Notes on Opening the Urn

The calls to re-examine the remains in the Westminster urn seem to be gathering momentum, so here are a few words of warning.

1.  DNA comparison. It must be remembered that for Richard III we had a good modern mtDNA comparator, which was why we knew identification was possible as long as a mtDNA sample could be extracted from his mortal remains for comparison. However, the process of extracting Richard’s mtDNA was extremely difficult – too difficult for the laboratory in Leicester so they had to outsource the task to the universities of York and Toulouse. They did not do this willingly, and even so the process took several  months.

Plus … before they were even prepared to accept the results comparing the mtDNA of Michael Ibsen, who was found as a modern donor by John Ashdown-Hill, they insisted on cross-checking with other genealogical lines independent of John’s researches. They also included Y-chromosome sampling, even though in terms of genealogy Y-chromosome DNA is far less reliable than mtDNA, and is much more likely to degrade and/or mutate over the centuries.

Apparently a DNA line has been identified which could provide the mtDNA of Edward V and Richard of York, the missing sons of Edward IV, whose bones are alleged to have been found in 1674 and inurned in Westminster Abbey. Whatever DNA sources might be used, the fact is that when dealing with the hotly disputed bones in the urn we would certainly need more than one ancient and more than one modern! And all this would STILL be dependent on the remains in the urn actually yielding acceptable samples, which is by no means guaranteed.

2. Contamination. Particularly worrying is the fact that these bones have been handled by a wide variety of people over the centuries and their archaeological context has been thoroughly lost. They were dug up, thrown on a rubbish heap, retrieved after a number of days, examined and picked over by unknown persons before inurnment, and then examined again by Tanner and Wright in the 1930s who took photographs and X-rays. They may very well have undergone cleaning processes. So they are by now VERY contaminated, unlike Richard’s undisturbed body, which presented a difficult enough task. N.B. Cross-contamination is so easy, and presents such problems, that precautionary DNA samples were taken from all of us at the dig in 2012.

Speaking of contamination, Tanner and Wright found animal bones in the urn. The conclusion is that some of the people given access to the bones in the 17th century took souvenirs and slipped in animal bones as substitute material. Who knows – did they intrude human bones as well?

3. Testing for DNA or anything else. Given the mixture of loose bones and skulls in the urn, none of which are attached to each other, we don’t know how many individuals are represented by the remains. The late osteoarchaeologist Bill White thought there could well be more than two. So the process would be very long and very expensive because you’d have to try to do testing on every bone to be sure every individual present was covered. Otherwise, even if you were lucky enough to extract samples from, say, a tooth, there would always be nay-sayers to cast doubt because samples weren’t taken from, say, a loose rib or vertebra. Let’s not forget that at least one historian has refused to accept the identification of Richard III – a single body from a pristine grave.

The fact is, with our present state of technology, you could never get an acceptable DNA sample from every bone and tooth because ancient DNA is very unikely to survive in a form which we are at present able to detect and uitilize. 

Thus even with modern DNA comparators … and even if you managed to extract a sample … and even if you got a clear mismatch indicating that your ancient sample was NOT from the sons of Elizabeth Woodville (or not even 15th century) … there would STILL be people who would claim that you’ve proved nothing because not every single human item was tested. Which you couldn’t deny.

4. What other tests can be done? To try to get supporting identification, processes including carbon dating and analysing diet were conducted on Richard III. But these are hit and miss in terms of identifying individual persons because the results they produce merely indicate approximations in respect of each ancient sample tested, whether an idea of its era or the places where its owner might have lived. And again you’d have the major problem of needing to test every single human item found in the urn.

5. The bottom line. Who is likely to pay for this? Given the manifold doubts inherent in the prospect of actually getting an acceptable identification, who would invest money in making the attempt? At some point we have to face the fact that, no matter how nice it would be to satisfy our curiosity, we cannot with our current technology be sure of meeting the challenge of comparing and testing all those contaminated bones. Furthermore, you would need to put a  convincing case for the attempt to HM King Charles, in whose hands permission lies. Even the process of constructing such a case would entail expensive costing procedures.

To open the Westminster urn at this time would be premature, and would replicate the errors of Tanner and Wright by applying inadequate scientific technology. Whereupon the urn would be sealed again and inaccessible for the next hundred years. 

© Annette Carson 2023

Disputed Remains Found at the Tower of London

The eBook release of Richard III: The Maligned King in 2017 gave me the opportunity to add a new note to Chapter 10. This is where I wrote what is still the most comprehensive survey of the remains in the urn at Westminster Abbey which, by tradition, are thought to be Richard’s nephews, the royal princes Edward V and Richard Duke of York.

Let’s start with what is already explained and referenced in Chapter 10. Long before 1674, when the Westminster skeletons were excavated from ten feet

under a stone staircase, we have a clutch of reports of children’s remains discovered in a room at the Tower earlier in the century. It is these reports that I examine here. All of them immediately brought to mind the sons of Edward IV, and all with equal lack of proof.

The accounts I mentioned in previous editions were written by Sir George Buc (<1619-20), John Webb (August 1647), and Louis Aubery du Maurier (published 1680 citing an account given to his father <1625).

* Buc, in describing the discovery that came to his knowledge, made clear that it was a solitary carcase found in a high and inaccessible turret. His report emphasized the likelihood that it was an escaped ape.

* A generation later, John Webb reported the remains of two children found at the Tower in a walled-up room (clearly not a turret) for which he provided a location and sketch-plan having personally verified the details with men who were witnesses. Webb had been told this occurred during the imprisonment of Lord Grey and Sir Walter Raleigh, which strictly speaking would span the years 1603–14. The remains were assumed to be the sons of Edward IV … until their ages were assessed at no greater than 8 years.

* The third report (1680) repeated this tale, with added embellishment, of two children in a walled-up room, but without the credibility of the careful Webb. Du Maurier was much more vague about the date of the discovery, placing it in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. At least a clear terminal date for the tale was provided by the death of its originator, Prince Maurice of Orange, in 1625.

Unfortunately none of those who made these records ever claimed to be eyewitnesses themselves. That no reporter was able to establish the actual date is equally disappointing, and leaves the field open for speculation. But a rough framework has begun to appear thanks to the extra record I want to draw to your attention today. I will frame this within a condensed timeline below.

I came across it originally while I was compiling Chapter 10 using the Archaeologia article by Tanner and Wright among numerous other references. In the 1986 book Loyalty, Lordship and Law by Peter Hammond and Bill White there was a footnote, or I should say endnote (no. 54), mentioning that they had been informed of another source named Ralph Brooke, contemporary with Buc, who also wrote of a find of children’s remains at the Tower. Their informant, L.M. Gowans, took the view that Brooke had written a modification of Buc’s story, and the authors agreed: it was a ‘confused reworking of the latter’s account’. Regrettably, it appears that Hammond et al did not check Brooke carefully enough; nor was I in a position to do so working in South Africa twenty years ago, so I accepted their view.

