Archive for June, 2010

Warwick crumpled the letter in his hand and dropped it onto the floor, grinding it into the stone with his heel. He cursed the Duke of Somerset and his perceptiveness! Then he went to see his father, who had briefly been chancellor of England but wasn’t anymore.

“We have to go to war!” he said to his father.

The earl of Salisbury looked at him and grunted, as was his taciturn way. It was his way of asking a very complex question, like: Why?

“Somerset is ruining England, that’s why!” Warwick cried.

Salisbury nodded and went to see the Duke of York.

“War,” he said curtly.

“I see your point,” the Duke of York said, thinking very hard about what the Earl of Salisbury had just said. “All right. We will.”

And so that’s how they found themselves at St Albans ready to wage war with the king, who was also there but he didn’t know about the war yet.

Warwick smiled. That would teach the Duke of Somerset to try and blackmail him by writing him a letter saying that he knew his secret and he’d say nothing so long as the Earl of Warwick paid him a lot of money.

The battle started and Warwick looked everywhere for the Duke of Somerset. He found him hiding in a pub.

“Why are you hiding in a pub, you scurvy cowardly dog?” Warwick said, practicing the words he was going to have to use when he was a pirate and Captain of Calais.

“Because if I go to near a castle I will die, fool!” Somerset said. “Everyone knows that! Besides,” he stood up. “I know your secret.”

“Then my secret dies with you, landlubber!” Warwick snarled and thrust his sword into the Duke of Somerset’s neck and he died.

“You didn’t know that this pub was called the Castle, did you?” Warwick laughed as his mortal enemy’s blood left him in a pool on the floor. “You didn’t look up and see the sign. Who’s the fool now?”

The king was very sorry that the Duke of Somerset was dead but he made Warwick Captain of Calais anyway and Warwick went to Calais to be the Captain. He took his wife, the Countess of Warwick and his two daughters, which he’d had another one by getting very drunk one night and pretending his wife was Margaret of Anjou, queen of England and the woman he really loved, and Anne, his wife, who was Countess of Warwick didn’t notice but thought maybe her husband might be starting to love her and she called the baby Anne as well, which might get confusing.

Advertisements

Katheryn Hastings’ will

Posted: June 30, 2010 in Katheryn Nevill

Continuing a spotty theme that seems to be creeping over at least part of the blogsphere, I want to share with you the will of lady Katheryn Hastings. It’s quite long, so I haven’t included it here in its entirety.

Katheryn (b 1442) was the second youngest child of the countess and earl of Salisbury. In 1458 she married William Bonville, lord Harrington. They had one child, Cecily. Bonville lost his life in 1461 at the battle of Wakefield and two years later Katheryn married William Hastings. Hastings was executed without trial by Richard III June 1483, leaving Katheryn once more a widow. She was forty one years old. She never remarried, probably in keeping with the terms of her husband’s will.

Katheryn died in late 1503/early 1504. She was buried, as per her request, at the parish church of St Helen in Ashby, Leicestershire, not with her second husband at Windsor Castle. While in life, Hastings may have expected his wife to join him in his burial place the change of regime and of Katheryn’s fortunes likely closed that option off to her.

As her executors, she lists all her children: “…Ceicill marquiss Dorset, widdow; George earl of Shrewsbury and Anne, his wife, my daughter; Edward, lord Hastings; Richard Hastings and William Hastings, esquires, my sons…”

Her first bequests are to Lincoln cathedral and the church at Asbhy de la Zouche, in the sum of twenty pounds each.

She asked that “a priest be found to sing in the said chappell for my fadyr and my lady modar, my lord my husband’s soules; for my soule, and for all Christian soules, and in special for those soules which I am most bounded to cause to be prayed for, for the space of three years next after my departing”. Just which other souls she was most bound to cause to be prayed for she doesn’t say, but these may include her brothers and sisters who predeceased her, her first husband and her royal York cousins, as well as others who may not be known to history at all. For his troubles, the priest was to receive six pounds a year for the three years.  She named William Englonde (“my priest”) as her preferred choice, should he choose to accept.

Next, she left for the said priest’s use during the three years a suit of vestments of red and green bawdekyn; a gilded chalice, a printed mass-book and a printed portvous. Seven surplices were bequeathed to the church and her mass book, covered by red velvet, to be given to a poor church at the direction of her executors.

She gave the college of Newark all her lands and tenements in and around Burton Overy and Wigston to pay for a perpetual yearly obit for herself, her father, mother and husband.

“Item, where I owe unto Cecilie marquesse Dorset certain sumes of money, which I have borrowed of her at diverse times, as appeareth by bills indented thereof made; I woll that the said Cecilie, in full countenance of all such sumes of money as I owe unto her, have my bed of arres, tillor, testor and counterpane, which she late borrowed of me; and over that I will that she have my tabuler of gold that she now hath in her hands for a pledge, and three curtains of blew sarcionett and a traverse of blew sarcionett and three quishions of counterfeit arres, with imagery of women, a long quishion and two short of blew velvet; also two carpets.”

To her son in law, George earl of Shrewsbury (“myne especial good lord”), she bequeathed “a cope of cloth of gold of white damasce, with torpens cloth of gold and velvet upon velvet … a vestment of purpure velvet, with a crucifix and images of St Peter and St John embroidered upon that oon of them.” To his wife, her daughter: “a cope of cloth of gold with lillyes embroidered, and that oon of the image of the Trinitie, with a frontail for an altar … my Prymar, which is now in the keeping of my lady Fitz Hugh [her sister Alice]; also two cushions of counterfeit arres with imagery of women; a long quishion and two short of blew velvet … a long covering for a quishion of purpure velvet, and oon short; also two carpets.”

To her son Edward lord Hastings, she left various items most, it seems, currently in the possession of others: a suit of vestments (the abbot of Darley); an owche (her son William); an image of Our Lady (her daughter Cecily); a gold salt cellar (her daughter-in-law Mary lady Hungerford); and a “fair Prymar” given to her by the queen. She forgave him a debt of 100 marks “considering the kinde demeanor of my said son at this time in granting of a certain annuity”. He also got “two quishins of counterfeit arres, with imagery of women … two quishions of counterfeit arres with my lord’s armes; alsoe two paire of curtaines of green tartarin … two short quishions of tawney velvet; also a long quishion and short of crimson velvet, also such pieces of bawdekyn, with a frontaile of cloth of blew sattin, as hath been accustomed to be occupied about the sepulchre of our Lord; also a cloth of bawdekyn, with a frontaile of red bawdekyn for the font … an old hanging of counterfiet arres of Knollys, which now hangeth in the hall; and all such hangyngs of old bawdekyn or lynen paynted as now being in the chappell, with the altar-clothes an oon super altare, with oon of the vestiments that now be occupyed in the chappell.  Alsoe all such pieces of hangings as I have, of blew and better blew, with my lord’s armes, with banquyrs and cupboard-clothes of the same sort. Alsoe three barrehides for carriage; two barrehides for clothe sekks. Also the third part of my hey that is at Kerby [Muxloe], and all such tymber as I have there. Also all the bedding that he hath of mine which late was at London, reserved only two fedurbedds and a cowcher that I wol Richard my son have, and also two carpets.”

