Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Princes in the Tower

I am excited to announce the publication of my new book, The Princes in the Tower, in early October 2013.
In the search for who killed the Princes in the Tower, their uncle, King Richard III has always been the clear favourite. It is easy to see why. The Princes disappeared while under his care. They disappeared after his ‘usurpation’. Rumour had it that Richard had murdered them. He made no attempt to produce the boys, even though doing so would have proved the rumours false, cleared his name and gone some way to restoring public support. Richard regarded his nephews as a threat to his safety, giving him a good motive for killing them. That Richard imprisoned them in the Tower is proof of his intentions, not only to take the throne, but to do away with his nephews, one of whom was the rightful king, the other the rightful heir presumptive. But is it really as simple as that? The following extract is taken from the introduction:

In June 1483 the twelve-year-old King Edward V was deposed. His place was taken by his uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who acceded as King Richard III. Having been educated to rule, nurtured in the belief that he would one day wear his father’s crown and occupy his throne, the boy, once so independent of mind, so impatient to assert himself and make his mark on the world, was now watched over by those appointed by the new king, an uncle he barely knew.

Twelve days after his coronation, Richard III issued an official warrant authorising the payment of wages to those who had provided services to the late Edward IV and to ‘Edward Bastard late called king Edward the Vth.’ The new king then set out on progress, leaving his unseated predecessor lodged with his younger brother in their sumptuous royal apartments within the Tower. What happened to them next has been a matter of scholarly debate ever since.

The story of the Princes in the Tower is so intricately interwoven with that of Richard III that it is impossible to write about one and not the other. All too easily, however, the mystery of the Princes can ‘hijack’ a biography of Richard III so that, following the coronation and the royal progress to the north, the narrative gives way to a discussion of whether or not he killed his nephews. Bosworth then comes suddenly upon the reader, and is often presented as Richard’s just deserts or a tragedy according to which way the author had settled the ‘did-he-or-did-he-not’ question. There is very good reason for this, of course; the subject is so deeply involved that it is fully deserving of study in its own right.

As I embarked on the second volume of my biography of Richard III, I found things going surprisingly smoothly - until I reached the point where I had to talk about what happened to Edward V and Richard, Duke of York. I knew that everything that came after would be shaped by whatever conclusion I drew regarding their fate. I could not ignore the boys. Omitting any mention of them from an account that would not even have been possible without their removal was unacceptable. On the other hand, I could not allow their story to swamp my biography of Richard.

In my dilemma, I set Richard aside for a while and returned to previous researches I had made into the Princes’ story over a period of several years. Having reinvestigated the original sources, I was able to revise some of what I had written previously. I suddenly found myself with a mass of material that, with a few tweaks and adjustments to eliminate, as far as possible, repetition, could be published as a collection of discrete essays, if not a running narrative of the Princes in the Tower. I also wrote a new essay entitled ‘The Rumour’.

This book, then, is largely the result of that work. It is a text-based study of the Princes applying a ‘source, form and redaction’ approach to the original sources. It does not represent all the research I did during that period, but it does include what are, in my opinion, the most important studies. Nor does it claim to be exhaustive.

Dealing with the Princes acted as a catharsis which, hopefully, should enable me to continue my biography of Richard III, in which he is the leading man and not a supporting actor in the story of his nephews.

Following this introduction, the book presents two essays, or more accurately, short biographies of the Princes themselves: Edward V and Richard, Duke of York. This gives the reader some idea of who the Princes were as people in their own right; it attempts to emphasise their importance and ensures their inclusion in a history that would not have been possible without them.

The next essay is an analysis of Richard’s Act of Settlement: Titulus Regius. It looks at who was behind this important and intriguing document, presenting and explaining its content, and showing how it applied to the state of the realm as it was perceived to stand following Edward IV’s death and, perhaps more importantly, how it applied to Richard.

The approach changes now, with the following four essays dedicated to those who, after Richard III, are most popularly believed to have been responsible for the murder of the Princes. These are John Howard, whose inheritance of the dukedom of Norfolk has been interpreted as his reward for doing away with the Princes, while evidence contained in his Household Books that he carried out mysterious building work at ‘la Tour’ appears to strengthen the case against him. Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham is a favourite with many. His motives for murder vary, but can be condensed into ambition both personal and dynastic, regret for having helped Richard to the throne and greed. Sir James Tyrell, a loyal servant of Edward IV, but more especially associated with Richard III, is considered by some to have murdered the Princes, a belief predicated on his alleged confession to the crime. Finally, Henry VII, a firm favourite among ‘revisionists,’ certainly had a very strong motive for murdering the Princes. Having restored the legitimacy of their sister, Elizabeth of York, he also restored that of her brothers, effectively restoring Edward V as heir to the Yorkist throne.  Perhaps Henry's behaviour towards their mother reveals that she knew something more than he was comfortable with, but what are we to make of how he treated the various pretenders to his throne?

Returning to more specifically to textual evidence, the next essay looks at Sir Thomas More’s History of King Richard III, providing an analysis of the narrative, including its form, context and author intent.

The essay following, entitled ‘The Rumour’, was written especially for this collection. It is still commonly believed by some that the accusation that Richard murdered his nephews originated with Tudor sources. This essay shows beyond doubt that this was not so. In an exercise of what might be called ‘textual archaeology’, this study begins by placing the earliest sources to mention the Princes following the new King Edward V’s entrance to London into the order in which first they appeared. In so doing, it is possible to pinpoint precisely when Richard III’s name became linked with the fate of the ‘Princes in the Tower’ and why. Focusing on the all-important rumour, it shows when it first emerged, the context in which it arose, what purpose it served, who could have devised it and who was responsible for spreading it.

From the foregoing, it becomes clear that whatever happened to the Princes happened during Richard's reign, and it is there that we will find the answers - providing we ask the right questions. The book ends with a short conclusion. It is fully referenced and includes a bibliography.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

