The treason particle

Posted: November 27, 2012 in Trivialities, rants & other ephemera, William Hastings

“The only things known to go faster than ordinary light is monarchy, according to the philosopher Ly Tin Weedle. He reasoned like this: you can’t have more than one king, and tradition demands that there is no gap between kings, so when a king dies the succession must therefore pass to the heir *instantaneously*. Presumably, he said, there must be some elementary particles — kingons, or possibly queons — that do this job, but of course succession sometimes fails if, in mid-flight, they strike an anti-particle, or republicon. His ambitious plans to use his discovery to send messages, involving the careful torturing of a small king in order to modulate the signal, were never fully expanded because, at that point, the bar closed.”

Terry Pratchett, Mort

The kingon was very busy between the death of Edward IV on 9 April 1483 and Richard III’s acceptance of the crown on 26 June. First, the particle moved instantaneously from Edward IV to his son, Edward V. There it hovered, not quite settling in, until it found itself spinning from Edward to his uncle, Richard. And, given the story of the precontract and Edward being declared illegitimate, there’s reason to think that it had never been in Edward at all. Because Edward was never King. Edward V’s kingship was a bit like Schroedinger’s cat. It both existed and didn’t exist in the boy at the same time. The only way anyone was going to know for sure was when they opened the box. (Just to round things out, I might try and squeeze Heisinenberg’s uncertainty principle in here as well. I’m not promising, mind.)

Related to the kingon, but much rarer and far more mysterious, is the treason. Not only is it instantaneous and not particularly discriminatory, but it may be the only particle that can travel back in time.

Here’s my thinking:

Between 9 April and 26 June 1483, two states co-existed in potentia.

1. Edward V was King (had been since his father’s death and would be until his own death);
2. Edward V was not King (and had never been).

The kingon, therefore, was both in and not in young Edward and both in and not in Richard. It was probably rather nervous. I can’t say I blame it.

On 13 June, 1483, William Lord Hastings was summarily executed in the Tower of London, having been accused of treason, dragged out of the council chamber and beheaded. So, what had he done to deserve this? It’s a question with a lot of possible answers, the simplest of which, and the one I hear most often, is ‘he committed treason’. In order to come anywhere close to an answer, we need to find out what treason is.

Here’s the Oxford Dictionaries definition.

The important part here for us is ‘attempting to kill or overthrow the sovereign’. Who was, at this time, recognised to be Edward V. So, if Hastings was guilty of treason, it had to be against Edward V.

I’m often told this isn’t necessarily the case. I’m told that attempting to kill or overthrow a Lord Protector (that is, at the time, Richard of Gloucester) is also treason. Which it is, because the Protector stands in for the King. But attempting to kill or overthrow a Lord Protector isn’t treason against the Protector, it’s still treason against the King. In 1454, when the duke of Exeter led a revolt attempting to have himself replace the duke of York as Protector of England during Henry VI’s first illness, he was arrested and locked up in a castle awaiting trial. Had Henry not recovered and, almost immediately, released Exeter, he might have been tried on charges of treason. Against Henry VI for messing with his stand in, the Lord Protector. He would not have been tried on charges of treason against the Protector himself. This is an important point…

…because Hastings is accused of plotting against Richard in order to ensure that Edward V was crowned and took his throne. As no-one in England took precedence over the King, any duty of loyalty Hastings owed Richard (or anyone) was soundly (and royally) trumped by the expectation of loyalty to Edward V. However you slice it, Hastings simply cannot be guilty of treason.

That’s all pretty straightforward. Except…

By 26 June, Edward was no longer King (and had never been king) and Richard was (and had been since his brother’s death). The kingon that had moved instantaneously from Edward IV to Edward V had now, by some strange twist of physics, moved instantaneously from Edward IV to Richard III. And not on 26 June but on 9 April. Which means that Hastings, despite him having been acting on behalf of the King, Edward V, had been acting against the King, Richard III. Only no-one knew that at the time. And, at the time, he wasn’t.

