Richard III And The Tudor Genealogy

It is generally acknowledged by historians that Henry Tudor, who defeated Richard III, the last Yorkist king, at Bosworth and went on to be crowned Henry VII, wasn’t the Lancastrian heir to the throne of England he claimed to be. His mother, Margaret Beaufort, was descended from John of Gaunt, the third surviving son of Edward III, but through an illegitimate line which, although it had been legitimised in the 1390s, was subsequently barred from the throne by the first Lancastrian king, Henry IV, Gaunt’s only surviving legitimate son by his first wife, Blanche of Lancaster. Moreover Gaunt had inherited the title Duke of Lancaster from Blanche’s father and the Beauforts were descended from his mistress Katherine Swynford, so had none of Blanche’s blood. After the deaths of Henry VI and his only son Edward (the first husband of Anne Neville, Richard’s queen) in 1471, the senior Lancastrian heirs to the throne of England were the kings of Portugal through Gaunt’s eldest legitimate daughter Philippa, followed by the descendants of his other legitimate children. Henry Tudor’s father Edmund, first earl of Richmond, was Henry VI’s half brother, but through their mother, the French princess Catherine of Valois. Edmund’s father Owen Tudor was a Welsh courtier, so Edmund had no royal English blood at all. Or did he?

Were The Tudors Really Tudors?

So asked popular historian Dan Jones in an article on History Extra, the website of BBC History Magazine, entitled “The 5 greatest mysteries behind the Wars of the Roses”. In it he describes the “foggy” origins of the Tudor dynasty:

“Their first connection to the English crown came through Henry VII’s grandmother, Catherine de Valois, widow of Henry V and mother of Henry VI. As dowager queen Catherine had caused quite a stir by secretly marrying her lowly servant, Owen Tudor. Plenty of romantic rumours have swirled around that union, but whatever the case, during the early 1430s Catherine gave birth to several children who took the Tudor name, most notably Henry VII’s father, Edmund Tudor, and another boy named Jasper Tudor.”1

So far, so factual. However, he then goes on to question the paternity of Edmund, Catherine’s eldest son:

“It has been speculated that Catherine’s marriage to the lowly Owen Tudor was contracted to cover up her politically dangerous relationship with Edmund Beaufort. In that case, is it possible that Edmund Tudor was not a Tudor at all, but was actually given the forename of his real father?”

Jones is not the first historian to raise this possibility. In his entry on Edmund Beaufort, first duke of Somerset, in the OXFORD DICTIONARY OF NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY Colin Richmond mused:

”It seems unlikely that Edmund Beaufort would have taken so great a political risk as getting the queen dowager with child, but he was a dashing young man (recently released from prison) as well as a Beaufort, and Catherine, who had fulfilled the only role open to her by immediately producing a son for the Lancastrian dynasty, was a lonely Frenchwoman in England, and at thirty or thereabouts was, the rumour ran, oversexed. Many stranger things have happened, and the idea of renaming sixteenth-century England is an appealing one.”2

Jones and Richmond both quote Gerald Harriss, who noted in his book “CARDINAL BEAUFORT: A STUDY OF LANCASTRIAN ASCENDANCY AND DECLINE”:

“By its very nature the evidence for Edmund ‘Tudor’s’ parentage is less than conclusive, but such facts as can be assembled permit the agreeable possibility that Edmund ‘Tudor’ and Margaret Beaufort ie Edmund Tudor’s wife and Henry VII’s mother were first cousins and that the royal house of ‘Tudor’ sprang in fact from Beauforts on both sides.”3

In his entry on Catherine of Valois in the OXFORD DICTIONARY OF NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY, Michael Jones too pondered the possibility, but remained unconvinced:

”Many later legends developed to explain their remarkable romance: that Owen had been in Henry V’s service in the wars in France or in the royal household, that he had first attracted attention by falling into the queen’s lap in an inebriated state at a dance or when she and her ladies had espied him swimming, but nothing is certainly known to explain the start of their relationship. … The naming of their first child, Edmund Tudor, has also led to serious speculation on whether Henry VII, Edmund Tudor’s son, descended from Beauforts on both sides of his pedigree, though this seems improbable.”4

John Ashdown-Hill, on the other hand, has suggested that not only Edmund, but also his younger brother Jasper may have been fathered by Edmund Beaufort and dedicated an entire chapter in his book “ROYAL MARRIAGE SECRETS” to examining the possibility.5

Here at Ricardian Loons we are big fans of questioning the consensus, so let’s take a look at the evidence these historians have cited to support it. Do Dan Jones et al have a point?

The Claim

The father of Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, was not Owen Tudor, as is generally accepted, but Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset – a descendant of Edward III via his third son, John of Gaunt, and his mistress and later wife, Katherine Swynford.

The Evidence

1. Historical Documentation

The principal evidence cited by all above mentioned historians is contemporary historical documentation, or lack thereof. In a nutshell:

“Intriguingly, shortly before Catherine became involved with Owen, there was a widespread suggestion that she was having an affair with Edmund Beaufort, the future duke of Somerset, who would be killed at the battle of St Albans in 1455. This rumour was taken so seriously that parliament took up the matter and issued a special statute restricting the right of queens of England to remarry.”6

What we do know is that in the Parliament of 1426 the Commons had petitioned the Chancellor, Edmund Beaufort’s uncle Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, to allow widowed queens of England to remarry a man of their choosing upon payment of a fine. As Michael Jones has pointed out, this most likely alluded to Catherine of Valois rather than to Joan of Navarre, who at this time was already in her fifties, and he, Dan Jones and Ashdown-Hill all interpret the petition, not unreasonably, as indicative of an affair between Catherine and Edmund Beaufort. Unfortunately for Catherine, the late king’s brothers John, Duke of Bedford, and Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, opposed the petition and the statute which was eventually passed in the Parliament of 1427 – 1428 ruled that widowed queens could only remarry with the consent of an adult king. Failure to obtain this consent would result in the husband forfeiting his property:

“Item, it is ordered and established by the authority of this parliament for the preservation of the honour of the most noble estate of queens of England that no man of whatever estate or condition make contract of betrothal or matrimony to marry himself to the queen of England without the special licence and assent of the king, when the latter is of the age of discretion, and he who acts to the contrary and is duly convicted will forfeit for his whole life all his lands and tenements, even those which are or which will be in his own hands as well as those which are or which will be in the hands of others to his use, and also all his goods and chattels in whosoever’s hands they are, considering that by the disparagement of the queen the estate and honour of the king will be most greatly damaged, and it will give the greatest comfort and example to other ladies of rank who are of the blood royal that they might not be so lightly disparaged.”7

Given that the king, Catherine’s son Henry VI, was still a child, this effectively made it impossible for her to remarry anytime soon. Despite this bill – or perhaps because of it – around 1430 she started a relationship with Owen Tudor, which resulted in a number of children. As Michael Jones notes:

”It has even been suggested that she may have taken Tudor as her husband to prevent her true love, Edmund Beaufort, suffering the penalties of the statute of 1428, since Owen had so few possessions to forfeit.”

The couple and their children lived away from court and it is generally assumed that the relationship remained secret until after Catherine’s death in 1437 when Owen was imprisoned for having married her without permission, although Michael Jones believes that the court must have known about it by May 1432 when Owen was given the rights of an Englishman to protect him from anti-alien legislation.

Crucially though, there is no written record of their marriage and the exact date, as well as the date of birth of their first child, Edmund, are unknown. It is this which has given rise to the speculation around Edmund’s paternity. As Richmond explains:

”Almost everything is obscure about a liaison that resulted in a parliamentary statute regulating the remarriage of queens of England, but it is just possible that another of its consequences was Edmund Tudor. It is all a question of when Catherine, to avoid the penalties of breaking the statute of 1427–8, secretly married Owen Tudor, and of when the association with Edmund Beaufort came to an end. Neither of these dates, as might be expected, is known; nor is the date of birth of Edmund Tudor.”

Ashdown-Hill goes further and questions whether they ever married at all. In addition to the documentation mentioned above, he presents several new pieces of evidence to support his idea.

Firstly, he alleges more than once that Edmund Beaufort didn’t marry Eleanor Beauchamp until after Catherine’s death in 1437.

Secondly, he points to the fact that at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries Edmund’s grandson, Henry VIII, rescued only the remains of his grandfather Edmund (and his sister Mary Tudor) from the churches where they had been buried, but not those of his great-grandfather Owen. He argues that this is because, if Edmund had been the son of Edmund Beaufort, then Henry would have had no real family connection with Owen.

His third piece of evidence is a proclamation made by Richard III against Henry Tudor, Edmund’s son, which claimed that he was of bastard descent. He argues that:

“If Richard was speaking of Henry’s maternal Beaufort descent then his use of the word bastard was not strictly accurate, since the Beauforts had been legitimised. However, if Richard III’s words were a veiled allusion to the belief that Henry VII’s father was the illegitimate son of Catherine of France by Edmund Beaufort, then his allegation of bastard descent, albeit unproven (and in those days unprovable), was possibly accurate.”