The Fall of Thomas More: A Proposal

This is a proposal for a book on the fall of Sir Thomas More, which I wrote about three years ago. Unfortunately, I could not get any agents or publishers interested in the project, so I have had to set it aside, at least for a time. I still think it is a worthy project, but it seems the time is not yet right for it - perhaps one day!
This book, which concentrates exclusively on the fall, trial and execution of Thomas More, begins at the point when Henry VIII made up his mind to divorce Katherine of Aragon. Katherine had failed to give him the son and heir he needed to ensure the security of the succession, and a new wife was, to Henry, the only viable solution to the problem. At about the same time, a young woman named Anne Boleyn, graceful, elegant, intelligent, and with sparkling charisma, entered the English court having spent seven years in France. Henry was enchanted. Anne was the woman he wanted to marry. The danger to Thomas More stemmed from Henry’s attempts to marry Anne Boleyn, and the assault would come on two fronts: the first was Henry’s need to dissolve his first marriage to Katherine of Aragon and his desire for More’s support. The second led directly from the first, and brought Henry into the sphere of those whom More hated most: heretics.
   Henry sounded out the question of divorcing Katherine with Thomas More, his ‘good servant’. However, More could find no fault with the Aragon marriage, a verdict that disconcerted Henry, who, nevertheless, took it in good part. The King was not prepared to let the matter rest there and he tried a new approach. He had come to the conclusion that he had never really been married to Katherine after all. The marriage had violated the positive laws of the church and the written law of God, and so the Pope, who had granted the dispensation for the marriage, had no authority to do so. Henry, therefore, was not seeking divorce, but annulment. This new element was disturbing to More because it undermined Papal authority. More declared himself incompetent to advise the king on the matter.
   In fact, More had written about divorce some years previously in his book, Utopia. Some have suggested that More makes a defence of divorce and it was this that encouraged Henry to suppose he would support him in his Great Matter.  If that were the case, Henry failed to note that, on the island of Utopia, a man who commits adultery more than once will be punished by death.
   Henry tried several times to persuade More to accept the annulment, and each time More gave the matter careful thought. He consulted theologians and other scholars, and read widely, immersing himself in all sides of the argument. Still he could not find in Henry’s favour. Excusing himself as unqualified to reach any verdict, he finally persuaded the King to exclude him from the Great Matter.
   More, however, had other things to worry about. As the legatine court, set up to try Henry’s marriage to Katherine, got underway, he predicted that heresy would grow. More despised heresy because it threatened the communion of Christ and the faith as embodied in the Catholic Church. It bred sedition, turmoil and civil war, and destroyed the fabric of society. Finally, it led to the corruption of the eternal soul. Henry, as Defender of the Faith, was duty bound to defend the Catholic Church against heresy. As it was, Henry was increasingly willing to consort with heretics if they supported his cause. Henry’s tactics presented a real danger to More, who could not support such views.
   As Henry’s determination to discard Katherine and marry Anne grew, More’s defence of the Aragon marriage heightened. Katherine’s nephew, Charles V, wrote to More to thank him for his support, a letter More felt it prudent not to accept. Henry VIII’s attitude towards More, whom he had regarded as a favourite, changed dramatically. Once Henry had promised not to involve More in affairs that went against his conscience, now he exerted increasing pressure on More to conform to his will. More had a fear of tyranny, which stemmed from his experience at the hands of Henry VII, and which is explored in The History of King Richard III. In spite of this, More continued to defy the King.
   More was also becoming increasingly concerned about the consequences of Henry’s actions to the Catholic Church. In the face of the Pope’s frustrating procrastination, Henry decided to take matters into his own hands. He made himself Supreme Head of the Church in England and sought to settle his case to his own satisfaction. This was the final straw for More. In an act of public defiance, he resigned as Chancellor the following day.
Anne Boleyn may have been influential Henry’s decision finally to break with Rome. She had a deep intellectual interest in evangelicalism and the new learning, reading reformist works and studying heretical doctrines which spoke of justification by faith alone. She and her family patronised scholars whom More considered heretics. A tradition preserved within the More family insists that Anne played a significant part in the downfall of Sir Thomas. Another contemporary source insists that Anne was, in fact, the driving force behind it. How much of this is true?

   The part played by Cromwell in More’s fall is equally ambiguous. Cromwell was a reformer and, with all the zeal of a recent convert, was eager to promote the royal supremacy. He was responsible for guiding the various Acts through Parliament and ensuring that the necessary oaths were sworn, often using violent means to achieve this objective. It was his duty to see that More complied, but how far was he acting under his own volition, how much on the king’s orders? That More, when pleading his case, wrote to Cromwell as well as the king shows that he recognised the royal secretary’s authority and influence. Did Cromwell attempt to save More, or was he guiding the king in the persecution of Thomas More?
   Henry’s marriage to Katherine of Aragon was duly annulled by the newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer. The secret marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn was declared valid. Many of those who had initially opposed the King’s annulment and remarriage, including some of More’s friends, accepted the new situation. Thomas More could not. With his refusal to attend Anne’s coronation, the persecution against him grew more forceful and systematic. Having alienated his friends by accusing them of losing their spiritual virginity for appearing to endorse the new marriage, Sir Thomas set out alone on a path that would inevitably lead to his death on the scaffold.
   More was in no doubt as to what was to come and he wanted to prepare his family for it. On one occasion he hired a royal official to come to his home and make to arrest him. When the resultant commotion died down, More warned his horrified family that such a scenario was a very real possibility. The family was not comforted. Since More’s retirement their circumstances and living standards had been somewhat reduced. There was already a sense of unease. Now he was preparing them for even worse things to come.
   Among the attacks against More were accusations of corruption, complicity in the alleged conspiracy of Elizabeth Barton, the Nun of Kent, and treason, for having prompted Henry to write the Assertio Septem Sacramentorium. There were serious flaws in these accusations, not least of which was More’s demonstrable innocence in each case.
   More continued to send letters to the king and to Cromwell explaining his position. He asserted that he had never spoken against the divorce in the past, nor would he in the future. This was only technically true: he may not have used the spoken word, but his actions and writings were as eloquent and meaningful as any speeches he might have made. More openly attacked, in print, a learned lawyer who had been hired by Henry and Cromwell to promote the reformation and persuade the people to accept it. More chose his approach carefully. He avoided overtly defending the papal primacy, since that would be treasonous. Instead, he concentrated on promoting the autonomy of the church, a finely defined lawyer’s argument.
