writes the Duke of Milan's ambassador to France on Edward IV's prospects of retaking England.
"It is a difficult matter to go out by the door and then try to enter by the windows. They think he will leave his skin there."
writes the Duke of Milan's ambassador to France on Edward IV's prospects of retaking England.
It was in the second week of March 1471 Richard Neville had received news that ships flying the Yorkist banner had been spotted off the coast of Norfolk, and on this day the 14th of March, Edward, William Hastings and Richard, Duke of Gloucester had arrived at Ravenspur on the east coast of England, the very port Henry IV had landed seventy years before to claim the English throne
To the surprise of many, and disregarding the acknowledged rules of diplomacy King Edward IV had, in the May of 1464, made his own choice of a bride. The king's new wife was one Elizabeth Grey, the daughter of Richard Woodville and Jacquetta of Luxembourg, a family of lowly stock from the County of Northampton.
There was, of course, a little more to the Woodvilles than the fact they were 'social climbers.' Richard Woodville had been in command of an army during the French wars. He had met Jacquetta, the young widow of the Duke of Bedford when he had accompanied her on the voyage home to England from Rouen. In 1433 Woodville married Jacquetta in secret. Their eldest child, the aforementioned Elizabeth, was born four years later.
Jacquetta was a member of Margaret of Anjou's court and Richard Woodville, as a loyal servant to Henry VI was eventually rewarded with a barony in 1448.
Edward, as we all know, fell instantly in lust when he came across Elizabeth. Richard Woodville's daughter was a strong-willed widow with two young sons and eight siblings to boot and Edward, as previously mentioned would undertake this marriage without the knowledge of one man who was so instrumental in bringing him to the throne - Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. This event was a turning point for Richard Neville and the first the nail in the coffin of Richard Woodville.
Richard Neville was angered by the fact that the Woodville men were placed in important administrative roles. Other events such as the king’s refusal to sanction the marriage of his daughter to George, Duke of Clarence and the influence of the Herbert family the Earls of Pembroke in the royal court just rubbed salt into his wounds. Richard Neville was about to jump from the Yorkist ship into Lancastrian waters.
Warwick’s rebellion would see off William Herbert and his brother Richard at Northampton on the 26th July in 1469 and on this day, just seventeen days later Richard Woodville and his son John would be beheaded as traitors.
To Richard Neville, revenge may have been sweet - but in the words of Martin Luther King Jr
"The old law of 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind."
"I present unto you Queen Elizabeth, your undoubted Queen"
On this day the 26th of May 1465 occurred the Coronation of Elizabeth Woodville.
In the image above is an account of the coronation of Elizabeth Woodville as Queen of Edward IV and the following text is taken from David Baldwin's book Elizabeth Woodville: Mother of the Princes in the Tower.
"Elizabeth was conducted with more celebrations to the Tower, where English queens traditionally spent their penultimate night before the coronations. Next morning, Elizabeth, escorted by the newly created knights of Bath was escorted in an open horse litter through the streets to Westminster. She was led into Westminster Hall the following morning by Bishops of Durham and Salisbury, “clothed in mantel of purple and a coronal upon her head” beneath a purple silk canopy carried by four barons of the Cinque Ports. She carried the scepter of St.Edward in her right hand and the scepter of the realm in her right. The dowager duchess of Buckingham bore Elizabeth’s train, following the queen were her mother and two of Edward’s sisters, Elizabeth, Duchess of Suffolk and lady Margaret. Cowering the path from Hall to Abbey was a carpet of ray cloth, upon which the queen walked barefoot, their way being cleared by George, duke of Clarence, Lord High Steward. Having passed into the monastery and through it’s north door, Elizabeth knelt at the high altar, then prostrated herself while the archbishop prayed. Rising, she was anointed and crowned, then led to the throne. After the royal procession left the abbey, the queen was led to her chamber, where she was dressed in purple surcoat and brought into the Hall to dine. Each time the queen took a bite, she herself removed her crown, putting it back when she was finished. To cap off the ceremonies, on 27 May, a tournament was held at Westminster. Lord Stanley won and was awarded a ruby ring from queen’s hands."
Elizabeth is seen here wearing her coronation robes as a member of the London Skinners' Company's Fraternity of Our Lady's Assumption which is dated to around 1472.
For a number of years, depending on who was on the throne at the time, England had been on good terms with either France or Burgundy, using this to his advantage Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick proposed to the council that a peace treaty be signed with Louis XI of France. Also, some members of the council had agreed with Warwick’s suggestion that it was high time Edward IV was married. Louis thought so too, an English alliance with France was far better for him than a Burgundian alliance, eventually, Warwick succumbed to a bit of flattery and bribery and put it to Edward that Bona of Savoy would be a perfect match.
