Archive for June, 2015

Henry VI’s 1455 parliament dealt with a number of issues, including passing what has become known as the Parliamentary Pardon exonerating the Duke of York and his allies for the conflict at St Albans in May that year; attempting (as usual) to deal with the financial difficulties faced by the soldiers of the Calais garrison; the appointment of the Duke of York for a second term as protector and defender while the King was ill* and the Bonville/Courtenay feud was in full swing; and the presentation of a petition by the commons for a round of resumptions to be enacted. This last led to a string of petitions for exemptions from the Act, by individuals and institutions.

Some were for potentially large sums, such as the Duke of Buckingham and the Earl of Warwick (‘and Anne his wiff’), who both required exemptions for moneys either not yet received (in Buk’s case) or yet to be expended (in Warwick’s case) for payment of the Calais garrison. Others were much smaller amounts, per diem payments of 6d, annuities of £20, clothing allowances, retirement positions for members of the King’s household and, in one case, two windmills in Calais. I’ve chosen just a few that I found interesting.


The king’s father, the commons said, had kept a more economically sustainable household than did Henry VI. It was one of the things, they claimed, that ’caused all othir londes to have this your said lond in as worshipfull renomme, and as grete drede, as any other lond cristenned’. Henry was ‘indebted in such outragious sommez’ that it was difficult to find a way to repay his creditors. If he were to curb his spending, the whole of Christendom would tremble in fear at the very thought of England. A round of resumptions, the returning of grants and gifts made by the king, would be good for four reasons: 1. ‘…for the conservacion and supportacion of your seid estate…’ – the King’s household would be in far better financial shape generally; 2. ‘…for your owne suerte, honour and wele…’ – the King’s own financial situation would be eased; 3. ‘…to the universall wele, ease, rest and suerty of this land, the which ye owe to preferre afore the favour of eny person, or eny place, or othir thyng erthley’ – the wellbeing of the kingdom was far more important than pleasing individuals within it; 4. ‘…to thentent that your said enemyes, from whose knowelege the penure of your said houshold … and also the agrugyng thereof of youre seid people had is not hidde, whereof without doute they take a grete courage and boldeness ayenst youre said lond, mowe falle from the seid corage into rebuke and have your said lond and people in such drede as here tofore in the dais of you and your progenitours they have hadde…’ – England’s financial woes, and particularly her King’s, were well known and her enemies took heart from that, rein in the spending and people would stop complaining and England’s enemies would fear her again.

The commons had only four exemptions to put forward – on behalf of the Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Speaker of the House, John Wenlock, who had loaned the King just over £1,000. They also petitioned for an exemption for the duke of York, for any sums expended in his capacity as Protector and Defender. I haven’t totted up the total amount implied by the exemptions, mainly because I haven’t added up or multiplied pounds, shillings and pence since the late 60s and don’t intend to resume the practice now. Not that it would give us a clear picture of the real total, as some of the exemptions are not fully costed.

The lords started off the exemption-fest in good form with this:

Provided alsoo that this peticion or act of resumpcion or adnullacion extende not nore be prejudicisl to eny duke, markes, erle or viscount of this realme, nor to the heires of eny of theym, of eny graunt or grauntes made to theym or eny of theym by us, of or for their astate, creacion or receccion [promotion] into the estate of duke, merkes, erle or viscount, ne to their preemynence, place or setez in the high court of parlement or else where.’

So, really, it was pretty much doomed from the start.