   In the battle between King Henry and his good servant, therefore, More’s weapon of choice was the printed word; Henry’s would be speech. Thus, More’s downfall came, as he feared it would, by means of an oath. The oath he was asked to swear was to the Act of Succession. In the event, More found that he could accept the line of succession as set down in the Act because he recognised that Parliament was competent to enact such a law; had it gone no further, he would have taken the oath. The difficulty lay in what was contained in the preamble to Act: an assertion of the invalidity of the marriage of Henry and Katherine of Aragon and the implicit rejection of papal authority. The first of these More did not agree with, but he had come to terms with it; the second, in his understanding, opened the way to schism, and so to heresy.
    When summoned to Lambeth Palace to take the oath, More, with great presence of mind, took the time carefully to read the Act and the oath side by side, comparing the wording of the two documents. He immediately identified discrepancies between them. This, together with the unacceptable content of preamble to the oath, meant that More could not swear. Unwilling to state his reasons, he was committed to the Tower.
   More’s cell was cold and damp, although a stove and straw mats helped to alleviate the worst of it. Five days into his imprisonment he watched through the window as Elizabeth Barton and the five priests who had supported her were prepared for their long and agonizing journey to Tyburn, to a fate More worried that he, too, might share in due course.
   Still, there were some comforts. More was allowed to maintain contact with his family. Initially he and his daughter, Margaret Roper, exchanged letters, More using charcoal until proper writing materials arrived. Shortly afterwards Margaret was allowed to visit her father. It was imperative to More that his family should understand the reasons for his actions and support him. Some time before he had even discussed martyrdom with them. However, there is serious doubt as to the extent to which they encouraged him to ‘merrily run to death’, as he put it, or that they ever appreciated his reasons for doing so. Margaret appears to have tried her best to sway her father from the path he was taking, but how sincere her efforts were, or whether she was merely trying to mislead the ever-watchful Cromwell, is a matter for debate.
   For her part, Dame Alice, More’s wife, rebuked her husband for seeming to prefer his prison cell to their home at Chelsea. She certainly had a point. In spite of his predicament, More appeared to be content where he was. He was visited by his family, with whom he was allowed to walk within the Tower gardens and see the menagerie. He was allowed to attend Mass, either in the chapel of St John in the White Tower or in St Peter ad Vincula. He had his books and writing materials, and he used them well. His prison writings were introspective and deeply pious; in them, he explored two themes that had become very significant to him: suicide and martyrdom.
   Thomas More had been obsessed with suicide since his first encounter with it in the case of Richard Hunne. The Chancellor of the Bishop of London had been convicted of Hunne’s murder. However, More believed that Hunne had committed suicide, the victim of the Devil’s intrigues.
   A second encounter came in the case of Thomas Philips, a heretic whom More believed was vulnerable to self-destruction. More was also involved with an unnamed man from Winchester, who experienced severe attacks of depression during which he feared he might be tempted to take his own life. More talked to this man, prayed for him and offered sound advice and, as long as the man could continue to talk to More he felt safe and the attacks ceased.
   Suicide appears as one of the themes of More’s book, Utopia. He describes how the Utopians view suicide: its meaning, whether or not it is permissible to kill oneself, and if so, under what conditions, what effect it might have on the soul. Perhaps most importantly, in view of More’s ultimate fate, he wondered whether a person could, or should, be pressed into committing suicide against his or her will. Was there a correlation between suicide and murder? This latter question was further addressed in More’s unfinished book, The Four Last Things.
   Now, when it was incumbent upon More to save himself if he could, he was uncertain whether he was in his present predicament because God had brought him to it, or was it a cruel trick of the Devil - was More’s resistance to the king an act of suicide, or was he answering God’s call to martyrdom?
   This dilemma provides the theme for many of More’s prison writings. In A Dialogue of Comfort, having discussed suicide arising from despair, he then explores it as an act of spiritual pride. He discusses death in terms of good and evil, depending on the circumstances. His spiritual dilemma is to the fore in this work, as evidenced when he turns his attention once more to the theme of martyrdom. Was it a form of suicide? Can it be sought, or must one always be led to it by God?
   More’s most poignant work at this time was the Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulations. Within the confines of the Tower he was living the semi-monastic life that had suited him so well in times past. Yet, if More had found a degree of peace and spiritual comfort in the Tower, his family had not. Alice Allington, his step-daughter, tried to intercede on More’s behalf with Thomas Audley, the man who had succeeded More as Chancellor. Her attempt was unsuccessful, but her letter to Margaret, who showed it to More, provided a platform for a heart-rending exchange between father and daughter.
   Imprisonment had a detrimental effect on More’s health; his heart problems seemed to worsen and he was troubled by stones. He was also kept awake at night by fears for his family, the church and, perhaps most importantly, his very real fear that he might not have the strength to stay the course. Still, he found support and comfort as a result of his secret communications with Bishop John Fisher, whose predicament was similar to More’s in many respects.
   There then came a new development. The ‘Reformation’ Parliament opened its next session and passed a series of new Acts which strengthened the government’s case and further damaged that of Thomas More. A second Act of Succession, and a new oath to go with it, resolved the flaws More had found in the first. Next, an Act of Supremacy formalised Henry’s title as Supreme Head of the Church in England. The limitation, ‘so far as the law of Christ allows’, was removed. Another Act addressed the crime of treason. The first Act of Succession, with its unacceptable preamble, had effectively been a Treason Act, but its effects were not wide-ranging enough. A dedicated Treason Act was passed, albeit with some difficulty, wherein one definition of treason was given as depriving the king of his dignity or title. More had done just that by refusing to acknowledge Henry as Supreme Head of the Church in England, but under the old legislation his crime was the lesser one of misprision of treason. This new Act meant that he could be charged with treason itself, a crime that carried the death penalty. Two Acts of Attainder followed. One was against John Fisher and several others. The second was aimed at Thomas More alone. It denounced him for ‘intending to sow the seeds of sedition’ by refusing to take the oath. It went on to accuse him of having ‘unkindly and ingrately served our sovereign lord by divers and sundry ways’. The attainted More’s property was forfeit to the crown, and his family became impoverished.

