Wednesday, June 23, 2010

This blog has moved

I'm testing out Wordpress at the moment. There's one new post up already, if you'd care to check it out. Let me know what you think, because I'll have to decide which way to go fairly soon and your feedback would be welcome.

It's at:

I've had to change my name as (strangely) ragged_staff was already taken and, silly me, I didn't think to actually use my own!

Some comments haven't migrated across, which is a shame because there was some good discussion.

See you over there some time!


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Battle of Stoke Field 16 June 1487

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The one member of the Yorkist royal family who had come through the Wars relatively unscathed, her husband and sons alive and her own long life still with nearly twenty years to run, was Elizabeth duchess of Suffolk. This can partly be put down to her husband, John de la Pole's, political disinterest, pragmatism and lack of military competence and zeal. As a family, the Suffolks seemed very much to prefer a quiet life of domestic peace.

Her oldest son, John earl of Lincoln, had fought at Bosworth and been pardoned. He ostensibly made his peace with Henry Tudor, but he never quite made his peace with the end of Yorkist rule or the decline of his own political fortunes.

In 1487, a ten year old boy known to us as Lambert Simnel was brought to Lincoln's attention. He is said to have had a striking resemblance to the duke of York and at first it was planned to pass him off as young Edward V. When it was clear that that wouldn't work, plans changed and he was launched on the world as Edward earl of Warwick, son of the duke and duchess of Clarence. The real Warwick was in the Tower at the time, but a story about his escape wasn't difficult to piece together and present to both diehard Yorkists looking for a figurehead and a public as eager for stories of drama and adventure as people are today.

Margaret duchess of Burgundy, always happy to have an opportunity to challenge Henry Tudor and avenge the death of her brother Richard III and the fall of the House of York, supported Lincoln when he brought the boy to Burgundy. She gave him 2,000 Flemish mercenaries and her financial support.

On 4 May, Lincoln and Simnel landed in Dublin and set about recruiting Irish mercenaries. Simnel was crowned Edward VI on 24 May. Lincoln's army then set sail, landing in Lancashire on 4 June, joined by this time by (amongst others) Francis Lovell.

The 8,000 strong army marched 200 miles in 5 days. Scrope of Bolton, another chancer (who had supported Richard Nevill earl of Warwick in both his Yorkist and Lancastrian incarnations), joined them and led a raid against Clifford near Bramham Moor. It was a heartening victory for the Yorkists.

Held up by three days of skirmishes in Sherwood Forest, Lincoln's army soon lost the numerical advantage as George Stanley lord Strange was able to use the time to gather reinforcements.

The armies met near the banks of the Trent, Tudor's forces led by the earl of Oxford. In a fiercely fought three hour battle, the lightly armoured Irish mercenaries bore the brunt and were cut down. All the Yorkist leaders fell in battle except Lovell, who escaped across the Trent and disappeared. His final fate is a mystery. Around 4,000 'rebels' were slain and at least 3,000 of Oxford's men. Most of the dead, including the earl of Lincoln, were buried on the battlefield.

Simnel was captured after the battle, pardoned and given a job in the royal kitchens.

Lincoln's death didn't end the de la Pole's political activities. Two brothers, who clearly didn't inherit their parents' love of the quiet life, presented themselves as heads of the House of York. Edmund (1471-1513), originally allowed to succeed to the Suffolk dukedom but later reduced to an earl, went in search of backing from the Holy Roman Emperor. When his son, Philip of Burgundy, ended up unexpectedly in England after being blown off course, he bought his freedom with the promise to hand over the earl of Suffolk, on the proviso that his life would be spared. In 1513, with Henry VIII now on the throne, that arrangement no longer applied and Suffolk was beheaded.

The youngest brother, Richard, also styling himself head of the House of York, died in 1525 at the battle of Pavia.

Elizabeth duchess of Suffolk died in 1503, her husband in either 1491 or 92. They must have grieved greatly for their oldest son John, but were spared the loss of both Edmund and Richard.

The Battle of Stoke effectively ended all hopes of a Yorkist revival.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Marriage and the Nevills - Isobel Nevill and George Duke of Clarence

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Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, the Clarences' daughter.. She seems
to have a similarly shaped face to her great-aunt Joan

In their blog, The Tragic Neville Sisters - Pawns in the Wars of the Roses, CMHypno poses one final question: ... but did they have a happy, fulfilled life? The short answer to that is probably Yes, though, of course, in history or otherwise, there are rarely any short answers.

Two things need to be taken into account before we can examine the lives in question - or here, at least, the life of Isobel Nevill. 1. We need to stop measuring the lives of these two young women against the expectations and attitudes of young women today; and 2. We need to remember that when they were born, neither of them had a use-by date stamped on their foreheads. They had no idea they were going to die as young as they did; they did not walk through the world, doomed and tragic; they lived each day as we all do, with not a clue that it might be our last.

I was struck by something the other day that I'd never really thought about before. In his book English Political Culture in the 15th Century, M A Hicks writes ... perhaps... York did not intend the Act to last and perhaps meant to make Henry VI abdicate. It's not the content of the quote that matters here but its implications. Of course the duke of York didn't wake up on the morning of 30 December 1460 and think "Ok, I'm going to die today, thank goodness I didn't make any long term plans!". We tend to see death as an ending while for many people, especially those who die unexpectedly, it's an interruption. Isobel and Anne Nevill weren't wound up at birth with faulty mechanisms that were bound to run down when they did. Isobel died in childbirth, or soon after, and Anne died of TB, which killed a lot of people right up to recent times. Of course their lives were neither happy nor fulfilled if measured by their brevity or by the fact that they were to a large extent controlled by a) a powerful father; and b) powerful husbands. If, on the other hand, we look at the lives they did live, the time they did have, and at how the men in their lives may have enhanced rather than oppressed their existences, we'll get a very different answer.

There would have been no objections from either Isobel Nevill or George duke of Clarence to the prospect of their marriage. She was an heiress of considerable note, the accomplished, aristocratic daughter of the countess and earl of Warwick. He was a duke, the brother of a king, handsome, knightly and young. No husband of lesser rank would have done.

Warwick brought about the match at least as much (if not more) for his own ends as for the benefit of his daughter. It was fairly natural, given their place in society, that their interests meshed. Isobel would not have thought marrying George much of a chore, especially as Warwick's stated aim at the time was to elevate George to the throne. Find me a girl of Isobel's time and class who would have objected to being played as a pawn in order to reach the rank of queen and I'd say she came straight out of the pages of a modern historical romance.

Isobel and George were married on 11 July 1469 in Calais, with the archbishop of York officiating. Almost immediately, George, Warwick and the archbishop set to work, issuing manifestoes against the 'evil counsel' that surrounded the king and threatened the wellbeing and prosperity of England. Much has been made of Edward IV's objections to the marriage, but it was well attended by members of the peerage. George's mother, Cecily duchess of York, made an appearance at Sandwich, possibly in a last ditch attempt to stop the wedding, but possibly also simply as mother of the groom. Once it was done, however, it was done, Edward possibly reflecting on his own decision to marry who and when he did. No attempt seems to have been made to reverse the process.

The newlyweds didn't get much of a honeymoon, with Warwick and Clarence in the thick of rebellion soon after, and the king their captive by the beginning of August. By the following March, however, they'd lost the initiative - and control of the king - and were on the run. Isobel was in Exeter, staying in the bishop's palace and here her husband and father joined her in early April. They stayed for five days, then headed to Dartmouth, Warwick castle (where they collected young Anne and the countess) and soon after put out into the channel. By this time, Isobel was in the latter stages of her first pregnancy, so the young couple must have had some time to themselves after their wedding.

It can't have been easy for the young duchess of Clarence. Having been through incident free childbirth several times, I can barely imagine the added stress, both physical and emotional, of crossing country in a litter, crossing the channel in a sailing ship and going into labour in cramped quarters with no help but from my mother and sister, especially at eighteen. The Countess of Warwick, according to Robert Rous, was highly skilled in matters of childbirth, but the situation was beyond even her abilities. The baby, a boy, was either born dead or died shortly after birth. As it was a bare nine months since Isobel and George's wedding, he might have been some weeks, or even months, premature. In what must have been a bleak and sorrowful ceremony, he was buried at sea.

John Wenlock, Warwick's lieutenant in Calais and a man of unwavering personal loyalty, prevented them from entering the harbour, sending secret messages warning them away. On request from Warwick, he also sent some wine for Isobel.

