Thursday, 30 April 2009

Richard's Portuguese Marriage

Wow, that certainly provoked some debate!

I have looked at Barrie Williams' follow-up article today, and it suggests that the detail of Brampton's instructions is not known. (Though there may be subsequent scholarship of which I am unaware.) Apparently his information rests chiefly on Portuguese sources.

Susan is right about the general use of women as pawns in marriage; however in this particular case Joanna was mad keen to be a nun and had actually turned down no less than Maximilian of Austria (future Emperor!) and the Duke of Orleans (effective heir to France after Charles VIII). As these two were arguably as important as Richard, it's at least interesting that Richard was accepted, and maybe even more surprising if the initiative came from the Portuguese side. Apparently Joanna accepted on the basis that if the proposal fell through she would be allowed to take up religion, and so it transpired. This does not prove in itself that Richard was a saint - this was part of international diplomacy after all - but it does give food for thought.

Apparently the 'alternative option' under consideration was the eldest daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. From Richard's point of view an attractive aspect of either woman was that she had a Lancastrian claim to the throne, arguably more legitimate than that of Henry Tudor - certainly it would have been a senior claim by 21st century calculation of these things. Richard had some very positive diplomatic contact with Isabella right at the start of his reign, so it might have been another possibility.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Thomas More by Richard Marius

I've been re-reading Thomas More by Richard Marius, and found this interesting passage on page 99. '...More's account is only one of several (my emphasis) written about Richard III by Richard's contemporaries, (again, my emphasis) and none of them is flattering to the usurper king***. Some of these histories were - like More's own - left in manuscript and published long after the writers died. They can hardly be interpreted as self-conscious efforts to flatter the Tudors.'

*** - Why bring Henry VII into this? Oh, sorry, it's author bias, silly me.

This set me thinking, because the only 'accounts' I can think of that might class as contemporary are More, Croyland and Mancini. (Alianore Audley is actually fictional you know, although probably as close to the truth as any of them.) Scarcely several. Hmmm? What accounts have I been missing all these years?

Let's do a bit of deconstruction. (I love a bit of deconstruction with my morning tea.)

First off, More wasn't even born until 1478. He was, roughly, a contemporary of Richard III like I am a contemporary of JFK! He obviously relied on sources. It's generally assumed the work was virtually dictated by Morton, in whose household More lived as a youth. But there's no real evidence for this, just assumption. Morton was Cardinal Archbishop and Chancellor. Would he have had the time, let alone the inclination, to provide some boy in his household with the full SP on Richard III? Anyway, Morton's opinion on Richard - it'd be like asking Hitler for his views on Winston Churchill. (Or vice versa if you like.)

Of course More could have asked other people, but how many of them would be well informed? The old Duke of Norfolk perhaps, the Surrey of Bosworth? Again, would such an important noble have had time to spare for a young lawyer wanting to talk about the past? What could he have said anyway? 'Well, Mr More, I'm glad you asked that, because Richard III was the best king we ever had, and Henry Tudor was a slimy hypocrite with as much right to the English throne as the Grand Cham of Tartary.' The guy spent 1485-1513 just trying to win his dukedom back! He would be guarded in what he said, as would any other surviving Yorkist with half a brain.

Now Croyland, probably the best source we have. Set aside the author's paranoid hatred of anyone from north of Peterborough for a moment. He is generally assumed to have been a well-informed royal clerk - though historians debate about exactly who he was.

But this 'well-informed royal clerk' says nothing about the proposed marriage of Richard III to Joanna of Portugal and the related marriage of Elizabeth of York to the Duke of Beja. Instead he rattles on about the silly fable that Richard planned to marry Elizabeth. Folks, he simply can't have done as the Portuguese marriage proposals were issued within nine days of Anne's death. So either the Chronicler didn't know about the intended Portuguese marriages (in which case he was not a 'well-informed royal clerk' at least as far as Richard's reign is concerned) or he deliberately suppressed evidence that didn't suit his anti-Richard bias (in which case he is not reliable as a witness.)

As for Mancini, he didn't even speak English. He was here for a short visit and presumably picked up what gossip he could understand from people able (and bothered) to speak to him in Latin or French. It's rather like me visiting Russia for a few months and writing an article on President Putin. Except I would have access to a whole range of English language sources through the internet and other media, and at a pinch I could e-mail Mr Putin and ask for his comments on my account. Mancini could not do these things! (Pity, because Richard's e-mail response would have been fascinating.)

Of course, I have forgotten the following contemporary sources! :

Richard III, My Part in his Downfall, Sir William Stanley.

How I stole Richard III's Virginity and Broke His Bed, Jane Shore.

My Saintly Son, and how Richard III Drowned Puppies, Blessed Margaret Beaufort.

How the Lancastrians Were Always The Rightful Kings Anyway (with an account of the holy life of Henry VI, and how I was forced to serve the evil Edward IV) , Cardinal Morton.

Any Road for Twopence, Rt Hon. Thomas, Earl of Derby.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Reading Abbey

I found this interesting Blog article on Reading Abbey.