   Dame Alice wrote to Henry to intercede on her husband’s behalf. She explained that More’s obduracy was an obsession, and one that could lead to her own undoing. Dame Alice clearly did not understand her husband’s views and was unsupportive of his actions. Her attempt was in vain. Henry was not to be moved.
   Just prior to More’s attainder, the conditions of his confinement had deteriorated. Now they became even worse. He was allowed no more visitors and was forbidden to attend Mass. He also became the subject of false rumours, some of which insisted that he had, in fact, finally agreed to take the oath.
    More had never explained his reasons for not taking the oath. He relied on the legal principle: Silence gives consent. While in the Tower he was interrogated four times in an attempt to make him incriminate himself, but he remained silent. Cromwell told him that one of the primary reasons for his imprisonment was that his resistance to the king’s will and his refusal to take the oath was influencing others to do the same. Here, Cromwell was speaking of the Carthusian friars, and it was probably no coincidence that Margaret Roper was granted special permission to visit her father on the very day the friars were dragged away to their execution.
   When it was discovered that More and Fisher had been secretly communicating, More’s conditions worsened still further. The Solicitor-General, Sir Richard Rich, was sent to the Tower to take away More’s books and writing materials. Rich would later claim that, during a conversation that took place in More’s cell at this point, More had explicitly denied the king’s title of Supreme Head of the Church in England. More was interrogated again, this time by two official investigators, accompanied by two witnesses and a notary. Ever the astute lawyer, More was well aware that this was the preliminary to his trial.
   The trial and condemnation of John Fisher left More in no doubt as to what the outcome of his own trial would be. However, Cromwell’s ‘remembrance’ at this time clearly shows that More’s fate had not yet been determined. It was not until six days after Fisher’s execution that it was decided that More should be accused of ‘falsely, traitorously and maliciously’ denying the king’s title of Supreme Head. It was under the Treason Act that More would be prosecuted.
   At his trial More put up a solid defence. In the end it was the testimony of Richard Rich that sealed his fate. Rich repeated the conversation alleged to have taken place in More’s cell, but how much of Rich’s testimony can be believed? More himself accused him of perjury, and a careful reading of Rich’s original report suggests that More was correct. Nevertheless, Rich’s evidence was accepted by the court. More was found guilty and sentenced to death.
   Margaret Roper and her brother, John, pushed through the cordon to embrace their father one last time. The scene was heart breaking, as was More’s final letter to Margaret, written just hours before his execution.
   Thomas More was beheaded on Tower Hill. His journey to the scaffold provided the occasion for detractors and admirers to mock, praise or exhort him as their past relationship with him dictated. A woman rebuked him, claiming that he had given her a false judgement; the suicidal man from Winchester desperately wanted to know what he would do now that More, whose prayers had sustained him, was to die.
   Following his execution, which was attended by the jests and humour for which More was so famous, Margaret Roper collected her father’s head and kept it with her until her own death, a few short years later.
   More’s death shocked Europe, and he was quickly hailed as a martyr. A campaign was launched to discredit him, and it is largely here that his reputation for cruelty towards heretics originates. The culmination of the slanders against More was John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments. Meanwhile, a series of biographies of More appeared, each containing detailed, though sometimes varied, accounts of More’s fall. All except that written by More’s son-in-law, William Roper, remained unpublished in England until the twentieth century. John Foxe’s prediction of More’s canonisation came true in 1935, his cause enhanced by miracle stories that arose surrounding More’s death.
Copyright: Josepha Josephine Wilkinson 2010; 2013

Monday, 8 April 2013

Middleham Castle

Nestling in the quite countryside of the magnificent Yorkshire Dales is Middleham Castle, the childhood home of King Richard III. Middleham is a perfect example of a castle designed for luxurious living rather than defence. Although it still retained features found in the defensive castles of old: high, impenetrable walls, crenulations and, of course, a drawbridge across a wide moat, it really was a palatial home, with all the stare-of-the-art amenities required in a fifteenth-century des-res.

