Lost in the swamps of Illogicity

Posted: May 27, 2014 in Uncategorised

In response to a post very helpfully entitled ‘The delusions of the Cairo-dwellers”

What I’m not going to do is stoop to the blogger’s level with cheap insults. What I am going to do is apply logic to some quite baffling ‘arguments’. Because, here in the real world, logic is not only at home but gets up and answers the doorbell. We have to be careful, though – shine any kind of light in the swamps of Illogicity and there’s scurrying and hurrying and snapping at ankles.

1. If Margaret of Burgundy lied about the identity of Perkin Warbeck, then the King of France must have been lying about Richard III murdering the Princes.

Firstly, to suggest that Person A might have lied about something doesn’t mean that everyone else is a liar. This is something about individual human beings the inhabitants of Illogicity might not have grasped – we’re not all exactly the same. Margaret of Burgundy may have deliberately lied about the identity of Perkin Warbeck, or she may have allowed herself to be convinced she actually believed he was her nephew – in her letters, she certainly sounds convinced. We just don’t know. But let’s say she did lie about it… that doesn’t prevent anyone else who was alive at the time telling the truth. One in all in just doesn’t apply here.

While we’re on the subject of possible lies told by the duchess of Burgundy… Here’s a puzzle that requires huge twists of logic, great strands macramed into some kind of demonic Pot Hanger of Illogic… If Perkin really was the duke of York, he puts his uncle Richard (by name) right in the frame for the murder of his brother. In a letter, Perkin clearly states that, on Richard’s orders, a ‘lord’ came to the Tower, murdered Edward and was going to murder young Richard, only he took pity on him and smuggled him away to Flanders. This is an eye witness to these events. And he names the killer. I’ve seen this written off as a ‘forgery’ or (somehow) yet more ‘Tudor Propaganda’ (presumably sent back through time in the countess of Richmond’s time machine). It’s either a true recollection of the event, or it’s a lie. If it’s a lie, then Margaret of Burgundy was involved in concocting it, or allowed it to be concocted without a whisper of protest. If it’s the truth, then it’s the truth, and Margaret of Burgundy knew it to be the truth.

And then there’s the King of France thing. I don’t know many people who’ve (seriously) said, “The King of France said Richard murdered the Princes, and that’s all the proof I need!”. What’s usually said is something like, “The King of France mentions it, which is evidence the rumours Richard did away with the princes was extant in his lifetime”. Two quite different things, really. But it’s always easier to argue against what’s not being said than against what is…

2. Elizabeth Wydeville ‘retired’ to Bermondsey Abbey because Henry VII was punishing her for something.

We don’t exactly know why Elizabeth Wydeville retired to Bermondsey. She didn’t make a note in her diary. Here’s a blog post from Susan Higginbotham discussing it. There’s no real need to leap to any conclusions about her being ‘put away’ by Henry Tudor. Unless, of course, that feeds right into a particular view of Henry Tudor. Which, quite rightly, the inhabitants of the swamps of Illogicity argue quite strenuously against in the case of Richard III. Saying this kind of thing gets your name added to the list of ‘Tydderite Trolls’ but it’s worth saying anyway: If you want your historical hero to be treated fairly and not ‘maligned’, then you might want to lay off ‘maligning’ other people from history. Go read The Water Babies, particularly the bits involving Mrs Bedonebyasyouwould.

3. Everyone says Richard III was a usurper but no-one says Henry VII was.

There are a lot of people who believe Richard III was a usurper who also believe Henry Tudor was. However, there is one slight difference between the way Richard III came to the throne and the way Henry VII did, and that’s all about conquest. It might not have been cricket, he might not have had the most spectacularly sound claim in history, but he deposed the reigning king in open battle. Richard III didn’t. That’s why we have to look at these things differently, and not try and compare apples and oranges. Which is pretty classic argument deflection

