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Archive for the ‘Richard III’ Category

“Edward IV used to say that he had three mistresses ‘which … diversely excelled; one the meriest, the other the wyliest, the thirde the holyest’ harlot in the Realm.”

He would have been like a father to his little brother, since Richard was only nine when their father died. In 1483 Edward honored Richard by granting him the city and castle of Carlisle, wardenship of the West Marches and 10,000 marks. Still the king chose to keep his ambitious brother at a distance, “somewhat outside” the official circle.

Edward openly favored his queen’s family – the Greys and the Woodvilles; as a result, they had many enemies.

In March Edward became ill with fever and shivering fits. He was only 41 years old when he took to his bed at Westminster. Authors debate the nature of his illness. Some believed he was upset by the deceit of Louis IX; others said he was suffering the final effects of “drink and debauchery.”

Five hundred archers were on hand to keep the peace, if necessary. Some feared a coup by the queen’s family while others worried about what Richard would do.

Edward IV died April 9.  The once beautiful body of the king lay bloated, naked to the waist, for some hours before being taken for exhibition to several locations. In describing his reign, Sir James Henry Ramsay writes that “twenty-two years of government turned him from the most trustful to the most suspicious of men; yet he was always true to those who served him well.”

Edward died with his kingdom in a good place. He had recovered Berwick in the war against Scotland.  The country had been peaceful since the death of his brother Clarence and his court was filled with faithful, knowledgeable servants.

The transition to his 13-year-old son should have been easy, but it wasn’t. There was a deadlock over who would assume guardianship of the new king. Guardianship of the king was the same as control of the kingdom. The boy was then living in the care of his Uncle Rivers. The lords of the council wanted to establish a Regency Council until he was of age; instead, the queen “unwisely claimed it for herself.” He added “In the deadlock a rush was made to secure points of vantage.” Sir Edward Woodville assumed command of the king’s ships. Dorset invaded the tower and helped himself to the king’s private coffer.

Arrangements were made to bring young Edward to London for the crowning ceremony, which was scheduled for May 4. His Uncle Rivers would arrange for the journey but internal suspicions led to disputes as to how many men the young king could have in his escort. Ramsay writes “Impartial men were amazed at the idea of limiting the number of followers that a King should bring with him to his Coronation.”  The queen settled it by writing a letter telling her son he could bring no more than 2,000 men.

The moment Richard learned of the king’s death he leaped into action. He wrote the queen swearing devotion to her son as king; then he went to York to publicly mourn his brother’s death. He even exacted oaths of allegiance from the northern gentry on his nephew’s behalf.

On his way to London Richard was joined by his powerful accomplice, the Duke of Buckingham. At the same time Rivers and his friend, Sir Richard Grey, were en route with the young king. Rivers left the boy in Stony Stratford and the two men went to Northampton to pay their respects to Richard and “consult his wishes.” A pleasant evening was enjoyed by all.

The next morning Rivers and Grey were on their way back to Stony Stratford when they were seized and sent north. Richard had possession of his nephew.

The queen received the awful news the next day. We can imagine her anguish as she rushed her children into sanctuary at Westminster. Ramsay says the town “was greatly agitated” with men choosing refuge, either with the queen at Westminster or the Lords of the Council in the city.

Surprisingly, Richard’s behavior was impeccable and the boy’s coronation went as planned. Edward wore blue velvet; Richard wore black “like a mourner.” Ramsay writes “Gloucester gained golden opinions by his deferential attitude towards his young charge.”

He had stolen the role of protectorate and nobody had the courage to question his motives. When the privy council met, Archbishop Bourchier told those present that he had taken the late king’s most important effects, including the great seal, the privy seal and the signet.  This move sidestepped Archbishop Rotherham, who was for the queen.

By May 14 members of the court were addressing Richard as “Protector;” his power grew quickly.  He named the Duke of Buckingham Justiciar and Chamberlain of North and South Wales, Constable of all royal castles and more; obviously Buckingham’s loyalty was a priority.

On May 19 the young king’s friends suggested he be moved to a place where he could enjoy more freedom. Several places were recommended, but Richard chose to move him to the Tower. Richard was ready to finish what he had started. On 16 June Richard went “in force” by water to Westminster to take the other boy. “To their endless disgrace” Cardinal Bourchier and Chancellor Russell convinced the queen to surrender her younger son.

Both boys – his nephews, sons of his brother the deceased king – were declared illegitimate.

As of August 1483, they were never seen playing on tower grounds again.

According to Thomas More, Richard had the boys smothered in their bed.

Our Henry Wyatt was probably still in prison in Scotland at the time, but change was in the wind. The assumed death of the boys turned popular opinion against Richard and his days were numbered.

Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry Tudor, worked behind the scenes to form alliances on behalf of her son.

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