To her sons Richard and William she bequeathed “four coverings for quishions with my lord’s armys of counterfeit arres. Also two hangings for an aultar, with the twelve Apostles embrodered with gold, with a crucifix and the Salutation of our Lady. Also all the pieces of hangings of verd that now hang in my chamber and in the parlour; also all my stuffe of napree pertaining to the pantree; also two pair of blankets and two pair of fustians; alsoe four pairs of fine sheets; alsoe my stuffe of kitching, as platters, dishes, sawcers, broaches, potts and pans; also all my hey that is in Lubbeshorp, provided that William have the more part of the hey; alsoe two parts of hey at Kerby; also two vestiments, oon that hath been accustomed to be occupied in my high house, and oon that’s occupyed in the chappell; two Masse-books, two super altars, oon of white to Richard, and oon of jett to William; two corporauxes; alsoe to Richard foure pair of brigaunters; and to William two payre; and to them both thirteen saletts.” Presumably she trusted them to sort this out fairly!

Richard and William also get separate bequests. “… to my son William all such stuffe of bedding as he hath now in his chamber of mine; that is to say; a seller, tester and counterpoint of roosemary, a quilt happing, a white mantell, a white square happing; a square happing, white and black. Alsoe … all such plate as was in the hands of John Holme, with that he pay unto the said John, at the feast of St Andrew next coming, fifteen pounds, in parte payment of a greater sume; and over that to doe such charitable deedes of almes as I have appointed to be done by him.  Alsoe … four fedur beds and couchers.”

Richard gets “two fedur beds that he hath, a coucher that was at London, a coucher that’s here, and a fedur bedde.”

All the silk hangings at Kirby Muxloe (as listed in an inventory) she bequeaths “unto them all”, and William further gets “foure paire of sheets of such sorte as he now occupyeth.”

She does not forget her surviving sisters, Margaret (countess of Oxford) gets “a payre of little salts of silver and parcell gylt”. And for Alice (Fitzhugh) there is “oon of my standing cupps; alsoe a bedd of tymbre; and such pledges as she hath of mine, I woll they be pledged out by William, and he to have them.” This could suggest that she was closer to Alice than to Margaret in their final years. It shouldn’t be forgotten that both Margaret and Kathryn experienced years of difficulty, and in Margaret’s case poverty, though both weathered them and at the time of their deaths were comfortable at the very least. Alice suffered no such setbacks and may have given Katheryn support during her difficult times.

Her grandson, George Hastings, gets “a good feddur bedde, a boulster, a pair of blankets, a paire of fustians and a pair of fine sheets.”

Her daughter Anne “a good fedurbedd, a boulster, a paire of blankets, a paire of fustians and a payre of fine sheets.”

Her nephew William Ferrers (the son of Hastings’ sister Anne) and his wife “a fedur bedde, a boulster, a blanket, a chike happing, an old counterpointe, sillor and testor, which they now occupy in their chamber; alsoe four payre of sheets and oon of my finest gownes.”

Her daughter-in-law Mary “my parte of a crosse, which she hath in her keeping for a pledge … a ring, which William Bamsell hath for a pledge, to be pledged out of my goods.”

Her niece Brokesby (daughter of Hastings’ sister Joan) “three payre of sheets and oon of my best gownes; my gownes to be given among my other gentlewomen.”

There are some minor bequests including gowns, livery cloth, vestments, small sums of money and horses.

She ends her will with the following:

“Item, I woll that such hangings or bedding, as shall be sold for the payment of my debts and performance of my will, be refused of my lady marquisse and of my son Edward lord Hastings before they be any parcell to be sold to any other body, so that the said lady marquiss and lord Hastings woll give as muche for the said as any other will doe, and make as quick payment. The residue of my goods not bequeathed, my debts fully paid, with all my cattall, somes of monie, rents, annuities, debts and arrerages, which it shall heppn to me to have and to be possessed of, or due unto me, by any grant of lawfull meane, at the time of my departing, I woll be equally divided between my sons Richard and William.”

This clause might be seen to be somewhat chiding, but I think it’s there to both remind Cecily and Edward that they shouldn’t try to take advantage of their favoured position; and to reassure the others that the elder two would play fair.

I got a sense from this that Katheryn could trust her children to execute her will, with it’s various complications, without difficulty. There is a six gap between Cecily Bonville and her first surviving child with Hastings (Edward), and an eleven year gap in total from oldest to youngest (Anne). The goods left are not inconsiderable.

bawdekin – rich oriental silk cloth shot through with silver or gold, or brocaded; portvous – may have been a collection of litanies; testor – a bed canopy; owche – a gold or jewelled brooch; tartarin – rich silk oriental fabric; banquyr – chair coverings, usually tapestry; barrehides – hides used to cover packages and clothes; broach – spit; brigaunters – mail coats; sallets – light helmets; corporaus – may be body armour of some kind; .happing – a bed cover; chike (may be ‘thikke’ in the original) – possibly ticking

This version of the will and notes are taken from David Baldwin, The Kingmaker’s Sisters. This book has its flaws, but as a first look at the lives of the six Nevill sisters it’s an extremely good start, well researched and well written.

Richard Neville, world renowned Kingmaker, paced up and down outside the rooms of Margaret of Anjou, queen of England, pacing nervously and wiping the sweat from his brow. Leaning against the wall in a corner in the shadows so he couldn’t hardly be seen leaned the Duke of Somerset, Warwick’s mortal enemy and evil councillor to the now mad king.

“Why are you pacing so nervously, my lord of Warwick?” the Duke of Somerset sneered. “What is going on in that room behind that door is no concern of your, surely.”

“It is the concern of all loyal Englishmen!” Warwick snapped stopping in his pacing long enough to glare at the Duke of Somerset who he hated a lot. “That could be the next king of England being born. Or queen! The king is mad and the Duke of York is too busy protecting England to be here so he sent me. I have as much right to be here as you do! Nay, I have more for I am loyal to my king and you are just a self-serving lackey.”

One day I will kill him, Warwick thought with grim satisfaction. I will enjoy that. He spent a few pleasant moments thinking of all the ways that this might be done, like stabbing or poisoning or drowning or smothering with a pillow or maybe dropping something on his head from a great height while he walked underneath, only the timing would have to be just right for that one to work, until a cry from behind the thick wooden door to the queen’s bedchamber made him stop. Somerset looked at him and smirked then went back to leaning against the wall. Warwick clenched and unclenched his fists and ground his teeth. But he didn’t have time for this, he needed to be in that room! Warwick went to the door of the chamber and pushed it open. It opened and he went inside. A shriek of women from inside almost thrust him from the room, but he had to see, he must see! Pushing past them he made his way to the bed and looked down at the exhausted woman who lay there like a limp rag that had been used to clean something up only it wasn’t something very dirty because she was a queen. Margaret was exhausted, her long blonde hair limp with sweat, but Warwick still thought she was very beautiful even when she wasn’t looking her best. Warwick sat down in a chair beside the bed and stroked it.

“It eez a little boy,” Margaret whispered exhaustively.

“What is his name?” Warwick said his voice almost cracking with love and emotion. He couldn’t see the baby as he had been taken away from the bed and wrapped up in swaddling blankets and would soon be taken from the room to his wet nurse which is what people used to do in those days so that the mother didn’t have to worry about the baby when she was busy being queen.

“Edouard,” Margaret breathed.

“Edward,” Warwick frowned swiftly translating the name from French into English so that he could understand it. “Why not Richard?”

“Ah, Reesharrr my love, that can be eez middle name peraps, no?”

This softened Warwick’s cold and flinty heart and he smiled at the poor exhausted queen.

They were about to take the baby away when Warwick stopped them and got up to go and look at him, he was a beautiful baby boy even though his face was screwed up and his mouth was open as if he was about to cry.

“He’ll be a strongwilled little one,” his nurse chuckled fondly. “I’ll have my hands full with this one.”

Yes, Warwick thought, you will. Like my mother, the countess of Salisbury, had her hands full with me. He is very like me, Warwick thought proudly. I will make him a man as soon as I get the chance. And the nurse took the baby away and Warwick turned back to teh bed to see Margaret looking at him like she loved him very much. Which she did.

“I have to go,” he rued. “Someone has to tell the Duke of York.”

“Ee will not be appy, I zink,” Margaret guessed.

“No, he will not.” Warwick got up and started to leave.

“You are pleased, no?” Margaret whimpered.

“Very pleased.”

“Zen zat eez all zat matters,” Margaret sighed. Outside the Duke of Somerset was still smirking. I will smash his silly face in one of these days, Warwick thought as he walked past him. Though it should be during a battle, then people will think that it was just one one of those things. If I kill him now, they won’t.

The Duck of York duked as the last plate whizzed over his head and smashed into the wall behind him. Long ago, the servants had scattered, terrified of the rage of Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, who was very proud and imperious as well as being the most beautiful woman in England. The Duke of York thought she was beautiful too, even when she was angry. He loved her very much and it didn’t matter a fig to him what she did. He would always love her because she deserved so very much to be loved. He was also proud of her like she was proud only of her and she was proud of him and of her.

“A son!” Cecily shrieked. “Who keeps my lord and husband from his rightful throne of England! And keeps me from the very same crown which is also rightful?”

The Duke of York came towards his wife, his hands outraised in a peace gesture. He wanted to tell her to calm down, but he knew that would only make things much much worse, because it always did no matter whether the person really should calm down, and they were already pretty bad. About as bad as things can get really.

The Duke of York took his wife’s hand and tried to hold it but she snatched it away. “Don’t you care?” she said in a voice so low that it sounded like the vibration of a drum. “Don’t you care that it has all been stolen from you?”

“Yes,” the Duke of York said. “I care very deeply. I care more about that than anything except you. Oh, and our seven children.” He held out his arms and Cecily collapsed into them, her body still trembling, her beautiful face shining like an angry beacon. “I will be king one day, Cecily. I promise you. I. Will. Be. King.”

“You have a son, your Majesty,” the Duke of Somerset insinuated.

The king, still lost in a fog of madness didn’t look up, he just dribbled a little. He seemed to do a lot of that these days. Nobody understood why but they just let him because it gave him something to do.

“I thought you ought to know. Would you like to see him?”

The king looked at Somerset as if he didn’t see him. He blinked and looked again but he still didn’t see him, just a vague blur that could have been anyone. He could hear some words but he wasn’t sure what they meant. Maybe it was a dog barking. Maybe it was a man trying to tell him something. It didn’t really matter. The king just wanted to be left alone so he could talk to God. Maybe the blur was God and he should pay more attention. But he lost concentration again and went back to looking at the floor which is what he was looking at before he looked at the Duke of Somerset.

“I thought as much,” Somerset grinned. “Well, this is going to be interesting, isn’t it?”

At Ludlow Castle where he lived with his brother Edmund, Edward the Earl 0f March was tall and very handsome. He was also very sexually precocious for his age and had already bedded all the women in the castle and now had to look outside the castle if he wanted someone new to bed. They were always willing and most of them wanted to come back for more but Edward was easily bored with the same old women all the time and needed new ones. Edmund shook his head when he saw what he was doing. He loved his brother, but he was pure and innocent where Edward was experienced and not.

“I will pray for you, brother,” he said piously.

Edward grinned. He loved his brother even if he did get on his nerves sometimes with his preaching. “I wouldn’t bother if I were you, Edmund. I can get any woman I want and I don’t need you to pray to help me.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Edmund expostulated. “You should stop, you know, wenching.”

But Edward didn’t. Slipping on a disguise that couldn’t quite disguise either his tallness or his handsomeness he slipped out of the castle and went to look for a woman he hadn’t bedded yet.

The next day Warwick went back to Westminster to see his baby boy and the woman he loved. His heart was singing. That didn’t last very long unfortunately because Margaret, queen of England, had some very bad news for him.

“Zey tell me my usband the king eez getting better,” she purred. “And I weel ave to find a way to make eem believe zat ee is zee fazer of zee little boy.”

“But I am his father!” Warwick thundered.

“Keep your voice down,” Margaret glowered. “Do not zunder at me! I am still zee queen. You cannot be ze boy’s fazer.”

“Then I want to be the king’s chief councillor so I can be here all the time and see you and bring up my son in secret,” Warwick demanded.

“No,” Margaret shaking her head said. “Zat ees impossible. Zings must go on as zey are. Ze Duke of York must never suspect or ee will become my implacable enemy.”

“Do as I say or I will leave and never see you again!” Warwick insisted.

“I cannot,” Margaret whispered sadly.

“Then I will leave and never see you again!” Warwick turned on his heel and marched from the room.

“Goodbye my love,” Margaret said in a voice so low that nobody heard it. “Goodbye.”

When he had gone she went to see the king and showed him the baby boy called Edward who wasn’t his son but she had to pretend he was. “Look at your son,” she said.

The king frowned. “My son? No, he is the son of the holy ghost, surely. I haven’t done any of the things you need to do to, you know…” He trailed off and looked at her in confusion. “Have I?”

“Oui, mon Roi,” Margaret nodded convincingly.

“Oh,” the king said. “We’d better make him Prince of Wales then.”

It’s just struck me what a huge deal this book of mine is. I’m not talking about it being the Greatest Historical Novel Ever, but the scale is enormous and quite intimidating at times. Here I am, in the middle of 1455 and, depending on which way things go, I’ve either got sixteen years to go or more than forty! (I’m tending to think that Nevill will finish with Anne’s death and the story continued through to the deaths of the last Nevill widows in a second book.)

I don’t tend to write a lot of descriptive detail, which certainly helps to tip the prose towards the spare end of the continuum. That might not suit some readers, but it’s the way I like to read and write. In a way I almost want to release the story from its historical constraints. No, that’s not quite what I mean – the people involved were very rooted in their time, as we all are. What I think I mean is that it’s the story that counts, the people and the events, not the colour of the clothes, or the smells of the great unwashed, to name but two things that may be important to other writers and readers.

Even if I take the two volume option, this book is going to be big and publishers don’t often take chances on big first books. I’ve condensed time a great deal already to get three years into five chapters and, after first St Albans, there’s going to be a two year jump in time to John Nevill’s wedding, but there’s only so much I can or want to do in that regard.

My recent book and dvd purchases are going to be a great help, but there are still some gaps. I’ll get the new Edward IV biog when I can afford it; and I need a biog of George Nevill, archbishop of York, so if anyone knows of one, please pass the information my way – google claims ignorance on this.

There are other more practical problems that I’m going to have to find a way to solve. Things like: how was Westminster laid out, where were the various offices (eg chancery)? what was the physical layout of Calais at the time, including its administrative areas? These aren’t holding me up at the moment – I can write the scene (eg, conversation between Salisbury and York during the protectorate) and go back and flesh things out later. What’s important right now is to get the story and the dialogue down. And dialogue (I think) is my greatest strength.

With a cast of thousands, I’ve found that the trick is to keep each chapter fairly tight – work out the main theme and who might be involved while still keeping in touch with other characters, places etc. I don’t want it to get too compartmenatalised. The discipline of sticking to Nevills and their children & spouses has been interesting. If something’s going on somewhere and there’s no handy Nevill around then I can’t write it. This has its drawbacks, but in terms of keeping the story tight and under control, the benefits are enormous. Several of the chapters (eg first St Albans and probably Wakefield) will be told from a single pov. I’m hoping this will slow things down in areas where they need to be slowed down.

One of the first things I did was sketch out a quick plan of the book, dividing it into parts and working out what years those parts should cover. (Except I think it was a little bit the other way around.) To my astonishment and delight, I found that parts 1, 2 and 3 all began with weddings (or the days immediately following a wedding). I thought about part 4 (Anne Nevill’s story), which I’d planned to start with her dying thoughts and memories and wondered how I could swing a wedding in there without it seeming too contrived. But as it’s her thoughts and memories, she can remember whatever the hell I want her to! So part 4 gets to start with a wedding as well. All very symbolic and hope-for-the-futureful. Each of these weddings is very different from the others and should, hopefully, help set the tone for that section.

So my task now is to go back to the beginning with my new notes and do a quick rework of some bits. I’ll keep you posted.

Anne Beauchamp, wealthy Countess of Warwick, sat by her window and sighed. Her husband, the Earl of Warwick, still wasn’t home and she’d been expecting him for hours. Working late at Westminster was what he would tell her when he came in but she wasn’t sure she believed him. Why would he want to hurry home to her? she thought, despising herself even as he did. He’d shown his contempt many times in the past and she was sure there were many more to come. She caught sight of her reflection in the mullioned glass and sighed again. She wasn’t beautiful even if she was very rich. Her husband, the Earl of Warwick, deserved a beautiful wife and he didn’t have one. Many times she’d thought of asking her husband, the Earl of Warwick’s, aunt, the Duchess of York, what her secret was that made her the most beautiful woman in England. But Anne, Countess of Warwick was shy and ashamed of her lack of beauty.

He was probably with another woman. A beautiful one. He blamed her for their not having any children except a daughter despite having been married since they were very small children. It wasn’t that she didn’t try. “There’s plenty of time,” she said to him, her lip quivering in fear of his sudden anger which was always unexpected. “But you don’t come to my bed very often. Maybe if you did…”

“Look at you!” he growled at her. “How can I want to lie with you!” And he turned away from her in disgust leaving her blinking away hot tears and cursing herself and him for not being beautiful. But there was no other way for her to give him the son he so badly wanted. They had a daughter and Anne had been very pleased with herself and thought her husband, the Earl of Warwick, would be pleased with her too but he’d taken one look at the face of his little girl and turned and left the room so quickly that it felt like a dagger through her heart. He didn’t even ask her what her name was. It was Isobel.

Had she but known that this was the very reason that even now he lay in the queen’s arms, his fingers twining her chestnut tresses like the soft tendrils of a creeper creeping over his heart and into the depths of his dark and bottomless soul, so much more full of colour, life and vibrancy than her own insipid locks, she would not have appreciated the irony; for who can who is its victim? Who can who is mocked by its cruel voice and icy fingers?

Anne wanted her husband to love her. She felt the tears of despair trickling down her face thinking of the lonely life ahead of her. When his footfall outside her door made her look up. Wiping away the tears she went to the door and opened it. All she saw was his back as he passed her door and kept on going. He didn’t even turn his head when she cried out his name in despair and loneliness. Anne went back inside and cried some more, his name on her lips and the dull dying ember of hope in her heart fading away though she still clung to it like a drowning man clings to the wreckage of his life.

Margaret of Anjou, young and beautiful Queen of England, lay in the afterglow of love in her room at Windsor Castle. Her lover had just left her, touching her face softly with sad wistful fingers and slipping out before anyone else was up. He would be in London now, she thought wistfully. Her hand touched her belly and she wondered if the heir to the throne of England was there yet. Then she sighed angrily remembering that tomorrow she would have to go and see her husband the king who bored her with his praying. Ziss is not zee life for a Frenchwoman wiz passion in her blood, she ruminated. To live wiz a man who does not see her as a woman. Petulantly she rolled over and closed her eyes. Behind her eyelids her lover danced and she fell asleep to the memory of the rhythms of his breathing and his heart, his mouth close to her ear whispering that while she was not the most beautiful women in England she was the most beautiful woman in France if she went to France.

Richard Neville, powerful Earl of Warwick, secret lover of the queen of England, lay on his bed, his hands clasped behind his head. She is mine, he thought potently. I own her body and soon I will own her soul. No-one will stop me and I will be ruler of England through my son. And if I have a daughter, I will find her a husband who will listen to me and make her queen anyway and I will still rule England! In the next room he could hear his wife, the Countess of Warwick, sobbing and his lip curled into a sneer. A proper sneer this time. He would have to dispose of her. There was always a way to do it that no-one would suspect him of.

Henry VI, saintly king of England knelt on the floor in his room at Windsor Castle praying when suddenly he started to gabble and foam at the mouth.

“He goes mad,” the Duke of Somerset, his evil and manipulative chief councillor said to himself in wonder.

Henry VI saintly, and now quite mad, king of England didn’t say anything but if he had he wouldn’t have made any sense because the Duke of Somerset had quite astutely summed up the situation and  suddenly and without any warning he had suddenly gone quite mad.

The Nevill-Percy feud

Posted: June 28, 2010 in Nevill Percy feud

Or the Percy-Nevill feud. It all depends which way you look at it.

Ralph Griffiths in Local Rivalries and national politics: the Percies, the Nevilles and the Duke of Exeter, described the Nevill-Percy feud as “a struggle of giants”. By the 1450s, both families had been prominent (if not dominant) in the north of England for almost a hundred years. During the early 1400s, the Percies had suffered a serious setback, from which they were only just recovering. Relations between the two families may have been somewhat strained at this time, but that didn’t prevent Joan Beaufort, widow of Ralph Nevill, from placing her young ward, Richard duke of York, under the tutelage of Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland. Nor did it prevent a marriage between the earl and Joan’s daughter, Eleanor.

The two wardenships of the Marches towards Scotland (West and East) were held by the Percies and the Nevills respectively, and it was this that arguably gave each family its greatest opportunities to acquire wealth and power. The wardenships were passed down from father to son and from son to brother; when the troubles began, devolving almost into open warfare, they were held by Henry Percy earl of Northumberland and Richard Nevill earl of Salisbury. The two men often worked co-operatively to ensure the integrity of the northern border. Had it not been for the younger sons of both earls, this might have continued indefinitely.

A minor dispute between the earls, which if left to them would probably have been swiftly resolved, led to a bitter, protracted series of threats, raids and narrowly averted pitched battles once their sons got involved.

Henry Percy lord Poynings, Northumberland’s oldest son, held himself aloof from the squabbles, as did Richard Nevill earl of Warwick. Thomas and John Nevill, on the one hand, and their cousins Thomas Percy lord Egremont, Ralph and Richard Percy, on the other, didn’t. All five would have been beneficiaries of a fine military education, and as younger sons would have had time on their hands and, perhaps, a need to prove themselves. Egremont, described in Complete Peerage as quarrelsome, violent and contemptuous of all authority and John Nevill, Salisbury’s third son, soon established themselves as the focal point for each side. A series of assaults on property soon escalated with each of the men gathering around them a sizeable personal force.

None of this pleased the king or his council. Letters were sent to both earls instructing them to keep their sons under control; summonses to council were issued and commissions were set up. All were ignored.

On 29 July 1453, John Nevill, determined to get his hands on Egremont, arrived with his men at Topcliffe House. He tried unsuccessfully to persuade the men of Topcliffe to help him capture Egremont. This having failed, he turned to threats, offering to hang every man in the place if they didn’t hand his cousin over to him.

In desperation, council sent a letter to Egremont ordering him to get himself ready for military service in France. He ignored this. A commission of oyer and terminer was set up, heavily weighted in favour of the Nevills, but this too solved nothing. Finally, frustrated by their lack of success, responsibility for clearing up the ever expanding mess was laid squarely on the shoulders of Salisbury and Northumberland. A second, more representative commission also failed to resolve the situation.

While the various family estates in Yorkshire and Cumbria were the main recruiting grounds, both Nevill and Percy support in York was exploited and on one occasion the Nevill house in the city was assaulted by Egremont’s men.

The first occasion of open hostility involving sizeable forces occurred at Heworth, just outside York, on 24 August 1453. With over 700 men named on the Percy side in a subsequent inquiry, and the Nevills themselves heavily supported by armed men, it could have been very nasty. It would seem, however, that there were no deaths and little bloodshed. With so many Nevills on the road, including the earl and countess of Salisbury and both Thomas and John, the opportunity must have been too good for Egremont to pass up. This was a wedding party, Thomas Nevill having just days ago married Maud Stanhope at Tattershall Castle, the seat of her uncle lord Cromwell. Some commentators have suggested that it was this marriage that incensed the Percys, who’d had some hopes of acquiring Wressle Castle which would now soon be in Nevill hands. Hicks disputes this, citing both the feud’s history and the unlikelihood of Wressle ever going to the Nevills. Whatever his motivation, Egremont and his brother Richard blocked the Nevills’ path as they moved from York to Sheriff Hutton. What actually happened is not known, nor why the Nevills managed to complete their journey intact. It might be that, at the last minute, Egremont realised what his actions could lead to and withdrew. Or he might have underestimated the size of the Nevill escort and decided that, on this occasion, discretion was the better part of valour. Or there might have been a short, indecisive skirmish.

Almost immediately, Salisbury sent for his oldest son, Richard earl of Warwick, who hadn’t been home for more than five years by this time. A letter found Warwick at Grafton, on his way back from Wales with his countess (where he was engaged in his own property dispute with the duke of Somerset.) He immediately diverted north.

Meanwhile, Egremont and John Nevill continued their campaigns of property destruction and threats of violence. Lawrence Catterall, bailiff of Staincliff wapentake, was taken prisoner by Egremont in Gargrave church during a service. He was taken to Cockermouth and held in Isel Castle until his term as bailiff expired. What he had done to warrant this is not known. The reason for a raid on the house of William Hebdon, vicar of Aughton in September 1453, led by John Salvin, a prominent Percy retainer, is also obscure.

John Nevill behaved a little bit better than this. On 25 September he broke into Catton House, a Percy property in the north riding, and inflicted considerable damage.

Griffiths writes: “On … 8 October letters tinged as much with sorrow as with anger were sent [from the government] to Northumberland and Salisbury, exhorting them to remember their position as commissioners of the peace and members of the king’s council. They were reminded that parliament, which was still in session, had warned lords to express their grievances in writing and not in blood; yet the letters concluded wearily, the earls continued to make the ‘grettest assemblee of our liegemen’. Stronger language was directed at Egremont and sir John Neville on the same busy day; they were reminded that they had been created barons in expectation of future service not rebellious rioting; gritting its teeth, the council warned them both that if they did not desist, they would suffer forfeiture.”

This letter, too, was ignored.

On 20 October, with Henry Fitzhugh, John Scrope of Bolton and other prominent retainers with them, the Nevills, including Warwick, were in the village of Sandhutton, just miles from Topcliffe. In the house were the earl of Northumberland, his sons and Thomas Clifford. Whatever the purpose of the visit, the Nevills departed soon after with no blood being spilled. It may be that the two earls conducted negotiations, both backed by a show of force, aimed at ending the feud.

In May 1454, with the backing of his Nevill in-laws, the duke of York took control of the government, being named Protector and Defender during the time of Henry VI’s first bout of illness. York immediately set about resolving the situation in the north of England. Now with official backing, John Nevill’s hunt for Percy was legitimated. Even Clifford, a staunch Percy ally and not known for his fondness for the Nevills, was compelled to support government efforts to quell the troubles. This was made more urgent by the alliance of Henry Holland duke of Exeter with Egremont in his ill-advised attempt at rebellion.

The nascent rebellion fell apart, Exeter fled to London and Westminster sanctuary and, near Stamford, John Nevill finally got his hands on his cousin. By this time, with the failure of their venture with Exeter fresh in their minds and the Protector in the city of York, and with John Nevill breathing down their necks, morale in the Percy camp must have been quite low. Two hundred of their men balked at the thought of further conflict and left. Egremont and his brother Richard had no choice but to lay down their arms. They were taken first to Middleham thence to York. Egremont was fined an extortionate amount for his action as Heworth, an amount he could not hope to pay, and was taken to Newgate prison in London, where he remained for the next two years.

With Egremont’s imprisonment, things began to settle down. However, the death of the earl of Northumberland at the first battle of St Albans in May 1455 turned the late conflict into a blood feud. In successive battles throughout the Wars, Percys either fell in action or to the headsman’s blade. Egremont died at Northampton, Henry and Richard at Towton and Ralph at Hedgeley Moor. The young 4th earl was taken prisoner after Towton and eventually housed in the Tower of London.

With the accession of Edward IV in 1461, the Nevills were paramount and the Percy survivors were sidelined. In 1465 the earldom of Northumberland was given to John Nevill. This must have signalled to him ultimate Nevill triumph over the Percys. He was, by all accounts, immensely proud and gratified with his new title.

However, when Henry Percy (by now the third of that name in this narrative) swore fealty to Edward IV, the king felt the need to restore him to the family titles and estates. John Nevill was stripped of his earldom. This precipitated his defection to his brother Warwick, now in open revolt against the king, and ultimately to his death at Barnet in April 1471. Only now did the Nevill-Percy feud come to an end.

Some commentators have suggested that the confrontation at Heworth Moor was the first action in the Wars of the Roses, however I think that this is drawing far too long a bow. What it did do was to establish the division of the two most powerful houses in the north of England between York and Lancaster, which the outcome of the first battle of St Albans fixed in place. Neither family comes out of this smelling of roses, though Egremont’s behaviour and actions were considerably more ruthless and uncontrolled than those of John Nevill. It is interesting to speculate how differently things might have gone had someone seized control of the situation early in the piece – either the fathers of  the young men with too much time and energy on their hands,  or the king, Henry VI.

All of the men but one leading the confrontations at Heworth and at Topcliffe died by violence: Richard Nevill, earl of Salisbury; Richard Nevill, earl of Warwick; sir Thomas Nevill; John Nevill; Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland (2); Thomas Percy, lord Egremont; sir Ralph Percy; sir Richard Percy; John Scrope of Bolton. Henry Fitzhugh died in his bed in 1472.

The Daisy and the Bear

Chapter 1 The Queen’s Secret

Margaret of Anjou, queen of England, looked around her room with barely disguised contempt. She was bored, disappointed with her weak and ineffectual husband, sick of the weather – the endless rain, the sun that never seemed to shine, and most of all, the mud that got in everywhere, even inside the very rooms of Windsor, her favourite castle. If it didn’t get better soon, she feared, she might go mad. The only bright spot in her life was her secret lover, the identify of which she had not told anyone. Closing her eyes, oblivious to the chatter of her numerous women busy at their tapestries and gossip, she allowed herself to remember. He would be here soon, creeping through the empty corridors, hiding behind a convenient wall hanging, waiting for everyone else to leave her alone so he could be with her, just the two of them, alone together. When she thought of him, it was in French, even though he was English. As English as ziss wet day, she thought, though he shone brighter than the sun. Perhaps tonight, when they came together like the ocean and the shore, heaving against one another, pushing the other one to more and more until, finally, they crashed and clashed and fell back, exhausted, dizzy, deliriously happy, on the cushions of the bed he would give her what she wanted more than anything. What her husband couldn’t. What no man could but this one. A child. A son. An heir. The next king of England.

“Your Majesty,” a voice said hesitantly waking her up from her pleasant reminiscences.

“Oui?” The arch of her eyebrow was echoed in her voice.

“The dinner gong,” the woman quivered. “It has sounded.”

“Go, go!” Margaret almost shouted, standing up and waving her hand gallicly. “Leave me. I will eat ‘ere tonight. Alone. By myself.”

She practically pushed them out of the door then went to her mirror in the corner and sat down, checking her titian hair. She was beautiful. She knew she was. Almost the most beautiful woman in England. If it wasn’t for the Duchess of York, she would be. Damn her! she thought, her hand suddenly trembling. Her heart thumping she went to the door, knowing he would be there. She opened it. He was. She held out her hand and he took it and pulled him inside.

“Monsieur le Kingmaker,” she whispered throatily. “Please do come in.”

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, oldest son of the Earl of Salisbury, married to the dreadfully pale and simpering weakling Anne Countess of Warwick, looked down at the tiny Frenchwoman he had come to love so much, his lip curling almost in a sneer. But she knew it was a smile. A smile just for her.

In a recent discussion, a word was used that got me thinking. I needed to work out why that word bothered me so much, why it made my skin crawl and my teeth clench. In and of itself, and certainly in other contexts, it’s not a bad word. What it got me thinking about was why people use it, what does it mean and how does it fit into a wider context. It has a companion word, similar in connotation but much stronger, much more hostile, and that too I needed to think about. Let me say at the outset that I have no personal animosity towards those who have used either word in the last few months; they’re trying to make a point. The trouble is, in making this point, they often miss a bigger one.

The words in question are ‘fan’ and ‘groupie’. Before I get too much further into what I’m hoping will be an interesting analysis, I want to give some background.

Apart from hard core academic historians (who I’m not considering at all in the following), those who are interested in reading about history can arguably be divided into a number of groups. This is not hierarchical, nor does it reflect on the relative intelligence or worth of members of the different groups. It’s just an observation that, I think, has a bearing on what I’m trying to say.

The first group includes people like my mother. She reads a great deal and what she reads is varied and eclectic – she doesn’t stick to one genre, though she is loyal to some specific authors. In terms of historical fiction, she likes a recent series about ancient Rome; the Brother Caedmon books; Nigel Tranter. She’s recently read books by Posie Grame-Evans, and she’s read (and enjoyed) the first four chapters of Nevill. Most of the time she doesn’t want to know much more about the time period referenced in the books than she needs to to enjoy the reading. Also in this group I’d include those who were fond of a particular author who doesn’t confine themselves to one historical period: Jean Plaidy, Bernard Cornwall and the like.

The second group are those who devote themselves to a specific time period and devour everything that comes their way. The Tudor era is a rich example of this. (I don’t like the Tudors much. I just don’t find them particularly inspiring. However, one of my very favourite books growing up (and probably still if I can find a copy) is Meg Roper by Jean Plaidy, if I recall correctly.) Another rich source is, of course, the Wars of the Roses which is my preferred period, though I do quite like the Georges and the Stuarts.

The last group is, I think, probably the smallest. These are the people who devote themselves to one specific time period. They step out of fiction into non-fiction from time to time and often develop quite a knowledge base. And they take sides: Roundhead or Cavalier, Jacobite or Hanoverian, York or Lancaster. That’s how it happened with me. I wandered through history for a while growing up and kept finding myself coming back to the Wars. One of the first books I read was Margaret Campbell Barnes’ The King’s Bed. This was followed up by a number of fairly forgettable titles until I hit We Speak No Treason and The King’s Grey Mare. Up till then, I’d probably have considered myself partisan to Richard III, but a single sentence of Hawley Jarman change my world and my life.

Warwick rose towerlingly. His rose-dappled mantle swirled; black hair curled on his brow. Everything of him was puissant and challenging and might have said: Behold us! We of the blood royal, of Edward the Third…

I was gone, smitten, and by book’s end, head over heels in love. Who is this man? I needed to know. And I’ve spent great chunks of my life since trying to find out.  (In my defence, I was about twelve at the time.)

So, from intrigued by the character of Richard III (and his younger self), to unashamed Yorkist to Nevill partisan, I’ve spent a good many years in the Wars, latterly much more in non- than fiction. And I’m developing a sense of the shifting currents. People get rehabilitated, this gets challenged, partisanship develops and the debates begin. Most of them are challenging, interesting and sound. However I have noticed that sometimes something else is going on and it’s this that I’ve been thinking for the last couple of days (and sleepless nights).

So, finally, to my point: five signs of a debate about history that’s lost its way.

1. Infantilise your opponent’s opinion by referring to them as ‘fans’ and ‘groupies’.

You can immediately stop taking them, or anything they have to say, seriously. Clearly they haven’t formed their own opinions, haven’t read what you’ve read and certainly haven’t analysed it the way you have. Also, by doing this, you can treat them as part of a monolithic bloc. All Richard fans and all Wydeville groupies think the same way. You can stop listening to them and start making demands instead.

2. Demand explanations and justifications for all the bad things Their Hero has done.

Related to this is the whitewash/tarring dichotomy. Once you’ve established that Your Hero isn’t guilty of all the bad things they’ve been accused of, you can feel confident that they aren’t guilty of any. By the same token, once you’re satisfied that Their Hero is guilty of some of the charges, you can assume they’re guilty of all. Then you ask your opponent to explain, first assuming that they’re going to try and justify things. Or maybe put the blame onto someone else. Or suggest that the reason Your Hero got locked in the Tower because they did something to deserve it. Worse still, they might counter by bringing up the one unforgivable crime perpetrated by YH and demand that you explain. When this happens you should stay calm, there’s always a way to swing the blame back on the other side.

3. Cite a single, badly researched, fawning or at the very least outdated source as the one (and only) book that all ‘fans’ and ‘groupies’ have read. Assume that they haven’t moved on from that, haven’t read anything more recent, better written or more soundly researched. Even if they list a hundred other books, wrinkle your nose when they mention this one, wave your hand dismissively. They’ve just outed themselves: only the worst of the groupies has read that one.

4. Assume that anything you’ve read is superior, even if it’s only one book. You know more than they do, because you’re rational, just like all the other fan… aficionados of YH.

5. Talk about TH in the most insulting terms possible. Make it clear that only a fool with an underdeveloped critical faculty would fall for all that nonsense. Dismiss any positive actions or character traits. It’s not difficult. Were they known to be generous? Currying favour with the masses. Loyal? Biding their time till they could strike. How about a strong woman, fiercely protective of her children? That one’s too easy, you shouldn’t need any help there! There are a thousand ways of doing it. Your Hero, on the other hand, was a victim of circumstance, or a truly good person, or misunderstood, the target of propaganda, didn’t really want to do it but they had no choice.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to take the passion out of historical debate. The Lord knows, I have my share! I’d stand between My Heroes and the most determined of foes, nails and teeth bristling. And maybe I’m just blissfully un-self aware enough to not recognise the times when I fall into the traps. But I’d like to think I try not to. And, as I said at the start, most of the people I know try not to as well. I don’t particularly want to live in a dry objective world where everyone’s neutral. I like it that the battles are still being fought and people long dead are fiercely defended. It keeps things interesting and intellectually stimulating.

Maybe I’ll be able to sleep tonight, now that all this is out of my system.

I had Armstrong’s Politics and the Battle of St Albans, Hicks’s Propaganda and the Battle of St Albans, copies of the Stow Relation, the Phillips Relation, the Dijon Relation and (thanks to Susan Higganbotham) the Fastolf Relation. So I really didn’t need to buy anymore books about St Albans… Except I bought two: Burley, Elliott & Watson’s The Battles of St Albans (which is very pretty, lots of pics, and I haven’t read it yet) and Boardman.

When writing these quick and dirty reviews, I’m going to be looking at two things: firstly, just a general overview of the book; and secondly, the benefit (or otherwise) to me specifically for the Nevill project.

What was I hoping to get from Boardman? I had (from sources cited above) a fairly clear idea of the course of the battle, the events leading up to it, the written material generated by the leading players before and after, and the medium term consequences. What I wanted from this book was more detail on the course of the battle – which I got; and more detail on the immediate aftermath, the hours and day or two that followed – which I didn’t. That’s likely to be because the information’s just not available. Still, I was kind of hoping…

There are pages of written description of how St Albans was laid out at the time, where the various groups of armed men where on both sides, which may well suit some people, but not this visio/spatial/direction challenged little duck. The numerous maps and charts in the appendices really helped.

While this is in many ways a very well documented battle, there’s a lot of detail missing. This was partly deliberate on the part of the victorious Yorkists, who were anxious to sweep a couple of things under the carpet and present themselves, and their motives, in the best possible light. Two things in particular are frustratingly unclear: who made the first move that began the battle? and who was responsible directly for the deaths of Somerset, Northumberland and Clifford? On both counts, Boardman lays responsibility squarely at the feet of the Nevills (the earls of Salisbury and Warwick). (More on this below.)

The first few chapters are a brief background. In this he gives prominence both to the aftermath of York’s stand at Dartford some years earlier, the Nevill-Percy feud and York’s first protectorate. This is brief and useful, though there is some signs of misunderstanding the beginnings of the Nevill-Percy feud, particularly the confrontation on Heworth Moor. (I’m planning to blog this in August.) The Nevills were, en masse, on their way home from Tattershall Castle, where Thomas Nevill had recently married Ralph Cromwell’s co-heir, Maud Stanhope. Connections between the marriage and the feud have been made, with some writers convinced that this was what began the feud, but the young Percys and young Nevills had been at it hammer and tongs for some time before this. The wedding party was a target of opportunity, I think. Still, the feud itself did have an important bearing on the conduct of the Nevills at St Albans and on the death of Northumberland.

