Archive for January, 2014

Britain’s ‘lost’ monarchs

Posted: January 31, 2014 in Uncategorised

A conversation on facebook about Edward VI got us thinking about other ‘lost’ monarchs. These are kings or queens who died young, or heirs to the throne that never made it. I’m going to try and come up with a list. All contributions appreciated!

Edgar Ætheling, briefly Harold Godwinsson’s heir after the battle of Hastings, before the English decided it was pointless (thank so chris y for this!)
William Adelin, son of Henry I – drowned in the wreck of the White Ship
Henry the Young King, son of Henry II (thanks Jayne Smith for the reminder!)
Arthur of Brittany, grandson of Henry II (thanks to Esther!)
Three sons of Edward I who died in childhood, John, Henry and Alfonso (thanks to Celia Parker)
Edward, the Black Prince
Edward of Lancaster
Edward V
Edward of Middleham, son of Richard III (suggested by Celia Parker. I’m still on the edge with this Edward, as he had two barriers in his path. The first (an early death) rendered the second (his father’s defeat at Bosworth) moot.)
Prince Arthur
Lady Jane Grey
Edward VI
Prince Henry, son of James VI
James Stuart, the Old Pretender, son of James VII
Prince William, son of Queen Anne (I have not included Anne’s many children who survived birth but not childhood, nor have I included any of her sister, Mary II’s, children)
Crown Prince Frederick, son of George II
Princess Charlotte, daughter of George IV

I shall have to delve into the history of Scotland to complete this list. And I’m not sure whether to include Richard III, or if a two year reign is too long for him to be considered ‘lost’.

À Warwick! À Warwick!

Posted: January 27, 2014 in Uncategorised

Found among my list of google searches:

“What does the battle cry ‘ À Warwick!’ mean?

It’s from French – à is ‘to’. So this is a cry rallying men around their leader.

It’s a good thing, really, they weren’t much into the double barrelled surname in mediaeval times. ‘À Fortescue-Patterson!’ might have lost them the battle before it began.

 

Another google search that came up: ‘Was Edward IV murdered?’

It’s highly unlikely, given the universal question ‘who benefits?’. Certainly no-one close enough to him to slip some arsenic into his food.

 

And, lastly: “Did George of Clarence murder his wife?”

There’s nothing to indicate Clarence murdered his wife. She died shortly after the birth of her last child (who didn’t long outlive her) and this would seem to be an odd time to poison someone. Quite apart from that, there’s every indication the Clarences’ marriage was a success. George accused one of Isobel’s women of poisoning her, dragged her to Warwick to be tried and had her hanged when she was found guilty. There’s no evidence Isobel was poisoned by anyone and the death of Ankarette Twynho was an appalling misuse of the law. That was the charge Clarence was originally arrested on. It soon changed to a charge of treason. Isobel’s death set in motion a set of events that led to her husband’s execution. Clarence wasn’t the most loyal brother in the universe, but I do rather feel for him, and for Isobel.

The Princes in the Tower, Josephine Wilkinson, Amberley.

Before I go on with this review, there are two quotes I think worthy of highlighting.

“When texts refuse to conform to the theory, it is time to change the theory, not the text.” (p112)

and

“The question, therefore, should not be ‘Who killed the Princes in the Tower?’, but ‘What happened to the Princes after they disappeared?” (p156)

The first is spot on and a good many writers and commentators on the life and times of Richard III could benefit from applying this principle. The second, I think, could do with a little tweaking. “The question, therefore, should not be ‘Who killed the Princes in the Tower?, but ‘What happened to the Princes… [to cause them to]… disappear?” With that one tiny adjustment, I’d be wholeheartedly agreeing with this as well.

The Princes in the Tower is a slim book, a collection of essays based on a reading, collating and analysis of available sources. Wilkinson gives a brief life of Edward V, up to the likely point of his disappearance, then deals with the usual suspects, one at a time. All, including Richard III himself, are declared innocent. On the available evidence, that’s a fairly sensible conclusion to reach. Or at least, the conclusion that it’s difficult to declare, beyond reasonable doubt, any of them actually guilty, is sensible. Oh, and she dismisses the current favourite suspect, Margaret Beaufort, in a few deft sentences.

The ultimate conclusion Wilkinson reaches is that no-one murdered the Princes, that they (or one of them, at least) was, by person or persons unknown, removed to Flanders where he lived in silence and obscurity until (possibly) he re-emerged as Perkin Warbeck. I’m not entirely convinced by this, as the living in silence and obscurity bit leaves way too many unanswered questions. While ‘he became Perkin Warbeck’ might answer the question ‘What happened to Richard duke of York?” it says nothing about his brother, Edward V. A thorough investigation, so far as possible, into Warbeck’s background and, as Wilkinson suggests, records in Flanders, would be welcome. It might go some way to confirming Warbeck’s royal pretensions, or it might put the story to bed, once and for all. Either way, it would add to the little we know.

As The Princes in the Tower is most decidedly not a book of speculation searching for an answer to the question quoted above, but an examination and interpretation of available sources, Wilkinson’s conclusions are, of necessity, going to reflect those interpretations. It raised more questions than it answered for me, but as some of those questions hadn’t occurred to me before, I see this as a very good thing.

All in all, this is a good book, clearly organised and written. While there may be alternative interpretations to some of the passages quoted, Wilkinson backs up her views and doesn’t, so far as I could see, resort to cherrypicking or convenient source-blindness. I’d recommend this book to anyone trying to make sense of some of the events of 1483 and 1484.