In Richard’s time, the main entrance was the East Gatehouse, accessed via a drawbridge. Today visitors enter the castle through the gatehouse on the north side. This still contains
the remains of stone benches and a portcullis, while faces watch from the shadows above.

The castle complex was massive; the twelfth-century keep alone measured 32 by 24 metres; a second floor was added to it at some point during the fifteenth century. The living area on the first floor was reached by a well-guarded, exposed wooden staircase with a porter’s lodge situated half-way up. The staircase opened onto a small ante room, which led into an impressive Great Hall in the eastern side of the keep.

The Great Hall was the business centre of the castle. The Lord of Middleham would sit on a raised area at the end of the Hall as he receive his guests, heard petitions and conducted his business. One of the most noticeable features of the Hall is the large windows. These allowed the soft light to flood in, which reflected off the plastered and whitewashed walls, lending a sunny and airy feel to the room. The starkness of the d├ęcor was diffused by tapestries and colourful painted features, while its fireplace and open hearth ensured that it was warm and welcoming. There are two doorways at the northern end of the Great Hall, one leading to a small private chapel, the other to the Great Chamber. Servants bearing food and drink from the kitchen used a spiral staircase that was built into a tower at the south-east corner of the keep.

On the upper level of the west side of the keep was the Great Chamber. With its large fireplace, latrine, cupboards and wash-room complete with drain, this room was both comfortable and functional. Separated from it by a partition in the southern wall was another, smaller inner chamber, the Privy Chamber. This also had its own latrine, cupboards and large fireplace, and it was here that the lord of Middleham spent his private moments.

The ground floor of the keep was taken up by the kitchen on the west side and a cellar on the east. The windows of the kitchen were small and set high into the walls. Four large recesses held cupboards, wells sunk into the floor provided water and drains took away waste. The circular containers built into the floor are believed to have been fish tanks. Food was cooked on the large hearth, which was set into the dividing wall between the kitchen and the cellar.

The buildings along the outer ranges date mainly from the 12th or 13th centuries.  The north range features the auditor’s chamber and kitchen, which another set of chambers following on.

The highlight of the west range is the Garderobe Tower, a latrine block which was accessed at ground level from the courtyard or from the first floor of the inner chamber opposite via across a bridge. Beyond the Garderobe Tower is the Bakehouse and Nursery tower, where the remains of ovens can still be seen.

The Princes Tower on the south-western corner of the outer buildings is traditionally held to be where Richard’s son, Edward of Middleham, was born. Certainly, it is well-appointed, with three chambers, all of which are furnished with fireplaces and latrines. Steps can still be seen leading to chambers on the upper level of the tower.

To the right of the Princes Tower is the Privy Chamber, with the Lady Chamber above; this was accessed via the chamber below or across another bridge leading from the southwest corner of the keep. Next to the Privy and Lady Chambers are service buildings. These include a horse mill and a set of ovens dating to the Tudor period.

Facing the Southeast Tower is a small block, the second floor of which contains the ruins of a chapel. This chapel was much larger than the one off the Great Hall, and it was probably used for masses held for the household and servants. The building comprised three storeys, the lower two probably serving as a basement, vestries and, perhaps, priest’s lodgings. The second floor, the chapel itself, was reached from the stair head, but this is so badly ruined that all that can be said of it is that it had tall traceried windows on the north and south sides and a stone vaulted roof. The rooms below were also vaulted and had small, round-headed windows.

Lastly, almost touching the chapel block is the eastern curtain wall, now badly damaged, although the remains of the supports for the drawbridge can still be discerned.

All this goes to make Middleham Castle one of the finest and most interesting castles to explore.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Marriage and Divorce in Thomas More's Utopia

When Henry VIII approached Thomas More for advice about his Great Matter, he was perhaps aware that More had already explored the subject of marriage and divorce in his book,  Utopia.
Here, we find that the inhabitants of this island republic are ‘contente everye man with one wife a piece.’ Marriage is broken only by the death of one of the partners, adultery or the ‘intollerable wayward maners of eyther partie.’ In either of the last two circumstances the injured party can obtain a licence to divorce their spouse and remarry. This is in contrast to the practice in More’s England, as in every other Catholic country, where couples could separate but were forbidden to marry elsewhere. This is because marriage is one of the seven sacraments and, as such, the marriage bond is indissoluble.

Under no circumstances would a Utopian man be allowed to divorce his wife merely because ‘some myshappe is fallen to her bodye,’ that is, she is no longer able to bear children. For old age, according to Utopian philosophy, ‘both bryngeth sycknes with it, and is a sycknes it selfe’, and therefore is a time when everyone is in most need of help and comfort.

On the other hand, should a man and his wife find that they cannot live together in harmony and happiness, and both parties have found another with whom they hope to live ‘more quyetlye and meryly’, they may apply to the council for authority to divorce. The council, however, will not agree to divorce unless the couple have thoroughly examined their situation. Even then, the council would be ‘loth to consent to it bicause they knowe thys to be the nexte waye to breke love betwene a man and wyfe, to be in easye hope of a newe marriage.’

The punishment for adultery is bondage and divorce. If, on the other hand, the injured party still loves the offending spouse, he or she may remain married to them, but will be required to follow their partner into bondage. Such bondage need not last forever if the offender is truly repentant. However, ‘if the same partie be taken eftsones in that faulte, there is no other way but death.’ In other words, one might commit adultery once and pay for the offence by becoming a slave for a time, but to commit adultery more than once attracts the death penalty.
In applying Utopian philosophy to Henry VIII’s case, it becomes obvious that the king would not be allowed to put away Katherine simply because she was beyond childbearing age. Rather, it would be Henry’s duty to care for, and comfort, her. Had both Henry and Katherine found new loves with whom they wished to live, they would technically be allowed to do so with the permission of the Council. In practice, though, the Council would probably not grant permission for them to break their existing marriage. On Utopia, therefore, Henry would almost certainly not be allowed to take a new wife: be it Anne Boleyn or anyone else, unless Katherine had also found someone she would preferred over Henry. Finally, Henry had committed adultery more than once, most famously with Elizabeth Blount and Mary Boleyn. As such, he would have been sent into bondage for the first offence and executed after the second. Henry VIII would not have lasted very long on the island of Utopia.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Religious and Personal Symbolism in Richard III’s Jewellery