The Abbot and Prior of the Church of St Peter at Westminster were granted an exemption for yearly observances kept ‘the last day but oon of August, the aniversarye of the full noble prince of blissid memorie our fader, Kyng Harry the Vth…to distrybute the daye of his aniversarye yerly for ever £20 in almesse and eight tapers brennynge dayly at the highe masse and evesong in the same church…to fynde 24 torches brennyng in the same church the evyn and daye of the said aniversary yerly…and 24 poure men to bere and hold the same torches than brennyng in the same church, eche of hem takyng the said even and day in almes 10d; and to fynde three priest monks dayly to say three masses perpetually for the soule of our fader late kynge…’ Several charterhouses and convents got to keep ‘a tunne of wyne graunted of our almesse’. The College of Fotheringhay was exempt from returning 40 acres of wood and their produce in the forest of Rockingham ‘so alwey that we, the quene, oure heires and successours, be prayde fore in the seid college for ever’. The College of St Nicholas, Cambridge, got to enjoy ‘the undrewood and rowers [dead wood] in a woode called Sapley…for theire perpetuell fuell…’.  The College of our Lady of Eton held onto ‘certayn waters and fysshyng in the ryver of Thamese’. Also exempt was a grant to the Abbot of Abingdond f ’20 bukkes and doous to be had in certayne places by wey of eschaunge, in recompense for the tithe venison in the forest of Wyndesore and the parkes within the same…the which tithes the predecessours of the said abbot and convent had of the graunt of oure noble progenitour…Henry I’. The Priory of St John of Pontefract had suffered greatly and was exempted ‘alsoo by the consideracion of the grete and importable [intolerable] expenses and chargez, which the same proiur and convent have susteyned and dayly susteyn, in kepynge of hospitalitee and in bylding of theire posessions notwithstondyng the grete dimunition of the yerly value of theire londes and tenementes adjoyning to the waters of Calder and Ayre, in the counte of York, by the inundacions and effluentes [flooding] of the same waters’. Also recovering from catastrophe, though of a different kind, were the Dean and Chapter of Lichfield Cathedral who were granted an exemption ‘of any libertees and fraunchises by us to theym geven or graunted, which we have graunted unto theym for divers consideracions or inconveniences [misdeeds] done by our shirrefs and othir our officers in arestynbge and mystretyng the ministres of the seid church in their habites and executyng divine services there, where thorough the seid church hath ben polute and stonde in inofficiat [unusable] somme fourteen dayes to gedir’

Most of the individuals seeking exemption were of the king’s household. Most of the grants were small, paid in retirement in recognition of good service. Sir Thomas Stanley (‘oure chamberlayne’) received an exemption for ‘eny severall grownde, herbage pasture or wastes within oure forest of Macclesfield, which he hath taken for savyng of oure dere in the same forest, yildyng therfor £5 by yere; and whiche, if it were not kepte from the depasturyng [grazing] of cattel and bestes, shulde be destruction of our dere and also anyentisemennt [ruin] of oure game there’. Thomas Staunton (‘huissher of our chambre’) was allowed to keep ‘the office of arbalastry [crossbowman] within oure toure of London…[at a wage of] 12d a day’. Likewise, William Say (‘yoman of the coroune’) remained ‘warenner of the warenne of oure castelle at Dovorre’; Thomas Barton (‘sergeaunt of our panetrie’) continued with the job of ‘the kepyng of oure parc, called the newe parc, of Shene in the counte of Surrey with the wages of 2d a day…with seven acres of mede, liggyng in the medes beside the brigge of Chartsey, in the counte of Middlesex, for the sustenacion of oure dere within oure seid parc in wynter tyme’, and ‘of a graunte made by us unto hym by the same name of 2d by day…for to fynd sufficient reparacion in pales and hegges of our seid parc’. Bartholomew Halley (‘uissher of oure chambre’) kept ‘the office of joynour within our toure [of London]’ at a wage of 12d a day. John Barnham (‘late maister cooke for oure mouthe…whiche is blynde by Goddes visitation’) was given an annuity of 100s 4d. Robert Passemer and 20 other named (‘sergauntez at armes’) were exempt from a grant of ‘clothyng to them or any of them graunted be cause of the seid office’ though the King did seem willing to economise here, at least. ‘So alwey that after the decease of eny of the seid sergauntez at armes noo persone be admitted into his place, to the tyme that it shall come to the nombre of such sergauntz used in the daies of oure fadre of noble memoire…and that nombre to be kept and noo gretter’.

Merchants were exempted grants of bales of wool to ship and sell in payment of debts. John Skelton’s annuity of £40 was exempted ‘in recompense of 1,000 marks paied for his finaunce [ransom] to oure enemyes of Fraunce’. Richard Whetehill (‘merchaunt’) was granted an exemption for ‘two wynde milles within oure toune of Caleys, with a soile or voide grounde called the mille hille, as it lieth nygh to the seid two milles towardes the south…so alwey that if the seid Richard die within the term of the seid yeres [not mentioned in the petition but, presumably, in the original letter patent] that then his heires or executters have the seid milles, soile or voide grounde…unto the tyme that they be cotent of such sommes of money as by the seid Richard shall be expended upon the bildyng [maintenance] of the same and £40 above’.