In the September of 1464 Edward IV made a surprise announcement during a discussion of this subject, and to the amazement of many, Edward indicated that the idea of marriages was indeed a good one, he never batted an eyelid at the suggestion of a French bride, even though he himself favoured Burgundy. After a long silence, he finally relayed the fact that he had already made his choice and in fact, he had already married one Elizabeth Grey, a member of the lowly Woodville family of Northamptonshire.
Edward had succumbed to lust and not with a weak, mild-mannered virgin either, but with a strong-willed widow with two young sons, and with eight siblings to boot! Edward had undertaken all this without the knowledge of Richard Neville, the one man who was so instrumental in bringing him to the throne.
For Warwick Edward’s news was shattering, he had already pledged Edward in marriage to the sister of the queen of France. Edward's irresponsible behaviour humiliated Warwick and ruined his plans, his prestige both home and abroad was in tatters, and to say that Warwick was enraged would be an understatement, the dagger of betrayal had cut too deep and it was a wound that would never heal. By 1469 he had turned his coat and had gone over to the Lancastrians, by 1470 he had restored Henry VI to the throne.
Richard Neville was born on the 22nd November in 1428 into a world that shaped him. It was full of powerful characters, in his early life there was his father Ralph Neville and uncle Richard, Duke of York and later there were Charles, the Duke of Burgundy and Louis XI King of France. At some point in his life Warwick had decided to either to outshine or eclipse them all, but in doing so he became overly ambitious, somewhat erratic and most certainly selfish, and yet he was quite remarkable - he was a king maker! Author Micheal Hicks calls him "the very model of medieval nobility" however Paul Kendall calls him a "gigantic failure."
Would I be accused of sitting on the fence if I said he was both? The mind boggles at the thought of what might have been if he had stayed onside in 1469, certainly the Lancastrian cause would have been weaker without him. Richard Neville thought he could rule without a crown, it didn't take him long to come to the conclusion that if he couldn't 'wear' Edward's then he'd wear another. To Richard Neville there was nothing that was beyond his grasp, nothing that could not be overcome yet for someone so brilliant he never considered failure, he never saw himself teetering at the top of a slippery slope that leads to an abyss.
Richard Neville should not bare the total weight of responsibility for the events of 1464 to 1469 Edward's behaviour was reprehensible and unforgivable! Yes, Edward IV was a popular king, he was affable, intelligent, an outstanding military leader, but he was a fool, he was also ruthless, vengeful and totally irresponsible. With one swish of the bed sheets, (two as it turns out) Edward undermined everything his father had worked so hard to achieve, not only shortening the life of his brother but that of the Plantagenet dynasty itself.
To end, the words of Philippe de Commynes apply quite nicely here I think.
Now you see the deaths of so many great men in so little time, men who have worked so hard to grow great and to win glory
and have suffered so much from passions and cares and shortened their lives, and perchance their souls will pay for it.
For a number of years, depending on who was on the throne at the time, England had been on good terms with either France or Burgundy, using this to his advantage Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick proposed to the September council that a peace treaty be signed with Louis XI of France. Also some members of the council had agreed with Warwick’s suggestion that it was high time Edward IV was married. Louis thought so too, an English alliance with France was far better for him than a Burgundian alliance, eventually Warwick succumbed to a bit of flattery and bribery and put it to Edward that Bona of Savoy would be a perfect match.
In the September of 1464, during a discussion of this subject, and to the surprise of many, Edward indicated that the idea of marriages was indeed a good one, he never batted an eyelid at the suggestion of a French bride, even though he himself favoured Burgundy. After a long silence, he finally relayed the fact that he had already made his choice and in fact he had already married one Elizabeth Grey, a member of the lowly Woodville family of Northamptonshire.
Edward, as Paul Murray Kendall quite rightly points out, had succumbed to lust and not with a weak, mild mannered virgin either, but with a strong willed widow with two young sons, and with eight siblings to boot! Edward had undertaken all this without the knowledge of one man who was so instrumental in bringing him to the throne - Richard ‘the Kingmaker’ Neville.
Edward’s news was shattering, Warwick had pledged Edward in marriage to the sister of the queen of France. Edwards irresponsible behaviour humiliated Warwick and ruined his plans, his prestige both home and abroad was in tatters, and to say that Warwick was enraged would be an understatement, the dagger of betrayal had cut too deep and it was a wound that would never heal.
