle and the people who lost their lives there.

When the Lancastrians had deployed their forces and the Yorkists had just arrived at the plateau, snow began to fall, and this was one important reason to why the outnumbered Yorkists still won the battle. The Yorkists also had the advantage of being on the ridge, firing their arrows downhill against their enemies. The Yorkist commander, Lord Fauconberg, uncle of Warwick, also used the winds to the advantage of his men.

The falling snow blinded the Lancastrians to the falling arrows, while they themselves soon had fired all theBloodyMeadow arrows they had, against the wind and against the falling snow. The Yorkists on their part, collected the Lancastrian arrows shot in vain and returned them with deadly accuracy.  The Lancastrians moved forward up towards the ridge to engage the Yorkists in close combat. As a result of an attack on their left flank by horsemen from Castle Hill Wood, the Yorkist left wing became disorganised and men started to flee, but Edward soon took command over the situation and made the men instead stand their ground. The following clash between the armies and the Lancastrians superior number however forced the Yorkists to retreat up the southern ridge. If there was any way to speculate of an outcome, it might have been that the victory was about to go to the Lancastrian forces, but when the fighting had been going on for three hours according to research done by English Heritage, Norfolk´s forces finally arrived.

Norfolks contingent was out of sight for the Lancastrians as they moved up the Old London Road, and was thereby given the chance to attack the Lancastrian left flank. They continued to fight, but the Lancastrian line was eventually broken up and the men began to flee. According to the Tudor chronicler Polydore Vergil, the battle lasted for 10 hours.

The fleeing Lancastrians were cut down from behind, and it was then the name Bloody Meadow was born. Henry VI, Margaret of Anjou and their son who had been waiting if York during the battle sought refuge in Scotland, and England who at the beginning of the battle had had two kings now had only one.

DacreCrossTowtonIn 1483, more than 20 years after the battle, Richard III started to build a chapel for the fallen at Towton, but it was never finished before he himself was killed at Bosworth in 1485. Today a cross stands at the site, believed to be from the chapel which no longer exist. The cross is called the Dacre cross, after the Yorkist Lord Dacre who lost his life during the battle.

In 1996 a mass grave was found in York, believed to contain bodies from the battle.










Hauntin video from Towton Battlefield Society


Sources: Edward IV – Charles Ross

Henry VI – Bertram Wolffe

The Crowning Victory at Towton – Clements Markham

English Heritage






Finally to rest

Crown of Richard III

Domine Jesu Christe, liberare dignetur ,

servus regis Ricardi de omni angustia ,

in quo positus sum …

Tribulationem et exaudi me,

in nomine tuo ,

pro eo quod gratias ago ,

et omnia dona concessit ei mihi,

quod nihil ex me tibi amorem et misericordiam ,

dignetur de redemisti aeterna damnatio aeterna pollicebantur .

Coffin, white rosesSo, today is the day. After being lost and without a proper grave at least since the dissolution of the Grey Friars friary, Richard III, the last Plantagenet king, will finally be put to rest.

During the week so far, thousands upon thousands of visitors has queued to pay their respect. Ceremonies has been held and prayers have been said. Every day during the past days people have been able to pay their respect to the former king, and while I haven´t been fortunate to be n Leicester myself during this week, friends I´ve never met has been kind enough to lend me their images, as well as Leicester Cathedral.

The day will start with a procession at 10.30 from the Guild Hall in Leicester and an hour later it´s time to finally letPlanta Genista and white roses - tree of life Richard rest at Leicester Cathedral.

The prayer at the top of the page is taken from Richard´s book of prayers. Maybe it won´t be said today, but in any event it may be fitting. English translation at the bottom.

May you rest in peace

Lord Jesus Christ, deign to free my, your servant King Richard, from every tribulation, sorrow and trouble in which I am placed…hear me, in the name of all your goodness, for which I give thanks, and for all the gifts granted to me, because you made me from nothing and redeemed me out of your bounteous love and pity from eternal damnation to promising eternal life.