In two portraits of Richard III, the king wears jewellery that carries both religious and personal meaning for him. In the first, now belonging to the Society of Antiquaries, Richard wears a hat-brooch in the shape of a rose. The petals, formed of black stones, encircle a ruby, which represents the centre of the rose. These black stones could be jet or black agate. Jet symbolises grief and mourning and as such might represent Richard’s continued mourning for his father, Richard of York, and elder brother, Edmund of Rutland. Jet also signifies safe travel: appropriate to one who was called upon to make many journeys, whether to do with going into battle, travelling to or from the court in London, or on prolonged royal progresses.
   Black agate also has attributes appropriate to Richard: courage, boldness, vigour and prosperity. The first three qualities particularly exemplify Richard’s military skills, while the last reflects his personal wealth and that of his family.
   The ruby, which forms the centre of the rose, is a classic symbol of royalty. The brooch could symbolise the White Rose of York, but this jewel reflects a deeper symbolism than the heraldic. In the Christian tradition, the rose represents the flower of Paradise, but it is also one of the icons of the Virgin Mary.
   In the portrait belonging to the Royal Collection, Richard wears a collar that features what are probably roses, in this case four-petalled ones, contained within lozenge-shaped settings. The lozenges are embellished with a pearl on each face and are alternated along the length of the collar with rubies cut into an oval shape. Inside the inner angles of the lozenges are golden fleurs-de-lys. Four-petalled roses represent the four-square division of the cosmos, although it is difficult to see how this fits in with Richard’s theology. More probably, they are meant to depict the Virgin Mary, particularly as they are placed within the lozenge-shaped settings. The lozenge represents the feminine creative principle, depicting as it does, the female reproductive organ. When set alongside pearls, the lozenge reinforces their symbolism of the virgin birth. Pearls also represent purity and spiritual grace.
   The fleurs-de-lys are stylised lilies or lotuses and are one of the emblems of France. They, therefore, symbolise Richard's Plantagenet heritage as well as the English territories of France, some now lost, over which Richard is king. They also represent royalty and the Trinity. However, the fleur-de-lys is also another icon of the Virgin.
   Finally, the oval cut of the rubies contain the same symbolism as the lozenge, while the rubies themselves signify royalty. Perhaps there is a further connection here with the Virgin Mary, who was crowned Queen of Heaven at her assumption.
   Richard, therefore, expresses his royal status and displays his devotion to his house, to the Trinity and, more especially, to the Virgin Mary in the very jewellery he wears.
   Also in the portrait belonging to the Royal Collection, Richard wears a hat-brooch in the form of a Greek cross, with five pearls and a ruby in the centre. The Greek cross is one of the earliest forms of the Christian cross and is often found in conjunction with the ankh, a symbol of life.
   The Greek cross does not represent the cross of the crucifixion. Rather, it signifies the four cardinal points, representing the spread of the Gospel in accordance with Christ’s commission to his disciples (Matthew 28.19-20) and the four elements of earth, air, fire and water. Perhaps even more importantly for Richard, the Greek cross provides the basis of the cross of St George, first brought to England during the twelfth century. This saint is an obvious connection with Richard’s murdered brother, George, Duke of Clarence, and another object of mourning for the king. By the 14th century, St George had been adopted as the patron saint of England and of the Order of the Garter. Here is yet another association with Richard, who was made a member of the Order of the Garter at the age of about fourteen: the order was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Edward the Confessor and St George. This brooch, then, is yet another tribute to St George, whose banner was featured prominently in Richard’s procession at York, alongside that of St Cuthbert. George and Cuthbert are also among the saints after whom stalls are named in Richard’s Collegiate Church of St Mary and St Alkelda at Middleham.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Richard III’s Burial Place

This is an extract from a paper written in 2006 about the death and burial of Richard III:
Richard was always genuinely concerned that people should have a fitting burial and that their souls should be cared for by prayer. How, then, was his body buried and in what way was his soul cared for as it made its journey to the next world? A chronicle of the household of Sir Thomas Frowyk states that,
the same yere Kyng Richard was scelyne att Redmore feld viij mile Beseide Coventr’ upon seint Bartilmewis eve eve {sic} And bered ate Laycet’ in the new (vorke) god have his soulle.[1]
According to the minutes of a council meeting at York on 14 May 1491, William Burton, a schoolmaster of St Leonard’s in that city stated that Richard was ‘… beried in a dyke like a dogge’.[2] Burton was rebuked for this remark by those who insisted that Henry VII had buried the late king ‘like a noble gentilman’. However, chroniclers would seem to support Burton, at least up to a point. The Great Chronicle, states that Richard was taken to Leicester ‘and there irreverently buried.[3] Jean de Molinet adds that ‘[Richard] without royal solemnity was buried at the entrance to a village church,’[4] while Vergil reports that Richard, having been put on public display at the Franciscan’s at Leicester ‘was buryed two days after without any pompe or solemne funerall.’[5]
 The precise facts of Richard’s burial are obscure and contradictory. Quite simply, no documents exist that state where he was buried, where he now lies or even where his body was exposed prior to burial. However, it is possible to gather together what can be known and suggest a scenario.
The two accounts that are most contemporaneous with the events they describe state that Richard was buried in a ‘little hermitage’ (Valera) or at Newarke (the Frowyk chronicle). Next, documents written shortly afterwards suggest that Richard was buried in the ‘choir at the Friars Minor in Leicester’ (Rous), ‘a dyke like a dogge’ (Burton), or in ‘a village church’ (Molinet). Documents dating from the middle of the 1490s, some ten years after Bosworth, show Henry’s intention to erect a tomb for Richard:
Walter Hylton, alabaster man: indentures made between Walter and Sir Reynold Bray and Sir Thomas Lovell, knights, concerning the making of a tomb in the church of the Grey Friars, Leicester, for the body of King Richard III.[6]
The Privy Purse expenses of Henry the Seventh for 11 September 1495 show that the king paid James Keyley £10 1s for a tomb for the late King Richard.[7]

There followed a dispute between the two contractors, who took the case to Chancery. In the Chancery record, the tomb was described as being built at the ‘Newark’, which is then crossed out and replaced with ‘friars’.
Slightly later is Fabyan’s account, in which Richard is buried at ‘the fryers at Leyceter’, while The Great Chronicle of London puts the site of Richard’s burial as Leicester. Vergil writes that Richard was ‘browght to thabbay of monks Franciscanes at leycester…and ther was buryed two days after without any pompe or solemne funerall’. Finally, Nichols asserts that Richard was buried by Henry in the chief church of Leicester, called St Mary’s and belonging to the order and society of the Grey Friars.

From this evidence it seems that Richard’s body was probably stripped on-site and perhaps subjected to further insult. It was then slung across a horse and carried to Leicester, where it was exposed to public view, naked except for a course black cloth covering the middle portion. As we saw in the case of Richard’s brother, Edward IV, such exposure was unusual and it went against the prescribed procedure. Nevertheless, it assured everyone that the king really was dead, and it discouraged impersonators.

After a period of two days or so, Richard was buried. We can discount Jean de Molinet’s report of him being buried in a village church, since Leicester was, at that time, a town. It did, however, boast an Augustinian hermitage,[8] so Valera’s remark that Richard was laid to rest in such a place is not impossible. However, the Frowke chronicle, in contradiction to Valera, asserts that Richard was buried at the Newarke. Again, this is not impossible. The remark made by Burton at the council meeting at York can be dismissed for the spiteful attack on Richard that it was. Even if Richard did not have a tomb suitable for a king, he was clearly not thrown into a dyke; he was at least accorded the dignity of a church burial. Rous offers yet another location: the choir of the Friars Minor at Leicester.
The two documents, dating from the 1490s and concerning Henry’s order for a tomb for Richard, post-date Rous but only just. It seems that this period marks the turning point of the mystery of Richard’s place of rest. The chronicles that come after these three are unanimous in their assertion that Richard was buried at the Grey Friars, the Franciscan monastery at Leicester. From this information, a sequence of events can be conjectured and a solution to the mystery suggested.
Richard’s body was carried back to Leicester from the field of battle. It was put on public display at one of the churches there, possibly that of the Augustinian friars, or the Newarke. These churches are also candidates for the burial. Henry VII, travelling to Leicester in 1495, perhaps experienced a pang of guilt that a King of England should be buried in such humble surroundings. He ordered a proper tomb and monument to be erected, and two contractors were engaged. As we have seen, they fought over the contract, taking the case to Chancery. The resultant document reveals some uncertainly regarding Richard’s burial place at that time. It originally said ‘Newarke’, but this name was replaced by ‘friars’. It can be conjectured that Richard was originally buried in the Newarke, but was later moved to the church of the friars.
There is a sound reason why the Newarke would have been an inappropriate place in which to bury King Richard III: the Newarke had a strong Lancastrian connection. In April 1330, Henry, Earl of Lancaster obtained a licence to establish a hospital at Leicester. Patronage of it passed to Henry’s son, also called Henry, who was created Duke of Lancaster in 1351. He enlarged his father’s foundation and, two years later, was granted permission by the pope to transform it into a collegiate church. It subsequently passed into the care of Henry’s son-in-law, John of Gaunt who passed it to his son, Henry Bolingbroke, who would later come to the throne as Henry IV.