2. Heraldry

Ashdown-Hill’s fourth piece of evidence are the heraldic arms of Edmund Tudor and his younger brother Jasper. He believes they show that both boys were fathered not by Owen Tudor, but Edmund Beaufort:

“There is no written evidence available in the case of either Edmund or Jasper to help us resolve the question of paternity. Nevertheless, there is clear evidence of a different kind, though its significance has been hitherto overlooked. This evidence takes the form of heraldry. Coats of arms belong to individuals, not to families. Nevertheless the sons of an armigerous father are allowed to use versions of the father’s coat of arms, marked by some point of difference, called a mark of cadency. During the Plantagenet period marks of cadency sometimes took the form of a ‘bordure’ (coloured surround or border) added to the father’s arms. Thus, for example, Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, the youngest son of Edward III and Philippa of Hainaut, bore his father’s arms with the addition of a silver (or white) bordure. Similarly, after his legitimisation, John Beaufort, the eldest son of John of Gaunt, bore the English royal arms, surrounded by a blue and silver (or white) bordure as a mark of cadency. This coat of arms was later inherited by Edmund Beaufort (see Plate 6). Sons of Edmund Beaufort would have been entitled to use the same arms, but with some change in the colour or design of the bordure. Owen Tudor also bore a coat of arms. However, it was nothing like the royal arms, and there was no reason why it should have been. Owen’s shield was red in colour, and bore a chevron coloured ermine, surrounded by three helms in white or silver (see Plate 5). If Edmund and Jasper Tudor were Owen Tudor’s sons they should have borne a version of the same coat of arms as their father, with some mark of difference – either a coloured bordure or a label. But, astonishingly, neither Edmund nor Jasper Tudor used arms remotely resembling those of Owen Tudor. Instead both brothers bore the royal arms with a blue bordure, marked in Edmund’s case with alternate golden martlets (heraldic birds) and fleurs de lis, and in Jasper’s case, with gold martlets only (see Plates 7 and 8). These coats of arms, which owed nothing whatever to the arms of Owen Tudor, were clearly derived from the arms of Edmund Beaufort. The blue and gold bordures of Edmund and Jasper Tudor were simply versions of the blue and white bordure of Edmund Beaufort, modified for cadency. Apart from this modification the three coats of arms were identical. The arms of Edmund and Jasper Tudor, which were entirely appropriate for putative sons of Edmund Beaufort (who would, via that paternity, have inherited some English royal blood), were wholly inappropriate for sons of Owen Tudor (who would have had no single drop of English royal blood in their veins). The whole purpose of medieval heraldry was to show to the world who one was. And the coats of arms of Edmund and Jasper Tudor proclaimed, as clearly as they could, that these two ‘Tudor’ sons of the queen mother were of English royal blood, while their bordures suggest descent from Edmund Beaufort. The only possible explanation seems to be that Beaufort was their real father.”

The arms of Owen Tudor

The Beaufort arms


The arms of Edmund Tudor


The arms of Jasper Tudor

 Does It Stack Up?

There can be no doubt that the marriage between Catherine of Valois and Owen Tudor was either secret or didn’t take place at all since, as noted above, the king who had to give his consent was only a child. The facts point to a secret marriage, which was not uncommon in the Middle Ages, even among the nobility. Interestingly, this includes the marriage of Edmund Beaufort and Eleanor Beauchamp which, as both Richmond and Ashdown-Hill point out, was only pardoned and granted recognition in 1438. However, Ashdown-Hill’s assertion that they didn’t marry until after Catherine’s death in 1437 is contradicted by Richmond, who claims that they married before 1436. Neither historian specifies his source, but several of their children are thought to have been born between 1431 and 1436, which suggests that they were indeed married by then (Eleanor’s first husband Thomas, Lord Ros, had died in 1430).

Secondly, it’s true that Henry VIII rescued only the remains of his grandfather Edmund at the dissolution of the monasteries, but not those of his great-grandfather Owen, but Ashdown-Hill admits himself that Henry “did very little to rescue any royal burials from the doomed churches”.

Thirdly, Ashdown-Hill is absolutely correct that it was inappropriate for the Tudor brothers to difference the royal arms of England – they had some claim to the royal French arms as their mother Catherine of Valois was the daughter of Charles VI of France, but they didn’t have any royal English blood. However Henry VI, the king who granted them their earldoms, was not only their half brother, but also weak and easily influenced. As John Watts has noted, “it is difficult to escape the conclusion that he simply endorsed all requests put before him. This was certainly the implication of various conciliar initiatives to stem the flood of royal generosity. It is also suggested by the preponderance of grants to those enjoying most continuous access to the king, by the tendency for grants to particular people to be concentrated on occasions when we know them to have been at Henry’s side, by the notorious royal propensity for granting the same thing more than once and by the developing practice of granting reversions once the original stock of patronage was exhausted.”8

For example, he granted the stewardship of the Duchy of Cornwall to both Sir William Bonville and the Earl of Devon, thereby starting the Bonville-Courtenay feud. Henry’s generosity appears to have also extended to titles. As Christine Carpenter has pointed out, “Buckingham himself owed his dukedom in 1444 to the elevation of nobles related to the royal house. The young Henry Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, also made duke in 1444, despite the absence of any blood relationship to the crown, was favoured in his brief period of adulthood from 1444 to 1446.”9

It’s easy to imagine Henry granting his half brothers not just earldoms, but also royal arms if they lobbied hard enough for it. They certainly appear to have been on good terms with him. They were appointed his advisors, endowed with lands and jointly granted the wardship and marriage of Margaret Beaufort, one of England’s wealthiest heiresses, whom Edmund eventually married.

Crucially though, at least two historical documents exist which name Owen Tudor as father of both Edmund and Jasper.

The first document is the Act of Parliament of 1454, which confirmed the charter creating them Earls and emphasises their close relationship to Henry VI:

“To the most excellent and most Christian prince our lord the king, we the commons of this your realm, most faithful subjects of your royal majesty, in your present parliament assembled; in order that there may be brought before the most perspicacious eyes of royal consideration the memory of the blessed prince, Queen Catherine your mother, by whose most famous memory we confess we are very greatly affected, chiefly because she was worthy to give birth by divine gift to the most handsome form and illustrious royal person of your highness long to reign over us, as we most earnestly hope, in glory and honour in all things; for which it is necessary to acknowledge that we are most effectively bound more fully than can be said not only to celebrate her most noble memory for ever, but also to esteem highly and to honour with all zeal, as much as our insignificance allows, all the fruit which her royal womb produced; considering in the case of the illustrious and magnificent princes, the lords Edmund de Hadham and Jasper de Hatfield, natural and legitimate sons of the same most serene lady the queen, not only that they are descended by right line from her illustrious womb and royal lineage and are your uterine brothers, and also that by their most noble character they are of a most refined nature – their other natural gifts, endowments, excellent and heroic virtues, and other merits of a laudable life and of the best manners and of probity we do not doubt are already sufficiently well known to your serenity – that you deign from the most excellent magnificence of your royal highness to consider most kindly how the aforesaid Edmund and Jasper, your uterine brothers, were begotten and born in lawful matrimony within your realm aforesaid, as is sufficiently well known both to your most serene majesty and to all the lords spiritual and temporal of your realm in the present parliament assembled, and to us; and on this, from the most abundant magnificence of royal generosity, with the advice and assent of the same lords spiritual and temporal, by the authority of the same to decree, ordain, grant and establish that the aforesaid Edmund and Jasper be declared your uterine brothers, conceived and born in a lawful marriage within your aforesaid realm, and denizens of your abovesaid realm, and not yet declared thus.”10

The Act clearly describes both Edmund and Jasper as ”legitimate” and “begotten and born in lawful matrimony” (“Edmundus & Jasper, Fratres vestri uterini, in legitimo matrimonio, infra Regnum vestrum predictum procreati & nati existunt”).

The second document is the proclamation made by Richard III on 28 June 1485 against Edmund’s son, Henry Tudor (later Henry VII), who was laying claim to Richard’s throne, which states that “the seid rebelles and traitours have chosyn to be there capteyn one Henry Tydder, son of Edmond Tydder, son of Owen Tydder, whiche of his ambicioness and insociable covetise encrocheth and usurpid upon hym the name and title of royall astate of this Realme of Englond, where unto he hath no maner interest, right, title, or colour, as every man wele knoweth; for he is discended of bastard blood bothe of ffather side and of mother side, for the seid Owen the graunfader was bastard borne, and his moder was doughter unto John, Duke of Somerset, son unto John, Erle of Somerset, sone unto Dame Kateryne Swynford, and of ther indouble avoutry (adultery) gotyn.” It also condemns “Jasper Tydder, son of Owen Tidder, calling himself Earl of Pembroke”.11 It’s unclear if this is the proclamation Ashdown-Hill refers to as evidence for Edmund’s illegitimacy as he doesn’t specify his source, but here Richard clearly names Owen Tudor as father of both Edmund and Jasper and the allegation of illegitimacy actually refers to Owen’s paternity, not theirs.

Ashdown-Hill – and indeed all proponents of the Beaufort paternity – also overlooks the fact that, if Edmund’s father had been Edmund Beaufort, then not only would Henry Tudor’s father have been illegitimate, but his parents would have been first cousins and married without the papal dispensation required for this degree of consanguinity as his mother was Margaret Beaufort, only daughter of John, Duke of Somerset. Given that Henry was laying claim to the throne of England it would have been in Richard’s interest to draw attention to this arguably even greater flaw in Henry’s pedigree, but he didn’t.

One last possibility remains: could Edmund and Jasper have sneakily differenced the Beaufort arms and passed them off as royal arms? Technically yes and it is interesting that the bordure Azure on both Edmund’s and Jasper’s arms is charged with martlets Or since the arms posthumously attributed to Edward the Confessor are Azure, a cross flory between five martlets, all Or, while the fleurs-de-lys Or alternating with the martlets on Edmund’s bordure are clearly a reference to Catherine’s royal arms of France.