Already, Warwick was beginning to rethink his plans. He made for Barfleur in France where his wife and daughters were soon guests of queen Charlotte while Warwick was first making his peace then negotiating with Margaret of Anjou. It would seem that it was at this point, with the collusion and likely encouragement of his wife, that Clarence began his first tentative steps in making peace with his brother the king, while at the same time attempting to derive as much advantage from the new arrangements as he could. This was entirely understandable, given the shifting currents. It was always a danger, that Isobel would begin to identify her life and future with her husband rather than her father, in fact, for women of her time, it was expected. With the focus now shifting to Anne, and Warwick's energies being spent plotting to make her queen instead of Isobel, it is also entirely understandable that Isobel would be feeling more than a little miffed.

With Anne, now Princess of Wales, in France with her new husband and mother in law, and Isobel and the countess of Warwick still guests of queen Charlotte, Warwick and Clarence launched their invasion of England in September 1470. Their supporters in England, including Stanley, Shrewsbury, the archbishop of York and John Nevill, were kept informed of the earl's movements. On 2 November, John Nevill, angered by the loss of the earldom of Northumberland, showed his hand, forcing Edward IV, his brother Gloucester, William Hastings, Rivers and others to flee to Holland. Various others, including queen Elizabeth, the chancellor and the privy seal, took to sanctuary, but most nobles remained at large and "acquiesced to the new regime".

Henry VI was released from the Tower and his second reign (the readeption) began. The succession was set: after Henry's death the crown would go to his son and his issue. Failing that, it would go to Clarence.

The readeption itself hardly caused a ripple, even among the exiled nobility. There were no attainders, no forfeitures and only one execution, that of the earl of Worcester. Land, even that held by Warwick and Clarence, forfeited by recently exiled Lancastrians was 'voluntarily' returned to them and any attainders still in force were essentially overturned.

Up till Christmas 1470, things seemed to be going well for Clarence. Though not quite an equal partner with his father-in-law, he was recognised, and treated, as one of the two most powerful men in England. Once Warwick turned his attention towards Calais and the Cinq Ports, and even more when his attention was taken up with queen Margaret and the Prince of Wales's entry into England, Clarence's influence and authority began to slip. Now was the time for his family, his mother and sisters, his Bourchier cousins, to set to work on him. And it wasn't only Clarence, the marquis of Montagu, and even Warwick himself, may have been open to suggestions of reconciliation and support for the return of Edward.

By Christmas, Isobel had joined her husband in London and she too may have added her voice to the growing chorus. An England where her sister was to be queen and she and her husband were to be sidelined and materially disadvantaged couldn't have been much to her liking. And surely even Clarence, caricatured as he often is as inept and selfish, couldn't continue to support a regime that so clearly disadvantaged both his brothers and two of his three sisters? In late March 1471, the duke and duchess were in Wells, where Clarence began to assemble troops. By now he was determined to change sides and support his brothers, already back in England and marching south. He did so in early April and immediately began to negotiate between his brother and his cousin. While he made some headway with Edward, who was prepared to offer Warwick more favourable terms than originally planned, he got nowhere with his father-in-law. The Arrivall says: [Clarence was] right desyrows to have procuryd a good accorde betwyxt the Kynge and th'erle of Warwyke... The Kynge, at th'ynstaunce of his sayd brothar...was content to shew hym largly his grace, with dyvars good condicions and profitable for th'Erle... If not for his own sake - his own affections for Warwick - then at least for his wife's, he had no desire for the man's death. Clara Scofield in The early life of John de Vere, thirteenth earl of Oxford, suggests that it was at Oxford's insistence, or at least under his influence, that Warwick refused this last ditch, and probably sincere, offer of terms.

Warwick and Edward's forces met at Barnet, where the earl and his brother were killed. Edward, Prince of Wales, was killed at Tewkesbury, Margaret of Anjou and her daughter-in-law taken prisoner, and Edward IV was back on the throne. On 3 July, Clarence swore allegiance to the young prince Edward, born in sanctuary, thus renouncing his own hopes for the succession.

Almost immediately, Clarence and Gloucester (who had gone essentially unrewarded and unendowed, despite his binding loyalty to Edward), began to quarrel over the Warwick and Nevill estates. In the ordinary course of events, John Nevill and his son would have inherited the Nevill portion, with Isobel and Anne equally inheriting the Warwick estates. In a dirty piece of political manoeuvering (and with the countess Anne in sanctuary), Edward took all Warwick's property to the crown, gave Clarence what would have been due to both sisters and Gloucester the Nevill inheritance. What was given to Clarence included the countess's jointure and the Beauchamp and Despenser lands which by rights, and failing her own attainder or treason, were hers and not her hushands' or her daughters'. Clarence was reluctant to give up anything he had gained. Edward worked hard to promote peace between his younger brothers, despite Clarence's recalcitrance and Gloucester, according to the Milanese embassador to France, preparing for war with his brother.

In the 1473 Act of Resumption, Clarence was not granted an exemption. This was not an oversight, nor an omission on Clarence's part to seek one but a deliberate act on Edward's part to deprive Clarence of his estates. With the countess of Warwick now in Gloucester's custody, and Gloucester close to marrying her daughter, Anne, Clarence had no choice to but to submit to Edward's judgement. In May 1474, an act of parliament divided the countess's lands, as if she had died and her daughters inherited. In July, Clarence was granted the majority of his former property and, finally in 1475, John Nevill's heirs, in particular his son George, were excluded from any inheritance of Nevill lands.

At the beginning of this period of conflict and upheaval (on 14 August 1473), Isobel gave birth to a daughter, Margaret. In 1475, their son Edward was born. A fourth child, Richard, who did not survive, was born at around the time of Isobel's death. She may have died in or as a consequence of childbirth, her system weakened by tuberculosis.

On 22 December 1476 Isabel Neville, Duchess of Clarence died at Warwick at the age of twenty-five. Her body was removed for burial to Tewkesbury Abbey, the mausoleum of her Despenser ancestors. It was received there on 4 January 1477 by Abbot Strensham and other prelates. A service of nine lessons was conducted by suffragans of the Bishops of Worcester and Lincoln with the assistance of the dean and chaplains of Clarence's chapel. Members of his houseshold stood vigil for a whole night. On the morrow the bishops and the abbot conducted three masses, one in honour of the Virgin Mary, a second for the Holy Trinity and a Requiem mass. At the latter a Franciscan friar, Dr Peter Webb, made an oration. The duchess's body lay in state in the middle of the choir until 25 January 1477, when it was placed in a vault newly constructed behind the high altar, where probably Clarence himself was laid to rest. In the meantime masses were celebrated daily for the duchess's soul.
MA Hicks, False Fleeting Perjur'd Clarence, p 114.

Clarence quite probably kept vigil with his household. He was from all accounts deeply grieved by his wife's death. Their marriage was a happy one and it does seem that he was faithful to her. Her funeral itself points to a widower who wished his wife to be remembered and honoured in death. Their children, Margaret and Edward, were 3 and 1 respectively.

Barely a month after Isobel's death, Margaret duchess of Burgundy, newly widowed, suggested Clarence (her favourite brother) as a husband for her stepdaughter Mary. Edward opposed the idea. Around the same time, an idea was put to Edward that Clarence marry the sister of James III. This, too, Edward declined. Despite Clarence's no doubt real sense of grief at Isobel's death, and there's no way of knowing if he would have married either party had the decision been left up to him, Edward's disapproval of both matches greatly upset him and relations between the brothers, already shaky, began to deteriorate further.

In May 1477, two men associated with Clarence were executed for treason at Tyburn. There is no evidence that Clarence was involved, or that Edward believed Clarence to be involved. However, after their deaths, he went with a Dr William Goddard to a session of council where Goddard read out a declaration of the men's innocence. Also in May, Ankarette Twynho, one of Isabel's servants, along with two others, was arrested, tried, convicted and executed on a charge of poisoning the duchess. The conduct of the trial, which included the kidnapping and forced removal of Twynho to Warwick, was highly irregular.  Edward arrested his brother, not on accusations of treason but for bringing the laws of England and the justice of the king into question. This was not a charge that carried the death penalty. Some time before November, however, Edward changed his mind and Clarence was charged with treason.

