The death of a king

After the death of his son an heir Arthur, and then his wife Elizabeth of York and their new-born daughter Katherine, itKing_Henry_VII can be said that the personality of Henry VII changed somewhat. He was never the charming and larger than life persona his son Henry came to be, his earlier reign was characterized by caution and a strong economic sense. But even so, he had been described as amiable and friendly even if dignified in manner. He was also described as highly intelligent. But after the loss of two children and a beloved wife, his personality was now characterized by avarice and outright suspicion. Shortly after the death of his wife, Henry himself got very sick and came close to death, only allowing his mother Margaret Beaufort to attend to him.

Arthur_Prince_of_Wales_c_1500When Arthur was gone, Henry arranged a papal dispensation for the marriage between his younger son Henry and Catherine of Aragon as they through the initial marriage had become to close in affinity, being viewed by church as brother and sister. The years leading up to the wedding to Henry was no picnic for Catherine, with Henry VII treating her rather harshly, but that´s a story for another post.
Henry VII himself made vague plans to marry Joan, recently widow Queen of Naples, and he sent ambassadors to her to find out about her physical attractiveness. With them, they had a list describing what kind of physical features Henry expected in a future wife, and it´s hard not be touched by the fact that they basically was a description of Elizabeth of York, something that to me effectively put to shame all current day suggestions that there was no love between Henry VII and his Queen.

At the end of February, Henry VII travelled to Richmond, maybe to prepare for his own death. He had been sick in tuberculosis for quite some time, and once at the palace, he stopped receiving the foreign ambassadors arriving, who instead had to curtsey to an empty throne of estate and thereafter be received by the young prince and heir to the throne, Henry. By late march, it was obvious that Henry the King was dying.
By the evening on 20th of April, Henry had begun fading, but according to his mother´s confessor, John Fisher he struggled to hang on, “abiding the assaults of death” for up to 27 hours. When the first Tudor king finally passed away, it is said to have been with what at the time was considered an exemplary death with his eyes firmly fixed upon the crucifix held up in front of him.

When he died, Henry left behind him a solvent and reasonable united England. His death was kept secret for two days, and on the 24th of April, a new king was proclaimed
He was buried at Westminster Abbey, beside his Queen Elizabeth of York, in the chapel he had commissioned for the purpose.

HenryVIIdeathbed

Source: The Winter King, The Dawn of Tudor England – Thomas Penn
Henry VII – Stanley B Chrimes

Arthur Plantagenet, Viscount Lisle – writer of letters

If one for some reason watched the television series The Tudors, there is a risk that one believe Henry VIII had an uncleArmsOfArthurPlantagenet_ViscountLisle who was murdered in Urbino during some mission there. He didn´t
He did however have a maternal uncle, Arthur Plantagenet, who was the illegitimate son of Edward IV and to whom, in spite of their relatively large age difference, came to be close. This is the brief story of Arthur, who really deserve more than I am able to provide here.

It isn´t absolutely certain who the mother of Arthur was, the most often recurring suggestion is “the wanton wench” Elizabeth Wayte, and while the historian David Baldwin states that Arthur was called Wayte in his earliest years, it has also been suggested that she may be identical to one of Edward´s mistresses, Dame Elizabeth Lucy who was the mother of several others of Edward´s illegitimate children, or if she´s an entirely different woman. Another candidate that has been suggested as the mother of Arthur Plantagenet is Elizabeth Shore, while one of many who shared the King´s bed, maybe the most famous of them.

In any event, Arthur was born in Calais, still in English possession, sometime between 1461 and 1475 and spent his childhood at the court of his father, but it is not known who he spent the years directly after the death of his father.
His half-sister, Elizabeth of York, however, brought him to her household after her marriage to Henry VII and when she died in 1502 he moved to the household of Henry VII where he stayed until the old king died and was replaced by his son, Henry VIII. By all accounts, he was held in high esteem by his nephew, the new King, who called him “the gentlest heart living” and made him an Esquire of the King´s Bodyguard. In 1511 Arthur married Elizabeth Grey, widow after Edmund Dudley, and thereby paternal grandmother of Robert Dudley. In 1514 Arthur Plantagenet was appointed High Sheriff of Hampshire and from there went on to become captain of the Vice-Admiral´s ship Trinity Sovereign and rising to the position as Vice-Admiral of England in 1525.