A final journey to Bosworth Field








Knights and rose - cathedral


Crown of Richard III – Photo Will Johnston, copyright Leicester Cathedral

 Crown of spear – Photo and copyright: Susan Vernon Photography

 Coffin and white roses – Photo Mike Sewell, copyright Leicester Cathedral

 Planta Genista and white roses – Photo and copyright: Rosalind Broomhall

Crown on spear – Photo and copyright: Susan Vernon Phopgraphy

 Coffin in Cathedral – Photo Will Johnston, copyright Leicester Cathedral

First Light Vigil

Leicester Cathedral, or rather the staff there of course, was kind enough to give me access to photos taken during the past few days.

This photo didn´t quite fit what I wanted to do with my post for tomorrow, but it´s so incredibly beuatiful so it gets a post of its own.

First Light Vigil at Fenn Farm, King Richard III cortege procession

Photographer Alistair Langham/Studio 17

King Richard III cortege

Richard III:s final journey


Today starts a week that will in sorts be the conclusion of something that in theory in 1986 when the Leicester University lector David facialreconstructionBaldwin (I recently wrote here on the blog about his excellent book “The survival of Richard of York”, see literature folder) suggested in a paper that Richard III most likely still was to be found within the area of Grey Friars where he had been buried without much ceremony after being displayed naked for a number of days, most likely within the precincts of the Lancasterian Collegiate foundation of the Annunciation of Our Lady, to make it clear to every Yorkist sympathizer that the king was dead and Henry Tudor was now on the throne.

The Tudor chronicler Polydore Vergil was there and would later write that the former king was buried after two days without any pomp, “in thabbay of monks Fransiscanes at Leycester” which was confirmed by john Rous.

Henry eventually made sure that Richard´s body were enclosed in by a suitable tomb, and it seems a monument made from marble was also erected in the 1490´s.

All this was most likely destroyed in 1538 during the suppression of the friary in 1538. According to legend, the remains of Richard´s body should then have been carried through the streets of Leicester and eventually thrown in the river from Bow Bridge. David Baldwin however refers to the fact that a number of skeletons were unearthed in an excavation at the St Martin´s end of the site when New Street was laid in the 1740´s.

He concludes his paper by stating that “It is possible (though now perhaps unlikely) that at some time in the twenty-first century an excavator may yet reveal the slight remains of this famous monarch…..”

And then it happened. In March 2011 Philippa Langley of Richard III Society contacted the University of Leicester and its Archaeological Services for a possible excavation of the earlier mentioned Grey Friars site. Founding was raised and in a slightly compressed story one can say that the rest is history.

121210110__380434bA skeleton was found during the dig in the Grey Friars area in august of 2012, hands bound and with a curved spine. In February 2013 it was established, not least by the DNA of a descendant of Richard´s sister Anne – Joyce Ibsen – that the lost king had finally been found.

Today his coffin will leave the University of Leicester at 11.40 local time, after 50 minutes earlier for the first time have been presented to the public and taken of a journey past the places Richard would have passed before the battle and stopping at Fenn Lane Farm, the closest one will be able to stop to the place with Richard died.

At St. Nicholas Church the coffin will be transferred to a horse drawn carriage after a short service and finally arrive at Leicester Cathedral at 17.45 after a 30 minute procession through the city of Leicester.

During Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday the cathedral will be open to the public at certain hours, program here, and on Thursday at 11.30 am local time Richard III will finally be put to rest.




Sources: King Richard´s Grave in Leicester – David Baldwin

Leicester University

King Richard in Leicester

Leicester Cathedral





Richard III: The New Evidence

As the re-interment of King Richard III is drawing closer, I thought it would be interesting to look on the work that followed the actual discovery of his remains, and I found this documentary.

Speculations of what he would have looked like, how he would have moved and what his abilities on the battlefield would have been have flourished after the discovery that he actually had scoliosis. The possibility of ever finding this out increased with the appearance of Dominic Smee, an actual body double of Richard III. Intersting BBC documentary: