Post-classical history

Pomp and Printing

Book title

While Anthony and his younger brother, Edward, were in Brittany, the Woodville family lost its matriarch. Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford, wife to a duke and to a knight, mother of a queen, and an accused witch, died on 30 May 1472, bringing her full life to a quiet close.1 Neither the place of her death nor her burial spot is known, and her will has not survived. Her son Richard, along with one William Kerver, ‘citizen and mercer of London’, were still acting as the administrators of her goods and chattels in 1480.2Jacquetta’s last years had been saddened by the murders of the husband she had married for love and of her son, John, but the restoration of her son-in-law to the throne and the birth of his heir must have cheered her in her final months. She had lived long enough to welcome yet another royal grandchild: Margaret, born at Windsor on 10 April 1472.3

While the Woodvilles mourned the loss of the great lady who had brought them into the world, life went on at Edward’s court. During his exile, Edward IV had enjoyed the hospitality of Louis de Bruges, and in the autumn of 1472, the king repaid his host in high style.4 Two days after arriving at Westminster in late September or early October, Louis rode to Windsor, where the king and his family were in residence. Having greeted his guest, Edward IV led him to the queen’s chamber. Unlike the stately, silent post-churching feast that had overawed the Bohemian visitors in 1466, Louis saw the ‘full pleasant’ sight of Elizabeth and her ladies at play. The queen herself was playing at ‘morteaulx’, a game similar to bowls, while other ladies were amusing themselves with ‘closheys of ivory’ (ninepins) or dancing. Edward improved the occasion by dancing with his 7-year-old daughter, Elizabeth. The next morning, the infant prince, borne by his chamberlain, Thomas Vaughan, personally (if not very articulately) welcomed Louis. After a day of hunting, the queen hosted a banquet in her own chamber. There, the queen, the king, young Elizabeth, the king’s sister, Anne, Duchess of Exeter, Countess Rivers, and Louis shared the same mess. The other company at the table included the queen’s sister, Katherine, Duchess of Buckingham, her husband, the duke, and Lord Hastings.5 After supper, Elizabeth of York again showed off her dancing ability, this time with the 17-year-old Duke of Buckingham.

At about nine o’clock, the king, the queen, and the queen’s attendants ushered Louis to his three chambers, which were carpeted and hung with white silk and linen. Louis was to sleep on a bed ‘as good down as could be thought’, with a counterpane of cloth of gold furred with ermine and with the testers and canopy of cloth of gold as well. The sheets and pillows were of the ‘queen’s own ordinance’. Another bed awaited in the next chamber, along with a couch with featherbeds, underneath a ‘tent knit like a net’. A bath, or perhaps two, were in the next chamber, also covered with tents of white cloth. The king and the women departed, leaving Louis with Lord Hastings, who shared a leisurely bath with him, after which the sparklingly clean pair dined on green ginger, syrups, comfits, and hippocras before retiring. Edward and Elizabeth had shown their Burgundian guest that they could entertain in high style. We can get an idea of the splendour of Edward’s court from an inventory of clothing purchased for his toddler son at around this time: two velvet doublets, three satin doublets, three satin gowns and two black velvet gowns, a bonnet of purple velvet and another of black velvet, each lined with satin, and a long gown of cloth of gold on damask.6

At about ten o’clock on 13 October 1472, the king, clad in his Parliament robes, entered the Parliament chamber and listened to the Speaker of the Commons, William Allington, heap praise upon those who had been loyal to the king the previous year. Allington singled out the king’s brothers, the Dukes of Clarence and Gloucester, for their ‘knightly demeaning’ and commended Earl Rivers and Lord Hastings for their ‘constant faith’. Edward’s queen was praised for her ‘womanly behavior’ and ‘great constancy’ while the king was in exile, as well as for ‘the great joy and surety’ occasioned by the birth of the king’s son. Last, Allington praised the ‘great humanity and kindness’ of Louis de Bruges, upon which the king returned to his chambers to preside over the ceremony in which Louis de Bruges was created Earl of Winchester. It was the first time in nearly a hundred years that a foreigner had been granted an English earldom.7

The year 1472 ended on a sad note for the king and queen. The latest addition to the family, Margaret, died on 11 December 1472 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.8 It was the first time Edward and Elizabeth had suffered the death of a child. Fortunately, it soon became apparent that there was another child on the way. Richard, Duke of York, was born at Shrewsbury on 17 August 1473.9

For the Woodvilles, the next few years would be largely a series of ceremonies, most of them of the cheerful sort. In August 1472, the queen’s older son from her first marriage, Thomas Grey, was created Earl of Huntingdon.10 More honours followed on 18 April 1475, when, at St Edward’s Chamber at Westminster, Edward IV made his sons and others Knights of the Bath. Sharing in the honour with two princes were their half-brothers, Thomas and Richard Grey, and their uncle Edward Woodville. That same day after dinner, Thomas Grey exchanged his earldom for a higher rank: Marquis of Dorset.11

As Edward IV headed off that summer for France, he made his will. It is a document that plainly shows his esteem for his queen. Edward appointed William Grey, Bishop of Ely, Thomas Rotherham, Bishop of Lincoln, John Alcock, Bishop of Rochester, William, Lord Hastings, Master John Russell, Sir Thomas Montgomery, Richard Fowler, Richard Pygot, and William Husee as his executors – after his queen, ‘our dearest Wife in whom we most singularly put our trust’, who headed the list. Elizabeth was to choose which of the king’s household goods she thought were ‘necessary and convenient’ for her and have the use of them for her life; she was also to enjoy her revenues from the duchy of Lancaster. Edward provided for prayers to be said for himself, the queen, their fathers, and other of their ancestors.12

Interestingly, the king left no instructions in his will as to how his kingdom was to be run during his heir’s minority. Fortunately, on this occasion, his kingdom was not put to the test, for Edward returned both intact and richer, thanks to Louis XI’s pension. At the time of his departure, the queen had been expecting another child, who was born at Westminster on 2 November 1475.13 The latest arrival, Anne, shared her day of birth with her oldest brother, Edward, five years her senior.

The following year, King Edward decided to honour the memory of his father, Richard, Duke of York, killed at the Battle of Wakefield on 30 December 1460, by moving his body and that of his son Edmund from Pontefract to Fotheringhay. The ceremonies began on 21 July 1476, when the bodies were exhumed, and ended with the reburial on 30 July 1476. The Woodvilles, who had supported the Lancastrian cause at the time of York’s death, dutifully played their part in the reburial. Anthony Woodville’s pursuivant was among the officers of arms who accompanied the bodies south. When the funeral cortege arrived at Fotheringhay on 29 July, the king, dressed in the blue mourning peculiar to royalty, was there to meet it. With him were his brothers and a number of other noblemen, including Anthony Woodville and the Marquis of Dorset, along with the queen and two of her daughters, presumably the oldest two. At the requiem mass the next day, the queen and her daughters offered mass pennies – the queen ‘dressed all in blue without a high headdress’ and making ‘a great obeisance and reverence to the said body’. On both 29 and 30 July, the queen, through her chamberlain, offered to the body cloth of gold, which was arranged along with the other cloth offerings in the shape of a cross. Anthony himself, along with other earls, offered cloth of gold on 30 July.14

It was probably sometime in 1477, as noted by Ralph Griffiths, when the king and queen’s third son, George, was born. He could have been named after Edward IV’s younger brother, George, Duke of Clarence, though any such tribute to Clarence would have taken place before George’s arrest in June 1477 (see Chapter 9); it may be that George’s naming, which might have been accompanied by asking Clarence to serve as his godfather, was the king’s last attempt to reconcile with his mercurial brother. Griffiths also suggests that George might have been named for Saint George, prompted by Edward IV’s rebuilding of St George’s Chapel at Windsor.15

Meanwhile, around late 1475 or early 1476, a birth of a rather different sort had taken place: William Caxton, an English merchant who had been living abroad, returned to England with a precious object in tow: his printing press, the first to be introduced to England.16 Caxton set up shop at the Almonry at Westminster, in a house known as the Red Pale.17 By 1476, he had printed his first major project: Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

Anthony Woodville was quick to see the possibilities of this new technology. Caxton’s next major publication, The History of Jason, was dedicated to the Prince of Wales, and perhaps, as Lotte Hellinga suggests, the prince’s governor, Anthony, backed the project.18 There is no doubt about Anthony’s involvement in Caxton’s next publication, The Dicts and Sayings of the Philosophers: Anthony was the translator.

Translation was an important activity in the fifteenth century, and a highly valued one. As John Trevisa wrote in his ‘Dialogue between a Lord and a Clerk upon Translation’, it allowed men access to ‘cunning, information and lore’ that they might have otherwise been denied.19 In Anthony’s case, as he explained in the preface to his translation, he happened upon the book, while travelling to Santiago in 1473. After Anthony expressed his wish to read some ‘good history’ for ‘a recreation and passing of time’, his travelling companion, Louis de Bretaylle, handed him the Dicts, itself a translation from Latin to French by Guillaume de Tignonville. Having not been able to read the book carefully during his pilgrimage due to his obligations as a pilgrim and the ‘great acquaintance’ he found on his journey, Anthony explained, in the time-honoured manner of a reader who has not been able to get around to a certain book, that it was not until he entered the service of Prince Edward that at his leisure ‘he looked upon the said book, and at last concluded […] to translate it into the English tongue […] Thinking also full necessary to [Prince Edward] the understanding thereof’. Anthony concluded with a charming apology for any errors that he, as an amateur, might have fallen into.20

A collection of maxims and improving moral stories, ‘often arbitrarily ascribed to ancient philosophers’, as Anne Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs put it, Dicts, unlike the enduringly popular Canterbury Tales that was Caxton’s first production, contains little appeal for modern audiences.21 Its charm comes chiefly in Caxton’s epilogue, where, noting that Earl Rivers had asked him to correct any faults he might find, he wrote that he could not find any except that Anthony had left out certain unflattering observations of Socrates concerning women, which Caxton undertook to include in the text. Why, Caxton pondered, did Anthony omit this material?

    But I suppose that some fair lady hath desired him to leave it out of his book. Or else he was amorous on some noble lady, for whose love he would not set it in his book. Or else for the very affection, love and good will that hath unto all ladies and gentlewomen …22

Entertaining as this is, Caxton was taking liberties here with a social superior, and it has been suggested that Anthony took offence at this ‘rather cavalier treatment of his translation, his editorial decisions, and his private life’. Certainly in his next production for Rivers, a translation of Christine de Pisan’s Moral Proverbs published on 20 February 1478, Caxton was careful to note that he had followed every word of the manuscript Rivers supplied to him, as Rivers’s secretary could record. Nonetheless, any authorial pique does not seem to have harmed the men’s relationship, for the Dicts went through several editions, and Rivers went on to translate yet another manuscript for Caxton, the Cordiale, which Caxton printed on 24 March 1479.23 The fact that Caxton felt free to take such liberties to begin with suggests that Anthony may not have been the cold and chilly creature his detractors depict him as.

In itself, Anthony’s interest in this new technology is telling, for Caxton’s press attracted only a few noble patrons in England: from 1476 to 1491, only two other peers, John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, and William Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel, patronised Caxton by asking him to translate and print works (and neither patronised Caxton until after Anthony’s death in 1483). In doing his own translations, moreover, Anthony was unique among the three.24 In patronising Caxton, therefore, he was not following fashion.

Anthony followed his first printed edition of the Dicts with a presentation copy, in manuscript form, intended for the king and completed on 24 December 1477. In a leaf inserted at the beginning of the manuscript, Anthony kneels besides a tonsured figure, probably Guillaume de Tignonville, the original author, or the scribe who prepared the manuscript. Edward IV, flanked by his queen and Prince Edward, is shown in the act of accepting the book. Among the onlookers, one figure is uncrowned but clad in ermine like the king, queen, and prince: probably this represents Richard, Duke of Gloucester. (The Duke of Clarence, as we shall see, would not have been pictured at court at this time.)25

If the 1470s was a watershed for printing in England, the social highlight of the decade was the wedding, on 15 January 1478, between the king’s second son, Richard, Duke of York, and Anne Mowbray, the heiress to John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk. The groom was 4 years old; the bride – a great-granddaughter of John Woodville’s elderly bride – a year older.26 Earl Rivers and John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, led the little girl into the chapel at Westminster, Rivers on the left hand, Lincoln on the right hand. Under a canopy waited the king, the queen, Prince Edward, the Ladies Elizabeth, Mary, and Cecily, and the king’s mother, Cecily, Duchess of York. Following the wedding ceremony, Richard, Duke of Gloucester and Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham led the bride to dinner, where the Duchess of Buckingham – Elizabeth Woodville’s youngest sister, Katherine – sat with the groom’s mother. The Marquis of Dorset sat at a side table.

The wedding festivities concluded on 22 January with the royal jousts. The first to enter was the Marquis of Dorset, his helm carried by the Duke of Buckingham. Following Dorset were five coursers, their rich trappers ‘enramplished with A’s of gold curiously embroidered’ and a void courser for the accomplishment of his arms. His younger brother, Richard, clothed in blue and tawny, followed with three coursers, with trappers of crimson cloth of gold and tissue. Edward Woodville was accompanied by servants clad in blue and tawny velvet, embroidered with gold ‘E’s’. The showstopper, however, was Earl Rivers, who made his entrance arrayed in the habit of a white hermit, inside a black-velvet-walled hermitage. Dorset and Richard Grey competed in Jousts Royal, Edward Woodville in ‘Ostinge Harnesse’ (hosting harness, or field armour), and Earl Rivers in Tourneying.

Dorset, Richard Grey, and Edward Woodville each managed to break their opponent’s spears, though the day was marred for Edward by the injury of one of his horses. As for Earl Rivers, he and Thomas Hansard ‘charged together so furiously to the Tourney, that all the field gave laud to both parties’, but Thomas ‘rudely let fly a spring between the shoulder and the helm’ of Rivers after ‘Ho!’ had been cried. ‘This the Earl furiously returned upon him, and so accomplished six strokes between them’. None of the Woodville men, however, carried away the prizes, in the form of golden letters set with precious gems, that were distributed by Elizabeth, the king’s oldest daughter. Nonetheless, Earl Rivers rewarded the kings of arms and heralds with 20 marks.

Dazzling as the wedding festivities were, however, there must have been a sense on the part of the wedding guests that some grim business lay around the corner, because there was one member of the family who was conspicuously absent from the celebrations: George, Duke of Clarence. He was a prisoner in the Tower.

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