Another commentator, Helen Maurer, writing in The Ricardian, consulted Brooke and concluded the opposite to Hammond et al – her opinion was that Buc misrepresented what Brooke reported! This is in line with the general mistrust of Buc by historians. But we know what Buc said, thanks to Dr Arthur Kinciad’s scholarly work, so let us compare the extract from Brooke. The context was that he was writing of the younger son of Edward IV in a Catalogue of royalty and peers, saying that Richard Duke of York ‘was (with his brother Prince Edward) murdered in the Tower of London; which place ever since hath been mured up, and not known untill of late, when as their dead carcases were there found, under a heape of stones and rubbish.’

At the time I had made a very thorough study of Dr Kincaid’s revelatory work on Sir George Buc (now published in a new edition under my project management), and I could not make sense of Maurer’s conclusion that Sir George had deliberately twisted Brooke’s report to suit his own theories. Arthur Kincai went to the extent of re-examining Buc’s comments at my request and agrees with me that he should be treated as reliable in saying (a) that the bones of a single individual were found in a turret and (b) that although some people jumped to the conclusion that this was one of the princes, it was far more likely they were the remains of a missing ape previously lost. A facsimile of this page of the text is given in the new 2023 edition.

What I failed to notice in Maurer was that there was one important thing she got right which Hammond et al got wrong: the date of Brooke’s report quoted above. This date was 1622. The report was an interpolation into the 2nd edition of his Catalogue which had originally been published in 1619. In the 1st edition the text had said merely that the younger prince’s ‘place of buriall was never knowne certainly to this day’. That Brooke also left this statement unaltered in the 2nd edition indicates that whatever he was told of the ‘dead carcases’, nothing was revealed about their eventual disposal.

Ralph Brooke was York Herald in Sir George Buc’s day, and his ODNB entry reveals a man extremely intolerant of errors and chicanery. The two were very distinguished individuals and undoubtedly knew each other. Which makes it hugely unlikely that either would risk his credibility in the eyes of colleagues by misreporting a fact known to people within their circle. If their relationship was close enough for Brooke to have read of this in Sir George’s unpublished MS, they would certainly have conversed and got the story straight between them. Indeed, Brooke was the type of person who would have castigated Buc if he thought he made errors or twisted facts. Therefore we must accept that at the time of Buc’s MS (<1619-20) he was writing of a single carcase, whereas when Brooke made the amendment to his 2nd edition (1622) he was writing of two carcases – a different discovery.

This is where the timeline comes in. I am here listing the events in reverse chronology, to show the significance of correctly dating Ralph Brooke’s report:

1680     Du Maurier publishes story told by Prince Maurice of Orange that two children’s carcases (presumed royal) were found in a walled-up room at the Tower in the reign of Queen Elizabeth who had the room walled up again. Du Maurier adds an ill-informed comment about the same bones being recently rediscovered in the same room and placed in Westminster Abbey [meaning the remains dug up in 1674].

1647     John Webb reports two children’s carcases (presumed royal but aged <8 years)) found in a specified room at the Tower during Grey and Raleigh’s imprisonment.

1625     death of Prince Maurice of Orange, hitherto the earliest estimate for the date of the discovery of two skeletons.

1622     Brooke’s Catalogue 2nd edition adds a reference to two walled-up carcases (presumed royal) lately found at the Tower.

1619-20 Buc’s Richard III reports nothing about a pair of royal carcases, only the carcase of a single individual, probably an ape, found in a turret at the Tower.

1619     Brooke’s Catalogue 1st edition, like Buc’s contemporary MS, mentions nothing about a pair of royal carcases.

1618     Execution of Sir Walter Raleigh.

1603–14 Raleigh and Grey imprisoned at the same time.

This is not to say any great truth has been proved. But Brooke’s independent report adds credibility to Webb and Prince Maurice, hitherto largely dismissed. Even his ‘heape of stones and rubbish’, discounted as merely an echo of Thomas More, makes practical sense if we are considering builders’ rubble in a walled-up room (and More never mentioned rubbish).

What is more, Brooke’s claim ‘not known untill of late’ introduces a new, earlier terminal date for the double discovery, having come to his attention by 1622. The discovery itself seems almost certainly to have been hushed up by the Tower authorities, otherwise it would have been widely shared and generated much speculation. Brooke evidently knew very little: much less than Webb’s eyewitness informants who, significantly, either worked at the Tower or frequented it.

To me these circumstances suggest we have three reports of the same find in the second decade of the 17th century (before Raleigh’s execution); a find that was contained at the time by orders from above, until intimations began leaking to interested parties around 1620-22. I submit that the find itself should NOT be ignored, but should be viewed as a credible incident which needs to be weighed against the discovery in 1674 when a different set of bones was so precipitately identified.

I am not aware to what extent early 17th-century writing has been trawled for other references, but from the dismissive approach of Maurer and Hammond et al, one could be forgiven for presuming little effort has been devoted to seeking more information. Yet the antiquaries of this period are well known to have ushered in a new and remarkably scientific insistence on documentary evidence before they were prepared to credit claims as historical fact; indeed their heroic preservation efforts gave us the priceless collections that became today’s British Library. This should instil confidence rather than scepticism, and perhaps further research will one day bring useful clarification. 

© Annette Carson 2017


Royal Wedding 1473

A few years ago I decided to spend time researching the dating of several events in the Ricardian calendar. I thought assumptions had been made that were unwarranted, and sure enough this turned out to be the case. They included Richard’s marriage to Lady Anne Neville, the birth and death of their son, and Anne’s prior marriage to Edward of Westminster. Marie Barnfield expressed similar interests and I invited her to co-write a series of articles with me. Some of them appeared in the Richard III Society’s Bulletin, and in July 2016 I gave a talk at the Middleham Festival on the subject of Richard III’s son – the dates of his birth and death, and that of his parents’ marriage.

Scant notice was taken in the inner echelons of the Richard III Society at the time, apart from decisions (unexplained) to mark some of these dates by flying Richard’s banner at Middleham Castle. I guess the powers-that-be were waiting for endorsement by someone they considered more respectable. Perhaps the eminently respectable Mr Peter Hammond will be found to have endorsed these findings in his rewritten publication on Richard III’s children, which I suppose will reflect our research and correct his previously published inaccuracies.

Meanwhile anyone who missed the articles and the talk may be interested in the following observations on the marriage of Richard and Anne.

First, the Crowland Chronicle’s remarks about dates of events around 1472 are misleading. You can get a more accurate picture from contemporary documents, events and customs [detaiols of sources are of course given in the series of articles mentioned above]. The proper chronology starts in 1471, with Anne being placed in Clarence’s custody after her husband’s demise at Tewkesbury, whereupon she was expected to remain in mourning for a year. She would also have been watched closely for signs of a Lancastrian pregnancy. Whatever his long-term plans, Richard would have held off until the king deemed it acceptable to seek the hand of a traitor’s widow.

In summary, therefore, after fulfilling his military duties in 1471, and leaving a decent interval, Richard would have indicated to Clarence his wish to marry Anne; Clarence objected and an opportunity was found to place the matter before the king. By mid February 1472 Edward IV had coerced Clarence’s agreement to the marriage although the latter still resisted sharing the Warwick inheritance. A month later Edward had brokered an agreement involving Clarence’s transfer of certain estates to Richard in modest satisfaction of Anne’s rights by inheritance. Richard then applied for a marriage dispensation from the pope.

The dispensation arrived, probably after Richard had returned to the North where events kept him busy. There is evidence of a single date when he was in London in the summer of 1472, but in the absence of proof of a much longer stay it is unlikely that he had the time to accomplish all the activities that I am about to describe, which seem more likely to have taken olace in the autumn.

By mid October 1472 we know he was back in London attending to business in Parliament, which seems to have been when he looked to arrange the wedding. At this point he was thwarted when he discovered Clarence had gone back on his word and hidden Anne somewhere in London in the guise of a cook-maid. This required Richard to conduct a search, discover her, and place her safely in sanctuary.

We have now reached November 1472 and the atmosphere between the three brothers had become sour. Advent was on the horizon, between 29 November and Christmas, and the Church forbade marriages during Advent. A hurried wedding seems unlikely in such circumstances, especially with Clarence still claiming his right to oppose it. Richard also had matters in hand to negotiate with the Countess of Oxford which continued into early January. References to this and any other events during that period make no mention of any recent royal marriage.

There is, however, some solid evidence. Before Parliament rose on 8 April 1473, an Act was passed referring to Anne as Duchess of Gloucester. Edward IV passed a petition by Ralph, Lord Neville, with the addition of a special proviso: ‘Provided also that this act shall not … be prejudicial or harmful to … Richard, duke of Gloucester, and Anne, duchess of Gloucester, his wife’.

They could not have married during Lent – 3 March to 18 April – another period when it was forbidden by the Church, so everything points to the date of Richard and Anne’s marriage taking place between mid January and the end of February 1473. The fact that in May 1473 the king allowed Anne’s mother to leave sanctuary to join the Middleham household seems clearly corroborative.

A Tale of Three Mistresses … Mangled by Thomas More

Our primary source of gossip about Edward IV’s mistresses is attributable to the pen of Thomas More (1478–1535), knight and latterly saint. While writing about Richard III, More found space for a lengthy diversion into the career of ‘Mistress Shore’, perhaps Edward’s most notorious extra-marital concubine, about whose present and past conditions the writer claimed much knowledge. Unfortunately it appears he never thought to consult the lady on the accuracy of what he wrote, strewn as it is with avoidable errors of fact.1 This article will refer to her by her proper name, Elizabeth Lambert. Her brief marriage to the London mercer William Shore was annulled in 1476 on grounds of non-consummation. And although she is almost always referred to as ‘Jane’, this forename was given her arbitrarily in the two-part True Tragedy of Edward IV (written around 1600 by Thomas Heywood), the writer being clearly ignorant of her proper Christian name and being concerned, like More, only with her notoriety. The prominence of his ‘Jane’ character may have led to the play afterwards being referred to as Jane Shore.2


Despite the high esteem in which More is held by historians, he was clearly too young to have had personal knowledge of reigns earlier than the Tudor period, and his family’s history reveals no intimacy with fifteenth-century royalty; whatever he wrote about them can only have been hearsay. Moreover, in the opinions of leading literary scholars Thomas More’s dissertation on Richard III was conceived and executed as a bravura exercise in satirical drama to which the facts of history had no particular relevance. Nevertheless, More’s reference to Edward and his ‘three mistresses’ is continually retold as if he had a direct line to the full facts. The relevant passage occurs after he has devoted several pages to Elizabeth Lambert:

“The king would say that he had three concubines, which in three diverse properties diversely excelled: one the merriest, another the wiliest, the third the holiest harlot in his realm, as one whom no man could get out of church lightly to any place but it were to his bed. The other two were somewhat greater personages, and nevertheless of their humility content to be nameless and to forbear the praise of those properties. But the merriest was this Shore’s wife, in whom the king therefore took special pleasure. For many he had, but her he loved …” (etc.).

That the king had three concubines is almost certainly an understatement, but More helpfully gives the name of one other as ‘Dame Lucy’. She appears in More’s questionable version of an incident from as far back as 1464 which seems to have become an urban myth. The original surviving record of this incident was related by the Italian Dominic Mancini in 1483 after visiting England for a few months: even so, nearly twenty years after the event itself.

Mancini’s story tells of how Edward IV’s mother Cecily, Duchess of York, was so scandalized by the king’s secret marriage to the widowed commoner Elizabeth Woodville, who became his queen, that she vowed the Duke of York was not the father of this disgraceful son. As the story ran in Mancini’s day, the duchess insisted she would voluntarily testify that Edward IV was no son of York.3 Mancini had been asked to write down, for the benefit of the French royal court, all that he had discovered about Richard III’s dramatic accession to the throne – which he admitted was little enough – so he was given to embellishing his narrative with extraneous details which we now know contained inaccuracies. Although we can accept it was probably based on a kernel of truth, we need to bear two things in mind: first, he may have been given a highly coloured account of some considerably less dramatic reality; and second, it suited him to disparage English royalty for his French readers and hence, like many writers of history before and since, he tended to exaggerate for effect. We have no idea how many tongues had embroidered the story between 1464 and 1483, so the wisest course is to reduce it to its essence: the duchess flew into a fury and went so far as to threaten some kind of legal challenge.

Edward IV’s affairs with women subsequently embroiled all England in a crisis, when it was discovered after his death and later confirmed by Parliament that his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was not his first such secret wedding. Some years earlier he had secretly married Lady Eleanor Talbot, daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury. Briefly summarized, under the laws of the Church this meant that Lady Eleanor was still his wife when he secretly and bigamously married Elizabeth, and this combination of illicit actions rendered the children of his Woodville marriage illegitimate. The government of the day elected to offer the crown to Richard III as the senior qualified heir.4

Such high matters of state, of Parliament and of canon law were scarcely understood by the majority of Englishmen, and moreover they impugned the honour and dignity of the late king and his abandoned first wife; doubtless they were spoken of in hushed tones by those in the know. Thus the name of the long-deceased Lady Eleanor became consigned to obscurity. England soon had greater concerns when the pretender Henry Tudor revealed his designs on the English crown, eventually mounting a successful invasion under the patronage of France in 1485 when against all probability King Richard was killed. Since the new king had to devise some believable grounds for his invasion and some legitimate reason for aspiring to the throne, he declared Richard’s accession unlawful. He repealed the Act of Parliament which had set out Richard’s right to succeed, insisting it be repealed unread and every copy destroyed. His aim was to remove from history what was probably the only official government document that articulated Richard’s legitimacy as king, together with the grounds for setting aside Edward IV’s offspring owing to their father’s prior marriage (in legal terminology ‘precontract’) to Eleanor Talbot.5 Since Henry planned to appease Yorkist partisans by marrying Edward IV’s eldest daughter, this process was vital to removing public knowledge of her illegitimacy.

A century would pass before records began to be found which revealed the truth, but by then Richard III was indelibly cast as a usurper in the national consciousness. It was with this certainty that Thomas More embarked upon his literary polemic for which he chose Richard III as his exemplar of tyranny. This was more than fifty years after the Woodville marriage that caused Cecily so much wrath, and more than thirty years after Mancini wrote his tale of her angry outburst. Incidentally, we need not believe she ever volunteered to swear publicly to her own adultery! It is not difficult to conceive of at least one possible legal challenge she might have considered bringing against the match … but in all probability her real grounds of objection never formed part of the story picked up by Mancini. Nevertheless he would have been aware of a certain malicious calumny Louis XI delighted in putting about, that Edward IV was the bastard son of an archer named Blaybourne, so maybe it was Mancini who supplied this extra flourish knowing it would appeal to his readers.

If we turn to what More says about the same incident, we find that after three decades of Tudor rule the story has vastly changed. It is still recognizably a version of Mancini’s tale of the duchess raging and threatening to resort to law. But what makes this new version interesting is that it conflates some vestige of recollection that a precontract to an earlier wife was involved. Perhaps it had been thought politically advisable to incorporate this persistent memory into the well-known tale of ‘Proud Cis’ and her rage against her son, at the same time using it to repudiate that there ever was anything untoward about his Woodville marriage. It takes up a lot of space in More’s Richard III, with plenty of dialogue to and fro between mother and son debating her objections. At last, and as a ‘pretext’ says More, plainly undermining the integrity of the duchess’s final argument, she protests that Edward ought instead to marry ‘one Dame Elizabeth Lucy, whom the king had also not long before gotten with child’ making him in consequence ‘her husband before God’. So this ‘Elizabeth Lucy’ is duly called and ‘solemnly sworn’, says More. This portion of his tale obviously echoes the ‘public enquiry’ mentioned in the earlier Mancini version, only this time it is Dame Lucy who is subjected to examination and denies the precontract which Cecily is trying to foist on her son.6 With our current knowledge we can see this as a transparent ruse to discredit the existence of Edward’s genuine precontract with Eleanor Talbot. But thanks to More its effect is fully achieved: he declares it proves the falsity of the charges made in 1483 against Edward’s marriage.

There is another feature that also shows this to be a manufactured story: the incident supposedly occurs before Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, with Cecily trying to prevent it. The Mancini version correctly places Cecily’s outburst after their marriage, which famously took place in secret and remained totally unknown for several months. More is so much deceived as to write that the king’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was celebrated ‘with great feast and honourable solemnity’!

It has been important to emphasize how very little Thomas More really knew about the women in Edward IV’s life, because our next step demonstrates how thoroughly his stories have misled historians and commentators.7 Dispensations to marry granted by the Church are extremely helpful in establishing genealogies, and a recent article by Marie Barnfield and Stephen Lark cites one that adds new information to what was previously known, deduced or assumed about some of Edward IV’s mistresses and children.8

One of the king’s most well-known bastards was Arthur, later Viscount Lisle, hitherto almost universally believed to have been fathered on ‘Elizabeth Lucy’. However, references to Dame Lucy place her and her child in Edward’s life prior to his Woodville marriage. Whereas what is known of Arthur Plantagenet’s life and career is scarcely compatible with a birth date before mid-1464.9

If we seek an alternative identity for Dame Lucy’s child we find a much better candidate in a bastard daughter attributed to Edward hitherto known as Elizabeth, later Lady Lumley, thought to have been born in the 1460s. It has now been established that this child’s Christian name was not Elizabeth (as erroneously claimed in a herald’s visitation of 1530) but Margaret (in a grant dated 1479 where she is identified as the wife of Thomas, later Lord Lumley). Further genealogical research supports this identification.

These indications about the daughter have opened up more opportunities to identify her putative mother. The problems in pinning down information about Dame Lucy have always been compounded by assumptions about her. Copious evidence exists that Arthur, Lord Lisle, was certainly connected with the Wayte family, therefore he was known as a Wayte and it was assumed his mother was too. On the general presumption that his mother was Dame Lucy, she was automatically assigned the maiden name of Wayte. For example, this was propounded by Sir George Buc who described her as ‘the daughter of one Wayte of Southampton, a mean gentleman, if he were one. And she was the wife of one Lucy, as mean a man as Wayte. … And she was the mother of the bastard Arturus.’10 Arthur Plantagenet had verifiable links with the Waytes of Segenworth, near Southampton, but genealogical records cannot reconcile Dame Lucy as a member of the Wayte family at all, nor is there any evidence of any Wayte family member having links with a family named Lucy or even mentioning the name Lucy in correspondence. Which again strongly suggests that Arthur was not born to a mother surnamed Lucy.

It now appears that Dame Lucy may ALSO have been a Margaret misnamed Elizabeth! Her correct maiden name, if so, was Margaret FitzLewis, and she was the young widow of Sir William Lucy of Dallington and Richards Castle (d. 1460). This would fit with the child she bore Edward being not his bastard son Arthur but his bastard daughter Margaret, later Lady Lumley, born in the 1460s some time before Margaret FitzLewis’s own death in 1466. Contrary to Buc, the title ‘Dame’ Lucy suggests her husband was a knight or baronet, not a mean man.11 Other than Sir William Lucy of Dallington there existed one other knighted Lucy at that time, viz. Sir William Lucy of Charlcote (d. 1466). This Sir William Lucy certainly did marry an Elizabeth, but she was Elizabeth Percy who died in 1455; he remarried and was survived by a widow, but her name was Agnes.

It is impossible to be certain, of course, but the result of all this would suggest two distinct ladies who were erroneously conflated:

* Edward IV’s early mistress before his Woodville marriage. Dame Lucy, née Margaret FitzLewis (misnamed Elizabeth), daughter of Sir Lewis John (or John Lewis) of Welsh parentage, and widow of Sir William Lucy. Her probable liaison with Edward would have occurred after her husband’s death in 1460, resulting in a daughter Margaret Plantagenet in the early 1460s (also misnamed Elizabeth) who married Sir Thomas Lumley (c. 1458–1487).

* Edward’s later mistress during his Woodville marriage. She was a Wayte, probably a Wayte of Segenworth, and gave birth to Edward’s bastard son Arthur Plantagenet (who jousted with the young Henry VIII in 1510, married for the first time in 1511, was created Viscount Lisle in 1523, and died in 1542). It has been suggested that her father was a Thomas Wayte of Hampshire (d. 1482), but as far as we know Thomas died without legitimate issue (he left one bastard daughter, Alice); if he had any other children they must have predeceased him without legitimate issue of their own. Several other factors in the research by Barnfield and Lark also militate against Thomas as her father, including the obscurity of his family and its extreme southern location.

This leaves just one more mistress of whose existence we know, namely Elizabeth Lambert, married name Shore, misnamed Jane. She was current at the time of the king’s death but no offspring have been directly attributed to her. It is not impossible that Thomas More, sufficiently taken with this lady to devote several pages to her, may well have superimposed her name of Elizabeth on the ‘Dame Lucy’ of his false precontract story. Misled by his reputation as some kind of authority on fifteenth-century royalty, writers of history duly copied him unthinkingly.

Doubtless other mistresses existed, and indeed other bastards. But the purpose of this essay is not to rehearse the tedious details of Edward IV’s amours – nor yet to claim knowledge of precisely who they were –  it is simply to demonstrate how easy it was (and is) for history to be misrepresented by placing uncritical faith in false prophets.


1. He failed even to verify the full name of her later lover William Hastings, whose gifts to her became the subject of a court case reported by The Great Chronicle.

2. Appreciation to Dr A.N. Kincaid for this information.

3. Mancini, ed. C.A.J. Armstrong, De Occupatione Regni Anglie per Riccardum Tercium, Gloucester 1989, pp. 60–62: ‘Even his mother fell into such a frenzy that she offered to submit to a public enquiry, asserting that Edward was not the offspring of her husband the Duke of York but was conceived in adultery and therefore in no wise worthy of the honour of kingship.’

4. This matter is fully covered in Carson, Richard III: The Maligned King, Stroud, 2013, pp. 75–88.

5. Nor (perhaps unsurprisingly) has any official record survived of the deliberations of the King’s Council during that crucial succession crisis of 1483 when Edward IV’s bigamy and the illegitimacy of his children were debated.

6. More pp. 63–67.

7. Clearly More knew nothing of Lady Eleanor Talbot (married name Butler), pace R.S. Sylvester who supposed Eleanor was one of the ‘three mistresses’ More referred to; we now see Sylvester was also probably wrong in stating definitively that Dame Lucy was the mother of Arthur Plantagenet: The History of King Richard III, Yale University Press 1976, p. 57 fn. 3 and p. 65 fn. 2.

 8. ‘The Paternity of Lady Lumley: Some New Evidence’, The Ricardian, Vol. XXVI, June 2016, pp. 113–20. Readers are referred to that article and its footnotes for sources of the information summarized here.

9. David Grummitt’ (ODNB) offers a birth date ‘before 1472’ but this is based on a reference in royal household accounts to ‘my Lord the Bastard’, unidentified, which may refer to some other person; a suggested birth date of 1462-1464 is rightly discounted as too early to be compatible with the known events of his life and career. Grummitt states without comment that ‘most authorities’ identify his mother as Elizabeth Lucy, ‘probably the daughter of Thomas Waite of Hampshire’.

10. Buc did know the truth that the lady of the precontract was Eleanor Talbot and realized that the alleged precontract with Dame Lucy was false; but he accepted Thomas More’s claim that Dame Lucy was Arthur’s mother: Sir George Buc, The History of King Richard the Third, ed. Arthur Kincaid, pp. 181–2. It is not correct that he named her as Lady Lumley’s mother.

11. And More in his Latin text states that she came from a noble family.

Perceptions of Richard III – new evidence

In a recent issue of the Richard III Society’s Ricardian Bulletin there appeared an article by Carol Hartley, a research assistant at the College of Arms.She reported that Clarenceux King of Arms (Patric Dickinson) had replied to a reader’s letter in the Daily Telegraph asking why no heralds were present at the reburial of King Richard III on 26 March 2015. Garter King of Arms had indeed been present, he explained, and York Herald, ‘but not in uniform and tabard’.

In actual fact the College of Arms had been involved by the Looking For Richard Project from the outset, with York Herald (Peter O’Donoghue) providing valuable advice over the years of research. Our plans, which were rejected when the Leicester committee took charge, had anticipated full representation of the College in its official capacity and with appropriate heraldry for the reburial of a king, not least because Richard III himself was its founder and gave the College its Charter of Incorporation in 1484.

Thanks to King Richard the College was also given an establishment to house its records, in which can now be found such treasures as the Latin version of the Rous Roll. They also include an interesting manuscript which Ms Hartley described in the title of her article as ‘An early seventeenth-century vindication of Richard III’.2 It appears in a collection of folios depicting kings and their heraldic devices, in a hand thought to be that of William Segar, appointed Garter King of Arms by James I in 1604. This collection, in turn, is thought to have been a draft for a manuscript which was dedicated to King James and probably produced that same year.

‘Clarenceux King of Arms points out that this description of Richard III must therefore have been produced very early in the reign of James I,’ Ms Hartley comments; ‘in other words, as soon as the Tudor dynasty had gone and a reassessment could safely be made.’

It will be remembered that James I (James VI of Scotland) succeeded Elizabeth I, the last of the Tudor monarchs (d. 1603); though related by their common descent from Henry VII, they came from substantially different backgrounds.3 Thus James I’s Garter King of Arms felt sufficiently unconstrained to write the following:4

‘Richard the third, esteemed of many men an Evell man and called the usurper, he was a good King for he made many good and wholesome Lawes wch are yet in force; he was wise and valiant. He used for a supporter the white Bore wch he had by Dukedome of Glocester And for his Badge the white rose in the sunne as his Brother Kinge Edward the fourth had it.’

The term reassessment is probably appropriate when speaking of the views of men who had careers to consider in a world dominated by aristocratic patronage. Our historians have always given prominence to the onslaught of government-approved condemnation in the Tudor-era ‘chronicles’ and would-be ‘histories’ that flooded into circulation with the arrival of mass printing. Yet even among his detractors it was never denied that Richard was a valiant king. And among Englishmen on the ground, those ‘good and wholesome laws’ had never been forgotten, indeed his legislation in support of printing ought to have been particularly appreciated by people like Richard Grafton whose presses casually churned out calumnies of their benefactor. The enduring memory of his good legislation is testified in the following exchange reported in Hall’s Chronicle, when Cardinal Wolsey on behalf of Henry VIII demanded benevolences (monetary gifts to the king) from the Mayor and Aldermen of London. A member of the city’s Common Council stoutly declared that

‘by the lawe there might no suche benevolence be asked … for it was contrary to the statute made in the first yere of kyng Richarde the thirde …’ to which the cardinal replied, ‘Sir I marvell that you speak of Richard the third, which was a usurper and a murtherer of his awne nephewes, then of so evill a man, how can the actes be good, make so suche allegacions, his actes be not honourable.’ ‘And it please your grace,’ the councillor replied, ‘although he did evill, yet in his tyme wer many good actes made not by hym onely, but by the consent of the body of the whole realme, whiche is the parliament.’5

This assertion was made more than forty years after Richard’s prohibition of those hated benevolences, during which time the ruling party had lost no opportunity to revile his name. Though mud is bound to stick, it will be noticed that the charges of usurpation and murder on this occasion were made by the king’s enforcer, not by the good burghers of London, who merely acknowledged that he ‘did evil’. Not on that day or any other was it their concern to defend the king whose blackened reputation had persisted, as Bishop Stubbs observed, owing to ‘the fact that he left none behind whose duty or whose care it was to attempt his vindication’.6

In Tudor times the major chronicles and dramas demonstrably preferred to recycle each other’s tales of ‘King Richard the Cruel’ which had proved to command such a ready market. But in parallel with such famous names as Robert Fabyan, Edward Hall, Thomas Cooper, Raphael Holinshed and the rest there co-existed also a humbler variety of chronicle: the ‘Penny Plain’ to their ‘Tuppence Coloured’, so to speak. Barrett L. Beer, Emeritus Professor of History at Kent State University has recently written of these in Notes and Queries:7

‘An examination of the numerous editions of small mid-Tudor chronicles reveals that they do not promote the familiar image of Richard III found in Tudor literature. The legend of the tyrannical, wicked and deformed monarch appears in most of the larger sixteenth-century chronicles … as well as in Shakespeare’s play. Printers published over twenty editions of the small English chronicles during the mid-Tudor period, but they have received little attention from historians … The small chronicles are important because the large number of editions reveals a significant readership among non-elite readers who presumably could not afford the larger works.’

Professor Beer explains that they were printed in octavo size, offering a severely abbreviated narrative that emphasized the period following the accession of Henry VIII. There were two versions, the first of which appeared initially in 1539 and ran to eleven editions; the second and larger version of the two small chronicles appeared in 1552 and ran to ten editions. He suggests they probably followed the published works of Robert Fabyan, who ‘vigorously condemned Richard III but praised Henry VII’.8 He contrasts the length of Fabyan’s narrative of Richard’s reign, which covered four double-column folio pages, with the brief 1¾ single-column octavo pages of John Byddell’s 1539 small chronicle. ‘It would appear that Byddell wholly rejected Fabyan’s account of the reign as well as any other narrative that can be identified. After stating that Edward V was “shamefully murdered by commaundment” of Richard, Byddell merely wrote of the king’s coronation, the execution of the Duke of Buckingham at Salisbury and the battle of Bosworth. If space allocation explains Byddell’s interests, the deaths of two mayors of London [of sweating sickness] were more important historical events than the reign of Richard III. The readers of Byddell’s chronicle who had no other source of information would have concluded that Richard was an insignificant and colourless king scarcely worthy of mention.’

As to the second small chronicle, first published by John Mychell in 1552, its account of Richard’s reign was ‘surprisingly identical’, says Beer, to the previous one by Byddell, and continued so right up to the last of the editions in the reign of Elizabeth I. This is despite the appearance in the 1540s of Hall’s Chronicle, and Grafton’s Chronicle of John Hardyng which introduced the world to Thomas More’s dramatic version of Richard’s misdeeds. ‘Mychell indicated that he had consulted Fabyan, Hall and [Thomas] Lanquet, but he did not cite these authorities in connection with his account of Richard III.’

‘The legend of the wicked king,’ the professor continues, ‘clearly circulated among the educated elite, but the small chronicles suggest that its impact may not have extended to lower class readers who grew in numbers during the middle years of the sixteenth century. … [I]t is an inescapable fact that non-elite readers comprised the majority of the reading public at this time. The small chronicle narratives published in over twenty editions therefore call into question the depth of Richard III’s notorious reputation at mid-century.’

This casts a somewhat different light on the general assumption of how Richard III was perceived during the century following his death. Indeed, the usual catalogue of his alleged crimes is reduced to just one, i.e. that Edward V was ‘shamefully murdered’ on his orders, with no mention at all of usurpation. Perhaps those who maintain traditionalist views may be tempted to comment that this merely reflects an England by now inured to a ruling dynasty steeped in blood. But against this must be set the evidence of a decidedly softened view of Richard adopted by the antiquary movement at the turn of the seventeenth century, who must be categorized  among the elite and learned of their day …  and, as demonstrated by Clarenceux at the beginning of this article, a new willingness to see Richard as a good king, wise and valiant, and a maker of beneficial laws. If Garter King of Arms could write of him in this way, in the draft of a work dedicated to James I and in the expectation that the king would see it, still less surprising is it that Sir George Buc, that same king’s Master of the Revels, would undertake a full-hearted defence of Richard in the second decade of James’s reign.


1. September 2015, p. 46.

2. MS L.13 (Part II), fo. 381.

3. Henry VIII’s sister Margaret (Elizabeth’s aunt) was given in marriage to James IV of Scotland, whose son James V (Elizabeth’s first cousin) was succeeded by Mary Queen of Scots (her first cousin once removed, whom Elizabeth executed); Mary was mother to James VI of Scotland by her 2nd husband Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley.

4. In extracts from documents I have modernized the punctuation and used the letter ‘v’ where ‘u’ might result in confusion.

5. Page 698, 17 Henry VIII.

6. William Stubbs, The Constitutional History of England, 1878.

7. OUP, 2015, vol. 62 (1), pp. 42–5. Appreciation to Dr A.N. Kincaid for bringing this to my notice.

8. The author cites Fabyans cronycle newly prynted … (London, 1516 and 1533).

Richard III: The Maligned King – a summary of recent amendments

In April 2013 a revised paperback edition of The Maligned King was published with a red banner on the cover advertising ‘Updated Edition’. At my personal expense I also commissioned a commemorative limited edition of 100 as a high quality hardback to celebrate our discovery of Richard III in 2012 at the Greyfriars Church (a few remain available to buy).

Our discovery of Richard’s remains was described in the 2013 edition, and amendments were made to all references to his physical form; the earliest images of his facial reconstruction were also included. Plus, following feedback on the small type size of the previous paperback, the font was considerably enlarged. Several items of general research were amended, among them some re-dating of primary sources including that portion of the Crowland Chronicle covering 1483–5, now thought to have been completed circa October 1485.

Two areas in which I undertook research into original sources after my return to England resulted in changes to this edition.

** The first related to the convocation called for June 1483 but never held (article published in The Ricardian, 2012), and ruled out my previous suggestion in Chapter 4 that this could have provided a forum for assessment of the precontract revelation by Bishop Stillington.

** Second, my ongoing research into Richard’s office of High Constable (later published in Richard Duke of Gloucester as Lord Protector and High Constable of England) led to the conclusion that the nature of Lord Hastings’s conviction and sentence were consistent with this office’s legal powers of summary trial and execution without appeal.

* * *

Another reprint in June 2015 offered the opportunity for more amendments, principal among them being a revised index to replace the deficient index previously supplied by the publishers.

Most textual amendments are again matters of detail, but with the advantage of two years’ further research into the offices of Protector and Constable I have been able to update my remarks on the constitutional position that applied during the protectorate of 1483. According to precedent during a protectorate,

1. The King’s Council carried out the governance of England.

2. The Lord Protector, although sitting with the council as Chief Councillor of the king, was primarily responsible for the security of the realm which correlated with his office as Constable.

3. A separate group were custodians of the person and education of the king, being the royal household including the queen, her relatives, and others nominated by the late Edward IV for his son’s guardianship until he came of age at fourteen.

One lengthy revision is made to pages 258–60: I had previously accepted a statement made by Charles Ross in his biography Richard III, where Richard’s re-granting of confiscated lands immediately after the quashing of the rebellion of October 1483 was roundly condemned as unprecedented and illegal. However, my further researches into the laws of treason make it clear that this was not at all unprecedented at times of manifest rebellion. My letter ‘Not Without Precedent’ in the June 2014 edition of the Ricardian Bulletin makes the details clear.

Protector and Defensor: The Constitutional Position

A brief summary © Annette Carson 2014

For the past year or so I have been researching certain aspects of the constitutional position of Richard, Duke of Gloucester after the death of Edward IV. The work has suffered from other calls on my time, but I have been promising a summary to so many people that I think I must try to set out an overview that takes in at least what I have ascertained so far about one important aspect of my ongoing researches: the role of Lord Protector of the Realm in 15th-century England. Sources will be fully annotated in my main article when completed, but much of what follows can be found in the relevant Rolls of Parliament.

Henry VI’s minority: the precedent

In 1422, on his deathbed, Henry V added codicils to his will which made provisions for the minority of his baby son. These have not survived, but it seems beyond doubt that he nominated Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, his younger brother, who was already in charge as ‘keeper’ of England in his absence, to exercise a form of regency during Henry VI’s minority. The appointment claimed by Duke Humphrey, which was certainly known to all the magnates who gathered to execute the will, was quoted as tutelam et defensionem principales of the new king. According to the best source on the subject, J S Roskell (‘The Office and Dignity of Protector of England, with special reference to its origins’, English Historical Review, April 1953), most of the available evidence indicates that the actual custody of Henry VI’s person was placed in the care of his mother and others. Since Henry V had nominated Gloucester to undertake the principal wardship and defence of the infant heir, evidently he intended a clear distinction between the custody of the person of his heir and the wardship of his heir’s inheritance.

Henry gave responsibility for France to his elder brother John, Duke of Bedford, who thereafter acted as Regent of that country. However, when the Lords met in a Great Council prior to Parliament, although they took the late king’s wishes into account to some extent, they refused to give Gloucester any title that might seem like that of ‘Regent’ in England.

The Lords objected to the word tutela, which was a term used in Roman law where (says Roskell), by the creation of a tutela ‘the guardianship of a male below the age of puberty was provided for’. In the managing of his ward’s affairs, this guardian would be obliged to ensure the child’s maintenance and upbringing out of the heir’s estate which was entrusted to his charge. He was first and foremost the controller of the property of his ward in the time of the latter’s incapacity to administer it himself (both the Duke and the Lords showed themselves aware that this was the kind of tutela intended by Henry V).

The Lords instead set out a tripartite solution.

(1)  They invented a wholly new title during the minority which was (in its eventual full form) ‘Protector and Defender of the Realm and Church in England and Chief Councillor of the King’, this title normally being held by Gloucester, but given to his elder brother Bedford when the latter was in England; the office was to be relinquished when demanded. It was a role that dealt primarily with the security of the realm against enemies both within and outside England. 

(2) They appropriated to themselves the ongoing governance of England, whenever they were gathered – whether in Parliament, in the Great Council or in the ongoing King’s Council. There was to be deference to the Protector as Chief Councillor in defined circumstances, and when present he presided at council meetings.

(3) The custody and welfare of the person of the child were placed in the hands of his mother and the royal household, together with a group of royal relatives and other nobles, among whom the principal was Henry V’s uncle, Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter; this group had authority to appoint the child’s servants, while nurses saw to his personal needs.

There was never any suggestion that the role of Lord Protector was ‘protector of the child’. In fact Henry V’s wishes to this effect were categorically overturned, with the Lords stating that the former king could not rule England from the grave. Yet, surprisingly, a great many historians use the term ‘protector’ in the context of the 15th century to mean not ‘Protector of the Realm’, but in some way loosely describing either Humphrey of Gloucester or, later, Richard of Gloucester as ‘protector of his nephew’.

In Richard’s case it is clear to me, after examining writings by the various reporters and chroniclers, that this latter idea derives from accounts written by foreigners (Mancini, Vergil, André). In particular the moralizer Polydore Vergil makes great play with the idea of Richard III being entrusted as ‘protector’ of the child Edward V, which trust he then cynically betrays. This will be understood when you realize that the concept of Protector of the Realm as conceived by the Lords in 1422 was entirely alien to anyone outside England; in every other precedent I have been able to identify – France, Castile, Portugal, Hungary, Sicily, even Scotland – the governance in a minority (or similar) was always performed by a Regent or equivalent. Thus Mancini, Vergil et al would have found it almost impossible to comprehend the idea of a ‘protector and defender of the realm’ who fulfilled a security role and who was subject to appointment and dismissal at the pleasure of Council and Parliament.

It is interesting that the two English chroniclers of around Richard’s time, Crowland and John Rous, described his title more accurately. The Crowland chronicler’s choice of words is something I am investigating further, but he certainly knew what the constitutional precedent was, and he recorded that Richard’s appointment as Protector was unanimously welcomed. Although I was always aware that the title of the office was Protector of the Realm, I was not aware of the tripartite precedent of Henry VI’s minority, and I admit I did get some of my terminology wrong in Maligned King, which will be corrected when I finish my investigations – I am still researching the fine details of titles and responsibilities. However, the more I read of the position in the 1420s, the more I am astonished that so many present-day writers and academic historians describe Richard as being Edward V’s ‘guardian’ or having ‘control’ of him. This will become clearer below.

Henry VI’s illnesses

The constitutional precedent described above was repeated in precisely the same way when Henry VI became incapacitated in the 1450s. The uncle of the royal blood, Richard of York, was brought in as Lord Protector of the Realm and most of his measures were concerned with making order out of chaos in the kingdom. There was a much greater and more urgent need for a Protector of the Realm during the 1450s, and York knew he was there only on sufferance because of the turbulence of the times. The Lords in Parliament appointed him, and the Lords carried on the governance on Henry VI’s behalf; York’s appointment was ‘at pleasure’. On both occasions he was, in effect, told when to resign his office and did so promptly.

The third element in this arrangement, care of the person of the incapacitated Henry VI, was in the hands of Queen Margaret and the Royal Household. In fact Margaret, after the birth of her son, petitioned Parliament to make her effectively Regent on behalf of husband and child and to provide finances for the administration and the military to be run by her at the head of the Royal Household. This was refused. It was, however, a reflection of Margaret of Anjou’s foreign background that she believed herself entitled to seek such regency powers as she would have enjoyed had her husband been king of the kind of country she was familiar with.

Edward V’s minority

When faced with an early death, Edward IV like Henry V before him made codicils to his will. Though historians choose to argue about what they might have said specifically, all contemporary and Tudor sources that actually mention his arrangements state that he appointed Richard of Gloucester Lord Protector. (The exception is Crowland which makes no mention either way.)

Knowing it had been established sixty years previously that a dead king could not rule from the grave, Edward obviously could do no more than express a preference. Had he expressed an unconstitutional preference, e.g. similar to Henry V’s tutela, I cannot imagine the Council not being thrown into confusion by the idea as they were in 1422, nor the Crowland author failing to mention it. Logically, therefore, Edward’s wishes must have accorded with precedent. Indeed, we know that it was the Woodvilles who caused divisions in the Council with their precipitate actions, refusing to acknowledge Richard as Protector or even wait for his arrival. Furthermore, as soon as he did arrive the Council confirmed him as Protector. The options of the Council were either to do this or to have an immediate coronation and no protectorate, as desired by the queen’s family (who were sufficiently numerous and well entrenched to have been able to constitute the power behind a child-king’s throne). The Council had a choice and chose a protectorate, which was the safe, constitutional route (and, as we shall see, they also proposed its continuance after Edward V’s coronation). I find it impossible to believe Charles Ross who supposes that the appointment of Richard as Protector was somehow forced upon them by his iron will.

Richard, with his military background and already embodying three of the Great Officers of State, was also of course the sole adult male heir to the throne. N.B. Knowing that children were quite liable not to survive childhood, the Lords in the 1420s had acknowledged to Bedford and Gloucester in so many words that they were answerable to them for the good governance of the realm since the two dukes were the heirs next in line of inheritance. A similar deference for similar reasons must have been accorded to Gloucester in 1483.

The third part of the tripartite formula in 1483 had already been set in place years beforehand by Edward IV, and it is unlikely he would have considered unravelling it even if he could at that late stage. His ordinances for the person of the Prince of Wales placed the boy until the age of fourteen at Ludlow Castle with his own council, among whom three were specifically appointed to be in charge of his custody and upbringing (briefly summarized), those persons being Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers as governor or ‘Master’ of the prince and Bishop John Alcock as tutor (he was an educator par excellence), with Sir Richard Grey added in for good measure.

The Lords at Westminster were well aware of Edward IV’s arrangements because they had been reiterated and updated and new letters patent issued as recently as February 1483. Therefore, scarcely more than a month before he took sick, the late king was still not envisaging his son taking an active role in the government of the realm until at least 20 months hence. For that period the boy’s person was destined to be attended by his own council led by his mother’s family.

This is the point that I search in vain for historians to recognize: that Edward IV would have regarded a tripartite dispensation as being neatly and conveniently in place when he provided in his codicils for the protectorate of Edward V, in accordance with precedent, just as it was in those protectorates earlier in the century. 

The difference in 1483, of course, was that the queen’s family attempted to pre-empt it. They tried to do what Margaret of Anjou also attempted unsuccessfully, i.e. take all governance and personal control of the king, and all military power, into their hands alone [as readers of Richard III: The Maligned King will know, immediately after Edward IV’s death the Woodvilles had commissioned an army to escort the king from Ludlow and had cleared out the state treasury to send a fully equipped fleet to sea]. Faced with a fait almost accompli, a fleet armed and active and an army 2,000 strong – and none of it under the control of the Protector of the Realm – Richard had no choice but to take action in accordance with his supreme responsibility for the security of the kingdom. For even if not yet confirmed in the role of Lord Protector, he still held in one pair of hands the highest offices of military command: Admiral of England and Lieutenant-General of her land forces, as well as High Constable of England. In the 15th century, even more so than today, no one took liberties with the chain of command.

Based on precedent, however, he would NOT have taken Edward V’s person under his own control, except perhaps temporarily insofar as he needed a royal escort to complete his journey to London. In fact, with the Woodvilles having so many different irons in the fire, it was undoubtedly Bishop John Alcock, his tutor, who was most intimately involved with the prince’s education and guardianship on a year by year, day by day basis, and of course Alcock accompanied Edward V the rest of the way to London. (And, I assume, continued attending to his education while residing in the Tower.) Had any Woodvilles remained to participate in the government instead of making themselves scarce, the normal arrangement would have been for them to form a royal household around the young king – mother, uncles, aunts and/or other relatives – along with Bishop Alcock and a suitable group of nobles appointed by the Council, just as in 1422 when Exeter and his group were appointed.

I have not had time to ascertain the composition of the royal household in 1483, but we certainly do know that the Woodvilles to a man abandoned all responsibility for the well-being of Edward V, and likewise for his brother Richard after he left sanctuary, preferring to oppose the legally constituted government of the day, and eventually mounting a rebellion in their name which thereby embroiled them in treason. Am I the only person who finds this surprising and shocking?

As to the administration, Richard was clearly acting in concert with the King’s Council from the moment of his arrival in early May. All decisions relating to Edward and his brother about which we have any details, as we know from the Crowland chronicle (despite the obvious bias), are reported as being Council decisions. Indeed, the references to Richard conducting business with the Council are legion.

This, I think, gives an overall (although superficial) description of what I see as the constitutional position in 1483 – with Richard acting within his sphere of responsibility for the security of the realm, the Lords in Council working in co-operation with the Protector in the matter of government and administration, and the Woodvilles having abandoned their duty of care and upbringing of Edward V and his young brother.

In concluding I must mention an important item of evidence I have researched which historians tend to gloss over with a phrase or two, and this is the Chancellor’s draft speech to Parliament. In June 1483, in anticipation of Edward V’s coronation that month, the King’s Council set out its proposals in a speech to be delivered by Chancellor John Russell to Parliament seeking approval for its programme of governance. Although Richard of Gloucester had been appointed in May as Lord Protector of the Realm for Edward V’s minority under the established pattern, the Council’s proposal was now substantially different. Not only was the protectorate to be continued after Edward V was crowned king, but it was to be continued in a way that mirrored the kind of tutela or ‘wardship’ which had been envisaged by Henry V for his younger brother.

The full draft speech (in English) survives and is easy enough to find: my own copy is in S.B. Chrimes, English Constitutional Ideas in the Fifteenth Century (Cambridge, 1936), pp. 168-78. Its text contains an exposition of exactly how the Protector is to have ‘tutele and oversight of the king’s most royal person during his years of tenderness’ [his person, let us note, in his years of tenderness]. In this Richard is expected to emulate Marcus Emilius Lepidus, twice consul of Rome, who was ordained by the Senate to ‘take this office of tutele, defence and protection upon him’ in relation to the person of the young son of Ptolomy, King of Egypt. Richard’s proposed control, oversight and protection of Edward V, even after his coronation, constitutes a thoroughgoing change of role from the hitherto circumscribed protectorate in charge of homeland security. And it is being proposed by the Council for Parliament to approve formally. Should there be any doubt of the total support for Richard underlying this on the part of the King’s Council, Bishop Russell even manages to slip a couple of jibes into his speech at the expense of the Woodville family title of ‘Rivers’. This was not coercion, it was a remarkable vote of confidence.

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