British_-_Field_of_the_Cloth_of_Gold_-_Google_Art_ProjectBefore then he had attended Henry VIII at the Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520, been created 1st Viscount Lisle in 1523, selected to the Privy Council and made Governor of Calais and Warden of Cinque Ports.
It is during his time in Calais that Arthur Plantagenet – and his second wife Honor – maybe unwittingly make his imprint on history. It didn´t happen through some heroic act, and probably wasn´t paid much heed to then, other than Cromwell to some extent criticized him for it: he wrote a copious amounts of letters. The criticism directed at him was that Cromwell felt he paid too much attention to trivial things that had no importance to the machinations of politics. But without those letters, today known as “The Lisle Letters”, chances are much less would have been known about the time in which Arthur Plantagenet lived and worked.
The correspondence was between Lord and Lady Lisle and their family, court acquaintances, servants, their retainers and Lord Lisle´s agent in London, John Husee.

Of these letters, the amazing number of 3 000 survives today, the largest collection of letters from the period belongingGeorgeRolle_LetterToLadyLisle_28Feb1539 to the same person, and has been of an enormous importance for historians and others interested to gain an insight to the period. The main reason for them surviving is a sad one.
In 1540, several members of the Plantagenet household was arrested for treason on the charges of plotting to surrender the town on Calais to the French. The actual plotters were all executed, but no evidence could be found against Arthur Plantagenet himself, even though his extensive correspondence had been seized and read by the crown. Even so, he was kept in the Tower for two years, and no longer being a young man, it no doubt took its toll on him. I recently read that Arthur eventually was allowed to move around the Tower walls. Looking out over the Thames, he saw his nephew and old friend, Henry VIII, travelling in the Royal Barge. Arthur raised his hands, waved and shouted.

The next day he had a visit to his cell from Henry´s secretary with the news that he was going to be free and be returned to his offices. This was however too much for the old man to handle and he had a heart attack.
Two days later, on March 3rd 1542, Arthur Plantagenet died.

His vast correspondence is now kept at The National Archives at Kew, and can be looked at by the public. The letters range from January 1st 1533 to December 31st 1540.

Sources: The Lost Prince, The survival of Richard of York – David Baldwin

The Lisle Letters, an abridged version – Muriel St. Clare Byrne

Letter to Honor Plantagenet, Lady Lisle, from George Rolle, Devon – The Lisle Letters, 6 vols, Muriel St. Clare Byrne

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

 

 

 

 

 

The Lost Prince – the survival of Richard of York

I´m sure it happens to all reading people on rare occasions (or for the really lucky ones, more often) that we become Richard_of_Shrewsbury,_1__Duke_of_Yorktruly mesmerized by what we´re reading. It has happened to me now, and what has gotten me in this stage is this truly excellent book by historian David Baldwin (yes, the same David Baldwin I hardly mentioned at all in my last book review because I was slightly fed up with Elizabeth Woodville.

This book review is in perfect line with my earlier post  ”The Princes in the Tower – how it started”. As the title suggest, it revolves around the possible survival of the youngest of the princes, and I have to be really careful here to make sure I tell you enough to make you want to read it, and not so much you don´t feel there is any reason left for you to read it yourself.

I have to admit that I previously haven´t given much thought to the possibility that one or even both of the boys could have survived, more than a passing notion that maybe for example Perkin Warbeck was who he said he was. In all honesty, I didn´t even know that there existed such a variety of theories of which maybe I just know of a fragment now.

David Baldwin starts off by recounting a number of them, of which I find the one which may be the least credible the most “endearing”, that Richard lived out his life under the nose of the authorities as the son in-law of Thomas More. But for reasons better explained in the book than by me, this is highly improbable, and it isn´t the theory that David Baldwin choses to pursue. Instead it is the well-established rumour that the youngest son of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville lived to an old age as a bricklayer.