Clarence was tried in parliament on 16 January, condemned as a traitor and sentenced to death, which sentence was carried out in the Tower on 18 February. Edward honoured his brother's wishes and allowed him to be buried with his duchess at Tewkesbury. Several contemporary and near contemporary sources speak of Edward's almost immediate regret at Clarence's death and his part in it. Cecily Nevill pleaded for her son's life, and as a result of her appeal the sentence was commuted from the traditional traitor's death. Though this has been called into doubt in recent times, it also seems that both Gloucester and Hastings made some attempt to see Clarence spared. That this doesn't quite tie in with the fact that, of everyone, Gloucester stood to gain most from Clarence's death. He and Hastings were certainly not as closely involved in the process and proceedings as the earls Rivers and Dorset. However, neither of them, both influential with the king, spoke up quite loudly or clearly enough to save Clarence's life. Both men, at the time, enjoyed friendly relations with the queen and her kin. The Wydevilles were four square behind both the changes' to the charges against Clarence, his conviction and the carrying out of the sentence.

Juxtaposed with the grave matter of Clarence's trial was the spectacular celebrations of the marriage between Anne Mowbray and the young duke of York. Come for my son's wedding and stay for the treason trial of my brother seems to be a bizarre contiguity of events.

Further discussion of Clarence's trial (and his manner of death) would make this a very long post indeed and also detract from its point of focus - the marriage of George duke of Clarence and Isobel Nevill.

Isobel and George enjoyed seven years of marriage with twists and turns, periods of ascendancy and despair that would test the patience and resolve of anyone. At the start of their married life, he was to be created king by his father-in-law, and that would have made her queen. When this changed, they followed a course of action that they must have thought would be of more benefit to them than life as sister and brother-in-law of a new Lancastrian king - reconciliation with Edward IV. Though the battle over their parents' wealth was fought by their husbands, both Isobel and Anne Nevill were beneficiaries of their joint success. Both duke and duchess of Clarence died far too young, Isobel at 25 and Clarence at 27. They left behind two small children who had no guarantees that anyone would look after their interests.

Did Isobel Nevill have a fulfilled and happy life? She was a duchess, she was wealthy, she had a husband who was faithful and at the very least fond, whose grief at her death was genuine and deep. She had four children, two of whom would survive childhood, one living to a very respectable age before meeting her end on Henry VIII's block. It was her husband whose life was hardly happy or fulfilled. He had been offered the greatest prize of all and had it taken away before he even came close to obtaining it. He could never quite settle down under the rule of his brother Edward and didn't enjoy a friendly relation with his brother Richard. His wife died and he was tried, condemned and executed for treason.

I think we need to hunt down all references to both Anne and Isobel being pawns and expunge them. Their duty, which we might now find distasteful but I doubt very much they did, was to marry well, to bring honour to their family, to bear children and grow them up to, in their turn, do their duty. Isobel Nevill's life, though short and turbulent, was, by those lights, extremely successful, very fulfilling and, if not all the time (and who can ask for that?) at least for substantial and significant stretches of time, happy.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Middleham Castle

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An old print of Middleham Castle. A small part of my recent splurge.

The original castle at Middleham, built by Alan Rufus, a nephew of the Conqueror, was constructed on William's Hill, a little to the southwest of the current castle site. It was abandoned in the 12th century and a new castle was built on lower ground where there was access to a more reliable water supply.

It was a massive, square castle with walls up to 12 feet thick. Succeeding lords of Middleham extended the castle, adding floors, moving gates and extending towers. When intact, it must have been an imposing structure.

Image from the dvd Middleham Castle, a royal residence.

Middleham was not only a home to the Nevills, and later the duke and duchess of Gloucester, but a potent symbol of the power of its lord. Under the Tudors it was left to slowly fall into disrepair. Succeeding owners were unable to arrest its decline.

Reconstruction of great hall from a postcard that accompanied the dvd.

Now owned by English Heritage, the castle ruins are open to the public. The earl of Salisbury would weep, I think, to see it and Warwick would cast around for some heads to kick.

Enormous thanks to Su_H for pointing me to the Middleham dvd.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Warwick as Warden of the Cinq Ports

A little while back, when money wasn't quite so tight as it is now, I splurged out $30 in a specialist second hand book shop on The White and Black Books of the Cinq Ports (1966). Some years before this, I picked up from our (then) local library By the Kilo sale Acts of Court of the Mercers' Company 1453-1527 (1936). The Cinq Ports book had once been owned by a Lieutenant Commander William Swan (one presumes in the RN). His bookplate reads "descendant of many of the SWANS herein before the accession of Henry VIII 1509 AD". He also wrote his name above this. Indeed, throughout the book, any occurrence of the name Swan is circled in lead pencil.

On the inside front cover and facing pages, Lt-Cmdr Swan pasted in a copy each of the best known portraits of Richard III and Edward IV. Under Richard's portrait is the following, typed on two slips of paper and pasted in:

"Richard III of  England at whose coronation Sunday 6th July 1483 Baron Swan of Sandwich, with other Barons, carried the silken canopy over the new king. See p 641."

"The last of the English kings. Popularly known as DICKON, Richard III was killed, aged 33, at the battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 while charging (wearing his crown) the 'rebel' army led by Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, who then became Henry VII."

And under Edward:

"King Edward IV of England, reigned 1461-83, who stayed at John Swan's house when he visited Sandwich in March 1462 to settle a quarrel between the Barons and the Shipmen."

On the inside back cover is pasted a map of southeastern England with the Cinq Ports marked: Sandwich, Dover, Hythe, Romney and Hastings.

Under the back flap of the dust cover is cellotaped a newspaper cutting from the Daily Telegraph dated August 1 1980. The headline is Bosworth Avenged and it's about the statue of Richard unveiled by the duchess of Gloucester.

I'm assuming that Lt-Cmdr Swan passed away sometime after 1980 and perhaps his immediate family didn't share his fascination for those distant seafaring Swans. The book wouldn't be in my possession if they did.

The Mercers' Company book is much tamer, having been a library book all its life.

These books offer a tiny glimpse into the official life of Warwick [Lord Warden]. For most of these entries I have very little idea of what they're talking about. I shall attempt at some stage to work out where Warwick was and what else was going on at the time.

I was going to include the Mercer's Company records here as well, but I think I'll save that for another time.

Warwick in the White Book

Special Brodhull held at Romney on Tuesday 26 January 1461/2 -- 2. Mayors, bailiffs, jurats and barons shall attend at Shepway on 27 February to see Richard earl of Warwick, warden of the Cinque Ports, take his oath and receive his gift of 100 marks, William Kennet of Sandwich is chosen to 'give him his charge'.

General Brodhull held at Romney on Tuesday 27 April 1462 -- 5. William Norton and William Barbour of Faversham and others are to appear before the Lord Warden or his lieutenant at St James' church, Dover to answer causes. A 'gentle' letter shall be sent to the lieutenant that he should not suffer such warrants to pass nor vex these or any other persons since the warrants were 'neyther of course nor of use but onely to the Lesyon of the fraunches'.

General Brodhull held at Romney on Tuesday 27 July 1462 -- 4. Complaint of John Grene of Sandwich 'mekelye besecheth your worships your poore brother... of your Ayde and comforte upon dyverse mysprisyons and wronges done to hym by William Kennet... of the which I complayned to your masterships at London at the parlyament tyme. And at dyverse Brodhulls'. Thomas Thunder, Thomas Bayon, John Chenewe, John Joseph and Thomas Gore were appointed to go to Sandwich and hear and determine 'upon an impertynent accompt' made by Johne Grene to certain auditors. The auditors cast on him charges which 'he nor none for him was never receyved nor by vertue of his sayd offce of mayralltye ought to be accomptant'. All this is set out in a bill before the House.
Recites [as of f.30] the cause of the dispute and the efforts of Grene to obtain a copy of the account from Kennett both at the Brodhull in January 1461/2 and then at the Shepway when Kennett promised to deliver such a copy on his return home. Although Grene 'sued and cryed for the copye every day, he could not have it' and he therefore went to the Brodhull when the mayor and 'the copye was readye Long ago, And for I wold not paye for the wrytinge thereof to one John Archer...he wold not delyver it to me, whereof the contrary is soth. For I wyst not that John Archer had i-wrytt it'. After the Brodhull Kennett showed the account which was not ready and after it was completed Grene paid for the writing and then found variances in the account and prayed Kennett to examine it better after which Kennett refused to return Grene's copy and caused damages to Grene of 100 li. Therefore he seeks a remedy and a testimonial under the seal of Romney that he has always been ready to fulfil his part of the bargain, he also asks the right to sue and to have a letter sent to the Lord Warden to have the case in traverse at the court of St James Church, Dover, bearing in mind that he cannot take action in Sandwich where it is an accio popularis neither can he sue before a 'foreign' judge. Agreed that the mayor of Sandwich provide Grene with a copy of the bill of account and that Otewell Worsley, lieutenant of Dover Castle and John Oynden of Wingham determine the case.