30th August 1483, the death Louis XI of France
Louis believed that the end justified the means, in 1475 he bought off Edward IV for a payment of 75,000 crowns with the promise of 50,000 a year and the marriage of his son to Edward’s daughter - peace with England meant that he could sort out his problems with Burgundy.
His reign saw the beginning of the end of feudalism and he left France in a better position than that of his father. However he had his critics, for modernising the French army with the use of the Swiss idea of a permanent royal infantry and no temporary contracts Machiavelli called him 'shortsighted and imprudent.' Regardless of the fact that he achieved much in his reign, he was overall generally disliked.
Louis is famously known by a number of nick-names, Louis the Prudent for his skills in the world of diplomacy, and for his scheming and plotting he was known as the Universal Spider.
Loving a good conspiracy did him no good in the end though, he died at the end of August 1483, of what you could argue was the over use of his little grey cells - a brain hemorrhage.
The Wakefield Tower is the second largest in the Tower of London, it was built between 1220 and 1240 by King Henry III, within this tower was the monarch's private room.
King Henry VI, was held prisoner in this tower by Edward IV, and was said to have been murdered whilst praying in the oratory of the tower on this night of the 21st May 1471.
Henry VI was born on the 6th of December 1421 and was the founder of Eton College and Kings College Cambridge. Most, if not all, of English colleges celebrate Founders Day and Eton have been celebrating the birth of Henry VI since 1905 when two boys laid a bouquet of white lilies on Henry's tomb. By 1947 King's College Cambridge were given permission to join the ceremony.
Since then Kings Collage lay white roses in purple ribbons alongside the Eton lilies in pale blue ribbons on the spot where Henry VI is said to have been met his death.
The second reign of King Henry VI began on the 3rd October 1470, it lasted six months. Richard Neville, Henry's champion had played the game and lost and Edward IV had all the assistance he needed to win back his throne by force. Edward returned to England from exile arriving at the beginning of March accompanied by William Hastings and Richard, Duke of Gloucester, they disembarked onto English soil at Ravenspur on the east coast of England, the very port Henry IV had landed seventy years before to claim the English throne, Edward's desire was no only to reclaim his crown but deal with Neville.
After leaving Humberside, Edward made his way to London via Beverly, Wakefield, Nottingham and Leicester and with no obvious Lancastrian force to oppose him he arrived in the city on the 10/11th April 1471 where he would stay until the 13th. It was here in London that Edward was proclaimed England's king once more.
In the two days Edward spent in London he visited St Paul's Cathedral for prayers and to give thanks, he was reunited with his wife who presented him with his six month old son who had been born while his mother was in sanctuary at Westminster Abbey. Following discussions with his councilors Edward spent his last night at his mother's home of Baynard's Castle, the next morning his troops were armed and departed heading north along Watling Street.
By the 13th the Yorkist forces had arrived at Monken Hadley, a small village just twelve miles from London. Edward made his camp next to the village church on a hill that overlooked the town of Barnet, that night Edward placed his troops in their battle positions, the following morning he would find that they were very close to Richard Neville's lines.
The king's force at Barnet, according to the unknown writer of The Arrivall, numbered nine thousand, but it is thought there were far more than this, Edward himself had landed in England with about two thousand, six thousand men joined his army at Nottingham, three thousand at Leicester, the Duke of Clarence now reconciled with Edward, brought around seven thousand, however Warwick commanded many more.
It was on Easter morning, the 14th April, that had dawned grey and foggy, that the Battle of Barnet took place.
The Battle of Losecoat Field, which took place on the 12th March 1470, occurred ten years after Edward IV had brought the Lancastrian's to their knees at Towton, even so, Edward was still concerned with Lancastrian plots, he was, it seems, blind to the fact that Richard Earl of Warwick was cunning and we can be sure that Warwick was clever enough not to be seen to be involved in plotting the downfall of the House of York.
This battle, also known as the Battle of Empingham, was not simply a matter of York vs Lancaster. The situation was complex and confusing and involved minor rebellions, local land disputes and Warwick's machinations. The trigger for the battle itself was a private dispute between Lincolnshire land owners, Sir Thomas Burgh of Gainsborough Hall and Sir Richard Welles of Eresby, that had ended in violence and criminal damage. Both men had been called to London to account for their actions, Edward was forgiving and lenient, and ordered them back to Lincolnshire to put an end to their differences. Richard Welles left this meeting with the king unnerved, it may have been the threat that if Welles did not sort out this private feud, then he would come up the Lincolnshire to do it himself.