This I dare say, because this much you will learn just by googling the book.

What is fascinating is how – even though he starts out by stating that he himself is not sure whether it´s a book of fiction or non-fiction he has written – David Baldwin managed to tie together the different clues; “If that happened, then this most have been the case afterwards”

I can only imagine the satisfaction and the butterflies in the stomach he must have felt when he manages to prove his different assumptions and thesis.

Like I said at the beginning, I won´t reveal so much that I ruin anyone’s reading of this book, but I don´t any longer believe that two princes died in the Tower in the late summer of 1483. Edward may have died, young people did in those days when things that are curable or no longer existing harvested lives, but Richard survived to an impressive age. I do believe that.

The Lost Prince

Elizabeth of York

I have written about her quite recently, in relation to the anniversary of her wedding to Henry VII, but she is well worth mentioning again. Not least because it was today she was born, 11/2, 1466 as the oldest child of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville.

It was also today she died, the 11/2 1503, as the wife and queen of the first Tudor-regent, as the mother of the future Henry VIII and grandmother of Elizabeth I.

Contrary to what is sometimes said, that she loved her uncle Richard III and continued to do so for the rest of her life, there are credible sources stating that she and Henry VII had a happy marriage.

May she rest in peace.

IMG_1624-0

Wedding day – 529 years later

If we didn´t care about such things as time – which many of us history nerds don´t – then it would be time to celebrate a wedding anniversary today. The 529th

Today it´s 529 years since Henry Tudor – only 5 months earlier the victor at the battle of Bosworth Field and now king Henry VII married Elizabeth of York; the daughter of one king and the niece of another was now to become the wife and queen of a third king.

Elizabeth was to a very large extent the premise for Henry´s claim to the throne, and in any event she strengthened it as a princess of the House of York.

Henry´s own royal blood didn´t come from the fact that his paternal grandmother once had been a queen or in her own right had been a French princess, but from his mother Margaret Beaufort lineage from Edward III through his son John of Gaunt and his third marriage to his mistress Kathryn Swynford. Their children had been born out of wedlock, but were all declared legitimate after the marriage, and Henry was a descendant through their son John Beaufort. All though their children had not been excluded from inheriting the throne from the beginning, they were barred from doing so in 1406 by their half-brother who had been crowned Henry IV in 1399.

By the time Henry Tudor took the throne by conquest, all male descendants from John of Gaunt by his two previous wives were gone, which set the exclusion of the Beaufort line aside.

And here he was, Henry Tudor, anointed king and with a real princess as a consort. So how did the marriage turn out. It is often claimed that Henry VII was a cold and tight fisted person but there is in reality no evidence that supports that their marriage was unhappy. On the contrary, there are stories of how they together mourned the children they lost, and how Henry grieved when Elizabeth passed away.

Henry had however spent a substantial part of his life in exile, far away from the riches and the overflowing dinner tables his devoted mother no doubt thought was his right as she struggles to have his title as the Earl of Richmond restored to him (there is no actual evidence that she fought to have him declared king in the way that has been portrayed in certain novels). Point is that Henry spent a large part of his life in relative poverty, and no doubt that experience left its mark on him.

There would be seven children; Arthur, Margaret, Henry, Elizabeth, Mary, Edmund and Katherine.

Only three of them would reach what we today would consider adult age; at the time Arthur was considered an adult, if even a young adult.

Arthur died, not fully 15 years old, in Ludlow Castle, leaving the young widow Katherine of Aragon behind.

Margaret became queen of Scotland and paternal grandmother of Mary Queen of Scots.

 Henry, well, he became Henry VIII.

Elizabeth only reached the age of three.

 Mary became queen of France, widowed at a young age and returned to England where she married the man who had been sent to bring her home, Henry VIII`s best friend Charles Brandon, an act for which they were forced to pay a fine. Together they became maternal grandparents of lady Jane Grey, the nine days’ queen.

 Edmund, got to be only one. Eye witnesses told the story of how his death made his parents break down from grief.

Katherine only got eight days to make her mark on history, a mark which mostly depend on the fact that she brought her with her. Elizabeth died the day after her infant daugther, on 11 February 1503, on her 37th birthday.

Henry VII never remarried, even though it´s said that he for a while considered Katherine of Aragon for himself.

Sources

The Oxford history of Britain – Kenneth O. Morgan

 Winter King – Henry VII and The Dawn of Tudor England – Thomas Penn

 Britain’s Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy – Alison Weir

Elizabeth_and_Henry

Battle of Wakefield

Unfortunately time has passed a little to fast for me to be able  write today

wakefield map

But yesterday, December 30, it was 554 years since the battle at Sandal Magna outside Wakefield in West Yorkshire. The battle was of course part of what has come to be known as the Wars of the Roses, and resulted in a devastating defeat for the Yorkist’s

The situation must be said to have been desperate from the very beginning, as the number of Yorkist forces varies between” a few hundred” and 9 000, and most likely the latter number is over-estimated. The Lancaster army consisted of around 18 000 men.

Richard of York

York, Richard Plantagenet, who 7 years earlier, in 1453, had been appointed Protector of England during the mental breakdown of Henry VI, had through his descent from Edward III on both his parents side a claim to the throne in the event Henry should die without an heir

After the battle York reaffirmed his loyalty to the king, but the peace was shaky, and in 1559 hostilities once again broke out, resulting in what was called the battle of Ludford in which York´s army practically fell apart, not least after his commander Andrew Trollope defected. This made York and his supporters the Earl of Salisbury and the latter’s son the Earl of Warwick (later known as Warwick the Kingmaker) abandon their men and fell abroad, York to Ireland and Salisbury, Warwick and York´s son Edward, Earl of March (future Edward IV) fled to Calais where Warwick was Constable.

When they all returned a year later, Richard of York after the rest, they soon took charge of London and the south of England, as well as took Henry as a captive at the Battle of Northampton July 10th. York tried to claim the throne, but this was not well received among the other nobles. Instead he managed to persuade the captive Henry VI to disinherit his own son and make York himself his heir.

With her husband a captive, Henry´s wife Margaret of Anjou was on the run with her 7-year old son, angered not least by the prospect of her son´s future crown ending up on the head of York or one of his sons. It was her forces the Yorkist troops would be meeting at the battle of Wakefield.

.On December 21 York reached Sandal Castle near Wakefield. He sent scouts to SandalCastleWallLancaster´s camp at Pontefract 14 kilometres to the east, but those were sent away. He also sent for assistance from his son Edward (the future Edward IV) who was on the border regions to Wales, but before any additional soldiers could arrive, York left his castle on December 30.

 

There are several theories as to why he made the decision to do so, one of which is that he only saw parts of Lancaster´s army closing up on the castle while the majority of them was hiding. Yet another theory is that a small group Lancastrians made their way to the castle under a false banner, making York think that it was the reinforcements that arrived. A third theory is that both armies had come to an agreement on which day the battle would take place; January 6, but that the Lancaster army broke the agreement.

Regardless of what the explanation was, York´s army didn´t stand a chance. Richard of York died in the battle while his son Edmund, Earl of Rutland, supposedly tried to flee over the Wakefield bridge where he was apprehended and murdered.

Wakefield_Bridge_and_the_Chantry_Chapel_-_geograph_org_uk_-_281864

Totally Lancaster´s army allegedly lost 200 men, while the death toll on the Yorkist side is believed to have been around 2 500 men.

The heads of York, Rutland and their ally, the Earl of Salisbury was placed over Micklebar Gate, the west entrance to the city of York, and their bodies buried at Pontefract. 16 years later, when Edward IV had ascended to the throne, York and Rutland were reburied in the family castle of Fotheringhay.

Sources:

The Wars of the Roses – Michael Hicks

From Wakefield to Towton – Philip Haigh