Reading Abbey was of course the burial place of Constance of York and King Henry I, to name but two. It was also the place where King Edward IV presented Elizabeth Woodville as his queen to his astonished council.

Friday, 17 April 2009

New Blog by Me

I have started a new Blog, mainly about my writing. It's called Greyhounds and Fetterlocks.

I'll probably do any non-Yorkist Age related book reviews over there in future, as well as the usual natter and wittering.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Richard II Facebook Group

For anyone genuinely interested in Richard the Second (and his times) I have started a Facebook Group for him called the Fellowship of the White Hart. Membership is open to anyone at this time, but I may make it a closed group later if it gets busy or rowdy!

There's also a Group for Richard III, but although I'm a member it's otherwise nothing to do with me. But fun to join if you're interested.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Finances of Richard Duke of York

At the start of the 1430s, the York estates were supporting no less than three dowagers, the widows of Edmund of Langley, of Edward 'of Norwich' the second duke, and of Edmund, Earl of March. By the time York gained livery of his estates in May 1432 one of these ladies, Philippa Mohun, was already dead. The Countess of March passed over soon afterwards, and Joanne Holland in 1434, when York was still only 23.

There were some complications relating to lands that were enfeoffed, and there were also a few elements that the Crown managed to keep its sticky fingers upon, notably Duchess Philippa's Lordship of Wight. But nonetheless, the duke's income was higher than that of any other lay lord. His net income may be estimated at £5,800 a year. Only Buckingham (£5,020) and Warwick the Kingmaker (at his richest - £4,400) came close. **

It's worth pointing out that even this income was less than half that which John of Gaunt was enjoying in the 1390s. So when considering the topic of over-mighty subjects, it's clear that York was nothing like the threat to Henry VI that the Lancastrian set-up had been, potentially and actually, to Richard II.

The bulk of York's income was derived from the Mortimer (March) estates, the York (proper) inheritance coming next, with a further contribution from a sliver of what had been the Holland (Kent) properties inherited via York's grandmother, Alianore, Countess of March.

Landed incomes generally had been in decline since the Black Death, but a series of 'corporate mergers' meant that although there were fewer great lords than before, the families that suirvived were as rich, if not richer, than their predecessors. The Buckingham inheritance mentioned above was in effect a merger of the lands of Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester with those of the former earls of Stafford and half the lands of the Bohun family, earls of Hereford in the 14th century. The Kingmaker's 'corporate history' was even more complex, including the Beauchamp, Despenser and Montagu (or Montacute) families to name but the three most lately 'gone out of business' as well as his father's meaty share of the Neville lands.

The poor relations were the Beauforts. Though they too enjoyed part of the Kent inheritance, the basis of their endowment was the relatively meagre provision John of Gaunt had bought for his eldest Beaufort son, plus a few bits and pieces granted by the Crown. Moreover, most of what there was had been left unentailed, which meant that when John, Duke of Somerset died in 1444 the lion's share went to his daughter, Margaret***. The succeeding Somersets, John's brother and nephews, were left with the proverbial pie's nest. This explains why they had to grapple so fiercely with York (and others) for influence at court and appointment to profitable offices. They had no choice.

** These figures taken from False, Fleeting, Perjur'd Clarence by M.A. Hicks.

*** Lady Margaret Beaufort, the much admired mother of Henry VII.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Book Review - Shadow King by Claude Du Grivel

I'm not in the mood for serious blogging at the moment, but as I feel the need for a break from writing* I thought I'd do a quick book review. It's a novel that relates to the era of Henry VI.

(*Yay! It is happening, but right now I find that turning out a page of fiction about old Warwick is taking a day's worth of sweat out of me.)

Shadow King by Claude Du Grivel is one of the first historical novels I read. It was published in 1952 and I found it in the library about 20 years later. (In those days libraries had more room for books and didn't suffer from the current neophilia where anything over 2 years old is regarded as an ancient manuscript and sold off for 10p.)

You may have problems getting hold of the novel - my copy came from Australia, complete with the rather cool jacket cover. Yes, I know it's dreadfully old-fashioned, but at least it gives you some idea of what the book is about, more than the current crop of headless women do. Moreover the artist actually bothered to look at some costume books for the era!

Anyway, Shadow King is about Eleanor Cobham, Duchess of Gloucester, and her downfall. Much of the story is set among the citizens of London, and what provides the link is that an unfortunate girl, Roseann Fauster, is conscripted into the Duchess's household to make headdresses for her. Roseann's home life is pretty awful, and when she gets to court she finds that life there is even worse.

There are several historical errors. For example, Bedford appears, when he was in fact long dead, and Margaret of Anjou arrives to marry Henry VI several years before she actually did. Like Shakespeare, Du Grivel couldn't resist bringing her and Eleanor Cobham together.

Yet despite these errors - and the fact that at times it steers a bit close to melodrama - the novel has something about it - it entertains and is full of incident, with a really surprising plot twist. Well worth reading if you're able to find a copy.