Known as the Collegiate Church of the Annunciation of St Mary in the Newarke, it is this church in which Richard might originally have been buried. Given its Lancastrian heritage, it cannot be wondered if Henry VII had felt uncomfortable with the thought of a Yorkist king resting there. It is certainly possible that he remedied the situation by transferring Richard’s remains from the church to that of the Grey Friars priory. The documents commissioning the contractors support the suggestion that Richard had been moved, and subsequent chroniclers are unanimous in their assertion that he rested at the Grey Friars, or Franciscans. Richard, then, was buried in holy ground, and his soul would benefit from the prayers of the monks as they performed their rites and services.
Initially, it appears that the grave was little out of the ordinary until ‘king Henry the Seventh caused a tomb to be made, and set up over the place where he was buried, with a picture of alabaster representing his person.’[9] This is the tomb of which the documents of the 1490s speak, and the commissioning of which was the reason for a dispute between the two contractors. Henry spent £10 1s on it. While paltry in comparison to the great sums spent by Henry on his own tomb, it is not an insignificant sum. It enabled a ‘fair tomb of mingled-coloured marble, adorned with his statue’[10] to be built, but was it an appropriate tomb for a king of England?
Richard had always done his best to provide suitable resting places for people, high-born or low, who had been killed in his service. He had ensured that their souls would be prayed for. The tomb of his son at Sheriff Hutton, if such it is, shows a grieving figure, which might represent Richard himself; it features God the Father, who hears the prayers, dries the tears and comforts the mourning of all. Angels attend the spirit of the departed and offer comfort to the bereaved figure. Who grieved for Richard? Did this tomb of mingled-coloured marble bear the mourning figures Richard had ensured would watch over the souls of others? Did angels guide him to eternal peace, ultimately to meet God the Father whom Richard had served so well in life? We cannot know. No one thought to describe the tomb, except to say that it carried the dead king’s effigy.
If we are to believe John Nichols, an epitaph for Richard was planned and written. The historian claims to have seen a copy of it in a ‘recorded manuscript book chained to a table in a chamber on the Guildhall of London’, the text of which, translated into English reads:
I who am laid beneath this marble stone,
Richard the Third, possess’d the British throne.
My country’s guardian in my nephew’s claim,
By trust betray’d I to the kingdom came.
Two years and sixty days, save two, I reign’d;
And bravely strove in fight; but unsustain’d,
My English left me in the luckless field,
Where I to Henry’s arms was forc’d to yield.
Yet at his cost my corse this tomb obtains,
Who piously interr’s me, and ordains
That regal honours wait a king’s remains
Th’ year thirteen hundred t’was and eighty-four,
The twenty-first of August when in its power
And all its rights I did to the Red rose restore.
Reader, whoe’er thou art, thy prayers bestow,
T’atone my crimes, and ease my pains below.
As can readily be seen, there are serious problems with this text. It is not the style of English or prose that was known either to Richard or Henry VII. Rather, it is more in keeping with that used in Nichols’s own time. The length of the reign is incorrect, as is the dating: according to this, Richard reigned during the fourteenth century, not the fifteenth; he died on 21 August instead of the 22nd. Moreover, Richard was king of England and France and Lord of Ireland: Britain, in other words, the union with Scotland, had not become an entity until the time of King James VI and I, although it would not officially become Great Britain until the Act of Union of 1707. This epitaph, therefore, is contemporary to Nichols but not to Richard.
As king, Richard should have been buried in his coronation vestments, or ones very much like them.[11] It is unknown whether or not this actually happened. While we can be almost certain that the crown he had with him at Bosworth was the coronation crown of St Edward the Confessor, it certainly would not have gone to the grave with him. Whether or not he had any coronation vestments with him cannot be known, although it is doubtful. Had this been the case, he would probably have worn them during the procession prior to battle, and no evidence exists to allow us to think that he had done so. They would also have been found in his tent after the battle, but nothing allows us to think that they were. While the entire collection of coronation vestments and regalia represent kingship, only the crown could stand alone to the same purpose. Richard had no needed for the rest. We can assume, then, that Richard was not buried in his coronation robes. Moreover, since Henry VII spent only a little over ten pounds on the tomb, we can speculate that he would have spent no more than that on the funeral. The costly garments of a king would have far exceeded the purse Henry laid aside for his predecessor. It can be accepted that Richard was not buried in any way reflective of his royal status.
In 1536, King Henry VIII, the son of he who had crushed Richard, ordered the dissolution of the monasteries. Grey Friars closed two years later. Once again we turn to Nichols as we seek to unravel the subsequent fate of Richard’s earthly remains.
Following the dissolution of the Grey Friars monastery, the site upon which it had stood became part of a private garden. The land was later purchased by a Mr Robert Hayrick, a former mayor of Leicester, who erected a stone pillar of some three feet in height over the spot where Richard lay. It was adorned by the inscription ‘Here lies the body of Richard III, some time king of England.’ Christopher Wren, as he walked in the garden in 1612, was shown this simple monument.
The story that Richard had been turned out of his coffin and thrown into the River Soar emerged seventy years after the dissolution of the monastery; that is to say in about 1608, during the reign of King James. Quite why Richard should have been treated in such a manner, and so long after his death, is a mystery. Graves and tombs were not usually despoiled during the dismantling of the monasteries. Moreover, the people of Leicester had held Richard in high regard. Even had they not, surely they would have desecrated his grave far sooner than this legend would allow if they were going to do it at all.
The fact that Richard crossed Bow Bridge on his way meet Henry Tudor, and the prophecy connected with it, gave rise to a local legend that was so strong that a Benjamin Broadbent, the nineteenth-century founder of a building firm still flourishing in Leicester, erected a plaque by the bridge that reads: ‘Near this spot lie the remains of Richard III the last of the Plantagenets 1485’. Unfortunately, Mr Broadbent relied entirely on tradition rather than historical fact, and the plaque, well-meaning as its donor was, perpetuates a myth that has no historical basis at all. A new plaque, erected by the Richard III Society in 2005 seeks to correct the earlier one.
Can we at least accept that Richard’s coffin went on to be used as a horse trough? Again, while it is clear from the Nichols’s study that a coffin had indeed been used as a horse trough, there is nothing to say that it had once been that of King Richard. Indeed, the Reverend Samuel Carte, the vicar of the Church of St Martin’s in Leicester, speaking in 1720, had this to say of it:
I know no other evidence that the stone coffin formerly used for a horse-trough was king Richard’s, but the constancy of the tradition. There is a little part of it still preserved at the White Horse Inn, in which one may observe some appearance of the hollow, fitted for retaining the head and shoulders.[12]
 William Hutton, travelling to Leicester in 1758 specifically to see the coffin, found that  it had not withstood the ravages of time. The best intelligence that I could obtain was, that it was destroyed about the latter end of the reign of George the First, and some of the pieces placed as steps in a cellar at the same inn where it had served as a trough.[13]
If the story of Richard’s bones having been thrown into the Soar cannot be trusted, and if the coffin said to have been Richard’s cannot rise above the level of legend, then what really happened to Richard following the dissolution of the monastery in which he had rested for so brief a time?
A plausible sequence of events can be constructed from existing evidence, such as it is. Nichols notes that King Henry ordered a tomb to be made for Richard ‘and set up over the place where he was buried.[14] This was in all probability in the convent of the Grey Friars. Since Richard was clearly not within the tomb, it can be accepted that he lay beneath the ground, with perhaps an inscribed stone slab to mark the spot until Henry’s monument was put into place.
Upon the dissolution of the monastery, Richard’s tomb was desecrated but Richard was left beneath the earth where he had always been. That his bones had been cast into the Soar was a local myth with no basis in fact. The coffin-cum-horse trough could not have been Richard’s because he was still lying in his coffin. Besides which, stone coffins of this sort were rarely used in the period at which Richard died, so the chances are even less that this particular one had been that in which Richard rested.
The conclusion must be that Richard remains beneath the earth at the spot where he had been transferred by Henry and over which Henry had erected a tomb. The area has since been developed, but King Richard remains. As such, it is highly probable that the last of the Plantagenet kings, the last English king of England, the last English king to die on the battlefield, now rests beneath a car park in the city of Leicester. He is, then, the only king of England since 1066 not to rest in a tomb fitting to his royal status. The commemorative plaque in the Chancel of Leicester Cathedral was laid as recently as 1980.
 As we saw with Richard’s desire to transfer the remains of King Henry VI, it was expected of kings to treat their predecessor’s remains with honour, to ensure that they had a fitting burial and that they were laid to rest in an appropriate resting place. Henry Tudor was clearly incapable, or uninterested, in seeing that Richard’s body was treated with due dignity. For a long time he was also unable to provide Richard with anything like a proper tomb. If he could not bring himself to lay Richard to rest among the other kings of England, either at Westminster or with Edward IV at Windsor, then his son Henry VIII ought to have done so. Neither of them did. Indeed, upon the dissolution of the monasteries, ordered by Henry VIII, Richard’s mean memorial was desecrated just as his body had been at Bosworth.
 It would be interesting, at this point, to see how Richard’s simple tomb compared with those of his predecessor and successor. The cost of Edward IV’s funeral was £1,496 17s 2d. The King lies beside his queen, Elizabeth Woodville, in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. Edward had rebuilt the chapel, which had been founded by Edward III, with the intention that it should be his resting place. However, the tomb was not completed upon his death, nor would it ever be. Work was continued under Richard III, who issued a warrant to ‘Geoffry Franke, receyvor of Middleham, to content the freres of Richmond with xii marks, vi s. viii d for the saying of 1000 masses for K. Edward IV.’[15] Work, however, ceased after Bosworth.
 Edward’s will states that he had intended his tomb to be adorned with two effigies, one of which was to depict the king as an emaciated corpse - if his bloated body represented gluttony and lust in life, an emaciated one would represent repentance in death. Seats were to be provided for almsmen, who would pray for the soul of Edward. The chantry was to be enclosed within a superb iron grill, which can still be seen, complete with a wooden door furnished with a peep hole, a lock and a door handle ringed with a garter.