Special Brodhull held at Romney on Wednesday 12 September 1464 -- 2. If the Lord Warden come to Sandwich or Dover or any other Port, all the mayors and bailiffs are to be warned to meet him at an appointed place to make suit for the confirmation of their charter, and if he comes not down then four men appointed at the last Brodhull are to act.

Quick detour to Elizabeth Wydeville:
General Brodhull held at Romney on Tuesday 23 July 1465 -- 3. '... the pall, Belles and staves that were borne over quene  Elizabeth at her Coronacion' were delivered to Sandwich and Hythe to be 'departed' between them, according to an act made in the 9th year of King Henry VI 'late kyng of Englonde in dede but not o ryght'.

General Brodhull held at Romney on Tuesday 15 April 1466 -- 2. Writs of sub poena have been sent to Pevensey who should hold anyone delivering such writs to answer why he infringed the liberties of the Ports. A letter is to be sent to the Lord Warden to ask him to request the Lord Chancellor to cease such writs.

General Brodhull held at Romney on Tuesday 26 April 1468 -- 6. Robert Cokke of Sandwich, Robert Martyne of Faversham and Thomas Bayan shall consult with the barons appointed to the parliament to be held at Reading or Westminster, how best to reply to the Lord Warden for the warrants 'that dayly come into the v portes... in all poyntes concernynge the Chartre'. The barons are to take 100s ie Hastings, Winchelsea and Rye 33s 4d, Romney and Dover 33s 4d, and Sandwich and Hythe 33s 4d. No town is to fail on pain etc.

General Brodhull held at Romney on Tuesday 24 July 1470 -- 3. William earl of Arundel at his admission as Lord Warden is to receive 'a cuppe of sylver and of gylte' of the value of 20 li. with the arms of the Ports thereon. John Westclyf of Sandwich is to labour for the cup and to have 20s for his pains. The 20 li shall be paid at Shepway. Thomas Hexstall of Dover is to give the charge to the Lord Warden.

Arundel was appointed by Edward IV after Warwick's departure for Calais.

Brodhull means roughly 'brotherhood'.

accio popularis (actio popularis) 'action to obtain remedy by a person or a group in the name of the collective interest'. Wiktionary definition.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Marriage and the Nevills - Richard Nevill and Anne Beauchamp

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Richard Nevill and Anne Beauchamp were betrothed in 1434 when he was 6 and she was 9. Two years later, in a double ceremony shared with her brother Henry and his sister Cecily, they were married. As brother- and sister-in-law had the same relationship in the eyes of the church as a brother and sister, a double wedding was the only way to get around the need for a dispensation, which was probably the main reason it took place when the pair were so young.

They didn't live in the same household, however, and as the marriage may well have been carried out by proxies, they might not even have met each other at this point.

On the death of their father, Henry Beauchamp became duke of Warwick. (The original rank was an earldom, and it was to this it reverted when Henry died, leaving his young daughter briefly his heir.) Cecily and Henry had one child, Anne, who died in 1449.

The elder Anne, as Henry's full sister, succeeded him, though her older half sisters disputed her claim for some years. Warwick, as much in an attempt to keep the earldom and the wealth of both the Beauchamps and the Despensers (Anne's mother's family) for himself as for the benefit of his wife, defended her claim with vigour and determination.

One of Anne's half sisters, Eleanor, was married to Edmund Beaufort duke of Somerset; another was married to the earl of Shrewsbury. This property dispute was the genesis of Warwick's long term quarrel with Somerset, which was something he shared with his uncle, Richard duke of York, and helped to bring them into alliance.

Young Warwick served, alongside his father the earl of Salisbury, in the west March towards Scotland and it was here, some time before 1450, that his illegitimate daughter Margaret was born, probably in or near Carlisle. Her mother is unknown. (I've worked out the latest likely year of Margaret's birth based on her marriage year of 1464, but she may have been born some time before this.)

On succeeding to the Warwick title, Richard and Anne took up residence in Warwick Castle. They owned a great deal of other property almost the length of England.

In September 1451, their daughter Isobel was born.

In 1455, after the first battle of St Albans, Warwick was named Captain of Calais. Unlike previous incumbents, he made the decision to take up residence there, his wife and infant daughter with him. This could be an indication that the couple were close, though a more cynical mind might suggest that Warwick was loathe to waste the countess's childbearing years. If that was the case, his confidence was misplaced, as he and Anne had only one more child, another daughter, named for her mother, in June 1456. An entry in the Warwick household accounts mentions a dispensation for the countess to have eggs during lent due to 'childbirth'. As the entry is dated neither 1451 nor 1456, she may well have had an unsuccessful pregnancy or a still birth at this time.

Isobel and Anne spent a good part of their childhoods in Calais, where they would have witnessed first hand the affect and benefit of their father's power and privilege. Popular fiction often portrays the sisters as quiet and timorous, foregrounding both their early deaths and the seemingly entrenched view that they were pawns in their father's game. The countess of Warwick is often similarly portrayed. I can't quite see this, myself. As daughters of the premier earl of England, who - through his wife - was also the richest man in England, they would have been very aware of their high status. Add to this the popularity their father enjoyed, his closeness to the duke of York and his own family's status, particularly in Yorkshire, and you get a very different picture of Isobel and Anne.

The sisters would have been brought up to know that they were destined to marry well. Perhaps their parents shared their choices with them, though Warwick was known to be a quick thinker on his feet and Anne's first marriage, to Edward Prince of Wales, was negotiated and concluded so quickly that there doesn't seem to have been much time for discussion.

At the end of 1460, the Nevills suffered great loss with the deaths of Salisbury, York, Thomas Nevill, Edmund earl of Rutland and Katheryn's young husband William Bonville at the battle of Wakefield. Shortly after that, Warwick suffered defeat at the second battle of St Albans, though Margaret of Anjou didn't take advantage of her victory and Warwick was able to secure London. When news came of Edward's (duke of York since his father's death) victory at Mortimer's Cross, Warwick and his brother George, archbishop of York and chancellor of England, began to consider promoting Edward as the next king. George delivered a sermon at Paul's Cross, the subject of which was Edward's right to the crown. (I haven't accessed a copy of this sermon to date, but I am working on it.)

In the early years of the reign of Edward IV, Warwick spent a great deal of his time, along with his younger brother, John, in defending and liberating the northern castles of Alnwick, Dunstanburgh and Bamburgh. Based in Warkworth, Warwick made the long round trip each day to resupply the castles, which changed hands several times over the next few years. During this time, the countess and their children based themselves at Middleham castle.

Alice Montacute, countess of Salisbury, died in 1462. She was buried at Bisham, the Montacute family mausoleum, along with her husband and son, Thomas, whose bodies were moved from their burial place at Pontefract. The funeral was quite lavish, though somewhat hurriedly organised. Thomas's widow, Maud Stanhope (now remarried), didn't attend, nor did the countess of Warwick or her daughters. There may not have been sufficient time for them to get there.

From 1464, relations between Warwick and the king began to deteriorate, Warwick withdrew to his estates and the girls would have seen far more of their father than they were used to. The countess was nearing forty, and any hope of more children, and for Warwick more specifically a son, were fading. In a family where bastards were not just acknowledged but drawn fairly close (both Salisbury's and Fauconberg's Thomases lived and died for the family cause), even an illegitimate son would have been welcome, but Warwick's one slip had resulted in a daughter, Margaret.

Though there's no evidence of more direct political activity, during the years of Warwick's rebellion the countess remained very much by his side. She was there when her daughter, Isobel, married George duke of Clarence against his brother's wishes. (Though Edward does seem to have forgiven that fairly quickly. His mother was sent to Canterbury probably in an attempt to talk George out of it, but may well have actually attended the wedding.)

Warwick's attempted coup in 1469/70, with Clarence as his alternate king, failed and the family were forced to flee to Calais. Warwick collected his wife and daughters, Isobel now eighteen and heavily pregnant, from Warwick castle and they made for Sandwich. John Wenlock, long loyal to Warwick, refused him entry to Calais harbour and later sent him a secret message warning him away. Isobel, no doubt under extreme stress, gave birth on the ship. The child (who doesn't seem to have been given a name) didn't survive and was buried at sea. Some writers, misreading the sources, say that the child was a girl named Anne, but most agree that it was a little boy. Isobel and George's distress can only be imagined. The countess, known for her skills in childbirth, would have taken charge, thirteen year old Anne assisting as and when she could. This must have been a very bleak time for the family.

For Warwick however, 'bleak' was always a temporary state of affairs. Ditching the Clarence plan without a backward glance, he made his way to France and, through Louis XI, brokered a deal with Margaret of Anjou. He would back Henry VI's return to the English throne. In order to seal the deal, a marriage was arranged between his younger daughter, Anne, and Henry's son, Edward Prince of Wales. The countess and her daughters were guests of the queen of France while final preparations and plans were being laid.

Anne and Edward were married in December 1470. Margaret had stipulated that consummation of the marriage be delayed, but both Anne's parents would have stressed to her how much her future, as Edward's wife and potentially queen of England, rested on that event. Should Margaret's no doubt very real doubts as to Warwick's trustworthiness prove founded, the marriage would have been in real danger of annulment. I'd back the determination of a young woman against the resolve of a seventeen year old boy any day of the week, however closely watched they were.

Meanwhile, Warwick and Clarence had returned to England, freed Henry VI from his imprisonment and had him hastily crowned. Edward, caught between Warwick and his brother John, was forced to flee to Flanders with his brother, Richard duke of Gloucester, William Hastings and others.

Edward returned and made several attempts to bring an end to the situation, including offering one last chance of pardon to both Warwick and Clarence. Warwick refused, but in the end Clarence was worn down and returned to his brother's side. Warwick and Edward met in battle at Barnet in April 1471. Both Warwick and his brother John were killed. They were buried at Bisham.

On the day of the battle, the countess of Warwick landed at Sandwich. Upon hearing the news of her husband's death, and fearing for her own safety, she took to sanctuary.

Margaret and her forces, long delayed, were met at Tewkesbury by Edward, Gloucester and Hastings, fresh from their victory at Barnet. Here her son was killed, and all of Margaret's hopes were dashed. Anne, now a young widow, was sent to the custody of her sister, the duchess of Clarence. With the countess in parliament declared as good as dead, the Beauchamp, Nevill and Despenser fortunes were in the hands of the Clarences. Anne brokered a deal with the young duke of Gloucester, which resulted in their marriage and a good part of the disputed property in his hands.

Despite several attempts, the countess was not allowed to leave sanctuary. This had very little to do with any threat she might have posed to Edward's regime, and everything to do with his desire to see his brothers enriched.

The Gloucesters lived for some years at Middleham, the Clarences having control of Warwick castle. The countess was eventually allowed to leave sanctuary and live in the custody of her daughter Anne and her husband. Some writers have portrayed these years as difficult for her, others say she had her own household. Either way, she was forced to live on the generosity of a daughter and son-in-law who had conspired to impoverish her.

Isobel died in 1476, leaving behind two surviving children and a husband unhinged by grief.

When Gloucester took the throne in 1483, one of Warwick's greatest ambitions was achieved though, of course, he was not alive to enjoy it. Anne and Richard had one son, Edward, who died when he was around eleven. Anne herself died in 1485, Richard III dying in August that year at the battle of Bosworth.

Henry Tudor, now king, gave countess Anne an annuity and she lived more independently and comfortably for her remaining years. In 1487, the family's property was restored to her, though she immediately handed most of it back to the crown. She died in 1492 and was buried at Bisham.

If measured by the countess's movements, the Warwick marriage would seem to have been close. I am unsure whether her burial site was her choice or if the decision was made after her death. As she outlived both of her daughters, close family was not involved in the choice. Warwick, a man who promoted fidelity within marriage and chastity without, seems to have come to a decision at some point early in the couple's life together that he would follow his own dictum. Though with no son, and a bastard would surely have been acknowledged, he as always made the best of what he had and threw his energy behind promoting his daughters' fortunes and providing himself with the most promising and politically beneficial sons-in-law. Perhaps Anne believed the Warwick myth as much as her husband did. In which case, the news of his death at Barnet would have left her directionless and shell shocked. That she turned to neither of her daughters (or sons-in-law) for support and shelter may indicate that her dependence on Warwick was absolute.

Anne was born the youngest child of a rich and powerful man and, as such, could not have imagined the life that was ahead of her. Her marriage to young Richard Nevill in 1436 was a side show to the one that really mattered at the time - that of her brother to Richard's sister. No-one involved could have foreseen that the deaths of Henry Beauchamp and his daughter would throw this young couple into the spotlight.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Warwick versus the Spanish

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From the Paston Letters:

To Margaret Paston

Right worshipful cousin, if it please you to hear of such tidings as we have here, the basset of Burgundy shall come to Calais the Saturday after Corpus Christi day, as men say five hundred horse of them.
     Moreover, on Trinity Sunday in the morning, came tidings unto my lord of Warwick, that there were 28 sail of Spaniards on the sea, and whereof there was sixteen great ships of forecastle; and then my lord went, and manned five ships of forecastle and three carvells and four spynnes; and on the Monday, on the morning after Trinity Sunday, we met together before Calais at four at the clock in the morning, and fought together till ten at the clock; and there we took six of their ships, and they slew of our men about four score, and hurt a two hundred of us right sore, and there were slain on their part about a hundred and twenty, and hurt five hundred of them.
     And happed me, at the first aboarding of us, we took a ship of three hundred ton, and I was left therein, and twenty three men with me; and they fought so sore that our men were fein to leave them, and then come they and aboarded the ship that I was in, and there I was taken, and was prisoner with them six hours, and was delivered again for their men that were taken before; and, as men say, there was no so great a battle upon the sea this forty winters; and forsooth we were well and truly beat, and my lord hath sent for more ships, and like to fight together again in haste.
     No more I write upon you at this time, but that it please you for to recommend me to my right reverend and worshipful cousin your husband, and mine uncle Gournay, and to mine aunt his wife, and to all good masters and friends, where it shall please you; and after the writing I have from you, I shall be at you in all haste.
     Written on Corpus Christi day in greate haste.
     By your humble servant and cousin,
     John Jeryngan.

Warwick's fleet sank six Spanish ships and he took another six as prizes. The proceeds of this and other acts of piracy in the channel helped him keep Calais garrisoned, paid for repairs to defences and swelled the English fleet (or Warwick's fleet in fact). His actions were very popular in England, though not so much with the king.
Attempts were made to call Warwick to account, but once established as Captain of Calais and Keeper of the Seas he was impossible to shift. Not even the betrayal by Andrew Trollope and much of the garrison in 1459 could damage the relationship between Calais and the earl. It wasn't until 1470, with Warwick in bitter and open rebellion against Edward IV, that Calais finally turned its back on its Captain.
Piracy would continue to be Warwick's go to strategy when he needed to raise funds in a hurry.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Casting call 2

Here's my thinking so far:

Lord Henry Fitzhugh:              
It's a significant role, so he
should be happy with it.
Henry was married to Warwick's
sister Alice.
                              Edward IV:

                       My daughter's suggestion. Some guy from
                       some pop group... Actually, it's Ed O'Brien
                       from Radiohead. Certainly tall enough, but
                       we'll have to bulk him up, bleach his hair
                       hair and see if he can act. And he might
                       have lute skills!                                                 
John Nevill:
There was some heavy lobbying to
give him Warwick But this is my

                                                              Alice, countess of 

                                                                Another daughterly

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Eight things that really annoy me about historical novels

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This is Karen the reader talking. Karen the writer may live to regret this post one day, when some eagle eyed reader spots one of the following in her work (should it ever etc etc). This is a risk she is willing to take.

1. Inaccuracies disguised as artistic licence
I'm not talking about errors and slips that could be put down to flawed research; or choices writers make between two or more possibilities; but deliberate changes (often flagged in author's notes) introduced in order to sex the story up, or support the writer's particular prejudices. They're unnecessary and lazy, and alarm bells start to ring the moment one appears.

2. Jarring anachronisms
Sometimes writing anachronistically is a deliberate artistic choice (I'm thinking steampunk here) and it can work when it's done well. But it's the little things that can irritate. It's not that difficult to check when important buildings were constructed; characters were born/married/died; technologies made their appearance on the scene. (Want to know my least favourite WoR anachronism?)

3. Fake Middle English.
Unless a writer is prepared to bite the bullet and use actual Middle English constructions (and just what version of ME would depend on the time the book was set), this should be avoided. I'm much more comfortable with non-jarring modern English: after all, that's what the people at the time thought they were speaking! ('Modern' being one of these words (until the postmodernists got their hands on it) that kind of changes in reference almost every second.) Of course, the average punter doesn't know a great deal about early English - why should they? A lot of people think, for instance, that Shakespeare was written in Old English, and most have never heard of Middle English, which is a bit sad as it was a hugely dynamic, shifting, defining time in the history of the language.

4. Modern attitudes and sensibilities
This can't be avoided entirely, we all write through the filter of our selves, and that includes the time we live in, but we can at least be aware of it. There are so many false understandings of, say medieaval childhood that writers frequently don't get, and often don't bother researching.  Cecily Nevill, for instance, is criticised as a 'bad mother' in one book because she sent her youngest sons to Middleham.

5. Getting bogged down in detail
This is a very personal preference. I'd much rather get a sense of how a person or place feels through broad brushstrokes and fill in the detail myself. Page after page of minutely detailed, exhaustively researched descriptive prose irritates me. It's hard to let go sometimes. The writer might have spent a long time researching how arrows are fletched and not want to waste a moment of it, but really it's just a bit of background. (Think flint knapping and you'll know what I'm talking about.)

6. Black hats and white hats
Sometimes good people do bad things. Sometimes good people have irrational prejudices, hatreds and blind spots. Sometimes bad people do good things. Sometimes bad people love their children and sometimes they're capable of acts of extraordinary generosity. Then, of course, you have to stop and think about what 'good' and 'bad' mean, in their various contexts and connotations. There's nothing wrong with a villain, and morally ambiguous can be difficult, but even villains need light and shade. By the same token, there's nothing wrong with a hero either, but flawed heroes are far more interesting.

7. Reviewers who get it wrong
When I see 'authentic' and  'meticulously researched' on the back of a book, I expect it to be both authentic and meticulously researched. Now I'm a huge fan of wikipedia, but it does sometimes feel that the reviewer in question has checked the 'meticulous research' against that and walked away satisfied. A lot of readers really would appreciate a more thorough review.

8. Unquestioning acceptance of 'received knowledge'
I don't have an enormous WoR fiction library, but it is fairly well representative. I could pick up almost any one of them (even the ones I love), open it at random and find the same characterisations of half the major players and all of the minor ones. It would be nice, really really nice, to read a book that presented a more rounded view of (let's say Anne Nevill). It's like some of them just pop into existence, fully formed. There's no sense that they had lives and childhoods that might have shaped them. They're there to help the major characters fulfill their destinies, so why waste time and effort?

You'll notice that 'poor research' didn't make the list. Kind of goes without saying, really.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Marriage and the Nevills - Katheryn Nevill and William Bonville

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This ought to be a short one...

Katheryn Nevill's first marriage lasted barely two years. I haven't managed to find out a great deal about it, as her second marriage to William Hastings, seems to eclipse it in all the literature.

We do know that her husband, William Bonville (later lord Harrington on his grandfather's death) was born in Chewton Mendip in Somersetshire, that they were married in Salisbury and that their daughter, Cecily, was born at Shute Manor in Devon on 30 June 1460.

We also know when, how and where young William died, but of the marriage itself there is little mention.

Both Katheryn and William were born around 1442, so were 16 at the time of their marriage. William's father and grandfather (William lord Bonville) had a connection with the Nevills, supporting them and the duke of York during the first protectorate in 1454, more specifically during the rebellion of Henry Holland duke of Exeter. William sr, along with Thomas Stanley (Alianor Nevill's father-in-law) had been commissioned to help keep the peace in Lancashire and Yorkshire. Discussions regarding a marriage between young William and Salisbury's daughter may have begun around this time. The marriage itself, conducted in Salisbury, took place in 1458 (though some genealogies say 1457).

Also in 1458, William's maternal grandfather, lord Harrington, died and he inherited the title (his mother having died some time before this.)

The young couple then took up residence at Shute Barton. Here their daughter Cecily was born. (I have previously said that Katheryn was 16 when her daughter was born, but I didn't have my Simple Maths head on - she and William were both 18.) The property was part of young Cecily's inheritance and passed into the control of her husband (Thomas Grey) after their marriage. When her great-granddaughter, Lady Jane Grey, was executed in 1554, the property was given to the Poles, who still own it today.

William remained a loyal supporter of his father-in-law. In 1460, he and his father joined the duke of York at Sandal Castle. Captured after the battle of Wakefield, both Bonvilles were executed. (William's grandfather was later executed after the second battle of St Albans. This particular act has often been cited as an example of the cruelty of Margaret of Anjou, but I think that's more to do with the reason for the execution than the death itself. Bonville was guarding the captive Henry VI at the time, and was executed on Margaret's orders for allowing the king to be captured - by Margaret's forces. This sort of thinking was not uncommon at the time, but this particular example does seem to have touched a chord.)

Cecily Bonville was six months old when her father died.

Katheryn was only one of a number of widows after Wakefield. Her mother, Alice Montacute countess of Salisbury, her aunt, Cecily Nevill duchess of York, and her sister-in-law, Maud Stanhope, all lost their husbands on the same day. Alice and Cecily, from what I can work out, were in London at the time, Maud was at her home in Nottinghamshire and Cecily was probably at Shute Barton. It was an uncertain time for all of them, and rumours of the deaths of both Katheryn's brother, the earl of Warwick, and cousin Edward earl of March (later Edward IV) wouldn't have made things any easier. As we have no idea how Katheryn and William felt about each other, it is impossible to say whether deep personal grief added to this stress.

Katheryn later married William Hastings but that, as they say, is a whole nother story.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Letter from York, Warwick and Salisbury to Henry VI 21 May 1455

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Their letter to the Archbishop having failed, York, Warwick and Salisbury tried again, this time with a more direct approach. This is a short letter, and enclosed copies of previous letters, declarations and articles, including the one sent to London the previous day. Again they stress their loyalty, their concerns about their enemies and explain why they're heading towards the king with a stout and well armed band behind them.

It was transcribed and taken by William Williflete, York's confessor and secretary, to the earl of Devon at Watford for delivery to the king. It was delivered in the early hours of the morning. York, Warwick and Salisbury were making their way to St Albans as Williflete was on his way to Watford.

Moste Christen Kyng, ryght hygh and myghty Prince, and our mooste redoubted souverayn Lord, we recomaunde us as humblye as we suffice unto your hygh excellence, where unto pleast it to wete that for so moche as we hyre and understand to our grettyst sorowe erthlye that our ennemyes of approuved experience, such as abyde and kepe them sylf under the whyng of your Magestee Royall, have throwen unto the same ryght stedyousely and ryght fraudulentlye manye ambyguytees and doubtes of the fayth, lygeaunce, and dewtee that, God knowyth, we beere unto your Hyghnesse, and have put theym yn as grete devoyr as they coude to enstraunge us from your mooste noble presonce and from the favour of your goode grace; whych goode grace to us ys and owe to be our singuler and moost desyred yoie and consolacion: We at thys tyme be comyng with grace as your true and humble liege men, toward your syed Hygh Excellence to declare and shew therto at large owr sayd fayth and ligeaunce, entendyng wyth the mercye of Jesu yn the seyd comyng, to put us yn as diligent and hertye devoyr and dewtee as onye your lyete men on lyve to that at may avaune or preferre the honnour and wellfare off the sayd Mageste Royalle and the seurte of the sayd most notable person; the whych [we] beseche our blessed Creature to prosper [in] as grete honnor, yoie, and felicitie as ever had onye prince erthlye, and to your sayd Hyghnesse so to take, accept, and repute us, and not to plese to geve trust or confidence unto the sinistrez, maliciouse, and fraudulent laboures and rapportes of our sayd ennemyes unto our comyng to your sayd moste noble presence; where unto we beseche humblye that we may be admitted as your liege men, to thentent to show us the same; whereoff yerstenday we wrote our lettres of our entent to the ryght reverent fadre yn God, the Archebysshop of Caunterburye, your Chauncellr of England, to be shewed to your sayd Highnesse, whereoff, forsomoch as we be note acerteyned whethyr our sayd entent be by hys fadrehode shewed unto your seyd goode grace or not, we sende thereoff unto thys closed a copy of our said lettres of our disposicion toward your sayd Hygh Excellence and the honnour and weele of the land, whereynne we woll persevere wyth the grade of our Lorde.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Letter from York, Warwick and Salisbury to Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury 20 May 1455

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Written in Royston, this letter was delivered to Archbishop Thomas Bourchier in London while the king was on his way to Leicester. John Say delivered it at Watford, though not into the king's hands as York hoped. This is a long letter, and pretty dense, so I'm posting it with a translation below. (Translation from British History online, Parliamentary Rolls, Henry VI, 1455.

As members of the Archbishop's family were split between the king's forces and York's, it would have been in his interests to try and broker a peaceful end to the very tense situation.

The letter has been described as 'propaganda', which it was certainly used for after the fact. I don't doubt, however, that the three lords were genuinely concerned about their safety should the meeting at Leicester go ahead without them. There was a flurry of letters during the days leading up to the first battle of St Albans, all intended for the eyes of the king and none of them (apparently) reaching him. York blamed Somerset for withholding them and, according to the Fastolf Relation, Buckingham admitted to Mowbray Herald that Henry hadn't seen them. Whether anything would have changed had the king read the letters is, of course, impossible to know.

The letters were sent to various lords, Salisbury's brother Fauconberg, the Archbishop and later, in a move that smacks of desperation, the earl of Devon. My feeling is that Ralph lord Cromwell was supposed to have been there to act as a voice for the Yorkist lords, but he didn't quite make it to St Albans in time.

To the right revernd fadre in God, right worshipfull and with all oure hertes right entierly wellbelovyd cousyn, Thomas archiebishop of Caunterbury, and chauncellor of Englond.
Right reverend fader in God, right worshipfull and with all oure hertes right entierly welbelovyd cousin, we recommaunde us unto you. And for somuche as we here that a greet rumour and wondre is hadde of oure commyngm, and of the manere therof, toward the most noble presence of the kyng oure moost doubted soverain, and that by diverse persones such as of approved experience have not put thaim in such devoir to that tht might have avaunced the honour and prosperite of him, of this his noble reaume, and his people of the same, as accorded with theire trouthe and duetee, many doubtes and ambiguitees be thrawen to his magestee roiall and amonge the peeple, of oure trouth and duetee unto his highnesse: we havyng consideracion unto thoffice the heed of justice of this lande that ye occupie, notifie unto youre worthy faderhood and cousinage, that of oure said commyng, ner the manere therof, we entende not with Goddes grace to procede to any matier or thyng, other than with Goddes mercy shalbe to his plesure, the honour, prosperite and wele of oure said soveraine lord, his said land and people. Alwey kepyng oure throuthe to his said highnesse unspotted and unbrused, entendyng to drawe directly to gidres with you, and all other lordes of this lande, that be of such tendre zele and affeccion to the honour, prosperite and wele of our said said souveraine lord, his said reaume and people, as we hold undoubted ye bee, and blissed be God ye approve youre self to youre grete laude and worship, to the profite and uncolored groundes and conclusions of suche thinges as of reason mowe most spedely growe to the said honour and wele, and the good publique, restfull and politique rule and governaunce of his said lande and people, withoute any thyng takyng or presumyng upon oure self, withoute thavis and assent of you and of the said lordes; leiyng therefore a part oure owne particuler quarels, which we shall never preferre afore the duetee, trouth, love and affeccion, that we owne unto oure said soveraine lord, his said reaume and people. Over this like it you to wite, that we understond the callyng and stablysshing of the kynges counsail at his towne of Leycestre, toke the grounde by such as we conceyve caused thappointement thereof there, for suertee of his moost noble persone, which of common presumpcion implieth a mistrust to somme persones: we therfore his true and humbe liegement, have accompaigned us the better, to thentent to emploie us in such devoir as accordeth with oure deutee, to that we may be the suertee of his said most noble persone, wherin we woll neither spare our bodies ner goodes; and also to knowe whoo be had in jelosy of such mistrust, to the entent that we mowe procede to the subduyng of thaim beyng culpables of the thyng causyng such mistrust; or elles by the avise of your said faderhood and the said lordes, to remove the ambiguitee and the occasion o that same mistrust. We also understond what colerable and subtile meanes be made by oure enemies, holdyng thaim colorably aboute the seid mooste noble persone of oure said soveraine lord, of might of men and habilementes of werre have the more surely accompaigned us, to thentent that at oure commyng to his most high presence, we mowe be of power to kepe ourself oute of the daungier whereunto oure said enemies have neot secces to studie, labour and compasse to bryng us, such as in allewise we will eschewe with Goddes grace.
Item, for asmoche as we understonde that other lordes of this lande have be late sent fore, by the kynges commaundment under his lettres, to comen unto his counsail privately late called at Westmynstre, whereunto we have not been among the said lordes called, we conceyve a jelosy had ayenst us, wherof we purpose with Goddes grace to declare us, and to shewe us such as we bee in oure trouthe, duetee and ligeaunce to oure said soveraine lord, entendyng in all wyse to remove the said jelosy, which we woll eschewe to have liyng dormant upon us. Furthermore, we heryng the grete defaime and blaspheme thrawen ayenst us by oure seid ennemies of oure said commyng, require you on Goddes behalf, and of the feith and trouth that ye owe unto oure said soveraine lord, on his behalf also require you, and on oure owene exhorte and pray you, that ye standyng the fadre and metropolitan of the chirche of Englond, wol at oure request make oute with all possible diligence the censures of the chirche, to be opened and leied at the crosse of Seint Paule within the cittee of London, and thurgh all the parties of this land, in as rigorous and timorouse manere as the chirche wol suffre it, uppon and ayenst all thaim that entende any untrouth, prejudice, hurt or derogacion ayenst thestate, prosperite and welfare of oure said soveraine lord, his said land and people, it wol like you to shewe and ministre until his high excellence, and to the lordes of his counsail, makyng oure said entent to be shewed to all other to whom it apperteigneth by youre wiscome, for the removyng and overthrawyng of the cedicious and fraudulent blaspheme and defaime, untruly savyng youre reverence leyed upon on, Oure Lord knoweth: the which request in the premisses we make unto you, first on Goddes behalf, as to the chauncellor and chief justice of the same; and also on oure owne behalf, and on the behalf of the lordes, knyghtes, squiers and all other people beyng with us, which have desired and required us to make to you the said request, wherein we desire and pray you to put you in such devoir, as it belongeth you of youre duetee to God, to oure said soveraine lord, and his said land; that of any inconvenient that for lacke thereof mowe falle, that God defende, noo charge or burdon be leyed upon you, wherof we wold be right sory, as knoweth Oure Blessid Creatour, whoo you said faderhood and cousinage preserve and guyde in all honour, felicite and welfare.