In Lincolnshire, Welles son Robert was using his father's summons to London to add weight to Robin of Redesdales claim that Edward was ready to execute anyone who had been involved in the revolts in Yorkshire the previous year. Redesdale, the second of that name, was using this threat to incite fear and rebellion among the populous. In the hours and days following the meeting the situation deteriorated and for whatever reason, the feud or the escalating violence, Edward was forced to ride to Lincolnshire to put a stop to the rebellion. The resulting battle was fought on the fields in Rutland, not far from the village of Empingham, on a site that straddles the Great North Road. Losecoat was a victory of Edward, and a death sentence for both Robert Welles and his unfortunate father.
The battle is named after the place where many of the rebel army fled, abandoning their surcoats for fear of retribution. All that really remains of this small, but significant battle, is a small wood, seen in the image on the right, with just a few hundred trees called Bloody Oaks.
Neither the Earl of Warwick or George, Duke of Clarence's names were never officially mentioned, but it is plain to see that Warwick was the puppeteer. Letters, incriminating Warwick, that were found in a chest that was recovered among Welles belongings goes someway back up this fact.
Following Welles arrest and in his confession he writes
“ I have welle understand my many meagges, as welle from my Lord of Warwicke, and they entended to make grete risinges, as forthorthy as ever I couth understand , to th’entent to make the duc of Clarence king…..Also, I say that had beene the said duc and erls provokings that we at this tyme would no durst have made eny commocion or sturing, but upon there comforts we did what we did”......Also, I say that I and my dadier had often times letters of credence from my said lordes.”
It is not hard to imagine what the state of the country was in, anarchy would possible be a good word to describe it. While most were troubled by the events of 1469 and 1470, the triumphant Richard Neville was in his element as he later placed the crown of England, once again, on the head of Henry VI. Released from the Tower of London, the poor man’s physical health was weak and his mental health clearly unstable. As these two men stood together it was obvious to everybody who was in charge. Real power was now in the gauntleted hand of Richard, Earl of Warwick, the King’s Lieutenant of the Realm.
Richard III, Kingship, Religion and the World Today
Once a king was no more, plans that had previously been set in place were put into action, resulting in a finished
piece that was more often than not quite magnificent.
Edward IV's is a fine tomb, Henry VII's in particular stands out and Henry VIII's would have been grand if he had got his act together and spent less of his father's money. The greatness of a royal tomb is a fine example of royal breast beating
and loud shouts of "take note of how great I once was." You can be sure that many a king did not worry too much about the consequences of what they did in life, however they were extremely worried about these consequences once they had
shuffled off their mortal coil, this does not apply just to the monarch, it applied to most of the nobility too.
The wealthy saw to it that the clergy were paid to light candles on a daily basis once they were entombed, and then
yearly on the anniversary of their deaths. More importantly they made sure that prayers were offered for their souls. Fear of eternal damnation was the main driving force behind medieval and Tudor funeral art.
Of course we cannot tar all nobility with the same brush, as early as 1430 people were considering the transiency
of their lives by opting for the Transi tomb. Bishop Robert Flemings tomb can be found in Lincoln Cathedral and
John Fitzalan's at Arundel Castle. Alice de la Pole's tomb at St Mary's Church, Ewelme in Oxfordshire is magnificent.
So today, as in the past, the choice of a tomb for an English King has to be made and this is yet another chapter in the journey of the remains of King Richard III. How many of us have become saddened and disappointed by the way this journey has descended into squabbling, back biting and side taking, we may as well be reading a book on the War of the Roses,
its the Percey's verses the Neville's all over again. And now we have a new addition to the latest controversy, a new tomb design, and I seem to be the only one who actually likes Leicester Cathedrals design.
The choice of a tomb for Richard III should reflect three things, his kingship, his religious beliefs and the world today, and I think that this design doe's just this. The simpleness of this new design, I feel, is a reflection of the latter, after all we are living in a country were many people have little and a world where the vast majority have nothing, a fancy tomb will not do. The deeply incised cross is a symbol of Richards faith and a reminder that Richard and his contemporaries were religious people even if we are not. Lastly the base has, placed within it, three Ricardian icons, the boar, Richard's motto and the white rose, a representation of his early life and his kingship.
NB This is a blog from Tuesday, 24 September 2013 reposted from a site that I am closing down, since then Richard III remains have been re interned and his tomb placed on top, with a redesigned plinth.