Poem in honour of the birthday of George duke of Clarence

Posted: October 20, 2010 in George, Duke of Clarence, Isobel Nevill, Duchess of Clarence

George, duke of Clarence
21 October 1449 to 18 February 1478

George duke of Clarence
was an alcoholic wifebeater.
Or so the internet tells me.
Poor pale Isobel,
Warwick’s pawn,
weeping and trembling
while he sank deeper into a bottle
or the fifteenth century equivalent.
A butt of wine.

George duke of Clarence
was going to be king,
his brother’s crown,
another’s crown, on his head,
his son to succeed him.
Wrapped in a cloth
weighed down with hearts and stones,
dropped into the welcoming water
of the well-worn Channel.

George, duke of Clarence
made his way back
led by the duchess,
bruised and bleeding.
From his hands
or her father’s choices?
Sister-queen or brother-king,
You pay your money and take your chances
and the drumbeat changes.

George duke of Clarence
stood in the abbey
Isobel lying
in a box of sorrow.
Alone in vigil
surrounded by people,
his guiding light extinguished,
consumed by a flame hotter than his.
Love lies bleeding.

George duke of Clarence
fell into the hands
of those who saw
further than he did.
You are my brother. And
I am your king.
Come for the child bride’s wedding
stay for the trial of folly and grieving.
He sees her waiting.

George duke of Clarence
was drowned in his bath.
Brothers bewildered,
sisters grieving.
His children left
to fate and the weather.
Two quick and breathing
Two cold and still, waiting to be warmed
by the arms of their father,

  1. Poor Clarence! I’ve never liked him much, but he hardly deserves to be portrayed as an alcoholic wifebeater

    • anevillfeast says:

      I’ve never known what to make of him. I’m not quite sure I’m prepared to accept Hicks’ ‘If Clarence hadn’t been executed none of this would have happened…” scenario, but there was one statement in his Clarence book that got me thinking – that he always saw Edward IV more as brother thank king. That’s going to give me, I think, a way into him. And yes, the alcoholic wifebeater thing is criminal libel!

  2. Caroline says:

    Great poem, Karen. Clarence has always seemed something of an enigma to me- even if he did primarily see Edward IV as his brother and not The King, he should have considered the consequences of his behavior- especially his unjust order to execute Ankarette Twynho after isobel’s tragic death. That’s why I’m inclined to believe that there’s at least some truth to the allegations that he was a heavy drinker. But a wife beater, no.

    • anevillfeast says:

      Thanks, Caroline! I’m much more inclined to accept the premise that, especially after Isobel’s death, alcohol sometimes impaired his judgement as well. But there’s no evidence, even circumstantial, anywhere in the record (as far as I know) to suggest he was violent. In his Warwick book, Hicks suggests that George’s initial overtures to his brothers (from France) were done through the agency of one of Isobel’s women. This makes it even more likely to me that they had a very different marriage than is usually portrayed and, far from being a ‘pawn’ in various games, Isobel made a conscious and considered decision – along with George – that they were better off reconciling with Edward than staying with her father. And the Twynho affair was bizarre to say the least! The whole tragedy of Clarence (if there is one) is that while his brotherhood with Edward was paramount in his mind, it wasn’t in Edward’s – you’re absolutely right about that.

  3. Caroline says:

    Brotherhood may not have been paramount in Edward IV’s mind, but he put up with a lot of crap and disloyalty from George before deciding to execute him. Even then, he spared George a public execution and brought George’s children into his household.
    I wonder if Edward’s feelings regarding his troublesome younger brother contributed to his problems with overeating and bulimia in his last years- doesn’t the Croyland Chronicle or Commines mention that he was dismayed that no one spoke up for George at his trial before Parliament?

    • anevillfeast says:

      Edward was king and he needed his brothers to remember that more than just about anyone else. Gloucester managed it seemingly without much problem – poor Clarence just couldn’t seem to get his head around it! Clarence’s execution was immediately and deeply regretted by Edward, yes. I know it’s easy to blame the Wydevilles for everything bad, but Clarence’s trial and death can be laid squarely at their door, and I think it deeply affected the way Gloucester saw his own future in the end. Like other families I could mention, while they enjoyed power and privilege, they forgot to look down every now and then, just to check how far they could fall. The seeds of the crisis in 1483 were planted at Clarence’s execution, imho.

      • Caroline says:

        Karen, even if the Wyedeville’s were responsible for Clarence’s execution, they had an undeniable reason to hate him- he was partly responsible for the execution of the first Earl Rivers and his son John. Can you blame the Queen and Anthony for wanting to avenge the deaths of their father and brother?

  4. anevillfeast says:

    As pretty much the whole of the WoR could be said to be one massive avenge-fest, I would be very surprised if the Wydevilles hadn’t played the game as well!

  5. Anerje says:

    I’m very partial to Clarence. He’s a bit like King John for me – a ‘bad boy’ with something about him;) All 3 brothers – Edward IV, george and Richard – had their hands covered in blood, and as treacherous as George is alledged to have been, his ‘crimes’ were not on a par with his brothers, IMO. That Edward and Richard executed their own brother is utterly abhorent to me, although I accept it was a ‘sign of the times’.

    One good redeeming feature is that Clarence apparently was a good husband. I recently visited Tewkesbury again and popped in to pay my respects.

    • anevillfeast says:

      Thanks, Anerje. Though I think George may well have been a bit of a spoiled brat and almost totally clueless politically, I get extremely tired of suggestions that he was violent towards his wife. I really wish people would stop spouting this nonsense – there’s no evidence that I’ve come across!

  6. jayne smith says:

    Great Poem. I think he was a weak characeter and trusted the wrong people. I think he loved his wife and grieved deeply when she died and that she was a person he trusted more than anyone. No woder he became a bit unhinged when she died. Have never considered him a wife beater , but have thought he was a little bit too much dependent on alcohol. Overall I feel sorry for him ..

    • anevillfeast says:

      Thanks, Jayne. When you say ‘the wrong people’ you do realise that one of them was Warwick, don’t you? But I know what you mean. Warwick was utterly capable of changing his plans mid sentence, expecting everyone to go with him without question. I think he did care about Clarence, but was too much of a realist to stick with that plan when a better one came along.

  7. jayne smith says:

    I meant Warwick and others around him . George made a mistake betraying his brothers and payed for it in the end. He should have gone by the saying. “Better the Devil you know than the one you don’t”. I know he knew Warwick well but probably not as well as he knew his brothers.

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