The Royal arms of England


The arms attributed to Edward the Confessor


The arms of Catherine of Valois

However, although they briefly sided with Richard, Duke of York against Henry VI in the early stages of the Wars of the Roses, which could be interpreted as a sign that their relationship with their half brother wasn’t as close as described in the petition to Parliament, there is no indication that their contemporaries suspected them to be the sons of Edmund Beaufort or that they coveted the throne for themselves. This was left to Edmund’s son Henry Tudor who, despite his flawed pedigree, initially claimed the English throne by “rightful claim, due and lineal inheritance”12 and in a letter by the French king Charles VIII to the town of Toulon was even described as Henry VI’s son.13 However, he never claimed to be the grandson of Edmund Beaufort. It could be argued that he didn’t need to as he had inherited the royal English blood of Edward III through his mother, Margaret Beaufort, but as the Beauforts were barred from the throne it is doubtful how strong this claim really was. It certainly didn’t impress Richard III, who dismissed them as bastards in his proclamation. Even Henry himself didn’t solely rely on his Beaufort credentials. He ultimately claimed the throne by right of conquest and then married Elizabeth of York, the eldest daughter of Richard’s brother, Edward IV.

Conclusion

It’s unlikely that Edmund Tudor was the son of Edmund Beaufort. Richard III’s proclamation clearly identifies both him and his brother Jasper as the sons of Owen Tudor and Henry VI’s Act of Parliament refers to them as legitimate. While Henry was a weak king who could have been influenced by his half brothers, this can’t be said about Richard. On the contrary, his proclamation is credible not only because it corroborates Henry’s narrative, but because it does so against his own interest of exploiting the flaws in Henry Tudor’s pedigree. As the man who established the College of Arms and, prior to this accession to the throne, active soldier and long-serving Constable of England and therefore presiding judge of the Court of Chivalry, Richard would have been ideally placed to spot evidence of an illicit affair between Catherine of Valois and Edmund Beaufort in Edmund and Jasper Tudor’s arms, but he said nothing. He wasn’t shy when it came to accusing his enemies of misdeeds – aside from rubbishing Henry’s pedigree he claimed that his supporters were murderers, adulterers and extortionists who would commit the “most cruell murders, slaughterys, and roberys, and disherisons that ever were seen in eny Cristen reame” should they succeed in their attempt to topple him14 – so why keep silent about a prohibited degree of consanguinity?

The logical conclusion has to be that Catherine and Owen really were married, albeit secretly, and that Edmund and Jasper really were their sons. The most likely explanation for their inappropriate coats of arms is that they were a result of being on good terms with Henry VI, if not active lobbying on their part. As Ashdown-Hill himself points out, “the whole purpose of medieval heraldry was to show to the world who one was”, so why bear the differenced arms of a Welsh courtier if you can bear those of a king?

Sources & Further Reading

  1. Dan Jones: “The 5 greatest mysteries behind the Wars of the Roses”, History Extra website (7 January 2016) http://www.historyextra.com/article/military-history/mysteries-wars-roses-Dan-Jones
  2. Colin Richmond, “Beaufort, Edmund, first duke of Somerset (c.1406–1455)”, OXFORD DICTIONARY OF NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY (2008) http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/1855
  3. G. L. Harriss, “CARDINAL BEAUFORT: A STUDY OF LANCASTRIAN ASCENDANCY AND DECLINE”, Clarendon Press (1988)
  4. Michael Jones, “Catherine (1401–1437)”, OXFORD DICTIONARY OF NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY (2008) http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/4890
  5. John Ashdown-Hill, “ROYAL MARRIAGE SECRETS”, The History Press (2013)
  6. Dan Jones: “The 5 greatest mysteries behind the Wars of the Roses”, History Extra website (7 January 2016) http://www.historyextra.com/article/military-history/mysteries-wars-roses-Dan-Jones
  7. The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, 1275-1504, Scholarly Digital Editions; CD-ROM edition (2005)
  8. John Watts, “HENRY VI AND THE POLITICS OF KINGSHIP”, Cambridge University Press (1999), p. 154
  9. Christine Carpenter, “THE WARS OF THE ROSES: POLITICS AND THE CONSTITUTION IN ENGLAND, C.1437-1509, Cambridge University Press (2008), p. 106
  10. The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, 1275-1504, Scholarly Digital Editions; CD-Rom edition (2005)
  11. James Gairdner (ed.), “THE PASTON LETTERS”, London 1872-5 (3 vols), vol. 3, pp. 316—20, cited by P. W. Hammond and Anne F. Sutton, “RICHARD III: THE ROAD TO BOSWORTH FIELD”, Constable (1985), pp. 208-10
  12. British Library Harleian MS 787, f.2, cited by Annette Carson, “RICHARD III: THE MALIGNED KING”, The History Press (2013), p. 284
  13. “Fils du feu rey Enry d’Angleterre”, A. Spont, “La marine française sous le règne de Charles VIII”, REVUE DES QUESTIONS HISTORIQUES, new series, II (1894), p. 393, cited by Annette Carson, “RICHARD DUKE OF GLOUCESTER AS LORD PROTECTOR AND HIGH CONSTABLE OF ENGLAND”, Imprimis Imprimatur (2015), p. 40
  14. “PASTON LETTERS”, vol. 3, pp. 316—20, cited by P. W. Hammond and Anne F. Sutton, “RICHARD III: THE ROAD TO BOSWORTH FIELD”, Constable (1985), pp. 208-10

The Mystery Man In The Vaux Passional

In 1921, a late medieval manuscript was donated to the National Library of Wales. It was a “passional”, a book recounting the sufferings of saints and martyrs, and contained two texts in medieval French: “La Passion de Nostre Seigneur” (The Passion of Our Lord), an account of the Passion of Christ, and “Le miroir de la mort” (The mirror of death), a religious poem by the Burgundian chronicler Georges Chastellain. The book had once been owned by Lady Joan Guildford (c. 1463-1538), nee Vaux, who served in the household of Elizabeth of York as governess to the Princesses Mary and Margaret Tudor, but it didn’t receive any special attention until 2012 when it was digitised to make it available on the internet.

When Dr Maredudd ap Huw, the library’s manuscripts librarian, examined the first miniature in the book, he realised that it appeared to show the family of Henry VII, including the future Henry VIII, mourning the death of his Queen, Elizabeth of York (1466-1503). Young Henry, who is shown slumped over his mother’s empty bed, was 11 years old at the time of her death, making this the earliest known depiction of him and certainly the most vulnerable. Also present are his sisters Margaret and Mary, dressed in mourning black, while the sovereign in the centre of the miniature appears to be an idealised version of their father, Henry VII. The bottom of the page bears the royal arms of England.

Vaux-1

Dr ap Huw’s discovery catapulted the Vaux Passional to fame, but while the figures on the left of the miniature are now tentatively identified, the others remain shrouded in mystery. Most mysterious of all is the man at the centre who is handing a book to the King, so much so that Dr ap Huw has appealed to fellow historians and even members of the public for suggestions who he could be. Unfortunately, the response has been muted: apparently I was the only member of the public who contacted him. This post is a summary of my suggestions and replies I received from him and other experts.

Presentation Miniature Or Not?

At first glance, the scene appears to be a typical “presentation miniature”, a type of illustration which shows the author of a book – in this case the passional – or the person who commissioned the book presenting it to his patron – in this case, Henry VII. It was therefore initially assumed that the book had been owned by Henry before passing into Lady Guildford’s possession. As for the mystery man, since both texts contained in the book had been published before, he can’t be the author. He would therefore have to be the person who commissioned the book, but this is where it gets mysterious.

He is unlikely to be Sir Richard Guildford since he has been tentatively identified by Dr ap Huw as the man in the foreground holding the white wand of the office of Comptroller of the Household. The book bears an inscription by Lady Guildford’s son, Sir Henry Guildford, but he was only 14 years old at the time of Queen Elizabeth’s death and her brother was in France where he served as Lieutenant of Guînes. Dr ap Huw had hoped that the coats of arms on other pages of the manuscript would help to identify the mystery man, but they were found to point to Lady Guildford’s maternal ancestors, except those on the page depicting Christ’s resurrection, which belong to the family of Henry VII’s mother, the Beauforts. This discovery led Dr ap Huw to reconsider his original interpretation that the book had been commissioned for Henry VII and allow for the possibility that it had actually been intended for Lady Guildford. However, in that case the scene can’t be a presentation miniature as the recipient of the book is clearly a male monarch.

There are other clues supporting this conclusion. In presentation miniatures the person presenting the book is usually shown kneeling, but the mystery man is standing. The composition places him on roughly the same floor level as the king and his facial expression and body language are relaxed and confident – he looks more like an equal than a subject paying tribute to his sovereign. And the book in the picture is blue while the passional is bound in red velvet which, according to the library’s website, is the original binding. So if the book was commissioned for Lady Guildford then we should take a closer look at her and her family.

Who Was Joan Guildford?

The Guildfords are usually considered pillars of the Tudor regime. Lady Guildford was the daughter of William Vaux, who died fighting for Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou at Tewkesbury. Her mother Katherine Vaux, nee Peniston, served Queen Margaret as lady-in-waiting and was so loyal to her mistress that she is said to have shared her imprisonment and exile. Young Joan and her brother Nicholas were brought up in the household of Henry VII’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, and Joan went on to become her lady-in-waiting. Nicholas is thought to have fought for Henry at Bosworth as he later did at Blackheath and Stoke, for which he was knighted. Lady Guildford’s husband, Sir Richard Guildford, was the son of Sir John Guildford, who had been Comptroller of the Household to Edward IV, but lost his position when Richard III became King. Both father and son took part in Buckingham’s rebellion and when it was quashed Sir Richard joined Henry in exile in Brittany. Like his brother-in-law, he is thought to have fought for him at Bosworth.

What’s less well known is that Lady Guildford’s Yorkist links went beyond her service in Elizabeth of York’s household and her father-in-law’s service to Edward IV. Despite her devotion to Margaret of Anjou, her mother had received an annuity of 20 marks from Richard III, the same amount she would later receive from Henry VIII. Her brother’s first wife was Elizabeth FitzHugh, daughter of Sir Henry FitzHugh and Alice Neville, niece of Cecily Neville, duchess of York and aunt to Anne Neville, Richard’s Queen. Both Elizabeth and her mother had served Queen Anne as ladies-in-waiting and her sister Anne FitzHugh was the wife of Francis Lovell, Richard’s friend and one of the leaders, together with Richard’s nephew John de la Pole, of the Lambert Simnel rebellion against Henry VII. Most strikingly, in 1504 Sir Richard Guildford was accused by one of Henry’s spies of supporting the Yorkist pretender Edmund de la Pole, John’s brother, whose household he had been trying to infiltrate. Meanwhile Lady Guildford’s brother, when asked about the possibility of de la Pole succeeding Henry, reportedly commented that he “should be sure to make his peace how so ever the world turn.” In 1505, Sir Richard was arrested and sent to prison, allegedly for not keeping proper accounts when Master of the Ordnance, and was only pardoned the following year. He died a few months later while on pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that Lady Guildford’s loyalties were divided. Indeed, after her husband’s death she re-entered Margaret Beaufort’s household and in 1514 when Princess Mary married King Louis XII she accompanied her former charge to France. However, her immediate family certainly included people who had been part of the Yorkist King Richard III’s inner circle and had known him personally. I’ll come back to this later.

Who Is The Mystery Man?

Unlikely as it may seem, he looks remarkably like . . . Richard III. The hair style, texture and colour as well as facial features – prominent chin, down turned corners of the mouth and furrowed brow – are similar to Richard’s portraits from the Tudor period. These were created based on an established pattern and while book illustrations aren’t usually faithful portraits the miniature broadly follows it: allowing for the cartoonish style, the 3/4 perspective, facial features and even the frown line between his eye brows line up remarkably well. The position of his hands – holding a book rather than fiddling with his ring – and his facial expression – smiling instead of looking stern or sinister – are different, but he certainly looks more like Richard III than the idealised sovereign looks like Henry VII. Finally, the coat of arms on this page of the manuscript was used by both Henry and Richard: the royal arms of England.

The mystery man 1) superimposed on the Society of Antiquaries portrait 2), the Royal Collection portrait 3) and the NPG portrait 4)

So could this be Richard? According to the Richard III Society, there’s no precedent for depictions of a dead king handing a present to his living political enemy. This may be true of presentation miniatures, but a very similar scene is described in the epitaph of the alabaster tomb that Henry placed on Richard’s grave in 1494, almost 10 years after Bosworth. The exact wording of the epitaph as it appeared on the tomb is unclear as several different versions of it exist and all of them appear to have transcription errors. The Guildhall version, which has survived in Sir George Buck’s 17th century biography “THE HISTORY OF KING RICHARD THE THIRD”, reads:

”I, here, whom the earth encloses under various coloured marble,
Was justly called Richard the Third.
I was Protector of my country, an uncle ruling on behalf of his nephew.
I held the British kingdoms in trust, although they were disunited.
Then for just sixty days less two,
And Two summers, I held my sceptres.
Fighting bravely in war, deserted by the English,
I succumbed to you, King Henry VII.
But you yourself, piously, at your expense, thus honoured my bones
And caused a former king to be revered with the honour of a king
When in twice five years less four
Three hundred five-year periods of our salvation had passed.
And eleven days before the Kalends of September
I surrendered to the red rose the power it desired.
Whoever you are, pray for my offences,
That my punishment may be lessened by your prayers.”
1

The Wriothesley-Hawling-Sandford version of the epitaph is more critical of Richard2 but describes the transfer of royal power from him to Henry in equally amicable terms. Is this why the book in the miniature doesn’t look like the passional – because it isn’t a physical book, but Richard’s present to Henry?

The Red Rose Of Beaufort?

The surrender of power to the “red rose” who had “desired” it, as described in the epitaph, deserves closer scrutiny. Firstly, it’s an admission that Richard “surrendered” his power not of his own volition, but because someone else desired it – or, according to the Wriothesley-Hawling-Sandford version, was owed it as a right. But who is this red rose? Both John Ashdown-Hill and Thomas Penn have pointed out that, while the Plantagenets had been using rose emblems as far back as Eleanor of Provence, wife of Henry III, these tended to be gold or indiscriminate in colour and were often subordinate to other heraldic badges, such as Henry VI’s antelope. Until 1485 the only royal rose emblem was the white rose of York as used by Edward IV and Richard III.

When Henry VII married Elizabeth of York, he introduced the red-and-white Tudor rose, supposedly a fusion of his red rose of Lancaster, which however hadn’t really existed before, and her white rose of York. Henry’s instructions for the pageants with which the city of York was to receive him on his first progress of northern England in April 1486 included “a world desolate full of trees and flowers” and in it “a royal, rich, red rose conveyed by a vice, unto which rose shall appear another rich white rose, unto whom all the flowers shall lout and evidently give sovereignty, showing the rose to be principal of all flowers, and there upon shall come from a cloud a crown covering the roses.”3 In a scene not dissimilar to the one described in the epitaph, the pageant was then to show King Ebrauk, the mythical founder of York, salute Henry and “present unto the King the keys of the citie being thenheritaunce of the said Ebrauk yielding his title and crowne unto the King as moost glad of hym above all other.”4

Henry therefore created the Tudor rose almost immediately upon his accession to the throne, so it’s interesting that the passional, which dates from at least 17 years later, doesn’t contain a single one of these symbols of unity between the houses of Lancaster and York. There are plenty of other roses – most of them red, but also a blue rose and, in the decorative border, some white ones (alongside more red roses, violets, pansies and thistles) – but no red-and-white Tudor rose. Both Ashdown-Hill and A J Pollard have noted that Henry’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, used a red rose and suggested that the mythical red rose of Lancaster might therefore actually be a Beaufort emblem. The fact that the illustrations in the passional show not only red roses, but also portcullises, an emblem employed by the Beauforts including Lady Margaret, as well as the Beaufort arms would seem to support this theory.

The page depicting the resurrection of Christ alongside the Beaufort arms also shows a red dragon, a symbol which is strongly associated with Henry VII, who landed in Wales in 1485 flying a red dragon banner and claiming to fulfil the prophesy of Cadwallader, the mythical redeemer of Britain. The combination of the resurrection with the red dragon and the Beaufort arms seems to underline the epitaph’s message about the transfer of power from one dynasty to the other. Nevertheless, given Lady Guildford’s relationship to Margaret Beaufort, the proliferation of Beaufort emblems together with coats of arms associated with her own maternal ancestors again suggests that the passional was commissioned for her, rather than Henry – or his mother.

Vaux-2

What Does It Mean?

If the mystery man is Richard III it would be one of the oldest surviving pictures of him aside from pen-and-ink sketches (the oldest portraits in the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Collection date from around 1504-1520) and the only one showing him smiling. Given that the “crookback” soubriquet had been around since at least the 1490s and by the time the Royal Collection portrait was created paintings were being actively “corrected” to fit this new image, it would also be unusual in that it shows him without deformities.

As we saw above, Lady Guildford had access to people who had seen Richard and would have known that his scoliosis was not visible under normal circumstances, such as her in-laws who had been ladies-in-waiting to Anne Neville, his Queen. Likewise Margaret Beaufort, in whose household Lady Guildford grew up and whom she served later in life, had played a prominent part at Richard’s and Anne’s coronation. And what about Elizabeth of York, Richard’s niece, in whose household Lady Guildford served as governess? It is highly unlikely that he wanted to marry her – he publicly denied the rumour and was in the process of negotiating a foreign marriage when he died – but she had spent time at his court and they seem to have been on friendly terms. One source for this is Elizabeth’s letter to John Howard, duke of Norfolk, in which she declared that her uncle “was her onely joy and maker in . . . Worlde, and that she was his . . . harte, in thoughts, in . . . and in all.” The original letter doesn’t survive, so we can’t be sure how accurately its content was summarised and the summary itself is damaged, but the tone is clear. Richard also appears to have given her two books as gifts. The first, Boethius’ “DE CONSOLATIONE PHILOSOPHIAE”, bears his motto “Loyalte me lye” and underneath it her signature. The other, “ROMAN DE TRISTAN”, is inscribed “Iste Liber constat Ricardo Duci Gloucestre” and on the same page in her handwriting “sans remevyr Elyzabeth”.

Of course, one English king is missing from the scene: where is Elizabeth’s brother, Edward V? The destruction of Titulus Regius by Henry VII in 1485 had reinstated all of Edward IV’s children to the rank of legitimate royal offspring, including him. Indeed, the harsher version of the epitaph accuses Richard of ruling on his behalf by broken faith – contradicting not only the epitaph’s assertion about the right owed to the “red rose”, but also Henry’s claim dating back to 1484 that he, Henricus Rex, was the rightful heir to the crown by “lineal inheritance”5, which bypassed the entire house of York. If the mystery man is Richard, the uncle who allegedly stole the crown from Edward and ordered his death, why is he depicted in such a benign way in a book belonging to a servant of his sister? After James Tyrell’s supposed murder confession, allegedly made in 1502, but mentioned for the first time in 1513, when both Elizabeth and Henry were dead? As so often, it seems that answering one question only leads to new ones!

Related Posts:

The King In The Lab – Body of Evidence

Sources And Further Reading:

National Library of Wales: “The Vaux Passional

History Extra: “Portrait may show young Henry VIII“, BBC History Magazine (2012)

Frederick Hepburn: “Earliest Portraiture of Richard III“, Richard III Society (2013)

John Ashdown-Hill: “THE LAST DAYS OF RICHARD III AND THE FATE OF HIS DNA”, Stroud (2013), pp. 101-5, 164-5, and plates 26, 27

Annette Carson (ed.): “FINDING RICHARD III – THE OFFICIAL ACCOUNT OF RESEARCH BY THE RETRIEVAL & REBURIAL PROJECT”, Imprimis Imprimatur (2015), p. 65-7

Emily Kearns: “Richard III’s Epitaph”, THE RICARDIAN VOL. XXIV (2014), p.75-86.

John Ashdown-Hill: “THE WARS OF THE ROSES”, Amberley (2015)

A J Pollard: “THE WARS OF THE ROSES”, Palgrave Macmillan (2013)

Thomas Penn: “How Henry VII branded the Tudors“, The Guardian (2 March 2012)

Desmond Seward: “THE LAST WHITE ROSE: THE SECRET WARS OF THE TUDORS”, Constable (2010)

Tracy Bryce: “Sir James Tyrell – Hero or Villain?” (1999)


  1. A N Kincaid (ed.): “THE HISTORY OF KING RICHARD THE THIRD”, Alan Sutton (1979), p. 217-8, translated in John Ashdown-Hill: “THE LAST DAYS OF RICHARD III AND THE FATE OF HIS DNA”, Stroud (2013) 
  2. Emily Kearns: “Richard III’s Epitaph”, The Ricardian Vol. XXIV (2014), p.75-86. 
  3. York House Books 1461-1490, Vol. 6, Richard III and Yorkist History Trust (1991), p. 481 
  4. Ibid., p. 481-2 
  5. British Library Harleian MS 787, f.2, cited in Annette Carson: “RICHARD III – THE MALIGNED KING”, History Press (2013), p. 284 

Tales of a Ricardian Traveler – Debunking a Myth at Dartington Hall

Lady on Horseback

Lady on Horseback, mid-15th c., British Museum

Dartington Hall, near Totnes in Devon and just southeast of Dartmoor National Park, represents a uniquely British form of historical contradiction. It is both medieval, having parts of a Grade I-listed late 14th century manor house, and modern, being the current home of the Schumacher College and formerly the site of a progressive coeducational boarding school which broke all the molds of English education and even attracted the attention of MI5. Today, it operates a hotel, restaurant and conference center, and has Grade II* listed gardens.

Our visit was prompted by the prospect of staying briefly in the house built between 1388-1400 by John Holland, first earl of Huntingdon and duke of Exeter. The Holland dukes of Exeter were themselves highly controversial figures and their history is closely intertwined with that of the Houses of York and Lancaster. We didn’t expect, however, that we’d discover an architectural feature that would refute one of the more commonplace myths of the “Wars of the Roses”.

Step-Brother to a King, Builder of a Great House

Approaching Dartington Hall, the first thing one notices is that it is not a fortified structure and was not built with a military purpose in mind. There are no battlements or curtain walls, no remnants of motte or bailey. There is an “entrance block” consisting of a two-story building with only doors instead of a portcullis. The visitor enters a large, green quadrangle, at the end of which is the magnificent Great Hall with its crenelated porch.

Dartington Hall

Plan of Dartington Hall from Anthony Emery’s text

Dartington Hall

14th c. Great Hall with Porch Entrance – Dartington Hall

Along the western edge of the quadrangle is a wing that contains several apartments and garderobes. Beyond the Great Hall was another quadrangle that faced a tiltyard or tournament grounds. In all, the impression is that this was a lavish residence for a very great lord who had numerous retainers and who liked to joust. Like Richard III, John Holland generates polarized opinions, with some viewing him as viciously capricious and others as valiant and misunderstood. The story of John Holland and his heirs, is an integral part of the conflicts between the “Red Rose of Lancaster” and the “White Rose of York”.

He was born one hundred years before Richard III, in 1352, the son of Joan, Countess of Kent, who later married the Black Prince. Thus, he was an older, half-brother to Richard II and part of the extended royal family. His early fame came as a soldier and jouster, but he also had a temper that could get him into trouble. In fact, according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, his first “political act” was to murder a friar who had accused John of Gaunt of conspiring to kill the 17-year old Richard II. As a young man, Holland was very much under the sway of John of Gaunt, the latter being the senior uncle to the king and probably the wealthiest magnate in England, if not its most influential. Holland even seduced Gaunt’s daughter Elizabeth and got her pregnant before he married her. But his relationship with Gaunt cooled, and Richard II became his patron instead. The favor he received was so extravagant (and included an earldom and dukedom) that Holland memorialized it by having Richard II’s white hart badge constructed as a roof boss in the entrance porch at the great manor house he was building at Dartington Hall. Its location meant that every visitor who was received into his great hall would see Holland’s overt connection to the king.

 

Dartington Hall

Late 14th c. Roof Boss showing Richard II’s Badge on Cinquefoil Rose

From Royal Patronage to Treason

Things would not go well for Holland’s new patron, however. When Richard II and Holland returned from a military campaign in Ireland in 1399, they were greeted with troops gathered by Gaunt’s son, Henry of Bolingbroke, who forced the king’s abdication. Holland attended the Parliament which formalized Richard II’s deposition, and attended the coronation of Bolingbroke as Henry IV – the first Lancastrian king. While he officially renounced his allegiance to Richard II, Holland suffered the loss of many lands and titles previously given to him, and hardly three months had passed before he was conspiring with others to assassinate Henry IV and restore Richard II in the “Epiphany Rising”. The plot was foiled, Holland fled, but he was caught and executed without trial by one of Henry IV’s allies.

John Holland lost his life at the hands of Henry IV’s Lancastrian faction.  So, one might ask, why does the Dartington Hall roof boss depict the “Red Rose of Lancaster”? Does it represent a contradictory tribute to both of Holland’s patrons, Gaunt and Richard II?

One explanation lies in the 20th century restoration of Dartington Hall. Having fallen into rack and ruin, the property was purchased by Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst in 1925, and they retained a well-credential architect to restore and modernize it. While working on the porch to the great hall, they discovered the roof boss which also helped to determine it was built during the last decade of Richard II’s reign. The engorged (chained) white hart, or white hind, was a well-known badge adopted by the king in the late 1380s; it would come to be associated with him in the following century and even used by the Yorkists to symbolize their claim as rightful heirs to Richard II. It is most prominently displayed in the “Edward IV Roll”, a genealogical document published in 1461 following Edward IV’s defeat of Henry VI at Towton.

 

Edward IV Roll

Edward IV Roll – Showing Richard II’s Badge at Mid- & Lower Right

 

The Dartington boss depicts Richard II’s badge on top of a five-petaled or “cinquefoil” heraldic rose, a symbol that by the 20th century had become synonymous with the “Wars of the Roses”. Notably, there was no pigment left on the roof boss when it was discovered, so it was gilded and painted with colors they thought would have been suitable. That they painted the heraldic rose red was most likely because of the association of the red rose with the House of Lancaster. This association was made famous in a scene in Shakespeare’s Henry VI Part I in which Somerset (a Lancastrian) and York argue in the Temple garden, and they pick, respectively, a red rose and a white rose to represent their competing interests. It has been part of historical mythology ever since. Undoubtedly, the Dartington Hall restoration team were aware of this mythology, and they were probably aware of the connections that later developed between the second and third dukes of Exeter and the Lancastrian kings of England.

Loyal to Lancaster, Married to a Yorkist

Following his execution in 1400, Holland was succeeded by his son John, who styled himself the earl of Huntingdon and would later receive the title of duke of Exeter from Henry VI by virtue of his loyal service. John fought at Agincourt with distinction and was on the tribunal which tried and sentenced to death those accused of the Southampton Plot. One of those to be executed was Richard III’s grandfather, the earl of Cambridge. Despite his pedigree, he was poor in resources and never had adequate funds to support his station in life. Nevertheless, he served on the royal council, was present for Henry VI’s coronation in France, served on the tribunal that declared Eleanor Cobham a witch, and was able to marry himself to high-born widows, including a Mortimer. In all, he was a solid Lancastrian, but died in 1447 before a series of crises arose from Henry VI’s mental incapacity and political divisions with the third duke of York. He also lived to see his son and heir, Henry, marry Anne, the duke of York’s eldest daughter, in 1446.

Henry and Anne had probably one of the strangest marriages of the day, a union of Lancastrian and Yorkist children, one whose father had ordered the execution of the other’s grandfather. Henry Holland was in the line of succession to the childless Henry VI in 1446 because he was a great-grandson of John of Gaunt. This made him an appealing marriage prospect, so York was willing to pay the destitute Holland 4,500 marks for the privilege. Anne was only 6 years old at the time; Henry was 15. They had one child, a daughter called Anne, but their marriage was a disaster. Holland was cruel and violent, and remained a staunch Lancastrian. After the birth of their daughter, they lived separately and Anne took on a lover, Thomas St Leger. Holland fought for Henry VI at the Battle of Barnet and was left seriously injured, believed to be dead. He somehow crawled to a nearby abbey and managed to survive. His marriage did not. Anne was granted a divorce in 1472 and she married St Leger. Holland served in Edward IV’s 1475 military campaign to France, but on his ship back to England, he fell overboard in the Channel and drowned to death, some saying he had been forced overboard at the order of the Yorkist king.

Following the death of Exeter, Dartington Hall passed to his former wife Anne, who was now married to St Leger.  St Leger was a Yorkist under Edward IV but betrayed Richard III in October, 1483 when he conspired with the duke of Buckingham to remove him from the throne. By this time, Anne of York had already died. St Leger was executed, attainted, and his estates – including Dartington Hall – reverted to Richard III as crown property. When Richard III was killed at Bosworth, Dartington was given as a life-estate to Henry VII’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, who apparently never visited but did derive income from the estate. It reverted to Henry VIII as a crown possession upon her death. Thus, Dartington Hall was owned, at different times, by people who represented almost all the factions comprising the “Wars of the Roses”.

Is that the Red Rose of Lancaster?

It might be tempting to see the Dartington heraldic rose as the “Red Rose of Lancaster”, but there is a significant problem with that theory. It was built in the last decade of the 14th century, too early to have any associations with the “Wars of the Roses”, which at the earliest would be dated to Richard II’s deposition in 1399.  We can also rule out its construction in the 15th century. The second and third dukes of Exeter were devoted to the Lancastrian kings and would have no reason to display the badge of a monarch who they had deposed.  Dartington Hall was possessed by the Yorkist, St Leger, from 1475-1483, but there is no indication that he initiated any building projects there. And while the Tudors owned the estate from 1485 on, there is similarly no evidence that they made any renovations to the Great Hall or its porch, and there is still no further evidence of the Tudors combining the badge of Richard II with the Lancastrian red rose.  Therefore, the only conclusion to be reached is that the Dartington roof boss contains imagery that contemporaries of Richard II associated with him, including the rose.

Cinquefoil roses were used by Plantagenet royalty in diverse circumstances, not necessarily all heraldic. Although there is some controversy as to when the rose first became a royal English badge, the modern thinking is that Henry III’s queen, Eleanor of Provence, brought it with her. Both sons of Henry III and Eleanor used rose badges of uncertain color; it is said that Edward I’s was gold with a green stem and Edmund “Crouchback”‘s was red. Edward III’s sixth Great Seal employed roses as background detail. The effigy of the Black Prince at Canterbury Cathedral incorporates gold roses on his armour and on the lower edge of the tester over his tomb. John of Gaunt gave St. Paul’s Cathedral a bed powered with decorative red roses, and Henry IV’s tomb effigy at Canterbury Cathedral has blue roses decorating his mantle. Coinage produced during Henry IV’s reign briefly employed a rose figure as a stop between words. All of this suggests that the device of the rose, of various colors, was generally employed from the time of Henry III through his great-grandson Edward III and his heirs. There was no specific association between John of Gaunt or his sons and the color red.

In fact, while there is a long-standing belief that the Earls of Lancaster adopted the red rose badge ever since Edmund “Crouchback” first used it, there is no contemporary 14th or 15th century evidence that the House of Lancaster followed this precedent. In his seminal article, “The Red Rose of Lancaster?” published in The Ricardian (June 1996), Dr John Ashdown-Hill demonstrated that the first account of the red rose being associated with Lancaster came early in the reign of Henry VII, the first Tudor king, as part of a visual propaganda to cast him as a unifier between two dynastic houses symbolized by red and white roses. But, as Ashdown-Hill observes: “None of the three Lancastrian kings can be proved to have used such an emblem, even if they were entitled to it, and this is in striking contrast to the white rose badge of York, for which ample contemporary evidence can be provided.” Portraits of Henry IV, V and VI are either devoid of any rose badge or were painted well into the Tudor period. A Tudor-period book depicts Henry IV’s battle standard as having red roses on a white background, but this has never been authenticated. The same is true for a Tudor-period account of Henry V’s funeral hearse, which allegedly had a valence of red roses. Indeed, when Henry VI briefly regained his throne in 1470-71, he removed Edward IV’s heraldic rose and sunburst mint marks on coinage and replaced them with a fleur de lis.

Dartington Hall’s roof boss substantiates Dr Ashdown-Hill’s proposition that the rose was not a peculiarly Lancastrian badge before or during the “Wars of the Roses”.  Richard II was not the Earl or Duke of Lancaster, and was not on particularly good terms with Gaunt or Bolingbroke in his last decade of life.  The only sound conclusion one can draw is that the cinquefoil rose was one of Richard II’s devices, perhaps not as well known, but the memory of this – like much of history – was rewritten by the victorious Tudors.

 

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Bibliography

John Ashdown-Hill, “The Red Rose of Lancaster?” The Ricardian, June 1996, pp. 406-420.

John Ashdown-Hill, WARS OF THE ROSES (Amberley, 2015)

Henry Bedingfeld, Peter Gwynn-Jones, HERALDRY (Brompton, 1993)

Anthony Emery, “Dartington Hall, Devonshire”, http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archiveDS/archiveDownload?t=arch-1132-1/dissemination/pdf/115/115_184_202.pdf

Griffiths, R. A.. “Holland , John, first duke of Exeter (1395–1447).” R. A. Griffiths In OXFORD DICTIONARY OF NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY, edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed., edited by David Cannadine, January 2008. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/13530 (accessed August 2, 2016)

Hicks, Michael. “Holland, Henry, second duke of Exeter (1430–1475).” Michael Hicks In OXFORD DICTIONARY OF NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY, online ed., edited by David Cannadine. Oxford: OUP, 2004. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/50223 (accessed August 2, 2016)

Stansfield, M. M. N.. “Holland, John, first earl of Huntingdon and duke of Exeter (c.1352–1400).” M. M. N. Stansfield In OXFORD DICTIONARY OF NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY, edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed., edited by David Cannadine, January 2008. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/13529 (accessed August 2, 2016)

Debunking the Myths – Richard the Secret Usurper

Ripon Cathedral misericord

“And in another isle toward the south dwell folk of foul stature and of cursed kind that have no heads. And their eyen be in their shoulders.” – Sir John Mandeville (14th c.)

Today’s blog focuses on the long-standing myth and rumor that, upon Edward IV’s sudden and unexpected death on the 9th of April, 1483, Richard secretly conspired to usurp the throne from his nephew, the 12-year old Edward V. The rumor finds dramatic presentation in Shakespeare’s play, but some contemporary chroniclers say it had been in circulation from the very beginning of the boy’s 11-week reign.

Dominic Mancini, an Italian cleric and diplomat who was sent to London to report intelligence back to the French king Louis XI, wrote in 1483 that the fear of usurpation found root even before Richard left his castle in Yorkshire to accompany the young king to London for his coronation. Mancini writes of a widespread belief that the appointment of a Lord Protector for the boy inevitably placed the uncle in a position to take the crown because “it had been found that no regent ever laid down his office, save reluctantly, and from armed compulsion, whence civil wars had often arisen.” “Moreover, if the entire government were committed to one man he might easily usurp the sovereignty.” “Having entered the city the first thing he [Richard] saw to was to have himself proclaimed, by authority of the council and all the lords, protector or regent of the king and realm. Then he set his thoughts on removing, or at least undermining, everything that might stand in the way of his mastering the throne.”

Some scholars even suggest Edward IV did not intend a protectorate at all, saying that it was his intention for his young son to be immediately anointed in a coronation ceremony, and henceforth rule on his own behalf with the assistance of a royal council. Professor Rosemary Horrox takes this viewpoint by saying that Richard “made himself protector” in her introduction to the Parliamentary Rolls of 1484, and in her book RICHARD III: A STUDY OF SERVICE, where she writes that the man who authored the Crowland Chronicle, a man who was likely a member of Edward IV’s inner circle and possibly on the royal council, voiced no objection to this hasty coronation and the bypassing of Richard having a dominant role in the reign of Edward V.

Both Mancini and the Crowland chronicler were writing in retrospect, following Richard’s accession to the throne on June 26, 1483, after the news broke that the children of Edward IV and Queen Elizabeth were illegitimate by their parents’ bigamous and invalid marriage. Thus, it is no surprise that their narratives are shaped by this hindsight; inevitably they both make suppositions about Richard’s true intentions in order to view the events of May-June, 1483 within some logical framework. It is a commonplace difficulty when examining any account of historical events, whether written by a diplomat, a cleric, or a merchant in his personal correspondence.

This is why physical evidence from the period can be much more enlightening than letters, missives or chronicles written by contemporaries. Perhaps no more dramatic proof of this can be found than in the discovery of Richard III’s skeletal remains, the information they’ve provided and the myths they have already dispelled. Examination of those remains has already proven that Richard did not suffer from a “hunchback” or a withered arm or a horribly disfiguring physical impairment.

In this vein, I would like to discuss another piece of physical evidence that lends silent testimony to Richard’s intentions in May and June, 1483. This evidence, I believe, confirms that Richard was more widely accepted as Lord Protector than previously reported and there was no premeditation to remove Edward V.

A Most Curious Coin

In preparing my talk on the symbolism of Richard’s boar badge for the Richard III Foundation in October, 2015, I ran across a very surprising discovery: a coin that was minted and distributed in 1483 – also known as the “Year of Three Kings: Edward IV, Edward V and Richard III”. It was arrestingly beautiful and, given that it was struck at the Tower Mint in London during one of the most controversial periods of English history, I felt compelled to research it further.

Boar coin

Gold Angel Coin

This is the front or “obverse” side of the coin, a monetary unit established by the first Yorkist king, Edward IV, and called the Angel. With the exception of Edward IV’s brief and failed experiment with a “Rose-Noble” or “Ryal” coin, the Angel was the most valuable of all coins (80p), being made of gold, and was intended to replace the gold Noble coins which had been circulated in England since the reign of Edward III. The image on the obverse side of Angel coins depicts the Archangel Saint Michael slaying a dragon. Around the edge of the coin are words in abbreviated Latin announcing the name of the ruling monarch and his titles – king of England, France and Lord of Ireland. In the above image, those words indicate that the monarch’s name is Edward.

Taking a closer look at the coin, I noticed right away that there was a boar’s head between the saint’s halo and the first letter of Edward’s name.  I wanted to know why it was there and whether it had any symbolic meaning that could tell us something about the politics of the day. In other words, why would the well-known device of Richard as Duke of Gloucester and later King Richard III, appear on a coin during his brother’s or his nephew’s reigns?

What I discovered is that Edward IV’s early reign saw not only the inventing of the Angel as a new currency, but the development of a new system of “initial marks” or “privy marks” or “mint marks” on coinage. Prior to 1461, English coins routinely had mint marks on them to signal where they were struck (there were multiple mints in England, including York, Canterbury and London), to give some information about their age, and which “run” of coin stamping they were produced in. The minting of coins in the medieval period was a combination of artistic skill, basic manufacturing and quality control. Bullion or plate would be brought into the mint, fashioned into blanks and then stamped with coin dies to produce officially sanctioned images. The dies were created by skilled craftsmen with the approval and under the careful eye of the Mint Master.

Every three months, the English Exchequer would conduct something known as the “Trial of the Pyx” – random coins from various mint runs would be carefully examined and weighed against official exemplar coins kept in the Pyx Box. Coins that were found unequal in weight to the Pyx exemplar, or with imperfections in their hammered images, told the examiners that there was a problem with a particular run of coins coming out of the mint. Sometimes, it was a corrupt moneyer who provided bullion or plate that did not contain the right amount of silver or gold in the alloy, thus cheating the Crown by skimming off small amounts of precious metal, a practice that often brought with it a the penalty of death. If this was the case, the examiners at the Pyx Trial could then go back and “recall” the coins bearing similar mint marks from the production batches. And possibly identify the cheater who supplied the bullion.

The secret language of “mint marks” was usually in the form of crosses (saltires), loops, or pellets. During Edward IV’s reign, a new system was developed: the addition of mint marks that were uniquely heraldic. This practice was truly innovative and continued for over two hundred years thereafter, until the practice of hammering coins was discontinued. Consistent with this new Yorkist practice, coins during the reign of Edward IV, especially those of great value like Angels, would contain mint-mark symbols of significance to his royal house. The Rose and the Sun in Splendor were particular favorites, both being heraldic badges of Edward IV.

When changing the mint mark, an artisan would sometimes just recarve the new image over the previous one. It saved time and money to do so, as opposed to creating an entirely new coin die. Even more confusingly, I discovered that English kings who newly came to their thrones would sometimes just use their predecessor’s coin dies: the artisans at the mint would pick up the prior dies, make whatever changes were necessary (if any) and continue stamping out new money until the new king’s administration developed a design for his own coinage.

So that’s a very basic summary of minting coins in the 15th century. But here’s the rub: Edward IV never used the boar’s head on any of his coinage, as a heraldic mint mark or otherwise in the symbolic imagery of his reign. I had to ask myself what I was looking at. Was it a coin from Edward IV’s, Edward V’s or even the early days of Richard III’s reign? The balance of evidence suggests it was from that most precarious of periods in the Plantagenet dynasty: the few short weeks when Edward V was king and his uncle Richard was recognized as Lord Protector.

A Gold Angel from the Lord Protectorate Period: May-June 1483

In October of 1955, two workmen reported that they had dug up 83 gold and 22 silver coins at the corner of the Zandstraat in Herentals, a province of Antwerp, Belgium. “They had been engaged in foundation work for a new building to be erected on the site of an ancient house and had found the coins about 5 feet below street level.” It turns out the workmen falsely reported their discovery; what they’d actually found was an ancient broken vase that contained a hoard of 225 gold and 22 silver coins that was probably hidden by someone during the Spanish-Dutch wars in the late 16th century. When I read the article concerning this discovery in the British Numismatic Journal, written by preeminent coin expert Herbert Schneider in 1955, my eyes immediately jumped to a sentence describing the origin of the coins, coming from “no less than 36 different countries, provinces, seigneuries, or towns, including 20 English gold coins, among them a George Noble of Henry VIII and an Angel of Edward V.”

Schneider proceeded to catalogue and describe each of the English coins:

“Apart from the obvious rarity of a rather crinkled and somewhat battered George Noble which has normal features and legends, only an Angel of Edward V (Pl. XXV, 19), is of outstanding importance and interest. This is the fifth known specimen and was struck from the same pair of dies as the British Museum coin, illustrated in Brooke’s English Coins, Pl. xxxv. 2, which had hitherto been on a plane of its own, for the other three Angels of Edward V are all from a different altered obverse die of Edward IV combined with a different reverse die of Blunt + Whitton’s Type XXII. On Whitton’s list we find their obverse under No. 7, and the reverse is Blunt + Whitton Type XXII, reverse of No. 6, whereas the British Museum and the Herentals specimens were struck from the dies listed by Whitton under No. 4, the reverse of which tallies with Blunt + Whitton Type XXII, reverse of No. 7.”

Although I am not a numismatist by any stretch of the imagination, this description told me that there were, indeed, gold Angels produced during the short reign of Edward V. More surprisingly is how Schneider went on to describe the appearance of the Edward V Angel found in Herentels, Belgium:

Edward V (1483)

ANGEL. Obv[erse]. Initial mark Boar’s Head (over Sun + Rose). Read DI FRANC*/*. Saltire stops.

Rev[erse]. Initial mark Sun+Rose. Reads /DRVCEM REDEMP* otherwise no stops. Whitton No. 4. (Cf. Brooke’s English Coins, Pl. xxxv, 2.)

So now I had an expert saying that during the reign of Edward V, gold coins such as Angels were minted with the boar’s head mark on them.

Reading further, I found an article from 1949 in the British Numismatic Journal, written by F. O. Arnold, which addressed the controversy over Angel coins bearing the boar’s head mark.   The controversy mainly arose because Edward V’s reign was only 11 weeks long – not long enough in some numismatists’ minds to produce coinage. They argued that such coins were produced during the end of Edward IV’s reign. However, Dr. Arnold disagreed and said the Tower Mint records showed in Edward V’s reign “some 49 lb. in gold coins and 434 lb. in silver coins were in fact minted, and Hawkins himself and most other numismatists subsequently agreed that coins bearing the name of Edward and a boar’s head upon them were definitely assignable to the reign of Edward V.”

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of coins that still exist today that are known to come from the reign of Edward IV. None of them contain a boar’s head.   This fact, along with the opinions of Schneider and Arnold and the British Museum, suggest that the coin shown above was in fact minted during Edward V’s reign. At the very least, it shows that a coin die was created with the name of King Edward and a Boar’s Head on it. Can there be any explanation other than it was made between April 9 and June 26, 1483?

It turns out that some coin experts, and indeed one who gave a presentation at a meeting of the British Numismatic Society in the mid-1980s, have the opinion that the gold Angel with a boar’s head and bearing the name of Edward was actually made during the early months of Richard III’s reign. They argue that the mint men simply picked up a die from the prior Edward V’s coinage, and stamped a boar’s head on top of what had been there originally. But that theory and its presentation were never published in the Society’s journal. And, given the way Richard III came to the crown – following the deposition of Edward V – it would seem illogical and even contrary to common sense for Richard III’s new coins to bear the name of a king who was just declared a bastard, although it is always possible that some errant coins were produced. If it was a matter of convenience to be re-using old dies and carving a boar’s head over a previous mint mark, then why didn’t the goldsmith also carve over the name Edward?  Coins produced during Richard III’s reign always abbreviated his name as “Ricard” so all it took was etching over three letters – not a very onerous task.

Finally, I located an article from 1934 in the British Numismatic Journal written by Christopher Blunt that addressed more broadly the “Coinage of Edward V”. There, he catalogues not only an Angel coin from the Protectorate period, but also a Groat, Half-Groat, and Penny – all bearing the boar’s head with the name Edward on the obverse.   So it appears that the Angel coin I was looking at wasn’t just a “one off” event. Coinage during the short reign of Edward V indisputably bore (forgive the pun) boar’s head mint marks.

What does this all mean? Can we deduce any political messages from the imagery contained on the Edward V coins? I think we can.

Political Symbolism of the Edward V Gold Angel

It would be stating the obvious that images and symbols were widely used for political propaganda in the 15th century. We need look no further than the Edward IV Roll at the Free Library of Philadelphia to observe how the Yorkists used the power of images to maximize political messaging. Examination of the multiple images in the Edward IV Roll is notable for its utter lack of a boar, or boar’s head, as a heraldic or family device. It belonged, uniquely, to Richard when he became Duke of Gloucester and later King.

Coins, like genealogical rolls, promoted political messages. The coins bearing the name of Edward V and a boar’s head mint mark announce very strongly that Richard was recognized to be the singular powerful lord supporting his reign. Not only was he personally subsidizing it by supplying it with his own money and administrative talents, but he was the undoubted “power behind the power” in maintaining his nephew’s realm. There is no dispute that in the period from May 9 to mid-June, the Crown’s administrative machinery was kept in smooth working order without any evidence of Richard trying to “undermine” Edward V’s rule.

Rosemary Horrox demonstrates in her book RICHARD III: A STUDY OF SERVICE that there is no evidence showing panicked minds or general insecurity between Richard’s assumption as Lord Protector and events leading up the first sermons preached about Edward IV’s precontracted marriage to Eleanor Talbot. In fact, she says, the council operated in apparent harmony and without controversy; Richard made every attempt to maintain continuity with the prior regime, without promoting his own partisans into the mix. Sir John Wood, formerly the Speaker of the Commons in Edward IV’s 1483 Parliament, was made Lord Treasurer of the Exchequer to replace the deceased Earl of Essex on the 16th of May. William, Lord Hastings, was re-ordained in his position as Master of the Tower Mint on the 20th of May. Coinage struck at the Tower Mint in May and June was made under the mandate of the Lord Treasurer, John Wood, showing that perhaps Hastings was either distracted with other issues or perhaps falling out of favor. In any case, Horrox comments that at this time, “most Englishmen seem to have acknowledged” Richard’s authority, as he was able to command former men from Edward IV’s household in dicey situations where orders issuing from a suspected usurper would have otherwise been met with a decided lack of enthusiasm.  There was no indication of the latter.

That Richard was widely accepted as Lord Protector and as the “power behind the power” of Edward V’s nascent regime is even more strongly supported by the speech prepared by John Russell, bishop of Lincoln and the new Chancellor under Edward V. This speech was prepared in anticipation of the Parliament scheduled for the 25th of June, and was probably written somewhere between the 13th of May and the 5th  or 10th of June. As Professor Charles Ross has commented in his biography RICHARD III, this speech carries with it not only the personal viewpoint of Russell, but “may be regarded as official government policy”. Russell’s speech castigates the Queen’s relatives as being unreliable support to the new regime, and casts Richard as Lepidus, twice consul of Rome, who was elected by the Roman senate to have guardianship of the boy Ptolemy, king of Egypt and to not only provide for his education and physical well-being but also to address himself to the administration of all great things concerning his realm. As Annette Carson explains in her treatise, RICHARD AS LORD PROTECTOR AND HIGH CONSTABLE (2015), this was a proposition that gave even more power to Richard as guardian of Edward V and Protector of the Realm.  Certainly, there is no evidence here of any fear that he was grasping to usurp his nephew’s crown.

Coins from the reign of Edward V thus provide us a glimpse into a stable albeit brief period, where Richard’s authority as Lord Protector was not controversial and where the new government seemed poised to solidify and even enlarge his guardianship. The disclosure of Edward V’s bastardy arose outside the inner workings of Richard’s protectorate administration, and must have been just as surprising and shocking to him as to the public.

(By the way:  if you’re interested in acquiring an Edward V Angel coin such as the one described above, be prepared to pay a hefty price.  Auction estimates range in the 25,000 GBP range for one in good condition. And that was in 2013.)

 

A New Theory about Richard III’s Boar Badge

Richard III fascinates people because his story has so many profound mysteries.  Take, for instance, the case of the disappeared Princes in the Tower.  Or the execution of William, Lord Hastings.  These two events have filled up hundreds of pages of speculation in books, have spawned endless social media threads, and remain the subject of heated debates in historical societies.  They’re like the two giant elephants in the room whenever the topic of Richard III crops up.

Nevertheless, there are certain facts that are known about Richard.  One of those is that he adopted the White Boar as his personal badge while he was Duke of Gloucester, a title given to him at age 9.  We don’t know exactly when he adopted it, but it would be reasonable to assume that he would have had to pick a badge (or several) as soon as he was retaining men into his affinity and given the task of arraying troops. The earliest known account of Richard retaining men is contained in the Paston Letters, which observe him recruiting men into his affinity in June 1469, during the Robin of Redesdale crisis.  At that point, Richard was almost 17 years old.  Certainly, there is no question the White Boar became his most prominent badge by age 23 at the time of Edward IV’s 1475 invasion of France; Richard’s men are clearly identified by it in the list of troops summoned for the campaign.

But where did Richard draw inspiration for choosing the White Boar?  The traditional explanation is that the medieval spelling for boar (“bore”) was an anagram for the Latin word for York (“Ebor” or “Eboracum”), his royal house.  In my article “The Fotheringhay Boar(s)”, published by the Richard III Society in their Ricardian Bulletin, I offered a theory that Richard first saw carvings of boars at the church of St Mary and All Saints in Fotheringhay, where he was born and lived until age 6 or so.  St Mary’s was intended to be a mausoleum for his family, and already housed the tomb of his uncle who died at Agincourt.  Here is a photograph I took of a misericord that was in situ at St Mary’s at the time of Richard’s birth and prompted my theory1:

Fotheringhay boars

Fotheringhay boars

Yet, on reflection, after I wrote that article, I was not content to think that these boars would have provided him with sufficient inspiration to select his badge.  They were too bucolic, and were more in line with what wood carvers were doing in other church parishes and cathedrals to represent the cycle of life, when the season of pawnage (September) came about and common swineherds were allowed into royal forests to feed their pigs on acorns and other foraged items.  You see this theme repeated in other churches throughout England, without any reference to heraldry or family badges.

Delving deeper into this mystery, I ran across another candidate:  the Taymouth Book of Hours. It was created in London, during the reign of Edward III, and is now considered one of the most famous manuscripts of its period. It is elaborately decorated with scenes from the Bible, the lives of saints, bestiaries, legends, and tales of chivalry.

There are many theories about who first owned it. Possibly it was Edward III’s queen, his mother, or one of his sisters.  The book ended up in Scotland in the 16th century, and then came into the possession of the earl of Breadalbane of Taymouth Castle during the late 17th century (hence its name). However, there is indisputable evidence that it had been in the possession of the Neville family, particularly the Nevilles of Raby, in the 15th century. This is proven by this page:

Taymouth Hours-Coat of Arms of Ralph Neville, First Earl of Westmoreland

Taymouth Hours-Coat of Arms of Ralph Neville, First Earl of Westmorland

Here, we have a miniature of the Virgin Mary interceding on behalf of a dying man, with St Michael holding scales and two devils vying for his soul. At the bottom of the page there is a lion holding a shield of arms Gules a Saltire Argent (red background with a white saltire), which is repeated elsewhere in the book.  Those arms, according to my correspondence with Windsor Herald at the Royal College of Arms, belong to none other than Ralph Neville, first Earl of Westmorland – the father of Cecily Neville and, thus, Richard III’s grandfather.

It would be safe to say that the Taymouth Hours would have been a very expensive book to acquire or an extremely generous gift.  It is richly decorated and would be exactly the type of thing that a wealthy nobleman would want in his library collection, especially given its royal provenance.  And, with its depictions of gallant heroes, “wild wood men”, and scenes of women hunting on horseback, it would have been a popular book in any household, for young viewers in particular. Inserting one’s coat of arms into an illuminated manuscript was one of the ways people showed ownership.

But where did it go after being in the possession of the first Earl of Westmorland?  He had 22 children by two wives, the first being Margaret Stafford and the second being Joan Beaufort.  Well, in a rather inexplicable turn of events, he dispossessed the heirs of his first wife, leaving their oldest surviving male heir practically nothing but the title, and settled the bulk of his estates and possessions on the children of his second wife.  The one who ended up benefiting from this legacy was Richard Neville, fifth Earl of Salisbury, the father of the notorious Kingmaker.

That the Taymouth Hours was owned by a Neville brings it in close proximity to Richard III’s life.  His mother owned several religious texts, and of course, her arms would have been the same as her father’s until she married the Duke of York, so the arms we see above could actually be her’s.  Alternatively, her nephew, the Kingmaker, could have acquired it from his father and kept it at his principal castle of Middleham, where Richard lived as a ward from age 13-16.  And it’s also conceivable that George Neville, the Kingmaker’s brother and an enthusiastic collector of books, could have possessed it.  Richard was reported to have attended George’s enthronement as archbishop of York at his residence of Cawood castle.  Could Richard have seen the Taymouth Hours by any of these close associations with the Nevilles?  I believe it’s well within the realm of possibility.

However, there is one piece of evidence that is hard to ignore, and perhaps this tips the scale further towards probability.  And that is the illustration shown on this page:

White Boar

Taymouth Hours – White Boar

This is an illustration within a series of bas-de-page images telling the legend of Guy of Warwick. The tale was enormously popular in the late medieval period, and involved a story of a great boar “of passing might and strength”. The hero – Guy – is a lowly squire who has fallen in love with the high-born Felice. In order to win her heart and hand in marriage, he must go on a quest and defeat multiple enemies including slaying a dragon and killing the boar depicted here. We know that Richard enjoyed such stories of romance and chivalry: he signed his name at the bottom of a manuscript telling the legend of Ipomedon, which also involves a knight who must prove his worth and valor in order to win the hand of his lady.

What is striking is the similarity between the boar illustrated on this page with Richard’s boar badges found on the foreshore of the Thames River in in London and at the Bosworth Battlefield:

When we combine the Neville provenance, Richard’s known connections to that family, and his explicit enjoyment of chivalric tales, it is difficult to discount the Taymouth Hours as being one of the sources of his famous boar badge.


  1.   For information about what happened to the misericords and quire from St Mary’s church in Fotheringhay, and the other boar still located there, see this blog