One thing I have never been able to get my head around is the skirmishing that was said to have taken place before the battle proper. Skirmishing which Boardman says got out of hand to the point that York could no longer control the situation and battle became inevitable. If the king’s forces were behind barricades across lanes leading into the town, and Warwick and Robert Ogle had to break through gardens in order to reach the marketplace, where did this skirmishing take place? And how? I don’t doubt that it did, but the details have never been made clear enough for me to be utterly convinced.

Boardman’s take on the start of the battle is that the Nevill’s allowed their personal vendetta with the Percys to get the better of them and began skirmishing before York gave the order. York then had no choice but to join in in order to keep the king safe. I’m not entirely convinced about that either, but I don’t think it’s preposterous. I guess I just need to sort out the little matter of the skirmishing before I can take a clearer view.

What Boardman does do is give greater prominence to the actions of Robert Ogle. He, in fact, suggests that the charge through the gardens, usually credited to Warwick, was Ogle’s idea and Ogle’s decision.  Ogle’s contribution is traditionally reported as cutting a way through to the marketplace with arrow fire. Boardman goes one step further and gives the timing of Ogle’s pivotal role as some minutes earlier. His reason for this is that Warwick wasn’t always a good strategist and therefore was unlikely to see the way through the gardens. This poor reputation Warwick has developed over the centuries seems to be based on his defeat at the second battle of St Albans and at Barnet. He certainly failed miserably in both. His greatest mistake as a general, we are told, is that he insisted on fighting on foot with his men, which obscured his overall view of events. This is probably true, but Warwick wasn’t in overall command at first St Albans, and finding a way through for his own force wasn’t something that was beyond his capabilities. I’m more inclined to think that both men worked together in this, and that Ogle deserves credit absolutely for smashing his way through to the king’s forces, underprepared and still not harnessed, in the marketplace.

The deaths of Somerset, Northumberland and Clifford Boardman describes as ‘a frenzied bout of cold blooded murder’, and holds the Nevills solely responsible for this. York is credited in the Dijon Relation for the death of Somerset, though I agree with Boardman and think it more likely that Warwick was responsible. There is some doubt as to York’s whereabouts at this time; he may well have been hunting for the king (said to have taken refuge in a tanner’s house) with the view to getting him to the safety of the Abbey. That quite neatly absolves York, in Boardman’s eyes, of any culpability.

Clifford died in the thick of the fighting at the barriers and I’ve never been totally convinced that he was targetted at all. Recent dealings between Clifford and the Nevills had been surprisingly cordial, with Clifford (along with Thomas Stanley senior) tasked by York (and complying with his wishes) in helping put down the nascent rebellion of the duke of Exeter and his young Percy allies. I think he was a casualty in the normal course of events and has only been added to the Nevill body count with the view of hindsight. Northumberland, on the other hand, was clearly targetted by his brother-in-law and nephew.

Somerset, by all accounts, died on his feet, taking four men down before he fell. There are no similar details of the other prominent deaths.

Missing, as I said earlier, is detail of the immediate aftermath of the battle. We know that several nobles – the duke of Norfolk, lord Cromwell, the earl of Shrewsbury, lord Stanley – were in the vicinity of St Albans, either too far away to get there in time or deliberately hanging back. We know they arrived the following day. We know that the wounded duke of Buckingham was taken into custody by York after the battle, largely for his own safety. We know that sometime before they king’s party, escorted by York, Salisbury and Warwick, arrived in London, Warwick had been named Captain of Calais. That’s all we know. I suppose I was asking for a miracle to have any of this more closely detailed or explicated, and it’s not a failing of the book that it wasn’t. I guess I just have to come to terms with the fact that we just don’t know any of this and probably never will.

For anyone interested in the Wars of the Roses, and the first battle of St Albans in particular, this is an indispensable book. The appendices alone are a treasure trove of detail, both contemporary and modern. Boardman knows his medieval military history and writes engagingly and well. My quibbles – about the implication of the Nevills, and the Nevills alone, in the three major deaths, and the subsequent sidelining of York – could well be a product of my own personal bias, but they could also reflect the author’s.

Buy it, borrow it from a library or from a friend – just read it if this is your thing. It will not be time wasted.

While hunting for something else entirely, I stumbled over this. This is a book I have long wanted and still hunt old bookshops for. It’s available on line at, amongst other places: http://www.readbookonline.net/read/21062/58717/

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

It was at this crisis, and while throughout all England reigned terror and commotion, that one day, towards the end of July, a small troop of horsemen were seen riding rapidly towards the neighbourhood of Olney. As the village came in view of the cavalcade, with the spire of its church and its gray stone gateway, so also they beheld, on the pastures that stretched around wide and far, a moving forest of pikes and plumes.

“Holy Mother!” said one of the foremost riders, “good the knight and strong man though Edward be, it were sharp work to cut his way from that hamlet through yonder fields! Brother, we were more welcome, had we brought more bills and bows at our backs!”

“Archbishop,” answered the stately personage thus addressed, “we bring what alone raises armies and disbands them,–a NAME that a People honours! From the moment the White Bear is seen on yonder archway side by side with the king’s banner, that army will vanish as smoke before the wind.”

“Heaven grant it, Warwick!” said the Duke of Clarence; “for though Edward hath used us sorely, it chafes me as Plantagenet and as prince to see how peasants and varlets can hem round a king.”

“Peasants and varlets are pawns in the chessboard, cousin George,” said the prelate; “and knight and bishop find them mighty useful when pushing forward to an attack. Now knight and bishop appear themselves and take up the game. Warwick,” added the prelate, in a whisper, unheard by Clarence, “forget not, while appeasing rebellion, that the king is in your power.”

“For shame, George! I think not now of the unkind king; I think only of the brave boy I dandled on my knee, and whose sword I girded on at Towton. How his lion heart must chafe, condemned to see a foe whom his skill as captain tells him it were madness to confront!”

“Ay, Richard Nevile, ay,” said the prelate, with a slight sneer, “play the Paladin, and become the dupe; release the prince, and betray the people!”

“No! I can be true to both. Tush! brother, your craft is slight to the plain wisdom of bold honesty. You slacken your steeds, sirs; on! on! see the march of the rebels! On, for an Edward and a Warwick!” and, spurring to full speed, the little company arrived at the gates. The loud bugle of the new comers was answered by the cheerful note of the joyous warder, while dark, slow, and solemn over the meadows crept on the mighty crowd of the rebel army.

“We have forestalled the insurgents!” said the earl, throwing himself from his black steed. “Marmaduke Nevile, advance our banner; heralds, announce the Duke of Clarence, the Archbishop of York, and the Earl of Salisbury and Warwick.”

Through the anxious town, along the crowded walls and housetops, into the hall of an old mansion (that then adjoined the church), where the king, in complete armour, stood at bay, with stubborn and disaffected officers, rolled the thunder cry, “A Warwick! a Warwick! all saved! a Warwick!”