Post-classical history

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On 8 March 1483, Anthony Woodville wrote a letter to his man of business, Andrew Dymmock. Anthony and his nephew, Dorset, had agreed that Dorset would take over Anthony’s position as deputy constable of the Tower, and that Anthony and his sureties would be discharged from the bond they had entered into with the constable of the Tower, John, Lord Dudley. In a postscript, he asked for ‘the patent of mine authority about my lord prince’ and a patent given to him by the king regarding his power to raise forces in the march of Wales. The patents were to be delivered to him by ‘some sure man’.1

The patent about Prince Edward concerns the ordinances issued in 1473 that governed the upbringing of the prince, Anthony’s charge.2 What was suitable for a 3-year-old no longer quite worked for a 12-year-old, and one provision gave Anthony, along with his nephew Richard Grey and John Alcock, Bishop of Worcester (formerly the Bishop of Rochester) instructions on what to do if Edward exhibited ‘any unprincely demeaning’. (They were to confront the prince with his misbehaviour and, if the prince would not amend his conduct, raise the matter with the king or the queen or incur the king’s ‘grievous displeasure’.) More important, the prince was not to

    give, write, send or command anything without the advice of the said Bishop, Lord Richard, and Earl Rivers, and that none of his servants presume nor be so bold to move, steer, or cause him to do to the contrary of these ordinances upon pain of grievous punishment and losing his service.

He was always to be accompanied by at least two people – this not being an age that put a high premium on privacy. The prince’s bedtime was raised from eight to nine, and some restrictions about who could come to meals and where they could eat were added – the latter a reaction, perhaps, to the problem of outsiders finding their way to the dinner table. There were also some accounting changes. None of these revisions could be termed drastic, but they did reflect the fact that Richard Grey, Elizabeth Woodville’s younger son from her first marriage, had acquired considerable importance in his half-brother’s household and was now a member of his council. Richard Haute, the queen’s cousin, was the controller of the household. The other officers included the Bishop of Worcester, who was president of the council; Sir Thomas Vaughan, the chamberlain; Sir William Stanley, steward; Sir Richard Crofte, treasurer; and Richard Martyn, Bishop of St David’s, a councillor.

The late Eric Ives, who studied Anthony’s correspondence with Dymmock some years ago, attached particular significance to the 8 March letter in the context of the power struggle that was to erupt after Edward IV’s death a month later. For him, the letter suggested that Anthony and Dorset were ‘making sure that their centres of power were under control in case of trouble’, and perhaps justified the concerns about Woodville power that were to manifest themselves after the king’s death, although Ives added a caveat: ‘[T]oo much can easily be built on the slim evidence of one letter’.3

There may indeed be less to this letter than meets the eye. In asking Dymmock to send him copies of the patents, Anthony may have simply been making sure his papers were in order. Furthermore, the ordinances concerning Edward V had been revised on 25 February 1483 by, it should be remembered, the king himself. The revised ordinances, instructing that the prince do nothing contrary to the advice of Alcock, Anthony, or Richard Grey, adressed the situation within the prince’s household and would not have suffered to protect Anthony against a threat from outside it. Despite a theory by certain partisans of Richard III that Anthony’s letter is evidence of a Woodville plot to poison Edward IV and seize power4, the ordinances most certainly did not address who was to govern if Prince Edward became king; they covered the upbringing of a young prince, not a royal minority.

As for the patent allowing Anthony to raise troops, the date of its issuance by the king is unknown: Ives notes that such a patent was not enrolled in the royal records, and nothing in Anthony’s letter indicates the date of the patent. There were a couple of reasons, however, why Anthony might have wanted a copy of it. In December 1482, France and Burgundy had entered into the Treaty of Arras, which meant that Edward IV had lost his French pension and that his daughter Elizabeth had lost her promised marriage to the Dauphin of France. The news had infuriated the king, who in the parliament of 1483 obtained a subsidy for ‘the hasty and necessary defence of the realm’.5 While the king may not have intended a full-scale invasion of France, Anthony might have wished to be prepared for such a possibility. It is also noteworthy that the 1483 parliament confirmed an exchange of land made in 1479 between the Prince of Wales and William Herbert, Earl of Huntingdon, then the Earl of Pembroke. The transaction, which had conferred the Pembroke lands upon Prince Edward in exchange for manors in Somerset and Dorset, was initiated by the crown and was to Huntingdon’s disadvantage. Perhaps Anthony was anticipating trouble following Parliament’s confirmation of the exchange. The request that the documents be delivered by ‘some sure man’ – assuming this is not merely a catchphrase – need not be sinister.6 Given the tension between France and England, there were no doubt spies about who would have been interested in any preparation for war.

This brings us to Anthony’s transfer of his deputy constableship to Dorset. While the king is not mentioned by Anthony, there is no reason to suppose that he was unaware of this arrangement or disapproved of it; clearly, Lord Dudley knew what was going on. Perhaps Anthony’s intent was to allow his nephew, who had a large family that included a number of daughters to be married off, to enjoy the fees pertaining to the office. There are certainly no indications that Dorset made military use of his possession of the Tower in the days before or after the king’s death; the story that he seized the royal treasure stored there, as we shall see, cannot be substantiated.

Dorset had something else on his mind during the early part of 1483: the marriage of his eldest son to Anne St Leger, the king’s niece.7 Anne was the daughter of Edward IV’s sister Anne, Duchess of Exeter, and her second husband, Thomas St Leger. The duchess’s Lancastrian first husband, Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter, had been imprisoned in the Tower after the Battle of Tewkesbury but had been released to join the 1475 expedition to France; on the way home, he drowned in what were considered suspicious circumstances. The duchess, however, had already been allowed to divorce Exeter, who had spent years in exile before the defeat at Tewkesbury, and marry St Leger. She had died in 1476, probably of complications from childbirth, soon after the birth of their daughter. Although the duke’s estates had been forfeited due to his support for the Lancastrian cause, most of them had been granted to the duchess in 1461, and St Leger had enjoyed them after the duchess’s death.

With the bethrothal of Anne St Leger and Dorset’s heir in view, the parliament of 1483 settled the Holland estates upon Anne St Leger, save for lands totalling 500 marks per year, which were set aside for Richard Grey. This arrangement, for which the queen paid the king 5,000 marks, was at the expense of Ralph Neville, the heir to the Holland estates. Neville was technically barred from inheriting because of Exeter’s attainder but could have petitioned for the reversal of the attainder, as heirs often did. Whether he would have succeeded in the absence of any Woodville interest in Anne St Leger’s estates is far from certain, though, as Anne St Leger was the king’s niece and the daughter of a favoured servant.

Anthony’s care about obtaining his patents, and Dorset’s wedding plans, were all for naught. On 9 April 1483, Edward IV died, of causes that remain uncertain. The Crowland Chronicler wrote that he had not been ‘affected by old age nor by any known type of disease which would not have seemed easy to cure in a lesser person’, while Dominic Mancini, an Italian observer who happened to be in England at the time, reported that the king had died after a boating trip in which he allowed a ‘damp cold to strike his vitals’. The Burgundian chronicler, Commynes, variously named apoplexy, grief occasioned by the Treaty of Arras, and a catarrh, while Thomas Basin attributed the king’s death to an overindulgence of fruit and vegetables on Good Friday. Polydor Vergil, writing his history of England in the sixteenth century, suggested poison, while Edmund Hall proposed an ague, contracted in France in 1475, that ‘turned to an incurable quarten’.8 Given the state of fifteenth-century medicine, Mancini’s explanation seems as plausible as any.

Whatever the cause of death, the demise of Edward, just a few weeks shy of his 41st birthday, must have been a shock. At Christmas, the king had been resplendent in costly robes of a novel design which displayed the king ‘like a new and incomparable spectacle set before the onlookers’;9 nothing indicates that that he was suffering from ill health at the time his parliament convened in January.

His illness allowed him time either to make a new will or to add codicils to his 1475 one, although only the 1475 will itself has survived. According to Mancini, it was said that the king had named his only surviving brother, Gloucester, as protector of the realm during the minority of Prince Edward, now Edward V.10

Neither Edward V nor Gloucester was at Edward’s deathbed. Edward V was at Ludlow with Anthony Woodville; Gloucester was at his estates in the north, where he may have learned of the premature report of the king’s death that reached the city of York on 6 April.11

It is at this point where the first of several myths surrounding the Woodvilles and the death of Edward IV creeps in: the story that the Woodvilles concealed Edward IV’s death from Gloucester. The myth originates in Paul Murray Kendall’s florid biography of Richard III, which informs us that Gloucester received no formal notification of the king’s death until William, Lord Hastings, took it upon himself to break the news and to inform Gloucester that he had appointed a protector.12 In fact, neither Mancini nor Crowland, the chief primary sources for this period, indicates that there was anything irregular in the way in which Gloucester was informed of the king’s death or any unusual delay. Neither, in fact, has anything to say about when or how Gloucester was first told of his brother’s death: Crowland is silent on the subject, other than to note that Gloucester was sending ‘pleasant letters’ to the widowed queen, while Mancini simply reports that Hastings kept Gloucester informed of the council’s deliberations.13 While Polydor Vergil, writing in the sixteenth century, does state that it was Hastings who informed Gloucester of Edward IV’s death, he does not indicate that anything was amiss about the way in which Gloucester was informed. Indeed, if anyone had to complain of delay, it was Edward V, the new king, who did not receive the news until 14 April – four days after it was current in Calais.14

Meanwhile, the king’s council, as Hastings informed Gloucester, was deliberating. As Charles Ross points out, contrary to Kendall’s claim, there was nothing illegal about the council sitting without having been convened by Gloucester: in keeping the government running until a new council could be appointed, they were following the examples set during the royal minorities of Richard II in 1377 and Henry VI in 1422.15 The council’s main concern was how much power the king’s Woodville relations would wield in the new government. At this stage, the Woodvilles’ leading opponent was not Gloucester but Hastings.

Hastings, who was about 43 in 1483, had been on close terms with the king from the very beginning of his reign; the measure of their friendship can be found in Hastings’s will, in which he stated, proudly and poignantly, that the king, ‘for the true service that I have done and at the least intended to have done to his grace hath willed and offered me to be buried in the college or chapel of St George at Windsor in a place by his grace assigned, in the which college his highness is disposed to be buried’.16 But his friendship with the king did not extend to the Woodvilles. Crowland reports that ‘much ill-will’ had long existed between them and Hastings, while Mancini claimed that Dorset and Hastings had a ‘deadly feud’ based on the mistresses they had attempted to steal from each other.17 Thomas More, on the other hand, writing in the sixteenth century (but perhaps basing his account on information gained from people who were in a position to remember the events of 1483), claimed that Anthony bore a grudge against Hastings for the latter having been made Lieutenant of Calais and that Anthony had once made an accusation against Hastings that got the latter into temporary disgrace with the king.18 Eric Ives has suggested that the rivalry between Anthony and Hastings might be behind a confession by a John Edwards that he had slandered Dorset, Rivers, and Robert Ratcliffe before the king’s council at Calais ‘for fear of his life and putting him in the brake at Calais’.19

Whatever the reason for the bad blood between Hastings and the Woodvilles, Hastings (as reported by the Crowland Chronicler) insisted that the escort accompanying the young king to London for his coronation be of a modest size, so as to prevent the king’s Woodville brothers and uncles from seizing control of him. He threatened to withdraw to Calais if the matter of the escort could not be settled to his satisfaction. ‘The benevolent queen, desirous of extinguishing every spark of murmurring and unrest’, bowed to Hastings’s argument and wrote to Ludlow to tell her son that his escort should be limited to no more than 2,000 men, a number that was satisfactory to Hastings. Meanwhile, Gloucester wrote the ‘pleasant letters’ mentioned above, swearing allegiance to Edward V, and staged a memorial service for the deceased king at York.20

While Gloucester, Anthony Woodville, and the new king remained in their respective locations, the council was also debating the shape the minority government would take – without, according to Mancini, waiting for the arrival of Gloucester, who would surely have an opinion on the matter. Dorset is said to have brushed off his fellow councillors’ concerns with the contemptuous reply of, ‘We are so important, that even without the king’s uncle we can make and enforce these decisions’. After the council debated whether Gloucester would govern alone during Edward V’s minority, or be the chief among his fellow councillors, the latter opinion carried the day.21 A coronation date, 4 May, was set.22

The implications of when Edward V was to be crowned, and how the realm was to be governed, have been widely discussed. Under the precedent of 1429, when the 7-year-old Henry VI was crowned, the protectorate would end upon Edward V’s coronation, leaving the council to govern until the king came of age.23 Under the assumption that any such council would be dominated by the Woodvilles, Michael Hicks has argued that the plans for an early coronation, combined with the cavalier dismissal of the need to consult Gloucester, are evidence of an attempted Woodville coup d’état.24 This is possible, but the ease with which Hastings prevailed on the matter of the king’s escort suggests considerably less organisation on the Woodvilles’ part – and also casts doubt on whether the Woodvilles could have taken their domination of a council for granted. In any case, if there was a concerted grasp for power on the Woodvilles’ part, events would soon prove them to have been singularly inept about it.

According to Mancini, Hastings had been writing to Gloucester, keeping him informed of the council’s deliberations and, more important, urging him to ‘hasten to the capital with a strong force, and avenge the insult done him by his enemies’. To accomplish this, Hastings advised Gloucester to take Edward V under his protection and to seize his followers before the king’s entourage reached London. Gloucester, meanwhile, was writing to Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, ‘complaining to the latter of the insult done him by the ignoble family of the queen’, whom Buckingham himself had supposedly detested since being made as a child to marry her youngest sister, Katherine Woodville.25

Buckingham had enjoyed little more than a ceremonial role at Edward IV’s court, where he played his part at the grand events of Edward IV’s reign, such as the welcoming of Louis de Bruges to England in 1472 and the marriage of Edward IV’s younger son, the Duke of York, to little Anne Mowbray in 1478. He accompanied Edward to France in 1475, when the Treaty of Picquigny was signed, but is recorded as having gone home prematurely, for unknown reasons.26 Michael Jones has speculated that he may have shared Gloucester’s distaste for the treaty and that he remonstrated with Edward IV about it, thereby consigning himself to oblivion for the rest of that king’s reign.27

Other explanations for Edward IV’s apparently aloof behaviour toward Buckingham abound. Some argue that Buckingham was squeezed out by the Woodvilles, while others suggest that Edward IV disliked him personally, regarded him as unstable or untrustworthy or incompetent, or distrusted him because of his Lancastrian connections or because of his royal ancestry. For his own part, Buckingham must have bitterly resented Edward IV’s refusal to hand over his share of the Bohun inheritance, to which Buckingham had a claim after the deaths of Henry VI and Edward of Lancaster in 1471. As Carole Rawcliffe points out, doing so would have not only cost Edward IV over £1,000 per year in lost income but would have emphasised Buckingham’s claim to the throne through the House of Lancaster.28 In this respect, it probably did not help that Buckingham in 1474 had sought and received permission to use the arms of his ancestor Thomas of Woodstock.29

Whatever the reason the Crown had kept Buckingham at a distance, he must have seen a chance for a fresh start with Gloucester. The men would have had chances to encounter each other over the years; one of the occasions when they can be found together at court is when they, along with Rivers, Dorset, and other noblemen, had paid homage to young Prince Edward on 9 November 1477.30 Whether they were previously close, or whether their newfound alliance was born of opportunism, is unknown.

Meanwhile, England was laying its Yorkist king to rest. On 17 April, the body was taken to Westminster Abbey. Lionel, Bishop of Salisbury was one of the ecclesiastics present. Among the lords following the coffin were Dorset, Edward Woodville, and Richard Woodville, the latter making one of his rare recorded public appearances. Early the next day, the mourners left for Windsor, where Edward IV was laid to rest on 19 April.31

Finally, Edward V and his entourage, including Rivers, Richard Grey, and Thomas Vaughan, left Ludlow on 24 April, having observed St George’s Day the day before.32 By 29 April, the king was at Stony Stratford, 52 miles from London. Buckingham and Gloucester arrived at Northampton, 11 miles south of Stony Stratford.33 Rivers, accompanied by Richard Grey, either rode from Stony Stratford to Northampton to meet Gloucester or remained at Northampton to meet him while the king moved on to Stony Stratford. In any case, he paid his respects to Gloucester and Buckingham, and the men enjoyed a convivial evening before going to bed.

Then Gloucester struck. On the morning of 30 April, either before the company had left Northampton or as they were riding together toward Stony Stratford, he and Buckingham arrested Rivers and Richard Grey. At Stony Stratford, they seized Thomas Vaughan, who had been by Edward’s side since the king’s infancy, and informed the shocked young king that the they had acted out of necessity. According to Mancini, the king made a spirited reply to the two dukes, telling them that he had seen ‘nothing evil’ in the three men ‘and wished to keep them unless otherwise proved to be evil’. His protests were to no avail, however, and Gloucester soon dispatched the men toward his castles in the north: Rivers to Sheriff Hutton, Richard Grey to Middleham, and Thomas Vaughan possibly to Pontefract.34

It would be a few hours before the news hit London. In the meantime, Edward Woodville set off to sea to deal with the French, on whose behalf Philippe de Crèvecoeur, also known as Lord Cordes, had been staging raids on English ships since the death of Edward IV. The council had appointed Edward to deal with this situation and put 2,000 men under his command. As he probably embarked from Porchester, and possibly had left on 29 April rather than 30 April, he likely had no idea, as he sailed out of the harbour, of the storm he was leaving behind.35

By the evening of 30 April, the queen heard the horrifying news that her brother Anthony and her son Richard Grey had been arrested and that the king was in the power of Gloucester, an uncle he hardly knew. Taking her remaining royal children with her, she fled into sanctuary at Westminster Abbey. Mancini reports that the queen and Dorset tried first to raise troops, whereas Crowland tells us that unnamed supporters of the queen stood by the queen at Westminster while supporters of Hastings collected in London.36Lionel Woodville, who had been at Oxford on 26 April, had joined his sister in sanctuary by 9 June, as reported by a private letter from Simon Stallworth to Sir William Stonor. Mancini thought Dorset to have accompanied his mother into sanctuary, although Gloucester himself appeared to have believed he was at large.37

This is a good time to pause to ask, was there a Woodville plot against Gloucester? We have only Gloucester’s word for it, and on balance, it seems unlikely. Mancini, a foreigner with no reason to cover up evidence of such a plot if he believed in one, clearly was sceptical, and Crowland explicitly described Rivers and the rest as innocent.38 Furthermore, Anthony’s unguarded actions belie such a plot. Had he been planning to destroy Gloucester, it hardly seems logical that he would have taken no precautions when he met the duke at Northampton – indeed, there was no reason why he should have gone to Northampton at all when he could have been making his way with his charge to London, and to the rest of the Woodvilles, instead. His men at Stony Stratford were equally unprepared for trouble, and surrendered Edward V to Gloucester with no resistance. As for the queen, while her flight into sanctuary has been taken by some as consciousness of guilt, flight can be indicative of fear as well. Having lived through the events of 1469 to 1471, which included her husband’s exile and the murders of her father and her brother, Elizabeth had every reason to fear for her future once she heard of the events in Northampton and Stony Stratford.

Why, then, did Gloucester move against the Woodvilles on the night of 30 April? He and the Woodvilles were not natural enemies, for there is no evidence predating April 1483 of ill-will between them and Richard. If Richard held them responsible for the death of Clarence, as claimed by Mancini, there are no signs of it at the time of Clarence’s death, nor are there signs that Gloucester, who had been squabbling over the Warwick inheritance with Clarence in the 1470s, was particularly close to his brother. If Gloucester had any opinions about his brother’s marriage to Elizabeth – as he was a youngster in 1464, his opinion hardly counted at the time – he kept them to himself, and he sided with his brother throughout the period of 1469 to 1471. Kendall’s musings that the queen ‘would have known how to show her haughtiness to the undersized lad from Yorkshire’ and that she viewed him and his brother ‘only as rivals of her family for the favors of her lord’ are pure fantasy; no source suggests that the queen or her relatives treated the young Gloucester with disrespect.39 The Woodvilles were no threat to his power and influence in the north, nor is there any evidence that they drove a wedge between Gloucester and the king. Two members of the family, Edward Woodville and the Marquis of Dorset, served under him in Scotland, and the former was made a knight banneret at Gloucester’s hands. Just a few weeks before his arrest, Anthony Woodville named Richard as arbitrator of a dispute. In 1469, the queen had appointed Gloucester steward of certain of her estates at £100 per year.40 None of Edward IV’s deathbed worries centred around Gloucester’s getting on with the Woodvilles. Though it is common for Richard’s modern-day admirers to claim that Gloucester would have been eliminated by the Woodvilles if they had been given the chance, there is in reality no reason to believe that had Rivers and his entourage been allowed to bring Edward V to London undisturbed, they and Gloucester could not have cooperated during a royal minority. That there might have been some friction is inevitable, but it need not have been fatal.

With the dearth of any convincing evidence that the Woodvilles were plotting against Gloucester – and the fact that Rivers and the others were never given a proper trial, where such evidence could have been presented, is suggestive in itself – we are left with several alternatives. One is that Gloucester genuinely believed that there was a plot against him, which is not impossible given the hysterical tone of his later propaganda. Another is that Gloucester was determined to have no rivals for power in his role as protector and was prepared to take whatever drastic measures were required to achieve this goal. Yet another is that Gloucester had already decided to seize the throne.41

But for the time being, the 12-year-old Edward V seemed destined to reign, and to someday rule. On 4 May – what would have been his coronation – Edward V rode into town, escorted with all due respect by Gloucester and Buckingham. Before the king arrived in the city, Gloucester and Buckingham sent cartloads of goods bearing the arms of the queen’s brothers and sons, which criers claimed had been stored up at various spots outside the capital in readiness for the Woodvilles to ambush and kill Gloucester as he passed through the countryside. Mancini reported, however, that ‘many knew these charges to be false, because the arms in question had been placed there […] when war was being waged against the Scots’. Gloucester was equally unsuccessful at persuading the council to condemn the prisoners on grounds of preparing ambushes and of being guilty of treason. The councillors found that there was ‘no certain case as regards the ambushes’; even if there had been, they pointed out, it could not be treason because Gloucester did not hold the regency or any other public office.42 While Mancini was incorrect in his assumption that the council could itself condemn (or not condemn) Rivers and the others to death, and in his statement that Gloucester held no public office, there is no reason to doubt the gist of his statement – that the council was not willing to countenance bringing treason charges against the men.

His coronation now postponed to 22 June, Edward V lodged at the Bishop’s Palace at St Paul’s, where he remained a few days until the council decided to move him to more spacious lodgings. Buckingham suggested the Tower, to which the rest of the council (now presided over by Gloucester as protector), agreed. Nonetheless, Crowland reports, some were troubled about the detention of Rivers and the rest in prison, while others believed that Gloucester was not showing sufficient respect for the queen’s ‘dignity and peace of mind’.43

Far from reassuring the queen, Gloucester had turned his attentions to her brother Edward Woodville. On 9 May, he ordered that Porchester Castle, which had been put into Edward’s keeping on 1 March 1480, be delivered to William Ovedale; he gave a similar order with respect to Carisbrooke Castle, of which Anthony had been constable. The next day, he ordered men to ‘go to the Downs among Sir Edward and his company’. On 14 May, Gloucester issued a more explicit instruction: Edward Brampton, John Welles, Thomas Grey, and others were to go to the sea (‘with ships’, the order specified) to arrest Edward. The men were authorised to receive all who would come except for Dorset, Edward Woodville, and Robert Ratcliffe, an associate of Anthony’s.44 Most likely, Gloucester intended for Dorset and Edward Woodville to share the fate of Anthony and Richard Grey.

Edward, meanwhile, had been busy harassing French ships, evidently capturing some, as a later agreement between Gloucester and Lord Cordes referred to French ships being held at Sandwich and Plymouth as well as ‘other prizes and takings’.45 On 14 May, the very day that Gloucester ordered his arrest, Edward seized £10,250 in English gold coins from a vessel at Southampton as forfeit to the Crown. There is no reason to doubt that Edward, apparently unaware of events on shore, was acting in good faith. Edward gave an indenture in which he bound himself to repay the sum in English merchandise should the gold not be found to be forfeit; if the gold was found to be forfeit, he bound himself to answer to the king for this sum.46

Once word got out that Edward was a wanted man, according to Mancini, the Genoese captains of two of his ships, fearing reprisals against their countrymen in England if they disobeyed Gloucester’s orders, encouraged the English soldiers on board to drink heavily (‘for the tedium of navigation should be banished by joyous potations’), then bound the befuddled men with ropes and chains. With the Englishmen immobilised, the Genoese announced their intent to return to England, and all but two of the ships, those under the command of Edward Woodville himself, followed suit. Horrox, however, suggests more prosaically that this vinous tale aside, the majority of Edward’s captains simply recognised Gloucester’s authority as protector and obeyed his orders accordingly.47

Edward Woodville – perhaps with his gold coins seized at Southampton, unless he had been so unlucky as to have placed them on one of the deserting ships – sailed on to Brittany, where he joined the exiled Henry Tudor. There, he received a pension of 100 livres a month from Duke Francis of Brittany.48

Having failed to capture Edward Woodville, Gloucester contented himself with seizing Woodville possessions. Although nothing indicates that Richard Woodville, obscure as ever, had been accused of anything, the fact that he was a Woodville sufficed for Gloucester to seize his manor of Wymington in Bedfordshire on 19 May. Two days later, Gloucester’s ally Francis, Viscount Lovell, received Richard Grey’s manor of Thorpe Waterville in Northamptonshire. Even young Anne St Leger, who had been slated to marry Dorset’s son, was handed over to the Duke of Buckingham, in preference to her own father, Thomas St Leger. Richard Haute, the queen’s cousin, who had been arrested along with Rivers, Grey, and Vaughen, was relieved of his manor of Ightham Mote on 14 May on Gloucester’s orders.49As Rosemary Horrox points out, these moves were of dubious legality, which contrasts poorly with the reputation for fair dealing that Richard III has acquired in the eyes of his admirers.

The question of the Woodvilles’ goods and property leads to another question in a time period that brims with them: Had the Woodvilles – or at least three of them – made off with the royal treasury? This story, often reported as an established fact, comes from a single contemporary source: Mancini, who tells us that at about the time Edward Woodville put off to sea, ‘it was commonly believed that the late king’s treasure, which had taken such years and such pains to gather, was divided between the queen, the marquess, and Edward’.50

In looking at this statement, it should first be noted that Mancini is not giving an eyewitness account, but merely reporting that the story of the treasury raid was ‘commonly believed’. Thus, Mancini’s statement may merely reflect the current gossip – or propaganda – about the Woodvilles’ doings. Mancini himself gives no indication of whether he shared the common belief or whether he thought it to be well founded.

Even more important, Rosemary Horrox in her examination of the financial memoranda of Edward V’s reign has concluded that there was very little treasure to be divided. She writes that the measures against the French, costing £3,670, had depleted the cash reserves left by Edward IV and that these expenditures likely were the source of Mancini’s tale of a Woodville treasury raid.51 Moreover, as Horrox notes, Edward IV’s cash reserves were low to begin with, thanks to two years of war with Scotland.52

If there was any treasure to be divided up, there is no evidence that Elizabeth Woodville had any share of it. Certainly, Gloucester took no steps, either as Edward V’s protector or after he became King Richard III, to recover any treasure from Elizabeth. Had there been any in her possession, he would have certainly required her to disgorge it either on 7 May 1483, when the Archbishop of Canterbury ordered the sequestration of Edward IV’s goods, jewels, and seals,53 on 16 June 1483, when Gloucester sent numerous armed men to Westminster Abbey to help persuade Elizabeth to surrender her youngest son to Gloucester’s custody,54 or no later than 1 March 1484, when Elizabeth agreed to leave sanctuary and was given a pension by Richard III.55 It is hardly comprehensible that Richard III, who as we have seen was actively seizing Woodville lands as early as mid-May of 1483, would have sat back passively and allowed Elizabeth to keep treasure to which she had no legal right.

There is no evidence that Edward Woodville took stolen royal treasure with him, although royal funds would have certainly been expended in fitting him and his ships out for his mission against the French. Notably, at around the time of his coronation in July, Richard instructed Doctor Thomas Huton to inform the Duke of Brittany that debts owed to his subjects by Edward IV would be paid once his goods had been administered. In the same letter, he charged Huton to inquire about the duke’s intentions toward Edward Woodville; had Edward been in possession of royal treasure, Richard would surely have said so, as it would have given the duke an incentive to hand him over to Richard so that his subjects could more speedily collect their debts.56

As for Dorset, Simon Stallworth wrote a letter on 9 June 1483, stating, ‘Where so ever can be found any goods of my lord Marquis it is taken. The Prior of Westminster was and yet is in a great trouble for certain goods delivered to him by my Lord Marquis’. Armstrong has interpreted this letter to mean that Gloucester, as protector, was attempting to recover Dorset’s share of the treasure, but it is noteworthy that the reference is to ‘goods of my lord marquis’, i.e. to the marquis’s own goods, not to goods in his possession belonging to the Crown. It seems more likely, then, that Gloucester’s agents were simply rounding up property belonging to the marquis, as part of the seizure of Woodville property in which Gloucester then was engaged. The ‘certain goods’ delivered to the Prior of Westminster could refer to stolen treasure, but it could also simply mean that Dorset was attempting to conceal or safeguard his own property by leaving it with the prior. Thus, all Stallworth’s letter tells us is that there was official interest in Dorset’s goods, but it furnishes no clue as to their nature.

On 7 May, the king’s executors met to discuss the king’s funeral, and the supervisor of the king’s will, the Archbishop of Canterbury, ordered the sequestration of the king’s goods. Elizabeth was not among those at the meeting. Although some writers, such as Kendall, have asserted that her absence meant that the king had stricken her from the list of executors before his death, there is no evidence of this, given that only the king’s 1475 will, not a subsequent will or codicils, has survived. As Anne Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs note, the list of executors meeting on 7 May does not purport to be a list of all those named as executors, and Elizabeth, being in sanctuary, had an obvious reason for not attending.57

Elizabeth’s continuance in sanctuary, however, remained a concern. On 23 May, two oaths were read before the Common Council of London: the first being the oath that Gloucester, Buckingham, and others had sworn to Edward V; the second being the oath these same people were prepared to swear to Elizabeth if she wished to come out of sanctuary.58 Whether Elizabeth herself was approached is unclear; if she was, she apparently was not reassured for her safety or that of her children. Perhaps she was waiting to see what would become of her brother and her son, still languishing in northern strongholds with no formal charges or indictments having been brought against them.

It may be that Elizabeth was also waiting for her son’s coronation to determine her next move. In the first days of June, preparations were moving along briskly, leading Simon Stallworth to report to Sir William Stonor on 9 June that there was ‘great business against [i.e. in preparation for] the coronation’, which was to take place in a fortnight. Stallworth added, however, that although Gloucester, Buckingham, and other lords had met in council from ten to two, no one had spoken to the queen.59

Behind the scenes, something else entirely was going on. The next day, Gloucester wrote a letter to the mayor of York demanding that the city send forces:

    to aid and assist us against the queen, her blood adherents and affinity, which have intended and daily doth intend, to murder and utterly destroy us and our cousin, the duke of Buckingham, and the old royal blood of this realm, and it is now openly known, by their subtle and damnable ways forecasted the same, and also the final destruction and [disinheritance] of you and all other the inheritors and men of honour, as well of the north parts as other counties, that belong unto us.

On 11 June, Gloucester wrote to Lord Neville, a northern lord, asking that he send men defensibly arrayed ‘in all the haste that was possible’.60

Was this a real crisis, or one manufactured by Gloucester? Because Elizabeth, her sons, and her brothers at this point were either in prison, in sanctuary, in hiding, or out of the country, they were hardly in a position to do Gloucester physical harm, much less his entire affinity. Gloucester did, however, lay a second charge against the Woodvilles, that they ‘by their subtle and damnable ways forecasted the same’ – a reference to making astrological predictions. At first glance, this charge is not implausible. There is no evidence that any of the Woodvilles possessed astrological skills, but as John Leland points out, there were astrologers with connections to the queen or to other opponents of Gloucester who could have been employed. Even if the Woodvilles were not using astrology against Gloucester, they might well have found a pressing need to determine what the future held.61 The problem with this argument, however, is that none of the men suggested as candidates by Leland – Thomas Nandyke, Lewis Caerleon, and John Argentine – were accused by Gloucester of aiding the queen, nor did they suffer imprisonment or other penalties at the time. Argentine, Edward V’s physician, remained with his charge until being dismissed sometime after the young king was deposed. Nandyken, who was associated with the Duke of Buckingham, and Lewis Caerleon, who was associated with Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, were at large to plot against Gloucester after he became king.62 No one else is known to have been accused of practising astrology against Gloucester at this time. It defies reason that if Gloucester genuinely believed that astrology was being employed against him in his capacity as protector – which could be regarded as treason – he would do nothing to investigate or punish the astrologers responsible.

Whatever the plausibility of Gloucester’s accusations against the Woodvilles in his requests for troops, the request themselves were certainly genuine. Was Gloucester simply taking precautions to make sure the coronation, and his continuance as protector, would go smoothly? Was he genuinely worried about a Woodville threat to destroy him and all of his followers? Or had he determined on another course of action? We can only guess at what might have been in Gloucester’s mind, but the next two weeks would change the course of English history and ultimately lead to the destruction of an entire dynasty.

Since the coup at Stony Stratford, Crowland tells us, William, Lord Hastings, had been in the best of moods: ‘bursting with joy over this new world’ and ‘asserting that nothing had so far been done except to transfer the government of the kingdom from two blood-relatives of the queen to two nobles of the blood royal […] with only so much bloodshed in the affair as might have come from a cut finger’. Then, on Friday 13 June, he arrived for a council meeting at the Tower.

There are numerous versions of what happened next, some more embroidered than others, but all agree in substance: Gloucester accused Hastings of treason, then ordered his beheading without giving him anything faintly resembling a trial. Thomas Rotherham, Archbishop of York, and John Morton, Bishop of Ely were also arrested, as were several others, including Oliver King, secretary to Edward V. The next day, John Forster, who had been an official of the queen, was arrested at his home in Hertfordshire, while in the coming days, Mancini, who believed the charges against Hastings were fabricated, nonetheless noted that Gloucester had used Buckingham to sound the loyalty of him, Rotherham, and York and that he had learned that they foregathered in each other’s houses.

There are broadly two schools of thought as to Hastings’s arrest and murder – under the circumstances, ‘execution’ hardly seems adequate. One is that Gloucester killed Hastings purely as a preemptive strike, having determined at that point to seize the crown and knowing that Edward IV’s close friend would stand in the way of his ambitions to supplant the late king’s heir. The other, naturally, is that Hastings had begun to plot against Gloucester, either out of suspicion as to his intentions toward Edward V or for nefarious reasons of his own.63

Members of the second school of thought generally implicate Elizabeth Woodville in Hastings’s supposed plotting, although the link between her and Hastings at this point is tenuous at best. Neither Crowland nor Mancini, both of whom view Hastings as innocent, mention the Woodvilles in connection with Hastings. It is only in the Tudor era that Elizabeth Woodville comes into the picture, most famously in the account of Thomas More, who claims that in the moments before accusing Hastings, Gloucester displayed his withered arm and accused the queen and Hastings’s mistress, ‘Shore’s wife’, of having used sorcery to waste his body.64 Polydor Vergil tells us that Gloucester, having twice declared in front of his council that he was being destroyed by Elizabeth’s sorcery, then accused Hastings himself of working to destroy him before ordering his summary execution.65 From this scant evidence, it has been posited that Hastings, having thought better of his support of Gloucester, made common cause with Elizabeth Woodville in his scheming.

This scenario seems unlikely. While it could be argued that Gloucester’s letters of 10 and 11 June could refer to a Hastings–Woodville plot, they do not mention Hastings. Furthermore, if Gloucester did have suspicions of Hastings at that point that were serious enough to justify calling for troops, it follows that these same suspicions would have justified the arrest of Hastings then, instead of two or three days later.66 As for the Vergil and More claims: while they may be correct in reporting that Gloucester linked the queen and Hastings in his accusations – his claim about the queen’s sorcery echoes his 10 June letter – neither of them gave them credence. More scoffed, ‘well they wist that the queen was too wise to go about any such folly’, while Vergil spoke of Gloucester setting a trap for Hastings with his accusations.67

The notion of a Hastings–Woodville conspiracy has been further embroidered by modern conjecture that Mistress Shore – supposedly a former mistress of Edward IV, and in some accounts that of Hastings as well – was the go-between for Hastings and the queen.68 This, though a beguiling theory, seems unlikely. Gloucester himself never linked Mistress Shore to Hastings, only to Dorset, whom he later accused of holding ‘the unshameable and mischievous woman called Shore’s wife’ in adultery.69 While Mistress Shore was indeed in prison as of 21 June, the cause of her incarceration is not recorded.70 It seems likely that her crime was not in helping the queen and Hastings plot treason, but was connected with Dorset, whose goods, as we recall, were of great interest to the protector earlier in June. Notably, it is around this time that, according to Mancini, Dorset left sanctuary and was subject to a royal manhunt, which makes it all the more likely that Mistress Shore’s arrest was connected with him.71 Nor was Mistress Shore ideally placed to be a liaison between Hastings and the queen: visitors to Elizabeth in sanctuary would have doubtlessly been closely monitored by royal authorities, and as Dorset’s mistress, Mistress Shore’s visits to the queen would have aroused suspicion from the very beginning.

Hastings’s killing was a turning point for Gloucester, after which, as Crowland puts it, he and Buckingham ‘did whatever they wanted’. What they wanted to do next became apparent on 16 June, when, accompanied by a ‘great crowd, with swords and clubs’, they came by boat to Westminster and dragooned the old Archbishop of Canterbury to lead a delegation to persuade the queen to allow her younger son, the Duke of York, to leave sanctuary and join his brother Edward V in the Tower. Faced with the authority of the Church and the power of a group of armed men, Elizabeth, who may not have even known of Hastings’s death the previous Friday, agreed. As Mancini put it, ‘When the queen saw herself besieged and preparation for violence, she surrendered her son, trusting in the word of the cardinal of Canterbury that the boy should be restored after the coronation’.72 In hindsight, it was the worst mistake of Elizabeth Woodville’s life, but the queen could have hardly guessed what would happen next. She would never see her sons by Edward IV again.

With both Edward V and his younger brother lodged in the Tower, Gloucester postponed the coronation yet again, this time to 9 November. The mood in London was growing increasingly jittery: on 21 June, Simon Stallworth, reporting the departure of the Duke of York from sanctuary and the arrest of Mistress Shore, among other titbits, wrote to Sir William Stonor in the country, ‘For tidings I hold you happy that you are out of the press, for with us is much trouble, and every man doubts other’. He added that 20,000 men belonging to Gloucester and Buckingham were expected: ‘to what intent I know not but to keep the peace’.73

Gloucester, according to Mancini, by this time had cast off his mourning and was swanning about London clad in purple, surrounded by 1,000 men. On Sunday 22 June, he treated the Londoners to sermons claiming that Edward IV had been conceived in adultery and looked nothing like his alleged father, unlike Gloucester, the spitting image of the man. This line of argument, which is also mentioned by Thomas More, does not seem to have gone far. Either Gloucester belatedly remembered his filial duty to the old Duchess of York, who was very much alive, or the Londoners found it impossible to believe that the proud old lady had made a cuckold of her husband in her youth. It was the other thread of Gloucester’s argument – that Edward IV’s children were illegitimate – that ultimately carried the day.74

As embodied in the 1484 Act of Parliament confirming Richard III’s title as king (known as Titulus Regius), there were four grounds for declaring Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth invalid and his children thus illegitimate: that the marriage was made without the knowledge or assent of the lords of the land; that it was procured by sorcery and witchcraft on the part of Elizabeth Woodville and her mother; that it was made privately and secretly; and that before Edward had married Elizabeth, he had been married to Eleanor Butler, a daughter of the deceased Earl of Shrewsbury.75 The first three grounds need not concern us much. It was certainly not necessarily to the validity of his marriage that Edward gain the consent of his lords, although doing so would have been politic. Secrecy did not in itself render a marriage invalid at the time, although as R.H. Helmholz points out, it could prevent a couple from arguing that a marriage was conducted in good faith and therefore could prevent the children of that match from being deemed legitimate.76As for witchcraft, as noted in Chapter 5, Parliament offered no proof of its allegations.

It is the fourth allegation – the alleged marriage to Eleanor Butler – that has excited the most debate. It is noteworthy that other than the lady’s name and that of her father, Titulus Regius gives no details about the supposed marriage – a fact that is in itself suspicious, since surely on a matter as important as the entitlement to the crown, a draftsman would want to give as much credence to the claim as possible by including the pertinent facts.

Eleanor Butler, née Talbot, whose birth John Ashdown-Hill estimates as taking place around February 1436,77 was married to Thomas Butler around 1449 to 1450 and widowed in 1459, having not borne any surviving children. Her uncle was the Earl of Warwick, and her sister, Elizabeth, was married to John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk. Through these connections, and others, she certainly could have come into contact with the new Yorkist king, and the fact that she was a few years his senior would probably not have troubled him, as the case of Elizabeth Woodville shows. It is not implausible that Edward IV might have married her secretly – but it is entirely unproven, despite attempts by Richard III’s modern-day defenders to build a case for the marriage based on the shakiest of evidence.

As noted in Chapter 9, only one source, Philip de Commynes, indicates that Robert Stillington, later Bishop of Bath and Wales, actually joined Edward and Eleanor in wedlock. (Admirers of Richard III have been less eager to support Commynes’s claim in the preceding paragraph that Richard ‘barbarously murdered his two nephews’.)78 Other sources, however, suggest that rather than providing evidence, Stillington helped Gloucester frame his allegations. Eustace Chapuys, imperial ambassador and loyal partisan of Catherine of Aragon in Henry VIII’s reign, wrote on 3 November 1534 that ‘Richard III declared by definitive sentence of the Bishop of Bath that the daughters of king Edward […] were bastards’. The previous year, on 16 December, he stated that Elizabeth of York ‘was declared by sentence of the Bishop of Bath a bastard’.79 More importantly, at Henry VII’s first parliament in 1485, Stillington was spoken of as the man believed to have drawn up Titulus Regius; the peers asked whether he should be made to answer for it before Parliament. The king, having already pardoned Stillington, declined.80 Stillington may indeed be the anonymous person referred to by Crowland, who writes that it was put about that the petition urging Gloucester to take the throne originated in the north, ‘although there was no-one who did not know the identity of the author (who was in London all the time) of such sedition and infamy’.81

If Stillington was more than a draftsman, Henry VII’s later treatment of him does not suggest this, for like Edward IV before him, as we have seen, he does not seem to have regarded Stillington as a person who had to be silenced. After having received his initial pardon, he was imprisoned in 1487, probably due to his involvement in the rebellions of that period, but seems to have been at his own episcopal manors in 1489 and 1491, albeit perhaps under house arrest.82

The circumstantial evidence given in support of the marriage is equally unconvincing. Ashdown-Hill notes that the source of certain lands in Wiltshire owned by Eleanor cannot be traced; he suggests that these were a gift from the king, either to support her or to keep her quiet, but is unable to provide evidence of the lands’ royal origins.83 Even if the lands were royal gifts, however, this need not mean that a marriage took place; the lands could equally be a parting gift from a lover. Another possibility is that they were a gift from Edward’s predecessor, Henry VI, to Eleanor and her late husband. As further evidence, Ashdown-Hill offers the fact that Eleanor chose to deed certain land to her sister during her lifetime rather than to leave it to her in her will. She did this, he argues, because Eleanor considered herself to be married to the king and as a married woman could not bequeath real property by will without her husband’s permission.84 This argument, however, has a fatal flaw: a married woman also could not deed property without the permission of her husband. This was no arcane point of medieval law; it was a fact of everyday life of which anyone in the landowning classes would have been acutely aware. If Eleanor believed that she had a valid marriage to Edward IV that prevented her from making a will, she would have been equally unable to make a valid deed without her ‘husband’ joining in.

If Eleanor had any relationship with Edward before his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, it could have as easily been as a mistress as a wife, which may have been what led to her name being linked to Edward’s nineteen years after Edward had married Elizabeth Woodville. Eleanor’s piety, well documented by Ashdown-Hill, need not have stopped her from falling for the handsome king’s charms. It is true, as Ashdown-Hill states, that no contemporary source names Eleanor as his mistress,85 but Eleanor’s high social status may have led the pair to be discreet about their liaison. It is also noteworthy that the one person best placed to give evidence about Edward IV’s sex life – his friend William, Lord Hastings, described by Mancini as ‘the accomplice and partner of his privy pleasures’86 – had been murdered just days before Gloucester began to circulate the story of the precontract. Did Gloucester know that Hastings was in a position to contradict him?

To clinch their argument that Eleanor Butler was indeed Edward IV’s wife, Richard III’s defenders have pointed to Elizabeth Woodville’s failure to challenge Gloucester’s claims, while excusing Eleanor Butler’s own quite understandable failure to defy Edward IV by challenging the validity of the Woodville marriage. Annette Carson, for instance, writes in mitigation of Eleanor, ‘One does not lightly attempt to enforce one’s rights against a resistant king. Indeed, such an idea became fraught with difficulty, if not danger, once […] the Woodville family entered the fray’. Aside from the gratuitous slur against the Woodvilles, this is a reasonable enough argument for Eleanor’s failure to raise the issue, but all such considerations vanish when Carson contemplates Elizabeth Woodville’s similar silence. Likewise, while Ashdown-Hill suggests that Eleanor ‘may well have been putting her life in jeopardy’ by taking her case to an ecclesiastical court, he sees no such obstacles in Elizabeth Woodville’s case.87 Such highly selective reasoning disingenuously ignores the position in which Elizabeth found herself. Gloucester had already murdered Hastings in cold blood, which could have hardly been reassuring. Even if Elizabeth herself was safe in sanctuary, three of her sons and one of her brothers were completely within Gloucester’s power – and on 23 June, as we shall see, the situation would become even more grim. These circumstances were not conducive to taking a stand, either during the protectorate or thereafter. Nor was any canon lawyer inside England likely to dare to take such a claim on Elizabeth’s behalf to the ecclesiastical courts, where, as Crowland points out, the matter of the validity of the king’s marriage should have been decided in the first place.88

Part of the difficulty in proving (or disproving) the alleged precontract is that it took very little to enter into a valid marriage in medieval England.89 A couple who exchanged vows of marriage in the present tense were (provided that they were legally able to consent) validly married, regardless of whether any witnesses were present. A couple who exchanged vows of marriage in the future tense were married once they consummated their relationship. Such informal marriages were frowned upon, but, in the eyes of the church they were as binding as a marriage preceded by banns and performed by a priest in front of a crowd of witnesses. Nonetheless, clandestine marriages presented obvious problems of proof when one spouse wanted to wriggle free; here, of course, the putative spouses were dead.

While the possibility that Edward IV did indeed marry Eleanor Butler cannot be ruled out entirely, in the end we are left with nothing to go on but Gloucester’s self-serving, and conveniently vague, allegations. Certainly contemporaries were not universally convinced, as the later attempts to restore Edward V to the throne indicate.

On 24 or 25 June, Buckingham addressed a group of lords on the subject of the supposed illegitimacy of Edward IV’s children and on the myriad advantages of having Gloucester as king instead. Unnerved by the prospect of ‘armed men in frightening and unheard-of numbers’ coming from the north and from Wales, and thoroughly rattled by the fate of Lord Hastings, the lords agreed. On 26 June, a bill setting out Gloucester’s title to the throne was presented to Gloucester, who duly accepted and, as Crowland put it, ‘thrust himself in the marble chair’ at Westminster as King Richard III.90

Gloucester had taken care of one last bit of business before becoming king: ordering the execution of Rivers, Grey, and Vaughan. Rivers made his will at Sheriff Hutton on 23 June, indicating that the execution order had been sent from London at least a couple of days before that.

Rivers’s will is a conventional one, in which Anthony is concerned with paying his debts, righting any wrongs he might have done, such as to Lady Willoughby, providing for the poor, and attending to the welfare of his soul. Perhaps anticipating that he would be brought south and given the trial in front of his peers that was his right as an earl, he asked that if he died beyond the River Trent, he be buried before Our Lady of Pewe at Westminster. During his stay up north, he had borrowed a sum of money from his fellow prisoner, Thomas Vaughen – an indication, perhaps that he and Vaughan had been imprisoned at the same castle. We learn the name of his barber, Tybold, who received 5 marks. Anthony appointed ten executors, one of which was his son-in-law, Robert Poyntz, and asked – fruitlessly, it appears – that Gloucester allow his executors to carry out the terms of his last testament.

After the seven witnesses signed the will, Rivers learned that he was to die at Pontefract. Dutifully, he changed his burial plans: ‘My will is now to be buried before an image of our blessed Lady Mary, with my Lord Richard [Grey], in Pontefract’. Grey himself had been staying at Gloucester’s stronghold of Middleton, along with his servants and horses, but was transported to Pontefract, where he and his uncle met for the last time on earth.91 Thomas Vaughan, who had been serving the House of York when Gloucester was still a youngster, was also there at Pontefract to pay the price of his devoted service to his young charge, Edward V.

Crowland is adamant that Rivers, Grey, and Vaughan were beheaded ‘without any form of trial’ under the supervision of Sir Richard Ratcliffe, who was leading Gloucester’s army south to London. John Rous, on the other hand, claims that Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, was their chief judge.92 No records of their indictments or trial, if there were any, have survived, nor is there any indication of who besides Northumberland sat in judgement of the trio. One is inclined to suspect that any process must have been summary even by contemporary standards; certainly nothing indicates that a jury of peers was summoned to try Rivers, as was his right under Magna Carta.

Richard III laid out 46 shillings and fourpence (£2 6s 4d) for Richard Grey’s burial; probably he paid for the other men’s as well.93 As Anthony’s headless body was stripped, his executioners found next to his bare skin a hairshirt, a garment which, Rous tells us, he had long been in the habit of wearing. It came into the possession of the Carmelite friars at Doncaster, where for years after the earl’s death, it hung before the image of the Blessed Mary the Virgin.

Before donning his hairshirt for the last time, Rivers had sought consolation in a time-honoured secular manner: writing poetry. Caxton tells us that Anthony had once made ‘divers ballads against the seven deadly sins’, but the last verses he wrote, printed in part by John Rous and later in full by Thomas Percy, are the only ones of his known to have survived:94

            Somewhat musing

            And more mourning

            In remembering

            The unsteadfastness;

            This world being

            Of such wheeling

            Me contrarying

            What may I guess?

            I fear doubtless


            Is now to seize

            My woeful chance;

            For unkindness

            Without the less,

            And no redress

            Me doth advance.

            With displeasure

            To my grievance

            And no ‘surance

            Of remedy;

            Lo! In this trance

            Now in substance

            Such is my dance

            Willing to die.

            Methinks truly

            Bounden am I

            And that greatly

            To be content;

            Seeing plainly

            That fortune doth wry

            All contrary

            From mine intent.

            My life was lent

            Me to one intent

            It is nigh spent;

            Welcome Fortune!

            But I ne’er went

            Thus to be shent

            But so it meant

            Such is her won[t].

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