By the time these petitions were heard, York was no longer Protector and had probably absented himself from parliament. As the curbing of the royal household’s spending was crucial to getting England’s economy back on track, the seemingly endless list of exemptions must have been something of a heartbreaker. Twice York had been Protector and both times he’d dealt with serious disruption and unrest. He was not, however, to be allowed to see his (modest) program of reform to come to fruition.

Henry VI may not have been a particularly sound financial manager, but he had a good heart when it came to rewarding those who gave him good service, and it’s very hard to begrudge ‘our minstralles’ their annuities of 100s each.

*It has often been assumed, on fairly scant evidence, that the king’s indisposition was a renewal of the severe mental illness that totally incapacitated him in 1453/4. However, it is more likely the illness was purely physical. (For a fuller exploration of this, see JR Lander, Henry VI and the Duke of York’s Second Protectorate 1455-1456, Bulletinof the John Rylands Librrary, 1966, 43 (1), 46-69.

One of the things that’s often puzzled me is the claim that Henry VII did away with loads and loads of documents from the reign of Richard III. You come across stuff like ‘it’s documented fact that documents were destroyed…’ without anyone ever actually linking to either the document or the fact. The one document that was disappeared, the disappearance of which is documented fact, is Titulus Regius. We know all copies were destroyed (except the odd one that survived) because we know there was an order for it to be destroyed. Even if one of those hidden/forgotten/mislaid copies hadn’t emerged we’d know the document once existed because it’s destruction is mandated. And there was good reason for it to be destroyed, at least from Henry VII’s point of view. TR rendered his Queen illegitimate. Removing that libel, destroying all copies of a document that promulgated that libel would, under those circumstances, be at the top of any sensible King’s to do list.

So why does the (known and documented) disappearance of Document A (Titulus Regius) lead people to the belief that Documents B through Z were also destroyed? People will claim all kinds of things happened that we have no record of. When asked for a source, we are told ‘Oh, the documentary evidence of that was destroyed by Henry VII’, which might seem convenient and helpful but is, in effect, a waste of breath. There’s only one way of deducing the one time existence of a document we no longer have, and that’s through finding traces of its ghost. Like TR. It’s ghost is right there in the order for all copies of it to be destroyed. As a counter-example, the (supposed) record of Hastings’ trial, which we are repeatedly assured once existed but now does not, has left no ghost. Another set of documents that have disappeared, most likely deliberately destroyed, is the record of Henry VI’s Readeption parliament. We know one took place. We know such things were meticulously recorded. We even know a tiny bit about it. (Who was and wasn’t attainted, for example. Who was and wasn’t restored to their titles, for another example.) So, by the existence of its ghost(s), we know there was once a record of that parliament. Given the events of 1471, we can assume that record was destroyed.

Sometimes we are told that there ‘must have been’ some obscure and complicated reason for destroying TR, beyond the libel against the Queen. (Occam’s razor really is the way to go with this one.) It’s often something to do with the disappeared (most likely deceased) Princes. Some conspiracy to do with Henry VII’s claim to or hold on the throne often comes up, rather than the much more sensible, and likely, explanation: No King who wants his Queen to like him is going to allow a document that declares her illegitimate to be allowed to float around the kingdom. What Richard III didn’t consider libellous became so in the reign of Henry VII. The destruction of TR, from this perspective, is completely understandable. Just as the destruction of the record of the Readeption parliament, from Edward IV’s perspective, is completely understandable.

The leap from ‘TR was destroyed’ to ‘that must mean loads of other documents were destroyed’ is huge and unsustainable. Unless and until we find the ghosts of (say) the record of Hastings’ trial, we have to work from a point where no such trial took place. We know so very little about the events of that day but nowhere (so far) have we found even the tiniest, most obscure reference to a trial. We can’t possibly claim a trial took place using the destruction of TR as proof. ‘Well, TR was destroyed, so the record of Hastings’ trial must have been as well’ ignores one important point:

We knew TR existed before anyone ever clapped eyes on it because we know there was an order for its destruction.