3. All the proof needed of Edward IV’s secret marriage to Eleanor Butler is his secret marriage to Elizabeth Wydeville.

It’s rather tedious to hear, time after time, how ‘romantic’ it was that Edward IV made a secret marriage with Elizabeth Wydeville. It wasn’t ‘romantic’. It was monumentally dumb. Kings just don’t get to go around marrying whoever they like, not even great strapping lads like Edward. It was good for him – there’s every indication it was an extremely happy marriage, but stirred up a spot of bother. Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is ‘Edward IV made one secret marriage, so clearly this was just the last in a long line of secret marriages’. Or, in any case, two. But we know about the marriage to Elizabeth Wydeville. We know it from events of their lives, not from something that was brought up after Edward IV’s death. And certainly not from something that was brought up after they were both dead. This is why there is doubt – serious doubt – about whether the pre contract story, the ‘Edward secretly married Eleanor Butler before he secretly married Elizabeth Wydeville’ story, can be taken at face value. Because there’s nothing – nothing – concrete to say it took place at all. And the two people most directly involved were dead, they could neither refute nor confirm the story. In this case, the act of parliament on its own just isn’t enough. Henry VII says in an act of parliament Richard III ‘shed infants’ blood’ – is that enough to declare him guilty without other evidence to corroborate it? If you said  no, then you’d be right!

4. Thomas More, the Princes, ten foot holes, bones in urns &c &c &c.

No-one takes Thomas More at face value. He was quite possibly writing some kind of satire. To waste time disputing and refuting his every word is a pointless exercise. The bones in the Tower exist. They were examined quite thoroughly using the technology available at the time. The conclusion reached was that they were more likely to be the bones of the Princes in the Tower than anyone else. That may, or may not, be proved correct should they ever be subjected to further testing. As to ‘why weren’t they thrown into the Thames?’… Because bodies thrown into the Thames have a habit of floating to the surface. And that would have been seriously embarrassing. I’d say the very last means of disposal anyone who might have murdered the princes would have considered was ‘hey, let’s chuck them in the Thames!’

5. Owen Tudor and Katherine de Valois weren’t secretly married because there’s those who say maybe Edward IV and Eleanor Butler weren’t.

Owen Tudor was secretly married to Katherine de Valois. There’s an act of parliament that mentions it. And her sons were alive at the time. So was her secret husband. So, lots of people to scratch their heads and say ‘huh? wha?’ if it wasn’t true. When the act of parliament that talked about Edward IV’s supposed secret marriage to Eleanor Butler was written, both of the principals were dead. And a third party benefited hugely from the revelation. So it’s difficult for many people to take that act of parliament as the final word. Especially as there’s no other evidence whatsoever to back it up. None of the people named (or in Ms Butler’s case, not named) were around to refute it. And the one person who maybe could (and that’s a big maybe) was hauled out of a council meeting and summarily beheaded.

6. If Eleanor Butler didn’t get her lands from Edward IV, how did she get them?

We don’t know how Elizabeth Butler acquired the lands in question. That’s all we can say. ‘We don’t know how Eleanor Butler acquired the lands in question… so they must have been given to her by Edward IV!… to keep her quiet about their secret marriage!’ is a leap of….? Yes, that’s right! It’s an enormous leap of logic.

7. People always say Richard III ‘murdered’ some people who were executed. No-on says that about other kings!

If Edward IV, Henry VII or Richard III hauled anyone out of a council meeting, without trial, for summary execution over a handy log, that would definitely qualify as murder. Only one of the three did this. Had Edward IV, Henry VII or Richard III arrested the incoming king’s chief advisors and supporters, sent them far away, then (possibly with some kind of show trial) had them executed, that would probably qualify as murder. Several other people were executed during the reign of Richard III. I’d reckon they all had trials, so that doesn’t qualify as ‘murder’. Four men were executed prior to his taking the throne, and none of those deaths was entirely aboveboard. The earl of Warwick was responsible for the unlawful executions (‘murder’) of at least four men during his rebellions. This isn’t a positive reflection on him. Henry II orchestrated the death (‘murder’) of Thomas a Becket. This isn’t a positive reflection on him. Neither are the deaths of Hastings, Rivers, Vaughn and Grey a positive reflection on Richard III. And there’s not much can be done about that without visiting even further injustice on these four men. Lawful execution is lawful execution, whoever’s on the throne. Murder is murder, whoever’s (almost) on the throne.

8. Once the Princes were declared illegitimate, their threat to Richard III vanished. And, anyway, why didn’t Richard do away with young Warwick?

Declaring the princes illegitimate didn’t (and couldn’t) remove them as a threat to Richard III, or any subsequent king. That’s just a fact of life. Does that mean he did away when them? Well, we don’t know what happened to them, but it’s fairly clear to many rational and openminded beings they were dead before August 1485. The young earl of Warwick was affected by his father’s attainder. No-one was likely to seriously back him against Richard because (and I’m seriously surprised so many people have missed this) the very people who might have supported him (the remnants of his grandfather’s affinity) were busy supporting Richard III. Yes, the attainder could have been reversed, just as the ‘illegitimacy’ of Edward IV’s children was. But that would have required whoever wanted it reversed to be in a position to reverse it… and Richard was the only one in that position and, presumably, he didn’t want to reverse it. But the whole argument itself… “You say Person A killed Persons B & C. But he didn’t kill person D, did he? Ergo he didn’t kill B or C, either! Coz, if he’d killed B & C, he’d have gone on to kill D, as well!” I’ll just give you a minute to extricate yourself from the swamp…….

Had the princes survived to adulthood, they would have continued to be a threat to Richard. Now let’s just cycle back to the first para of the post, for a moment. “Perkin Warbeck was the real Duke of York!” (subtext, yes, but arguably it’s there). And what did Perkin Warbeck do? So why might he not have done exactly the same to Uncle Richard, had he survived? And been smuggled to Burgundy &c &c &c? So, yes, by the evidence of that argument alone (whether Perkin was Perkin or Perkin was not), the princes would have continued to be a threat, illegitimate or not.

9. No-one’s allowed to say Richard III was planning to marry his niece but us!

I’m not sure there are many actual, serious historians who believe Richard III was planning to marry his niece. There are several novelists who’ve riffed on this. The latest would appear to be a devoted Ricardian (though the niece in question isn’t Elizabeth but Cecily). So, I guess the question is: why is it not ok for anyone to suggest Richard was planning to marry his niece, but it’s perfectly fine for a Ricardian to write a novel with very premise? Not that I’m expecting any kind of serious answer to that – novelists can write what they like, and I don’t believe this particular novelist is attempting to say any of this actually happened. But you know the weirdest thing about the whole Richard/Elizabeth of York thing? It was started by a proto-Ricardian! Yes, George Buck, who claimed to have seen a genuine letter, written by the genuine princess, which he may well have misinterpreted, was a forerunner of today’s murreyandblue bloggers! So, there you have it. An early Ricardian says “Richard was planning to marry his niece”; a current Ricardian writes a novel in which Richard has a torrid affair with his niece… But woe betide anyone who dares to say Richard was planning to marry his niece!

It’s at this point the swamps of Illogicity tie themselves in knots and disappear up their own S-bends.

(And if you have to explain your insult with an asterisk, maybe it’s time to rethink the insult.)


  1. Liz says:

    You’re exercising your logic entirely too much. Might need to let it rest for a day or it’s going to end up with some sore muscles.

  2. Esther says:

    Some very good points. One question though … did Warbeck’s letter ever reveal how he knew that the “lord” came to the Tower on Richard’s orders (i.e, did Warbeck hear the lord say so, or see a written order)? That the Duke of York would have been an eyewitness to the murder of Edward V is one thing, but it would not make him an eyewitness to the orders. (I’m a lawyer; I spent a lot of time in law school, learning the difference between first hand knowledge and hearsay). Also, I’m not sure … is the novelist that says Richard wanted to marry a niece the same one who says that Elizabeth ordered the death of Amy Robsart and that the Earl of Shrewsbury was in love with Mary Queen of Scots? (there is, IMO, a difference between most Ricardians, and a certain novelist who simply likes making false accusations)


    • anevillfeast says:

      Thanks, Esther. The document in question (a report to the king of Scotland) isn’t easy for me to put my hands on. I really should remedy that! It’s in Wroe’s Perkin book and she hasn’t footnoted or referenced in a way that make it easy to find things! Perkin’s only an eyewitness if he was, in fact, the duke of York. I’m unconvinced of that.
      I always find it odd there’s a far greater test of evidence placed on anything that might call Richard’s actions into question, but the teensiest hint of something that might call into question anyone else’s actions is perfectly acceptable. Titulus Regius, for instance, would not have a leg to stand on if it was a document written in the reign of Henry VII that set out Richard’s guilt in the matter of the princes’ deaths. Yet ‘Eleanor Butler must have got those lands from Edward IV’ is a perfectly valid explanation, despite a complete lack of any evidence whatsoever.
      The novelist in question is very much a Ricardian. I don’t have an issue with her ideas, as she’s not attempting to claim this as history.

      • khel t says:

        just a few quibbles–in chastising illogic, you made a very common and fairly egregious logical error yourself.

        if perkin warbeck was infact Richard, duke of york, and if he was completely sincere in his claim to have witnessed his brother’s murder and to have believed that the murder was on the order of his uncle Richard III, the the statement can be both true and false simultaneously. someone can state somthing they belive to be true, thus they are not lying (all lies requurw intent to deceive), yet they can still be wrong as to the actual events. in other words someone xan be honestly mistaken. there is no way that richard the boy could have known who made the order unless it was made in his presence. at best all he could have knoqn was what somwone told him.

        given that your source for this statement is not amenable to verification, an asterix would be helpful in the original post.

        your argument regarding the illogic of the secret marriage, while not illogical in an of itself, appears to have been made in ignorance of cannon law, which governed marriages at the time, regarding secret marriages.

        secret marriages were strongly disfavored by the church and voidable by nature, unlike public marriages, precisely because of the difficulty in proving them. at the time, any secret marriage, regardless of its length and the number of issue involved could be challenged at anytime based on the existence of an earlier secret mariage. the only party that had standing to refute the challenge was the alleged injured party from the first secret marriage, in this case eleanor. by law, when the alleged injured party was unavaiable to refute the challenge, the second secret marriage was automatically voided. regardless of the veracity of the claim he had married elanor, Edward’s marriage to elizabeth was legally void as soon as the challenge was made, since elanor was already dead and could not refute it.

        I’m not sure I understand the reasoning behind your assertion tha richard III is given a pass when it comes to the weight of evidence. ricardians are a tiny minority. richard has been deemed guilty of the crime for almost 600 years based on no evidence at all (this is why he gas been aquitted in every mock trial too date)

        word to the wise–never believe anyone’s assertion that they are a lawyer. hearsay has nothing to do with whether the person making the statemant witnessed an event or conversation in question. it just means the statement was made outside of the courtroom and was relayed to the court after the fact. hearsay is just any out of court statement, including confessions, which are admissable because of an exception.

      • anevillfeast says:

        Hi, khel. If Perkin was indeed the young duke of York, his report is the only eyewitness account of his brother’s death and his own departure from the Tower. I see that you have done what many others have done before you – played the ‘this might be an honest mistake’ card. Of course it can, as all reports from history can. What’s fascinating is that this card is played selectively, and only in an attempt to trump something that reflects badly on [insert name of historical hero]. It is never played in an attempt to trump something that supports the actions of [insert name of historical hero]. As with many things in the past, it’s all we have to go on (if Perkin was the young duke of York) and should no more be written off as ‘clearly an honest mistake’ than (bizarrely) as a forgery.
        The problem with your explanation of canon law is the ‘second’ secret marriage to Elizabeth Wydeville (or the ‘only’ secret marriage, if that’s your point of view) was thoroughly examined at the time and found to be valid. So, when the ‘first’ secret marriage was announced the ‘second’ secret marriage had already been well and truly validated.
        My reasoning behind my assertion that ‘Richard III is given a pass when it comes to the weight of evidence’ is that this post is a response to one written by someone who believes him to be innocent to the point of saintliness. Had I been responding to a post written by someone who deemed him guilty of crime based on no evidence, I’d have said something different.

  3. Dawn Likha says:

    Reblogged this on A Passion for History and commented:
    Oh dear… *shakes head*

  4. 1karla says:

    Logic, oh dear, aren’t you asking for too much? It means thinking, and for that you need some grey matter in the head. When I read the comments some people make on FB I really really have my doubts about the contents of some skulls.

  5. Ruth Crumpton says:

    I have to admit to getting a slightly different reading of that blog posting that you did. I more saw the piece as pointing to the illogical nature of certain arguments. I have seen postings claiming that Edward IV wouldn’t have contracted that Talbot marriage because we’ve no evidence he did so. ASSUMING Stillington and Richard were lying, then true – but the same holds true for the whole Richard-committing-fratricide, Richard-killing-Warwick, Richard-as-wife-killer thing. Yet apparently all we need for “proof” of these is conjecture!

    As for Thomas More, unfortunately a good number of people DO still take his account as accurate. I was taught it was, in school, in the 1980’s. Alison Weir seems to rate him quite highly and she is promoted as a historian and certainly seen as such in many media reports.

    On point 7 – there was a (relatively) recent on-line debate between the “pro” and “anti” Ricardian camps in which the (admittedly rather young) “anti” poster claimed that it was obvious that Richard was planning on killing young Warwick as soon as he got the chance but his own early death intervened – whereas executions carried out by Henry VII might sound extreme to our ears but we must rate it against the norm of the day! Now, as this same young historian also claimed that Edward IV was an anointed king (and that Richard’s ‘motive’ and ‘opportunity’ in killing the boys = guilt!), the argument could be made that this viewpoint is based on incomplete knowledge but I read the blog quoted above as being aimed at precisely that kind of view.

    I would agree, as it happens, that what happened to Hastings was extra-judicial murder. Whether it was motivated by self-defence or a need to silence Hastings is of course open to question.

    Point 9 – Again, I read it differently – not as “it’s ok for some people to say he wanted to marry his niece but not for others” but as a desire to try to put to bed the “Elizabeth/Richard marriage” idea by pointing out that to actually buy this theory you have ignore the evidence of proposals of the marriage to Joanna.

    That said, I’ve been reading and enjoying this blog for a while now. I simply got a different feel from the quoted post.

    • anevillfeast says:

      Hi, Ruth. I think I understand what the blogger was attempting to do. Unfortunately, the arguments chosen – the comparisons made – left me a little baffled.
      Perhaps my last point was lost – there are plenty of Ricardians who do put Richard/Elizabeth (or, in the case I referred to, Richard/Cecily) ‘to bed’. I’ve read a number of Ricardian novels and what might loosely be called ‘fanfic’ that does exactly that. George Buck claimed to have found the smoking gun – Elizabeth’s impatience for Queen Anne’s death and marriage.
      I’m sure there are a lot of people who agree with you and murreyandblue, and don’t see the same inconsistencies and twists of logic I did.

  6. If I may state a theory that is strange, forgive my poor spelling. But a brilliant and remarkably the greatest feat ever accomplished in England and France. The boy’s in the tower were not helpless kids, they where well educated prodigies worthy of Kingly thoughts and like the Black Prince, had spurs, embedded in France. If the boy’s were able to make it to into France, they would of left a trail of historical nobility because they would not of settled for peasant status. Charles the VII, was ill and possibly dying. Edward V and Charles looked close but not exact but basically the same age. Edward was promised Anne, but Anne married Charles VII after Richard III, died and Edward V was gone. The irony, is that the Valos bloodline was about to fail in France, which would mead bloody war from the Spanish Hapsberg pillage of the Valos crown. I strongly believe, that Edward V, replaced Charles VII and married his original wife which was promised, that is Anne. They had many children which were reported and miscarriages (14) and suddenly, Charles VII, bumped his head on a door post and Died? Really, I see through the madness and suspect that the possible children became the fore bearers of the Nassua branch of the House Orange. It’s just a theory. Forgive me If I offended anyone.

    • Henry VII, had too of found out the truth, after he tortured it out of all who helped them into France. Henry VIII, and his children were well accepted in France and Germany as well which I find an oddity considering the complexity of the discourse before and after, Henry VII, establishment of the Tudor rein. There is more to this theory if you study events and history that will amaze you.

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