If you know where you are but not how fast you’re moving, then you’re doing better than me.

So, the treason that didn’t hit Hastings on 13 June (on 13 June), did hit him on 13 June (on 26 June). It travelled back in time.

If you’re planning a visit to Cern any time in the near future, I’d watch out for treasons. You might have been hit by one three days before you arrived.

  1. Esther says:

    Interesting post …. especially with all the grounds for confusion! Can’t help wondering if the claim of treason was a “cover” for something else, as most of the others (Anthony Woodville, etc.) got some kind of hearing (held before Northumberland, IIRC), whereas Hastings did not. I wish that somebody found something that would explain it all.

  2. anevillfeast says:

    Thanks, Esther. Me, too! On all your points. I sometimes tend towards the possibility that Hastings actually had something that disproved (or at least called seriously into question) the precontract story. Impossible to say what it might have been, but he was closer to Edward IV than anyone.

    • Esther says:

      Interesting theory (and the converse of Hancock’s book.). It’s hard for me to think how he could have had something that would really cast doubt on the precontract, without having any idea that the information would be relevant some day; if he did have an idea, I think he would have told someone about what he knew. There were ways other than the pre-contract, which could make an issue out of any relationship between Edward and Eleanor Talbot … such as someone claiming to be a child of that relationship.

      • anevillfeast says:

        Intriguing! We don’t know what Stillington’s evidence consisted of. (And I don’t dismiss the precontract, though I sometimes wonder if it was really as fateful as it was painted.) But if there was a date, a place and a time, and Hastings knew that Edward was somewhere else… Now that would throw the cat among some pigeons that had already been seriously disturbed.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Honestly, Karen – bringing particle physics and medieval history together is quite impressive!

  4. Will Glover says:

    Y’know Karen, two of my three favourite hobbies are historical research and particle physics. And yet it never ever ever occurred to me to combine them. Brilliant!!

  5. Kathleen Hestand says:

    Great article! You make great points. I don’t think Anthony Woodville, Thomas Vaughn, and Richard Grey had any hearing either. I believe they were held until they were moved to Pontefract, where they were summarily executed. Treasons hit them too, I guess, just like poor Hastings.

    • anevillfeast says:

      Thanks, Kathleen. I think you might be right! It’s the lack of trials that causes the most problems for me, both on a moral level and on a frustration level. Trials would have left some kind of record. Except Clarence’s didn’t so maybe I’m wrong on this as well! (I am wrong occasionally, I think my husband keeps records 😀 )

  6. Kathleen Hestand says:

    The Yorkists didn’t have a good record of trying people, did they? I get puzzled by the sweeping adoration of them in modern day fiction, as they were experts at summary execution (Mortimer’s Cross, Tewksbury, Clarence, Hastings, the Woodville group at Pontefract are some examples) as well as the violation of sanctuary (Tewksbury, the young Duke of York). Richard III and Edward IV were both responsible for these practices. Why the effort to ignore history and whitewash them, especially Richard? Maybe Hastings’ treason particle jumped forward and hit serious historians, who are now Richard’s betrayers because they admit he might have had some problems!

    • anevillfeast says:

      Kathleen, battlefield executions are in a category of their own, and the Yorkists weren’t alone in this by any means. (But Montagu’s bloodbath after Hexham was… well, words fail me and I LIKE the guy!) Clarence wasn’t ‘summarily’ executed. Earl Rivers and his son, John, were, but there’s some doubt as to whether Warwick was a ‘Yorkist’ at the time. I take your point, though. The Lancastrians are often demonised for doing precisely the same things the Yorkists did. It’s this ‘us and them’ stuff that I don’t understand. It’s ok to take sides and, as a writer I have to, but the ‘demonising’ (which is sometimes worse than anything that’s been said about Richard, certainly based on less ‘evidence’) begins to trouble me. I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that Edward V was deposed because he was a child and there were signs of trouble looming. If Richard saw more strife ahead – war between him and Anthony Wydeville, say – he might have decided to take a hard, not particularly legal but ‘ends justify the means’ type decision to bump the boy off his throne. Doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. Doesn’t justify any of it, but if it helps explain things then I think I might be getting somewhere. Explanations are, for me, far more important than justifications.

      • Kathleen Hestand says:

        I agree with your point about battlefield executions. I intended to point out that the Yorkists were not the paragons of virtue they are made out to be, i.e. they were as guilty of these crimes as anyone else of their time. As for Clarence, he was secretly executed, not summarily. Sorry, I meant to specify that difference! I also agree that Richard probably was in a situation where he had to make a call as to how things would go, and did what he felt was necessary. He may have found once he decided on a path, he was stuck with it, even if it meant doing something he wasn’t planning on having to do.

  7. Celia Parker says:

    And let’s not forget that after the battle of Bosworth on 22nd August the kingon travelled back in time to desert Richard III and transfer itself to Henry Tudor on 21st August, the date from which Henry claimed to have reigned with the result that the ‘treason’ also retrospectively detached itself from Henry and his supporters and attached itself to Richard and his supporters. It probably bypassed Lord Stanley, while he was waiting on the sidelines engaging in his preferred behaviour of both supporting and yet not supporting either side. Stanley may have inhabited a sort of sub-atomic world where he both was and wasn’t doing something, although observation of him might affect his behaviour. Or not.

    Leaving particle physics, which as may be apparent I don’t remotely understand, people often refer to the title of Lord Protector as if it was some sort of clearly defined constitutional role with vice-regal powers, which Richard was automatically entitled to. It wasn’t. It was an ‘ad hoc’ role devised by the Council in 1422 for an earlier duke of Gloucester after the Council had refused to agree to Henry V’s intention that his brother Humphrey be regent (i.e effectively stand in for the king) in England during Henry VI’s minority. His role was limited to protecting the king’s person and, if necessary, the security of the realm until and only until Henry was old enough to be crowned- which he was aged 7. Richard of York, who became protector twice in the 1450s when Henry VI was mentally incapacitated seems to have taken a more vice-regal view and it was presumably that sort of protectorate that his son was aiming for in 1483 – there was no point in going to all the trouble of eliminating the opposition just to rule until Edward V, was crowned.a few weeks later.

    • anevillfeast says:

      These particles are ornery things, Celia!

      The terms of both York’s protectorates were clearly laid out by parliament. He was to deal with the security of England, mainly – enemies within and without. But, yes, there was no Protector template for parliament and council to use and reuse. The terms were renegotiated each time a Protector was required.

    • Kathleen Hestand says:

      I was reading something recently about the Wars of the Roses and Edward IV (I’ll have to look back through them to find out which one, as I was looking through several), and to my surprise, it said he predated his reign by a day when he returned from exile at the end of the Readeption. I had never seen this before, but it got me thinking that Henry Tudor’s strange predating technique may have had a precedent. I want to look into this some more!

  8. Will Glover says:

    You remind me of particle physicists, those who have been trying to understand behaviours and relationships in the microcosm. They seek to acquire new understandings which they would then apply to the macrocosm or, in words familiar to literary types, ‘the big picture’. They yearn for a Grand Unification Theory.
    Physicists consider forces as well as particles. They recognize four fundamental types, being the strong nuclear, the weak nuclear, the electro-magnetic, and gravity or ‘the inscrutable force’.
    In your microcosm, these forces could be named as York, Lancaster, Tudor and … well, I guess that just leaves Warwick.
    I hope you reconcile them. And apply your newfound wisdom to The Big Picture. And win the Nobel Prize. In Roses. 🙂

  9. Love it – good way to illustrate the issues.

  10. I finally have some time to read through my blogroll. 🙂 AND make WordPress cooperate with my wish to comment.

    I’m not a specialist on the War of the Roses, but I find this blog highly informative and entertaining. An online friend of mine has started to write that one from the Lancaster POV since they always the get black card these days

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