So, until we find some ghostly trace of the documents Henry VII is said to have disappeared, or until we find a source that talks about the destruction of documents other than TR, we can’t sensibly conclude Henry VII ordered the wholesale destruction of documents, however embarrassing they might have been to him or however useful they might be in exonerating Richard III.

Things you find…

Posted: June 5, 2015 in Uncategorised

…when you’re looking for other things.

After advice from a Real Historian, I did some digging into the history of the Nevills for the first couple of chapters of the book. In the course of that digging, I came across a chap called Alexander Nevill who was Archbishop of York for a time, got swept up into Richard II’s inner circle and was one of the ‘evil councillors’ opposed (and later dealt with) by the Lords Appellant. So you can imagine my excitement when I came across a Copy of a Libel Against Archbishop Neville, temp Richard II… in an old book while… yes! while I was looking for something else.

Archbishop Nevill wasn’t much liked, it seems, even before he joined the ranks of Richard II’s ‘evil councillors’. From what I’d been able to find out, he was lazy, incompetent, greedy… (“What?” I hear you cry. “A Nevill who was lazy, incompetent and greedy? Surely not!”) … and this document sets it all out rather neatly.

The introduction to this document says “It appears from an original parliamentary petition that two copies of this libel were affixed on the pillar of the Chapter House of Westminster, where the Lords and Commons were assembled in parliament, and a third on the door of Saint Paul’s Cathedral.” Whoever wrote it didn’t like the Archbishop. They really, really didn’t like him!


I set it out here below, in full, with little amendment except orthographic.

The Comunes of Ingelond, wherfor blame ye the Kyng & his Counseil of the unhappe and disese and myschief of this Reamue of Ingelond, that is not a longe on the Kyng, for there is no lond in this world that hath a more rightfull, worthier, a more gentil Kyng than ye have of King Richard; the worthiest prince sone that ever was seye, for was there never Kyng more willy to done worship and ese to the Reaume than he is; and that was sene in Scotland.

But there is an other Kyng in your Lond that is Alisaundre Nero [Nevill] bishop of yorkshire; he distroieth that lond be north & for his vengeaunce of him al the lond shal be distruyed, for godde wote; & the lordes witen wel, & the commons wyten wel, that there nas never siche a tirraunt in holy chirche, no among the commons of this cuntree, for he oppresseth more the cuntree & dothe more extorcione & distruccione & disese to the cuntree than the Kyng & al the Lordes of Ingelond; & that ye wyten wel; bot the Kyng not that of a worde, & if he wist he wold be als evel appayde therewith as the lest man of this lond, & noman wold be wors payde than he, for trewley he destruyeth more the cuntree falsly & extorcionsly than the Kyng, that he tasked the lond ilka your prise, if there dye ony mon in his cuntree, he will have thousand pound or an hundred pound or elles half his good for provyng of his testament, if they be a riche priest or parson or vicar in that cuntree, were he as good a man as Thomas of Canterbery he shal be somound and apper, & he shal be suspended or prived or be condemnpned in the value of his benefyce, or a gret some of gold, and other exterciones without nombre; godde and you and the world wot it wel, that he shuld be a prelate of holy chirche, he is a [??], a thef, a Traytour, bothe to godde & to his Kyng, he maketh to his Kyng as he wer a saynt, but al the world wot it wel, the fayrer he speketh the falsser he is, Kyng Richard man, & no nothern man, that holte of Kyng Alisaundre; for thei dor not sey, were Kyng Alisaundre wel examynd of his extorciones & his mayntenancez and his tyrranttrie that he hath take falsly ageyne the Kynges lawes, he shuld leve for ever the Kyng [??] li. Alas that a tirraunt of holy chirche shal lese al the lond, and the Kyng wot not thereof; ne no man dor tellen it to him.

Alexander Nevill was dealt with by the Merciless Parliament, deprived of his archdiocese, appointed (by a friendly Pope) to the see of St Andrews in Scotland but preferred to live out his life in exile in Burgundy.

Source: Archaelogica: or Miscellaneous Tracts relating to Antiaquity, vol XVI, Society of Antiquaries of London, 1812, p80-83, available online through Google Books.

Walrus tusk crozier: