Biographies & Memoirs

Appendix V

The Letter from Richard III to William Catesby

The text of the letter reads:

Richard by the grace of god King of England and of Fraunce and Lord of Irland. To o[ur] trusty and Right welbeloued Counsaillo[ur] William Catesby oon of the squiers for oure body: greting[.] For asmoche as we of oure grace esp[ec]ial / and for certain causes and considerac[i]ons vs moeving haue yeuen and graunted vnto you alle suche wood as is growing within the Grove called the peche conteynyng sex acres in the [par]isshe of Nuthurst being now in the holding of oon Davy Tussingh[a]m, whiche he[re]tofor[e] belonged vnto o[ur] Rebell s[ir] William Noreys and by reasou[n] of his Rebellioun and atteyndre is co[m]men to our handes. We therefor[e] yeue vnto you and suche [per]sones as by you shalbe deputed and assigned full powar and autorite [?] by thise presents, for to felle and cary alle the said wood being in the Grove aforsaid at yo[ur] pleas[irr] w[ith]oute any lette or interupcio[n] of any oure officers or soubgiettes Receyuyng thise oure l[ett]res / whiche we wol to be yo[ur] sufficient warrant and discharge at all tymes herafter Yeuen vnder oure signet at oure Castell of Kenelworth’ the xxviij[th] Day of May The secunde yere of our Reigne.

The question of dating has come somewhat to the fore, since the second year of Richard’s reign by the calendar would be 1484, yet in the following text it is noted as 1485. As the monarch’s reign was most probably dated from the coronation, the year 1485 is likely to be correct.

The full text in modern English can be found in Preston, J.F. & Yeandle, L., English Handwriting 1400-1650 (pp8–9), Pegasus Press: Ashville, NC, 1999. The original text is held at in the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, reference Folger MS. X.d. 92 (see Figure 16).

What is much less commonly known is that the following notation is made on the reverse of this letter:

This writing was showed forth unto William Knight at the time of his examination taken at Henley-in-Arden the 25th day of September, 1640 before us – William Barnes, John Parsons.

What this examination of William Knight was about in 1640, why the interrogators had this paper and what its significance may have been, I have not yet been able to ascertain. It is the subject of an on-going investigation.

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