To the most reverend father in God, most worshipful and with all our hearts most entirely well-beloved cousin, Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury and chancellor of England.
Most reverend father in God, most worshipful and with all our hearts most entirely well-beloved cousin, we commend ourselves to you. And because we hear that there is great rumour and wonder at our coming, and at the manner of it, into the most noble presence of the king our most redoubted sovereign lord, and that by various people who, as experience shows, have not done all they cshould to advance the honour and prosperity of him, of this his noble realm and his people of the same, according to their truth and duty, many doubts and uncertainties have been put before his royal majesty, and spread among the people, as to our truth and duty to his highness; we, mindful that you are the head of justice in this land, inform your worthy fatherhood, our cousin, that by our said coming or the manner of it, we do not intent, with God's grace, to proceed to any matter or thing other than that which, with God's mercy, shall be to his pleasure, and the honour, prosperity and weal of our said sovereign lord, his said land and people. Always keeping our truth to his said highness unspotted and unbruised, intending to join with you, and all other lords of this land who are of such tender zeal and affection to the honour, prosperity and weal of our sovereign lord, his said realm and people, as we consider you undoubtedly to be, and as blessed be God you show yourself to your great praise and worship, to the profit and the unbiased grounds and conclusions of such things as by reason must most speedily grow to the said honour and weal, and the public good, peaceful and politic rule and governance of his said land and people, without presuming to take anything upon ourselves without the advice and assent of you and the said lords; therefore laying side our own particular quarrels, which we shall never prefer over the duty, truth, love and affection which we owe to our said sovereign lord, his said realm and people. Moreover, may it please you to know that we understand the summoning and establishing of the king's council at his town of Leicester was based by such as we conceive made the decision on the security of his most noble person, which clearly implies a mistrust of certain person: therefore, we, his true and humble liegement, have come better companioned, in order to do whatever accords with our duty for the security of his said most noble person, wherein we will spare neither our bodies nor our goodes; and also to know who is suspected of such mistrust, so that we may proceed to the subjugation of those who are guilty of causing such mistrust; or else by the advice of your said fatherhood, and the said lords, to remove the uncertainty and the occasion of the same mistrust. We also, understanding what plausible and devious means are used by our enemies, who remain persuasively in attendance upon the said most noble person of our said sovereign lord, have for security accompanied ourselves with a force of armed men, so that in coming into his most high presence we may be able to keep ourselves out of the danger into which our said enemies have never ceased to contrive, work and plot to bring us, such as we will, with God's grace, avoid by every means.
tem, in that we understand that the other lords of this land have lately been sent for by the king's commandment under his letters, to come to his council recently summoned secretly at Westminster, among which said lords we were not included, we perceive that there is suspicion of us, and we therefore intend, with God's grace, to declare and show ourselves as we are in our truth, duty and allegiance to our said sovereign lord, intending in every way to remove the said suspicion, which we wish to avoid clinging to us. Furthermore, we, hearing the great defamation and blasphemy hurled at us by our said enemies concerning our coming to the king, require you on God's behalf, and on the faith and loyalty which you owe to our said sovereign lord, on his behalf also require you, and on our own behalf exhort and pray you, that you, being the father and metropolitan of the church of England, will at our request draw up with all possible diligence the censures of the church, to be opened and laid at St Paul's cross in the city of London, and throughout all parts of this land, in as rigorous and fearful a manner as the church will allow, upon and against all those who plan any disloyalty, prejudice, harm or damage to the estate, prosperity and welfare of our said sovereign lord or his land. And this our letter stating our intent is known to God, wherein we trust you will be a sharer, and therefore we require you in the faith, truth and duty which you owe to God, to our said sovereign lord, his said land and people, that it will please you to explain and minister to his high excellence, and to the lords of his council, also causing our said intention to be explained to all others to whom it pertains by your wisdom, for the removal and overthrow of the seditious and fraudulent blasphemy and defamation, untruly, saving your reverence, laid upon us. Our lord knows: which request we make to you, first on God's behalf, as to the father of the church of this land, and on the king's behalf, as to the chancellor and chief justice of the same; and also on our own behalf, and on behalf of the lords, knights, esquires and other people being with us, who have desired and required of us that we make this said request to you, wherein we desire and pray that you do your best for our said sovereign lord and his land, as your duty to God requires; and that for any harm which through default thereof may befall, which God forbid, no charge or burden shall be laid upon you, for which we would be very sorry, as our Blessed Creator knows, who  may evermore preserve and guide your said fatherhood, our cousin, in all honour, felicity and welfare.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Getting the Nevills right - advice from an unpublished writer

[This blog has moved to]

I have been inspired by The Margaret of Anjou Rules to make my own modest contribution. It's not as complete and spirited as The Rules for Isabella and Edward II, nor as scholarly as Margaret's, but I hope it's helpful for aspiring WoR novelists nonetheless. (I'm just an aspiring WoR novelist myself, but I get to flout the rules if I want to and no-one can stop me!)

First an exercise. I call it the Nevill Choosa-Najective Game

Just fill in the gaps with any adjective you think is appropriate. If you've read enough WoR fiction, you'll know when you've got it right.

The Earl of Warwick, his face twisted into a/n _________ sneer, turned to face his brother.

"You're a fool, John!" he expostulated __________.  "Blinded by your __________ love for a king who is little more than a __________ boy. Everything was __________ until he married that __________ Wydevlle woman! Now he lets her __________ family do whatever they please! You forget one thing: I am hailed the length and breadth of this land, they love me and fall __________ at my feet, for I am its Kingmaker!"

"I will not listen to you, Richard," John murmured __________. "for you have become __________ and __________ these last few years. What would our __________ father - that __________ and __________northerner - think to see you striding across the stage of history like a __________ colossus? I am __________, for that is my nature. I fear it is yours to be __________."

Her face __________ and __________, Warwick's __________ daugther Anne shuddered __________ to hear these __________ words pass between the brothers. She loved her uncle John __________, for he was truly a __________ man. She was __________ of her father when he was like this: so __________ and __________. She wished she was back within the __________ walls of Middleham, her _________ friend Dickon, his __________ face as always wreathed in a __________, just __________ to be in her company. Though she tried to hide it, her father saw her and turned his __________ eye towards her.

"Anne!" he bellowed __________, making her jump like a __________ rabbit. "Go to your mother! You should not be here, listening to the conversation of your elders! You are nothing more than a __________ child! Begone, before you make me __________!"

In the corner, Isobel smirked __________ to hear her sister so chastised. She shot Anne a/n __________ look then turned with __________ towards their father. Anne knew that her bravado was little more than a/n __________ act. Greatly __________ by her recent marriage to the __________ but __________ Duke of Clarence, Isobel faced a lifetime of __________ disappointment and __________ regret. Dickon, Anne thought __________, was __________ where Clarence was __________; __________ and __________. She longed to feel his __________ arms around her, his __________ lips on hers.

"I said begone!" Warwick thundered __________.

__________, though not a little __________, Anne bolted from the room, letting fall away behind her the __________ strains of __________ fraternal conversation. She would find her mother, a ________ and __________ woman, who was as __________ of Warwick as Anne was herself. She had felt the _________ edge of his tongue more than a few times. With her, Anne would feel __________.

"Thomas would not have let you do this," John whispered __________, a look of __________ crossing his __________ face. "He was a/n __________ man, and __________. My heart is __________ when I think of his, dying as he did, so very __________."

"Well, at least I know George is on my side," Warwick growled __________. "He might not be the most __________ of Archbishops, but he at least respects me as he should and __________ does as he's told!"

"I have no wish to quarrel with you," John sighed __________, thinking _________ of his __________ wife. "But my loyalties are __________. I cannot follow you, brother, and this makes me __________."

He left the room __________, leaving Warwick behind to clench and unclench his fists __________ and grind his teeth __________.

"They will know my power!" he burbled __________. "I will show them just how __________ I am! I will not be ignored and set aside like a __________ dog!"

His face now __________, Warwick kicked over a table, venting his __________ rage and sending cups and platters crashing onto the floor. __________ at the carnage, he strode from the room __________, calling to his __________ servant Geoffrey to clean up the __________ mess.

If you're stuck, here are some tips that might help.

1.  Ignore the sisters. They aren't important in any way - all they did was marry some guys (you don't even have to name them, or establish their relationships with each other or the Nevills) and live in total obscurity. In fact, if you can manage it, don't even let it slip that they existed.

2.  Salisbury is from Yorkshire, therefore he's a taciturn, hardbitten northerner. That's all you need to know.

3.  George, the archbishop of York, is a feckless, good living, cowardly, cynical man who is best summed up by the amount of food served at his enthronement feast. Obviously he's far too worldly to have any kind of real vocation. You might have a suspicious number of young women traipsing through his house.

4. Don't worry too much about Thomas - he dies pretty soon, anyway, so you can apply the 'only the good die young' principle to him. If you feel you really need to do something with him, make him jolly - always laughing, everyone's friend. That way it will be so much sadder when he dies. Also make it clear that Warwick wouldn't have done what he did if he'd survived, and that should be pointed out to him at some stage, preferably by John.

5. Speaking of John - he's such a good man, so loyal and loving. Have him point out to Warwick every time he's made or is about to make a mistake. And have Warwick refuse to listen.

6. Warwick, of course, is proud and arrogant, bad tempered, impulsive and his eventual change of sides needs to be flagged early on. Give him no redeeming qualities. Make his wife and daughters terrified of him. Have him bellow "I am the Kingmaker!" at someone - preferably John. Make the rift between him and Edward sharp and irreparable - he walks into council at Reading, beaming and proud of himself, he walks out vowing to destroy the king and that bitch he married. His motto "seulement une" refers of course to himself - he is the ONLY ONE! Never mind the fact that the gender's feminine.

7. The countess of Warwick and her daughters should be pale, sickly and terrified of Warwick. Have the countess lay a trembling hand on his arm from time to time, only for it to be roughly shaken off. Have Anne beg him not to make her marry Edward of Lancaster. Conversely, have Isobel delighted at her marriage to Clarence, only to end up disappointed and embittered, though still loving him helplessly, due to his drunken cruelty. These three women are Helpless Pawns.

8. The only reason John switches sides at the end is because he knows that without him, Warwick will die. Remember this! It's very important. John still loves the king and wears his colours to the bitter end.

9. The countess of Salisbury's attainder and flight to Ireland needn't be mentioned. It's unimportant and trivial. She should slump to her knees at the news of her husband's death, slip into a decline and die of a broken heart.

10. At Barnet, John dies bravely and Warwick dies trying to run away.

If you follow this advice, no matter who your major characters are, you should find it easy to slip the Nevills into your story without so much as a ripple.