As to Richard's conqueror and successor, Henry VII lies in a gilded tomb adorned with the effigies of himself and his queen, Elizabeth of York. Angels and saints watch over him as he rests, his sins expiated by the dedication of the chapel to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and the prayers of his faithful subjects and loyal servants.
 Henry VII had originally intended his burial place to be St George’s Chapel, Windsor. This makes sense, since he would have been close to Henry VI, whose remains and relics had been translated there by King Richard III in 1484. Henry VII would have seen Henry VI as his immediate, legal successor in much the same way as Richard III came to see Richard II. However, Henry changed his mind about the location, if not his proximity to Henry VI. Probably as the result of persuasion by the abbots and monks of Westminster Abbey, he became convinced that Henry VI had selected the abbey as his favoured burial place. Between 1502 and his death in 1509 he began to spend enormous sums of money, a total of £14,860 13s 1d, on the creation of a shrine to the late king, beside whom Henry, his queen, his mother Margaret Beaufort and perhaps even his grandmother, Queen Katherine de Valois were to lie. That he had intended the shrine to become a Tudor mausoleum should perhaps be doubted, since Henry’s eldest son, Arthur, who died in 1502, was buried at Worcester.
According to the terms of Henry VII’s will, gates bearing the king’s arms, badges and emblems provided the entrance to this great shrine, and they would be repeated throughout in the sculptural decoration and the glazing. Priests wearing vestments adorned with the king’s badges would offer divine service daily for the king. Weekly and occasional sermons would mention the king by name, so that those who heard it might offer prayers for his welfare in life and his soul after death. Moreover, an image was to be made of Henry kneeling at the shrine of Saint Edward the Confessor. This effigy was to be of
tymber, covered and wrought accordingly with plate of fine gold, in maner of an armed man; and upon the same armour, a coote armour of oure armes of England and Fraunce enameled, with swerd and spurres accordinly. And the same ymage to knele upon a table of silver and gilte, and holding betwixt his handes the crowne which it pleased God to geve us, with the victorie of oure ennemye at our furst felde.[16]
Henry VII’s tomb is most certainly fit for a king. He is prayed for by all who hear his name mentioned in sermons and watched over by saints and angels. Significantly, the tomb in which he lies was built and decorated in accordance with his own intentions. No one was left to make such decisions as where King Henry VII should rest and in what surroundings.
For Richard, things were much different. Being laid to rest in a relatively cheap tomb in a church at Leicester, far from his family and, more significantly, far from other kings, how does Richard III’s burial place compare with what he might have chosen for himself?
Richard left no will that has yet been found. Anything said about where he would have liked to have been buried can be only speculation. Perhaps the most obvious choice would be Middleham, which Richard made his own. Having established the Church of St Mary and St Alkelda as a collegiate church in his own name, he dedicated the stalls to six of his favourite saints: George, Katherine, Barbara, Anthony, Cuthbert and Ninian.
Another possibility is the Church of St Helen and the Holy Cross at Sheriff Hutton, which might house the memorial to his son, Edward of Middleham, although it is improbable that the boy is buried there. This church was once the property of the Nevills, to which family Richard belonged on his mother’s side, and which was also the family of his queen, Anne. Nevills also rested in the abbeys at Jervaulx and Coverham and at Durham Cathedral, any of which might have been suitable as resting places for Richard.
Durham is significant to Richard for another reason: it houses the shrine of one of his favourite saints, Cuthbert. The monks of St Cuthbert had received Richard into their confraternity in 1474. On the other hand, Richard had intended to found a chantry at Barnard Castle. He had established shrines to several of his favourite saints there, in particular St Ninian.
A logical and highly appropriate, resting place would have been Fotheringhay. Here lie Richard’s beloved father, mother and brother, Edmund. Of course there was always the option of Westminster Abbey, where Richard’s queen, Anne Nevill, rests. By the time of Richard’s death the abbey had long been established as the burial place of English kings, among them Edward the Confessor and Richard II, both of whom were of great significance to Richard. Then there is St George’s Chapel, Windsor, where Edward IV lies and which he might have intended as a shrine for Yorkist kings.
Each of these locations is a plausible candidate for the chosen burial place of King Richard III. However, there was another church, or rather, cathedral, in which Richard had taken a particular interest: York Minster. Richard had planned York Minster to be the setting for the largest and most ambitious of his chantries. However, its intended one hundred priests were to pray, not for the soul of the chantry’s founder, or those of his family as might be expected, but were to sing instead for ‘the worship of god oure lady seint George & seint Nynyan’.[17]
Nevertheless, the possibility that Richard had intended York Minster as his mausoleum should not be dismissed when certain factors are taken into consideration. First is the possibility that Richard’s son, Edward of Middleham, Prince of Wales, lies in an unmarked tomb at York Minster. It is not such an outlandish suggestion, nor would it be inappropriate for the young prince to be buried here: he was created Prince of Wales nearby and his father had enjoyed a long association with York.
This began, as far as is known, with the investiture of his uncle George Nevill as Archbishop of York, on 22 September 1465. Later, while still duke of Gloucester, Richard visited York with Henry Percy, fourth earl of Northumberland. Here, Richard was seen to be their ‘ful tender and especiall gude lord’, worthy of ‘a singler confidence in your high and noble lordship a fore eny other’.[18]
The City of York’s connection with Emperor Constantine should not be overlooked. Constantine was proclaimed emperor at York in 25 July 306 and Richard would almost certainly have known the church of St Helen-on-the-Walls in Aldwark, which was dedicated to the mother of Constantine. He might also have been acquainted with the tradition that this church was the final resting place of the great emperor with whom Richard had much in common.[19]
Another historical figure of significance to Richard was the legendary King Arthur. Richard had books about this king, and he showed an interest in him that spanned his short life. Arthur, like Richard, was fond of York, with which he had some connection. Moreover, Arthur’s shield bore the image of the Virgin Mary, to whom Richard had a special devotion. It was on the day of the Feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary that Richard chose to invest his son as Prince of Wales.
Following his marriage to Anne Nevill and his subsequent ownership of Middleham Castle and other estates, Richard became the most important magnate in the north of England. It would have been entirely natural had Richard considered York Minster, the spiritual heart of his world, to be his mausoleum.
Then there is the chantry that Richard sought to establish at York Minster. As noted, it provided for one hundred chantry priests and was to be administered by several of Richard’s most intimate friends and allies. Had it come to fruition, it would have been the largest and most ambitious of all the chantries planned or established by the king.
 Certainly, the chantry at York Minster was a very important undertaking and might be indicative of the king’s desire to be buried there. The possible presence of Prince Edward adds a dynastic dimension to the foundation. Against this, however, is the fact that Richard’s queen was not buried at York Minster, but at Westminster. Moreover, had the young prince been buried at York Minster, he lies in an unmarked grave, his presence remaining a secret that would have been difficult to preserve had a chantry been established on behalf of the new but ultimately short-lived Yorkist dynasty.
In the end it is not possible to say where Richard would have preferred his final resting place to have been. Even if he had left instructions, there is nothing to say that his wishes would have been fulfilled. The insults Henry Tudor allowed to be heaped upon Richard’s body at Bosworth showed the utter contempt in which he held the late king as well as a blatant disregard for the respect due to the dead. Given that he was capable of such a singular lack of humanity, it would have been highly improbable that he would have taken into account Richard’s desires even as far as concerning his resting place. As a result, King Richard III remains the only monarch of England since 1066 not to lie in a tomb appropriate to his regal status. It is both unjust and a tragedy that he who was so anxious to ensure the care of souls, their passage eased through the darkness of the beyond as they made their uncertain way towards the light by means of prayer and a worthy grave, now lies in an unmarked spot in the damp, dark earth beneath a Leicester car park.
Since this piece was written, archaeological excavation has revealed that the Grey Friars car park did, in fact, conceal the tomb of Richard III. This exciting discovery ends centuries of speculation regarding Richard’s burial place, and quashes rumours that his bones had been dumped into the river Soar. It now remains to reinter Richard, but where? Archaeological convention is usually to rebury excavated remains in the nearest consecrated place. In Richard’s case, it would be Leicester Cathedral, where there has been a memorial to the king since 1980. However, a case can be made for burying him at York Minster, since this appears to have been his wish. On the other hand, Anne Nevill, his queen, lies in Westminster Abbey, while his brother, Edward IV is buried in St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, either would make a suitable resting place for Richard. If pressed, I would choose York Minster for Richard, which meant so much to him in life, and which he endowed handsomely, perhaps with a view to providing for his soul after death.
1, Sutton, Anne, ‘The Making of a Minor London Chronicle in the Household of Sir Thomas Frowyk (died 1485)’, The Ricardian, vol. X (1994), pp. 86-103.
2. Davies, R., Extracts form the Municipal Records of the City of York (London: J.B. Nichols and sons, 1843), p.221.
3. The Great Chronicle of London cited in Dockray, K., Richard III: a reader in history (Gloucester: Alan Sutton, 1988), p.128.
4, Molinet, Jean de, Chroniques cited in Dockray, K., Richard III: a reader in history (Gloucester: Alan Sutton, 1988), p.128.
5, Vergil, Polydore, Three Books of Polydore Vergil’s English History (London: The Camden Society, 1844), p.226
6, TNA: C 1/206.
7, Bentley, S. (ed), Excerpta Historica: or illustrations of English history (London: printed by and for Samuel Bentley, and published by Richard Bentley, 1833), p.105.
8, Hoskins, W.G. (ed.) A history of the county of Leicester Victoria History of the Counties of England (London, 1969), vol. 2, p.35
9, Nichols, J., The History and Antiquities of the City of Leicester (London: Printed for Nichols, Son, and Bentley, 1815), p.298.
10, Nichols, J., The History and Antiquities of the City of Leicester (London: Printed for Nichols, Son, and Bentley, 1815), p.298.
11, Legg, L.G.W., English Coronation Records (Westminster: Archibald Constable & Co Ltd, 1901), p.xliv.
12, Nichols, J., The History and Antiquities of the City of Leicester (London, Printed for Nichols, Son, and Bentley, 1815), p.298.
13, Hutton, William The battle of Bosworth-field : between Richard the Third, and Henry Earl of Richmond, August 22, 1485 (Birmingham: Printed by Pearson and Rollason, sold R. Baldwin, 1788), p.143
14, Nichols, J., The History and Antiquities of the City of Leicester (London: Printed for Nichols, Son, and Bentley, 1815), p.298.
15, Whitaker, T.D., An history of Richmondshire, in the North Riding of the country of York; together with those parts of the Everwicschire of Domesday which form the wapentakes of Lonsdale, Ewecross, and Amunderness, in the counties of York, Lancaster, and Westmoreland (Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1823), vol.1, p.99.
16, Condon, Margaret, ‘The last will of Henry VII: document and text’, T. Tatton-Brown and R. Mortimer (eds.) Westminster Abbey: The Lady Chapel of Henry VII (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2003), p.133.
17, British Library Harleian Manuscript 433, vol.1, p.201.
18, York Civic Records vol. 1, p.23.
19, www.bbc.co.uk/northyorkshire/iloveny/romans/2004/constantine_great/index.shtml

Copyright Josepha Josephine Wilkinson 2006, 2012. All rights reserved.

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